Friday, April 16, 2021

Losers’ World (2000)

Book Review from the April 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Turbo-Capitalism: Winners and Losers in the Global Economy’, by Edward Luttwak, (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998)

Most American textbooks on capitalism either present it as the best possible system that will last well into the future if not for ever, or admit that it has a few faults which are a small price to pay for its benefits. Luttwak is closer to the second position than the first. In his opening sentence he expresses his belief “both in the virtues of capitalism and in the need to impose some measure of control over its workings”. In a matter-of-fact tone the author discusses the many and dreadful consequences of capitalism for the losers, of which there are many more than winners. By turbo-capitalism he means a form of capitalism that is much different from the controlled form that mostly prevailed from 1945 to the 1980s. He admits that “turbo” is his term—others simply call it the free market. It means very much more than the freedom to buy and sell:
  “What they celebrate, preach and demand is private enterprise liberated from government regulation, unchecked by effective trade unions, unfettered by sentimental concerns over the future of employees or communities, unrestrained by customs barriers or investment restrictions, and molested as little as possible by taxation.”
Luttwak likes the increase in economic growth that turbo-capitalism brings but is aware of the consequences which he deplores:
  a breakdown of familial capitalism (especially in Asia): “Cold-blooded, truly arm’s length and therefore purely contractual relations” 
  increasing job insecurity: “employees at all but the highest levels must go to work each day not knowing if they sill still have their job on the morrow” 
   the global increase in unemployment: “it is a protracted tragedy at the personal level, and destabilising at the social level” 
the insecure majority are persuaded to accept the sovereignty of the market: “losers blame themselves rather than the system”

In mitigation of the harsh discipline and sharp inequalities which Luttwak admits turbo-capitalism has brought, he believes that there are “two great forces that serve to balance its over-powering strength”: the American legal system (poor people can get “damage awards”) and the pervasive influence of Calvinist values (earned wealth is no impediment to virtue).

In Luttwak’s favour is his assessment of Blair and the left wing in politics: ” . . . both Clinton in the United States and Blair in the United Kingdom have continued to use some liberal prose to wrap their conservative remedies . . . even a left-wing electoral victory can yield only right-wing polices”.

Compared to what he calls “defunct communist economies” and “bureaucratic socialism”, the author believes that turbo-capitalism is “materially altogether superior, and morally at least not inferior . . . Yet to accept its empire over every aspect of life, from art to sport in addition to all forms of business, cannot be the culminating achievement of human existence. Turbo-capitalism too, shall pass”.

Yes, Luttwak, but what are you doing to help make it pass?
Stan Parker

50 Years Ago: Circumstances alter attitudes (2000)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Before it became the Government the Labour Party built up a reputation on the frail ground that it was in favour of applying the principle of democracy everywhere, with particular reference to the depressed native populations who suffered so much from the profit-hungry greed of the privileged class. Now that the Labour Party has become the Government, administering Capitalism, lofty ideals that gained them support have had to take a back seat and the interests of the British Capitalist class become, and must become, the ruling idea. A recent example is the instance of the native ruler Seretse.

The circumstances are fairly well known owing to the publicity given by opponents of the Labour Party: opponents, it may be added, who would in all probability have acted more or less in the same way had they been the Government. Seretse is chief of a native population in Bechuanaland. He came to England to study and married a white girl. The Regent who had been acting as chief during Seretse’s minority objected to the marriage. After considerable internal discussion the Regent was exiled and the majority of the population accepted Seretse and his wife. In the meantime the Government’s representatives had been taking part in the dispute. Finally Seretse was invited to England for discussions on the express condition, he claims, that he would be allowed to return. When he was here the Government refused to let him return and banned him and his wife from the territory for five years . . .

Thus, in spite of the high-flown style of the propaganda against Fascism and Nazism in the past, where capitalist interests are, or seem to be, involved all capitalist governments, including Labour ones, are prepared to engage in racial discrimination.

(From editorial, Socialist Standard, April 1950)

The Labour Party and the Future. (1929)

Editorial from the June 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the time of writing, a few of the Election results have yet to be announced, but the general position is clear enough. The Labour Party will be the largest of the three Parties in the new House of Commons, and although lacking a clear majority over the other two parties, it will presumably take over the Government with the tacit consent of the Liberals, more or less as in 1924.

The Labour Party will have 288 seats, as compared with 251 Tories and 54 Liberals. As regards voting strength in the constituencies they polled 8,337,407 votes, as against 8,575,532 given to Tory candidates and 5,238,054 to Liberals.

In 1924 81 per cent. of the electorate went to the poll, as compared with about 79 per cent. this year. In the meantime the electorate has grown from about 20 million to over 28 million, largely owing to the extension of the franchise to millions of young women.

In the last House a clear majority (over 60 per cent.) of the Labour M.P.s were members of the I.L.P., although the number actually financed by the I.L.P. was of course much smaller. In the present Election, out of 56 candidates, for whom the I.L.P. accepted financial responsibility, 37 were successful (two results have not yet been declared, but are not likely to be I.L.P. successes). How many of the other Labour M.P.’s are also members of the I.L.P. it is not yet possible to say.

The Communists, with their Russian money, paid very dearly for an elementary lesson in electioneering. They sent 25 candidates to the polls and scored 25 failures. In 21 constituencies they forfeited their deposit through failing to poll one-eighth of the votes. Out of the 25 constituencies, seven (including Saklatvala’s seat at Battersea North) have been fought by the Communists on one or more previous occasions. In every one of these seven constituencies the Communist vote declined, in spite of the big increase in the size of the electorate. Saklatvala’s vote fell from 15,096 to 6,554 and the loss in the other six constituencies was in most cases very heavy. In the other areas their vote was insignificant.

The lesson they had hitherto not learned is that votes for a Communist who fights on a reformist programme are not votes for Communism. Their success at Motherwell a few years ago, and more recently at Battersea, was possible only because they received Labour votes owing to the absence of an official Labour candidate. (In face of the vast increase in the Labour vote and the insignificant Communist vote, it is amusing to recall that the Communist excuse for supporting Labour in 1923 was that the Labour Party would be discredited and the Communists would gain at their expense.)

The I.L.P. long ago recognised that they must carefully avoid anything which would cause the Labour Party to oppose the I.L.P. candidates. Between elections the Maxtons and Wheatleys and other incipient leaders of revolt can produce their thunder on the left as noisily as any communist. But election time finds them hastily deserting their rebel colours and rallying round the Labour Party and fighting as Labour candidates.

Is It Socialism.

What is the real significance of the Labour vote? Does it mean that 8 million people want Socialism? The Daily Herald says that it does. In the editorial of June 1st we read the following :—
  This great appeal to the people has shown that Socialism has no terrors for millions of men and women in this country of all classes and callings. The magnificent results we record to-day are an earnest that at no very distant date the banners of Socialism will be carried to that final victory of which the present triumph is only a prelude.
Without in the least imputing dishonesty to the writer of that passage, we confidently assert that his view is hopelessly wrong. The Election shows that 8 million people are not afraid of the word Socialism; it shows that millions of workers have satisfied themselves that men and women of their own class are at least as capable administrators as the men of the ruling class and their professional politicians. That is all to the good, but it is very far removed from a desire for Socialism. The working class have lost their horror of the word Socialism, but they have hardly begun to understand the meaning of the word. To them Socialism means the administration of capitalism by people calling themselves Labour or Socialist. And therein lies the problem which no Labour Government can solve. We deal elsewhere in this issue with the failure of Labour Government in Queensland. We prophesied that failure and with absolute confidence we prophecy the similar failure of Labour Government here. No matter how able, how sincere, and how sympathetic the Labour men and women may be who undertake to administer capitalism, capitalism will bring their undertaking to disaster. As in Queensland, those who administer capitalism will find themselves sooner or later brought into conflict with the working class. Like their Australian colleagues the Labour Party here will find themselves in a cleft stick. Having no mandate to replace capitalism by Socialism, they have pledged themselves to solve problems which cannot be solved except by doing the one thing for which they have no mandate. That thing is the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production and distribution, and its replacement by common ownership : the production of goods for use not for sale; the discarding of all the paraphernalia of wages, prices, and profits. The millions of Labour voters who are not afraid of the word Socialism because they do not know what it means, would regard as absurd and Utopian common ownership and the production of goods for use. Yet it is in sober truth the only solution for the pressing economic problems of the day. Even those workers and their “left wing” leaders, like J. Maxton, W. J. Brown and others, who are prepared to make inroads into the possessions of the capitalist class, have still another great lesson to learn. They have still to learn that the use of political power for the purpose of forcing capitalism to function in a manner beneficial to the workers is a temporary and a dangerous expedient. It will produce as many and as grave new problems as those it solves. Capitalism is a system, the parts of which are interdependent. You cannot remedy the evils and yet keep the system, and you cannot abolish the system without a mandate from a Socialist electorate. This is the dilemma which faces the Labour Party. They are pledged to solve a problem, but lack the means of its solution.

Rationalisation and Unemployment. (1929)

From the June 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

We were amused last year when the Government started to solve the problem of the 250,000 out-of-work miners by transferring them from the mining areas where there are no vacant jobs, to those places where there are vacant jobs. This would have been simplicity itself if there had been any such places, though in that event it would not have been necessary to set up an Industrial Transfer Board to coax the unemployed man to seek the vacant job. Some 20,000 have been transferred, and nobody knows how many of these have been thrust into jobs which were not vacant.

We suspect, however, that the politicians responsible for that venture were not greatly concerned about its success or failure. While it was useful for election purposes, the existence of an unemployed army of a million or so does not, and need not, cause sleepless nights to the Capitalist class or their politicians as long as the workers in the main, whether in work or out, accept as a necessity the Capitalist system of which unemployment is but one feature.

There are, however, many people whose sympathy for the unemployed is beyond question, but whose remedies for the problem contain just that same silly fallacy. They treat each industry or each country as if the workers in it alone suffered from unemployment. By disregarding the same problem due to the same causes in every other industry and country, they are then able easily enough to solve the problem by the simple device of transferring the unemployed in industry A to industries B, C, and D, and by emigrating the surplus population of country Z to countries X and Y.

The Unemployed Miners.

The Labour Party proposes to put the mining industry on its feet again by nationalising and reorganising it. The elimination of wasteful and inefficient methods, both on the productive and marketing sides, will enable it to regain its lost world markets and develop new ones, including the supply of coal for the manufacture of bye-products. This is the theory.

Our first criticism is that competing mining industries in Europe and America are busily doing the same thing, and the relative position of each will be more or less the same after the process as it was before. Each will be more efficient and all will be faced with the same problems as now.

The main point is that greater efficiency does not solve the problem of unemployment.

Between September, 1924, and September, 1928, the number of miners employed decreased from 1,082,340 to 859,259, and over that period the output per man shift rose from 17.33 cwts. to 21.13 cwts.

Thus the fall in numbers employed far exceeded a fall in total output. (See Ministry of Labour Gazette, February, 1929.)

The Bulletin of the International Management Institute (Geneva, June, 1928) gives an illustration of the similar effects of rationalisation in a German group of mines. Between 1924 and 1927 the output per man rose by 60 per cent., the total coal output and sales rose by 10 per cent. and the number of men employed fell by 31 per cent. from 6,942 men in 1924 to 4,815 men in 1927. More work done by fewer workers. Unemployment resulting from greater efficiency.

Mr. Baldwin, speaking at Cardiff on May 15th, stated that the output per man in the South Wales mines “was 18 per cent. more than in a good year before the war.” (“The Times,” May 16th.)

Then Mr. H. N. Brailsford, after observing this process at work in America, offers his contribution towards a solution. Writing in the New Leader (January 4th, 1929), he suggested a simple remedy. If, he says, we develop the “home market,” this would
create a call for labour, especially in agriculture, which would soon absorb the surplus thrown idle by the progress of rationalisation (notably the miners).
So the miners “rationalised” out of the mines must go on the land. Good !

Putting the miners on the land.

But if Mr, Brailsford had looked a little further afield in the U.S.A., he would have observed that, owing to various causes, not ably “rationalisation,” the number of men forced out of U.S.A. agriculture is enormous. The March, 1928, issue of the Review of the National City Bank of New York states that during 1926 alone, “the net movement from agriculture to the cities . . was approximately 1,000,000.” Nevertheless, the supply of wheat is in excess of effective demand, and wheat growers have been faced with the “greatest slump of recent years.” (See “Manchester Guardian,” May 9th.) The New York correspondent of the “Daily Telegraph” (May 22nd) said that the only solution for this glut was a “poor harvest” this year.

In this country we have been told that the decline in wheat and other arable cultivation can be offset by the development of dairy farming. This in itself means a vast decrease in the number of men per acre, as arable land is put under grass.

The effect of rationalisation in agriculture is the same as in any other industry, and the same in every branch. To take one instance alone, the ordinary farm milk-hand can milk and attend to 8 or 10 cows. Mr. R. Borlase Matthews, the noted writer on agriculture, tells us (“The Times,” June 6th, 1927) that with electric power and mechanical milking machines 150 cows can be tended by 3 men, whereas without these mechanical aids at least 15 would be needed. Thus the farmer increases the productivity of the farm and sacks some farm hands.

Agricultural Productivity.

The output of agriculture in England and Wales in 1925 was £225 million.

After allowing for price changes, this was the same as in 1908. (See “Agricultural Output of England and Wales, 1925,” Cmd. 2815, p.78.)

In the meantime, there had been a great decrease in the number of persons employed in agriculture and a great increase in the use of machinery.

Owing to changes in method of compiling statistics comparable figures are not available, but the decrease in persons was almost continuous and was very large. The following figures are taken from official sources and are reproduced in “Land and the Nation" (p. 146). This is the Rural Report of the Liberal Land Committee.

Between 1911 and 1921 the number of men and boys over 15 fell from 1,267,000 to 1,212,000. (These figures include farmers, small-holders, etc.) The decrease between 1871 and 1921 was 154,000. Between 1908 and 1913 the number of employees (excluding farmers’ sons, etc.) fell from 722,000 to 651,000. And between 1921 and 1924 the number of employees (including farmers’ sons, etc.) fell from 859,000 to 802,000. (See “Land and the Nation,” p. 146.)

The number of young men fell by 16 per cent. between 1924 and 1928 (Sir Daniel Hall in “Daily Telegraph,” January 24th, 1929).

On the other hand, the number of agricultural engines in use in England and Wales rose from 17,331 in 1908 to 83,535 in 1925. (See “Agricultural Output,” p. 108.)

Petrol or oil engines rose from 6,911 to 56,744 in the same period.

What about Denmark?

Mr. T. Shaw, Minister of Labour in the Labour Government, wrote in the “Morning Post” (February 18th) setting out his views on unemployment. He saw the solution in rationalising agriculture and making it efficient in all its branches, like agriculture in Denmark. How futile is the remedy is shown by the figures of unemployment in that country. The Ministry of Labour Gazette for January shows that the percent age of unemployment in Denmark on November 30th (the latest figure available) was no less than 17.6 per cent. as compared with 11.7 per cent. in this country.

Conditions in America.

Then we have “experts” here and in the U.S.A. who tell us that this increased productivity and consequent reduction of staff in productive industry and agriculture need not disturb us, because the displaced men will find work in commercial and financial occupations. Thus, Mr. Herbert Hoover explains in the Fifteenth Annual Report of the U.S.A. Secretary of Commerce, how the men displaced from industry have been absorbed in “distribution” and in “professional” and “personal” services. This would be a plausible explanation of the absence of unemployment in the U.S.A. if, in fact, unemployment were absent. Unfortunately, there is heavy unemployment, and what is required is a theory explaining the existence of unemployment, not a theory explaining its non-existence.

The American Federation of Labour reported early last year that 18 per cent. of its members were out of work, and that on this basis they estimated unemployment amounting in all to six million (“Daily Telegraph,” April 3rd, 1928).

In this country we have Lord Ebbisham, President of the Federation of British Industries, admitting that rationalisation in the productive industries produces unemployment, but assuring us that the men relieved of jobs can go into commerce, finance and marketing. (See “Morning Post,” January 14th.)

Put the landworkers behind the counter.

So our miners who have been placed on the land by Mr. Brailsford, and then rationalised off the land, must look for salvation in the banks and the distributive trades.

Lord Ebbisham, when making this statement, of course overlooked the fact that there is already 6.4 per cent. of unemployment in the distributive trades (See Ministry of Labour Gazette, April), and that the recent rapid extension of the use of automatic machines of a large type has brought forth protests from shop assistants and small shopkeepers that their livelihood is being threatened still further. Recent amalgamations of big departmental stores have been accompanied by considerable economies in staff. In addition, it must be remembered that small shopkeepers, crowded out by the stores, are not entitled to un employment pay, and so will, in many cases, not register as unemployed.

What shall we do with the Bank Clerks?

And the Bank Clerks are also playing this great game of General Post. They, too, are being “rationalised.”

Mechanical ledger-posters and other machines are being installed with the result not only that staffs will be decreased, but scales of pay also. Mr. Clegg, President of the Bank Officers’ Guild, anticipates the reorganisation of the bank staffs in two grades, “the administrative being a small, well-paid body, chiefly of directors’ nominees, and the clerical a large and not well-paid body.” (“The Times,” May 20th, 1929.)

Two of the five big Joint Stock Banks have already decided on complete mechanisation, and the others are expected to follow suit in the immediate future. The “Daily Express” (May 8th) sums up the position in the following words : –
 The bank clerks of past generations will disappear and machine hands will take their place. . . . Bank clerks are naturally apprehensive. The introduction of the new machines opens up the prospect of wholesale unemployment.
In an interview reported in the same issue, the Secretary of the Bank Officers’ Guild told a “Daily Express” representative that
  two girls can easily perform the work of five or six men with the help of the machine …. The Midland Bank already has a considerable surplus staff as a result of the adoption of mechanical methods.
Let us all be Civil Servants.

But this problem, too, has been “solved.” In August last year, the “New Leader” had been explaining how the I.L.P. proposed to nationalise and make more efficient the banks of this country. A correspondent had claimed that “enormous economies could be effected.” This led to a Bank Clerk’s wife writing to ask what was going to happen to the bank clerks whose jobs were economised out of existence. (“New Leader,” August 24th, 1928.)

The Editor of the “New Leader” replied that the bank clerk’s wife need not worry, because the redundant staff “could usefully be incorporated in the Civil Service, which would require to be extended by the development of social activity in many directions.”

So our miner, after a brief sojourn down on the farm, and a briefer passage through a bank, will land eventually in the Civil Service, somewhat puzzled, but doubtless still trusting in the wisdom of his various leaders and still hopeful of a permanent resting place soon.

What shall we do with the Civil Servants?

It is, however, hardly necessary to add that the replacement of men by machines, and their displacement owing to the elimination of wasteful methods, goes on just as inevitably in the Civil Service. Foot-postmen are being replaced by a smaller number of motor-cyclists and motor-vans; the indoor handling of parcels is economised by the use of mechanical conveyors ; automatic telephone exchanges make the employment of telephone operators less and less necessary. For many years the total volume of old and new varieties of work in the Post Office has been increasing more rapidly than the size of the staff. The output per head is rising just as in the mines, and factories generally. The constant extension of Post Office work is offset by the increased demands made on the workers–and the machinery which is revolutionising banking is also being introduced into Government Departments.

The Conservative Government stated their intention of appointing a Civil Service Royal Commission to enquire into various questions. “The Times” then pointed out that
  there are many members of the House of Commons who believe that an inquiry of this kind might lead to a reduction in the number of civil servants (26 April, 1929).
So that prospects in the Civil Service look no more rosy than outside.

The Films and the "Talkies.”

Then we find our old friend Lord Ebbisham going a step further in his study of the problem. On Wednesday, May 1st, he addressed the Federation of British Industries on the trade prospects. He said that the falling-off in the pre-war basic trades had been offset by expansion in distribution services.
  Then there was the increased demand for entertainment and amusement, resulting largely from the post-war reduction in hours of employment. (Report in Times, 2 May, 1929.)
So now our ex-miner farmhand-bank-clerk-Civil Servants are to pin their hopes on the entertainment industry. The first objection is that although shorter hours may increase the time available for going to cinemas and theatres this is not of much use to unemployed men, who cannot afford the price of entry. But what is more to the point is that rationalisation is vigorously attacking the entertainment industry too. The percentage of unemployment in “Entertainments and Sports” is 11.1 per cent. (See Ministry of Labour Gazette, April.) Theatres are complaining more and more of their inability to compete with cinemas, and for many years now the unemployment among actors and variety artistes has been appalling. The latest development – the “talkies” – has spread consternation among the cinema musicians as cinema after cinema dispenses with its orchestra. The “Evening News” (April 30th) contained the following : –
  While all the talkie-talkie among the moneyed friends and the equally well-to-do opponents of the voice film is going on, there is a silent and melancholy drama happening in London.
 Cinema musicians are, orchestra by orchestra, being told to pack up their bows and violins, their ‘cellos, and all the rest and take formal notice of “the sack.” Most of them are accomplished players to whom the cinema seemed to promise a lifetime of steady work.
  Now the majority, scrapped by the talkie, do not know where bread and butter is to come from a few weeks hence.
  An orchestra recently played, brilliantly, behind closed doors a record for a British talkie that, when it is developed in America and sent back here for exhibition, will throw that same orchestra out of its job, and will circulate all over the country and similarly displace other orchestras.
The Musicians’ Union held a meeting to discuss the question on Wednesday, May 15th (See “Evening Standard” of that date.) Here it was pointed out that the new methods had the effect not only of causing unemployment, but also of lowering the salaries of those who succeeded in keeping their jobs. An official of the Union also made a very telling point. The Home Office have, in the past, kept alien musicians out of the country on account of unemployment. The official said : –
  An alien musician throws only one British musician out of work ; one ‘talkie’ may put a hundred out of work.
It is true, of course, that the declining demand for cinema actors and actresses who have not suitable voices is offset by the demand for others who have, but, in America, the home of the movies, unemployment is already widespread among actors. In January it was stated that there were nearly 9,000 unemployed in New York alone.

Miss Lya de Putti, the famous film star, also points out (“Evening Standard,” May 20th) that
  as crowds are not required in many talking films, “extras,” too, are being thrown out of work in hundreds.
Mr. Lawrence Wright, in a letter to the “Morning Post” (May 20th) on the “talkie” threat to the employment of musicians in the 10,000 cinemas of this country, stated that the “talkies” in the U.S.A. had “precipitated the most shocking unemployment among musicians in America.”

Good news for cigarette makers. 

The next move is obviously with Lord Ebbisham. One thing, however, he must not do. He must not try to put the ex-musicians at work making cigarettes. A representative of the “Daily Telegraph” (May 3rd, 1929) witnessed a demonstration of a new machine installed at the factory of the General Tobacco Co., St. Luke’s, London.
 It was said to be the first of its kind in Great Britain capable of converting tobacco into the finished cigarette—plain or tipped—in five seconds, and at the record speed of 1,200 a minute. Only three persons were required to tend the machine, with an output equal to 700 workers under old methods. Another machine, which was also said to be the first installed in this country, was a cutter run by one man which turned out sufficient material to keep three of the cigarette machines going at the rate of over 200,000 cigarettes an hour.
Having got so far, and while we await further brilliant solutions of the problem, what about making work for the redundant Civil Servants by setting up another department to transfer the unemployed ex-miner-farm-labourer-bank-clerks to the pits, while the Industrial Transfer Board transfers them back again. Then the unemployed musicians can play them along the road, both ways ! One improvement, at least, there promises to be. Mr. Lloyd George’s road schemes would certainly facilitate the movement and counter-movement of the unemployed at the hands of the Transfer Board.

A question for the employers.

When these undeniable facts showing the displacement of labour by machinery are brought to the notice of the employers and the professional apologists for Capitalism, they usually fall back on two arguments.

First they reply that machinery reduces costs and prices, and that lowered prices result in bigger sales, which render unnecessary the dismissal of staff. But their actions do not square with what they profess to believe. Lowered prices will, it is true, generally speaking, result in increased sales, but if the increase were sufficient to require the employment of the whole of the former staff, why do the employers ever dismiss workers when installing labour-saving machines?

The employers could demonstrate their belief in their theory by pledging themselves not to decrease their staff, something they will certainly not do.

Their second argument rests on the belief that when men are displaced by machinery an equal number of additional men are required in the machine-making and allied industries. This ignores the effects of labour-saving also applied in these branches of production. Again the facts belie the theory.

The Ministry of Labour Gazette (April, 1929) reported the following percentages of unemployment at the end of March in industries directly concerned in the making of machinery. Engineering, 8.1 per cent.; Iron and Steel Manufacture, 17.6 per cent.; Tinplate and Steel Sheet industries, 23.7 percent.

The following brief announcement gives point to our contention : –
 Two hundred workers at Dowlais steel-works are on notice to terminate their employment owing to the introduction of new machinery (Daily Herald, May 8th.)
In the cotton industry a new automatic loom is being introduced so simple in its mechanism that one man can operate 25 looms in place of the present average of one man to 4 looms. The new looms will run for an hour or more without attention, and it is recognised that “dislocation of labour conditions would inevitably follow any large scale introduction of such a revolutionary piece of mechanism.” (See “Daily Telegraph” and “Manchester Guardian,” May 13th.) But even should there be a big demand for these and other machines, the existing capacity of the machine manufacturing plants is already well above demand, and they are, in consequence, not working full pressure. In spite of the recent growth of artificial silk production and the resulting demand for machinery, John Hetherington & Sons, Ltd., the textile machinery manufacturers, lament the “deplorably intense competition in the textile machinery industry.” (See 1928 Annual Report, “Observer,” May 12th, 1929.)

The truth is that unemployment is a feature of Capitalism as such, and cannot be solved in one industry or country while Capitalism remains. So long as the Capitalist class own and control the factories, the land, the railways, the cinemas and so forth, they will continue to operate them for profit. They will continue to decide when to have them working and when to close them down. They will decide how many men they will employ and they will go on under the pressure of home and foreign competition reducing costs by installing labour-saving machinery and thus adding to the army of unemployed.

So great is the wealth of the possessing class that their necessities, their luxuries and their charitable gifts leave them with a vast and increasing surplus out of income which they must needs re-invest. The productivity of the wealth-producers increases more rapidly than the spending of the Capitalist class. Goods are left unsold, and more and more wealth is re-invested, thus further increasing the volume of production.

Constantly more wealth is turned out by fewer workers, and the unemployed are compelled to fall back on private and State charity for their subsistence.

No “remedy” for unemployment is worth considering which leaves untouched the private ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, and leaves the workers dependent for their livelihood on the possibility of goods being sold at a price profitable to their masters. The Socialist remedy is the common ownership of the means and instruments for producing wealth, and the production of goods for the use of the members of society in place of production for sale and private profit. There is no other solution of the unemployment problem.
Edgar Hardcastle

Thursday, April 15, 2021

To Wives, Mothers and Others. (1929)

From the June 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few months ago I promised to show you how you could improve your conditions of life by using your vote in the right direction. Now, in order to carry out that promise I intend using one particular instance, the remedy for which applies also to other troubles that arise from the present mode of living—that of only being able to obtain necessities if you have the money, although you have worked harder than those who have the luxuries. Apart from the everyday worry of providing food and clothing, the housing problem is a special worry at the moment—even to those who have the other necessities.

So we will see about the whys and wherefores and the way in which we can put things right.

Most of us are, or have been, faced with the difficulties of the housing problem, and instead of insisting that houses be built because they are urgently required, we take no organised action in the matter, but hope some day things will be better.

While we are putting up with antiquated and insanitary houses, we see all around us business premises being extended, garages and cinemas being built and old houses giving place to non-residential buildings, even though they be more commodious than those we live in, and still we are the silent sufferers and cast longing eyes and hope.

Much has been made of the housing problem at election times of late years, and at such times, if at no other, you manage to attend meetings or read circulars promising to alleviate your housing and other financial troubles.

The candidate who puts the case most plausibly gets your vote, then you leave him to carry out his promises and forget to notice whether he does so or not.

At the next election you do likewise, but somehow things seem just as bad as ever. You still find it a struggle to make ends meet, but the reason does not strike you, except, perhaps, that you put it down to your husband not getting enough money or that there are not enough houses built.

It is not that there are not enough land, building materials and workers to build houses (or materials for making clothes and food), but because there is not much profit to be made from building houses for the vast number requiring them, so that only those things are done which do produce a profit, this being the natural result of living in a system of society which is run on profit-seeking lines.

The various governments which have been in power since the war—the starting point of the present housing shortage—have done little to remedy the shortage. They have given the builders subsidies (which shows the power they can use) to encourage them to build, and the councils have made some effort to provide accommodation for those who could not afford to pay the market price. Does it not seem strange to you—if you will ponder a moment—that the obtaining of such important items as decent housing conditions, good food, etc., should depend, not on the needs of the people who do most of the work, but upon the profit-making of the few?

Now we come to the question. How and why is it that the majority of the people are worse off than their employers—the few? Mainly because the workers do not realise that their vote plays so important a part in influencing their conditions of life.

Let us remember that whatever government has been in power its influence has been used, for instance, in deciding industrial disputes, even to the extent of using the police, soldiers, etc., and don’t forget that those who have to work for a living are those who have the majority of votes and are themselves responsible for having elected the governments which have used their power against the workers.

Think what could be done if those who required houses, etc., organised together to get those needs fulfilled, recognising that one can do little by oneself.

What might take place is this :—

A candidate is elected to Parliament by the majority of voters in a particular locality. Since he (or she) represents the majority he could be made their servant— as it were—to carry out the wishes of that majority. He could be made, when attending the Central Organisation (Parliament) to put forward and endeavour to carry out the wishes of his electors.

Now most of you are quite clever at making a 1/- do the work of 2/- in various ways, saving, cooking, etc., but you might go on with that struggle for ever and your children likewise, if you do not try to devote at least a little of your time to thinking of how you can abolish that terrible nightmare of trying to make ends meet. Like the other jobs you are doing, it only requires practice and you will soon get the hang of it.

What is taking place in this country is, generally speaking, taking place in other up-to-date countries—therefore mothers, wives and others are faced with the same thoughts and problems and have similar methods of cure, too, if they only knew how to use the remedy. We are all in the same boat.

Under a more reasonable arrangement of society, if the majority decide that more houses or corn, clothes or fuel are required, then it would be easy enough for that majority to see that the factories, etc., are set to work to provide the necessary goods, whereas now the very goods the workers pile up for their masters they must very often go without until such time as the goods have been disposed of to somebody else.

The method of production and distribution under which the people freely use the goods that they make in common by common agreement, we call Socialism and those organised for that purpose are Socialists. This method of common ownership can be carried out successfully only when the majority vote in that direction and put their candidates forward to change the present system of a few owning all, to ownership by all, that is by society as a whole.

The rather hard lesson we all have to learn is that our everyday bread and butter questions can only be solved in what looks at first a roundabout method. To make our homes worth living in and to make our lives themselves more worth living, we have got to get together in a political organisation —the Socialist Party—for the purpose of gaining control of the key which will open all these closed doors. That key is Parliament. Parliament carries out the wishes of the majority. But if the majority have no decided views or are divided, the Capitalist minority will go on as now, running the world in the way which is very comfortable for them, but not for us. We tell you the way out, and we are sure that if you think about it you will sooner or later agree with us.

You have tried Conservative, Liberal and Labour. We ask you to try Socialism instead. But you must first understand what Socialism is and how it is to be attained.

When we ask for your vote it is not with the idea of promising to do something for you, but with the idea of getting you to join us in building up a system of society in which all will co-operate to produce and distribute the things needed by all. It is not a question involving bloodshed or violence. It only requires a majority of convinced Socialists to take organised political action through Parliament. We are workers just as you are, wives, labourers, clerks, bricklayers, managers, salesmen, shop assistants and unemployed, etc. Our needs are the same as yours. Help us to satisfy
them.
Hilda McClatchie

Letter: Answer to Correspondent (1929)

From the June 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The correspondent who asked how to vote is referred to the article in this issue “A Push for Socialism.“

Communist Rioting (1929)

From the June 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party takes its stand on the policy so clearly stated and defended by Marx and Engels that the working class must, as a preliminary to the establishment of Socialism, gain control of the political machinery of society. They can do this in the advanced Capitalist countries through political organisation and the use of the vote; the working class possessing, as they do, the overwhelming majority of votes. The Communists reject this theory of Marx founded on the lessons of everyday experience, and advocate the fundamentally different and fundamentally unsound policy of trying to create a working class armed force with which an attempt is to be made to fight and overthrow the armed forces of the Capitalist state. They reject the possibility of gaining control of the political machinery and the existing armed forces, and base their hopes instead on barricades and street fighting. Bucharin, speaking for the Executive at the 1928 Congress in Moscow of the Third International, made no attempt to hide this aim of the Communists. The following extract from his speech is taken from a report in the Communist publication “International Press Correspondence” (July 30th, 1928) :—
  Mass actions must be regarded as one of the best means in our struggle. Our tactics must be to mobilise the masses, to become masters of the streets, to attack again and again the law and order of the bourgeois State and to smash it, to capture the street by revolutionary means, in the strict sense of the word, and then to go further. Only on the basis of a whole series of such events and on the basis of the development of these events—mass actions, etc. —only through such a process can we prepare ourselves for fiercer and more stubborn mass struggles on a larger scale.
May Day Madness
On the instructions of the Third International the German Communists tried out this policy on May Day. May Day street demonstrations by every party had been prohibited by the Berlin Police Authorities because of the alleged danger of conflict between rival organisations. The Communists announced in advance their intention of defying the prohibition. According to a report published in the “Daily Herald” (May 1st) and received from German Labour Party sources, the Executive Committee of the German Communist Party were prepared for 200 deaths, but nevertheless gave instructions for demonstrations to be held at all costs. The demonstrations ended in an attempt by the Communists to hold two Berlin working class districts (Wedding and Neukoln) against the police. Barricades were thrown up consisting of tree trunks, paving stones, overturned carts, etc., and Communist snipers are reported to have fired on the police from houses in these areas. Brutal methods were used by the police. In all 23 people were killed and many others wounded before the authorities finally suppressed the demonstrators. The following summary of this criminal action of the Communists, taken from the “Manchester Guardian,” is based on the first hand reports of their representative in Berlin :—
  Many of the casualties were youthful Communists, most of them were inoffensive passers-by, only a few were policemen—it does not seem that one policeman was killed. Nearly all the execution was done by police rifles and machine-guns. The Communist rioters were poorly armed —they do not seem to have had more than a few revolvers—nor do they themselves seem to have been very numerous. The police showed some restraint at first, but then fell upon their opponents with great savagery, shooting and bludgeoning rioters and casual passers-by alike.” (“Manchester Guardian,” May 7th.)
Only one policeman was injured in the actual fighting on May Day, and the following days, and he shot himself by accident. (“Daily Telegraph,” 8th May.)

The Dummy.
This incident only serves once more to indicate the futility of the whole Communist theory of armed revolt. The Capitalist class, by their control of the State machinery, control powerful armed forces possessing all the latest and most potent weapons of destruction. In addition they can and do prevent the formation of any serious rival force. Even if the workers had any means of purchasing expensive modern weapons they would have no means of training themselves to use them. The “Guardian” points out how these hare-brained “revolutionaries” sent their boy dupes into action against a semi-military police force, armed only with a few revolvers. The “Guardian” is not quite accurate. According to photographs published in the London press, they also had at least one machine gun—a dummy ! With it they attempted to scare off the police. A harassed policeman is certainly likely to lie low when he sees something which looks like a machine gun. But these Communist children had apparently overlooked the very pertinent fact that to a fleet of tanks it is a question of supreme indifference whether your machine gun is a dummy or not. The authorities brought out their tanks and their armoured aeroplanes, with troops in reserve, and the issue was never in doubt. Even if the Communists could have resisted for a few days they never explained, and do not appear to have considered, what they were going to do with Wedding and Neukoln after they had demonstrated their ability, temporarily, to hold them against the police.

Police Spies
Even the temporary success of such a move depends on a circumstance which is so unlikely as to be well nigh impossible of achievement, that is to keep the plans from the police. It is common knowledge that semi-secret organisations advocating violence as does the Communist Party are honeycombed with police agents and informers.

In Paris, also, May Day demonstrations were forbidden, and there also the Communists threatened to defy the prohibition. The police accordingly rounded up the leaders just prior to May Day and kept a large number under preventive detention. This practice serves a twofold purpose. It deprives the rank and file of their leadership and at the same time enables the police to save their spies from danger or exposure by keeping them, with other prisoners, safely under lock and key.

How prevalent spying is and how difficult to detect is shown by the case of “John Vidor,” author of “Spying in Russia.” This person (the name is apparently an assumed one) claims that he not only wormed his way into the Communist movement, but got himself sent to Russia as a member of the “Workers’ Delegation,” which went there in 1927. (See “Daily Telegraph,” 3rd May.)

The “Morning Post” periodically prints scare articles written by one of its informers who apparently holds some minor official position in the British Communist Party.

Mass Action—Mass Suicide.
History knows many instances of romantic hot-heads vainly trying to overthrow powerful Governments without considering the hopelessness of the odds against them, being, in fact, more interested in heroics and martyrdom than anything else. But it has remained for the modern Communist movement to reduce this tactic to its last futility. Ever since the formation of the Communist Parties we have seen them denouncing the alleged Labour Parties as being in fact parties of Capitalism. We have also seen them voting these parties into control of the political machinery and the armed forces of the State. Finally, having placed in the hands of Capitalist parties the power to build up armed forces for the defence of Capitalism, they then commit the further criminal folly of sending boys “armed” with revolvers and dummy machine guns against the tanks and battle-planes controlled by those whom they have voted into power. The Communists, in pursuing this policy, are a danger only to themselves and to the working class.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Labour Party and the London County Council (1934)

From the April 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard 

It is a curious circumstance that the forcible removal of the Austrian Social Democrats from the Vienna City Council was followed within a month by the entry of their British counterparts into control of the London County Council for the first time. The major issue before the voters in London was the same as that on which the Austrian party was elected and kept in office, the problem of housing and slum clearance. By promising to build more houses at low rents and to dear away slum areas, the London Labour Party, under the leadership of Mr. Herbert Morrison, managed to get about 340,000 votes against 300,000 cast for the Conservatives and 23,000 for the Liberals. They now have a comfortable majority on the Council and have three years in which to try to carry out their pledges and prepare for the next election.

The position of a party controlling local councils while an opposing party controls the central Government is a dangerous one for reformist parties. In a country like Great Britain, where the control of finance and the armed forces is strongly centralised, the capture of a local council means little in itself, because the central Government is always in a position not only to enforce the existing narrow legal restrictions on the local elected body, but— if need be—to alter the law so that the restrictions are made narrower still or the powers entirely abolished. If we were dealing with the control of a local council by Socialists elected solely on the demand for Socialism, the position would be understood by the voters and no difficulty for the party would arise. The voters would know that while the control of the machinery of local Government will be a useful support for Socialists when they control the machinery of central Government, control of local councils alone does not open up the road to Socialism. Such control would be valued by Socialists for its propaganda value and for the part it would play in the larger scheme of control of the machinery of Government. There would, therefore, be no possibility of Socialist electors expecting great present benefits from capturing the L.C.C. or any other body, and no danger of them turning away disappointed when benefits failed to accrue. With the reformist parties the situation is different. The workers who voted for Social-Democratic candidates in Vienna, or Labour candidates in London, expected two things: firstly, that the reform programme would be carried out, and, secondly, that this would materially improve their position. On the first point the Austrian Social-Democrats can claim that they did their best to fulfil their pledges, and there is no reason why the London Labour Party should not carry out many of its promised housing schemes.

That, however, is only half the problem. It is the second part that is fatal to the reformist parties. The Austrian party erected its huge modern flats for Viennese workers, and hired them out at very low rents, far lower in many cases than would have been charged by private builders.

The flats were subsidised by the Vienna municipality, the cost being raised by taxation, largely from landlords. This, on the surface, looks like a gift to the tenants in the flats, and so it has been understood by the superficial admirers of the Vienna scheme to be found in the I.L.P. and Labour Party. Actually, the workers gained little or nothing financially, for, with a lowered cost of living, the employers were able to reduce wages without making the workers less efficient wealth producers. The subsidy was not a gift to the workers, but a levy on one section of the propertied class, to be handed over, indirectly, to the industrial capitalists. A similar position happened in Germany and elsewhere, as testified by the International Labour Office in a report published in 1925: “The Workers' Standard of Life in Countries with Depreciated Currency."

The result was that the hardships of the Austrian workers were not materially lessened, and they were in exactly the same subject position after long years of Social Democratic rule as they were before. That is one of the reasons why the Social Democrats were losing members to the Austrian Nazis during the past 12 months, under the attraction of new and more seductive promises.

Mr. Herbert Morrison will find that the same causes will have the same effects in London. Not that we expect to find him three years hence manning machine guns at the County Hall, but that those who voted for the Labour programme will turn from it sooner or later when they realise that its fulfilment does not solve their problem of poverty and insecurity—in short, when they find that capitalism goes on in very much the same way as before.

One feature of present-day local elections in Great Britain is the small number of voters who trouble to use their local vote. Whereas in 1907 some 55 per cent. voted, in the present election it was only a little over 30 per cent. This, of course, makes the tenure of office of the Labour Party still more precarious. If they do anything whatever to rouse the fears of the apathetic thousands of Conservatives and Liberals who did not go to the poll this time, at the next election these voters will be stirred into activity and the small Labour majority will be swamped. On the other hand, unless the Labour Party makes some show of activity its own supporters will drift back into apathy again.

Other features of the election call for comment, the first being the calm way in which the leading Conservative newspapers took the “victory for Socialism." Although they declared in their usual misleading fashion that the Labour voters had voted for "Socialism," their placid acceptance of it showed that they knew they were lying. The Times, for example, devoted its comments largely to chiding its own party for faulty organisation, inactivity, and, in. particular, for its inadequate housing programme.

It was noticeable how little support the I.L.P. and Communists obtained. Their total vote was less than 7,000 and, in most areas, it was only a tiny percentage of the votes cast for Labour and Tory candidates. The Communist, Saklatvala, formerly M.P. for Battersea (which he won only because the Labour voters then had no candidate of their own and voted for him), polled 577 votes in the present L.C.C. election, against 8,334 Labour votes and 4,549 Tory votes.

Another interesting feature is provided by the leader of the Labour Party, Mr. Herbert Morrison. After the crisis of 1931 many of the Labour Party leaders, including Mr. Morrison, and also all the I.L.P. and Communist leaders, lapped up the silly theory that capitalism could afford no more reforms, with the consequence that the workers would be driven to accepting the revolutionary position. Now, one by one, they are recovering their nerve and their sense of proportion and are entering the fight again with the same old list of reform measures. They do it, of course, for the reason that they cannot win elections any other way, and reformist parties cannot live unless they are always able to hold out to their members the prospect of early electoral victory. Hence we find Mr. Herbert Morrison, who so recently told us that “the Labour Party must place Socialism in front of social reform, and must achieve much more clean-cut, reasoned Socialist propaganda," (News Chronicle, August 2nd, 1933), leading his army to victory in the L.C.C. election behind a programme in which, as usual, social reform was everywhere and Socialism nowhere.

Now, one last word for those who believe that reforms are stepping stones to Socialism, and those who believe that what they call “revolutionary reforms" lead to revolution. The Social Democratic Federation held these views half a century ago and, among the points in its programme of palliatives, was one calling for the “compulsory construction of healthy dwellings for the people, such dwellings to be let at rents to cover the cost of construction and maintenance alone." After all these years of wasted efforts leading to no tangible result, and helping Socialism not at all, even the modest demand for “healthy homes" is as far from satisfaction as ever it was, and still the “practical" men of the Labour Party, and the mock revolutionaries of the I.L.P. and Communist Party can think of nothing better to do than fight elections on such issues.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Mirage in Spain (1934)

From the April 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard 

From recent reports Spain appears to be well on the road already trodden by other European countries. Somewhat similar circumstances have thrown up similar groups and catchwords and the leaders of labour are making the same mistakes and marching to their doom with a blindness that would almost drive one to despair.

The economic development of Spain has been such that, until recent years, it has not favoured the rise of a strong capitalist class or a considerable body of proletarians in the modern sense of the term, although the mass of the people have been poverty stricken. The helm of state has been controlled by a small group of nobility in alliance with the Catholic Church.

During the 19th century the industrial and commercial development of Spain was unimportant. In fact, so backward was it that the mass of the people were illiterate, and even to-day half of them can neither read nor write. An economically privileged nobility and clergy had control of political power and reduced the majority of the population to a low level of existence by grinding taxes and tributes of various kinds.

There was a professional element that drew their ideas from the more advanced countries and strove to fit on to the country a political system out of harmony with the economic framework. Periodically there were revolts, sometimes instigated by dissatisfied sections of the ruling group, sometimes led by the professional element who wished to see Spain take its place with the more advanced countries.

One result of these struggles was the constitutionalist movement of 1868-76, during which a republic was proclaimed so weakly founded that, after an existence of three years, it ended with the Constitution of 1876 and the return of the Monarchy. In spite of the collapse of the republic, however, the constitution represented a real advance and was based on liberal views. But the old repressive measures and the control by the Church of education continued. However, the economic development of the country was beginning to gather energy and Bilbao in the Basque Provinces, Barcelona in Catalonia and Valencia were becoming the centres of considerable industrial activity.

The isolated industrial development in departments such as Catalonia, Valencia and the Basque provinces, combined with differences in language and the hopelessness of breaking the wall round the central government developed a movement towards local autonomy. Nationalist movements within the country aiming at separate and autonomous departments have arisen and anarchist and syndicalist movements have flourished. The nationalist sentiment was the mainspring of the federal constitution of 1931 and the anarchists and syndicalists who joined the unions were the despair of the leaders of the growing labour movement, who modelled their attitude upon that of the leaders of the other European Social-Democratic movements.

During the present century industrial development has made considerable progress and industrial and commercial capitalists have joined in the struggle to obtain political influence. The capitalists objected to the commercial competition of the Catholic Church (which took part in ordinary industrial ventures) and to its freedom from taxation. They also objected to the heavy cost of an overgrown and inefficient bureaucracy and mismanaged military expeditions. In short, they had reached the time when they wanted a political apparatus cleared of antiquated rubbish and fitted to meet the needs of modern conditions.

While the Monarchy existed it represented the tyranny of the past and people of all shades of opinion could unite against it under the slogan of Republicanism and settle their differences afterwards. The dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, in 1923, was a belated attempt to save the old order by keeping down some of the disruptive dements. But the dictatorship was expensive and it failed to keep down internal turmoil. It thereby lost what support it originally commanded outside the Church and the aristocracy. The franchise was sufficiently wide for the local elections to show that the aristocratic group were going to be swept away in the elections to the central Parliament, so they took time by the forelock and went before the storm broke.

The movement that ended the dictatorship was the result of an agreement reached at San Sebastian between the Regionalists (the advocates of local autonomy) the Liberals and the “Socialists" which united these groups in a common movement for a Republic.

The Spanish Socialist Party originated in the ’80’s before there was any large body of wage workers in existence, although there were plenty of poverty-stricken peasants. As the Democratic-Socialist Working Men's Party it was formed at Barcelona in August, 1882, at the National Working Mens' Congress. It was influenced by the movement in France and Germany and issued a Manifesto almost identical with that of the German Social-Democrats. This Manifesto proclaimed the necessity for the Spanish proletariat to seize political power “in order to transform individual and corporate property into common property belonging to the whole community."

At the Annual Conference, in 1884, of the Spanish Working Men there were 120 delegates present, many of whom were representatives of agricultural labourers.

The growth of the movement was slow, but, in 1904, the party had 10,000 members and obtained 29,999 votes at the Parliamentary elections. The Anarchist and Syndicalist movement considerably hampered its development and there was a struggle for influence in the labour unions.

The industrial crisis following the Phillipine and Cuban wars gave the movement a bad setback. The membership of the party and of the labour unions declined.

The war and post-war economic development, during which rapid industrial progress was made in many directions, particularly in transport, coal, electricity and agriculture, gave the party a considerable push and, in the elections after the establishment of the Republic, they became the second largest party in Parliament, with a representation of 117 members out of 475 elected.

The quality of the support given to the party, however, has not taken long to show itself. In the recent elections it was only able to secure the return of 60 members ! The reason for its decline is quite simple. It was one of the supporters of the Government since 1931 and has had to carry the blame for the conduct of the Government—an inevitable result of alliance with avowedly capitalist groups.

The facts are that the original professions of the Manifesto remained pious ones, and the party occupied itself with the much lauded practical policy of reforms, losing sight of the object originally conceived—on paper, at any rate.

At the moment of writing it is threatened with the same fate that has fallen upon its Austrian counterpart and it is debating the fatal policy of armed resistance.

A situation closely resembling that which occurred in Italy in 1920 now exists in Spain. A minority of the population supporting the “Socialist,” Syndicalist and Anarchist groups are considering united action against the Government. The strike fever is spreading and an attempt is being made to bring about a general strike of all workers, with the object of overthrowing the existing system. The ground has been prepared, as it was fourteen years ago in Italy, for the rise of a Fascist movement, and two such groups have been organised and have made rapid progress during the last few months.

The view taken by the Government is illustrated by the following significant quotation taken from the Observer (March 18th, 1934): —
  A curious commentary on the trend of Spain’s Republic is the official announcement of the establishment of permanent concentration camps to hold 3,000 men. The gem of this announcement lies in the statement by the Director of Prisons that “a special camp to hold 160 persons is being erected on the Island of Hierro (Canary Islands), and which will be devoted to writers, authors, journalists, and suchlike persons.” About sixty social prisoners were removed from Madrid Prison this week, and it is understood, although no official statement has been made, that they are en route for the main concentration camp for 1,600 persons which is being hastily prepared on the Island of Lanzarote (Canary Islands), and which will be ready for occupation within fifteen days, according to the Director of Prisons.
The Labour movement in Spain has manoeuvred itself into a hopeless position, and is simply asking for the fate that befell the Italian movement.
Gilmac.

Dr. Eismann’s Last Word (1934)

From the April 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dr. Eismann, writing in the Beamten-Jahrbuch (Berlin, February), says his last word on the question of Marxism and the Labour Party. (For previous references to Dr. Eismann, see ” S.S.” December, 1933, and February, 1934.)

In his present contribution, Dr. Eismann charges us with having abused him, and misrepresented him. He says that he stands by what he said and will decline to discuss the matter further.

What is and what is not abuse is largely a matter of individual taste, and our readers must judge for themselves whether we have abused Dr. Eismann. We would, however, say this: We hold that the Socialist case is correct and can be proved to be correct. We have nothing to gain by burking discussion and we would therefore not wish Dr. Eismann or any other opponent to think that he cannot get a reasoned reply to his criticisms, free alike from abuse and misrepresentation.

We would therefore assure him that he is at liberty to have reasonable space in our columns to put his case, if he wishes to do so.

On the points at issue we have a few remarks to make in the light of Dr. Eismann’s present statement. If he were arguing nothing more than that there are inside the Labour Party some individuals or scattered groups of people professing to be Marxists, who are trying to influence Labour Party policy in their direction, we would not dream of disputing it. That has always been the case. There have even been such people in the Liberal Party, and there are some in the Nazi movement in Germany. But Dr. Eismann claims more than that. In his present contribution, for example, he repeats the statement that “the agitation of radical groups in the English Labour movement . . . is changing the attitude of the great Labour Party on this point.”

We therefore repeat our statement that the Labour Party is a reformist body from top to bottom, and that it is not changing towards Marxian Socialism. , The "radical groups ” now gaining influence, such as the Socialist League, are not in any respect different from the active and influential so-called “left-wing” groups which preceded them. They are not Marxist in aim, method, or philosophy, even although a few individuals toy with phrases which they believe to be Marxist.

The difference here between us and Dr. Eismann is one of terms, and it is on that ground that we originally criticised him and the leading Nazis. In his latest article he says that Marxism has two expressions—the Social-Democrats and the Communists. And he concludes that the S.P.G.B. belongs to the Communist tendency. The whole of this conception is a mistaken one. The Social- Democrats (like the English Labour Party) represent not Socialism but reformism, and State Capitalism in various forms. The Communists represent the same main body of' reformist ideas, with, however, one outstanding difference. Whereas the Labourites believe in striving for reforms and State control by peaceful and constitutional methods, the Communists fight for the same general objects by methods of violence and minority action.

The S.P.G.B. stands, not for reform and State Capitalism, but for Socialism and nothing else. It is, therefore, equally opposed to both movements.

One thing alone should cause Dr. Eismann to recognise the weakness of his case and the unsoundness of his classification, that is the fact that, during the thirty years of its existence, the S.P.G.B. has never at any time or in any way supported either the Labour Party, the Communists or any other reformist party, nor has it allowed any members to support them. Throughout its history the S.P.G.B. has maintained an attitude of unbroken opposition to both reformist movements. That is one answer to Dr. Eismann’s contention that Marxian Socialism can mix with Labourism and Communism.

Marxism and the Labour Party: Dr. Eismann Replies (1934)

From the February 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the December issue, under the heading Marx and Hitler, we criticised an article by one of Hitler’s supporters, Dr. Eismann, in which he had claimed that the British Labour Party is a Marxist organisation.

Writing in Beamten-Jahrbuch (Berlin, January), Dr. Eismann replies to our criticism. He quotes a fairly lengthy passage from our article, but omits the last paragraph. By doing this he is able to argue that, reading between the lines of our article, he can find an admission on our part that the I.L.P., the S.L.P., and the S.D.F. have influenced the Labour Party towards Marxism.

Let us, therefore, reproduce the paragraph he omits to quote : —
  If he knows anything about Marxism, he must know that the Labour Party is no more a Marxist party than the National Government Party, now led by McDonald, the former leader of the Labour Party.
Unless Dr. Eismann believes that Baldwin and Sir John Simon are Marxists and that MacDonald is, or has been, a Marxist, we fail to see how he can really believe that paragraph indicates that we admit the Labour Party to be a Marxist organisation. Unless, of course, anyone he does not like is in his view a “Marxist.” However, in case he is in any doubt, let us assure him that the British Labour Party is not now, and never has been, Marxist. Its programme, policy and whole philosophy (if it can be credited with a philosophy) have been, and are, essentially anti-Marxist.

It may, incidentally, interest Dr. Eismann to know that the Times (January 4th, 1934), in an article on the influence of the Fabian Society, attributes to that organisation the chief responsibility “for the characteristically native form assumed by English Socialism in contrast with revolutionary Marxism.” (Italics ours)

“English Socialism” is the Times’ way of designating the Labour Party.

Not Marx, but Robert Owen, Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart Mill are claimed by Sidney Webb (now Lord Passfield), and by the Fabian Society, as the “spiritual fathers” of the British Labour Party.

In short, we repeat that when Dr. Eismann denounces the British Labour Party for being Marxist, he does not know what he is talking about.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

American Reformists in Difficulties (1934)

From the April 1934 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The Socialist Party of America, among many similar organisations, has on numerous occasions acted in the capacity of a “case history” for the scientific Socialist. It has provided an abundance of evidence to support the Socialist contention that a membership which is ignorant of the basic principles of Socialism can never hope to build up an organisation which has as its object the capture of political power, and its use to abolish capitalism and establish Socialism. Such a membership can at best be used for the capture of political power in order to introduce certain reforms, which, in due course prove themselves futile to solve the basic problems which perpetually confront our class. Such an organisation, whilst it can be most active, cannot, because of its membership's political ignorance, go any further in its objectives than the object of its members without undermining the loyalty of such members.

The above contentions are illustrated by an item which appeared in The New Leader, organ of the Socialist Party of America, of December 16th, 1933, under the caption “ Party Standing Imperilled in California," with also a sub-caption, "Desertion by Sinclair, and Communist Manoeuvres cause Confusion in Party." The writer of this news item, a New Leader correspondent, opens his article as follows:—
   “With the election of Hyman Sheanin as State Secretary of the Socialist Party to succeed Harold Ashe, removed by the State Executive Committee because of recently acquired Communist views, and the desertion of the Party by Upton Sinclair to seek the Democratic nomination for Governor, the Socialist Party in this State faces a new situation. Because of 'united front’ manoeuvres by Communists and their sympathisers within the party, quite a number of party branches have been more or less divided, some verging on disruption.”
This situation is by no means a “new" one in the Socialist Party of America. On several occasions the organisation has been split from top to bottom. Evidence for this can be found in plenty by the student of that party's history. One need only read the work of a Socialist Party member, Nathan Fine, entitled “The Labour and Farmer Parties in the United States, 1828-1928," for such evidence.

The interesting part of the aforementioned article is the attempt to explain the cause of this new division in the ranks of the Socialist Party of America. From the sub-caption it would seem that only two factors, the desertion of Upton Sinclair and the Communist manoeuvres, were responsible. The writer even stresses the latter cause, the "Communist manoeuvres":—
   “ . . . This appears to be the result of plotting by Communists, and it has had its effect upon some members who joined the Party in the last several years. These unschooled members have fallen victims to certain fears which include apprehension that a complete collapse of capitalism is just around the corner, that the Fascists are going to get us soon, and that our only salvation is unity of action with the handful of Communists who are active in California. The psychology is for all the world like those party members who in 1919 flocked to the party faction that was coming under the control of Moscow and which was soon talking of 'Johnny get your gun'. (Italics mine.)
These “unschooled members’’ are not altogether to be blamed for their muddled condition. For, in examining the files of the party organ, The New Leader, we find that influential members whom we are to assume are “schooled“ have subscribed to these self-same views. If "the “unschooled” and newer members were guilty of believing that capitalism is collapsing, so too, were much older members who have had plenty of “schooling.” An example of this belief by one of the older members is the following:
  “Four years of industrial chaos, bottomless misery and general despair under Republican administration have amply demonstrated the pitiable incapacity of the ruling classes to prevent a catastrophic collapse of their much-boasted economic order." (Italics mine.) Morris Hillquit, in the “New Deal,” November, 1933.
In the same paper, Norman Thomas, standard-bearer of the party for the office of President of the United States, says the following on the menace of Fascism in this country:—
  “Moreover, a vote for Socialism this year is a vote against the danger of turning the opportunities which exist under the N.R.A. into a drift toward a Fascist society . . .” (Italics mine.)
Only a week or so back, this organisation called a mass meeting in New York’s famous Madison Square Garden, to demonstrate against Fascism in Austria, which ended in both the Socialist Party of America and the Communists demonstrating against each other, with the Secretary of the Communist Party having a chair broken over his head.

Is it to be wondered at, then, that members of this party, with their views on leadership and their hero worship for the two above-mentioned leaders, should take these leaders’ views seriously? To these misinformed workers the great stir and stew of the Communists over these questions passes as action, intelligent and revolutionary action, and attracts them.

Once again, too, is the theory of leadership, so dear to Socialist Party of America members, tried and found wanting. Once again after many years of activity in this party, during which time he has enjoyed the admiration and adulation of the membership, Upton Sinclair, the leader, deserts his admirers to join an avowedly capitalist party. His name is added to the already long list of “leaders" who have deserted the Socialist Party of America for more profitable fields of endeavour. Sinclair, in California, joins Paul Blanshard in New York. Both will do their best to put over Roosevelt's “New Deal." Once again, too, does the party cover its shame by a posthumous discovery that what they have lost is no loss at all. We are informed by the correspondent already quoted: —
  “The treachery of Sinclair is quite as damaging, as he also has had an effect upon some unschooled members. Sinclair had formerly posed as a left winger, especially in matters relating to Stalin and his fellow commissars. His seeking of the Democratic nomination for Governor has revealed how shallow his political and economic thinking has always been." (Italics mine.)
We are almost tempted to say “sour grapes" ! Not alone is it bad enough that this “comrade," who was torn between Stalin, Norman Thomas and Roosevelt, should finally turn to the last-named leader, but what is much worse, he takes with him others of the Socialist Party, who are, in turn, tom between their devotion to that party and Upton Sinclair. For we are informed:—
  “The result is that we lose some uninformed members who follow Sinclair, while others come under Communist influence.”
After the correspondent has stated what he thinks are the factors responsible for this split in the party's ranks, he then gives the real due to understanding this condition:—
  “Old time comrades who have watched this development have come to the conclusion that the Party has been too careless in admitting people to membership who know little or nothing of Socialist principles. The well-informed younger comrades agree with this point of view. The Party has also been too tolerant and has not exercised that discipline that is necessary to build a growing working-class party.”
Here, then, is the kernel and cause of this and past splits in all such organisations. The scientific Socialist and his party have not paid mere lip service to this view but have seen to it that all who apply for membership in their ranks shall understand and accept at least the Declaration of Principles of Socialism. As is so well stated in the Socialist Party of Great Britain’s little pamphlet, “Socialism and Religion ” : —
  “Hence the test of admission to the Socialist Patty must be neither more nor less than acceptance of the essential working principles and policy of Socialism as a class movement. To demand more is to degenerate into a sect; to require less is to invite anarchy and embark on the slippery incline of labourism and compromise. These essentials of Socialist principles and policy are outlined in the Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party (of Great Britain). They can be easily understood by the average worker, and they comprise the irreducible minima of the principles and policy of Socialism; narrow enough to exclude all who are not Socialists, yet broad enough to embrace everyone who is. They form, in consequence, a reasonable and sufficient test. . .”
Because the Socialist Party of America, like its kindred parties the whole world over, ignored the above essentials for membership, its history is full of crises when ignorance and confusion have led—as is inevitable—to schism.

It is most doubtful if they have even learned from their recent experiences. For the correspondent whom we have quoted ends his article with the following:—
  “The betrayal of the Party by Sinclair may prove a terrific blow. The Socialist Party vote may be such that it will lose its official standing. In that case the enormous number of signatures required to get on the ballot will make it almost impossible for the Party to nominate candidates. The peril the Party faces as a result of Sinclair’s action is recognised by every real Socialist, and the utmost will be done to avert it.”
Here is the usual plea of the vote-catcher for still more vote-catching when he sees that the votes are turning elsewhere.

Those who place an intelligent membership before a large but politically inexperienced one see in this further proof that the Socialist Party of America is not a Socialist party. For the workers who support it the future can hold nothing but disappointment, and often despair.

To those workers in the United States who seek the only solution to their problems, Socialism, we of the Workers' Socialist Party open our ranks. We have the one thing worth having, an organisation devoted to the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism.
Sid Felperin.
Workers' Socialist Party