Friday, June 5, 2020

Where Private Property Does Not Reign. (1922)

From the March 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism stands for a society of equals in which the distinctions between rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, no longer exist. Opponents of this revolutionary conception assure us frequently that no such form of society has ever existed, or ever will ; that there always have been rich and poor, and always will be, and so on. The following is an attempt to show this statement to be false by depicting the social conditions obtaining amongst the native races of the interior of Africa prior to the European invasion. This invasion having taken place (so far as the countries known as Kenya and Uganda are concerned) during the past generation only, living evidence of previous conditions still exists. It takes the form of customs not yet entirely abandoned, of institutions not yet completely destroyed, and, above all, of the wonderful memories of the old men of the tribes, memories which, of necessity, are enhanced and sharpened by the absence of any literature of native origin.

The evidence above described has been the subject of much investigation on the part of Government officials, missionaries, and travellers in the course of their occupations, some of which has found expression in book form. To this the present writer is much indebted ; but the key to the understanding of native life was supplied to him by one (Lewis H. Morgan) who actually had very little knowledge of Africa; for the obvious reason that it had hardly been opened up at the time he wrote his master-work, "Ancient Society." This speaks volumes for the thoroughness with which Morgan dug to the foundations of barbaric society.

He discovered that among the American Indians the clan (or gens) was the central institution of society, the pivot on which turned the customs and beliefs of the people. He further showed that the same condition had obtained in ancient Greece and Rome before the development of political society, that is, society founded on economic classes ; and also among the barbaric races of Northern Europe and Western Asia who subsequently came under the sway of the above Empires. The case is the same in Africa!

The essential feature of the clan is kinship, i.e., its members are supposed to be descended from a common ancestor more or less remote. Being of the same blood, they may not intermarry. Each member of the clan must find his or her mate among the members of the other clans, the children ultimately becoming members of their fathers' clan. This occurs at the age of puberty, when the rite of circumcision is practised amid great ceremonial and rejoicing. Henceforth they are regarded as adults eligible for marriage. The young men at this age are trained as warriors. Their function is to protect the flocks and herds (which constitute the tangible wealth of the clans), and occasionally, when considered necessary, to undertake raiding expeditions on hostile tribes to augment this wealth.

At this age the young men and women enjoy a considerable amount of sexual freedom, which, as might be expected, gives bourgeois, who are establishing themselves there, a horrible shock and provides them with ample material for the propaganda of measures, such as forced labour, etc., which convert the men into wages-slaves and the women into whores. Infanticide appears to be practised before marriage, but this latter state is seldom long delayed, whereupon children become an important object in life. In fact, barbaric sentiment with regard to the younger generation, only equalled by its respect for the old, surpasses anything the present writer has seen expressed among the civilised races.

The first-born child marks yet another change in the status of its father, who thereupon commences to take an active part in the administration of tribal affairs. He serves at this stage an apprenticeship, as it were, in the art of judging cases such as are brought from time to time before the council of elders, the supreme judicial authority of the tribe. A man becomes an elder upon the circumcision of the firstborn. He thus enters upon the final stage of his career. Those dying before reaching this stage are exposed for the wild beasts to devour ; the elders, however, are accorded burial and their spirits become the guardians of the tribe. This brings us to another aspect of native life, i.e., its religious aspect. It is difficult, however, to say just where this aspect begins and ends. Unlike the abstract religions that have succeeded it, ancestor worship is an everyday religion. From birth to death the life of the individual is hedged around with superstitious observances to secure the favour of the guardian angels and, through them, of nature, the supreme element in a social order based upon primitive modes of living. As a result there exists a hierarchy of so-called medicine-men, elders who are supposed to have special intimacy with the spiritual forces surrounding the tribe and are expected to exercise their influence for its benefit.

Mr. A. C. Hollis, in his work, "The Nandi," gives a curious instance of a chief medicine-man who was put to death by his tribesmen for being the assumed cause of a serious military disaster. Misfortune, however, of various kinds continued to dog the path of the tribes, who then, with characteristic lack of consequence, attributed this to the murder of the medicine-man!

The medicine-men share with the people at large the selection of the chiefs from among the warriors to direct military affairs, and their advice also guides the people in the choice of times and seasons for stock movements in the case of pastoral tribes, and planting, etc., for those depending on horticulture. Thus the religious and conservative element dominates and holds together the destinies of the people, as is but natural in a State where economic conditions hardly vary from generation to-generation.

Between the different leagues of tribes, or peoples, the mode of life naturally varies. Thus, in the mountain fastnesses, clad in dense forest, dwell the Wandorobo, hunters of the big game (elephant, buffalo, and the like), whose bows and poison-tipped arrows are practically their sole means of production. Out on the open plains the Masai herd their cattle, wandering from place to place according to the rainfall and the growth of grass. Among the lower hills and the valleys formed by the streams, live people like the Kikuyu, cultivating with primitive knives and hoes small patches of ground for grains, legumes, tuberous roots, plantains, etc. But although normally hostile to one another, each people recognises amongst itself the principle of common access to the means of life, i.e., the land. With the hunters and the pastoral nomads this is obvious ; but even in the case of the horticultural tribes the same principle applies. The family (normally polygamous) holds from the clan sufficient land for its needs. It is entitled to that, and no more, and if by chance it dies out the land reverts to the clan.

Private property is confined to tools and domestic utensils, weapons and ornaments. These are all in such an immature state of development that it is impossible for them to form means for exploitation through monopoly. Agriculture strictly so-called (i.e., the cultivation of fields by drawn ploughs) not having arisen, the productivity of the individual is too small to make slavery a source of wealth. The slaves would produce little more than they would consume. Hence only the female sex are taken captive in battle, and they are adopted into the captor's family either as daughters or wives. Cattle occupy a peculiar importance in native economy. Their slaughter for food is practically confined to festivals and sacrifices. Their milk, of course, is used, but their principal function seems to be to serve as equivalents to human beings. Thus, when, by marriage, a man takes a woman from another clan, he has to compensate that clan, through the father, for the loss, with so many head of cattle. When, again, a man kills another, of a different clan, similar compensation must be made.

To kill a member of the same clan as himself is apparently a hopeless crime, for which no compensation can avail. The murderer becomes an outcast for the rest of his life.

After a raid the relatives of any warriors who have been slain receive, again, this same compensation. The herds are so numerous in excess of economic requirements and are distributed so liberally among the families from the heads of the clan downwards, and are, withal, regarded with such an intense sentiment, bordering on (if not actually amounting to) superstition, that they appear as a part of the tribe rather than a form of property.

Thus European civilisation has discovered in Africa a form of society somewhat similar to that examined by Morgan in America, a system in which economic classes do not exist, in which each individual becomes in turn warrior, worker, and counsellor, thus combining in his own person the social functions, the division of which, later in history, formed the basis for the origin of classes.

Some bourgeois critics, impatient for an end to this primitive form of communism, do not hesitate to describe it as the enslavement of the people by the chiefs.

Their assertions, however, are based on a very scanty acquaintance with the facts, and are effectively refuted by the painstaking literary efforts of prominent officials such as Sir Alfred Sharpe and Sir Harry Johnston, men whose life-work is the overthrow of this same communism in favour of British capitalist Imperialism, and consequently they are not prejudiced on its side.

The chiefs and elders express the unity of the clan. They have no power apart from it. They are its agents in dealing with other clans and with its individual members. Any privileges which may be incidental to their office are in the nature of special rewards for special services. They depend upon the voluntary tribute of the people and not upon any political or economic means of extortion. (Such means are a later innovation of the British Government, anxious to undermine native solidarity.) The chiefs are the creatures of the customs which they enforce ; any antagonism between them is fatal for the chief. As for the so-called subjection of the female sex, this is readily seen to be a form of division of labour dictated by the conditions of social existence. The women till the gardens, look after their houses, prepare the food, and nurse the young; but the bourgeois critic conveniently forgets that the tribes would soon expire if the male sex did not clear and break up the ground, fell the trees and build the houses, and devise and construct the tools and weapons (of iron) with which the ground is tilled and the herds protected from the wild beasts.

Still the defender of capitalism remains unsatisfied. "Even so," he will say, "admitting that society existed without economic classes for hundreds of thousands of years from the days of the ape-man to the dawn of history, granting that in that time it developed speech, discovered the art of making fire, domesticating animals, the use of grains and vegetables, and evolved from promiscuous herds to organised groups, even so, it did not produce the comfort and leisure without which art and science, in a word, civilisation, would not have come into being ! To do this the subordination of the ignorant many to the intelligent few was necessary."

This admits that civilisation is based on the servitude of the people; for it is not they who enjoy comfort and leisure, art and science, although they produce these desirable conditions by their labour. They do not even obtain the same security of life as the clansman ! But the same onward march of the productive forces which burst asunder the narrow communism of the past is preparing the economic basis of the world-communism of the future, i.e., enough wealth, comfort, leisure, art and science for all !
Eric Boden

Dope and Anti-Dope. (1922)

From the March 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard
  " . . . Instead of combining to make the public pay an economic price for papers, they" [the newspaper proprietors] "combine to cut wages and then throw at the head of the public not only a commodity at a cost which scarcely covers productions, but also valuable prizes, insurance policies, supplements, etc., etc., etc. The consequence is that many papers cannot pay their way. But what of that ? Many papers are not intended to pay their way. If they pave the way for someone to political power, or the peerage, they will have done all that is asked of them.
  "It is a curious fact, and one worth pondering deeply, that while the banks during the last year or so have held up credits for industry in general, they have allowed huge overdrafts to newspapers. (I am assuming for a moment that all the tales of woe told by newspaper proprietors are as veracious as they are pathetic.) General trade for the home markets and export have gone to rot. The banks would not finance enterprise to enable cheap textile or other goods to be made for export. But they have financed newspaper proprietors to enable them to produce cheap newspapers. Why? Is it that the bankers believe that the newspapers are necessary to instruct the public as to how it should behave, how it should think, and how it should vote ?"
—General Secretary, N.U.J., "The Journalist," February, 1922.
Well, well, well ! Did you know that, Mr. Worker? Did you know that many papers were not intended to pay their way? Did you know that the bankers have allowed huge overdrafts to the proprietors of newspapers to enable the papers to be sold at a price within reach of the workers ?

Of a surety, do the bankers believe it is necessary for the workers to be instructed as to how they should behave, think, and vote.

And why? Well, dear worker, so long as you behave along the lines of conduct laid down by the bankers and their class, so long as you vote with them and for them, so long will they be able to maintain their position in society to the detriment of your class.

The things required to satisfy the needs of the world are to-day wrested from nature by one section of society, the working class. The other section, the master class, appropriate the results of the workers' efforts, the wealth produced, by virtue of the fact that the workers have "behaved" and "voted" in such a way as to enable the masters so to do. Thus the master class determines who shall have, who shall have not, and in what proportion—determine who shall eat and who shall starve.

The remedy? Well, fellow-worker, you really must, behave, think, and vote differently. You must think for yourself, instead of absorbing the dope dressed up to look like real knowledge. You must vote for your own class, and not that of the banker. You must see to it that your fellow-worker has the real position of the working class laid in front of him, instead of the dope issued by the banker-financed "Press" daily. The Socialist Standard is the instrument for your purpose ready to hand. Bring it to the notice of your mates in the mine, mill, factory, or railroad. Push its sale for all you are worth.

Written by workers for the workers, it is the safe antidote to the poison pushed into the minds of the workers. It cannot, it attempts not, to "pay-the-bill-while-you-are-ill." The Standard's only mission in the insurance line is to point the way to the workers by which they can insure against the evils of capitalist society, by ensuring a speedy termination of the system that robs them of the fruits of their labours.

Get on with the job, then—AT ONCE.
H. W. M.

The Communists and the Labour Party Alliance. (1922)

From the March 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

There has of late been much talk in Communist circles for and against assisting the Labour Party into power at the next election. The position at the moment is that the Communist Party officially favours the idea of getting inside the Labour Party, but that the latter body nationally (and often locally, too) rejects the request for permission to affiliate. There now arises the problem of whether or not the Communists are to support Labour candidates when Lloyd George thinks fit to appeal to the electorate.

In the main the Communists do not pretend to believe that the accession to power of the Labour Party will directly and of itself solve the problems facing the workers. It is true that Malone, the C.P.’s solitary M.P., is of the opinion that the “few divergences between the Communist Party and the Labour Party … will soon be settled by affiliation” (Daily Herald, January 23rd), but probably the majority of the Communists who desire affiliation regard it as a tactical weapon likely to be of value to them, not as an admission that they and the Labour Party have much in common.

This kind of discussion is not new: for generations the question of alliance with capitalist political parties has agitated the minds of sections of the working class. Our attitude is clear and definite enough. We want Socialism, and we are convinced that we should not be bringing it nearer by angling for the support of anti-Socialist bodies, even although it might seem superficially that some gain would accrue.

The discussion only interests us in so far as it serves to expose the danger to the working class of following those who advocate such a course.

What is strikingly new is the claim for this idea that it has had its origin in Russia, as one of the lessons of the Revolution there. W. Paul, who for years in the S.L.P., opposed alliance with the reactionary Labour Party as a principle (although in practice joint demonstrations, etc., did take place), now that he is in the Communist Party has seen the “Light from the East” and stands forth as a convert. Lenin has taught him what his own knowledge and experience could not.

The object aimed at is, to gain the sympathy of the rank and file, discredit the present leaders, and then capture or disrupt the party. In addition, Paul has in mind the urgency of removing the Coalition in order to save the Bolshevik Government. The Bolsheviks, fully aware at last of the futility of expecting revolution in Western Europe or America, and equally aware that they will only with difficulty maintain themselves in power in face of internal and external pressure, seek to gain relief by aiding their alleged enemies of the Labour Party to gain a Parliamentary majority.

John S. Clarke, in the Worker (November, 26th), opposes the view point of W. Paul. He deals very successfully both with the lack of tactical value of this move, and with its history. His main arguments are that it is not new, having been tried before in this country with unfortunate results, and that the possibility is that the Bolsheviks themselves, far from having; originated; it, actually learned it here.
  “As a political tactic it has had an interesting history and by no means successful one. Not to carry the reader too far back, we see it operating in the year 1841. The Whigs and the Chartists met together in that year on the 21st January to try and arrange a ‘bloc.’ Three months later at a parliamentary by-election (Nottingham), the Chartists actively supported the Tory candidate, Mr. Walter, in order to deal a blow at the Whig Government.”
The Chartist paper, the Northern Star, commented as follows, says Clarke :
  “It is better at all times to submit to a real despotism than to a government of perfidious, treacherous and pretended friends. We are the natural enemies of Whiggism and Toryism, but, being unable to destroy both factions, we advise you to destroy the one faction by making a tool of the other.”
In 1921, eighty years after, we find the Communist Party seeking to destroy one “natural enemy” (the Coalition) by making a tool of another, (the Labour Party). What 1922 will bring forth the Lord only knows.

The Chartists alternately supported. Whigs and Tories, sometimes neither, and sometimes both together. In the Northern Star, on June 12th, 1841, were two leading articles advising opposite policies. We now have the Communist Party actively opposing some Labour candidates (e.g., MacDonald at Woolwich) and taking up a non-committal attitude towards others (Naylor at Walworth).
   “Chartism collapsed in 1848. The Social Democratic Federation was not born until 1885. In 1908 it changed its name to Social Democratic Party, a distinction without a scrap of difference. In 1911 it was joined by a few Clarion Scouts and I.L.Pers, and changed its name again to British Socialist Party.
  "Each of these different political parties (if thy can be writ as different parties) was practically dominated by the same personalities—Hyndman, Quelch, Lee, Hunter-Watts, Belfort Bax, Dan Irving, Tom Kennedy, Jack Jones, and Will Thorne. Each party practised the ‘tactic’ inherited from the Chartists.”
The S.D.F., alter seeking in vain for an alliance with the Liberals, went to the Tories, and fought the 1885 Election on their money, with the avowed object of splitting the Liberal vote. This very nearly brought the party to an unhonoured end, the only good that could have come to the workers out of the transaction.

This policy of political bargaining went on, with varying success in the shape of Parliamentary honours for the auctioneers of working-class votes, until in 1903 the Scottish, and in 1904 the London, branches left in disgust to form the S.L.P. and S.P.G.B. respectively. Old readers of this journal will remember that our pages between 1904 and 1914 contained ample evidence of the persistence of the S.D.F.’s peculiar conception of working-class antagonism to capitalist political organisations. It changed its name to S.D.P. without discarding its errors, and in 1910 another attempt was made to form a “bloc” with the Liberals, who, however, like the Labour Party now, were indifferent if not actively hostile.

In 1901 the S.D.F withdrew from the Labour Party (then the Labour Representation Committee), and for twelve years remained outside, supporting first one and then the other of the capitalist parties. It incidentally carried on a guerrilla warfare with the I.L.P. rather in the nature of a squabble for the spoils attaching to the disposal of the corpse of working-class independence.

The S.D.F. stuck tight to the alliance idea, and in 1913 had decided to re-affiliate with the Labour Party, when the war came. The inevitable then took place, and the B.S.P. went all out for the murder of the workers at their masters’ behest.

In due time another split took place: Hyndman and the jingo group called themselves the National Socialist Party, while the others, still the B.S.P., first worked the I.L.P., and later affiliated again with the Labour Party. Both sections kept their belief in the use of helping one enemy to fight another. The N.S.P. reverting to its old name, S.D.F., is now again urging that the Labour Party should link up any party which will endeavour to oust the Coalition.

The B.S.P. eventually formed the bulk of the membership’ of the Communist Party and that body—having re-discovered the “tactic”—proclaims amid great flourish of trumpets that if only they can help the Labour Party, to help the Liberals, to turn out Lloyd George, the Russian Revolution will be saved and all will be well. They are urged by the Bolsheviks to this course as the last word in political strategy, but, as Clarke points out, many exiles from Russia towards the end of last century were studying the English political world, and at a later date many of those now prominent in the Bolshevik Party, including Litvinov, Rothstein, Tchicherine, and Petrov, were members of the S.D.F. or B.S.P. This, then, was where they picked up the idea, which
“was conveyed to Russia, where the masses are not more, but less, advanced than they are here (vide  Lenin), and where it is alleged to have been successful in the hands of a party of ‘iron discipline,’ which is due, to quote Lenin again, ‘to a great many historic peculiarities of Russia.’ In the process of time it arrives back to the land of its birth, where it succeeded in sowing only distrust and dissension and is dished out to British revolutionaries as ‘Lenin’s revolutionary strategy’ and  ‘the adroit tactic of the Bolsheviki’ in the pious hope that the reiteration of such alluring phrases will convince the unsuspecting that they are marrying a comely damsel of tender years, whereas in truth they are being saddled with a withered-up, pre-historic hag.”
The foregoing brief history of the “tactic” is commended to the notice of those who think that the Socialist Revolution can be achieved by some energetic political wire-pulling, and by cunning manoeuvring of the votes of the “masses.” In a game of that kind the ruling class and their hirelings know all there is to be known. They have been at it for centuries, and if the outcome of it is to be somebody’s funeral, it won’t be theirs. The result of this fooling will be what it has always been, suffering and disillusionment for the unfortunate workers who are taken in by it.

The antecedents as well as the present activities of the “intelligent minority,” who, as the Communist Party, are to shepherd the mere untutored workers, are sufficient to justify describing them as in the main blind leaders of the blind. Under the guise of revolutionary discipline, that party shows just the same slavish hero-worship arid ignorant chatter of revolution as typified the S.D.F. at its worst. A recent incident will serve to illustrate this internal rottenness of the “Burlesque Bolsheviki.” At a meeting of the London District Council (October 8th) the delegates were asked to rise to their feet as a token of respect when ‘‘Lord” MacManus entered the room, and with hardly an exception the request was immediately complied with !’

Could “Jimmy” Thomas expect or receive more?

Whether these people are good or bad leaders is, however, not the important point. The particular course they are advising has in the past proved disastrous, not only here, but in Germany, France, and everywhere else where working-class organisations have left the safe path of independence for the morass of alliances.

Socialism will be achieved by Socialists; by the deliberate action, that is, of those who, understanding. what is at the root of the present evils, know what is necessary for their removal.

The existence of a considerable proportion of convinced Socialists precludes the possibility of swaying the electorate by emotional appeals. Without ignorant emotionalism there is no need, no possibility, of political leadership, whether from a traditional ruling class or from a minority of superior intellects.

Political bargaining exists because Socialist knowledge is lacking. Without such knowledge neither the Communist Party nor anyone else can give you Socialism. Do not, therefore, waste time trying to dragoon the working class into striving for an object which they do not understand;

Edgar Hardcastle

Parliament . . . (1922)

From the March 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

Parliament, the executive power of the ruling class, levy rates and taxes upon the owners of this property, in order to defray the cost of the legislative machinery, represented by the various departments of the State, i.e., Home Office, Foreign Office, War Office, Board of Education, etc., etc. The position of the worker is that he receives wages—when fortune favours him with work—which are based upon the cost of living.

The Key to Historical Development. (1922)

From the March 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard
"According to the materialistic conception, the decisive element of history is pre-eminently the production and reproduction of life and its material requirements.   This implies, on the one hand, the production of the means of existence (food, clothing, shelter and the necessary tools); on the other hand, the generation of children, the propagation of the species. The social institutions, under which the people of a certain historical period and of a certain country are living, are dependent on these two forms of production; partly on the development of labour, partly on that of the family. The less labour is developed, and the less abundant the quantity of its production and, therefore, tho wealth of society, the more society is seen to be under the domination of sexual ties. However, under this formation based on sexual ties, the productivity of labour is developed more and more. At the same time, private property and exchange, distinctions of wealth, exploitation of the labour power of others and, by this agency, the foundation of class antagonism, are formed. These new elements of society strive in the course of time to adapt the old state of society to the new conditions, until the impossibility of harmonising these two at last leads to a complete revolution. The old form of society founded on sexual relations is abolished in the clash with the recently developed social classes. A new society steps into being, crystallised into the state. The units or the latter are no longer sexual, but local groups; a society in which family relations are entirely subordinated to property relations, thereby freely developing those class antagonisms and class struggles that make up the contents of all written history up to the present time."
Frederick Engels.

Mass Production. How it affects the workers. (1922)

From the March 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is hardly possible nowadays to pick up a newspaper or magazine that does not contain articles on bad trade, excessive taxation, and unemployment. In some of these articles the writers try to show that bad trade is largely caused by high taxes; while others insist that high wages and low output is the chief cause. Some writers combine the two, and represent the capitalist as a helpless victim being squeezed dry between the Government and the workers.

Those who understand Socialism know that periods of bad trade are the result of modern methods of production, that outstrip the demand for commodities all over the capitalist world, and that bad trade will recur periodically, or will continue as a chronic social complaint so long as trade governs the production of wealth. Once we understand this clearly it is easy to see the futility of all the reforms suggested by writers who do not appear to understand the nature of the problem. In certain cases the fact that they argue that taxes should be lightened for the capitalist; that he is justified in reducing wages, in demanding greater efficiency and longer hours, arouses at once the suspicion that such writers are either capitalists themselves or are in the pay of capitalists.

One writer in the "Sunday Pictorial" (22/1/22), Mr. J. Ellis Barker, puts the case from the capitalist standpoint and tries to prove that the workers' interests are identical with capitalist interests. That the capitalist cannot extend his business and employ more workers because the Government takes in taxation the necessary capital. This is one of the stock arguments of the anti-wasters, but everybody should know that there is no shortage of capital wherever there is a promise of dividends. The shortage is in the effective demand for commodities, and if the capitalists were relieved of the whole burden of taxation employment would not increase unless the effective demand were increased.

Moreover, the money taken in taxes by the Government is either spent in wages—to Civil servants, etc.—or in purchase of goods, the manufacturers of which employ workers. These vorkers spend their wages on commodities placed on the market by other manufacturers. Thus, not only is the demand for goods increased, but the number of unemployed is diminished by Government expenditure. From the workers' standpoint, therefore, Government expenditure, coming on top of ordinary capitalist outlay, is all to the good. This is easily seen, without going into the purpose and object of government, when we remember how unemployment figures fell during the war and wages rose in many industries. During the war Government expenditure reached the highest level ever known.

Mr. Barker argues that the lack of capital forces capitalists to act along certain lines : in bad times, and faced with the competition of countries less heavily taxed, they must either sell at a loss or close their factories. In good times they raise prices and thus pass the burden on to the masses. He says :— 
"In good times income tax and super-tax are paid by the masses as a whole in increased prices, while in bad times unbearably high taxes lead to general unemployment and distress. The poorest pay income tax and super-tax, estate duty and succession duty in their bread and their boots, in their coal and their rent, and sometimes in unemployment and distress. It is chiefly in their interest that taxation should be as low as possible."
Here, the exponent of capitalist economics, in his eagerness to clear the capitalist of blame for bad times, unconsciously exposes the rottenness of the system he is trying to defend. What do the workers get out of the system? In bad times they suffer from unemployment and distress and in good times they suffer from increased prices.

A Socialist knows that the workers suffer acute distress in periods of bad trade and are forced to study the strictest economy in the best of times in order to live on their wages, but he has yet to learn that while in this condition they can pay any of the taxes enumerated by Mr. Barker. Whilst wages are based on the cost of living they rise or fall generally, over a given period, as the prices of necessaries rise or fall, and the worker never gets much more out of industry, even when he is lucky enough to be always at work, than the necessaries of life required to keep him fit and to support his family.

The cost of living is the mean level around which the industrial war takes place. Supply and demand plays its part, but nearly always on the side of the masters, because there are nearly always more workers than jobs. Represented by leaders who do not understand the economic laws of the capitalist system nor how to direct the workers in times of crisis, the latter are always at a disadvantage in disputes over wages.

Mr. Barker's unsolicited and unconscious admission that the workers suffer whether trade is good or bad is true in substance, though based on a fallacy. Let us examine his proposed remedy and see how much that is worth.

There follows half a column of statistics on the comparative values of English and American production, a few cheap sneers about workers who restrict output, and a piously-expressed opinion that no one wants to see the old evils of sweating restored, and then he openly advocates mass production as a remedy for bad trade and unemployment. He says : —
"It is clear that we can treble British production, and with British production our national wealth and national income, by improving our industrial methods."
Now, mass production means not only the adoption of labour-saving machinery and devices, but production in such vast quantities that waste is eliminated. In mass production capitalists reduce their wages bill for the production of a given quantity of wealth to the lowest level yet reached. Factories worked on this principle in America turn out commodities in such vast quantities that they are forced to close down for weeks at a stretch, or discharge thousands of workers, until the surplus is sold. The very company cited by Mr. Barker as a shining example of mass production prosperity has given him the lie. In 1920 the Ford Company employed 52,000 persons to make 100,000 cars a month. In 1921 they employed 32,000 persons to make 87,000 cars per month, and had to close down owing to over-production. What became of the 20,000 workers not wanted—and what happens as mass production becomes more general? The answer is obvious, yet Mr. Barker further outrages common-sense by stating in black type that
"There is no fear of over-production," 
and following this in italics :
"There is an unlimited demand throughout the world for cheap goods."
Ford cars are cheap. Why did the Ford factory close down and reduce the number of its employees if the demand is unlimited ?

When Mr. Barker writes about unlimited demand, he is writing unlimited nonsense, because there is no such thing. Production and demand, or production and consumption, may be likened to a tank with water continually running in from a tap and out through a waste pipe. If two gallons flow in every minute and during the same time only one gallon can pass the waste, the flow will have to be stopped periodically or the tank will overflow. In filling the social tank with commodities, however, human labour functions. Human labour-power is the worker's only commodity ; he lives by the sale of it and starves if he cannot sell it. Unable to take out of the tank more than the value of their wages, or go on producing when demands fall off, and a constantly diminishing numher of workers are required. Mr. Barker gives figures that credits the American worker with producing as much as three British workers. According to his reasoning, unemployment in America should be less severe than in this country. Is it ? Everybody knows that the number of unemployed in the United .States is treble the number of British unemployed

To sum up, let every worker understand once for all the real meaning and significance of labour-power as a commodity. Let him realise that his wages can seldom rise above what it costs to maintain himself and his family. That wages are more likely to fall below that level as competition increases ; he, therefore, only deludes himself when he imagines that high or low taxes affect him in the long run. The inevitable consequences of mass production are increased unemployment and lower wages. Mass production is the latest and most callous form of capitalism; it manufactures cheap and shoddy goods to feed and clothe its overworked and poverty-stricken slaves. It drives the slaves to despair through long periods of unemployment and dread of the sack. Mass production is not a thing of the future; it is with us now in all its hideousness, and promise of worse to come. May it startle the workers of all lands out of their lethargy, strip the scales from their eyes, and force them to examine the claims of the Socialist; for only then will they understand that they are slaves, why they are slaves, and how they can be free.
F. Foan

Election Manifesto (1970)

Election Manifesto from the June 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Limits of Protest (1970)

Book Review from the June 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Limits of Protest by Peter Buckman. Gollancz. 50s.

Despite its promising title this is a rambling and confused book. Buckman’s basic argument (so far as it can be disentangled from the mass of quotations) is that single-issue campaigns aimed at winning mass support to persuade a government to change its policy arc ineffective.

He says much the same of these campaigns. such as CND. as we said of them at the time:
  campaigns on single social or political issues suffer from the fact that, if they are successful, it is too often through no contribution of theirs : besides, an exactly similar issue will shortly crop up when the energy of the protesters has been dissipated.
and protesters
  offer empty demonstrations on vicarious issues, opportunities to "do something" which are more gesture than substance, vacuous rhetoric and pious imprecations.
Is Buckman against such campaigns then? Of course not; he is a typical "leftwinger" who believes that you can combine the fight for reform with the fight for revolution. "Single issue campaigns”, he says “are essential to build a radical consciousness”.

What he has in mind is "radicals” helping discontented people in their protest campaigns in the hope that in return these people will help them overthrow “the system". This is the old discredited Leninist tactic. Buckman, however, cannot make up his mind whether or not there should also be a vanguard party to lead these struggles. He obviously does not like the idea but speaks of the “immense danger” that the energies of those who preach "spontaneity”.
  if not co-ordinated, will simply dissipate themselves in isolated actions, which more and more resemble the single-issue campaigns whose limitations we analysed.
But is the choice really only between elitism and ordinary reformism? Since we solved the dilemma of reform and revolution many years ago the Socialist Party of Great Britain has insisted that there is another way: the role of a revolutionary party is to spread revolutionary ideas and not to propose reforms of the system it seeks to overthrow.
Adam Buick