Monday, May 4, 2020

The Betrayal of the Miners. (1921)

Editorial from the May 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Often during the last two years we have been informed by those who, without knowledge or thought, have swallowed and repeated phrases from Russia, that the workers here were seething with revolutionary fervour, and only needed "strong " leadership to bring about their emancipation.

The contradictions involved in such a statement quite escaped these would-be firebrands, for it is evident, even to the elementary student of social evolution, that a movement that depends upon "leaders" shows by that very fact it is not yet ripe for revolution. "Leaders" can only exist where there is a "following"—that is a body or group who will accept without thought, and with but little question, the orders of their "leaders." When the working class are ready for their emancipation the days of "leaders" will be over, as it is only by growing out of such childish ideas that the working class will reach the necessary understanding to carry through a revolution.

Incidents showing the truth of this contention as to the lack of clearness on the part of the workers are continually occurring, and sometimes on such a scale that all except the purblind swallowers of phrases can see the facts. Such an illustration has just taken place in connection with the coal miners.

Not since the days of 1907, when the officials of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (since transformed into National Union of Railwaymen) signed the. agreement that bound down the Railway Servants for seven years (see Socialist Standard, Dec. 1907) has such a gigantic swindle been perpetrated upon bodies of organised workers as that carried through by the officials of the N.U.R. and the Transport Workers on Friday, 15th April.

It must be admitted that the capitalist Press has been successful in confusing the minds of large numbers of the working class over the question of the coal miners' dispute. Yet the main points are fairly simple and easily understood.

As is well known, the mines were under Government control during the war, and that control was originally intended to continue till next August. Early this year the Government informed the mine-owners that the control would be withdrawn on the 31st March. At this time the Miners and mine-owners were holding a series of conferences to work out a new basis for wages. Both sides strongly protested against decontrol, urging, among other things, that they should be allowed time to work out their new wages scheme. The Government, under pressure from other "Big Business," refused to withdraw, and stated to the owners that the pool from which the profits had been paid was empty. Despite this the Government offered to guarantee to pay nine-tenths of the average rate of profits for March, even though prices fell, if the owners would drop their opposition to de-control.

The owners accepted this bribe, or subsidy, from the national funds, as subsidies are only harmful or "uneconomic" when given to the workers, and then announced that as soon as control ceased all the agreements made between the Miners and the Government would be scrapped and wages placed upon an economic basis. They kept their word, and as soon as the De-Control Bill was passed notices were issued terminating all existing agreements, to every section of the Colliery Workers, INCLUDING THE PUMP AND ENGINE MEN.

This notice was to expire on the 31st March, and in the meantime the masters issued a new scale of wages, involving huge reductions in several areas, reaching in some cases as much as £1 15s. per week. From the owners' point of view everything looked favourable. Thanks to "Making Germany Pay" the French coal market was flooded with German coal and English coal was driven out. In practically every industry there were large numbers of unemployed that would seriously reduce the financial assistance they could give the Miners, while the latter's own funds had been almost exhausted—except for the amounts necessary to pay the officials—by the strike of last year.

Despite all these advantages the owners were disagreeably surprised to find the Miners were solid in refusing to accept the new terms. So the men were locked out. Then the capitalist Press was set to work to shriek at the wicked pump and engine men, who, being locked out, had the audacity to stay away from work !

Immediately the "leaders" of the Miners' Federation made two big blunders. The first one was to admit that a reduction of wages was necessary—a statement which was entirely false —and the second was to lay down as a "principle" a National Pooling Scheme.

The first point hardly needs discussing. The workers may be forced to accept reductions of wages under certain conditions, but in no case is such a reduction necessary. Clearly the first call upon any branch of production should be the maintenance of those doing the work. Wages fluctuate around the cost of subsistence, and as there is not a single division of industry where the wages are equal in purchasing power to pre war level, the claim of the masters for a reduction of wages is just a brazen attempt to lower the already poor standard of subsistence. For Trade Unions officials to chatter about a reduction of wages being necessary is to show either a colossal ignorance of the workers' position as wage slaves or a readiness to betray their members in the masters' interests.

The second point was a conceited attempt on the part of the Miners' officials to show their ability to assist the owners out of their difficulties. Obviously it is no part of the business of Trade Unions officials to instruct employers how to manage their business. They are not paid large salaries by the workers for that purpose, and the Miners' officials were acting falsely to the people who pay them by such actions. It is for the mine-owners to settle their own method of payment, whether by pool or person. The putting forward of the "Pool" scheme has been of great value to the mine-owners and the Government in diverting the attention of both Miners and other workers from the real point at issue—the lowering of the standard of existence.

When in 1914 the Miners joined up with the Railwaymen and the Transport Workers in a loose federation called the Triple Alliance, for the purpose of defence against just such action as that now being taken by the mine owners, it was hailed by all the "Direct Actionists" and "economic power" phrasers as the greatest step forward the workers had ever taken. Although each of the constituent bodies forming the Alliance have, at different times, been engaged in hard fights with the masters, some excuse has always been forthcoming to explain why the Alliance should not use its power to assist such body. Now it was going to show this power.

After several meetings it was decided on 8th April that unless negotiations were re-opened between the Miners and the mine-owners the Railway and Transport workers would be called out at midnight of the 12th April. Having reached this decision Messrs. Thomas, Cramp, Abraham, Bevin, Gosling, Sexton, and R. Williams were formed into a deputation to carry on negotiations between the Government and the Miners' Executive.

Late on Saturday night, April 9th, the latter agreed to issue a notice calling upon their members not to interfere with volunteers working the pumps and engines, and upon this condition a meeting between the Miners and owners was fixed for the Monday morning. On this arrangement the strike dated for Tuesday night was called off.

The meeting was a failure. No agreement was reached and the Miners, faced with essentially the same situation as before, left the Conference. Then the Executives of the Triple Alliance called another strike for Friday, 15th April, at 10 p.m.

This was to be "the thing." No more dallying, nor more shuffling or wasting of time, but a strong and determined blow against aggression.

The blow came all right, but to the utter amazement and confusion of the rank and file it was a blow by the Executives of the N.U.R. and the Transport workers against the Miners. They had decided to CANCEL THE STRIKE.

Seldom has such treachery been exposed in the industrial field. It was a complete betrayal of the Miners by their own associates—so much so that officials of the N.U.R. and the Transport workers dared not meet their own rank and file and abandoned scores of meetings that had been called for Friday night by skulking out of the way.

From every side arose demands for "explanations," and when those "explanations" that were published are examined the sinister aspect of the situation shows clearly through the veil of confusion with which the officials try to cover up the truth.

All through the negotiations the Miners—quite wrongly, as we have shown above—had held rigidly to the "principle" of a National Pool being accepted before discussing details. The Triple Alliance officials were, of course, not only well aware of this, but had supported the Miner's claim for this "principle."

On Thursday night (14th April) Mr. F. Hodges, Secretary of the Miners' Federation, announced to a more or less private meeting of members of Parliament, in the House of Commons, that the Miners would be prepared to discuss details of wages reduction and defer the question of the National Pool. Lloyd George at once made arrangements for a meeting of Miners and mine-owners on the Friday morning. But on Friday morning the Miners' Executive repudiated Mr. Hodges' offer, and declined to go to the meeting. When the officials of the N.U.R. and the Transport Workers were informed of this decision they passed the resolution cancelling the strike.

The defence put forward by these officials for this decision—that the Miners should have accepted the offer to meet the owners—is simply idiotic as an argument. As stated above, they knew and approved of the Miners' attitude on the "pool" all through the dispute, and their puerile excuse but exposes the more clearly the sinister character of their action.

It would be an insult to the intelligence of any normal person, and still more so to that of Mr. Hodges, to suggest, as does the "Daily Herald" (16th April), that Hodges "made a tactical mistake." This cool and cunning Labour "leader" knows the views of the Miners and the case he has been handling far too well for such an hypothesis to bear a moment's examination. The "Labour Leader" and the official organ of the several times united Communist Party join in putting the bulk of the blame upon J. H. Thomas, but this condemnation proceeds from a desire to make him a scapegoat for the actions of members of the I.L.P. like Sexton and of the Communist Party like R. Williams, who are not one whit less guilty than Thomas.

The only explanation that fits the facts of the case we have given above is that the whole business has been arranged among the wire-pulling clique of Labour leaders who had the matter in hand, and it is merely misleading the workers to pretend that any one of the clique is more guilty in any material sense than the others. Nor can the Executive of the Miners' Federation escape from their share in the foul business. When they met on Friday morning to consider Hodges' offer of the previous night they decided by a majority of two ("Observer," 17.4.1921.) to repudiate that offer. But this majority contains the pets of the Communist Party, the "extremists" like G. Barker. Had they the slightest grasp of essentials they would have at once called for Mr. Hodges' dismissal. Not only did the "extremists" fail to take such action, but they voted for the resolution asking Hodges to retain office ! (See Mr. Hodges' letter in the "Observer," 17.4.1921.) The whole evidence supports, the contention that the meeting in the House of Commons had been carefully arranged to allow the Triple Alliance to crawl out of the situation the strike threat had created.

The whole incident, with its huge fraud and slimy crawling on the part of the officials of the unions concerned, throws a flood of light on the present mental condition of the organised workers. It shows the fallacy of the Anarchist and Industrial Unionist argument that political action is no good because it corrupts the representatives of the workers. They will be puzzled to find an equal in politics to this act of corruption —one among thousands—on the industrial field. It shows once again the stupidity of allowing "leaders" to decide agreements and actions.

Above all it shows how few of the working class here have even a glimmering of an understanding of their slave position when they allow themselves to be used as pawns in the intrigues and corrupt practices of their officials.

All along the line the employers are making a powerful and systematic attempt to lower the standard of existence of the working class. Engineers, shipbuilders, transport workers, miners, house builders, seamen, are all being attacked, and in each case the officials are urging the workers to accept the masters' terms, though to save their faces—and their jobs—they usually introduce some small modification as a point to argue about. Had the rank and file of the Triple Alliance understood even their ordinary Trade Union interests they would have stood together and fought to the fullest extent of their power against this attempt to worsen their conditions. A short time ago the Building Trades Federation urged joint action on the part of all organised workers against the plot of the employers, but the mandarins of the Triple Alliance evaded the question by referring it to the Cremation Company known as the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Unions Congress.

This ignorance extends to some who pretend that they understand Socialism because they can shout loudly. Thus in the "Communist" of 2nd April appears the following :
  Only by taking the offensive, only by a well-calculated, well-organised and capably developed campaign for the nationalisation of the mines with real and complete workers' control can the miners ever score any real victory over their exploiters.
Even the beginner in the study of Socialism is aware that Nationalisation is merely capitalist control through the agency of the Government instead of an individual or group. To expect the capitalists to allow the workers "real and complete" control under nationalisation is idiotic. The sapient guides are therefore urging the Miners to organise a campaign for —more centralised capitalist control !

These people also howl against the present Trade Union "leaders." Not because the existence of "leaders" proves how unripe the workers are for Socialism, but merely because they are "bad" leaders. Thus in their issue of 9th April one reads:
  Out of the hands of the reformists must power be taken and into the hands o£ those who see straight and clearly must power go.
Into the hands of those who "see straight" like R. Williams, we suppose.

To follow "leaders," no matter who they are, or whether on the industrial field or the political, is to give those "leaders" something to sell—their influence over the members. Evidently there is competition for these leaderships and the crime appears to be that Bevin, Thomas, Clynes, Hodges, and so on, hold these jobs instead of those who "see straight," like the Communists. Such teaching is just as misleading as that of the present office holders.

The working class are slaves because all the means of production and distribution— land, mines, minerals, railways, canals, factories, motors, engines, machinery, docks, warehouses and the like—are owned by a small section in society—the capitalist or master class. The workers cannot operate these means of production and distribution without the masters' permission, in other words the workers only live by permission of the masters. This is the first great fact the workers have to learn. The second is how do the masters retain their control ?

The present struggle once more repeated the thousand times told tale. Leaving their "economic power" to look after itself, the capitalists had the Army reserves called up, Naval ratings sent to work the pumps, a white guard formed called a "Defence Force," and set the new D.O.R.A. into operation.

"Oh!" we shall be told, "but that was the work of the Government." Exactly, and who are the Government ? Perhaps the answer may not come quite so readily. A little thought will show that the Government is merely the Executive Committee of Parliament, and it can be pulled up, reprimanded, or changed whenever the majority decide to do any of these things. That majority to day consists of capitalists and capitalists' agents. Thus the Government is in reality the Executive Committee of the capitalist class—which explains a large number of things if one thinks over it. An inquisitive person may ask : "Who sends that majority to Parliament ?" and if he happened to be a person ignorant of the workings of capitalism, he would be staggered to receive the reply—"The workers—miners, transport workers, railwaymen engineers, builders, labourers, clerks, in short, all those who do the useful work of society."

There stands the bald fact. It is the workers themselves, in their ignorance, who place the power into the hands of the master class whereby the latter enslave the former. While the workers continue to vote the masters into control of the political machinery their slavery will continue and their conditions grow worse.

Out of this situation the road stands clear. Not by wild grimaces or hysterical shrieks, not by rushing unarmed against machine guns and high explosive shells, not by stupidly imagining they can "lock-out" the master class by economic organisation, but by first studying their position in society to-day, and when they have discovered how they are enslaved, organising seize control of political power, through the franchise they possess. When they have attained possession of the political power, and not till then, they will be able to take over the means of life and end strikes, lock-outs, and the treachery of officials by establishing Socialism as the form of society fitting the development of the means of production.

Parliamentary or Direct Action? (1921)

From the May 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Echoes are heard daily of the various so-called Socialist groups that are repudiating Parliamentary action. They proclaim Direct Action to be the only means of bringing about a speedy and effective revolution. One of their favourite arguments is that "it may sound very plausible to state that the course of evolution will gradually bring the working class to a consciousness of their slavery, but the workers cannot afford to wait. Their immediate needs are too great." Very convincing and humane, but in common with most statements of its kind, it will not bear examination.

It is perfectly true that the working class are in immediate need of having their sufferings alleviated, but, unfortunately, the sad fact of their suffering is not enough to bring about the change. The only way to understand this is to examine present conditions.

On one side one discovers that in England 5 per cent. of the population receives 95 per cent. of the total wealth produced. On the other side 95 per cent. of the population receives the remaining 5 per cent. The strange part of it is that the 95 per cent. of the people by their energy produce the wealth that is appropriated by the 5 per cent. There must be something wrong somewhere.

There is ; but not with this statement. The 95 per cent. of society would probably be interested to know how they are robbed—yes, robbed!—of the wealth which they have produced.

There is a class in society called the "capitalist class", which has control of the necessaries of life. This class consists of the fortunate 5 per cent. Its members say to the 95 per cent., "We possess the means for producing all you need ; if you will work for us we will return to you sufficient out of what you produce to enable you to go on working for us." Of course, they do not exactly use these words. Stating facts would not coincide with their interests.

Most workers are probably not aware that the means of production, i.e., machinery, raw material, etc., are absolutely worthless to the capitalists until their labour power has been applied to them. But even if they do not know this, the fear of having their jobs taken from them by others of the 95 per cent. forces them to accept the terms of the capitalists.

The majority of "unskilled" labourers work for a miserable subsistence wage. On the average they are paid according to the cost of their production and maintenance. The small number who do receive a better scale of living are being paid for the higher cost of their production, i.e., training. This does not alter the fact that they also are exploited by their employers. The workers' wages, whatever they be, are paid out of the results of their labour. The surplus goes to supply the capitalists with their profits. Now comes the rub. The reason the working class are deprived or robbed of the surplus produced is that they do not OWN and CONTROL the means of production so therefore must submit to those who do.

Does it not appear incredible that such a small percentage of the population—the 5 per cent.—should be able to subject the 95 per cent. to such a palpable form of robbery ?

An examination of the working of the system will soon show the source of their power. Capitalism has become a very complicated affair, far too complicated to allow of the personal management of the capitalists. Hence various institutions necessary to their maintenance have come into being. The most important of these institutions is Parliament, through which all the other institutions are controlled—for example, education, the Press, and the armed forces. The capitalists propose certain representatives for Parliament, and the workers, carefully educated by the capitalist Press to believe that they really represent working-class interests, obediently vote them in. These capitalist henchmen—Liberal, Tory, or Labour, it makes not the slightest difference—proceed to pass laws for the safeguarding of their employers' interests.

In the face of these facts, the dauntless Direct Actionists exclaim "Parliamentary action is futile ! We will make a revolution whether the time be ripe or not. Since the workers are so desperately in need of some change. We will educate them when the revolution is an accomplished fact."

They propose to set about this "revolution" by bringing what they term the economic factor to the fore. By this they mean a General Strike. Of course it is a glaring inconsistency to imagine for one moment that a spontaneous General Strike could be brought about, since the Direct Actionists have already recognised that the time is not yet ripe for a political revolution. The workers have not at present reached the essential state of class-consciousness.

But suppose for a moment that conditions do tend favourably to such an upheaval, note what would surely result. The strike would cause the stoppage of all transport; foodstuffs would diminish in a very short time. The capitalist class would not suffer from the shortage : they could quite easily recruit volunteers from their own ranks, or conscripts from the Army, to be in a position to satisfy their own needs. For keep in mind that they still own the means of production and distribution. Finally, if the strikers would persist for a prolonged period, the armed forces of the nation, which are controlled through Parliament, would prove the deciding factor. All the heroism and martyrdom in the world would avail nothing against the ruthless machine-guns and other instruments of civilised warfare, which undoubtedly would be brought forward to induce the working class to realise the futility of rebelling against such a power. An uprising of this description can only add to the misery of the workers without advancing their cause in the least.

It should be quite obvious that the whole power of the capitalists lies in a government that can summon the inevitable deciding factor, force, when needed. Therefore the only logical thing for the workers to do is to capture that government, and so in a constitutional manner gain control of the armed forces.

This can only be accomplished when the majority of the working class have reached class-consciousness—in other words, when the bulk of the workers have arrived at a complete understanding of their position as wage-slaves under the existing system of society.

They will then utilise their powers of voting to further their own interests instead of the interests of a class that has always ruthlessly oppressed them.
J. C.

'When Labour Rules.' A review of Mr. Thomas's book. (1921)

Book Review from the May 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

'When Labour Rules' by J. H. Thomas (W. Collins Sons & Co. Ltd, 1920)

Apart from other considerations, Mr. Thomas's book is badly written, the sentences are often involved and their meaning obscure.

In many instances it appears that the object is merely to spin words, as example : "Nevertheless, there is still a very large number of people who have not yet gained the ability to understand what they see" (p. 8), which is meant to convey that many people do not understand what they see— a shorter and clearer way of putting it.

On page 7 of the foreword, referring to the traditional British insularity, the author says : "They [the majority of the people in this country] failed entirely to realise the existence of forces they had not actually experienced," and a little lower down on the same page he states: "It is true that they knew there were ever-growing forces in the land, but they did not recognise them as forces." It would hardly seem to be necessary to suggest that what is known must be recognised.

We get (p. 8) a statement which might have been put in a more discreet form when the writer says: "There are some who make it their business to use every means within their power to distort the vision of the remainder," because Mr. Thomas's book is nothing more or less than such an effort, if a clumsy one, from the first page to the last. The concluding sentence of the foreword gives the whole game away, so I will quote it in full.

"But, however true or false future events may prove my vision to be, I do assert, with all the vehemence at my command, that labour rule will be entirely beneficent, and that its dealings with high and low, rich and poor, will be marked with broad-minded toleration and equity."

So there it is. When we have that sort of labour rule which Mr. Thomas stands for we shall have, as heretofore, "high and low, rich and poor," with the misery and degradation inseparable from such class distinctions.

In the chapter entitled "The England of To-morrow" we learn that "there will be no profiteers, no unemployment, no slums, no hungry children." This, mind you, despite the fact that two pages previously (p. 9) as already quoted, we are told that there will be "high and low, rich and poor." Maybe Mr. Thomas can explain how "high and low, rich and poor," synchronise with "no profiteers, no unemployment, no slums, no hungry children." At the same time an explanation may be useful as to how capitalism can exist—and our author insists all through that capitalism will exist when Labour rules — without unemployment and hunger, both on the part of the adult worker and his children, as a spur to be used whenever occasion demands.

It may be pointed out that though there will be no hungry children our spreader of light is careful not to say there will be no hungry adults.

There are commendatory references to profit sharing and bonus schemes and the use they have in making "both men and girls more efficient and valuable workers" (p. 15). We are, moreover, instructed (same page) that "industry would tremendously benefit by the workers having a share in the management." How a benefit to industry in the capitalist sense— meaning, of course, an increase in the ratio of surplus value extracted from the worker—can be of other than negative interest to the worker is a point that is not explained. Mr. Thomas leaves that, as he does all other debatable points, and merely makes a statement, trusting that the ignorance of his readers will do the rest.

On page 24, dealing with the "Right to Work" and the "Right to Rest," we read "That Capital will be entitled to some return will be recognised," and lower down: "Some of the richest men are the hardest workers and are rich largely because of that" (our author is a worthy disciple of Ananias); and yet lower down : ''These people''—(the rich) —'' will have to work and a proper limitation of their unearned wealth will provide the necessary incentive. What form their work will take will be a matter entirely for themselves." What a picture ! To-day these folk expend their energies disposing of the wealth they filch from the workers, chasing each others' wives and daughters, gambling at Monte Carlo and other places, and in all varieties of dissipation, including the use of the daughters of the working class as prostitutes, yet Mr. Thomas postulates that their work will be a matter entirely for themselves. So they have only to label their existing occupations "work" and he will be satisfied "when Labour rules."

There is some wonderful work incorporated in Chapter VI entitled: "The Labour Government and the Constitution," and one or two quotations will be useful. "There can be no question among thoughtful people that the Monarchy plays a large part in holding the British Empire together . . and it would require a very unwise monarch to change this faith in the hearts of the people." And then we get a little dissertation on the Constitutionalism of the King, which concludes: "While such an attitude is adopted by the King the question of Republic versus Monarchy will not arise."

Our author then proceeds to a panegyric on the Prince of Wales which for sickening sycophancy and servility could not be beaten anywhere, and on page 47 he says, "A King of England to-day holds a skilled and responsible position." He completes this paragraph by giving the show away, thus: "Furthermore, the King is surrounded by skillful and well-qualified advisers," These advisers are, of course, the people who pull the strings and work the marionettes.

The rest of the book is merely bad economics and cringing obsequiousness, so we can conclude our survey by quoting the last paragraph.

Speaking of the employers Mr. Thomas says,
 They will see that all we claim is a first charge on industry to the point of a reasonable share in the decencies and comforts—not luxuries, note—of life. And I am optimistic enough to hope that when they see our objects are fair play all round, and when they have it proved to them that our administration will mean industrial peace with all the stupendous saving that means, they will be ready, not only to give us the credit for having the good of the community at heart, but will come forward and associate themselves with our ideals, both in home and international affairs.
That paragraph is the book. Let Labour— Thomas, Macdonald, Snowden, Smillie, Thorne, and all the gang—rule, and the capitalist class will have a world without labour troubles and strife and with all the "stupendous saving" that will result. And the capitalist lion will come forward and associate himself and lie down with the working-class lamb— inside it!

If the Labour faker and the Labour movement can be more effectively exposed than by a perusal of this work written by one of the leading lights of the clan, the present writer would suggest that such exposure would be difficult to discover, and the only excuse for dealing at such length with it is that, viewed from such an angle, it has value as showing the crawling humbug and blatantly canting hypocrisy of certain servile flatterers of the capitalist class, who, posing as the champions of the working class, expend their utmost effort in helping our masters to keep us in subjection.
D.W. F.

Jottings. (1921)

The Jottings Column from the May 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Members of Parliament are complaining that they can't keep up appearances on the present scale of payment. In spite of this Mr. Clynes manages to turn up at the House in evening dress. This has been commented on in the Press, but I see no reason why a Labour leader should feel any embarrassment, as they are quite used by now to hobnobbing with the "most distinguished" of company. Moving in the highest circles as they do, they doubtless find it an easy matter to conform. Clynes lent his patronage to the Warriors' Day ball along with the Duke of York, Beatty, Methuen, and a host of others whose interests are certainly not those of the workers, but among whom Clynes and his colleagues find no difficulty in making themselves at home.

*    *    *

Appeals are being made by Trade Union officials to their members to stand fast in the present crisis of the arbitrary reduction of wages, and to maintain their faith in the Labour Party. A glance at Hansard shows that Stanton, who was elected on a Labour ticket, opposed the increase of wages to Civil Servants and demanded to be informed on what grounds an increase could be claimed !

*    *    *

Some so-called Labour leaders make no effort to conceal their contempt for the class to which they belong, and whose votes placed them where they are. Others prefer to dope their followers, either by bluffing them with false information, or dosing them with religion. I notice that a call is being made again this year for all Trade Unionists to attend Special Services to be held on May 1st throughout the country. As might be expected, this come-to-Jesus stunt has received the blessing of Messrs. Henderson, Clynes, and the rest. Whilst prayers are being offered for a way out of the present industrial difficulties, Lloyd George, Foch, and Briand will be smashing through Germany to inflict the final blow. They don't leave too much to God.

*    *    *

Some disappointment was caused amongst the racing fraternity by the announcement that in consequence of the strike the Government had decided to prohibit the holding of the Newmarket Spring Meeting. It is thought that this ought not to be considered a sufficient reason for curtailing the sport of kings, it is pointed out that even in the grimmest days of the war it was found possible to provide horse boxes for the Newmarket meetings. This is quite true. What is not pointed out is that first class trains were provided as well, so that the class that follows the sport should be attended with every comfort, what time workers who were busily engaged in winning their war for them, travelled to and from work in rolling stock that had been dug up out of yards and sidings somewhere, and which would have put the occupants of the horse boxes to shame. In order that the pleasures of the rich shall not be interfered with owners are being encouraged to extend the use of motor horse boxes and thus make them independent in case of any disturbance in the usual facilities.

*    *    *

Anatole France has been giving his views of the present condition of the world in the "New York American." He has been sadly disillusioned. His point of view now is certainly not that which he had in 1914. The present writer remembers the frantic outburst of M. France in 1914 when he literally foamed at the mouth against the "iniquities" of Germany. So great was his sense of wrong that nothing would reconcile him but military service. "Had they not allowed me," he said, "to serve my country in the uniform of a soldier, I think I should have died of chagrin." When asked his opinion of the manifesto issued by the German "Intellectuals" he said : "The only reply is to fire on the mass without scruple." He now admits that militarism has grown instead of having shrunk. He sees in his own beloved France, even among the mass of the people, that miliarism is rampant. The war spirit is still in its bones. He believes that the present unemployment and financial crisis are not so much natural as artificial, that they are but another manoeuvre of capitalism to strengthen itself, to wear down and destroy its enemies, to rivet the chains of the workers yet more securely upon them. "Unemployment, one can see, is not hurting the rich, secure and living at ease on the immense profits they have made out of the war. But it is a clever weapon to employ against the poor, to grind them down into the dust, to drive them in despair into a premature revolt, the plans to combat and destroy which are already fully prepared.'' M. France certainly writes with a clearer vision now than he did a few years ago, and I think the above is worth quoting if only for the large measure of truth it contains, and because it supports the good old saw to the effect that one is never too old to learn.
Tom Sala

“The Triumph of Nationalization” (1921)

Book Review from the May 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Triumph of Nationalization”  By Sir Leo Chiozza Money. London : Cassell & Co. 75. 6d.

The author of this book contends that but for Government activity the necessary supply of munitions and ordinary commodities could not have been maintained during the war, and to prove this he produces a vast mass of facts and figures, which he had excellent opportunities for collecting, showing how Government organisation succeeded where private enterprise failed.

It is with his conclusions rather than his figures that we are concerned. We agree with all he says about the increased productivity consequent on the swift development of machine production, and his admission that there has been no appreciable improvement in the lot of the worker in spite of it.

Already in Poverty and Riches our author has shown the existence of great wealth and great poverty side by side, yet he still does not, or will not, see that this is inherent in capitalism. He thinks, or at least he says, that mismanagement is at the root of the trouble, and that with better organisation, and without serious interference with the basis of society, the problem of poverty can be solved.

Sir Leo, although he has changed his political party, is still a politician with a “career” and a “reputation” to consider, and this prevents his demanding, with us, a fundamental reconstruction of society. Capitalism is based upon the robbery of the employed by the employing class; from that the poverty and degradation of the working class springs, and this it is which renders futile the suggested renovation of the old structure.

Compare our explanation of the existence of poverty with the eight reasons put forward by Sir Leo, who does not see that they are all traceable to one cause. His points are as follows :

  1. The divorce from production of an increasing proportion of workers.
  2. The poor technical equipment of many producers.
  3. The defective organisation of producers.
  4. The waste of work in competition.
  5. The production of rubbish.
  6. The production of luxuries.
  7. Physical deterioration.
  8. The lack of scientific education.
Owing to improved methods and the fact, that goods are produced for sale only to those who can pay for them, and not for use by all who need them, a decrease in the number of workers actually producing necessaries is inevitable.

Poor equipment there certainly is, but that is a question for the producer, who introduces up-to-date machinery and methods only if, and to the extent that, the immediate object of producing profit is concerned, and not for the worker, whose wages are not affected. Again, the anomalies produced by competition, which the growth of the combine will remove, should not be any concern of the workers. Will the removal of the absurdity of a thousand different types of plough by standardisation get better pay for the ploughman? As many workers live by the wastefulness of capitalism and can have no interest in economy, is it for them to assist the master class to exploit them more efficiently ? The production of rubbish and luxuries just as much as the production of necessaries allows the employer to make profit and the worker to earn wages, and, this being all they are interested in, they are equally indifferent to the eventual use of the product.

Physical deterioration, undoubtedly very alarming, is not the cause of poverty, as Sir Chiozza Money would have us believe, but is caused by it. Like the lack of scientific education, it results from the condition of present-day society itself, and the following statement by Prof. D. J. Cunningham serves to show that it could easily and rapidly be remedied :
  In spite of the marked variations which are seen in the physique of the different classes of people in Great Britain, . . . those inferior bodily characteristics which are the result of poverty (not of vice such as syphilis and alcoholism). . . are not transmissable from one generation to another.
The capitalist controls the means of health and education and will not give them to the workers unless it is necessary to do so for their continued exploitation.

The War
When the war broke out the capitalists were interested, as they always are, in making profits ; and “patriotism” was not enough to prevent their exporting oil seeds, nuts, fats, tea, etc. to the “enemy ” and producing poor quality munitions at fabulous prices. The Government, discovering that wars are not won in this way, competed in their own factories with private producers, Thus, on such things as T.N.T., 18-pounder shells, and machine guns, anything from 50 per cent. to 75 per cent. of the prices quoted by these patriots was saved. The Government’s system of costing alone saved £440,000,000, When we consider how many contractors have made fortunes out of this we can understand the bitter hostility of them and the newspapers which serve them to any kind of State production.

Compare the patriotism of the employing class, whose interests were bound up in victory, with that of the workers who had nothing to gain. When the latter asked for increases commensurate with the rise in the cost of living, they were threatened with coercion, backed of course by friend Henderson of the Labour Party. Within ten days of the staying of the German advance in the spring of 1918 the National Union of Manufacturers had a deputation waiting upon Lloyd George asking for the removal of restrictions on their profit-making.

It is impossible even to catalogue here all the Government’s activities in different branches of production, one can only say that they are faithfully recorded in Sir Leo’s book. He gives a conception of the potentialities of properly coordinated production, carried on by trained men, backed by the resources of the State, able to engage in scientific research under ideal conditions, and offers the immediate possibility of a five hour working day under the proper organisation of even existing forces.

Although proving the efficiency of State owned concerns so conclusively, our author does not show how nationalisation is of any benefit to the workers. State organisation may eliminate waste, but will it put an end to the robbery of the workers, the root of present evils ?

In Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, Engels long ago sketched the inevitable tendency towards State ownership and trustification, of which two remarkable instances are given in this book—the merging of the 700 banks of a century ago into the present 29, of whose deposits fire hold two-thirds; and the fact that in 1914-1915 £400,000,000 out of the £613,000,000 total profits of business went to public companies as distinct from private firms. But Engels wrote thus of the point on which our author is silent:
  In any case . . . the official representative of Capitalist Society—the State, will ultimately have to undertake the direction of production. But the transition either into Joint Stock Companies and Trusts, or into State ownership, does not do away with the Capitalist nature of the productive forces. The workers must remain wage workers, proletarians. The Capitalist relation is not done away with yet. It is rather brought to a head.
There comes a time in the growth of trustification where control can no longer be left in the hands of private persons, and the State is compelled, often in the interests of other capitalists, to step in and take control. The National Liberal Federation is recognising this. Exploitation continues, however, and becomes, owing to centralisation and improved administration, more intense than before.

Production being now carried on from top to bottom by paid servants, the capitalist is left without the pretence of useful service. The way is then clear for the workers to gain political power and organise production for use, for selves, the producers’

In short, our criticism of Sir Leo’s book is this: He proclaims the intention of demonstrating the superiority of Nationalisation over private enterprise. He succeeds, but omits to point out that Nationalisation is private ownership in another form. He proves that the State can produce with extraordinary efficiency and economy as compared with the present idiotic competitive method, but does not trouble to enlighten us as to the inevitable effect of this on the workers.

The benefit of reduction of waste will be reaped by those who own the machinery of production and consequently the products. Whether these owners be private employers or the capitalist class owning collectively through the State does not materially alter the position. The workers are still wage earners ; they are still robbed. While the wage relation remains—and Sir Leo does not even consider the possibility of removing it—the workers can have no vital interest in promoting technical and administrative improvements. The task before them is that of obtaining for their own use the means of production. When that has been done will be time enough for them to consider how best to use them.

Sir Leo, however, evades the question of ownership and deliberately confuses the issue bv such nonsensical phrases as “Socialism in Wool” the “Socialist Police Force,” and “Socialist currency,” and by the note appearing in the index to “see under Nationalisation” for information about Socialism. He endeavours to convey to the reader the impression that “Nationalisation”—that is, the centralisation of ownership by the capitalist class through the State—and Socialism—the expropriation of that class—are one and the same thing.

With a wealth of material at his command, Sir Leo fails to prove his case to the workers. The material can be used by us, but the book should be called “The Triumph of Organisation,”—it means nothing more.
Edgar Hardcastle

Labour and Land. (1921)

From the May 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is often difficult enough to discover what really is the attitude of the Labour Party to ward any particular problem; although its general policy of assisting the capitalists to govern, while endeavouring to win the "New Jerusalem" a brick at a time is perfectly plain —and perfectly fatuous. Not recognising the existence of the conflict of interests between the two classes of modern society, it wholly lacks a guiding principle. It is in effect, as also in the intention of many of its leaders, merely the "official Opposition," waiting to get into power, but without the least idea of interfering with the system which will have enabled its prominent men to reach positions of eminence. As in order to obtain this end, it is prepared to adopt any programme circumstances may suggest from time to time, it has succeeded in bringing together a remarkable assortment of political odds and ends. Any decided line of action would be certain to offend some element of the party, so the safest course for its spokesmen is to say what they must say as vaguely as possible, and leave it to friends and enemies to interpret as they choose.

The least ambiguous, as the most shameful, action ever taken by the Labour Party was its enthusiastic support of Capital's crowning glory, the war ; but even Mr. Patrick Lawrence could say when challenged to defend that attitude "but they didn't all support it."

It was not until after the Liberals had issued their manifesto on Ireland that Mr. Henderson defined the Labour Party's position; and what was it ? The two were as like as a common purpose—vote catching—would lead one to expect, and as different in appearance as studied indefiniteness could make them.

At that time criticism of the Government's activities in Ireland had become sufficiently popular to make this a sound plank for every bye-election platform of both parties. The decision not to oppose the Second Reading of the Reparation Bill, followed by a vote against the Government on the Third Reading is another case in point.

This lack of clearness, of which numerous instances can readily be found, extends to what is called the "agricultural problem," but in the March issue of the "Nineteenth Century" is an article by Mr. W. R. Smith, M.P., President of the National Union of Agricultural Workers, which is an important suggestion, if not an official statement, of the party's policy.

It is prefaced by a very naive editorial comment which is too good to be passed over. "People who have lived on the land and made a dispassionate and disinterested study of conditions there, are convinced that it (the abolition of private ownership) would throw the countryside into confusion and ultimate ruin."

Notice the "disinterestedness"! Just as a professional crook might make a "dispassionate" examination of a proposal to increase the number of policemen and be "convinced" that it would be bad for business and an imposition on the ratepayer !

Mr. Smith admits the confusion of ideas, for, after mentioning various schemes which find favour with different sections, "confiscation," "land bonds," "taxation of land values," etc., he writes "we do not see anything to regret in the existence of considerable diversity among members of the Labour Party." He claims, whoever, two fundamental objects :
1. To get a big agricultural population, and
2. To grow as much food in these Islands as possible.
He admits the second quite frankly to be a war measure, and wonders whether Labour should concern itself with such a question, knowing "that preparation for war produces an atmosphere in which fear and greed are easily manipulated to cause an outbreak".

Apart from the fact that war springs from capitalism itself and not from the fear and greed of the workers, which are themselves only the manifestation of the state of anarchy and ignorance in which the system keeps them, has Mr. Smith forgotten the part played by his party in the last war ? Mr. Smith may, as an individual, have retained his sanity in 1914, but can he deny that the Labour Party did, cheerfully and whole-heartedly, not only support the war, but condone every act of suppression the Government chose to introduce under the cover of military necessity ?

Further, in case you should think that bye-gones should be bye-gones, and that the Labour Party will act differently in the next war, just consider this from the same article : "and the Labour Party’s policy will certainly be to aim at as much progress in the agricultural industry as possible, such progress being socially necessary and desirable as a means of securing the nation against serious difficulty in times of crisis through war or world shortage." Substitute "capitalist" for "nation" and you have the real attitude of the Labour Party.

As for the first point he contends that "a strong, happy population on the countryside is socially necessary, and that no system of national life can continue to exist and develope which is not founded on such a population."

If this means that our present social system cannot work without a healthy and contented population I simply don’t believe it. Farmers have never been so prosperous as during and immediately after the war, and he himself admits that this has been accompanied by a further decrease in the number of agricultural workers. He goes on, "we recognise the necessity for a prosperous industry and cannot therefore be opposed to whatever steps will make for prosperity." Our criticism is simply this, that on one hand the prosperity of the nation, which means, of course, the employers, is most decidedly not dependent on the well-being of the workers; and on the other hand that the employers can usually be trusted to look after their own prosperity, and if to do so involves attempts to lower still further the workers' standard of life, the Labour Party has not the power, if it had the will, effectively to resist.

Again, he says he welcomes the increased use of machinery, and the possibilities it offers of an outlet for ambitious workers. He welcomes it because he cannot prevent it; but can it be denied that every mechanical improvement under present conditions only adds to the insecurity of the workers ?

Whatever the merits of these two points of policy Mr. Smith does not think they can be achieved under the present system of land ownership. He points out that only 5,000 landowners own 1,000 acres, and between them they possess half England, the whole being in the hands of about 1,000,000 people. To remedy this outrageous state of affairs he would nationalise the land. Not, however, "because it will mean the entire emancipation of the working-class, but because it is necessary in the interest of efficiency." Naturally, no one who knows the Labour Party would accuse it of desiring the emancipation of the workers: they have a better reason than this. "Farmers should be able to expect a fair return, whatever be the nature of their land . ." I am not misreporting him—he is perfectly frank. "We have already seen how, in other industries it (nationalization) is being advocated by Capitalists and their newspapers . . clearly showing (if indeed anyone seriously doubted it) that nationalization can be, and is, advocated as part of a better organisation of Capitalism itself." May I ask why, if Mr. Smith doesn't seriously doubt it, he remains in the party which "stands pledged" to nationalization? "We do not reject it on this account, but we recognise it for what it truly is." Could any opponent of the Labour Party invent anything more damning than this ?

"For the immediate future, however, practical politics are more likely to be concerned with questions of nationalization, to which, in the interests of efficiency, we are certainly not opposed." We challenge Mr. Smith to show efficiency is of benefit to the workers. Increased efficiency simply means the more intensive exploitation of the wage earners by the class which lives on their labour.

He mentions the desirability of doing away with the hordes of middlemen who stand between farmers and the consumers of their produce, and confidently looks to nationalization to achieve it The advantage of this to the farmers is fairly obvious, but again, how can this improve the workers' lot, involving, as it must, the unemployment of the thousands of employees of these middlemen ?

Mr. Smith considers a "moderate" Labour Government may follow the present one, and will introduce a Bill for the nationalisation of the land.
  "In that case we should be compelled to support such a Bill, always keeping in view its limited value and watching to see that nothing was done towards manufacturing fresh obstacles to real sweeping measures." 
I do not exactly know who that "we" is intended to represent, but whoever they are it is obvious from their being "obliged" to support the Government, and from the fact that the "real sweeping measures" are admittedly out of the question for the time being, that they are only a minority. That being so they are quite evidently not in a position to prevent the "manufacturing of fresh obstacles." Means have yet to be discovered of holding up the machinery of government merely by "watching and seeing," and a little thought would probably show that the "limited value" of the Bill in question would really be, for the workers, a positive evil. Even such an apparently harmless proposal as the "reform of weights and measures" is open to criticism, as a recent experience showed. A successful agitation by a worker's organisation to get corn sacks reduced in size was followed by a move to employ boys in the place of men !

Mr. Smith cannot see that there is any necessary antagonism between farmers and the labourers they exploit. "Convinced then that any forward policy such as outlined above must be for the benefit of agriculture as a whole, the Labour Party's policy will be to aim at as much progress in the agricultural industry as possible." He has a grudge against the landlords. "None of us want to give the landlords more, since 'living by owning' is not a profession the Labour Party can recognise."

Why not? As both farmers and landlords live on the surplus value taken from the workers why discriminate between them ?

''Undoubtedly under a Labour Government, even if there were no general attempt at Socialisation, our system of taxation would undergo great reforms . . much to the benefit of the farmers." Does Mr. Smith really think Socialism merely a glorified re-adjustment of the "system of rating and taxation" ?
He concludes with a quite unnecessary assurance to "good farmers" that they have nothing to fear from a Labour Government. No, the Labour Party will defend the present order and when, to quote his words, "the proletariat develops sufficient social consciousness to bring about the complete overthrow of capitalism," the Labour Party will be involved in the overthrow.

May I add one word of advice to those, including the I.L.P. and the Communist Party, who will insist on creating an agricultural problem in this country out of the alleged but unexplained difference between the relations of the workers and employers in towns and the labourers and farmers in the country. There simply isn't any difference. All we have here is part of the general task of emancipating the workers from wage slavery. The solution of the Land problem is the recognition that for the workers there isn't any real problem.