Wednesday, May 13, 2020

'Revolutionary Christianity.' (1921)

From the August 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

The "Crusader" is a journal published by a number of people having in common a belief in the power of the ethics of Christ to overcome all the difficulties and to combat all the evils which trouble mankind. In the main they appear to have arrived at their present standpoint as a result of the recent war. During it they took up a pacifist attitude, and none could deny the courage and sincerity with which this was maintained. Further, they have shown a genuine desire to face new problems with the same independence, and to apply to them their universal remedy. As a case in point their condemnation of war for its disregard for human life, which in their opinion is sacred, has compelled a broadening of outlook to include industrial strife; for they soon realised that peace-time pursuits are just as disregardful of the lives and individuality of the workers as is war.

Arising out of this an endeavour was made to get shareholders in railways, mines, and industry generally, voluntarily to give up part or the whole of their incomes in order to ensure the payment of an adequate wage to the workers. Of their sympathy for the latter there can be no question, but this invitation to shareholders is typical of their general utterly futile well-meaningness. Practical help may be an advance on passive sympathy, but neither is of permanent use unless accompanied by knowledge, and the one obvious fact about our "New Crusaders" is that they simply do not understand the problem for which they think they have found the solution.

That there is a conflict in society few people now trouble to deny, although some of our opponents would explain it as the outcome of the workers' ignorance and consequent failure to recognise that Capital and Labour are Siamese twins. The "Crusader" group does also realise that this conflict is sufficiently real to make Christian ethics impossible of application under present conditions, and describe themselves therefore as revolutionary; but although they look hopefully on signs of movement among the workers, they do not correctly interpret what they see. Viewing society through ethical spectacles, they fail entirely to understand its structure, the lines of its development, and the nature and magnitude of the forces at work within it.

Dimly perceiving that the future is with the workers, they nevertheless will not recognise that the class division in society is fundamental, and look to sympathetic interest of all people of goodwill to rid the human race of the material and moral evils of the present system. Necessarily somewhat detached from the workers, they sympathise with but do not trust them; they cannot rid themselves of the idea that Labour needs benevolent shepherding into the green pastures of the new world. They preach fearlessness and confidence in the innate goodness and loyalty of mankind, but nevertheless allow W. J. Chamberlain to insult his trade unionist readers with the remark that, although himself aware before the event of the impending Triple Alliance collapse, and knowing "that the position of the workers' army looks pretty nigh hopeless, . . I hadn't the courage to say so," and again, "had I written all that was in my mind last week ... I should probably have been denounced as a reactionary." After which he has the amusing impudence to condemn R. Williams and J. H. Thomas for not leading their "hopeless army" to the slaughter. Mr. Chamberlain, who thinks the workers unable to endure the truth, really ought to think twice before calling Bob Williams a "hot air merchant."

Confident in the power of love and believing that right is might, they nevertheless place considerable trust in trade union organisation and have a healthy regard for mere numbers.

Whenever the employers or the Government, sure of their dominating position, take the offensive against the workers, the "Crusader" always sees in the protest into which the latter are provoked, the early coming of the Social Revolution. They invariably accept the indignation of the rank and file and the wild utterances of their leaders as tokens of strength instead of what they often are merely the signs of a realisation of helplessness. When each strike or lock-out ends in compromise or failure for the workers, and the Revolution fails to materialise, they are again unable to recognise it for what it really is, the overcoming of a less force by a greater. It is ascribed to the treachery, cowardice, or incompetence of this or that leader, the apathy and lack of spirituality of the workers, the wickedness of Lloyd George to anything, in fact, but the harsh reality. The duplicity of Mr. Lloyd George on the one hand and the brilliance of Mr. F. Hodges on the other would matter but little to class-conscious workers, and are likely to prove equally dangerous while political knowledge is lacking.

The "Crusader" does not supply that knowledge.

At the commencement of the last coal struggle, when it was obvious to most people that, for the miners, conditions were exceptionally unfavourable for an industrial dispute, the "Crusader," true to its belief, advocated the tactics of humiliation and despair of appealing to the humanity of the employers instead of offering what resistance was possible

"Pity may be evoked where threats would have provoked only counter-threats. Labour, if it were wise, would realise that 'the broken sword' is the most powerful of all weapons." (4th March. 1921.)

Aware of the immense power of the Press and seeing this power invariably used against the workers, they counsel introspection and contemplation of the soul as the road to independence of the written word, instead of teaching the real lesson that this if just one more weapon controlled by the capitalist class and used by them to further their class interests.

What the "Crusader" lacks is the recognition of the first importance of the fact that one class—the capitalists—lives by robbing another class—the workers. That robbery is cloaked under legal forms, softened by protective measures—the Factory and Compensation Acts, etc., —obscured by the activities of well-meaning reformers, and cleverly and persistently denied by the Churches and other institutions which supply apologetics for the dominant class, but the robbery exists and will become ever more intensive. Where such material is provided there must be conflict. Its appearance may change, and under special circumstances, such as the war, it may seem to have been obliterated, but it cannot remain hidden.

In that conflict force rules.

This is the kernel of the whole matter, let our "Crusaders" disprove it if they can. During the war they preached negotiation and conciliation. In peace they have so far recognised realities as to condone the use of the strike; the power of the folded arms. They were wrong in their attitude to war, and in so far as they approve of strikes only on the false assumption that they are merely the abstention from labour, and therefore passive and morally justifiable, they are wrong now. A strike does inflict additional hardship and suffering on people not directly interested, and on that ground alone should logically be condemned by the "Crusader."

War between nations is occasioned by the struggle for markets and for the possession of regions rich in mineral wealth, and while the present competitive system remains is inevitable. It cannot be attributed to human weakness, and cannot, therefore, be removed by appeals, however eloquent, to the "better nature" of the peoples of the world.

Our attitude to war, the Socialist attitude, is one of uncompromising opposition, because we contend that the workers have a common interest against the world capitalist class, and have nothing to gain by partaking of the quarrels of the latter, which are only possible with the continuance of exploitation.

The labour leaders who served their masters by opposing any cessation of the war until the "enemy" had been "crushed," and who serve them now by preaching industrial peace, were right in one thing. Quarrels are not settled by negotiation. While the forces at the disposal of the contending parties are more or less equally matched, and while the cause of the quarrel remains, it cannot be disposed of by the round table conference. It is true that eventually enemies have to meet to arrange peace terms, but only when one or the other is prepared to yield, or when the object of each has become unattainable.

The same is applicable to industrial disputes, the class struggle.

The class which now hold the reins of government will not willingly let them go, nor will they, except under compulsion, put in the workers' hands the weapons they may use for their emancipation.

Fortunately, however, the capitalists are compelled by other forces beyond their control to grant such education as enables the workers to learn, and having learned, to act. The development of the system itself provides the force in question.

The need of the hour for us is to put before the workers the knowledge which will enable them to recognise the class nature of society and its government as the true explanation of social chaos.

There is nothing in this beyond the comprehension of the average worker, and an appreciation of it will lead surely to organisation for the capture of political control which must precede any social transformation. However much the "Crusader" may desire this end, in so far as their propaganda makes more difficult the perception of the facts of present social organisation in all their simplicity, it can only be regarded as a hindrance to the early coming of "the day."
Edgar Hardcastle

Our Thousand Pound Fund. (1921)

Party News from the August 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Facing the Facts." (1921)

From the June 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

"An Appeal To Experience."

Nearly every exponent of new and old political and economic teachings now-a-days invariably commences his address with phrases similar to the above title and sub-title. But few of them really face facts, while for most of them experience is merely a superficial representation of accepted paradoxes.

"Truth and Freedom" !

An organisation calling itself "The League of Truth and Freedom" has recently issued a pamphlet entitled : "The Teaching of experience applied to Labour and Capital," in which it is claimed that the truth is arrived at by facing facts and learning from experience. A bold display is made of this claim. On the cover we read in italics :
  "Now it is evident that, if this country is going to become a better and happier country in the future, when dealing with great social problems, we must face facts and give up advocating what disagrees with them. We cannot afford to adopt any teaching that does not agree with experience."
After this bold declaration one would expect to find every statement, after careful elimination of non essentials, simple, direct, and in accordance with facts; the actual truth and nothing but the truth. But what do we find ?

On page 3 we read : "Nature makes classes, but does not make individual units alike, much less her greatest handiwork, MAN."

Facts to Face.

But Nature does not make classes in the sense implied here. She does not even make a parasitic class in the sense that she makes parasites in general, because a parasitic class in human society assumes and maintains its dominant position consciously. Classes are the result of social relationships that appear in the historical development of society. Before there can be a dominant class there must be a general recognition of similar interests, and a conscious movement by those concerned to obtain power. The class thus coming to the top use their newly acquired power to complete their victory over their predecessors and take over complete control of the enslaved lower orders.

A Natural Corollary.

But if we accept the dictum that Nature makes classes it is necessary that we should at the same time recognise that Nature makes also revolutions to break down classes—a fact that the league would do well to face. It explains the so-called unrest and discontent among the workers. That discontent, with the growing knowledge and organisation of the working class, is a revolution in the making. History is a record of revolutions and will continue to be so while society is divided into classes.

"We are none of us alike" is a marvellous discovery, repeated again on pages 15 and 16 and amplified as follows :
"People have been blaming Capitalists and Employers for this Fact, and for the Inequalities in Life that result from it. They have not understood that Nature has created these inequalities; that they are even necessary for Existence. If an Idle Man is to have the same award as an Industrious Man, then the whole World would soon be Idle."
God's Emancipation.

In other words, it is Nature who makes some men rich and others poor, consequently the poor must not blame the rich for their poverty, even though they can prove that the rich obtain their riches by robbery. This is quite a simple way of dodging facts, while at the same time conveying the impression that one is going right down to the roots of the subject. Instead of blaming God—as the parson has always been afraid to do—they blame Nature for the inequalities and thank their lucky stars that they are on the right side of the hedge. The league makes a fetish of Nature, not because it comprises all things, but because, at the moment it favours their class. There would be just as much—and as little—sense in saying that luck makes rich and poor. Just as the parson and his followers have always attributed what they could not understand to God, so the league attribute to Nature what they dare not explain and leave the workers to imagine that in some vague way Nature makes men rich or poor in much the same way as it makes them tall or short, thin or fat. In this way the league, while admitting the existence of classes, make no attempt to explain, to excuse, or to justly them. They merely evade in the most transparent and cowardly manner one of the facts they make so much pretence of facing.

Who gets the Toffee-Apple ?

The last part of the above quotation, "If an idle man is to have the same award as an industrious man, the whole world would soon be idle," is intended as a sneer of contempt at the average worker. In reality it vividly reveals the true nature of capitalist society by denying a fact that is obvious to everyone—that it is the idle shareholder who gets the award, the industrious worker providing it and getting nothing. Under capitalism those who live on rent, interest, and profits can, if they choose, remain idle all their lives. If they work at all they usually choose an occupation more or less in the nature of a hobby. They are not compelled to work for a living. The working class, however, as the name implies, must work, and as the capitalists among them own the raw materials and the tools, the workers must sell their labour-power to them.

Machine production tends to reduce the bulk of the workers to one dead level of skill and wages; nevertheless they are graded and priced according to their skill, or the service they can render. The most significant fact about this grading is that those who are lowest in the scale work the hardest, often mentally as well as physically, while receiving the lowest wages.

The Real Idlers.

Generally speaking, the capitalist class is an idle class. Here and there a big capitalist makes a brave show of directing and supervising—drawing a fat salary in addition to his dividend for it. His speciality is, of course, making a brave show rather than directing. The office boy could often do it equally well, as it largely consists of giving reports—prepared by managers and clerks—to shareholders' meetings and to Press reporters. Where he has to exercise judgment his managers see that their reports convey directions that influence him without offending his dignity by anything that looks like advice.

Then there are the small capitalists who can not afford to pay managers. They look after their businesses themselves, until they are broken in competition with the big concerns. Then, rather than work as wage-slaves, they shoot themselves, so much do they love work. Outside the fancy reasoning of the league, in real life, facing the facts and learning from experience we find that those who work the hardest get the poorest award, while those who do nothing but chase pleasure find their wealth increasing faster than they can spend it.

And if they do—

Knowing the workers' award, we can appreciate fully the league's next statement: "some save money and become capitalists." Before a man can save money, however, he must have it to save, and as the bulk of the workers only get sufficient in wages, per week, to replace the energy they use up and provide for their dependents, very few indeed can save enough to become capitalists, even in a small way. Usually, even these few, after a severe struggle against the competition of the big capitalists, lose what they have saved and are flung back into the ranks of the working class.

Next the league's pamphlet says: "Mankind in general has always specialised and divided the work, because by doing so it can be done much quicker and better." This is easily seen to be a perversion of historical truth. Division of labour has only appeared and developed in the history of mankind with the recognition and development of new and more complicated methods of production, caused by the progressive discovery and application of fresh tools and materials.

A Sight for Sore Eyes.

Then follow a number of things done by capital, according to the league. "It takes capital to erect the work and supply the furnaces. . . . To build houses, the bricklayer has to get a capitalist to make and bring him bricks, and cement, and timber and slates." To say that a bricklayer would be astonished if he saw a capitalist doing anything of the kind, is to put it mildly. Every worker knows perfectly well that it is other workers who fetch him materials and tools, make and prepare these things ready for the operation he performs, and erect buildings and machinery for the purpose. With the exception of the few instances already quoted the capitalist does nothing beyond drawing and enjoying the dividends that result from the sale of the workers' product.

When all these workers understand that capital is an unnecessary factor in production, that capitalists are parasites living on the results of their industry, they will abolish the system and establish in its place one in which everyone participates in the labour necessary to satisfy social requirements, without the existence of a class who rule solely in their own interests. In this way they will be facing facts.

Brains a Working-Class Possession.

Another fact that trips the league is ''Brains." The bricklayer, they say, is dependent on the architect, the man of brains, who has to design the houses. Of course, that is his job. Bricklaying is the bricklayer's job, and if he did not build the houses would remain on paper. Designing is the form of labour-power the architect brings to the labour market. The difference between him and the bricklayer is not an essential one: the latter gets wages; the former commission. In both cases it is payment for service, unlike profit, which is the proceeds of robbery.

Next the league try to make us believe that labour saving methods and machinery create more employment. They speak of the "enormous benefit that a creator of industry like Ford of America has been to Labour. At the present time Ford claims to be producing and selling three thousand motor cars per day— Think of the labour given employment by such a huge industry."

But this is only a part of the story, which is continued in the "Daily News," April 25th, as follows:
"Conditions in America."
"The verdict of employers is unanimous that output per person has increased. One illustration of this is furnished by Henry Ford. . . When manufacturing 100,000 cars a month last year, "Ford employed 52,000 persons. He now employs 32,000 to make 87,000 cars a month."!
In the face of facts like this the league should either change its title or withdraw the statement quoted above. The figures from the "Daily News" speak for themselves, but the league's figures, to put it politely, amount to suppression by selection. The figures that support their argument are taken, and those that smash their case are left.

Capitalism Creates Unemployment.

In its normal development, therefore, capitalism increases unemployment, because production is only carried on for markets. The workers can only satisfy their needs by wages earned in the production of commodities for these markets. It is apparent, therefore, that markets must be limited, consequently that the number of jobs is limited, and that, with the adoption of new machinery and methods, the number of workers unable to satisfy their needs must increase. These latter are not prevented from doing so by the lack of materials and machinery, but solely by virtue of the fact that the capitalist refuses to produce for anything but markets.

The Surest Thing.

The league see in all this not competition between capitalists for world markets, but competition between the working class of different countries for their capture. What they do see, however, is that the working class of any country, if they are not to be starved out of existence by unemployment, must be prepared to accept a standard of living as low as, or lower than, the present lowest. There is no denying this. The hunger of the capitalist for cheap labour is about the surest thing under capitalism. First women and then children were dragged into industry because they were cheaper than men. Wherever the capitalist has been able to do so he has dragged in cheap native labour to compete with his own countrymen, while at the same time mouthing patriotism. The hypocrisy of the capitalist is well expressed in the following paragraphs, which are typical of the general attitude:
  "It is perhaps fortunate for the labour of this country, that capital and brains are so hindered by officialism in China, that they cannot at present give effective help to Chinese manufacturing, agriculture, and mining industries. For the Chinaman lives almost entirely on rice, and if he had the capital and the brains to help him, which we possess, his low standard of life and consequent low prices would under sell us in every market in the world."
It is quite evident from the above that the average capitalist has no objection to developing Chinese trade so long as his capital is in the business. It is not love of his country that hinders him, but Chinese officialdom.

The League's "Truth."

Perhaps the worst lie uttered by the League of Truth and Freedom is the statement that "although the cost of food and other necessaries has increased so greatly, the wages paid, except perhaps in isolated cases, have more than covered it." Every worker knows that his standard of living is lower than it was in 1914. Many articles of food, such as butter, eggs, bacon, beef, and most kinds of fruit, that entered largely into his diet before the war, are looked upon as luxuries to-day by the average worker, while for many they we absolutely unobtainable.

Then we are told that "the best men among the capitalists and the employers are anxious to help labour to improve its position" (apparently by reducing wages all round and speeding up). "They recognise that this country has in the past been run far too much for the benefit of the indolent and the idle."

And that is as much as we can expect from the league. Out for "truth and freedom," they stand only for the freedom of the capitalist class to continue their exploitation of the workers. They admit the workers' poverty, but their only remedy is, when translated, deeper poverty and more intensified labour. If the workers allow themselves to be led by such transparent hypocrisy and lies they deserve nothing better.
F. Foan

Jottings. (1921)

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

Reading the Press from day to day we are kept fally informed of the plots that are hourly discovered and which are intended—so we are usually told—to undermine the edifice of the British Constitution and to bring to ruin and decay the civilisation upon which rests our "glorious Empire." Full details have been collected of Sinn Fein plots in England, Irish plots in Russia, German plots in Palestine, Jewish plots in Germany, Communist plots in Timbuctoo, and so on without end.

Lord Birkenhead (famous for his connection with the Ulster plot) was telling the Cotton Conference at Manchester the other day what he knew about the plot of the Bolsheviks to extend the coal strike in England to a general stoppage. After referring to the source of information as "detected intercepted documents," he went on to pay a tribute to the "traditional commonsense of the British people," and to say that owing to the "sanity and sobriety of the British working man" the sinister plot had been shattered, and, he hoped, shattered beyond recall. "However misguided the miners may have been, their loyalty to their leaders and endurance typified the spirit of loyalty and determination which enabled Great Britain to make such a special contribution to the winning of the war." ("Manchester Guardian," June 23, 1921.)

The reader will at once conclude that this sounds fishy, and that there must be something behind it all. Of course there is. Turning to another part of the same paper we find in the political correspondent's report that a conspiracy had been revealed which was led by Lord Birkenhead and included Churchill, Lord Beaverbrook, and others, the purpose of which was the overthrow of the Prime Minister in order to alter the basis of the Coalition. In this case also the plot was shattered—not because of the "traditional common sense of the British people," but because Churchill did not see his way clear to success.

The connection between the two instances is obvious. Everything depends upon being able to secure the support of the working-class population of the country by means of their votes, hence the talk at Manchester and the Press reports.

Which is bluff, purely and simply. For their own purposes they have other methods, also, which are not supposed to be the concern of those outside. The British workers may possess those qualities attributed to them by Lord Birkenhead, but they will certainly have to be applied in a different direction if they are ever going to come into their own.


The dishing of the Communists by the Labour Party over the question of affiliation to that body will certainly rile them. In seeking affiliation they not only prove that, stripped of all their pseudo-revolutionary trappings, they are nothing but a party of opportunist reformers, but also that they haven't a platform strong enough to stand on. Their understanding of Socialism is certainly in need of a tonic when they claim that by joining forces with the anti-Socialist left wing of Liberalism they can better serve the interests of the workers. That exhortation to the trade unionists to "watch your leaders" is really funny.


Lever Brothers, Ltd. report a profit of £3,270,091 in 1920, after providing for depreciation, insurance, etc. This compares with £2,439,067 in 1919. The fixed dividends on the preference and the prefered ordinary shares are to be paid, and the ordinary, held by the Lever family, will have 20 per cent. paid on them, absorbing £456,000. This is 2¼ more than in 1919. Not very bad considering these rotten times.


Some little time ago the Editor of "John o' London" invited well-known people to state in his journal what particular book they would place in the hands of a young man of 21 in the belief that it would tend to form both his mind and character to his life-long advantage. Lord Leverhulme was one of those who was invited to have a shot. He replied—you've guessed it—Smiles's "Self Help"!
Tom Sala

On 'Control'. (1921)

From the July 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Despite the open and covert ruling-class propaganda, the careful provision of spectacular demonstration, the frantic endeavour to interest the workers in these things that concern only the capitalist class (Irish ferment, Indian disaffection, and the like), the past few years have witnessed ever-increasing economic strife, ever increasing hostility on the part of the workers to the existing social order.

If we consider the struggles of the last five years, a time of trade boom and slump, it is plain that the gains do not balance the losses : the workers enjoy a reduced standard of living.

Current events show that the most powerful trade union organisation is weak compared to the might of the master class. All the trade union action we have witnessed has not sufficed to maintain the workers' pre-war standard of living. Yet it is proposed to oppose this paltry machinery to the organised force of the master class. How? In the industrial strife we have noted demands were backed up by the cessation of work. To enforce these new political demands some would stay in while others  would have a general strike to get "control," while on every hand we have schemes whereby the workers will progressively become dominant in the workshop.

Mr. John Hill, General Secy. United Society of Boilermakers and Iron and Steel Shipbuilders, outlines some such scheme in his monthly report to his members quoted by the "Labour Leader," 22.4.1921.

Dealing with the coal lock-out Mr. Hill lays down his scheme. "The miners," he says, "have met the first attack in the only honourable way when national negotiations were refused. In certain eventualities we may take the same course, and we may win ; but we can not beat the international capitalists by a strike here and there. We must get control of the workshops. We must get control of our municipalities. We must get control of the nation.

"This will take time and education and discipline.

"There is no need of machine guns to secure these things."

Our trade union official does not in any way elaborate his plan or inform us how it is to be established. The object of workshop control is to restrain or check the injurious effect of modern industry on the workers.
According to its advocates, workshop control can be established in two ways—

  1. Bit by bit, following the policy of harassing the employers, or
  2. "Taking and holding," following the policy of drastic action on the industrial field.
The fact is usually lost sight of that, at the present day, the entire running of industry is carried on by the workers.

Concerning those schemes that come under the first group the reader is reminded of an occurrence in Italy in August and September, 1920. The workers there seized many factories, the masters preferring to let things take their course rather than damage valuable property. Had the Italian masters so minded the factories and the workers in them would have been blown across the Rubicon.

The inevitable happened. No wages forthcoming, the affair fizzled out. The Government however, with an eye to the main chance promised to introduce a bill that would inaugurate workers control committees. This they afterwards did.

The Government bill laid down that the committees should function in practically all large concerns except those of State. 
  "Workers who are devoted to each category of the larger industries, and who have reached their majority, will elect on the proportional system a Commission of Control comprising nine members. Six of these members will be chosen by the rank-and-file, and the remaining three by the engineers, higher employees, and technical managers engaged in that particular industry." —("Daily Chronicle," 26.1.21.)
The "Daily Herald" (26.1.21), under the heading "Official Powers given to shop stewards," supplements the above. 
  "Employers in each industry will also elect a committee of nine members for the purpose of treating with the workers' committee . . . A workmen's committee has the right to have all information necessary to establish the cost of raw material, the cost of production, and the methods of administration and production. . . . also information concerning the salaries paid to workmen, how the capital is constituted, and details respecting mechanical equipment, as well as the manner in which the rules governing employment and discharge of workers are carried out."
In these Italian control committees the workers have a representation equal to that of their masters. How did the masters take it ?
  "From hurried enquiries I have made tonight, I find factory owners fiercely opposed to the extent of control outlined above. Many declare they will go into liquidation rather than submit to the provisions of the Bill."—("Daily Chronicle," 26.1,21.)
With such an extent of control and such opposition doubtless effects are far-reaching. But listen ! 
  "Its objects are explained as aiming at ameliorating the technical instruction of the workers, and their moral and economic status within the limits permitted by the conditions in which manufacturers carry on their tasks.
   "Ensuring the execution of the whole body of laws framed for the protection of the toiling classes.
  "Facilitating betterment in methods of production, with a view to making production itself more fruitful and economical.
   "Rendering more and more normal and peaceful the relations between the givers and undertakers of labour."—("Daily Chronicle," 26.1.21.)
The results of such control are painfully obvious. The "limits of the conditions in which manufacturers carry on their tasks" are the limits of production for profit. "Ameliorating the technical instruction of the workers" means more capable workmen; "more economical and fruitful production" implies a great increase in the army of unemployed The carrying out of factory laws, etc. is necessarily a protection of capitalism itself, quite as much as old age pensions, unemployment doles, and hospitals. As to the "peaceful relations," there have been strikes almost daily since.

With regard to those schemes that fall under the second heading, it is necessary for Mr. Hill or his apostles to show how it is possible for the would-be controllers to combat the forces that would be set in motion by those who have political power. "No need for machine guns"— but let Mr. Hill attempt to run the boiler-making industry against the will of the masters. The machine guns would be there, and so would the artillery, and the tanks, and the poison gas if required, prepared to proceed to any extreme at the behest of those who hold political power.

Workshop control schemes, like profit-sharing and bonus systems, will only be put into operation at the command and with the consent of the master class, and therefore only in their interests.

To secure the second proposition there is only one way. When anybody wishes to be represented in local government affairs it places its representatives before the electorate at the appointed times, and if returned in a majority, decides the course to be pursued in local affairs. The rub is here. Local government bodies are very much limited in their powers. Further, measures decided upon can be overturned, functions can be absolutely crippled by the severe restraint exercised by the central governing body—Parliament. Just one instance: "The Local Legislation Committee of the House of Commons have refused by a majority vote to allow the Wigan Corporation to establish a Municipal Savings Bank." ("Local Government Chronicle," 21.5.21.

What would be the fate of any local government measure that attempted to hinder production for profit ?

Of Mr. Hill's third proposition little need be said. How the workers are to get "control of the nation" our mentor does not tell us. He would have the workers concern themselves with local government, burial boards, and work houses. But that central government machinery that can decide control schemes, local government action, the action of the armed forces, etc. he contemptuously dismisses, grouping political action with religious bigotry as "dividing the workers."

Production for profit respects only the law of its own undivided sway. The wage slave can no more dictate to the capitalist the terms of wage slavery than the serf could dictate to the feudal lord the conditions of serfdom. The capitalist class own the instruments of wealth production. More than this, and with the consent of the workers, they have political power, and through this ensure their own dominance as a ruling class.

Political power enables the master class to preserve intact the vital structure, the vital functioning of this system. It enables them to say that the property less shall protect the means of production, the property of the master class, from any and every attack. Political power carries with it the control of that brute force usually hidden but so necessary to maintain class rule.

Workers control or any other reform that can possibly be mentioned, implies the continuance of capitalism, the continued dominance of the capitalist class. Workers' control is absolutely useless to the workers while the capitalist class OWN the means and instruments of wealth production and distribution.

The workers must wrest from the ruling class the political power, and wield it in their own interest. Only a revolutionary working class can do this, and can use this power to one end alone: the abolition of capitalism and the institution of Socialism.

Let us renounce, therefore, all thoughts of reforms, no matter by what alluring title they may be known; let us resolutely refuse to be beguiled by side issues, no matter by whom they may be displayed; let us work for the only thing that matters, the institution of that form of society wherein every man's labour shall belong to the community, every man's needs shall be the concern of the community, every mental and physical gift that history has given to the sons and daughters of man shall radiate to the happiness of the whole of the community and the fullness of human life.
A. H.

Extraction From 'The Compleat Socialist.' (1921)

A Short Story from the July 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Being a Discourse not Unworthy of the Perusal of Most Reformers.

[Cast of Characters:] Reformer, No Party, Socialist.

Socialist.I have promised to show you an alternative to Reform, and I mean to catechise you for it. I pray you tell me, did not you, Mr. No Party, declare these same countries which shelter so much poverty to stand among the richest ?

No Party.—That I did, sir, and this is known by us all.

Socialist.And next you shall tell me, in what form their wealth appears ?

Reformer.—Why, sir, in the shape of commodities of all kinds.

Socialist.True. And I would know who owns the greater part of them, since we are all very sure the workers do not.

No Party.— Your questions are easily answered, sir. It is those employers whom Mr. Reformer called "masters."

Socialist.— I suppose then that they by far out number the workers ?

Reformer.—Nay, sir, they are but a handful by comparison!

Socialist.And do they put all these commodities to their own use ?

No Party.—No indeed, they sell them.

Socialist.To what uses, then, do they put those monies which come to them from the sale ?

No Party.—Oh, sir, with some they supply both necessaries and all manner of luxuries to themselves; and the residue they invest in further business of production.

Socialist.— Still you answer well; I commend you. Now, I pray, did these employers themselves create this wealth which they are so happy as to possess ?

Reformer.—Marry, no, sir: most of them created not the smallest part of it,

Socialist.Then since wealth does not fall from clouds like rain, nor is not found upon the grass like manna, whence came it ?

Reformer.—The labour of the workers, e'en those of whom I discoursed, produced it.

Socialist.Well said ; but you must needs show from what material, for we know that even prodigious toil cannot win steel from moonbeams or wool from the wind.

Reformer.—Sooth, bounteous Nature yields the materials.

Socialist.Is it e'en so ! Now instruct me how the employers do continue to persuade the workers to produce for them; the which is the more amazing for that they return to the producers a share so exceeding meagre.

Reformer.— Oh, sir, you must know that the workers cannot live but by serving the employers.

Socialist.— Can they not ? Why do they not exercise their labour upon Nature's materials for their own benefit ?

Reformer.—Because in doing this they must use tools, machines, factories, locomotives, steamships, and so forth, all of which we call means of production and transport, and these do the employers possess, Therefore the workers may by no means come near them except in serving their masters on terms specified.

Socialist.And it is plainly to be discerned who sets forth the terms, for we know it is not pleasant to the wage-earners to receive so poor a share and to work so many hours in the day.

No Party.—Aye marry, the terms never differ but in little from what the employers offer, yet why they do not I cannot clearly perceive.

Reformer.—Oh, it is because the number of hungry workers wishing to be hired is nearly always greater than the number which the masters do wish to hire, the which I mentioned a while ago. Therefore can the masters say : "Thus and thus are the terms, and if one of you will not accept them, your fellow must."

Socialist.Well done, scholars mine! You answer each the other. Now I suppose at least the capitalists themselves produced the means of production, by owning the which they are able so to enslave the workers?

No Party.—Nay ! The workers produced them too.

Reformer.—Aye truly—by bringing their labour to Mother Earth.

Socialist.Then it does not appear how they own not these !

Reformer.— Oh, the reason is that the very land belongs to the masters.

Socialist.Then do the workers possess nothing whatsoever, excepting their power to labour ? 

Reformer.—Alas, nothing.

Socialist.And the capitalists possess everything —land, means of production, and therefore all wealth produced, above that small amount which they do grudgingly return to the workers, to reproduce in them that life and strength which they purpose to use again. 

No Party.—Thus matters stand indeed. 

Socialist.Now see you not, honest friend, the very root of those material evils which you did so lament ?

Reformer.—Yes, for it doth plainly appear that they all grow from the ownership by capitalists of the means of living. 

Socialist.And do you begin to perceive in your bitter harvest of hatreds a reflection of material conditions, chiefest of which are the economic relations of capitalist production ?

No Party.—Why, I do, in so far as class antagonism is concerned : a class struggle could not but arise where the interests of employers and employed are thoroughly opposite.

Reformer.—And I have declared already how competition among workers makes them hate each other, which competition we have seen is a feature of capitalist production.

No Party.— Even so. And now I bethink me, the bitterness of the workers in belligerent lands is to be ascribed to this same cause; for I remember that each war hath proved to have been fought on questions of masters' interests, and it is to defend these that the workers have been roused to enmity, who else had no quarrel whatsoever.

Socialist.So much for their ideal sorrows. And what of the aesthetic blindness, which denied to so many workers any joy in art ?

Reformer.—Why, that indeed is a weed from the same vile root; for how should men and women live in such wise as workers do, and yet remain alive to those profound and subtle sensations which the artist labours to awake ? Sensitive minds in a sordid environment pay for their joys in bitter suffering.

No Party.—Besides, you are to bear in mind how the workers' education concerns itself not at all to foster appreciation of art: such responsiveness is not necessary to an efficient typist or engineer.

Reformer.—True; and I remember how great artists very oft starve, though why our masters, who have leisure and wealth enough, neglect to reward them and enjoy their creations, I can not discern.

No Party.—I can, and that readily! For the ruling class in capitalist society is much made up of men successful is capitalist industry ; the which success pre-requires mental qualities very different from those which distinguished lovers of art and is achieved and maintained by an unremitting recognition of self- and class-interest. The only kind of "art" which seemeth to them good is that which can be made the servant of their ideas ; but the greatest art serves not one class or section, but is for all people and all times a common treasure and a link.

Socialist.Now see how far a little thinking hath carried you ! I warrant you now perceive, Mr. Reformer, why your reforms fulfilled not your high hopes of them.

Reformer.—I confess I do. For they were directed on the one hand to changing the ideas and tastes of the workers, apart from the material conditions out of which these grew; and on the other to improving their material state while leaving the worker still enslaved to the capitalist, so that if the former should gain some small advantage to-day, the latter had but to devise some new aid to exploitation to-morrow.

Socialist.So you have satisfied yourselves, have you not, that private property in the means of living entails the subjection of the working class, and its consequent misery ?

Reformer.—We have in sooth.

Socialist.Wherein, then, lies the remedy ?

Reformer.—It follows straight: in the common ownership of these things.

Socialist.And how in such case ought their use to be controlled ?

Reformer.—Oh, democratically, by the whole people !

Socialist.The achievement of which is the whole aim of Socialists, of whom I am one.

No Party.—Why, I cry you thanks, Mr. Socialist ! I am now become so full of eagerness that I would fain know how this transformation may be brought about.

Socialist.The matter is easily understood, scholar, and as you are so willing, let us proceed to it. You did declare, Mr. Reformer, and we all know it for truth, that the working class doth far outnumber its masters. By what means do the capitalists retain the wealth which they have taken ?

Reformer.—Why, the laws secure it them, and punish with rigorous penalties any who attack their possession. The army, navy, air-force and police are to be employed on such occasion.

Socialist.And who make the laws ?

Reformer.—Those whom you and I and all voters do appoint to rule.

Socialist.And who are either masters or supporters of the same I conjecture, since they do so well defend private property.

Reformer.—Truly, of these two kinds they are.

Socialist.Yet they must be appointed by the votes of the workers, since these are in the majority.


Socialist.In whatsoever persuasion, then, do the workers elect such rulers ?

No Party.—Oh, they do not yet understand, as I did not until to-day, sir, the source of their troubles.

Socialist.Now, what think you? How is it possible for the working class to expropriate its masters, and convert the means of living into common property ?

Reformer.—By taking control of the powers of government.

Socialist.By what means can this be done?

Reformer.—By electing workers pledged to Socialism.

Socialist.Whose, then, is the task of achieving Socialism ?

No Party.—The workers’ alone !

Socialist.And what deem you the most valuable service possible to-day to the cause of Socialism?

No Party.—To spread knowledge of its principles within the working class.

Socialist.So think I; yet how shall we secure that Socialist action be well-disciplined and effective?
rep.—Why, as the workers grow to an understanding of Socialism they should organise in a Socialist party.

No Party.—Thus the matter appears to me also; and if more consideration confirms my present view, I promise, sir, to rank myself among your fellows, and qualify as completely as may be to bear forward the welcome teaching. I pray you, tell me if there be a Socialist party in this country which dallies not with reforms, for I am resolved that I will none of them.

Socialist.I am so happy as to be able to name you e’en such a party, to wit, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, some copies of whose Manifesto I have, by good fortune, in my pocket. Do you both read at your leisure, and judge of the party by what you find therein.

Reformer.—I, like Mr. No Party, am become full of eagerness, but hesitate to give the like promise because I fear me that until the majority of the workers understand Socialism the time is long.

Socialist.Marry, scholar, well urged ! And therefore as we have now reached Rugby let me re commend you to alight. I will hand you your bag.

Reformer.—What counsel is this ? My destination is Carlisle.

Socialist.Aye, but from here to Carlisle is four hours journey. You were wiser to make the best of Rugby, which invites you here at hand.

Reformer.—You amaze me, sir ! My business can be done only in. Carlisle, and were it a twenty-four hours' journey, I would go thither. No other town will suit my purpose.

Socialist.Excellent, excellent! You have answered your own objection to Socialism. No thing but Socialism will suit your purpose— which is the emancipation of the working class, is it not ? Only in the Socialist Commonwealth, will vanish the ills we desire to end, and how ever long the way may be, we must go thither, Yet it may well be that the Revolution is much nearer than you have guessed. For myself, it is my hope and my dearest wish that I may live to witness the establishment in many lands of that Commonwealth, and the expanding of the flowers of human happiness in its warmth and light; if this great joy may not be mine, I wish I may keep health and strength to fight through many a year in its cause.

Reformer.—Now so say I, good friend, for my last doubt hath followed the rest.

Socialist.Your decisions right well, content me, nor do I fear that you will ever repent them,

No Party.—And to lose no time, I propose that Mr. Reformer and I proceed now to read the Manifesto, thus allowing you to return to your Socialist Standard, which I perceive you laid aside when we began to discourse.

Socialist.'Tis a match.

Reformer.— A match.

Felony Compounded. (1921)

Editorial from the July 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

Another Government pledge has gone by the board. Agriculture has been decontrolled. There is no great outcry among the farmers, for very obvious reasons. In the first place a compromise is effected in their interests, and they are going to get some £15,000,000. The Government is bragging of having made a good bargain by compounding ; the farmers, beyond a little very weak eye-wash, make no complaint of loss: where, then, does the shoe pinch ?

It is simple: exactly where one who knows his way about in the fog would expect. It is the agricultural worker, of course, who is to feel the pinch.

For with the decontrol is, it seems, to be abolished the machinery for regulating the wages of the land workers. Hence the latter are to be thrown into the cockpit, like the rest of the workers, to fight out the question of wages in the good, old-fashioned way : with the raw'uns so to speak.

The farmers, therefore, besides getting rid of the irksome conditions of the late Agricultural Act, are freed from the restrictions on the movement of wages. By this they know that they will gain more than they will lose by the Government's repudiation of their guarantees; hence they take it lying down.

The land workers' side of the picture is not pleasant to look upon. The wonderful advance of machinery has made them superabundant, in spite of the ravages made in their ranks by the war. Already large numbers who left the land to work in the factories, having been thrown in the gutter to starve, are returning to the countrygide to clamour for jobs that do not exist. In addition, with the towns teeming with unemployed, there is no avenue of escape in that direction. So they are in a bad position indeed to offer effective resistance to the pending attack upon their wages.

To get back to the Government, it is very illuminating how one after the other they have stripped from the wage slaves the "favours" or concessions they conferred upon them when they had got the "wind up." There is not much left now. It would not be a far step to the repudiation of all war pensions, and that would about complete the business. Perhaps we shall not have to wait long for that!

To The Editors. (1921)

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

To the Editors.

Dear Sirs,—With reference to J.C.'s well-reasoned article in this month's "S.S." entitled "Parliamentary or Direct Action," has he not omitted to state what are the agencies which will cause the bulk of the workers to arrive at a complete understanding of their position, which understanding, he says, is necessary before Socialism can come ?

The average worker unquestionably gulps down whatever ideas are pressed upon him by school, press, parson, etc. Further, he likes to to think and feel exactly what everybody else in the herd thinks and feels. He is not worried in the least as to the possibility that popular ideas and emotions may be untrue, or may tend to repress life.

In point of volume, Socialist propaganda cannot be compared with capitalist propaganda. Nor, indeed, are the advocates of the former such accomplished psychologists as are the advocates of the latter. The worker's thoughts and feelings are the results of this capitalistic ideological bombardment; and in this bombardment there is no cessation.

Therefore, if the coming of Socialism depends upon the enlightenment of the majority of the workers, and their enlightenment depends alone upon Socialist teaching influencing them, it looks as though our hope of a better life is about as rosy as was the early Christians' hope of the "second coming." 
Yours faithfully,
G. T. Foster.

Reply to G. T. Foster.
The last paragraph in Mr. Foster's letter contains the essence of his question when he asks if the enlightenment of the workers depends ALONE upon Socialist teaching. Nowhere does the Socialist state such a position or make such a claim. Socialist propaganda is only one factor in the process of enlightenment. Far more powerful is the economic development with its growing insecurity of life for everyone who lives by selling his or her services to an employer. It is this great factor that usually forces workers to listen to Socialist propaganda.

In all directions, despite the denials and lies of the capitalist agents, combination among the capitalists, with its concentration of wealth, into fewer hands, continues all over the world. Price associations, cartels, federations and amalgamations, finally reaching the stage of trusts, are found in every large industry. The combinations in oil, steel, cotton, and Tobacco are known to everybody, and almost as notorious is the great combination in the banking world.

A combination is formed to increase profits. This may be done by eliminating competition and so saving the portion of surplus value previously used in that direction. Result, unemployment of travellers, advertisement printers, etc. Another way is to combine like plants or branches under one control with its necessary reduction of staff, thus giving a similar result. Or the combine may decide to force either longer hours or speeding up on the workers, with the same monotonous result—unemployment.

The class division between workers and employers is more clearly shown in the case of a company than of an employer who is known personally to his workpeople. It is shown more clearly by a combination, and most clearly of all by a trust. No wage slave is sure of his job under this development, and even the lordly bank clerk and the respectable, snobbish teacher have been forced to form organisations of a trade union character to protect themselves against the worsening of their economic position and the growing insecurity of life.

Long before the Socialist propaganda will reach the majority of these people the growth of the contradictions in capitalism will have forced them to examine various supposed ways of escape, and they will be compelled to take up the study of Socialism as furnishing the only solution to these problems.

Nor is it a question of the comparative psychological accomplishments of the capitalist and Socialist propagandists, for the first merely repeat the stale tales and nostrums that are already in the workers' minds—an extremely simple thing to do—while the second have to divert the minds of the workers out of their old, well-worn grooves—a task of much greater difficulty.

Where Russia Stands. (1921)

From the July 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the question of whether a Socialist Revolution is possible without, as a prerequisite, a majority of the population understanding Socialism, and being in favour of it, we have contradictory views expressed by the Bolsheviks. We will quote some opposite statement as examples of their confusion.

Lenin states on one occasion :
  The first problem of any rising political party consists in convincing the majority of the population that its program and politics are correct. … The second problem of our party was the conquest of political power and the suppression of the resistance of the exploiters. (The Soviets at Work, p. 10.)
He puts this point of view even more strongly in "Left Wing Communism", as witness the following:
  Without an alteration in the views of the majority of the working class, revolution is impossible . . .  It follows that for the revolution it is essential first that a majority of the workers (or at least a majority of the conscious, thinking, politically active workers) should fully understand the necessity for a revolution, and be ready to sacrifice their lives for it. (Page 65.)
If the above quotations have any meaning at all they surely signify that, before the workers can conquer political power, there must be a majority understanding Socialism and in favour of it. In other words, there must be a majority of class conscious workers.

Were we of a guileless and trusting disposition we would accept the above evidence that Lenin was against minority action—Blanquism. But alas! we are critical, and so we find that Lenin in other writings took up exactly the opposite point of view.

Under the heading “Elections to the Constituent Assembly” the following appeared in the Workers’ Dreadnought, 21.8.20:
  This is a process which the representatives of the Second International have never been able to understand, namely that the proletariat can be victorious without conquering a majority of the population. To limit or condition this victory to the acquisition of a majority of votes at an electoral contest under bourgeois domination is evidence of chronic intellectual indolence, or else, quite simply, of a device to deceive the workers. In order to bring the majority over to its side, the proletariat must first overthrow the bourgeoisie and take possession of the power of government, and then, after having destroyed the old state apparatus, introduce the Soviet system, whereby the domination and authority of the bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeois democrats over the non-proletarian labouring masses is at once nullified. It must finally complete the destruction of the influence of the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeois democrats over the majority of the non-proletarian labouring masses by satisfying their economic needs in a revolutionary manner, at the expense of the exploiters.
Lenin, in the above quotation, states in effect that first of all a minority of the workers must conquer political power and then induce the majority of the workers to come over to their side. In the previous extract, however, he states that first of all we must have a majority in favour of Socialism and then conquer political power. He tries to have both ways, and is on this account self convicted of being wrong in one attitude or the other.

On this particular point it was left to a gasbag to put the finishing touch to the absurdity. In The Development of Socialism from Science to Practice Karl Radek stated :
  The notion that the proletariat should undertake no revolution until it is satisfied that it has the majority of the people at its back is nonsense, for in no capitalist State would the democracy be left free to convince itself that it had the majority of the people at its back. Young working men and working women, exploited as they are to the uttermost by the capitalist, are nowhere to be found in the enjoyment of their full (political) rights. Were they possessed of them the bourgeoisie would straightway send Parliament to the devil rather than allow the workers to carry into effect the will of the majority of the people. (Page 20. Socialist Labour Press.)
The latter part of this passage shows that Radek, at any rate, is opposed (or should be if he is logical) to parliamentary action, as, on the surface, it does not appear to be much use accompanying parliament to the devil! Of course Radek gives no evidence for his statement—but that would be too much to expect from one who contends that Socialism has left the domain of Science and entered that of Practice.

The Bolsheviks, as a matter of fact, had a majority in favour of the “Peace, Bread, and Land” part of their programme, but by no means a majority of CLASS-CONSCIOUS workers — hence the compromises and concessions to mass ignorance and their attempts to justify compromising policy. This also explains the contradictory statements they were driven to make on various occasions. For instance, we have Lenin saying—
  What can be achieved at once by a revolutionary act has been achieved at once ; for instance, between the 26th October, 1917 and the 8th November, 1917 all private land ownership was abolished. (The Workers’ Dreadnought, 3.7.20.)
If all private land ownership has been abolished then we, who are thousands of miles away, would only be logical if we assumed, on the strength of Lenin’s statement, that there was no longer any private ownership of land in Russia. What are we to think, then, when we read the following, under the heading “A Rough Draft of the Thesis on the Agrarian Question—For the Second Congress of the Communist International” ?—
  However, the direct problem of the victorious proletariat should not be the expropriation of the rich peasantry, for the necessary material, especially technical necessaries needed for the socialisation of such farms, fail. Besides that, the social conditions do not allow for this. In exceptional cases, allotments are confiscated which are let out on hire or which are necessary for the petty-peasant population round about these parts. Part of the agricultural machines, which belonged to the rich peasantry, should be lent to these peasants gratis, and so on. According to the general rule—the proletarian State power—the rich peasants should be assured of their land, which should be confiscated only in case of rebellion against the existing labour power. . . Concerning the question of how the land, confiscated from the rich landowners, is worked, in Russia, which is economically backward, this land was divided amongst the peasantry ; only in exclusive cases the so-called Soviet farms were organised.
From the above it will be seen that private property in land has only been abolished on paper. Practically private property still persists. In actual fact, so far as land is concerned, Russia has retreated a step from social production, as land is parcelled out in smaller lots than formerly, the result being a more primitive form of production.

The Bolshevik programme of compromising (“revolutionary compromises”) is not merely put forward as being action necessary in Russia, on account of its backwardness, but is laid down as an axiom to be followed out by Socialists in all countries. This is where we come right up against Lenin and the Bolsheviks in general. Here is Lenin’s advice to class-conscious British workers (Left Wing Communism, published by the Communist Party of Great Britain):
  . . . since the workers in Britain still support the British  Scheidemanns and Kerenskys ; since they have not yet experienced a government composed of such men . . it follows without any doubt that the British Communists must participate in Parliament. They must from within Parliament help the workers to see in practice the results of the Henderson Government; they must help the Hendersons and Snowdens to vanquish Lloyd George and Churchill united (p. 65).
  The Communist Party must offer to the Hendersons and the Snowdens a compromise, an electoral understanding:—”Let us go together against the union of Lloyd George and Churchill; let us divide seats in Parliament according to the number of votes cast by the workers for the Labour Party or the Communists (not in the elections but by a special poll), we to retain the fullest freedom of agitation, propaganda, and political activity (p. 66).
Let us submit the above excerpts to a close examination.

In the first paragraph Lenin states that the majority of the workers “still support the British  Scheidemanns and Kerenskys.” In his succeeding remarks he makes it clear that he designates by this phrase the Henderson and Snowden group. A superficial examination of the situation here would show that the above statement is very wide of the mark, yet Lenin’s advice is based on such imaginary material. The result of the last General Election, and also of the more recent Bye-elections, clearly demonstrates that the workers in this country overwhelmingly support the avowed capitalist candidates against the alleged Labour candidates. The fact is that recently the. Labour vote has relatively shrunk against the vote cast for Independent Liberals, Coalition Liberals, Tories, and Coalition Tories—none of whom come within the scope of Lenin’s phrase “British Scheidemanns and Kerenskys.” As a matter of fact Lenin slaughters himself in the same paragraph when he recommends us to help the Snowden group to beat Lloyd George & Co. If the majority of the workers support the Henderson and Snowden groups, then the latter should be the majority in Parliament and should want no help to overthrow Lloyd George and take over the governing power. If they do not desire to take over the governing power our help would be wasted. And finally, by the time we would be strong enough to force them to take over power we should be strong enough to take over power ourselves. However, Lenin is badly informed as to the position. The Labour group is in the minority though they support the Lloyd George Government.

The naiveté of the suggestion that the Communists should offer “to the Hendersons and Snowdens a compromise, an electoral understanding,” but “we to retain the fullest freedom of agitation, propaganda, and political activity” is too good to pass over. To imagine that the wily Labour leaders are so simple as to walk blindly into the net spread with so much ostentation and “hot-air” needs a child-like, trusting, and simple conception of things such as we cannot lay claim to. This point of view is urged on the ground that the change in view of the workers can “be brought about by the political experience of the masses only.” On the same line of argument are we then to support every new party that arises so that the workers shall learn the rottenness of such parties by experiencing their shortcomings as governing parties ? Why not give Bottomley’s Business Government a chance to shine ? No wonder Lenin thought it would take five hundred years to establish Socialism !

Dunblane — a question of evil? (1996)

From the May 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard
It is impossible to imagine the horror that confronted those first on the scene of the Dunblane tragedy; little children lying dead along with their school teacher, with many more children injured. Difficult though it may be in such circumstances, it is surely necessary to look for what motivated Thomas Hamilton beyond the simplistic notion that he was merely 'evil'.
The violent death of a child is always a terrible thing; there is something particularly appalling, obscene, about it. The younger the child the worse it seems, the more upsetting, sickening, infuriating, even frightening. The difficulty comprehending such an action is what frightens, the murder of a young child plumbing the depths of depraved behaviour and inevitably raising an anguished "why?". A great many people are probably unable to answer this any more satisfyingly than the hospital chaplain, interviewed on television after the massacre in Dunblane, who said that people have free will and there is no other answer than that. Many other people will blame evil itself, using the terms as a metaphysical category, something more than a concept, something that acts, something that is a cause rather than effect. Socialists find both explanations unsatisfactory, but many of us will grope as blindly as anybody in the face of such horror, all words paling into insignificance as we try to imagine the absolute desolation of the bereaved, or the fear of the victims.

Such events always prompt reflections on the subject of evil. The Guardian (16 March) published a particularly thoughtful and interesting article on which it raised the question of evil as a question that is particularly disturbing for liberal ideology, an ideology to which the author, Henry Porter, obviously subscribes:
  "It seems almost implicit that what took hold of that school was a terrible extraneous force, and the only word we have for it is Ron Taylor’s [the headmaster of Dunblane Primary School] word— evil. That should satisfy us, but it goes against every liberal's instincts to acknowledge evil as a dynamic in human affairs. "
Evil as an explanation goes against “liberal instincts” because it suggests the impossibility of eradicating the problems that beset humanity by reforming them away. This is a political point, a philosophical point and an ethical or moral point. Evil as a metaphysical force is pre-Enlightenment; it is a religious concept that challenges everything that the liberal heirs to the Enlightenment believe. It is a concept that underwrites a certain reactionary defeatism; it is essentially conservative and it stands behind the belief that we should, in John Major’s phrase, “understand less and condemn more”. This phrase “understand less” can be read in more than one way, and still be revealing if we want to understand the political and social dynamics of this metaphysical concept of evil. Let’s put it this way: simply, do we really want to understand less? Is it good enough for the survivors and the bereaved in Dunblane, or for victims of apparently senseless violence at any time or in any place, past or future, to understand less? Continued mystification is never a satisfactory answer, is never any answer at all, and will never do anything to prevent such horrors happening again.

Let’s look again at the above quote from the Guardian. Evil is a “terrible extraneous force”, a “dynamic in human affairs”. Docs the word “evil” really necessarily imply these things? It may be a social dynamic in that people are prompted to react in certain ways, but the idea that it is a cause of death or that it is something that acts independently of everything else is, as stated, an essentially theological view. That is the real “dynamic” of metaphysical evil; it cuts off any possibility of understanding, it abdicates responsibility and at the same time denies the possibility of dealing with violence in any other way than with punitive and draconian judicial measures—which will finally have little or no effect in any case. Irrational and tragic acts of random violence continue to occur.

Liberals at a loss
Liberalism, on the other hand, cannot understand such irrational violence because it is blind to the idea that “nurture” extends beyond the private family. The formation of an individual is an extremely complex open-ended process which, even after that individual’s death, and even with all possible information about that individual at our disposal, can never be adequately grasped or “summed up”. We might never know what tiny, apparently insignificant detail of a person’s life provides the spur to violence. There are two things we do know, though. One is that the individual remains responsible for his or her actions; we should never be prepared to allow an individual to abdicate their own responsibility for what they do, except perhaps in cases of absolute and total madness. The second thing that we also know on the other hand is that the individual is formed in relation to the world in which they live, that “nurture” involves the whole of society and in so far as we are part of society we all bear some responsibility for what occurs within it.

It can be said that evil exists, in that evil acts occur, but is does not at all follows that evil exists as an independent metaphysical force. Those who hold religious viewpoints often state that religion is necessary for “knowing the difference between right anti wrong”, implying that the irreligious are in some way necessarily morally deficient. Those of us who reject the ideology of religion may find that questions of ethics and morality are often more complex than religions like to admit, and we may have some difficulty with “moral absolutes”; but socialism certainly has a very strong ethical dimension, and disbelief in higher supernatural powers of authority is often more severe in terms of ethical imperatives than religion. We have no recourse to concepts of grace or salvation. As Jean-Paul Sartre once put it (quoted in Adieux by Simone dc Beauvoir), without God “all evil is in itself irreparable” This leaves us with the necessary responsibility for understanding the sources of evil acts and attempting to deal with them.

We live in a capitalist “liberal democracy”; this is another reason why liberals find events such as Thomas Hamilton’s actions in Dunblane difficult to understand. After all of the liberal social reform of the last hundred years or so here was a man who, while obviously deeply disturbed, was also not strictly insane, and who committed such a terrible act of violence against the least powerful members of his community. Liberalism can find no answer for—is incapable of understanding—such an act in a liberal society. This tragedy issued a challenge to liberalism because unless liberal capitalism is at fault then there must be some force of evil that compelled Hamilton to murder. Liberalism finds both options unacceptable.

Individuals and society 
If we turn our attention to the little we know of Thomas Hamilton himself, we find that he conforms almost exactly to the classic profile of the mass murderer. He was a loner; he was paranoid, with the constant feeling that he was being persecuted; his relationship to children was such that, if he was not a paedophile, it at least involved the need to dominate and exercise power over them. He was desperate, in the strongest sense of the word; he was obviously in despair (the murder of children followed by suicide can only be accompanied by the kind of contempt for life that springs from despair). It does not require any leap of imagination to sec that all of these factors are linked to the failures of liberal capitalism, with its inevitable social fragmentation, alienation, powerlessness for the majority and feelings of anxiety or even despair that many feel at being apparently thrown into a world that is chaotic beyond all our attempts at control.

There was obviously more to it than this, and we shall never know exactly what additional factors drove Hamilton past a general dissatisfaction or unease into, first, the need to deny his own powerlessness by exercising an exploitative power over children, and finally the terrible and, yes, evil act of mass murder. But can anybody seriously believe that these events would definitely have occurred anyway, without the alienation, social fragmentation and chaos that are endemic in capitalist societies? In the final analysis, it must be recognised that there are no truly “evil” people in the sense of having been born that way—there is no metaphysical force of evil, there are only evil acts, and their genesis can be traced to the relationship between the individual and his or her society. Individuals are always responsible for their actions, but at the same time any crime, large or small, unless committed through an insanity that can be traced to a biological cause, is also an indictment of the society in which it is committed.

We cannot say that there would be no terrible tragedies in a socialist society. Albert Camus was exactly right when he wrote in The Rebel (a text that is otherwise in many ways philosophically questionable and politically confused) the following:
"children will still die unjustly even in a perfect society. Even by his greatest effort, man can only propose to diminish, arithmetically, the sufferings of the world. ”
One point, though, is that if such sufferings can be reduced, if only arithmetically, then we should obviously do so—but the reform of capitalism is incapable of this. The social problems that are necessarily implicated in evil acts such as occurred at Dunblane are the inevitable by-products of capitalism. The only solution that will reduce such problems to an appreciable extent is the revolutionary solution, which is to say the empowerment of ordinary people, the democratisation of society, the abolition of exploitation and oppression.
Jonathan Clay