Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Parable of the Table. (1909)

From the July 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard
[Being a further extract from the speech of Gustave Hervé of his trial (vide June S.S.) translated for the Socialist Party of Great Britain by Fritz..]
Ah! I know that I wound your conscience, gentlemen of the jury. Your conscience pricks you all the more because you feel that I am speaking the truth. I feel sure that when I say this I wound the universal conscience which the Paris Bar with its eloquence, knows so well how to interpret.

But do you believe that Voltaire, Diderot and the rest of the encyclopaedists were able to avoid treading on people’s corns?

It is a lamentable fact that every time a new form of society is about to come forth from the womb of one on the point of death, it always does so by a long and painful child-birth, producing in every family, and in every heart, trouble and anguish; suffering that every innovator would fain spare those whose convictions he hurts.

As for us revolutionary Socialists, we have discarded the folds of this flag on which the names of so many deeds of butchery are displayed in letters of gold.

Flags are but emblems; and are worth something only in so far as they represent something worthy. What, after all, is one’s native country? Or what, in actual fact, do all these “fatherlands” consist?

Allow me, if you please, gentlemen of the jury, to draw for you a mental picture, to speak if I may a kind of parable, which will the better help you to understand what our feelings are. One’s native land, every country, no matter under what form of government it be masked, is made up of two groups of men, consisting on the one hand of a quite small number, on the other including the immense majority of people.

The first of these is seated round a well furnished table where nothing is lacking. At the head of this table, in the seat of honour, you find the great financiers; some, perhaps, are Jews, others Catholics or Protestants, or it may be even Freethinkers. It is possible for them to be in entire disagreement on questions of religion or philosophy, and even on questions affecting their individual interests, but as against the mass of the people, they are as thick as thieves.

Seated on their right and left hand you have Cabinet Ministers, high officials of every department of civil, religious or military administration. Paymasters-general with salaries of 30, 40, and 60 thousand francs a year: a little further off fully fledged barristers, by their unanimity glorious interpreters of the “Universal Conscience” – the whole Bench and Bar, not forgetting their precious assistants, the solicitors, notaries and ushers.

Large shareholders in mines, factories, railways, steamship companies and big shops: manorial magnates, big landed proprietors; all are seated at this table: everybody that has two-pence is there too, but at the foot. These latter are the small fry, who have for that matter, all the prejudices, all the conservative instincts, of the big capitalists.

Ah! gentlemen of the jury, I wish that you may be of the number of these privileged ones seated around this festive board. Verily, you are not so badly off there, after all, you know. In return for a little work – when you have any work at all – work I say which is oft-times intelligent, occasionally agreeable, which always leaves you with some spare time for yourself, directive work that flatters your pride and vanity – in return for this you can enjoy a life of plenty, made pleasant by every comfort, every luxury that the progress of science has placed at the service of Fortune’s favoured ones.

Far from the table I see a great herd of beasts of burden doomed to repulsive, squalid, dangerous, unintelligent toil, without truce or rest, and above all without security for the morrow; petty shop-keepers chained to their counters, Sundays and holidays, more and more crushed by the competition of the big shops; small industrial employers, ground down by the competition of the big factory owners; small peasant proprietors, brutalised by a sixteen to eighteen hours day, who only toil that they may enrich the big middlemen: millers, wine factors, sugar refiners. At a still greater distance from this table of the happy ones of this world, I see the crowd of proletarians who have but their strength of arm or their brain for sole fortune, factory hands, men and women exposed to long periods of unemployment, petty officials and shop-assistants forced to bow and scrape and hide their opinions, domestic servants of both sexes, labouring flesh, cannon fodder, matériel of “pleasure”.

There are your beloved countries! Your country to-day is made up of this monstrous social inequality, this horrible exploitation of man by man.

When the proletarians doff their hats to the flag as it passes by, it is to this that they uncover. They in effect say: “What a splendid country is ours! How free, kind and just is she!”

How! how you must laugh, Mr. Attorney-General, when you hear them sing:
“ah! glorious is death indeed,
When for our native land – for liberty – we bleed!”

S.P.G.B. Lecture List and Meetings For July. (1909)

Party News from the July 1909 issue of the Socialist Standard

The “Reform Bill”. (1912)

Editorial from the July 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

After long years of promise the Liberal Party have drawn up a Suffrage Reform Bill. With a long sham fight about “Home Rule” and “Welsh Disestablishment” in front of them, the measure seems to have had its last and first reading.

Although a majority of the Liberal Members of Parliament have “won” their seats by reason of their sympathy (real or feigned) with “Woman Suffrage”, that proposition is left entirely out of the Bill! Many of the Liberal employer M.P.’s are now opposing female franchise on the grounds of “unfitness”, calmly ignoring the fact of the millions who are “fit” enough to make huge fortunes for Liberal masters in the factories and mills. But such hypocrisy is in keeping with Liberal traditions!

The fraud of the Bill, though, is plainly shown in its fancy franchise for men. According to Mr. McKenna himself in his introductory speech, the total number of males over 21 in the United Kingdom is 12,032,000. The number of voters at present is 7,409,986, and of the 4½ millions would remain he computes that about half will be entitled to vote.

The measure stipulates for an eight month’s residential or occupational qualification – that is, you must be at an address from December 25th to August 1st.

If the Liberals were in earnest even about this question of suffrage they could quite easily have given a vote to every man instead of leaving 2½ millions out in the cold. The long residential conditions in these days of a drifting working class, make it result that those who, because of deepening destitution, need a voice most are deprived of a vote.

Another typically peculiar Liberal decision is that their Reform Bill only applies to Parliamentary elections, not to those concerning local bodies.

The bill is essentially and undisputably a mere shop window affair. It is drawn up and announced for the specific purpose of enabling its authors, the Liberal party, to win bye-elections. The prevailing “labour unrest” and the only-to-be-expected, but nevertheless dirty and despicable part played therein by the Government is slowly but surely making many working men to doubt their so-called Liberal friends, and this latest Liberal fraud is brought in in order to make a fresh show of democracy – and this in spite of the fact that the rich man, in accordance with the capitalist commandment, is always more sure of his vote than is his “poor brother”.

The suffrage for women, too, seems to have been left out of this Government measure in the hope that will help to keep the fires of controversy burning – and perhaps to sufficient effect as to cremate the Bill.

One way or another we are no deeply interested parties. We know that Socialism includes democracy, and can only come when a majority of the working class voice their will and desire in favour of it. But this Bill does not provide the democracy which is to be such a vital part of Socialism. Already Liberals and Tories alike have spoken about all kinds of amendments making even more fanciful the paltry provisions of the measure. We have seen very often the difference between the first appearance and the final form of Government Bills. The Shop Act was boomed as a sixty hour Bill, but when Liberal and Tory shopowners had completed their dirty work the sixty hour clause was as dead as a “Labour” leader’s conscience, and instead it provided that those under eighteen could not be employed more than seventy-four hours a week. Those over that age could be worked as many hours as the profit-grinders desired!

To us as Socialists the vote itself is not the thing. Millions of working men have had the vote for forty years, but lacking knowledge of how to use it in their own interest, they have steadily voted their masters into power; voted the continuance of the system that keeps them poor.

We know that there are enough working-class voters to-day to defeat the capitalist class – but it wants intelligence behind the vote. Our work, therefore, is to convert the workers from supporters of capitalism into fighters for Socialism. And as the vote is extended by our masters, pushed by the development of their system, so, too, our work will still be needed, for the workers, voters and non-voters alike, to-day are against Socialism.

We are not advocating reform, whether Reform Bills or Adult Suffrage. We want to enlist a membership for Socialism, to build up a party of men and women who realise Socialism to be their only hope. When the Revolutionists are strong enough to elect one of themselves to Parliament, then he will have behind him a solid body of men and women who mean Revolution. He will voice their interests, expose the bunkum bills of the workers’ enemies, and drive home the Socialist position upon every question that arises. He will occupy his seat wholly as a fighter for Socialism, and will regard all his activities from the standpoint of their helpfulness to the speeding of Socialism.

Hence, although we are necessarily and without any qualification democrats, we do not, and never have, and never will, support such swindles upon the working class as the Liberal Reform Bill.

Not Taking Any, Thanks! (1912)

From the July 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following, we think, sufficiently explains itself


London, W., June 14, 1912.

Dear Comrade,—At a meeting of the above on the 13th inst., it was unanimously agreed that your party should be asked to send a delegate to join and co-operate with us, in order that this committee should be as representative as possible of all those who are in sympathy with the objects of this committee.

We are resolved to carry on this agitation on a wider scale and are assured of the support of prominent men, including M.P.’s and other influential people.

Awaiting your favourable reply,

Yours fraternally, 
(Signed) J. F. Tanner, Hon. Sec.

#    #    #    #

Mr. J. F. Tanner.


Sir, –Your letter inviting the Socialist Party of Great Britain to send a Delegate to co-operate with your committee was duly placed before my Executive, who instructed me to inform you that The Socialist Party declines to join with working-class enemies for any purpose whatever, and that therefore your invitation is declined.

Your Mr. Malatesta, if a victim at all, is but a victim of the system both he and you do your best to maintain by the spreading of confusion in the minds of the working class. Your whining for mercy, therefore, savours even more of the hypocrite than of the coward, while your “Demand” for release is grotesque.

That your committee should have entertained the idea (even for a moment) that the Socialist Party could be seduced from its allegiance to the working-class by the glamour of temporarily associating with “prominent men including M.P.’s and other influential people” shows not only how woefully you have miscalculated the moral strength and integrity of the Socialist Party, but also the cant, humbug, and mental debasement of the ultra-revolutionists—the Anarchists—the anti-political giants who yet can be got to glory in the prospect of associating with “M.P.’s and other influential people.”

In the interests of the working class we decline your invitation and say “Down with Anarchy ! Long live Socialism !”

On behalf of the Executive of

The Socialist Party of Great Britain,

C. L. Cox, Gen. Sec. pro. tem.

Jottings. (1912)

The Jottings Column from the July 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

Councillor W. C. Anderson, presiding over the I.L.P. conference at Merthyr Tydfil, is reported to have said : ‘‘Social justice is not compatible with private ownership of land and industrial capital "

Seeing that capital is the exploiting form of wealth, and that the capitalist is capital personified, I should like to know from Mr Anderson how that ‘‘social justice” he prates of is going to come about by the exploiting form of wealth merely changing ownership and not being abolished. There is “industrial capital” under State ownership (the only form of ownership in which it can exist other than private ownership) in the State railways of various countries Mr. Anderson may have heard of, even if he has never visited. Let him give us an instance where the workers have obtained “social justice," and I will show that his conception of “social justice” includes exploitation.

#    #    #    #

Mr. J. Burgess (Bradford) said at the same conference that there was “nothing in the Parliamentary Report of the Party to show that the I.L.P. was a Socialist organisation.”

I wonder what Mr. Burgess wanted? Did be want the Parliamentary Report to lie by stating something that was not and is not true? For shame, Mr. Burgess!

#    #    #    #

Mr. George Lansbury passed through a fit of paralysing candour at the I.L.P. conference. He said: -
  “When the vote on the Akbar incident was taken the Labour whips were running about scooping their members up for fear anything should happen to the Government. I, for one, have always felt ashamed of the vote I gave on that occasion.”
Mr. Lansbury, like the old bird he is in the game of spoof, is wide enough to appreciate the value of the sack-cloth and ashes dodge among such a conglomeration of sentimentalists as the I.L.P. But the old what-d’yer-call-him has the brazen effrontery to call himself a Socialist, which essentially implies internationalism. Then how’s this, from the report of the Parliamentary proceedings of May 21st ?
Mr. A. Shirley Benn (U , Plymouth) “thought the time had come when the great shipping industry should have one Government department devoting all its attention to maritime affairs. He would like to see every ship flying the British flag manned with British officers.”
Mr. Lansbury: “ And men.”
More sack-cloth and ashes for Mr. Lansbury.

#    #    #    #

The mission of the B.S.P., as outlined in their organ, “Justice,” June 1st, 1912, and defined at their recent conference, is “to give political voice and vision to the blind and inarticulate discontent of the workers ; to bring their political organisation at least abreast of their industrial, so that they will not continue to vote into power the very men whose class greed they are continually forced to strike against."

The italics are mine.

It was only provisionally, then, that they advised the workers to vote for the Liberals at the St. Rollox and East Northants bye-elections.

#    #    #    #

According to “Justice” (1.6.12) Mr. H. M. Hyndman, in his presidential address to the B.S.P. conference said:
 “Though the British Socialist Party was a definitely revolutionary organisation, he took it there was not a single delegate there but would hold up both hands and use his best energies to secure forthwith the Free Maintenance of Children, the Co-operative Organisation of Unemployed Labour, the Minimum Wage in all industries, and the Eight Hours Law, for which Socialists have agitated continually for a full generation. Such measures properly used were stepping stones to peaceful revolution.”
Here I might say that to properly use the measures presupposes possession of political power by the working class, which dispenses with their necessity. But the above extract was uttered on the Saturday morning; hear him now on the Monday evening, as reported by the “Manchester Guardian ” (28.5.12.):
  “The capitalist parties seemed to have pretty nearly exhausted the possibilities of blundering. There was not a measure before the country, from either of the political parties to-day, which, if carried into effect to morrow, would benefit the men, women and children of this country to any appreciable degree.”
There you are, Hyndman on Saturday and Hyndman on Monday. Which is the Hyndman and which the behindman, eh ? Why, me little man, yer pays yer money and yer takes yer choice. It’s the same H. M. H., only he has such a bad memory.

#    #    #    #

It has been stated previously by Socialists and is here repeated, that Capitalism knows no national boundaries, that labour is the source of all value, and that to economise in labour-power with as great or greater output is the very acme of efficiency.

That has been stated by opponents of the existing system of production for profit. Hear now a witness for the defence, an upholder of the present capitalist system. Sir Alfred Mond is the witness, and on the matter of establishing better relations betwixt Germany and England he delivered himself thus in "Nord und Sued”:
   “In all countries the great world of commerce knows no national bounds and tolerates no interference with its labour by such limitations. The cohesion of the various parts of the business world is more one by industries than by nationalities. The relations between the captains of industry of all countries are getting more friendly every day, and exhibit a growing mutual respect and inclination to co operate on a labour-saving basis.” (Italics mine.)
That phrase “captains of industry” seems familiar—or at least its definition does. It is alluded to by Karl Marx in the XIII. chapter of “Capital” thus:
  “It is not because he is a leader in industry that a man is a capitalist. The leadership of industry is an attribute of capital, just as in feudal times the functions of general and judge were attributes of landed property.”
Stand down, Mond, the Socialist case has been well upheld by you.

#    #    #    #

Mr. Andrew Carnegie in his rectorial address to the Aberdeen University students said: “Youths should have a decisive voice, if possible, in the selection of their future occupation.”

There is another thing he might have advised them to do, viz, choose their own parents. If they did what large families the Carnegies, Rockefellers, Goulds, and Morgans would have! Why, no poor man could have any children at all, unless some foolish young man chose a labourer on 16s. a week to be his father.

#    #    #    #

The question of leaders and their actions commented upon and replied to in the last issue of the “S.S.” recalls to mind the case of Mr. Havelock Wilson (Seamen’s Union). This leader stood as candidate at South Shields bye-election in 1910. He then spoke against the action of the Board of Trade in raising the load-line of British ships and thus imperiling to a greater degree than formerly seamen’s lives and permitting an increased tonnage to be carried in the same ships. That was as candidate for Parliament. But the evidence given on June 11th, 1912, before the Commissioner of Wrecks (Lord Mersey) by Mr. A. M. Carlisle was to the effect that Mr. Wilson had signed the report of the Board of Trade Advisory Committee of 1911. This report’s recommendations would have involved the “Titanic” carrying even fewer lifeboats than she did. And of such is the kingdom of labour leaders.

#    #    #    #

Methought the enquiry being held in London under Lord Mersey was to investigate the circumstauces of the lose of the “Titanic” and to fix the responsibility for the disaster. It appears not to be so, however, judging from the following passage, taken from the evidence given on June 6th:
Mr. Sanderson (White Star manager): "I understand that the purpose of this commission is to find out how we are to reduce those risks (i.e., incidental to sea travel) to an absolute minimum.” Lord Mersey : “That is quite true.”
 #    #    #    #

All our judicial and semi judicial enquiries are above suspicion of being impartial. The “Titanic” enquiry shows this to great advantage in the following comment of Lord Mersey : 
Lord Mersey (to Mr. Harbinson, counsel for third class passengers, who had asked whether the captain in handing in a Marconigram to Mr. Ismay was inviting an expression of opinion as to what the vessel’s speed should be):—“When you come to address the Court—if ever you do—I don’t know whether we shall ever reach the time to make your speech—you may make such a comment to me, but at present yon must confine yourself to facts.”
Even the third class passengers’ counsel can make a speech commenting upon a steamship director—if there’s time!
J. B.

The Summer of Our Discontent. (1912)

From the July 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once again the parasitic pandemonium known as the Loudon Season is with us, and London is overflowing with wealthy and titled savages with their painted and bejewelled squaws. In the morning those who are able to shake off the effects of the previous night’s debauch may be seen taking a canter in Rotten Row, in order to prepare themselves for the revels of the day and the orgies of the coming night. And so they go on till Ascot, Goodwood, Eton and Harrow, and Henley are past—and then to the moors to recoup.

All this is so well known to the average working man and woman as to be scarcely worth the mentioning by a Socialist were it not for the fact that the crowding of the great metropolis by these savages veneered and French polished, is an additional source of misery and anxiety to thousands of men, women and children of the working class. While thousands are harder driven, sweated, and over worked in ministering to the whims and fancies of these idle, good-for-nothings, thousands of others are thrown out of employment throughout the whole of June and July as a result of it.

Notable among the last are the men engaged in the building trade, especially the painters and decorators. Woe betide the luckless skib who finds himself in London after Whitsuntide without a job, for little short of a miracle will save him two months fruitless search. Indeed, these summer months are often worse than the dead of winter for the painter. Thousands of unthinking people are totally at a loss to understand this. Yet the explanation is very simple.

During the early spring the wealthy have been away at their country residences whilst the painter has been busy cleansing and renovating the London haunts of these lice of the social system, and now their return to town makes the painter workless for two mouths. His only chance is to get away into the country.

But this must be speedily done, or the luckless wight will find himself crowded out.

Unionist or non-unionist it makes no difference. Though he does right to organise to keep up the price of his labour power, all the trade-union organisation in the world is powerless to create an efficient demand for his commodity. In the words of Mr. Haldane, when deputations from Enfield and Woolwich waited upon him to remind him of the promise he gave before the election that discharges should not take place below a certain minimum : “If the work is not there for you we cannot create it.”

Though as a rule the painter is very slow to recognise economic law, he, nevertheless, conforms to it, and seeing there is no demand for his services in London, he betakes himself to where he thinks there is a chance of a job. But there is little certainty about it, as he finds to his cost. Hence he is forced to lower the price of his commodity.

Suppose he goes to Bournemouth. The trade union rate there is 7½d., but our friend takes less by reason of the good old Free Trade fact that his cost of living has gone up. For he has his railway fare to pay, and probably two homes to keep. This goes to show that these annual migrations of workers increase the profits of the master class, while the workmen sacrifice their home comforts and at the same time get a lower wage.

If these were the only circumstances in which the painter's wages can be reduced it might pass, but let us look closer and see what reason he has got to support the capitalist system.

The trade union rate in London is 9d. per hour, but does he get it? Not a bit of it! Everyone in the trade knows that the period in the year over which men are employed has been decreasing for some years until to-day he is a lucky man who gets seven or eight months work in the year. Nominally wages are 9d. Actually they are about 4½d. by reason of the ever-decreasing period of time over which the men are employed. So notorious has this state of things become that when seeking apartments the wives of the men in many instances are compelled to conceal the occupation of their husbands, since to tell the truth would result in refusal of shelter.

The machine, in spite of many attempts, has failed to work the havoc in this trade that it has in many, but where the machine has failed the clock has succeeded. Scamping methods and the insidious inducements held out to the men in charge by the masters, quicken the pace. Preparative work is a thing of the past; pumice, once so prominent in the trade, is now only brought on the job from force of habit, and is seldom used.

Thus it is not necessary for the master class to attack a standard rate of wages in order to reduce wages. This can be done quite as effectively by other means.

One of the saddest features of the whole sad business is the position of the older men. Craftsmen of the old school, their skill, acquired by years of patient toil, is to-day worth as little to them as their indentures are.

For years they jogged along fairly comfortably, until the Taff Vale and Quinn v. Leathern decision, when many of the unions went in for political action. This paved the way to pelf and place for a gang of the vilest traitors that ever worked their nefarious ends on an unsuspecting body of workers. One of the first acts of treachery perpetrated by these jackals of the capitalist class was their support of the Workmen’s Compensation Bill. This rascally measure had the effect of killing two birds with one stone. The masters could not insure the old men and therefore would not employ them, and being so much out of work the veterans soon dropped behind in their contributions, and the unions got rid of them.

The Workmen’s Compensation Act has done all that the Liberal politicians and their friends the “Labour” men ever intended it should do. It lined the pockets of the lawyers, filled to overflowing the coffers of the insurance companies, and relieved the employers of their final shred of responsibility, making them more careless than ever of the lives of their wage slaves.

It is sad to reflect, after a century of trade union effort, that the worker is to day in a worse plight, compared with the vast increase in wealth production, than at any period of industrial history. It is sad to reflect that all the valiant fights trade unionism has made, many of them stamped out in blood and tears, have ended in martyrdom, never in victory. The whole course has been movement in a circle. Its only consistency is that of adhering to the principle on which the trade union movement was founded—the principle of acceptance of and acquiescence in the present social system.

Emancipation lies not this way. When the men of the painting trade realise their position in society, as portion of a subject class whose interest is opposed at all points to that of the master class, they will organise along with their fellows upon the political field, in the Socialist Party—the only party that stands for human emancipation.

Socialism is a means to put an end to the third and final form in which the principle of subjection can be enshrined and only when the working class are organised to this end can they be said to be in a position to labour for their emancipation.
F. G. Thompson

Correspondence. We oppose sweet reason to Gorle and Wormwood. (1912)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

[To The Editor]
Watford. May 14th, 1912. 

Sir,— I read with amusement the crude, ill-mannered observations under the above heading in your last issue. It would be hopeless to attempt to reason with the self satisfied person who wrote them. I only write to give those of your readers who have a sense of justice and an ear for reason an opportunity of appreciating what your “activities” represent.

The statement that in Watford “every year as these elections come round a new organisation (sic) is brought into being” is not true.

The statement that “the first thing done by the B.S.P. was to allow its secretary and another member to be run by an organisation that did not ask what political opinion any of the candidates held” is silly deceit. The organisation in question is the Trades and Labour Council. The candidates were run jointly by it and the local branches of the B.S.P.

The statement that the above Council consists of “men of all other shades of political faith except Socialists” is a wilful and pitiful lie. The writer of the notes knows that many active Socialists are of it, and he knows also that their electoral contests are run on strictly class lines. Despite all his vituperative abuse he admits that the capitalists brought candidates out against us and “beat this mob who would drag the cause of the workers in the mire.” For cant and concentrated piffle the last phrase would be difficult to beat.

The statement that “Socialism was never mentioned in their addresses, never put forward at one of their meetings," is absurd. A more bare-faced calumny has surely never appeared even in your columns. Socialism was put forward at all the meetings and in the addresses of the avowed Socialist candidates, and though the fourth candidate did not call himself a Socialist, his address and his speeches were Socialist in tone and in effect.

Your Watford Pharisee goes on: “No, advocating Socialism is the work of Socialists and only those. That is why it was left for us to do. We did it, and in doing it exposed these freaks and popularity seekers, much to their discomfort.” Your correspondent is in error. Those of us who considered the “exposure” at all were sorry for its perpetration and nothing more.

We were opposed by the capitalists, as he himself points out, and yet he and his friends can find nothing better to do than to help the capitalists by telling lies about and throwing mud at us. That is how they “advocate” Socialism and actually, in so far as they have any influence, hinder Socialism.

Imagine the idiocy of thinking you are advocating Socialism by referring to these, whom the capitalist class recognise as Socialists and do all they can to keep off Councils, etc.; who are in touch with, and members of, the working-class organisations ; imagine, I say, the folly of describing such as a “mob,” “freaks,” and “popularity seekers.”

Having had a longer and more active experience of public life than any member of your Watford Branch, I can assure them that they are quite welcome to all the popularity any of my comrades or myself have got or are likely to get.

Really, Sir, such utterances as those of your correspondent can only be paralleled by the drivel poured out by the Anti-Socialist Union lecturers. All of which drives me to one of two conclusions. These two conclusions are that you are either consciously or unconsciously working for the capitalist class.

It is beside the question to say that our methods are wrong, to call us a mob, freaks, and popularity seekers. We are in and of the trade unions against the employing class on the industrial plane. We are against the capitalist class on the electoral plane. We are for the abolition of the wage system and the establishment of Social-Democracy. If, then, you are against us you are for the capitalist class.

Consciously or unconsciously you are blacklegging for the capitalists against Socialism.
Yours truly,

The above letter well illustrates Mr. Gorle's anarchistic methods. Neither the B.S.P. nor any of the organisations concerned in the late election has authorised him to write it. He charges us with making false statements, and makes some complimentary remarks about, us. The latter nerd not he dealt with.

As Mr. Gorle has not brought forward any evidence to rebut our statements we can only assume he is following the example of the lawyer who endorsed counsel's brief : “No case: abuse opponent.” Lest Mr. Gorle should want to use the sane retort to us re our use of the words “mob” and “freak,” we would refer him to the “Century Dictionary,” where he will find the word “mob” (Latin—for our critic’s benefit—mobile vulgus) defined as “a promiscuous aggregation of people; an incoherent crowd,” and “freak” as “ a curious result of real or apparent vagary.” The multifarious bodies which support (or are run by) Mr. Gorle are very much of so incoherent crowd, as is manifested by a perusal of the various election leaflets they have issued from time to time; and the results of their actions cannot fail to appear freakish to class conscious workers.

Mr. Gorle says our statement that “every year as these elections come round a new organisation is brought into being” is not true. He gives no evidence, so we will.

Mr. Gorle became Councillor Gorle in April, 1905. Before that period there had been formed in Watford no fewer than seven organisations claiming to represent the workers independently of the avowed capitalist organisations. He was supported at his election by one of these organisations. In 1906 four candidates of the same brand were run and backed by five organisations (including one resurrected—the S.D.F.). At the general election for the same year the Socialist (?) and Labour Party was first and last heard of: issued a manifesto, and then died. In 1907, owing to the apathy of the other organisations (which were supposed to be alive) the S.D.F. and two other organisations ran four candidates, but not on the same election address. In 1908 two candidates (including Mr. Gorle) were backed by the Trades and Labour Council, with the support, of other organisations being claimed although those organisations were not named. In 1909 three candidates were run by five organisations, including another new one—the Watford Socialist (!) Society. In 1910 one candidate was run—a member of the S D.P. (another new organisation previously known as the S.D.F., which apparently discarded its old name when changing the object of the party). In 1911 three candidates, all members of the same organisation, ran on different programmes. They were supported by three organisations, one the W.S.S., which had been resurrected for that purpose. (The secretary had stated that he bad been trying to get a quorum for some while in order to wind up affairs.) During 1911 a branch of the S.D.P. was formed, according to its most prominent member, as a protest against the actions of the W.S.S. The Executive of the S.D.P. only sanctioned the formation of this branch subject to the consent of the W.S.S., whose secretary had been quorum hunting in order to put up the shutters. (See “S.D.P. News,” August, 1911.) In 1912 four candidates were run, two of the B S.P. (another new organisation), one l.L.P, and one Labour, and they were all supported by the same organisations.

So we have had during the last twelve years eleven different organisations (manipulated in the main by Gorle and Co.), excluding various resurrections which would bring the number up to fourteen.

So much for our critic’s first charge of false statement.

The charge of “silly deceit” can be dealt with by giving a quotation from a leaflet sent out by the Trade and Labour Council and signed by their secretary. Speaking on religion and politics it states: "No declaration of their opinions on these subjects is asked of our nominees, whom we support because we are convinced of their suitability for the positions to which they seek election." This quotation also disproves the statement that they fight elections ‘on class lines'.

With regard to the “Active Socialists" of the T. & L.C. we know them. Some of them have as much claim to be called Socialists as have Sir William Bull or Councillor F. H. Gorle; others are neither active nor Socialists, or they would cease to be parties to such business as is shown in our report and this note

As to Socialism being put forward in the addresses, the word is not mentioned on the B.S.P. man’s address, and no Socialist position is laid down. On the I.L.P. member's address the word appears once: “I maintain that the ethics of Socialism are identical with those of Christianity." No Socialist position is put forward whatever. With regard to the Labour candidate's address, which Mr Gorle describes as Socialist in tone and effect, we would point out that the avowed capitalist candidate ran on a similar list of so-called reforms, therefore it would appear (according to Mr. Gorle) that the capitalist candidate’s address was Socialist in tone and effect. Our critic, in his remark, strange as it may seem, appears to agree “in tone and effect ” with our statement that there is no difference from the worker's point of view between the alleged Labour and the avowed capitalist candidates. (Were you not rather hasty, Mr. Gorle, when you penned that remark as to tone and effect?) As to our opponent’s statement about bare-faced calumny, we would remind him that truth is not calumny although it may be libel.

Their methods were nothing but popularity seeking by vote-catching devices, and for the office of councillor. The one reference to Socialism (!) and Christianity quoted above speaks volumes.

We knew it is considered blasphemous to speak disrespectfully of the god of the Christians, but the god of the Watford Labour Church and other similar local movements (Mr. Gorle) considers it ill mannered for us to speak the truth about him.

If anyone still doubts the truth of our statements, let him apply to the secretary of the Watford Branch of the S P.G.B. We have documents issued by Gorle & Co. to back up all our statements.

With reference to Mr. Gorle’s final charge—that we are blacklegging for the capitalists against Socialism, would he have the courage to make that charge against the S.P.G.B. in a public debate ?
Branch Reporter.

S.P.G.B. Lecture List For July (1912)

Party News from the July 1912 issue of the Socialist Standard

A single currency – the magic wand? (2004)

From the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

One basic feature of the present stage of the capitalist system is that it takes desperate measures to confront the problems that it created in the first place. Such measures are mere reforms, which, even if they appear to work, only do so for short periods and in the interests of only a section of the capitalist class. Society therefore has the appearance of moving but in actual fact it at best, stands still and at worst, moves backwards. Following is an example of one such desperate attempt which is currently plaguing European capitalists but which, ironically, is being blindly contemplated by West African leaders.

An impossible task?
When the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was created in 1975, the establishment of a single currency was high on its agenda. However, the implementation of the idea has been dogged by delays and inconsistencies one of which is the absence a second monetary zone. At the December 1999 summit in Lome, Togo the ECOWAS decided that the non-CFA Anglophone countries – Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone – together with Cape Verde and Guinea (Conakry) should come up with a second unitary currency. This second currency (the Eco) was to be launched by 1st January 2003 as a first step towards the creation of the single West African money.

As a fast-track route to the attainment of this second common currency, the West African Monetary Institute (WAMI) was set up in 2001 with headquarters in Ghana. The WAMI put forward certain economic conditions for the five countries (Cape Verde and Liberia not being fully committed to the project) to meet before further action could be taken. These criteria included reducing budget deficit to not more than four per cent by 2002; limiting inflation to five per cent by 2003; keeping central bank financing of budget deficit at under ten percent of the previous year’s revenue; and maintaining foreign reserves equivalent to at least six months’ imports by 2003.

However, and this was not unexpected, in November 2002 at the end of another summit in the Guinean capital, Conakry, the ECOWAS issued a statement postponing the launch of the Eco from 1 January 2003 to 1 July 2005. They had just realised their inability to meet the unrealistic conditions they had set themselves.

False hopes
The founding fathers of the ECOWAS and their current successors saw the need to create a single currency because in their ignorance of the operation of the capitalist system they hoped such a venture would wipe out all the woes of their people. In the words of the current vice president of Ghana, Alhaj Alieu Mahamam, it “will provide the sub-region with the economies of scale to be derived from a bigger market (and it) underpins all our aspirations of unity captured by the slogan ‘a common currency in a common market in a common country’ ”. These proponents of the single monetary zone also think that it will attract foreign direct investment through a stable macro-economic environment and a larger single market; facilitate free movement of goods, services and labour; and lead to reduced transaction costs. These would, in their view, enhance economic growth and eventually reduce poverty. They also believe that a monetary union will naturally foster unity in their balkanised people who now see themselves in the colonialist terms of Anglophones, Francophones and Lusophones.  
The snag
This mission of creating a single currency will be hard to accomplish owning to the near-impossibility of the five countries meeting the ambitious conditions necessary for the creation of the second monetary zone. Then there are other more serious hurdles, which may adversely impede the project. Foremost among these is the local capitalists and their, mostly Western, masters who control the various central banks through their control of the various governments. They may see their petty profit interests being threatened by the creation of a single West African central bank. It is arguably not unrelated to this fear that some individuals with vested interests have openly voiced concern over the issue. The chairman of Guardian Express Bank Plc, Moses O. Ihonde, for instance gave a banking conference at Enugu,Nigeria a frightening talk on how banks will have to battle with increased operational costs at the introduction of the proposed West African common currency (West Africa magazine, 11 – 17 November 2002).

The reality   
But even if the West African leaders are able to stem the tide of these and other unforeseen impediments and are able to create this single currency, the problem of poverty, hunger, disunity, illiteracy, disease, etc will still be the lot of the masses. The reason is that the international economic game, in which West Africa is but a mere pawn, does not work in the interests of the masses. The people here are mostly engaged in farming. They produce raw materials – cocoa, coffee, timber, minerals, etc to feed the factories in the West.  Then they buy their food requirements – maize, rice wheat flour, etc from the West. But the system operates such that these West African producers of primary products do not determine the prices of their products just as the prices of what they import are beyond their control. Therefore they sell their exports cheaply and pay through their nose for their imports. But that is the way of capitalism. It ensures that the capitalists take all profits accruing to the economic transactions away from the masses. And that is the cause of the poverty, hunger, disease and all the ills afflicting the masses. This being the case, there is no way that the creation of a single currency can successfully address such problems. This fact can even be gleaned from the situation of the people of the CFA zone that spread over West and Central Africa. Their countries have very little trade links amongst themselves. And in spite of the fact that they use a common currency, the economic situation of the masses is neither better nor worse than their counterparts in the multi-currency non-CFA zone.

Central to the capitalist relations of production is the element of money. Production is organised such that people work to produce goods and services not for the purpose of consumption, but they produce them to sell at a profit. In other words, goods and services are commodities to be sold and bought. But since the means of producing these commodities are owned and controlled by a few individuals, it is they who own the products. They sell them and keep the proceeds. On the other hand, the producers – the working class – who are excluded from the ownership of the means of production are left with little or no money at all to buy what they produce and need! And herein lies the prime source of all the problems of present day society.

The introduction of a common currency will therefore be, to the masses, as irrelevant as was the switch from the British and French money to the present currencies at independence. The fact is that the ordinary person, the working class person will still not have enough of it to buy the necessities of life.

Society can only turn things round when the means of production and distribution of wealth are commonly and democratically owned. When that happens, production of goods and services will be conducted through a harmonious co-operation of all humanity. Under such an arrangement, the products of mankind’s collective effort will be freely accessible to all and thus money, as a medium of exchange in all its forms, will completely disappear.

Greasy Pole: Tough on Sound Bites, Tough on the Causes of . . . (2004)

The Greasy Pole column from the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Somewhere in the darker recesses of Ten Downing Street, or in a basement at party headquarters, or in a corner of some cramped room in the Houses of Parliament, lengthily educated people are slaving at the construction of sound bites. Sometimes – and such an event is almost as earth-shattering as Archimedes and his bath – they chisel out a phrase so perfectly succinct and attention-demanding that it goes down in the history of oral deceptions. The employer of these ardent people – some high flying politician desperate to catch the public ear if only for brief moment in time – will use the phrase as soon as possible. Especially if there is an appropriate crisis going on (which means most of the time). On the following day it will be thick in the headlines, clogging up the TV news bulletins, in substitute for a proper awareness of what is happening in the world. And then, perhaps, it will be forgotten.

But sometimes sound bites have a nasty habit of biting the tongue that speaks them, of changing from a persuasive slogan to a cringing embarrassment. There was, for example, Harold Macmillan’s boast that during those times the people of Britain had never had it so good. It was not only those who were having it bad – like the two million people who were poor enough to get National Assistance – who disbelieved Macmillan. In fact there was an outraged reaction against him and the man known as Unflappable Mac must have cursed the day he drawled out those scornful, immortal words.

But one who has been among the most persistent and skilled of the purveyors of sound bites is Tony Blair. How many of his most cherished examples of this subtle art must he now bitterly regret? It is certain that among the most embarrassing is his famous assurance that his government would be “…tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”. At the time it convinced many people as the perfect solution, covering every concept of crime from those who regard it as trivial responses to a psychologically unsatisfactory infancy to those who slaver that all criminals should be, if not summarily executed, locked up for ever. But like all sound bites, it overlooked the nasty realities of capitalism – in this case the reality that crime is not susceptible to such a simple approach. If we take one of the most commonly used measures of the size of the problem – the numbers of offences notified to the police – the fact is that in 2003 crime remained overall at about the same level as in 2002. Some offences, including burglary and theft from cars, were down by two percent while others, notably violence against the person, were up by 11 percent.


To enforce the first part of Blair’s sound bite – the bit about being tough on crime – there have been two Home Secretaries whose punitive passions have made penal reformers wistful for the days when Michael Howard was the Tory Party’s favourite conference performer. Of course the policies followed by Jack Straw and David Blunkett may be not unconnected with their nurturing ambitions to be Prime Minister themselves. Blunkett, recovering from his past as a defiant left winger, is driven on creating more and more legal manacles on our behaviour and on stuffing the prisons with a record number of unwilling residents. This goes down well with the readers of the Sun and the Daily Mail, the appeasement of whose prejudices is a top priority for Blair. Which leaves the second part of the sound bite, about being tough on the causes of crime.

For some time now the Home Office has been labouring with the production of a series of guidelines about the “causes” of crime. This has been as long, onerous task which required scouring through many works of reference for evidence to support the design, and indeed the very existence, of the guidelines. At last the labours bore fruit and there emerged a computer-viable assessment tool which, it was hoped, would be a means of gauging the likelihood of individuals who are before the courts getting into trouble again, or being violent or whatever. As may be imagined, the assessment comes out as a pretty hefty document, running to page after page, all of it backed up with a pretty massive instruction manual. There is no shortage of quoted authority to justify the perceived need for a consistent risk assessment, like: “ . . . Clark et al (1993) summarise the evidence on clinical prediction of risk based on professional judgement . . . Hollin and Palmer (1994) and Gendreau and Coggin (1996) have summarised the research using social dynamic factors to predict re-offending . . . ” In the process of the assessment a variety of characteristics about the offender are contributed in the form of a problem score – the higher the score the greater the risk. The characteristics include offending history, accommodation and employment problems, addiction to drugs or alcohol, education, health… At the end of it all a final score is read off, which gauges whether this person is liable to commit further crimes and how much of a danger they are.

Bad News for Blair

The bad news, for Tony Blair and his admirers reading the Sun and the Daily Mail, is the implicit basis of the assessment, that crime is not a matter of innate wickedness or a wilful resolve to be anti-social but is rooted in a variety if factors all of which are fashioned within society. Not a few people will ask whether we didn’t know that already, without the Home Office wasting all that time and effort. For example a recent report by the housing charity Shelter had something to say about the effect of bad housing on a person’s life chances and behaviour. Over a million children in Britain grow up in housing of such a low standard that it damages their health, education and their general life prospects. Bad housing makes one in twelve children vulnerable to diseases like TB and asthma, it damages their schooling and, in the case of children in emergency housing, makes them twice as likely to be in a hospital Accident and Emergency Department because they have been burned or scalded. If these damaged children, when they grow up, were subjected to that Home Office assessment they would come out with a very high score as likely to be committing crime and possibly dangerous to others.

The Shelter report is the latest in a series of similar investigations which all reached the same conclusion – that for workers it is poverty which conditions their life style, their health and education, their responses to stress, their behaviour and so on. That is the broad general picture; when we look at it in more detail, as in the matter of crime, we can see that poverty is again the determining factor. That is clearly the basis of the Home Office style of criminal assessment. It is also the vital reality which Blair ignored when he was telling us about being tough on the causes of crime. But then he was not concerned with fact but with harvesting votes, which is a very different matter. All that was along time ago and things are going badly for him now. All around him people who once adored him are getting tough on him. Perhaps now they will learn that we must also be tough on the causes of political leaders and what they represent.

50 Years Ago: Holidays with pay (2004)

The 50 Years Ago column from the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is indisputable that, since the war, an increasing number of people have annual holidays, but before we applaud this happy fact, let us examine the reasons. Twenty-five years ago few people enjoyed a regular break from their employment, except, of course, the idleness enforced by unemployment. To-day, however, an annual fortnight’s holiday is an accepted feature of their job. This is mainly due to recognition by the capitalist class that a refreshed working class makes for greater efficiency and higher productivity (e.g., contented cows yield more milk) and also organised working-class activity (i.e., shortage of labour-power giving the workers stronger bargaining powers).

Accompanying the development of capitalism we find machine production ever more complex, a higher division of labour and hence a growth of monotonous repetitive operations. The effect on employees of these factors is boredom, nervous strain and physical disorders, making a break from this drab existence imperative. Having tightened nuts, hammered rivets, checked invoices, and swept floors innumerable times, fifty weeks a year, the remaining two weeks must be spent forgetting nuts, rivets, invoices and floors. The working class, generally speaking, regard a holiday as a period in which to flee from the rut of normal existence. In other words, not to do those things one usually has to do, to do all those things one cannot normally do, and where either of these cannot be carried out, then to do them under more congenial surroundings and conditions.

Therefore, the manner in which various individuals spend their restricted release is determined largely by their particular job of work. Of course, the style of the holiday is conditioned by the financial resources, indeed, whether they have a holiday at all is dependent upon that factor [. . .]

(From front page article by “DE NORM”, Socialist Standard, July 1954)

Letters: What can I do? (2004)

Letters to the Editors from the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

What can I do?

Dear Editors 

The April edition of Socialist Standard really spoke to me. It left me feeling poor, paranoid and powerless. Living in a capitalist society is frustrating. I work as an unskilled wage labourer and feel the pressures of job insecurity. This is something I must share with those who sell their labour as a commodity throughout the world. Capitalism will always put profit before people. If I read socialist publications it is with the money I earn from working in a capitalist system. The small commodities that I can afford are to be viewed as luxuries that this society offers to those with disposable incomes, things I could sadly not afford when unemployed. It is disturbing isn’t it, that people descend to shopping arcades whenever they have a moment to spare and money in their pockets? This is a capitalist placebo to prevent people from thinking about things that really matter.

I feel sad to report that I feel Socialist sympathisers are a minority and with the war in Iraq and the War on Terror that intolerance, hate and racism are gathering momentum. I recently encountered an ex-soldier who served in Japan in the close of the Second World War whose experience of atrocities led him to declare that the nation from where the Madrid bombers came from should be “nuked” with the guilty parties extradited there. On another occasion a young man who should be better informed said that “the West should drop the nuclear bomb on the Middle-East”, and also that most people called Patel were terrorists. We live in troubled times but such neo-fascist hysteria is disturbing. Looks can be deceptive.

Peace not violence is the answer and this will best be achieved through Socialism. However I am not a martyr I have to live in this society and try as I might it is frustrating when the daily struggle seems like Orwell’s 1984 or Heller’s Catch 22. I would like to see the Socialist Standard share more instruction on how to practice Socialism today within the sphere of your principles.

Yours for peace and socialism,
Gary Cubbage, 

It is not possible to “practice Socialism” in the literal sense today since socialism is a system of society which can only replace capitalism as a whole; you can’t have bits of socialism within capitalism. What socialists can do under capitalism, however, is spread socialist ideas – for instance, that those who are forced to sell their mental and physical energies for a wage or salary, whichever country they live in, share a common interest and that nationalism, racism and xenophobia are mistaken attitudes which should be opposed; or that they have no interest in wars that are always fought for capitalist interests, which is why socialists never support them and take what steps they can to avoid being forced to fight in them. As you have discovered, in view of prevailing attitudes, this is often frustrating but, as has been said, if you are socialists this is something you can’t help doing. All the same, it is done more effectively and perhaps less frustratingly if done collectively. Have you thought of joining the Socialist Party rather than battling on as an isolated individual?

Rose-tinted view?

Dear Editors

I look forward to reading your magazine every month. I find it informative and entertaining. I’m a bit of a newcomer to politics and am finding that the deeper one digs the trickier the exploration of issues becomes.

One thing has been niggling me for some time is this idea from your ideology that when true socialism emerges in the world then everyone will work and strive for the benefit of each and all. Now from my observation of human behaviour this seems rather a rose-tinted view of the real world. There is no need for me to point out to you the levels of selfish behaviour in the form of greed. crime, war, etc that blights this planet.

In your efforts to counter this charge of gross behaviour you say that this side of human behaviour of humans is conditioned by their environment and not by natural selfishness and aggression (the nature/nurture debate ). What evidence do you have for stating this as a fact? As far as I know this nature-nurture thing has never been resolved satisfactorily.

It seems to me that the success or failure of your new socialist world hinges on this very emotive issue. You are banking on the majority of humans being nice to each other and exhibiting a caring, sharing nature. This is either a very naive or a ‘let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope it all resolves itself’ outlook.

Perhaps you can reassure me that you know what sort of world you are trying to lead us into.

Philip McCormac, 
Burbage, Leics.

First, we are not trying to lead anyone anywhere. Socialism can only be established by people who know what they want, not by following leaders and expecting them to deliver it for them. We are not seeking to be leaders, only pioneers pointing the way.

Actually, socialism doesn’t require people to behave all that differently from how most of us do most of the time at the moment, essentially only the accentuation of some of the behaviours we exhibit today (friendliness, helpfulness, cooperation) at the expense of others which capitalism encourages. Capitalism has an all-pervading culture of violence, competitiveness and acquisitiveness, and people are under pressure to adapt their behaviour to this. What will happen in socialism it that this culture will disappear and so people’s behaviour will no longer be shaped by it. We would not have to stop being “selfish” in the sense of giving priority to our own individual welfare; it is just that, in the changed circumstances, this will better be served by cooperating with, not competing against, others.

Aggression is another matter. There is no evidence that this is an in-built, gene-governed part of the biological natures of humans. Humans are of course capable of aggressive behaviour, as we are of a great variety of different behaviours (that being our biological nature), but whether such behaviour is actually engaged in depends on the circumstances. Of course, even in socialism, people will sometimes get frustrated and annoyed and this will occasionally find expression in acts of aggression, but these would be isolated acts of individuals. Social acts of aggression such as war, training for war, terrorism, violent crime, vandalism and the like will have no reason to occur, as the social conditions that generate and sustain them will have disappeared.

You ask for the evidence that aggression is not “natural”. Have you read the book Are We Prisoners of Our Genes? which we have just published? If not, read it (available from us by post for £4.75) and then come back if you want. 

Party News (2004)

Party News the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard


Over the weekend of 12/13 June the Socialist Party of Great Britain marked a hundred years of non-stop socialist activity. A highly successful political and social event on the Saturday evening in Regents College in Regents Park, London, was attended by some 140 members and sympathisers. On the Sunday those who had come from outside London for the event visited parts of the City of London and Clerkenwell area associated with the Party (such as the site of the old Printers’ Hall, Bartlett’s Passage, off Fetter Lane, where the founding meeting took place on 12 June 1904, and most of the Party’s head offices, which were situated in this area till we moved to Clapham High Street in 1951) together with other places of historical interest such as Farringdon Hall where the Labour Representation Committee was formed and the house where Keir Hardie lived next door to the one-time head office of his now defunct ILP.

Copies of the special 48-page hundredth anniversary issue of the Socialist Standard are still available (price £2 including postages, or £1 at Branch meetings).

The talks given at Regent’s College are available on CD: for details contact Head Office


Ten thousand leaflets were distributed in Britain for the June elections to the European Parliament elections, with a lesser number in Germany, France, Belgium, Holland and Italy, urging people to consider the case for socialism and, if they agreed with it, to register this by writing “World Socialism” (or “Weltsozialismus” or “Socialisme Mondial” or “Wereldsocialisme” or “Socialismo Mondiale”, as the case may be) across their ballot paper. There was a socialist candidate in the local elections standing in the Monkton Ward of South Tyneside Council. The full result for this was: Lewis (Lab) 984; Kerr (Lab) 960; Sewell (Lab) 929; Slater (LD) 756; Bennett (LD) 666; Coe (LD) 624; Cameron (C) 425; Wagstaff (Ind) 351; Bissett (Soc) 203.