Monday, April 20, 2020

Dignity and Impudence. (1921)

"Dignity and Impudence''
From the January 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Dignity and Impudence'' it the title of a well known print portraying two dogs peering from one kennel. One represents a St. Bernard, with heavy jaws and ponderous paws, shaggy mane, and eyes watchful and easy. Calm and powerful there he rests, while between his paws reclines a terrier, sporting in the shadow of the other's strength.

There is something common to both, however, and it lies in the fact that they each depend upon their owner for the means to sustain life.

Now there is an analogy between this picture and the life of mankind in modern capitalist society. Let us, therefore, take a brief survey of the economic conditions of human existence.

In the first place we know that the world is inhabited by many millions of people, with a variety of tastes, habits, and so on. Further, out of this number there is an overwhelming proportion who have something in common. It is that they are compelled to work in order to live.

The capitalist system of wealth production has stretched out its tentacles over the whole world, so that almost everywhere we find these teeming, struggling millions, who not only have to work, but are compelled to work for someone else.

Unless the units of this vast army of workers can find work—someone to employ them—they are cut off from the means of life and must starve, as thousands are doing to-day.

So this vast mass of the world's workers, like the dogs in the picture, have this common character—they are dependent upon some[one] else. They are dependent upon someone who will employ them, in order to get the common necessaries of life.

These "someones," these employers, who are they ? Clearly they occupy an entirely different position from that of the workers. They are the ruling class, the possessing class, the idle class. They have no useful function in society, but live a life of luxury and ease upon the fruits of the labours of the working class—they are parasites on the body politic.

These are the two classes into which society is divided. Let us now examine a particular section of the working class, that section who usually refer to themselves as "brain workers," but are often referred to as the "black coat brigade," in order to complete our analogy with "Dignity and Impudence."

This particular section is made up of types who are dignified and respectable, because they come into close daily contact with their employers. It is their specific function to assist the capitalist class in the direction of keeping their accounts, in order to show exactly how the exploitation of their fellow workers is progressing. The docile humility and faithfulness which distinguishes this particular type of slave seems now to be developing into something like impudence.

The writer has in mind the strike recently called by the Guild of Insurance Officials, because certain of its members were dismissed from the General Accident Corporation for being members of the Guild. The management of the G.A.C. having noted the impudence of this action, record their strong resentment in a letter to one of the dismissed. I quote the "Daily Express," 17.11.20:
  ".   .   .  Moreover, did you for one moment think that any board of directors would agree to the setting up of a joint committee of employees and themselves to consider the merits or demerits of the various members of the staff and their remuneration ?   Such a thing in a commercial business that is run by brains is absolutely impossible." 
One can easily appreciate that it would seriously disturb the atmosphere of dignity in which employers of brain workers have always endeavoured to cloak their slaves, to permit them to organise themselves like common workmen—or like common masters for that matter, for they all do it—for the protection and furtherance of their economic interests. 

Economic forces are no respecters of persons. They grind slowly but surely, compelling even the most stiff-necked to forgo their dignity and examine their conditions of daily life. Therefore it only proves the correctness of the Marxian method when the super-respectable find it necessary to organise for the defence of their economic interests.

In connection with the strike a joint mass meeting was held "to protest against the dismissal by the General Accident of employees who have joined the Insurance Guild, and to vindicate the right of brain workers to combine for mutual protection." Associated with the demonstration were the following organisations:
Shipping Clerical Staffs' Guild
Stock Exchange Clerks' Guild
Commercial Staffs' Association
National Guild of Accountants' Clerks
Scottish Bankers' Association
Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries
Railway Clerk's Association
Clerical Officers' Association (Civil Service)
Representatives of these organisations addressed the meeting, and each endeavoured to outshine the others in their rhetoric.

The black coats, however, must bear in mind that they are, comparatively, newcomers in the trade union movement, and that if progress is to be made the rank and file must get acquainted with the motive force which has compelled them to organise; they must get to understand their class position and the nature of the class struggle which Socialist knowledge makes clear.

When this has been attained, the function of the trade union leader, whose record in other fields is marked by treachery, will be realised.

Leadership implies an ignorant following. An intelligent rank and file require democratically elected delegates to represent them. This is a distinction of fundamental importance to the workers, if they are to achieve their emancipation from wage slavery.

When resolutions were moved by the leaders at this meeting that Mr. Lloyd George should be asked to intervene, and if he was not respectable enough, then the Prince of Wales should be acquainted with the facts, the fitness of these men to "lead" their followers anywhere save into "outer darkness" is utterly disproved. Political parties represent class interests. Mr. Lloyd George represents the interests of the capitalist class, whose interests are diametrically opposed to those of the working class. The Prince of Wales is an estimable young man who knows his job, which is to eyewash the workers in the interest of the capitalist class.

One speaker, however, determined to maintain his dignity at all costs, said "We view the strike method with abhorrence." Of course, "on strike" does not sound a bit respectable, but the strike is the only weapon the workers have on the economic field. The black coats may get more familiar with it in the near future, when the contempt that will be bred of familiarity will, doubtless compel them to look for other methods.

Those other methods are class-conscious political action. And the Socialist Party, with its political object, awaits eagerly that time of understanding.

The action of the "General Accident" was not altogether appreciated, however, by the employing class, because, as the "Daily News" put it in an editorial (19.11.20) : "This is the way to drive the brain workers and manual workers closer together, and both of them towards extremes. Is it worth while ?"

This observation on the part of the capitalist Press is particularly significant, and there is a wealth of meaning and fear hidden in that last sentence, "Is it worth while ?"

After all the pains which the ruling class have taken to impress a certain section of the working class with the respectability of their black coats and the dignity of their calling, and to isolate them from the "lower orders," they have to recognise that their policy of divide and rule is nearly played out.

To salary slaves the lesson should be clear. They must understand that whether they have to work in black coats or overalls they belong to the working class. When they grip this fact they will know the worth of the high-sounding phrases about respectability, gentility, dignity, and the rest of the flattering notions with which their masters keep them in subjection.

The working class are compelled to grovel on the floor of the industrial kennel, and if some of their number assume dignity they are but taking on a pose which ill fits the degrading nature of their existence. Their remuneration, whether it is called wages or salary, is determined by what it costs to keep and reproduce their kind. Like carrots and cat's meat, their energies are bought and sold, and the wage or salary is the price. It may sound undignified, but, nevertheless, it is an economic fact which has to be firmly gripped.

Finally, organisation on trade union lines, no matter how well disciplined the rank and file may be, and necessary as it may be to-day, in order to resist the pressure of the employing class, will not emancipate the workers from the wages system. To achieve this end they must organise into a political party conscious of their class interest, and equipped with the necessary knowledge.

That political party already exists—in the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Study its Object and Declaration of Principles, and then—ACT!

Have We? (1921)

From the January 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our attention has been drawn to a book review which was published by our contemporary "The Communist" under date 9.12.20. The book reviewed was "Communism and Christianism," by Bishop William Montgomery Brown, D.D., published by the Bradford-Brown Educational Co., Ohio. "The Communist" says that the author, "in the course of his farewell, explains his point of view in the following very definite terms :—
  ''‘The contradiction in terms known as the Christian Socialist is inevitably antagonistic to working-class interests and the waging of the class struggle. His object is the conciliation of classes,—not the end of classes. His avowed object indeed is to purge the Socialist movement of its materialism and the means to purge it of its Socialism and to direct if from its material aims to the fruitless chasing of spiritual will o'-the-isps,' "
It is a funny thing, but if the reader will turn to page 21 of our pamphlet "Socialism and Religion" he will there find the following passage:
   ". . . But the contradiction in terms known as the Christian Socialist is inevitably antagonistic to working-class interests and the waging of the class struggle. His policy is the conciliation of classes, the fraternity of robber and robbed, not the end of classes. His avowed object, indeed, is usually to purge the Socialist movement of its materialism and this, as we have seen, means to purge it of its Socialism, and to divert it from its material aims to the fruitless chasing of "spiritual Will o'-the wisps."
Except for some obvious printer's errors in the first the difference between the two isn't great, is it? In fact they are near enough alike to reveal their connection and to establish the need for some acknowledgment on the part of the ex-bishop of the source of the passage. He may, of course, have made such acknowledgment, or he may have palmed it off as the fruit of some brain wave of his own—not having seen the book we do not know ; and, by gosh ! we do not care.

But it would be interesting to know whether our brochure has really converted a bishop from the benighted purveyor of spookism into a real dispenser of light and learning. He might do worse than send us a copy of his book for review, in which case our publishing department might be prevailed upon to return him the 3d. he paid for our brochure, "Socialism and Religion"—if he paid for it.
(Editorial  Committee.)

Editorial: The Masters' New Offensive. (1921)

Editorial from the January 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is symptomatic of the pressure which the gradual awakening of the workers is putting on the master class that the latter is adopting a policy of systematic anti-Socialist propaganda and education in political economy among the workers. For generations the capitalists have been content to leave the doping of their slaves to the parson, the novelist, and the prostitute of the Press, all of whom worked by the general distortion of the vision, and generally left economics alone. But to-day we find all and sundry among capitalist agents developing into professors of social science for the benefit of the working class, and, more significant than all the rest put together, the great capitalists are making it a personal matter, and, probably counting upon the glamour of their names to cover the weakness of their arguments, have essayed to teach the workers the kind of economics they would like them to know.

The late Andrew Carnegie was a notable case in point; later Lord Leverhulme addresses working class audiences all over the country, and tries to tell the proletarians "What is Capital" in a ludicrous pamphlet of that title, and so we could go on.

Well, we welcome these pamphleteers and platform pounders with open arms. If you pitch a roped ring and put one human fighting cock in it no one takes much notice; but directly you put a second man in the ring the town flocks to see. We have been the lonely figure in the ring years enough—is it possible that at last our enemy is coming out to fight ?

A few days ago the editorial in the "Daily Chronicle" tried to show the workers that low production means high prices, high prices mean smaller purchasing power, smaller purchasing power means lessened demand, which completes the circle with increased unemployment—a plausible enough tale if one forgets that, in spite of all arguments, and regardless of high prices or low, it is the surplus-value, the difference between what the workers are paid (and therefore are able to consume) and what they produce, that causes unemployment, a fundamental fact that the capitalist sophists have never been able to dispose of and never will.

In "Lloyd's Sunday News" of Jan. 9,1921, the Right Hon. C. A. McCurdy, K.C., M.P., Food Controller, tries to do his little bit toward the general bamboozling of the workers in an article entitled: "Your Food Prices in 1921." He strikes the right note at the commencement when he says "The people of Great Britain, I think, deserve some word of recognition, if not of thanks, for the progress which has been made in this country towards restoration of commercial prosperity . . ."

"Commercial prosperity," mark you, in the face of a million hungry unemployed! One would have thought this touched the limit, but the [editor] of the same paper, in the same issue, goes one better. "Our money is going to be worth more this year than last, and it is going to be easier to make ends meet," he says. It is pretty evident that the writer of that optimistic passage is not unduly oppressed by the flood of unemployment which, even his own leaders recognise, is about to sweep down upon the working class of this country.

Mr. McCurdy, of course, takes up the old cry beloved of capitalist papers, capitalist statesmen, and those capitalist henchmen, the labour leaders (who are strangely quiet upon the point now that the inevitable result we prophesied has been arrived at). He declares, "The price the British housewife will be called upon to pay in 1921 for many commodities will depend in part, of course, upon the continued progress of our own people in increasing production . . ." A little later he says: "Europe wants the goods, we want the wages; why is it, then, that an exchange cannot be made which would be so profitable to both ? The answer is that the war . . . has also dislocated and choked the rivers and channels through which international trade flowed freely in time of peace."

With channels and rivers dislocated and choked the way to avoid floods is not to clear the channels, but to pray Gord to increase the output of rain !

We hope to have an article shortly dealing at length with this subject.

What The Workers Do Understand. (1921)

From the January 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

The average working man obviously does not understand two vital factors of the system of society prevailing to-day. His conversation proclaims this; his replies, in debating on economic and political matters, prove this beyond dispute. Adamantine facts daily stare him in the face, yet he does not perceive them.

The two all-important realities he is unaware of are : (1) The slave-condition of the working class the world over, and (2) the way the wages system robs them of the greater part of the wealth they produce.

Let us deal with things as we find them. We will consider the first of the above statements.

The working class constitute the vast majority of the community. They
to provide themselves and their dependents with the means necessary to sustain life. The only alternatives are existing on charity, stealing, or starving.

They are propertyless—they own no land nor any means by which wealth can be made by the application of their socially-useful labour-power. The only thing they do own is their labour-power—the ability, strength, and faculties to work. That labour-power has a value, for it has the magic quality of producing wealth when usefully exercised.

The capitalist class, owning all the natural sources of wealth and the means and instruments for its production, are thus intensely powerful through that ownership, and through their appropriation of the wealth as it is daily produced by those who toil for them.

The capitalists are an idle class. The workers' labour-power they make use of for themselves, and appropriate the fruits of labour for one purpose only—their own enrichment. Thus the sole function of the workers under the present system is to
for the capitalist class.

From the time when they "go out to work" till the time when they can no longer toil they must continue to function as mere producers of capitalist wealth. They may change masters; they may suffer want and misery through enforced unemployment and consequent poverty; but they will always have to sell their labour-power (whenever and wherever they can) to a capitalist in order to exist at all. It is impossible, in practically every case, to get away from that dire necessity. It is impossible to avoid their dependence on being employed by some member of the capitalist class. The latter own the very means of life; they control the conditions of getting a livelihood ; the whole economic and political power exerted by them secures their position and maintains their privileged status. As a class they completely control the lives of the indispensable working class the world over. Thus working-class will and desires are completely subjected to capitalist-class will, interest and dominance. What else is this but the

You have to-day, on one hand, aristocratic and plutocratic dominance and privilege, combined with idleness and exploitation, class-rule and social inequality. On the other hand you have a huge class of toilers who are propertyless and exploited wage slaves who produce the wealth of the world and yet are robbed of the greater part of it in order that their masters may realise a profit out of it.

Now, secondly, it is observable that the average worker does not see how he, or his class, are robbed by capitalist exploitation through the wages system.

"Robbed ! How robbed ?" he will say when told of the fact. ''I get my wages. I suppose the employer is entitled to make his bit out of it! How am I robbed ? "

Possibly he recalls many kinds of robbery. Brigandage, piracy, burglary, and Dick Turpinism suggest themselves to him. There is no parallel that can be cited he thinks to prove the contention. Well, let us consider wealth-production from its very basis.

A worker tries for a job at a firm. He is willing to sell his labour-power—his skill and strength—to be used in the production of wealth by applying it to nature-given material. The employer agrees to purchase that labour-power for a given period under specified conditions, and for a stipulated sum —termed "wages."

Ascertained facts prove that, on the average, the worker is paid no more for his services than is barely sufficient to reproduce his labour power daily.

This labour power has cost certain necessaries to produce in the first instance. It has been developed ; it must be sustained in a given degree of efficiency. But, in spite of this, the human machine will and does
just as the one of iron and steel does, and when no longer useful it will have to be replaced.

So not only is an amount of necessaries required to maintain him, but an added amount is imperative to bring up children to serve in his stead as wage-workers, and who, in their turn, will perpetuate the supply of labour power.

Labour power is really a commodity—bought and sold in the labour market like margarine, and with as little sentiment.

The value of every commodity is determined by the average quantity of labour required under the general conditions prevailing at any given time to produce it. Thus the value, in the form of wages, that is paid to the worker for his labour-power, represents the value of the necessaries needed for its reproduction, and therefore is determined by the amount of labour required for that purpose.

Being engaged to work for a stipulated wage the worker has also to labour for an agreed number of hours per day or per week, and under certain other restrictions. He thus sells his labour-power for the whole of that time. In fact, the employer has bought it all for that period.

All the wealth the worker produces in that time is appropriated by the employer, and every means is used to extract the 
from the worker in the period during which he has sold his labour-power.

When the capitalist buys the worker's labour-power he buys it for one special purpose—to get out of the toiler a greater total value than is represented by the worker's wages. If the worker did not produce this surplus value, the capitalist would make nothing by employing him, and would therefore have no inducement to do so.

This value produced by the worker in excess of that contained in his wages, this surplus value as we call it, is value for which the capitalist pays nothing whatever.

The worker thinks he has been paid for his labour. He has not: he has only been repaid the value of his labour-power. He has been paid what his labour-power cost to produce ; but the value which that labour-power produces —a far greater quantity—belongs to the capitalist. This increase, this surplus value, which the exploiter pays nothing for, represents the

Thus the robbery of the worker is veiled by the wages system. The paid and the unpaid portions of the labour are indistinguishable, and the worker appears to have been paid for the whole.

This process of exchange between capitalists and labourers, resulting in a systematic robbery of the working class, simply continues to keep the workers a wage-slave class in a chronic state of poverty, and tends just as surely to enrich the idle capitalists, who exploit them.

We have seen from the first portion of the article that the working class are enslaved under capitalism; we see that labour alone of human factors produces social wealth, but that the greater part of the fruits of the workers' labour is stolen from them.

The only hope of the toilers, the only remedy for all the disastrous results of the slavery of their class, lies in Socialism. While the pernicious capitalist system continues their poverty and misery also will continue.

When the workers understand the real operations and effects of the wages system, and their own class slavery, they will see that no reforms
can effect their emancipation.

When they understand Marxian economics and Socialism they will realise that only by their own class-conscious efforts will they free themselves and establish a new and sane social system.

Educated in these things, and organised on the industrial and political fields, they will seize political power and wield it and its forces for the paramount purpose—the establishment of the Socialist Commonwealth.
Graham May

A Look Round. (1921)

From the January 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the same day that the papers described the wholesale occupation of public buildings by the starving workless, there was also announced what will probably be accepted as the satisfaction—relatively speaking—of the postal workers with their conditions of service ; that is to say, the result of a ballot was published in which the members of the Union of Post Office Workers had been asked to express their feelings on the question of the adoption of a strike policy. This involved the setting up of a strike fund, but also carried with it the proviso that no strike should be resorted to without consulting the membership by means of a ballot.

Ballot papers to the number of 107,049 were issued, with the result that 48,157 voted for a strike policy ; 35,411 voted against; and 23,481 refrained from voting. This result was acclaimed by their General Secretary, (J. W. Bowen) as a decisive victory for the forces of progress ! To the present writer the impression conveyed is that they are simply in the cart. This is proved by the analysis, which shows that so uncertain is their knowledge that nearly one-third of the membership voted against, whilst almost a fourth refrained from voting. And then for one of their officials (Mr. Ammon) to go and say that another official of the N.U.R. had referred to postal unions as having made greater strides during the past ten years than any other trade union, and as being the most advanced politically, is sublimely ridiculous.

It is a well known fact that postal servants generally are amongst the most reactionary of organised workers, being very old-fashioned in their views. It cannot be said, therefore, that very many of the thousands who did or did not participate in the ballot were actuated by any conviction resulting from an analysis of their position as wage slaves.

*      *      *

Colonel Amery, as Under Secretary for the Colonies, has received the congratulations of the House for his economic handling of the situation in Somaliland, he having disposed of the "enemy" at the trifling cost of about £100,000, A "gratifying" feature of his report was the confidence expressed that within a reasonable number of years Somaliland will pay the cost of its administration. The economy has been effected by the use of the aeroplane, a method, Major General Seeley states, which is far more preferable than the old-fashioned way of advancing small bodies of infantry "to extend British influence." He considers the use of aeroplanes cheaper, more effective, and more humane than any other method. Its effectiveness is not in doubt, as the people of Amritsar and of Mesopotamia can testify, but as to its being humane, that is open to question.

Capitalist ethics, however, do not stand in the way when "extending British influence," or that of any other nationality, whether against white workers or merely "niggers." The use of aeroplanes as a method of settling disputes is coming more and more into favour, and the adoption of this "humane" method as a cure for industrial unrest can be looked forward to with certainty.

By the way, it is interesting to note that it has been established beyond doubt that the first bombs dropped on any town were dropped by the British on Cologne and Dusseldorf. This represents the initiation of this form of "extending British influence." (See "Manchester Guardian," Nov. 1, 1920)

*      *      *

At one stage of the present war when the fighting was on a larger scale and men died at the rate of some thousands a day, it was usual to describe them as having been "killed in action." Now that one phase has shifted round to Ireland, it is the fashion of certain newspapers to speak of those killed in the fighting on the Government side as having been '"murdered," in spite of the fact that the country is under martial law and the army held to be on active service. It is as if Spain, for political reasons had protested in 1914 that the British and French were murdering Germans. All bluff, of course.

*        *        *

In the appeal made to the British people this Chriatmastide for help toward relieving the women and children of the late "enemy" countries, it was stated that "the whole truth about the appalling sufferings of the famine-stricken little ones is so dreadful that no newspaper would publish it." I can quite believe they wouldn't; and it is quite easily understood —by those who care to understand—why they wouldn't. It isn't out of any regard for our feelings. The very same Press which will now print an appeal (like an advert.—to other people) without disclosing too much formerly printed miles and miles of rubbish and lies when it suited their purpose to do so, in order to make men go out and bring about the conditions they now deplore (perhaps). Men have suffered imprisonment and degradation of all sorts for saying that these conditions would be the result. Only a short time ago men were acclaimed as heroes who succeeded in their allotted task of making orphans. Now the men of peace step forward out of their five years of lethargy, pull a long face and implore us in the lowly Jesus of Nazareth, to save the little ones. 

The swine! As if ours were the responsibility! One has only to pick up any newspaper to read of the millions that have been squandered on the very machinery responsible for the conditions referred to.

*      *      *

The same people used to teach us that charity began at home. Meanwhile—
  On December 11th the Wigan borough magistrates committed a poor widow, aged 75, to prison for three months for stealing a piece of celery value 4½d from a stall in the market. (News item.)
Tom Sala

The Irony Of It. (1921)

From the January 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

"It is a strange irony"—so concludes an editorial in the "Daily News" of 13.11.20, under the title of "The Two Paths," wherein is described the ceremonial which took place on the day following the anniversary of the armistice. The writer, playing upon the emotions, remarks:
  "The kings and chaplains and prelates had departed, the pomp and ceremonial ended, and then the people, not only those of London, but from all parts of these islands, drawn as naturally as men lost in a desert, came quietly together and made Whitehall the beating heart of England."
We are not unmindful of the untold suffering and misery which has been inflicted upon the working class of the world as a result of the Great European War. Millions of working-class lives were sacrificed ; shattered constitutions and wrecked hopes are the lot of many thousands of victims who have survived King Capital's carnage. And the class responsible for all this misery—the ruling class of the world—still are the principal figures in the drama of life ; and the working class, doped, dazed, bewildered, still gaze on the players with reverence and awe—a satisfied audience whose emotions are carried along on the tide of a stupefying misconception of life. The working-class conception of life conception of life consists of work and wages. These two things fill their horizon and colour all things else. Their inevitable reward is insecurity of livelihood, poverty and toil. It is for a condition of life like this that the workers have made their sacrifices and given their best to further the interests of King Capital.

One of the greatest tragedians on the social stage—David Lloyd George—on the occasion of one of the numerous rehearsals which are periodically held throughout the land—the Lord Mayor's banquet at the Guildhall—said in an optimistic speech : "The workmen are three fourths of the population and the future of the country depends upon their common sense and their patriotism." ("Daily News," 10.11.20.)

There you see the actor setting the scenery for another drama which will shortly be acted—The General Election. They are rehearsing; they are advertising. They will organise a mammoth campaign. Coalitionists, Liberals, and Labourites will come before you, each blackguarding the other, each representing different sectional interests of the capitalist class. They will cajole, flatter, and trick you into going to the great show. They are prepared to spend millions of pounds in this direction, though thousands may be destitute and starving. They depend upon the common sense and patriotism of three-fourths of the people—the working class.

The term ''common sense" is a vague phrase typical of the foggy nature of most of the utterances of men like Lloyd George, who, we call to mind, coined those mystic phrases, "A land fit for heroes to live in" ; "Let there be sunlight in the workman's cottage" ; "The land shall be a field of waving corn." They reflect the depth of working-class political ignorance and apathy.

"Patriotism" is something more concrete. It is the love of one's country. The country belongs to the master class. Those who own the earth own those who live upon the earth. It should be clear, therefore, you dignified, politically ignorant three-fourths of the population, that you are nothing more than wage slaves—you cannot well be less.

It is a strange irony, therefore, that while you are marching with your grief to Whitehall there should be another army of marchers, as the editorial above referred to points out, the great army of unemployed—men and women denied the opportunity to live, compelled to see those dependent upon them reduced to hunger, reduced even to starvation.

The "Daily News" editorial finishes with heart-tearing sighs and veiled regrets. Hypocritical, maudling, sentimental pathos is contained in those words—"It is a strange irony," because the "Daily News" serves as one of the daily programmes of King Capital's drama, figuring the scenes which tell of the misery and sufferings of the workers—that three fourths of the population upon whose votes so much depends.

How much depends ? Why, the very existence of the capitalists as a ruling class.

The picture drawn above should be clear. The capitalist Press of the entire world is the servant of the capitalist class. Its members know what is behind the scenes, and their function in life is to provide the limelight, the music, and the curtain.

I will conclude with the remark that it is a strange irony that a small minority—the ruling or capitalist class—should retain their privileged position in modern society while "three-fourths of the population" should be compelled as a consequence to live miserable lives, struggling for the mere necessities of existence. Truly it is a strange irony that the working class, by whose labours, applied to the raw materials of mother earth, all wealth is produced, who fight the sectional battles of the ruling class, should be so politically ignorant that they give all power to their enemies when at election times they record their votes in favour of the class who are the cause of all the economic evils mankind is suffering throughout the capitalist world to-day.

Fellow Workers, arise from the depths of your dumb despair. Arise and avenge yourselves for the untold suffering which for so long has been your lot. Rid yourselves of the horrors and nightmares of capitalism. The world and all its fruits stand ready for you to take—are you worthy to enjoy them? If you are you will be with us, helping to organise your class in the Socialist Party, in order that the present social system may give place to the Socialist Co-operative Commonwealth.

Do not run away with the idea that you cannot help, that your weight will not count, that your efforts do not matter. To those who think thus there is a special meaning in Clough's splendid lines:
"Say not the struggle nought availeth,
   The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not nor faileth,
   And as things have been they remain. 
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars:
   It may be, in yon smoke concealed,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
  And but for YOU possess the field."
So if you agree that our principles and policy are correct, do your obvious duty and join us.
O. C. I.

50 Years Ago: The Labour Government's Prisons and Detention Barracks (1996)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Prisons and detention barracks are not accidental happenings due merely to the stupidity of governmental and military officials. They have a purpose, that of intimidating would-be offenders against civil laws and military discipline. Can you destroy the institution without first destroying the conditions that make it necessary? Without going into the details of the different kinds of crimes under the law it is obvious that in the main crimes are directly concerned with capitalist property laws or with the attempt to force unwilling conscripts to fight. Let Forward and other supporters of the Labour Party administration of capitalism start at the right end. If they are content to maintain capitalism and to wage capitalism’s wars, then let them not deceive themselves into supposing that they can materially lessen the brutality of imprisonment in civil and military prisons. (. . .)

If the supporters of the Labour Government are really concerned to abolish the prisons, then let them recognise that, instead of persisting in their efforts to reform and patch up the capitalist system, they have got to get down to the job of abolishing it.
(From editorial in April 1946 Socialist

Obituary: Ian McDougall (1996)

Obituary from the April 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ian McDougall, a member of Glasgow Branch for 45 years, passed away in December.

He was a regular at the branch's propaganda activities until ill-health which affected his for most of his life made this impossible.

Even so, Ian took up writing letters to the press and generally did what he could to spread the socialist message. Nor was illness allowed to quench his thirst for knowledge and he was a voracious reader up to the end.

Ian was a gentle person, and the only antagonism he ever permitted himself was towards capitalism.

We extend our deep condolences to his partner Nan and her family.

These Foolish Things: Wage Slave (1996)

The Scavenger column from the April 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Wage Slave

“I went to my bank three days before Christmas expecting that about £170 had been paid into my account, but I found only a fiver had been put in . . . "The man (who does not wish to be named) claims he told the agency of the long-standing engagement (to attend his pub soccer team’s Christmas party).

When he failed to report for work, ASC invoked clause eight of the contract: “Should you fail to turn up for any assignment without giving reasonable notice . . . your remuneration will be reduced to £1 per day for any work carried out previously and not yet paid, irrespective of hours worked” (Guardian, 1 February).

Demonstrating power

Education and Employment Minister Eric Forth told the Commons that some of the [Newbury bypass] protesters had been refused benefits because their demonstrations meant they were not available for work. Daily Mail. 18 January.


Nearly 1,000 families lost their homes each week last year, according to figures published yesterday by the Council of Mortgage lenders which showed repossessions rising again. Repossessions increased to 49,410 in 1995 from 49,210 in 1994—ending a four-year decline since they peaked at 75,540 in 1991. Guardian, 1 February.

Economics in Wonderland

Financial crisis is such a regular occurrence at Eurotunnel that it is hard to remember the company being in any other state . . . There is no reason Sir Alastair Morton and his crew should want a full financial reconstruction since it would mean recognising the underlying economic reality: that Eurotunnel equity has no value at all. Part of the function of a board of directors is to sustain at least some hope of some value for shareholders, even if this is at some indefinite point in the future. Charade this may be, but bankers have some interest in going along with it. They are already guaranteed every penny of money the project generates over and above its operating costs. . . .

Just trust the Market

Commercially, price wars are nearly always pointless . . . in petrol retailing it is questionable whether even the motorist gains . . . the petrol price war will create petrol deserts in large parts of rural and inner-city Britain as Esso. BP, Shell and the supermarkets battle it out and small retailers close. Independent, 18 January.

A pound of flesh

Gavin [Morrey], who quit work 18 months ago with chronic shoulder injuries, contacted the bank [Barclays] because he was unable to pay his £124-a-month mortgage. He gets just £80 a week disability allowance and his wife. Sue, earns £134 a week on a production line. The couple, who are supporting their 16-year-old student son Grant, were asked to list their weekly outgoings . . . [the Bank’s letter) read: “We appreciate sight of your income and expenditure details which give some indication of your financial position. We would have thought that sufficient economics could be made in respect of food and personal expenses to enable you to fulfil your contractual commitments” (News of the World, 31 December).
The Scavenger

Nothing to lose but our keys (1996)

The A Word in Your Ear column from the April 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

This is a world of locked doors. Never in the history of humanity have so many people needed so many keys to achieve so little.

Sitting in a bottom-of-the-market cafe, one leg of the wooden chair shorter than the others so that it was compulsory to rock as one searched through the grease for the cheap fodder, a fellow comes in with a bunch of keys which were almost as big as himself. He was not the biggest of men; perhaps he was picked on when he was at school. But did he have keys! He threw them on to the rickety table as he ordered his bacon sandwich and coke—it sagged under the weight. What the hell did such a little man need so many keys for? What prizes of the universe were waiting to be unlocked by him? An estate agent, perhaps? No, not smooth enough. A prison screw? Too small, no permanently clenched fist. A jeweller, maybe? Not with a suit like that. Not in a cafe like that. There is a theory (just invented) that the weight of the keys people carry around with them is in directly inverse proportion to their significance in the world. Perhaps he just had keys cut, any old keys, to show the tall people that he had lots of things that they could never get into.

Locking things up is the symbol of a society obsessed by exclusion rather than freedom. From the “mine” of useful possession soon arises the “keep out” of property consciousness. So, “This is my house and I planted the flowers myself" quickly degenerates into “This will never be your house or garden, so watch out for the electrified fence, the screeching alarm bells, the barking killer-dogs and the locks attached to anything worth having, and many things which aren’t.” If they could lock up their flowers at night they would.

Even the most natural urges are inhibited by locks with coin slots in them. It was years ago, on a long road from London to the cold and dreary English seaside, that the need for a crap became imperative. In the middle of a small country town a sign appeared (like a miracle, only it had been put up by council workers) pointing out that the Olde Village Church and Gift Shoppe was hither and the public toilets were thither. Old churches have now become places for flogging dodgy souvenirs to transient tourists. It will do them more good than praying, I pondered. But contemplation was not the order of the day. I was a man led by his bowels. A sharp ache directed me to the “public convenience”, only to discover that it was far from convenient for the penniless public. I stood with five-pound note in hand trying to squeeze it into the penny slot which unlocked the lock, as I tried simultaneously to squeeze my body into contraction mode. The place stunk of stale urine: capitalism’s convenience store for the public. I tried to offer a passing user five pounds if he could open the door for me, but the misunderstanding which ensued was best ended soon. Eventually, I submitted to human nature in a clearing in the New Forest.

It is hard to avoid the effects of locks, guards and alarms. The streets groan under the screams of car alarms, the yuppies’ mating call, which are ever-present and always ignored. If you want a supermarket trolley it must be unlocked. Public libraries, once the rare embodiment of free access in a world of property, are now locked for much the week (cuts) and special collections are locked away (fear of thieves). Security from theft is the great justification of locks. If you don’t lock it up (tie it down, chain it up, keep it secure) thieves will get at it. But what are thieves? People who take what is locked up. Property is defined by its inaccessibility. Exclusion from, not freedom to, is the philosophy of property. Take what is locked up and you will be locked up. The man was right about having nothing to lose but our chains.

The power of class is manifested by locks. If you own the factory, offices or shipyard the keys are yours. Go in when you like. As a worker in these places you are locked out every night. Even if you want to work, the doors will only be unlocked if they choose to employ you. When profits are down and there’s nothing left to milk you for they lock you out. The lock-out: capitalism’s way of telling you who owns the world. And even when they sell you the borrowed freedom to have your own key and “own” your home, watch the locksmiths move in the moment the debt arrears are more than the permitted limit and they decide to remind you who really owns a mortgaged property.

And yet, locked as we are into this prison-like property madness, the cell door is open. There are more of us than the guards, and with the slightest collective shove the locks would be shattered. A world without keys could be ours. “Utopia” sneers the hopeless man with the shrunken, locked-up mind.
Steve Coleman

Letters: Newbury — Let's bypass reformism (1996)

Letters to the Editors from the April 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Newbury — Let's bypass reformism

Dear Editors,

Last February I was tempted to attend a rally protesting about the proposed Newbury Bypass. This is a government road scheme brought about by local and regional business pressure for a quicker transport route via Newbury because the present route is having a negative effect on profits. Local business believes that a bypass around Newbury would reduce traffic and congestion, which at present is quite substantial and would thus increase their efficiency and profits.

It happens that I am sickened by this proposal. The new bypass will have a large and damaging effect on the environment. The road will pass through a government-designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and many other protected areas containing unique wildlife. Twelve unique archaeological sites will also be destroyed.

I didn’t attend this rally despite the temptation to stand with my fellow workers to try and stop this destructive scheme. I am not prepared to try and achieve small meaningless victories against the capitalists. Environmental factors will always come second to profits under capitalism and this is the essential problem.

At best the protests about the Newbury bypass may change its route or, if they are very lucky, may stop the scheme all together. But next week month or year where will the reformist protesters be? At another road protest, development protest, and law (e.g. Criminal Justice Bill) rally or possibly helping the thousands of homeless or maybe even helping the millions of people starving in the world? The list could go on forever because reforms will never eradicate capitalism’s inherent problems.

It saddened me that so much solidarity and so much organisation and commitment was being shown by workers for such a small and limited target. Just imagine if such activity was aimed at establishing socialism. The working class couldn’t help but sit up and listen to what we were saying despite media lies and other efforts by the capitalist class. One socialist is worth a million reformist rallies because the "left” can hold as many rallies as they like and make little difference to the ugly face of capitalism whilst one socialist is a clear step towards a society where such protests will not be necessary. In socialism there will be no conflict between profits and the environment and no conflict between the needs of people and profit because there won’t be production for profit.

Let's forget about reforms and work towards taking what is ours because only then will environmental destruction and all the rest of capitalism’s disasters stop occurring.

Forget about dulling the pains of the symptoms, let’s unite to cure the disease of capitalism.
Colin Skelly, 
              South Ascot, Berks

It doesn’t have to be like this

Dear Editors,

We have a choice. But who are we? We are the working class, a majority suffering from the manipulation and intimidation of a privileged minority. Why do we let them get away with it? We have a choice!

They keep on telling us with their own devious brainwashing techniques, through schooling, university education methods and other more sophisticated types of propaganda, how to be good little citizens in this ever-changing world of technology.

How nice it would be if all the tales of leisure and pleasure were true; alas, for the majority of us. the reality could not be more harsh, despairing or demoralising.

I relate my own personal experience as a victim of the society which we all inhabit.

I have recently parted company with my employer of some six years, to find myself depending on state handouts to support my wife, two children, mortgage etc. A story familiar, no doubt, to many thousands of families. My income more than halved.

The irony is that with less money now than I have ever had in the last 16 years of selling my mental and physical skills to the highest bidder, not forgetting the necessity to purchase essentials like food to eat. clothes to keep warm, the feet remains that I have never—throughout my working life—experienced such feelings of overwhelming satisfaction, and pleasure which I derive from simple things in life (as we know it), like being able to go to a library, taking a stroll in the park, enjoying the local wildlife, all at no direct expense. The true value of some of the most breathtaking scenery in this otherwise spoiled, war-torn world is awesome.

I have just left behind sixteen miserable years of being stuck in a fume-filled factory churning out poxy pop group fly-posters, laboriously and repetitively standing in front of a manual hand-operated printing table, sometimes for up to fourteen hours a day, in order to achieve a decent wage to be able to "afford” essential commodities and appliances like cookers, washing machines, fridges, etc. or other less necessary items like portable CD players, and that other all-mod-con, the glorious television, on which programmes of interest are few and far between. I used to waste many an hour glued to the likes of Dale Winton, churning out his usual "camp” (or should it be crap) style of innuendo and obscenity. all in the name of entertainment.

The more I think and wonder at the complexity of the world-wide capitalist system which the majority of us have to endure, and the minority have on their side, the more I ask myself, why? Why do we continue to restrict ourselves to its unforgiving grasp?

It doesn’t have to be like this. We have the power, the resources, the technology and the communication skills to free ourselves from its relentless torture, but only we the working class can do it The master class will not volunteer to do it for us. They depend on our skills, our labour. Let us not be denied the true fruits of these labours. Throw down your shackles, fellow workers, rid this world of the ongoing bloodbath that we see. night after night on our TV screens.

Objection to military service project

Dear Editors,

I am at present preparing a project on changing attitudes in Britain to objection to military service. In particular the project would deal with objection to military service on political grounds. It would inevitably have to deal with the Socialist Party’s unique stance in this matter.

The project will contain original material not available elsewhere. It would be most helpful if any readers would be willing to give me access to any letters, diaries, recollections, or other material relating to experiences of objectors to military service whether in peace or in wartime. Please write to me at the address below. Also if anyone is willing to talk to me about their experiences would they please contact me by letter in the first instance.

Please write to: Gwynn Thomas, c/o History Common Room, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex, C04 3SQ.

A policy of equalizing misery?

Dear Editors,

It is often stated by your writers’ commentary and your manifesto that one cannot criticize Marxism because it has never been practiced in the manner in which it was originally conceived. Putting aside the fact that such a statement is nothing more than a lame and covert attempt to shut off debate regarding the disadvantages of Marxism and socialism, I am writing to ask how you can justify your theory and what you would probably call the quasi-socialist or perhaps pseudo-socialist systems we have seen disintegrate since the fall of 1989. To be more precise, how do you explain the former USSR’s disintegration and the embracing of capitalism by formerly socialist regions, i.e. East Asia and S.E. Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe?

Consider this: in 1965, two-thirds of the world was decidedly socialist Today, three-quarters of the world is decidedly capitalist Capitalism has never self-destructed; nor does it appear to be on such a path as your theoretical doctrine always predicted. Instead, socialism, artificially supported by temporary subsidies, miserably collapsed from within.

Why is Sweden, as you reported in your summer of 1994 issues, approaching a level of debt equivalent to 120 percent of GDP? It certainly is not military spending. Indeed, it is the state's spending on social welfare policies which have bankrupted the one-time model welfare state in spite of the most confiscatory tax policies in Europe. Sweden has realised the hard way that it can no longer afford to provide a personal nurse for every wheelchair-bound citizen.

How do you explain the incredibly massive undertaking of Thatcherite privitization policies going on in France and Germany where 40 percent of the population used to work for the public sector? The answer seems to ring loud and clear everywhere; state-subsidised automotive, aerospace, telecom, banking and pharmaceutical industries could not break even, much less make a profit.

Economic growth is the greatest social priority. It allows for a level of self-reliance and prosperity which has empirically proven impossible in a socialist fraud of self-perpetuating transfer payments. The socialist experiment in confiscation and redistribution was criminal in its marginal tax rates of 98 percent on the last pound earned. How is anyone supposed to provide for himself if he can only keep 2p after 98p is confiscated by the government? Have you ever worked for a poor man?

It also seems to me useless for you to criticize New Labour. The Labour Party of the 70s was so held hostage to its now dead textbook and theory of Marxism that it blindly saw the market as an obstacle to success what with comments such as. “The company stinks and the Management stinks..." Now, however, the market is partly embraced by Labour as a partner, not a barrier, to success. Labour’s Keynesian approach to economics and public policy was thus thrown in the dustbin of history with the economic failures of the 70s. When your political culture fortunately changed, so did the vocabulary and context of the debate. This system of transfer payments can somehow sustain any country has been proven false over and over again in every country study you can possibly examine.

Socialism was relegated to the dustheap of history with the death of the British planned economy some twenty years ago. The ordinary citizen was shafted by socialism’s collectivist nightmare. something which was admired only by an √©lite few of intellectuals. What will you be saying and writing when 95 or 100 percent of the world is decidedly capitalist? Please answer these questions because the apparent reality is that your terribly theoretical mode of thinking will simply prove itself even more anachronistic and more irrelevant than it already is. The idea that capitalism would self-destruct and one would progress from capitalism to socialism was part of the self-licking ice lolly that you call your manifesto. As such, you are a minority within a minority which would like to be in the majority and the mainstream. but that has been an elusive “Mission Impossible". 
Craig Thomson,
Falls Church, 
Vermont USA.

You may be a regular reader of the Socialist Standard but you clearly haven't taken much in. We never regarded Russia as being socialist—in fact we said right from the start that what the Bolsheviks were developing was a form of capitalism. State capitalism, to be precise. Nor have we ever advocated what you call "a Keynesian system of transfer payments" from rich to poor which the Labour Party once said it stood for—we predicted that this, too, would fail as capitalism just cannot be reformed so as to promote the welfare of the useful majority in society.

Ironically, you yourself confirm this last point by your comment on Sweden (which never was socialist either) that it "has realised the hard way that it can no longer afford to provide a personal nurse for every wheelchair-bound citizen”.

You don’t seem to realise the enormity of what you have conceded here. Every person in a wheelchair ought to be able to have the services of a personal nurse if they need one. but you are saying that this is impossible under capitalism. We agree with you, but you and us draw different conclusions. You see this as an argument for cutting back on welfare services. We see it as an argument for getting rid of capitalism. If capitalism can't afford comprehensive welfare services (which it can’t) then we can’t afford capitalism.

The reason why all the countries of the world are pursuing "Thatcherite" policies of privatisation and welfare cut-backs is. quite simply, to try to raise the rate of profit as a means of getting capitalism out of its current economic crisis.

As you correctly point out, governments are not actually engaged in the production of wealth, so their income has to come from taxing the wealth-creating sector of the economy. This taxation to pay for government spending ultimately falls on profits, but capitalism runs on profits. It is in fact variations in the rate of profit that determine the level of economic activity. A slump means that the rate of profit has fallen, and the only way out of a slump is through a rise in the rate of profit. Governments everywhere in recent years have been trying to do this by cutting back on their spending, so reducing the burden of taxation on profits (not always successfully, it has to be said).

This is the way capitalism works. It has to put making profits before meeting needs. It can work no other way. In this sense Thatcher was right to proclaim that “there is no alternative". Within capitalism there really is no alternative. In a wider context one does of course exist— but it lies outside capitalism, in establishing a society that will allow production to be geared to meeting people’s needs; which can only be on the basis of the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources. After all, how can we direct production towards meeting our needs if we don’t first own and control the means of production?

This is real socialism and has nothing in common with what has existed in Russia. Sweden or under Labour governments.