Monday, May 11, 2020

Italy in Abyssinia and Britain in Arabia: A contrast in methods. (1938)

From the May 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

All the world has heard about the Italian conquest of Abyssinia, but few of the readers of British newspapers have heard about Britain’s acquisition of new territory in Arabia. This contrast between doing the thing openly and doing it quietly is, however, about the only difference.

Among the Annexes to the Anglo-Italian agreement (see text in Manchester Guardian, April 18th, 1938) is one which gives an Anglo-Italian guarantee of the independence and integrity of Saudi Arabia and the Yamen, warns off all other Powers from this area, and recognises British rights over certain Arab lands in South Arabia. Italy and Britain have been sparring for position in these areas, which, naturally, bodes ill for the independence of the Arabs.

Mr. H. St. John Philby, the authority on Arabia, wrote on the subject in the January issue of World Review in an article aptly called "British Bombs over Arabia." Below are some extracts:—
  In the same month (July, 1937) the British Government announced its decision to reserve a strategic position for itself at Aquaba. . . . Only four months earlier, by Order in Council, it had annexed 100,000 square miles in South Arabia to the British Empire in defiance of treaties of long standing with the various Arab rulers and princes of that territory. Italy countered by renewing her treaty with the Yamen.
He refers to stories of British bombing, and comments:—
 If it is true that the Royal Air Force at Aden has been bombing Arab tribes and villages, which cannot retaliate in the same way, that is in my opinion an atrocity. . . . The Arabs do not want to be ruled by Great Britain or any other great power. . . . That aerial bombing is freely used by the Aden administration is not denied by the Government. It is actually defended by those responsible for it as a rapid and humane method of keeping peace in the outposts of Empire.
It is true that the Arabs are warned in advance so that they can escape before their homes are destroyed, but, as Mr. St. John Philby points out, they do not want British penetration and control:—
  Their resistance is merely in defence of their liberty and independence, recognised by Great Britain until within the last 12 months. 
The desire for a strong strategic position is not the only attraction. An expedition has gone out in search of geographical and archaeological knowledge, but, as Mr. Philby adds,
   . . . it will not be alone in the field. The quest for antiquarian data will be accompanied by a quest for oil, the existence of which at Shabura and other localities has been established as the result of my. own journey to those parts last year.
  The oil expedition has not been advertised. The company responsible for it has been fortunate to obtain the exploitary rights for this interesting territory without payment. That also is a new departure. What has happened is that the British Government has given away for nothing certain rights .. . . . in territory which does not belong to it. It is conceivable that the owners of that territory may object to, or even resist, such unauthorised encroachment on their property. The aeroplanes of Aden will be there to argue the point with leaflets and bombs.
It is perhaps not surprising that Mr. St. John Philby was not able to interest the British Press in what the British Government is doing in Arabia. Their columns were too full of material on the wickedness of the Italian, German, Japanese, and other Governments.
P. S.

The Diet and Health of South African Natives (1938)

From the May 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Cavalcade (April 2nd, 1938) publishes the statement that Dr. E. H. Culvea, of the South African Health Department, finds three-quarters of the native population underfed and that tuberculosis is rampant. Other South African doctors who have assisted in the official investigation report that the consumption of milk among natives at Port Elizabeth is about one-fifth of a pint per head; while the doctors there recommend at least a pint a day as a preventive of tuberculosis. When free distribution of milk was started two years ago they found that thousands of children, white as well as black, had never tasted it before.

Pioneers of Empire have a lot to answer for!

General Open Air Propaganda (May) (1938)

Party News from the May 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reagan and Gadaffy — terrorists both (1986)

From the May 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

The callous incursion of US military might on Libya cannot be justified on the pretext of securing a better and safer world than the cowardly bombings by covert agents. Terrorism is no less terrorism when it is executed by the state and dressed up in the hideous morality of nationalism.

The Socialist Party condemns, without hesitation, the actions of the Reagan government and the assistance given to it by the British government, whilst warning our fellow workers not to be beguiled into an unwarranted sympathy for the Gadaffy regime that such actions may prompt. The conflict of interests that is here involved is not one in which workers anywhere have a stake. The background against which this latest tragedy is played out is that of a global system of economic competition. It is a system rife with conflict in which war is endemic — the brutal expression of its insane logic — notwithstanding that wars are fought by and large by those who have nothing to gain and quite possibly everything to lose.

The Socialist Party points out firmly that a free society can never by fashioned by coercion. Conversely, armed might can never be the agent of liberation in any real sense of the word. The attack on Libya can only foster a greater insecurity, a more insidious erosion of what limited freedoms there are as a result of the tightening spiral of tit-for-tat reprisals it will inevitably provoke, Behind ail the cant and hypocrisy it represents nothing more than the latest addition to the bloodstained chronicle of capitalist butchery.

Running Commentary: Royal parasites (1986)

The Running Commentary Column from the May 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Royal parasites

Two things were blindingly obvious in the first television reports on the engagement of Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew. The first was the total absence of even the feeblest note of dissension. It would have seemed, to a viewer from another planet, that the entire nation were ecstatic over the betrothal of these two brainless parasites. Not even the most cautious voice was allowed to suggest in the most tentative way that perhaps there might just be another point of view.

When so resolute and comprehensive a blanketing of opinion is practised by the state capitalist dictatorships of Eastern Europe, the media in this country react with a contemptuous scepticism. And this is, after all, democratic Britain where there is a free and equal opportunity for all attitudes to be expressed . . .

The second thing was the apparently boundless and seemingly invulnerable confidence of the couple in their own class superiority. What jolly fun, while the world is still being fed with pictures of the pitifully starving children of Africa, to tell everyone about this prince making you eat profiteroles at a banquet! How ripping, soon after a cold spell which killed so many old workers who could not afford to heat their miserable homes, to show which class you belong to by spending £28,000 on an engagement ring!

In the same news bulletin, the cameras visited a school where blind and deaf children are being taught to communicate with others. This is real, necessary, demanding work, performed by highly skilled people who, as far as anyone can under the bestial capitalist system, operate to an approximation of the morals which socialism will have — that human needs should be the only reason for human activity.

The relief from seeing this school was only partial; this brief hint of how a humane society will deal with its unavoidable problems was in all too sickening a contrast to what is happening now under capitalism, when human needs are the lowest priority. In a world infested with misery, overshadowed by a desperate peril, the media were preoccupied with the irrelevant antics of a useless couple wallowing in their class privilege to the point of disfigurement.

It could only make anyone concerned for the welfare of the human race seethe with anger for what is happening now and with impatience for what will happen in the classless future.


No, not houses to live in; not much-needed hospitals or schools — not even prisons. Street shelters are to be built for claimants in the queue at the offices of the DHSS. The Guardian (4 March 1986) quotes Peter Jones, branch secretary of the Civil and Public Services Association:
  Some days we have 200 to 300 people claiming benefit . . . Many people start queueing at 7am for the office to open. They often have to wait outside all day before they can be seen and if they arrive later than 10.30am they are too late to be served.
. . . Half the staff in offices are in their probation year. There is an 80 per cent turnover for clerical officers and a 100 per cent turnover among clerical assistants. Many staff are taking Valium because they can t stand it — others are turning to drink for relief. . .
However there are some in government circles who consider staff at the DHSS underemployed. The new Social Security Bill put forward by Norman Fowler and currently being examined by a Standing Committee of MPs has found a new job for them (Guardian 12 March 1986). To save government funds, instead of grants being made for the purchase of necessities such as furniture to people with savings less than £500. members of their families and even friends and neighbours are to be approached by the DHSS to ask if they are willing to lend the money.

Apart from the ethics of this exercise in parsimony, no thought seems to have been given as to how long this would take, how the already over-worked staff are going to find the time to do this, nor how it should be done. Will these good people be invited to attend the local DHSS office? Will they be visited or written to? How often will they be reminded that a reply is required? How long must the claimant wait before the DHSS pays out in the absence of a willing private lender? There is also the possibility that friends and good neighbours who have been helping in other ways might back off when they find that they are going to be pressurised into lending money which they have saved for other things or may not even have. Will they have a means test to establish if they can afford to make the loan? Who will decide who is to be asked? And of course it is most unlikely that those already on supplementary benefit would be able to repay the debt. And this is called Social Security . . . On the other hand, perhaps it could be called a return to Victorian values.

Class apart?

So, to the consternation of the leadership of at least one of them, the two main teachers' unions are inching towards some form of unification — in thought if not as yet in deed. About time too, some might add. But, given the circumstances, exactly what good will it do? Listen in on an average staff-room discussion of labour problems and you will shortly begin to wonder how it is that so many teachers can associate with so downmarket an institution as a trade union at all. (Indeed, since in at least three titles the terms "association" is preferred to "union" perhaps many teachers feel they do not).

For if there is any one weakness that strikes most fatally at the heart of genuine social understanding on the part of your average pedagogue it is what Karl Marx described as a false consciousness of class. This refusal to identify, consciously or subconsciously, with their fellow workers is presumably what enables so many teachers to troop unquestioningly into a hymn-and-prayer session every morning (how many other workers would put up with such rubbish?). This blindness helps them to pass off, with massive imbalance, the loaded "history" and social-scientific half-truths of our ruling class' approved texts while blithely castigating identical practices in the — so-called — communist world.

Ordinary workers though they may be, obliged as are any other wage-slaves to sell their skills to an employer in exchange for wages (sorry! salaries!), far too many of them lack the enlightenment to do other than snipe at manual workers and their union spokespersons. (Scargill is a very dirty word indeed in many staff-rooms).

What. then, is the answer? To start with, no comprehensive solution is possible given the continued existence of world capitalism However, teachers — indeed, any group of workers — can do little to alleviate the consequences of their own exploitation if they wilfully ignore their own class condition, preferring to hide behind a mask of "respectability".

Understanding socialism (1986)

From the May 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

The criticism that workers are too "thick'' to understand socialism is put forward by many political parties, including the Socialist Workers Party, the Labour Party and the Militant Tendency. It is almost as if they are suffering from visions of the working class as a multitude of Monty Python-like Gumbies'. living in a world of television, chips, pubs. Rambo and Terry Wogan. For any member of the working class, this is a patronising viewpoint; so let's see whether socialism is a particularly difficult idea to grasp.

Socialism is a world society in which all wealth (the land, farms, factories and all their products, communications systems, buildings) are owned and controlled democratically by all the people in the world. There are enough natural resources on the earth and sufficiently developed technology to satisfy the needs of every human being. The social guideline will be co-operation; all things to benefit all people. There will be no divisions based on economic factors; no money, no classes, no countries, no banks, no soldiers, no lawyers and no employment. Work will be carried out voluntarily according to what each individual decides they can contribute and what they most enjoy doing.

Now if we compare socialism to the present system, capitalism, we find a society where food, clothes, accommodation and all other goods and services which people need are articles of commerce which are produced to be sold at a profit. If you cannot pay, you cannot have. It is a system of competition which divides people. It puts workers in rivalry with one another over jobs, housing and places in the queue for second-rate health treatment. But more importantly, it divides the world into the wealth producers who do not possess (the great majority) and the wealth owners who do not produce (the small minority). It is this monopoly of wealth by a small, privileged minority class which leads to people starving while food mountains rot; millions of pointless deaths in wars over the economic rivalries of the parasites; people dying of hypothermia while coal mines are closed because they are "unprofitable"; and to thousands of people being homeless while construction workers are made unemployed and brick "surpluses" collect dust.

Anyone who can understand the perverse logic of capitalism's economics can easily understand socialism. Officially, an "oil glut" means that there has been too much oil produced. But, of course, most workers can understand that this does not mean that everyone who would like to make use of oil has a sufficient quantity of the substance. The "surplus" spoken of relates to the dealings of the market and not simply to what people actually need.

Who is it that keeps every country in the world running? Who builds the roads and the houses, factories and offices? Who designs and builds and maintains the washing machines and cars and televisions? Who builds the aeroplanes and runs the international airports? Who produces the oil. extracts the coal, runs the hospitals, teaches in the schools and universities, prints the newspapers and makes the television programmes? It is the working class who run this system from top to bottom. Workers are not thick, they are misinformed. They are misinformed by the ideas of a social system which runs in the interest of a minority who live in luxury and comfort off the labour of the majority.

It is important to be aware of the powerful forces which are wielded in order to keep workers in a condition of ignorance and prejudice. influences which are exercised over the minds of workers every day: from the Sun to the Guardian, from Breakfast Television to Night Thoughts, from the infants' school to the universities. Recently we have been instructed to hate the Argentinians and the Russians. Forty years ago it was the Germans. a hundred years ago, the French, four hundred years ago the Spanish. We are never taught to question these views, let alone to consider why we should have to hate an entire mass of people with whom we have had little, if any, personal contact.

A typical geography lesson in school consists of studying maps of the world divided by lines going up and down and across marking all of the different countries. Where are these boundaries when you look at a satellite photograph of the earth? A visit to the so-called Iron Curtain will not reveal any particularly distinctive national landscapes meeting abruptly at the passport barriers and barbed wire. Countries are artificial areas. Some, like Poland or several in Africa have had many different shapes in recent history according to the fortunes of the ruling class owners in territorial negotiation and war.

Religious teaching is based on the idea that people are inherently evil. Would it not make more sense to regard society's wrongdoers as victims of an environment where the majority are deprived of the necessities of a decent life? Theft, burglary and muggings are results of a society of artificial scarcity. In situations where there is no shortage or unreasonable limit to what we can consume, we behave in a rational way — without hoarding, or being greedy or feeling the need to steal. How many burglars do you hear of climbing over backgarden walls with gallons of stolen water?

Faced with the long-term brainwashing that most workers receive from an early age, educating people to think for themselves and to act in their own interests as a class is not an easy task. But is that any reason to stop? The idea of workers being too stupid to establish socialism also assumes that society has become immune to change. Then there is the argument that workers are generally content and would not have enough incentive to act for socialism. But consider the state of the working class; who is content with their lot? The unemployed, the wage and salary slaves performing boring and often useless or anti-social work, bossed about and just as poor at the end of their working lives as they were when they began the grind; the workers in war-tom countries or the millions of people who. quite reasonably, wonder whether they will outlive a nuclear holocaust, the millions of homeless and the refugees? Consider the number of people spending so much energy and time trying to alleviate the suffering which capitalism produces as a matter of course, the people working for Shelter, Child Poverty Action Group, Oxfam, Live Aid, Greenpeace, Help the Aged, anti-racist organisations . . . Has the profit system really produced widespread content?

We live in a very insecure society and who can honestly say that they are exempt from the anxieties caused by this insecurity? The more people who accept an idea, the more possible it becomes and the faster it spreads. One person talking about a society without classes, countries or money could be considered an idiot. Ten people could be regarded as eccentrics, a hundred could be dismissed as a radical sect, a thousand and the movement has become more significant. a million and the avalanche has begun.
Nick Davis

General Strike — sixty years on (1986)

From the May 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

The so-called General Strike took place 60 years ago in the nine days 4-12 May 1926, in support of the coal miners but when it failed the miners stayed out for seven months before being forced back on the coal owners’ terms. This naturally invites comparison with the unsuccessful coal strike which lasted about a year in 1984-5. On this occasion, although the NUM called for supporting action by the TUC and other unions, and did receive some financial and other support, there was no general strike action such as there had been in 1926.

In spite of other similarities, including the formation of a rival miners' union based in the Nottingham coalfield both in 1926 and 1984, great changes had taken place in the industrial background between those dates. In 1926 coal was for all practical purposes the only source of energy. There were over a million miners, almost the highest total ever reached. In 1984 there were 241,000 and since the strike this figure has fallen to 140,000.

If ever there was a time when a strike by miners could be expected to have a decisive effect it was in 1926, especially as the miners belonged to the Triple Alliance, along with dockers and railwaymen who between them wholly dominated transport. By 1984 a large and increasing share of the energy industry was held by oil, gas and nuclear power. The recent big fall in world oil prices further undermined the competitive power of the coal industry and may still further reduce its share as a source of energy. During the 1984 coal strike prices were continuing to rise, in line with the inflation policy imposed by all governments. Labour and Tory, since 1945. It was very different in 1926.

With the suspension of the gold standard in 1914 prices rose fast until 1920. The government then decided to operate a deflation policy, through reduction of the paper currency in circulation. Prices fell drastically until 1922 and more slowly until 1925, when the gold standard was restored. A version of the events leading up to the miners' strike in 1926 put out in Labour Party circles was that the wage reductions called for by the coal owners in 1926 were caused by the re-introduction of the gold standard in 1925. That was a wildly inaccurate representation of what actually happened.

When prices began to fall in 1920, including the market prices of coal and other products of industry, employers pressed successfully for the reduction of wages. The wages of coal miners fell exceptionally heavily, the decrease having mainly taken place before the 1926 strike. Between 1921 and 1925 the average weekly earnings of coal miners had already fallen by 40 per cent. The further fall in 1926 was 5 per cent, though with some increase of hours as well. The Labour Party version disregards the fact that the gold standard stabilises prices; it does not reduce them.

The 1984 strike was mainly against the closing down of unprofitable pits, while the strike in 1926 was about wages and hours of work. The 1926 strike was against the private coal owners; nationalisation did not come until 1947. In both events the government threw all its weight against the strikers, the National Coal Board being just as ruthless as the private coal owners had been. The miners' union spent 40 years campaigning to create the nationalised coal industry and then another 40 years fighting against the capitalist monster they had helped to form — a demonstration of the utter uselessness of nationalisation — state capitalism — as a remedy for workers' problems. Both in 1926 and 1984 a prominent question was government subsidies to the coal industry. In both instances the withdrawal of subsidies helped to provoke the strike. The 1926 strike was followed by a tightening of the law against the unions, in the 1927 Trade Disputes Act. In 1984 the law had already been tightened by the Thatcher government. In both 1926 and 1984 the strikes had long been prepared for by the government, special organisations having been set up for that purpose. In 1984 huge stocks of coal had been built up at pit heads and power stations.

One aspect of the 1926 strike recalled an event that took place seven years earlier, when the Triple Alliance of Miners. Dockers and Railwaymen organised a kind of "general strike" against British military involvement in Russia. What was at issue was the ability of the government to intervene decisively. The year 1919 was marked by widespread strikes, including unsuccessful strikes by some of the police, by a number of mutinies in the army and riots and attacks on the police. It was against that background that the government faced the Triple Alliance in 1919.

An account of what happened was published in The Times (16 November 1979). The Prime Minister. Lloyd George, called the Triple Alliance leaders to meet him and told them "the army was disaffected and could not be relied upon":
  "If you carry out your threat and strike then you will defeat us. But if you do so. have you weighed the consequences? The strike will be in defiance of the Government of the country and by its very success will precipitate a constitutional crisis of the first importance. For if a force arises in the state which is stronger than the state itself, then it must be ready to take on the functions of the state, or withdraw and accept the authority of the state. Gentlemen, have you considered, and if you have, are you ready?".
According to the account in The Times the miners' leader, Robert Smillie, said "We were beaten and we knew we were". The strike did not take place. It is evident that the issue raised by Lloyd George in 1919 overshadowed the TUC General Council in 1926. They went into the general strike reluctantly and seized the first excuse to call it off. Long before 1926 the government had overcome its problems with the police and the army. It confronted the general strike and the coal strike confident of its ability to defeat them and resolved to do so no matter what the cost.

The term "general strike" is somewhat misleading. The number of workers on strike was only 1,580,000. apart from over a million miners. This was not because the TUC was unable to get other workers to strike but because those on strike (mainly transport workers, building workers, printers and engineers) were chosen to make maximum impact, without causing unnecessary and useless hardship to other workers.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain, through the columns of the Socialist Standard, had much to say about the strikes and the general strike, based on an understanding of the realities of capitalism and recognition of the fact that a politically confident government. with effective control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces, can defeat any strike if it is prepared to use its power to the limit. For example, the Socialist Standard in April 1919 stated that, given the backing of the state power, "on the economic field the Masters are in a far stronger position than the workers and can beat them any time they decide to fight to the finish". In the issue for April 1922, an editorial urged the unions to take united action. It pointed out that the employers were taking on one section of the workers after another:
  How can the situation be tested7 There is only one way. The organised workers must take united action to hold up industry. It is not a sectional question. The whole of the workers are involved, and if they remain divided, they will be attacked and beaten, in detail by the employers . . . First the stoppage must not be allowed to drag on indefinitely. If it does not achieve its purpose in a short, sharp, action, then it will have failed and the men must accept the inevitable for the present.
  Second, it must be carried out peaceably. Any attempt at riot or destruction must be sternly repressed, as it would at once give the signal for the use of the armed forces against defenceless men . . .
  Third, the decisions to come out and to go back must be in the hands of the rank and file. No power should be given to leaders — revolutionary or otherwise — to decide these points.
  Such action would cause practically no increase in the misery that already exists and it would be a real test of the situation.
There were then, and still are. other voices — organisations urging the workers to take violent action, or to rely on indefinite strikes, as if the workers can hope to starve the employers and government into submission.

Of course, the article went on to remind the workers that strikes only deal with the effects of capitalism without looking to the causes and emphasised the need to take political action for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Sellafield story (1986)

From the May 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

Half a tonne of uranium is dumped in the Irish Sea; fifteen workers are affected by highly toxic plutonium nitrate; contaminated water is accidentally discharged . . . another few weeks like that and Sellafield — formerly Windscale — had better start looking for another name.

Not to worry though, after one incident British Nuclear Fuels calculated that only two workers were affected. That this figure grew to 11, then 15, should not be unexpected in an industry with a particularly notable history of lies and deception. Indeed it was this general lack of information that forced 800 workers at Sellafield to come out on strike.

At the same time, local communities in four areas around Britain are having their wishes ignored, their protests ridiculed, and their lives threatened by the proposed dumping of radioactive waste. Recently, the government — promptly for once — pressed ahead with a public inquiry into a new kind of fuel reprocessing plant at Dounreay. The inquiry is being held half way between Cape Wrath and John O Groats and is being boycotted by all the major anti-nuclear groups because of the haste with which it is being carried out.

Back at the source of the waste, at Sellafield, the chairman Con Allday was living up to his name — he criticised public concern with radiation as being "born of ignorance". However, according to the Guardian (March 1). only about 10 per cent of the research carried out into the pollution and biological effects of radiation is readily available to the public.

Of course, you can have all the access to information that you want, but the real decisions are based on economics, the figures under the headings "profit" and "loss". And the story that these tell is that profit must be maintained. Compared to that, the figures for the ten-fold rate of leukaemia around Sellafield might as well come under "other costs'.

Make no mistake, in the socialist alternative locked doors, secret files or codes on computer files will be as impossible as money or markets. Socialism will be a society in which decisions will not be made by an owning minority or a state, nor will decisions be subject to the anarchic fluctuations of the market, which can favour nuclear power one week and oil the next. Instead decisions on. for example, energy production, will be made by the whole of the community concerned.

But talk of socialism is all very well we are told. In the meantime, however, "workers must be given a lead". But what sort of lead has come from the politicians? For example, Jack Cunningham? Now as Labour spokesman with responsibility for issues concerning the protection of the environment. Cunningham has shown his sincere concern and abiding interest in protecting his seat from any nasty fallout. To hell with the environment. and to hell with the health of a large proportion of the population of Britain, because Sellafield employs 11.000 people, and that's 11,000 votes.

Of course, such a lead has angered many Labour supporters, but what they don't realise is that such political hypocrisy is not limited to one Labour shadow minister; Jack Cunningham need have no worries about selling out on Sellafield. because he had been given assurances anyway, that the Labour Party conference resolution on stopping the nuclear power programme, would not even be included in the next Labour election manifesto.

If you take the view that politics is only about what politicians offer you, then we have no choice. Workers and local communities have no real choice when it comes to such an area as energy production: the workers in and around Sellafield are choosing between keeping their local cancer factory or suffering immense unemployment in the area. Not that they should really worry — when Thatcher visited the plant last year she said that she would be happy to live near Sellafield. Presumably Barratt 's did not have any houses in the right price range in the area.

Similarly, at the Scottish Labour Party conference in Perth recently, the choice was seen as being between nuclear power (hazardous to health and the environment but provides jobs for some workers), and coal (similarly hazardous but provides jobs for other workers). The stale politics of the Labour Party and of working within capitalism, divides workers into different apparent groups when what is required is the recognition of the common interests that workers have under capitalism, and the common interest all workers have in getting socialism as soon as possible.

But if the Labour Party has been shown to be powerless to protect the environment, what about the likes of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace? The first thing that can be said about such "single-issue" campaigns is that they aren't. Both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth are starting to realise that you cannot just concentrate on one problem at a time. Now the Socialist Party has been saying for years that the vast majority of social problems have at their root the present social system — capitalism — and the consequent domination of profit over people and their environment; the problem of pollution can only be seen, and solved, with an understanding of the society that causes it.

However all that the environmental pressure groups are doing is supporting a variety of fragmented and futile reform measures. For instance, faced with official censorship of information on the extent of radiation in the environment, the environmental pressure groups have been forced to broaden their campaigning to include demands for Freedom of Information. Similarly, in their arguments for the closure of Sellafield. FoE have calculated that reprocessing is currently uneconomic. Now you can bet that if profit was the only reason to keep Sellafield open, it would indeed have been closed down years ago. However, closure of the plant would in a real sense have "cost a bomb” as that provision is also integral to Sellafield. So the environmentalists are also having to face up to the part that nuclear power can play in the whole area of nuclear weapons. The lesson is clear — once you start to deal with problems bit by bit, you will never finish.

The environmentalists have called for the closure of Sellafield. but the demand will be ignored if it runs counter to the economic logic of capitalism. However the environmentalists have succeeded in the minor but still futile demand to get rid of BNFL's chairman (as if changing the chairman's name will make any more difference than changing Windscale's name). The chairman was due to retire last month anyway, but at least now the members of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth can sleep at night in the comforting knowledge that the unfortunately-named Con Allday has been replaced by the even more unfortunately-named Neville Chamberlain.

It is tempting to think that problems can be reformed away one by one. bit by bit; that the problems of pollution are just unfortunate accidents, sad aberrations in an otherwise perfect world. But experience shows that reforms rarely remove the problem. One example of the ineffectiveness of reformism is the ReChem plant at Bonnybridge, Scotland, which incinerated a toxic chemical and in the process could produce an even deadlier chemical, dioxin. After much protest the plant closed down (due to economic reasons, said the company). A success for the environmentalists, you might think? Not really, the problem has only shifted — to South Wales to be exact, where the only other factory for the disposal of these chemicals (called PCBs) is now incapable of dealing with the increased load. So now more and more toxic waste is having to be stored before incineration, in itself creating more problems. Another example of the "success" of reforms in the field of environmental protection is the simple solution to emissions of smoke and chemicals from factories and power stations polluting the nearby countryside — build chimney-stacks and kill a fjord or German forest instead.

All these examples (and more) of environmental destruction — from Bonnybridge to Bhopal. Sellafield to Seveso. or the Black Forest to the rainforests — have a common cause in capitalism, and the socialist alternative is relevant to them all. For inside socialism, the choice will not be between polluting your own backyard or someone else's; neither will it be a choice between having a job or having your health.
Brian Gardner

A Duke Distorts Marx (1986)

Book Review from the May 1986 issue of the Socialist Standard

“This, it seems to me, is Marx’s legacy to the world. For love, tolerance and compassion he has substituted hatred, envy and oppression. For honesty and justice he has substituted the interest of the party. Although it is a sad commentary on human nature that so many people are eager to adopt such doctrines of violence and conflict, there is one thing we must all learn from Marx. It is now more important than ever that we learn and understand the guiding principles of our own system, if we are to make it fulfil our ambitions to live in freedom, in harmony, in prosperity and in justice.” (HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, A Question of Balance, p.30).

So ends the Duke of Edinburgh’s published attack on the ideas of Marxism. Before we turn to deal with the distortion, be it intended or ignorant, contained in that attack, it is worth congratulating this titled spokesman for legalised robbery for taking the bother to commit his ideas to print. Too often the nonsensical dogmas of anti-Marxism are offered as casual asides or vague references, so making them harder to answer. Here we have a clear account of why one member of the capitalist class thinks that Marxism is wrong. Let us examine his criticisms.

The Duke—or whoever might have assisted him in composing his attack—has taken the trouble to find out a little about who Marx was and what he wrote. On page 6 we are presented with a concise biographical sketch, deficient more in its omissions than in relation to any false information. The reader is told that Marx “appears to have had an enormous capacity for painstaking work, a vivid and forceful literary style, considerable imagination, and a single-minded devotion to a particular philosophy”. It is stated that Marx held that “the bourgeoisie had . . .  to be destroyed by the abolition of all private property”. This is half right. In fact, both state and private property must be abolished and Marx was advocating the abolition of class relationships, particularly that of wage labour and capital, therefore the bourgeoisie (or capitalist class) will be destroyed as a class personifying capital, but not as individual people. The Duke contends that “capitalism has proved to be a great deal more flexible than (Marx) ever imagined”. There is probably some validity in this.

Having stated those points where the Duke was correct or nearly, so let us list his numerous errors and distortions.

 . . . it becomes apparent that at the heart f the terrorist campaign, or of the liberation army… or of civil unrest, there is a hard core of Marxists. Furthermore it cannot be entirely coincidence that wherever such a state of conflict exists the terrorists, liberators or revolutionaries are almost invariably supported by money, arms or men and women from countries under Marxist regimes. (p.5)

Are we to assume from this that any army or government or individual psychopath who chooses to adopt the label Marxist will be regarded by those attacking Marxism as representatives of Marxist ideas? The Russian dictators and sections of the IRA and various anti-social organisers of civil disorder adopt the Marxist label, but that makes such people no more “Marxists” than is the German Democratic Republic democratic. The linking of a label with an idea is only valid if those being labelled hold the ideas and act on the ideas to which the label refers. The Duke gives no evidence to show that terrorists are carrying out principles to be found in the writings of Marx; not a scrap of evidence is offered to show that “Marxist regimes” are Marxist societies. This is a classical distortion tactic, used by those who find it easier to smear than to prove.

In fact, on page 26 the Duke states that “Marxism has given ambitious politicians an absolutely ideal method of acquiring and keeping absolute power”. Indeed, many capitalist leaders have usurped the rhetoric of Marxism in order to run the system of oppression which genuine Marxists seek to destroy. If the Duke of Edinburgh cares to read the history of British Royalty he will discover that by manipulating the ideas of religion the British monarchy was able to attain absolute power, justified by the doctrine of divine right. If the Duke was informed he would realise that it is necessary to check the credentials of those who pose as Marxist governments and activists, if he is informed, then he is dishonest, for he will know that their credentials are bogus.

“His weakness, if that is the appropriate word for it, seems to have been a hopelessly unrealistic understanding of human nature.”

We must assume from this that the Duke does understand “human nature”. Odd, then, that he at no point attempts to define it. The reason could be that it is a totally nonsensical concept, used too often by people who speak before they think. Marx argued that human behaviour is socially determined and that our ideas and actions are not inherently produced. Rather than asserting that this is “hopelessly unrealistic”, where is the evidence against it? The Duke states that Marx’s “obsession with science and scientific socialism . . . seems to have blinded him to the power, variety and irrational nature of human emotions and talents and to the fact that such qualities of human nature are equally distributed among all people regardless of class or intellect”. (p.7) Does this mean that there are as many slum-dwellers obtaining Oxford degrees as millionaires’ children? Are there as many princes suffering the frustration of the dole queue as sons and daughters of miners? And what is this “irrational nature” which the Duke finds in human emotions? Human thought and feeling is linked to the rational pursuit of survival and comfort, if he has discovered some irrational content beyond this material interpretation, let the Duke spell it out for us rather than making vague and pointless references. Human nature has always been the concept most loved by the defender of the status quo. The slave-owner of old would say that it was human nature for negroes to be owned by white masters. The Duke of Edinburgh invokes the same undefined theory in defence of the modem form of slavery, the wages system.

“Marx, like many before and since his time, went to considerable lengths to make his selection of facts fit his particular theories.”

These aristocratic liars obviously believe that they have only to assert a view and it will be accepted. If Marx distorted the facts to fit his interpretation of capitalism why has there been no satisfactory effort made to offer other facts which will show Marx’s ideas to be false? Where are the “facts”, to show that poverty is not caused by the system under which the few own and control the means of wealth production and distribution? What “facts” exist to demonstrate that workers are not exploited at the point of production by being paid a wage which is less than the value of what we produce? Where are the “facts” denying that the history of property society is a history of class struggle? Wise men have had over a century since Marx’s death to provide us with “facts” that will not fit in with “his particular theories”. Wise men have yet to disprove Marx’s facts, and the Duke, who is not “wise”, hasn’t done this either.

“Marx believed very strongly that it was impossible to have a satisfactory society where there was such a crude division between those who owned property and capital and those who owned nothing but their wages. Naturally in a purely static situation this would be intolerable, but no human system is static and the freer the system the more quickly the self-correcting mechanism works and the greater the movement between classes is likely to be.”

So the Duke agrees with Marx that the crude division between those who own property and those who are wage slaves is “intolerable”. But the argument he puts is that, given a free society, the poor will be able to correct this situation and be come capitalists. A century after Marx’s death the crude class division still exists. in Britain the richest one per cent of the population own more of the accumulated wealth than the poorest eighty per cent added together. How long do as the Duke think it will take for this “self-correcting mechanism” to move those who are dependent on selling their abilities for wages or salaries to gain entry into the capitalist class? Of course, this will never happen because the capitalist minority can only survive by living parasitically off of the labour of the wealth-creating majority. It is “intolerable” that this division exists but, unlike the Duke, Marxists are not expecting the system to correct the problem.

“There was a utopian belief that every human problem could be solved by scientific analysis and the operation of altruistic human will. All that was necessary was to identify and eradicate the cause of the problem and everything would immediately become all sweetness and light. Marx was convinced that be had achieved all this in his theory of historical materialism.”

Nowhere did Marx ever state such a point of view. it has been invented by the dishonest Duke. It would be “utopian” to assert that “every human problem” can be solved by science but Marx was talking about problems caused by the social system, not those of natural causation. A system which makes wars inevitable can be removed and there will be no more wars. It is a basic principle of science that effects are eradicated by first removing their cause –Marx did not invent such an idea and the Duke cannot disprove it. Marx made no reference to “the operation of altruistic human will”. this is yet another of the Duke’s absurd phrases. In fact, the establishment of socialism depends on material self-interest, not abstract altruism. Socialism will not be “all sweetness and light” and Marx never used such a silly phrase. We can say that it will be an efficient, co-operative, peaceful social system, free from the bitterness and darkness of world capitalism. If the Duke cares to argue with that he will have a debate on his hands; any old fool can knock down a utopian dream which Marx was not indulging in, but not any old fool will be allowed to get away with it.

“One of the features of Marxist analysis is the constant use of group denominations and particularly the references to the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, as if there was no such thing as individual will. What sort of an argument is it to say that because all my colleagues and contemporaries are behaving in a certain way, that is the way that historical materialism has ordained I must believe?”

Needless to say, the Duke does not define this mysterious “individual will”—this man is a master of the undefined concept. My individual will is to live in Buckingham Palace: but which is more influential—my “will” or my class position? All people are either workers or they are capitalists and if they are in the former class they are robbed and they are relatively poor and they have a world to win, if they are in the latter class they are exploiters and they are relatively rich and the world is theirs. There are those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess. As for “individual will”, the Duke can buy mine from me for the price of one of his Rolls Royces. A person’s class position generally determines their ideas: that is why it is not surprising to find the husband of the richest woman in the world opposing Marxism. When members of the boss class start flocking into the Socialist Party we shall take more seriously the claim that historical materialism does not ordain how humans think and behave.

“As Marx’s ideas entailed the confiscation from private capitalists of all means of production, distribution, transport and communication, all these things would have to be centralised in the hands of the State, by which he meant the hands of the proletariat organised as the ruling class.”

Here the Duke asserts that Marx stood for centralised state capitalism. Untrue. The abolition of class monopoly necessitates the removal of the state, which Marx pointed out is merely the executive committee of the exploiting class. Marx argued that with the emancipation of the working class there will be no class left to be exploited and the logical implication of that is that there will be no socialist state. So, when the proletariat (or workers) are organised as the ruling class, which will happen when the state is democratically conquered, that will at the same time be the end of classes, including a ruling class, and the end of the state. The centralised state has nothing to do with socialism, but is a feature of coercive capitalism. A great deal of the Duke’s attack on Marxism rests on the assumption that a centralised state will create an elitist bureaucracy which will become a new ruling class. This is correct. The Duke opposes such a new ruling class, of the type which took over from the Tsars in Russia, because he is a defender of the old ruling class; Marxists oppose state and private capitalism: they are opposed to all ruling classes.

“Of all Marx’s ideas the most explosive was his choice of one particular class or group of citizens within a society—distinguished only by their relative wealth and occupations—to be held responsible for everything that is unsatisfactory in that society.”

Once again the Duke demonstrates his failure to grasp –or his ability to distort –Marxism. It is not a Marxist contention that the capitalists as individuals are the cause of the problems of the working class. It is not a question of individual will. The whole point of Marx’s writings is that the capitalist system demands that capitalists must act in certain ways if they are not to descend into the working class –a miserable fate, as we are sure the Duke will agree. The point of Marxism is not to blame this group or that class, but to expose the system and to show that it can never be run in the interest of the wealth producers, even if all the bosses were jolly decent chaps.

“…(Marxists) whole ideology is based on the idea that any degree of force, subversion, terrorism, persecution and dishonesty is justified in achieving and maintaining the dictatorship of the proletariat.”

This is rich, coming from a defender of British capitalism. The very tactics listed have all been used by the Duke’s own class in order to preserve the dictatorship of King Capital. In no way did Marx ever advocate or defend these methods. It was Karl Marx who stated that “The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class themselves”, the same principle has been advocated by The Socialist Party, the only Marxist party in Britain, since 1904. We seek to establish a free and democratic society and we are the first to point out that this will never be brought about by any of the tactics used by our class enemies, such as those listed above. We seek to establish a society of mutual co-operation, not a dictatorship—a society which will be classless. We have congratulated our class enemy on having the openness to commit his ideas to paper, it is a pity that we are not able to offer similar congratulations on his honesty, intelligence and clarity, all of which are far too undignified to enter the mind of this pompous Royal distorter.
Steve Coleman

A Question of Classification. (1921)

From the June 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some Contradiction.
A writer in the "Daily Chronicle" calling himself Collum has an article entitled "Strikes and the Middle Classes," in which he attempts to show that the people he calls the "Middle Classes" are long-suffering and enduring under the tyranny of rulers on the one hand, and extortionate Trade Unionists on the other, but in reality are the most powerful section of the community. "It will be a bad day," he says, "for the working class when its extremist delegates succeed in driving the middle class to reprisals, because in a struggle for survival the middle class is bound to win."

From this extract we see on which side of the hedge his "middle class" takes its stand. Its interests are evidently opposed to the interests of the workers. What the threat of reprisals is worth we need not trouble to consider; our chief interest is to discover who are the people that make up this class, which is at the same time the most powerful and yet the most downtrodden, and why they permit any other section of society to dominate them, Collum's description of this mythical class is quoted in full:
Some Mixture.
   It is a queer mixture, this heterogeneous mass of citizens calling itself the Middle Class. The younger sons of the old landowning aristocracy slip down into it, and find there before them a solid phalanx of descendants of many generations of younger sons, and of the landed gentry that has long since lost or been taxed off its land, and has been earning its daily bread in one or other of the liberal professions or in business.
   Ambitious young men and maidens of the yeoman class who have benefited by technical education, and have "got on in the world," climb up into it, only to discover that the children of countless generations of peasant pioneers have done the same thing before them, and having become managers or even owners of little businesses, or shareholders in big ones, are now thoroughly identified in their interests with this great central stratum of the population that has come to include all who do not live by sub-letting part of their land to farmers on the one hand, and all who are ineligible for the working men's trade unions on the other.
Some Failure.
Now this is a genuine attempt to mark off the kind of people who make up the so-called middle class. Most writers are content to use the term loosely, leaving their readers to imagine a section of society that cannot be described as capitalists or as workers, or that partakes equally of the characteristics of both and, therefore, cannot be said to belong to either, but falls into a separate class by itself.

Although a genuine attempt, however, it is a complete failure for two reasons. First because the standard by which we are to judge who belong to this class is absurd, and secondly because, no sound reasons being given for separating those named into a class by themselves, he fails to establish the existence of a third class as a scientific fact. The absurdity of the standard he sets up is at once apparent when we remember that it is possible for a capitalist to possess enormous wealth and yet never to have been a landowner at all. Moreover, many shareholders in commercial concerns own land, and many landowners are also shareholders in industrial concerns.

Some Sense.
There is no purpose in classes at all unless such classes divide society into upper and lower, rulers and ruled. And there is no purpose in ruling unless it is to obtain, without toil, the largest possible share of the wealth produced by the class that is ruled. The "queer mixture" which Collum calls the middle class, according to him does not rule, because governments ignore their interests and generally treat them with contempt. He says "Governments in all lands have usually taken its patriotism for granted and unhesitatingly sacrificed its interests when threatened by aristocracies in the past or by privileged corporations of industrialist workmen in our day."

Some Strength.
So much for their boasted power—a class that can be sacrificed by one class to satisfy the demands of another is obviously of little account in the struggle of classes, and should find its proper place with the class that is ruled. Moreover, if we examine the "queer mixture" sketched out by Collum, we shall find that they really belong to that class.

The "younger sons of the old land-owning aristocracy who have slipped down" are obviously on the same plane as the "ambitious young men and maidens of the yeoman class." Both are faced with the necessity of earning a living. They compete with each other for jobs. This is the common ground on which they meet; but the first named, before they slipped down, were not under this necessity. They lived without being compelled to sell their energy, consequently they have changed their class. This is not the case with the second named. These have merely changed their jobs. They have to work still, but the work is more agreeable and possibly better paid. They have not stepped from one class to another. They have risen to the upper layers of their class, but not out of it. They still must bring to the labour market a form of energy that is saleable.

The name they give to the remuneration they are able to exact does not classify them out of their class. They may draw salaries, fees, or even have dividend-bearing shares allotted to them as part payment—all these are merely the price of their labour-power. Nor does the nature of the work performed remove a man from one class to another. If he works because he must in order to live, he belongs to the working class. Brains and muscles are both necessary to the worker before his labour-power—which is in all cases a combination of these two, can be sold as a commodity on the labour market.

Some Matter.
The one thing that matters to every man and woman in capitalist society is whether or not they have to sell their labour-power in order to live. The difference is that between freedom and slavery. To live on rent, interest, or profit without toil, or to sell the only thing they possess—their energy—and work at the bidding of another. A division which means so much to every member of human society must obviously be the most important to society as a whole. But the fact of such a division does not become general knowledge until many years after its discovery, because the spread of such knowledge conflicts with the interests of the ruling-class, who recognise in the general acceptance of scientific classifications of their system, the first step towards its disintegration.

Some Definition.
In the main capitalist society is made up of those who work for wages and those who, sharing in the ownership of the means of life, can live without work on rent, interests, or profits. All the people mentioned by Collum come under one of these two heads. It is the only important division of a general character. The first is the working class and the second the capitalist or master class. Every politician and dabbler in social subjects refers to the one and the other in those terms. Those who work under capitalism —with very few exceptions—are those who are compelled to do so in order to live and, broadly speaking, make up the working class. Those who are not compelled to work for wages, but, by virtue of the fact that they own some portion of the land or other means of wealth production, belong to the capitalist class. This is as much a scientific generalisation as the statement that the organic world is divided into the two great classes, animal and vegetable. In both cases, however, there is an insignificant fringe, or borderland, between the two broad divisions, made up of species in the one case, and individuals in the other, which it is somewhat difficult to classify; but generally speaking, men and women fail into one class or the other when we discover whether their income is derived mainly from exploitation or from the sale of their labour-power in one form or another.

Some Competition.
Everybody knows that there are a number of well-paid and at the same time easy jobs scattered about among the great bulk of arduous and ill-paid ones, but they are few compared with the latter, even in the occupations and professions in which they exist. The majority of those engaged in any profession are constantly struggling to maintain themselves and secure recognition. The competition between them continually grows keener in direct proportion as the ordinary conditions of the vast majority become more strenuous and ill paid. The "younger sons of the land-owning aristocracy" and the ''ambitious young men and maidens of the yeoman class" a class which, by the way, disappeared with the feudal system—all meet in this competitive arena, competing for a living by the sale of their energy or services. They belong to the class that lives by the sale of its labour-power.

Some Conclusion.
It is for those who talk glibly about the middle class to show on what grounds that class can be separated from the two main divisions mentioned above. In capitalist society the broad distinction is between capitalists and workers—between the class that owns the means of wealth-production and lives by exploitation, without labour, and the class that lives on wages, which is the price of labour-power, in one form or another. This latter class is correctly termed the working class, even by capitalists, to distinguish it from the class that does not work—a distinction which is a necessary result of our classification and proves its essential character. It divides human society into workers and drones. It is thus elementary, fundamental, and of the utmost importance, because without work human needs cannot be satisfied and human society cannot exist.
F. Foan

Where Russia Stands. (1921)

From the June 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Link to Part 2.

After the Bolsheviks had obtained possession of power their outlook and tactics underwent certain fundamental changes.

Before the upheaval Lenin had set out certain propositions, absolutely essential, in his opinion, as a programme for the Russian Communist Party. These propositions are contained in a pamphlet entitled: “Towards Soviets. Thesis and a letter on Tactics.” (“International Library” 14, published by the late British Socialist Party.) In order to illustrate some of the changes in views and methods practice forced upon the Bolsheviks, we will deal with some of the propositions mentioned. On page 6 appears the following :
   While we are in the minority, we carry on the work of criticism and explanation of mistakes, urging at the same time the necessity of the transfer of all power to the Councils of Workers’ Deputies, in order that the masses may free themselves from mistakes by actual experience.
This reads very nicely—”All power to the Councils of Workers’ Deputies”—the inference being that by this means all power would pass into the hands of the Russian workers, soldiers, and peasants. All through the insurrection the slogan “All power to the Workers” was used by the Bolsheviks as a rallying cry, to their considerable advantage, to say nothing of the furore it created among their windy would-be imitators in this country.

Right from the commencement the Bolsheviks, in practice, acted contrary to this principle. “All power to the Workers” remained, from the very beginning, nothing more than a phrase. All power signifies either what it is or—wind. In actual fact, like the so-called “Rights of Man” in the American and French Revolutions, the working out of the idea has been entirely different from its inference. In Russia "All Power to the Workers” signifies all power to a fraction of the Bolshevik Party.

When the insurrection had been carried to a certain point successfully and the time arrived for “all power” to pass over to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, the wire-pulling commenced. The Bolsheviks claimed to be the ruling party in Russia (although only a tiny fraction of the population), and would only agree to hand over power (which they, as leaders of the insurrectionary movement, already held) on certain very important conditions, relating to the constitution of the People’s Commissaries (the new form of government), which left all power where it already was—in the hands of the Bolshevik leaders. It is true other parties at the Congress were offered a place in the Government, but only in a minority to the Bolsheviks, and on condition that all the important departments were filled by the latter. After tumultuous sessions the Bolsheviks eventually gained their end. (John Reed. “Ten Days that Shook the World.”)

An ominous forecast of the future had been given by Trotzky when speaking on the 7th November 1917, during a night session of the Petrograd Soviet. He said that telegrams had been sent to the front announcing the victorious insurrection; also that troops were said to be marching against Petrograd to whom a delegation must be sent to tell them the truth. At this there were cries of “You are anticipating the will of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets.” To which Trotzky replied “The will of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets has teen anticipated by the rising of the Petrograd workers and soldiers.” (See John Reed p. 86.)

The final emptiness of the “All Power” slogan, however, was demonstrated by Zinovief in his report to the First Congress of the 3id International in March 1919, where he stated :
  Our Central Committee has decided to deprive certain categories of party members of the right to vote at the Congress of the Party. Certainly it is unheard of to limit the right of voting within the party, but the entire party has approved this measure, which is to ensure the homogeneous unity of the Communists.
  So that, in fact, we have 500,000 members who manage the entire state from top to bottom.
—”Socialist,” 29.4.1920.
This shows how much of the “All Power” the Russian workers, soldiers, and peasants possess. 500,000 out of about 180 millions possess all power in Russia! And this eighteen months after the successful insurrection led by the group who made the world ring with the rallying cry that was to be the corner stone of the edifice they would build. It will therefore be wise to remember that the organisation of Councils of Workers by no means guarantees the passing of power into the hands of the mass of the workers.

The paragraphs quoted above demonstrate that the power of the Russian people to day “is vested in its Government”—the Government composed of the ruling faction of the Russian Communist Party. Lenin himself supplies us with a damning indictment of such a state of affairs, as witness the following :
  Inasmuch as all the power of a people is vested in its government the people is divested of all power.
So that, with the able assistance of Zinovief and Lenin, we are now possessed of the information that the net result of the “All Power to the People” movement is that “the people is divested of all power”!

We will now take another proposition from the same paragraph in “Towards Soviets.” This proposition runs as follows :
  The abolition of the police, the army, the bureaucracy,
There is a footnote to this particular item which states that the standing army would be replaced by the universal arming of the people.

In the first place was the standing army abolished on the accession to power of the Bolsheviks ? Of course not. On the contrary it was enlarged as a standing army by the addition of fresh units of armed workmen. Anyone who had suggested, at the time, the abolition of the standing army would have been regarded as a lunatic. The Army Council system was continued for a while, but it was found to be unworkable and was eventually abandoned. On this question Trotzky made the following statements in an address at the City Conference of the Russian Communist Party in Moscow, 28th March, 1918 :
  How do violence, carelessness, and even unscrupulousness develop? They come exclusively from the fact that persons are holding positions they cannot master. Examine at close range what is happening in the Ukraine. Those who fought splendidly and heroically against the Kaledins, Dutoffs, and Korniloffs, who conquered these enemies who stood on the same technical level with them, failed us when they were confronted with the German military machine and felt the sense of their utter helplessness. Hence their dissatisfaction with themselves. They, these commanders of guerrilla bands, fight against one another, accuse one another, not infrequently fight less against the Germans than against the native population. The example of what is happening in the Ukraine shows us that if we are to speak seriously about the defense of the Soviet Revolution by force of arms, by means of war, we must reject all the empty talk of the Left Social Revolutionaries about partisan or guerrilla warfare, and all measures that make use of small bands, and proceed to the task of creating a regular army. Only if this regular army exists can these partisan bands play a positive part on its flanks. But in order to create such an army we need trained specialists, including the former generals.—(“Class Struggle,” Vol. III., No. 4. Article “Work, Discipline and Order.”)
The above suggests any thing but the abolition of the army. Nor is it even the universal arming of the people, as a further quotation from the same address will show more clearly still:
  The duty of the Party organisations, the Party cells, will consist in making sure that the elements entering the army are in a political and moral sense of good standing.
The only inference to be drawn from this is that proved Bolshevik supporters were armed, but neutrals or doubtfuls did not become a part of the “armed people.” Here is again an illustration of how practice converted a “revolutionary slogan” into mere wind. Bolshevik Russia cannot get on without a standing army, and, as in ordinary capitalist countries, the material composing this army is carefully selected and trained.

The next proposition in the paragraph in “Towards Soviets” lays down—
  The payment of all officials—elective and revokable at any time, at a rate not exceeding the average wage of a good workman.
Was this policy adhered to ? By no means. Backward Russia was not ready for this any more than for the others.

We may here point out that the fundamental principles we are now examining are just the ones upon which Lenin grounds his claim that Bolshevik principles and policy are the working out of the principles laid down and acted upon by the Paris Commune. By showing that the Bolsheviks did not act in accordance with these principles we are, at the same time, illustrating where their policy differed from that of the Communards. We hope to go further into this particular question, but for the moment would urge that these points be borne in mind.

To proceed, let us take, first of all, the question of the payment of officials at the average rate of a good workman.

As soon as the Bolsheviks commenced the work of reconstruction they found themselves faced with a shortage of technical experts. In every direction ruin threatened unless they could enlist the assistance of those trained in the higher branches of science and organisation. In order to obtain this assistance they had to hold out a bait. Apparently force could not be applied. They were unable to say to this skilled section "Work or starve !” Why? Because the workers and peasants of Russia were too intellectually backward to understand the meaning of the common ownership of wealth and its implication—the equal sharing of the burden of producing. Consequently it was possible for a portion of the population to obtain the necessaries of life without taking any part in production.

All through the writings of Lenin, Trotzky, and others runs the complaint of profiteering and selfishness among the peasants and other workers. If the land in Russia were owned and worked by the poor peasants, and its produce only supplied to the workers and those physically incapable of work, there would be no pickings for profiteers or food for parasites. The only conclusion we can come to is that the peasant sells, to those from whom he can get the best price—in other words he acts in accordance with the ordinary capitalist commercial code—and the back door is open to the speculator.

What was the bait held out to the technical experts, who could obtain the means of subsistence without working? The bait was high wages—far higher wages than “the average of a good workman.”

The following quotations are interesting in this connection. They are taken from “Resolutions and Regulations of the IX Congress of the Russian Communist Party” (29th March-4th April, 1920) published by the Executive Committee of the Communist Party, Moscow.
  Rivalry between factories, regions, guilds, workshops and individual workers should become the subject of careful organisation and of close study on the side of the trade unions and the economic organs. 
  The system of premiums which is to be introduced should become one of the most powerful means of exciting rivalry. The system of rationing food supply is to get into touch with it : so long as Soviet Russia suffers from an insufficiency of provisions it is only just that the industrious and conscientious workers receive more than the indigent worker—(p. 8). 
  Registration of individual output or productivity of labour and the granting of corresponding individual premiums must also be carried out in a way suitable to administrative technical [staff. Better conditions must be secured for our best administrators and engineers to enable them to make full use of their capacities in the interests of socialist economy. 
   A special system of premiums is to be established for those specialists under whose guidance the workers can attain the necessary qualifications to make them capable to accept further independent independent posts.
In the above paragraphs we see put “forward the capitalist ethic of private gain as a motive force instead of the Socialist ethic—Social approbation, or the general good.

In connection with the above quotations and as an illustration of the lack of Socialist knowledge on the part of ”a considerable part of the workers” the following will be interesting :
  Owing to the fact that a considerable part of the workers either in search of better food conditions or often for purposes of speculation voluntarily leave their places of employment . . . the Congress considers one of the most important problems of the Soviet Government and of the trade union organisations to be the establishment of a firm, systematic, and insistent struggle against labour desertion. The way to fight this is to publish a column of desertion fines, the formation of labour detachments of deserters under fine and finally, internment in concentration camps.—(Same source, p. 19. See also pp. 23 and 25.)
The last few lines, in view of those to whom the penalties apply, suggest, not the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” but the iron rule of the Bolshevik leaders.

Now let us take the next of Lenin’s points, that of the elective principle relating to officials. The application of this principle was short-lived and it was finally abolished at the IX Congress of the Communist Party.
  (4) The Trade Unions participate in the formation of the administration of factories or works. This is effected with the consent and agreement of the corresponding organs of the Supreme Council of Public Economy ; the principle of election must now give place to that of selection, which is to be based on practical experience and qualifications, on technical competency, firmness, organising capacity and business efficiency of the candidates. 
—Rules and Regulations, p. 27.)
To really grasp the significance of this throwing overboard of the election principle it must be borne in mind that the appointment of such officials is not under the control of the trade unions, or similar bodies, but is under the direct control of the ruling group in the Bolshevik party, and further that the officials are revocable by this group only and not by any other organisation. A further quotation will illumine this point.
  It is therefore necessary that every trade union possess a strictly disciplined, organised fraction of the Communist Party. Every fraction of the Party represents a section of the local organisation which is under the control of the party committee, whilst fractions of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions are under the control of the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party. All the regulations concerning conditions and organisation of labour are binding upon all trade union organisations as well as upon members sf the party working therein and can be repealed by no other party organs except the Central Committee of the Party—(p. 35).
As yet a further illustration of the iron nature and wire-pulling methods the Russian mass ignorance has forced upon the Bolsheviks, and also as an illustration of the way in which the latter keep their hold upon power, we give the following quotations from an article by Lenin entitled “Should the Communists Participate in Reactionary Trade Unions?” printed in the “Workers’ Dreadnought” Jan. 22, 1921, Here is Lenin’s statement as to the position and activities of the Communist Party and its relation to the Russian masses :
  The Communist Party meets annually in convention and is represented by one delegate for each 1,000 members. It is headed by a Central Committee elected at the Convention and consisting of 19 members, while the current work is conducted by a still smaller group at Moscow—the Collegium— called the Organisation and Political Bureaux, consisting of five members each, who are in turn elected by the plenary session of the C.E.C. No important political or organisation question is de-citied by any State institution without the sanction of the E.C. of the Communist Party. 
  . . . As a matter of fact all the executive bodies of the vast majority of the Trade Unions, and of the All-Russian Central Council of Trade Unions, are composed of Communist Party members who carry out all the instructions of the Party. 
  By this means . . . is developed a broad and mighty proletarian apparatus through which, under the leadership and direction of the Communist Party, is realised the Dictatorship of the working class.
The above bears a suspicious resemblance to the wire-pulling, bribing methods applied to labour leaders by “the best bourgeois parliamentary democracies” ! Was there ever a more iron, dictatorship of the few? Was there ever a more “paternal” government? Surely the Dictatorship of the Working Class should at least signify that workers will dictate the means and methods to be pursued in organisation and so forth. Yet here we see that not the working class, but the leaders of the Communist Party do the dictating. So the ” Dictatorship of the Proletariat” is only another myth or “revolutionary” slogan.

A careful perusal of the quotations contained in this article will elicit the fact that another of Lenin’s fundamental propositions—the abolition of the Bureaucracy— was also consigned to oblivion. What is Bureaucracy? According to Annandale’s Dictionary it is the system of centralising the administration of a country, through regularly graded series of government officials.” And what else is the administration of Russian affairs to-day in actual fact ? ”Better conditions must be secured for our best administrators.” “A special system of premiums. . . for those specialists, etc.” “Assigning class conscious workers to all village posts, etc.,” and so forth.

And this, we are told, represents the transition stage from Capitalism to Socialism ! To us it reads like the efforts of a “vigorous” few to retain power after having gained it upon a wave of popular emotion without having the backing of knowledge on the part of the majority of the population.

These facts should drive home more power fully than ever the hopelessness of attempting to bring about a change in the social basis before the majority of those composing the class concerned understand tie meaning of such a change and give the movement class-conscious support.

Correspondence. (1921)

Letter to the Editors from the June 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

To the Editors.    .

Plaza de la Derrota 13,
Bilboa, Spain. 
15th Jan., 1921.

Dear Sirs,—I think there is no doubt that sooner or later the mass of the workers in factories, mines, ships, offices, etc., will be converted to the principles of Socialism, and the victory practically won in the most advanced industrial countries, such as the United States, Great Britain, Germany, etc.

But then the question arises, what about the countries which are predominantly agricultural, such as France, Spain, Russia, Japan, etc.? It is well known that the peasantry everywhere are far more refractory to the Socialist propaganda than are the industrial workers, and in Europe at any rate, these people still form by far the greater part of the population.

In France, Belgium, some parts of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and now in Russia as a result of the revolution, the peasant proprietors with their families form in every case at least half the population and in some cases much more. This class is completely hostile to Socialism and up to the present all attempts to convert them have proved absolutely fruitless.

It may be said that the Marxian doctrine proves that in time the properties owned by this class will become merged in great estates belonging to wealthy capitalists or capitalist companies. All I can say is that hitherto there is not the slightest sign of any such process, rather the reverse: the number of peasant proprietors tends to increase. Great Britain is, I believe, the only country in which this class has been practically eliminated.

What is the opinion of your party regarding these people ?   Are they to be considered as capitalists or proletarians, or as combining some of the features of both these classes ? 
Yours faithfully,
J. Urquhart.

The Simple Solution.
The great factor overlooked by Mr. Urquhatt is the development of agricultural machinery and science. While it is quite true that peasant proprietor is hostile to Socialism, as the Bolsheviks have found out in Russia, in countries that are coming more fully into the orbit of capitalism the economic pressure is driving these peasants into new paths. In Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Holland, and to a growing extent Belgium, the need for machinery, pedigree stock, means of transport, etc., has forced forward the formation of co-operative societies who purchase these things, the members using them in turn. This is one of the stages in the industrialisation of agriculture and necessarily carries in its wake the increase of industrial workers in that sphere. The small farmers and peasant proprietors not only combine to hire and purchase machinery, but also hire wage labourers to run or assist in ruuning this machinery. Those peasants who do not follow this method are driven out of competitive business by their more efficient rivals.

A further factor, often lost sight of, is the operation of the giant capitalist concerns who are taking over huge farms and ranches, particularly in South America and whose competition with European products, when fully developed, will crush out numbers of those who at present are able to scratch an existence from their little plots.

Mr. Urqnhart says "the number of peasant proprietors tends to increase," but gives no evidence to support this statement. To take one country alone—France—the number of peasant proprietors has greatly decreased. While the actual number of peasants is still large—nearly 50 per cent. of the population— the majority of them are not proprietors as their little plots are mortgaged up to the hilt and are really owned by the moneylenders.

Our view is that the peasants are in a transition stage from small ownership to either (a) joint ownership developing into the capitalist position or (b) to the loss of their small property and their becoming wage workers as the result.
Editorial Committee.