Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Revelations (1977)

From the May 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

The economics editor of the Sunday Times has made an interesting discovery: and it only took him 1400 words and an accompanying graph to conclude “No profits, no jobs.”

50 Years Ago: The Trade Union Political Levy (1977)

The 50 Years Ago column from the May 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the question of the Political Levy, our position has often been stated. As we oppose the Labour Party, and do not believe that it will or can solve the major problems of the working class, we do not want to contribute to Political Funds to finance the Labour Party through tho trade unions, and we are not perturbed at this proposed alteration in the law. Members of the Socialist Party habitually refuse to contribute and will continue to do so.

* * *

The fact that the Bill should have provoked a more bitter political fight than we have seen for years, is itself an adequate condemnation of the Labour Party’s policy. Had that party ever made Socialism the issue, it would have found itself engaged in an unceasing death-struggle with the parties defending capitalism. Because its aim is not Socialism, but merely the reform of capitalism, its fights have all been sham fights; it has been an honoured member of coalition governments (as during the war), and was placed in office in 1924 by Liberal votes to do specific pieces of capitalist work. What a commentary on a political party that the first serious battle of its existence occurs because of an attack on the funds which pay the salaries and election expenses of its politicians !

(From an unsigned editorial “The Socialist View of the Trade Union Bill” published in the Socialist Standard, May 1927)

So They Say: Prospective Candidates (1977)

The So They Say Column from the May 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

Prospective Candidates

Labour’s by-election defeats have led to some soul-searching by its supporters and most notably the Labour Party Young Socialists. This ill-named assortment of nibbling sprats held a conference recently at which they made the following astonishing discovery :
  The Government is losing support because it is not implementing genuine socialist policies. Instead it is doing the Tories’ job for them and betraying the working class.
The Times, 11th April 77
That the Government has not implemented “genuine socialist policies” is not in doubt; what the LPYS have overlooked is that their heroes had never promised or intended this. The word Socialism applies, for example, to a society in which there will be no means of exchange because there will be no private property. Put that proposition to a member of the Government, or of the LPYS, and watch them shy away. The junior careerists have already learned that such ideas are not the way to win office. They have learned to be “realistic.” On one hand a succession of delegates to their conference blamed “the failure of capitalism for virtually all of society’s main problems” and yet:
  The Labour Party, which as Sir Harold Wilson said, is a broad church, tolerates criticisms from its youth movement, knowing that many of their best people become important members of the main party.
We draw LPYS members’ attention to the fact that it is not the “failure of capitalism” which is to blame for social problems—this suggests capitalism could behave in another way—it is the existence of capitalism which brings on and perpetuates social problems. LPYS members will note that the Labour Party is committed to perpetuating capitalism.

Ever the Twain shall meet

The Federation of Conservative Students were addressed by Mrs. Margaret Thatcher on the 4th of April, when she told them:
  Many people were deeply anti-socialist and were horrified that the Liberals had joined forces with the most socialist government in our history.
The Times, 5th April 77
Such stirring words must have had her supporters bristling in their tweeds with self-righteous fervour. However, Mrs. Thatcher is a busy woman and has other things to attend to: three days later she arrived in China and is currently hob-nobbing with the blood-red Chinese leaders. We could do no more than guess at the kind of justifications which the true blues are inventing to bridge the contradiction. One newspaper made an interesting point:
  . . . at a deeper level the politics of China are beginning to show distant but real parallels with those of Britain and other Western societies.
Guardian, 9th April 77
For all the mumbo-jumbo and smoke screens raised around their "ideology”, the Chinese leaders have been determinedly running their own particular brand of capitalism in practice. Goods are produced for sale at a profit, and exploitation of the working class takes place through a wages system. Certainly Mrs. Thatcher has not been baffled at any imaginary or superficial differences, nor have the Chinese leaders. The “real parallels” which may surprise some who have been taken in by all the waffling, is that both the Conservatives and the Chinese leaders have the interests of their respective portions of the ruling class in mind and meet each other solely on this basis.

Thing big

In general, as unemployment rises so too do the platitudes of “our betters” increase in velocity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer however seems to have developed a new line during his budget speech. He now sounds completely resigned to being led by the nose through capitalism’s chaos, albeit without actually resigning from office, while telling the working class that there is nothing better to be done in any event. In fact the present high unemployment may be viewed as “the good old days” of tomorrow.
  The most disturbing feature of the world scene is that for the last two or three years every major industrial country has seen the unemployment level rising to what had been regarded in the post-war years as an unacceptable level for a well-managed economy. Mr. Healey added: I would not expect any fall in the level of unemployment—in fact some rise may be likely because demand and production are expected to continue to grow slowly.
London Evening Standard, 29th March 77
Interesting to note that Healey’s view of “unacceptable” has an infinitely variable interpretation according to the height of the particular slagheap he is standing on at the time.
Alan D'Arcy

Karl Marx quote

From the May 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard
  As soon as division of labour comes into being each man has a particular exclusive sphere of activity which is forced on him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a shepherd or a critical critic and must remain so if he does not want to lose his livelihood, whereas in communist society where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.

Silly Moo (1977)

From the May 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mrs Thatcher made some remarks on Socialism that were reported in The Guardian on March 15th. While we realize that she has a vested interest in obscuring the realities of Socialism as much as possible, her address (to the Zurich Economic Society) shows either an appalling lack of understanding of our economic problems or an equally appalling wish to distort the causes of those problems.

Socialism is a system of common ownership, free access, production for use and not profit, without a wages system, and of necessity world-wide. Capitalism, however, is a system in which a minority own and control wealth and its production, whilst the vast majority of the people are forced to sell their labour-power for a wage in order to live. Thus there cannot be any doubt that Socialism has not failed; it has never even been tried! In Britain the Labour Party seeks not to implement Socialism but merely tinkers about with the capitalist system to try to make it run as efficiently as possible, whilst in the USSR that abomination called Russian Communism is nothing but capitalism run by the state.

No, Mrs Thatcher, we are not “facing the crisis of socialism — economic failure, . . . tensions . . . decline etc”. We are facing yet another crisis of capitalism, and will go on doing so as it staggers from crisis to crisis until people wake up to the fact that the only solution is to end this pathetic system.

And to say that “the economic results of free enterprise were better because of the superiority of its underlying moral philosophy . . . from its emphasis on the individual and his capacity to choose”. Good grief! Tell that to the world’s starving millions, tell that to the poor and homeless in this country, tell that to the unemployed, tell that to the people who have seen two depressions and two word wars in their lifetime, and tell that to the people who will die in the next war for capitalism’s resources, markets and trade routes! In short you have precisely as much choice as you have money, which for the vast majority means no damn choice at all.

“The ordinary Briton has no clearly articulated theory to tell him why free enterprise is superior” because no such theory is possible. But he has “felt the shortcomings of” capitalism, private and state, and must soon see that Socialism is the key to the future.
D. W. Roberts

Letters: What is our IQ? (1977)

Letter to the Editors the May 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is our IQ? 

The article “Question of Intelligence” (December 1976) has been brought to my attention. It arises from the announcement in the Sunday Times that Professor Cyril Burt had “published false data and invented crucial facts to support his controversial theory that intelligence is largely inherited”. It quotes a reference to Burt in a pamphlet by Harold Walsby, SPGB—Utopian or Scientific, published by the Social Science Association in 1949, and says: “The ‘evidence’ Walsby thought conclusive was emotion wrapped up as science, and whoever used it to illuminate ‘the psychology of the workers’ would now be in the dark.”

The evidence to which Walsby refers is “the actual statistical-psychological investigations by Prof Burt, Thompson, Cattel and many others . . .” This evidence, as a whole, has not been invalidated, and the work of the other investigators stands as firmly as before.

I must draw attention to something else in the article likely to mislead people not familiar with Walsby’s work. It mentions the view “that a large proportion of the population were constitutionally incapable of learning much or running their own lives”, and says “Typical examples of this appeared in writings by Harold Walsby”. I challenge you to provide even one example of Walsby saying this. The implication is that Walsby regarded the working class as being mentally inferior. He did not.

Walsby held that the majority of people, workers and capitalists alike, would reject the Socialist case. The SPGB holds that the majority of the workers will accept it— if not, what is the point of presenting it to them? Since 1904 the evidence has been consistently in Walsby’s favour. According to the SPGB the material conditions are ripe for Socialism and the workers are capable of understanding Socialism. But we don’t get Socialism. Harold Walsby’s theory explains how it comes about that the overwhelming majority of those who have heard the Socialist case have rejected it in the past, persist in rejecting it, and will continue to reject it in the future. Also—and this is a harder task—Walsby’s theory explains how it is that a tiny minority comes to accept the Socialist case.
Geo. W. Walford 
London N1

Your letter presents not arguments but heads-I-win-tails-you-lose propositions. You say (a) that the evidence used by Walsby from Burt and others "has not been invalidated”, and (b) Walsby never held that view anyway.

It is quite incorrect that “the work of the other investigators stands as firmly as before”. If this were so, Professor H. J. Eysenck (one of Burt’s supporters) would not have said in The Times of 8th Nov. 1976 :
  Perhaps it is time that society devoted more money to this important area . . . The issue is an important one, and should be taken beyond the range of simple argument and assertion.
L. J. Kamin, Professor of Psychology at Princeton University, called this plea “grotesque”.

The relationship between Burt’s work and that of other investigators seems to be a matter of widely differing opinion. According to the Sunday Times of 28th Nov., 1976, in 1973 Eysenck spoke of the “outstanding quality” of Burt’s work, but after the discrediting of Burt said his data were “useless”. Sir P. B. Medawar (The Times, 3rd Nov. 1976) contended that “the expression ‘innate intelligence’ should now be dropped from the language”. This was supported by Professor C. B. Hindley; and Professor J. Tizard said (The Times 25th Oct.) that the Burt case “would have the same effect on that branch of science as the finding that the Piltdown Skull was a forgery had on palaeontology”.

Regarding Walsby’s own views, a review of the Social Science Association pamphlet Science, Politics and the Masses by Richard Tatham appeared in the New Leader on 14th April 1945. The reviewer was F. A. Ridley. The pamphlet set forth the conclusions of Harold Walsby. Under the heading “Can the Masses Think?” the article said it was “clearly against the democratic assumption on the question of a rational approach to the masses”, and “the masses have usually only been used as pawns on title political chess-board by ruling — or would-be ruling — classes”.

Elsewhere Harold Walsby was quoted as saying "Anyone who understands the public knows that they like trash.” (Sunday Chronicle, 11th April 1954). If Ridley’s statements misrepresented Walsby’s views, did he repudiate them? If these and the statements in SPGB—Utopian or Scientific do not say the working class is mentally inferior, what the devil are they supposed to mean?

Finally, we are unaware what basis can exist for a prediction that the majority of workers will always reject the Socialist case. You say it has been rejected by “the overwhelming majority” of those who have heard it. But the overwhelming majority of the working class have not heard it, and more often than not it is heard under disadvantageous conditions. Walsby’s theory consists of trying to persuade us that these obstacles are of no consequence. You should try it. 

Things to come

I would be grateful if you could clarify two points arising from one of your meetings which I recently attended.
  1. What are the grounds of your conviction that when the capitalist system collapses a Marxist society is bound to take its place?
  2. I cannot see why it would be presumptuous to produce a blueprint of the new society. Surely an examination of the practical problems involved must be undertaken firstly in order to prove that the system could be successful, and secondly to demonstrate to a sceptical electorate that there is a viable alternative to the present system.
S. Bettaney

Your first point is based on a misconception. Contrary to the vapid wafflings of other parties, both long ago and now, we have always held that capitalism will not collapse. The working class cannot sit back and wait for that to happen: they must organize consciously to get rid of capitalism and put Socialism in its place.

On your second point, we are unable to give you a blue-print for several reasons. You will appreciate that Socialism was feasible in 1904 when the SPGB was founded. Had the working class been ready then, the new society would have been established in an era of horse traffic when the burning question was “who will sweep the crossings?” Clearly the blue-print will look different in the age of jet engines and atomic power. Unless you can tell us when the workers—this means you!—will join us, how can we know what marvels will have emerged? As you say, there are practical problems.

Suppose that a would-be manufacturer tried to convince others in, say, the year 1600 that capitalism would be a good idea. Can you imagine the mind-boggling notions of banking, insurance, capital gains and all the multitudinous problems suggested by a society aiming to produce goods for sale instead of for use? The practical problems of Socialism would seem simple by comparison. If you have particular problems in mind, please let us know.

More impact please

Socialism as the SPGB defines it has never been a motivating force in British working-class politics. From the formulation of the party in 1904 to the present day, it has made no movement in British politics worth talking about, because the working-class of Britain have never taken the SPGB’s case against capitalism as being the best way to get rid of capitalism, and the establishment of Socialism. The workers today still vote Labour, Liberal, and Scottish Nationalist. And in the economic field all the worker’s main drives are centred on work, full employment and the right to work.

If according to the doctrine of historical materialism capitalism produces the material and economic condition which turns the workers into Socialists there has been no real evidence for holding this point of view since Marx’s publication of The Communist Manifesto of 1848. Whether Socialism is inevitable or not is not a major question for Socialists. The major question for Socialists is: Why has not Socialism ever had even the slightest impact on the working class of Great Britain? Can the SPGB answer that one?
Ian Campbell 

It would be a wonderful thing if the material and economic conditions of capitalism did indeed “turn the workers into socialists”, for Socialism would then have been established long ago. Men turn themselves into Socialists, however, by developing their concept of what society should be, while material conditions supply the background and stimulus for this change.

History shows us that before there can be a fundamental change in society there is a long period during which the ideas and attitudes necessary for the change are fully developed. The establishment of Socialism will also require this maturity of ideas, although with the means of communication available today we can expect the development period to be much shorter. You say Socialist ideas have had no impact: but labour and social-democratic parties adopted (and so perverted) the word Socialism because it is attractive to large numbers of workers. Many of these parties have access to far greater resources to be used for propaganda purposes than does the SPGB.

In the meantime the workers still vote, as you say, for the Labour, Liberal and Scottish Nationalist parties. However, their propaganda often wears thin; the “anti” vote (“I’ll vote for this lot because the other lot are even worse”) is a recurrent common feature. The parties supporting capitalism, whether they label themselves Socialist or not, lose their credibility because at the end of the day they cannot produce results. When the working class sees the futility of capitalism, the SPGB will be there to be used by them for the establishment of Socialism.

Incidentally, we are pleased to see that the Socialist case has had sufficient impact on your own thinking to prompt you to write to us.

Parties and profits

I subscribe to the Socialist Standard and, in the main, I find your articles to be both lucid and irrefragable. However, there are several points which in my opinion require elucidation.

Firstly, on more than one occasion you have asseverated that the Labour Party represents one section of the capitalist class whilst the Conservative Party represents another. Please identify these two sections of the capitalist class.

Secondly, in your answer to Robin Cox’s letter (March 1977) you pointed out that although consumer expenditure increased by 80 per cent between 1970 and 1975, the Index of Production rose by 0.6 in the same period. Could it not be that a part, at least, of the extra consumer expenditure was on imported goods not included in the Index of Production statistics, and that had British goods been more competitive there would have been an increase in the Index of Production?

Thirdly, as you adhere to Marx’s version of the Labour Theory of Value, can you explain how it is that retail organizations make profits if goods are sold at their value? Is it by exploiting their own employees?
P. S. Maloney
London N13

1. In the first half of the 19th century there was a clear-cut division of representation—the landed interests by the Tories and the industrial capitalists by the Liberals. Now that 85 per cent of the electors are working-class and British capitalism’s problems have become more complex, the lines are blurred and shifting capitalist interests are being served by Tory and Labour.

In the first place, the parties have to win elections by making the kinds of promises on social reforms, prices, wages, unemployment, housing etc. that will appeal to a mass electorate; so that in this field there is little to choose between the programmes of the Tory, Labour and Liberal parties. But as governments they have to deal with capitalism’s problems as they arise. Each party, having received representations from the CBI, TUC, farmers, retailers, self-employed etc., and after consulting its economic advisers, formulates its taxation and other policies. These are bound to help some sections of the capitalist class and damage others, and sections of the capitalist class give their support to one or other party accordingly: as when the Labour Party (like the Liberals) was standing for free trade and the Tories protectionist.

The same sort of division arose over entry into the European Economic Community because at the beginning of consideration of the question, majority Labour Party opinion was against it. At one time the Labour Party backed the small firms against the big ones; a Labour Party spokesman said that they “preferred a large number of small capitalists to a small number of large ones". But when the Labour government came to office in 1964, they adopted the policy of encouraging company mergers through the Industrial Reorganization Corporation.

In 1945 the Labour, Tory and Liberal parties were agreed on adopting inflation as a policy (to prevent unemployment as they supposed). In the 1970s increasing numbers of capitalists were turning against it, leading to a swing against inflation in the Tory Party but with, so far, the Labour Party and its TUC backers basically unchanged in their attitudes. Those capitalists who still favour inflation will look to the Labour Party.

The parties have traditional commitments and “images”. For example the Labour Party’s fervent commitment to nationalization while the Tories and Liberals have adopted it only when circumstances required it in the interest of the dominant section of the capitalist class; and the Labour Party’s commitment to the trade unions who supply its funds. But in practice the urgent need to try to solve capitalism’s problems forces governments to act, if necessary, in opposition to the views of their own members. At the 1970 general election the Labour, Tory and Liberal parties were all pledged to legislation to control trade unions; though, as it turned out, opposition was so great that the Labour “In Place of Strife” was dropped and the Tory Industrial Relations Act repealed. And it was a Tory minister in a coalition government, in 1915, who first introduced rent restriction.

Also, policies change with circumstances, and from time to time the capitalist class find their interests being served by the Labour Party — as for example, when it appears that unpopular policies can be put over more easily by Labour than by the Tories. (Several Tory newspapers favour keeping the Callaghan government in office until the third stage of the Social Contract has been negotiated with the TUC).

Government intervention in industry and nationalization present striking examples. The Tory government, against its declared policy on “lame ducks”, was forced to nationalize Rolls Royce. And with much of industry in financial difficulties, many shipbuilding and other companies welcomed nationalization or government aid accompanied by the government becoming a shareholder. (But it is a Labour government which is selling part of its holding in British Petroleum.) In a similar situation in Italy a year or two back it was reported that companies “were queueing up to be taken over”.

An article published in Management Today (December 1976) dealt with the Labour governments Industrial Reorganization Corporation. It was set up for the purpose of encouraging companies to combine and thus increase efficiency, the government providing advice and finance. The writers, who worked on IRC, say:
What surprised us most while at the IRC, however, was the willingness of private sector individual companies to discuss their problems with a government organization and to seek its help and assistance. It appears to be quite wrong to take the view that in the UK private sector capitalists are opposed to government help. Whatever they may say, in practice their opposition does not exist.
(The IRC was scrapped by the Tories, its work having been largely completed.)
When the present depression passes and it again becomes easy to make profits, the Labour Party’s leaning towards nationalization and government intervention in industry will lose the attraction it has at present for “lame duck” companies. The Tory traditional attitude may find favour again with that section of the capitalist class.
(To be continued) 

R. W. Clayton (London SW7): Part of your letter was dealt with some months ago under another name. As regards the remainder, if you care to offer an argument in support of your statements we will consider it.

"The people do not know their power . . ." (1977)

From the May 1977 issue of the Socialist Standard
"The people do not know their power . . . The union of twenty million is irresistible. Such members, such resources can enforce anything that is just."
- Ernest Jones (Chartist), 1854

Ten Days that Shook Suburbia. (1924)

From the May 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

On April 1st the strike of tramwaymen came to an end. London heaved a sigh of relief, and returned with gladness to the daily dodging of sudden death, when her ’buses and trams were restored to her. Rather congestion than absolute famine seemed the general feeling, and the average citizen turned to the morning paper to learn what he was required to think about it all. All the following extracts are from leading articles of the periodicals named, on April 1st. Thus the Daily News :—
  “No attempt is now made to blink the fact that the railway, dock and tram strikes are the forerunners of a succession of critical wage disputes with which the present year is threatened. They are an inevitable sequel to the fierce and successful attacks which were made on wages when industry was in the lowest depths of depression. The same reactions follow each other in recurring cycles, with the same disastrous injury to the trade of the country. The popular suggestion at the moment is for “an exhaustive scientific inquiry” into the question of wages in all industries, and particularly into the relation between the wages of skilled and unskilled workers. Such an inquiry might have valuable results if it were accompanied by an inquiry also into the question of profits. But a scientific solution cannot of itself avail much. The course of industry will continue to be disturbed by these volcanic eruptions until employers and employed revolutionise their attitude to each other and agree to submit their differences as a matter of course, when they occur, to the judgment of a competent and impartial tribunal. From that ideal we are unhappily still very far distant.”
Note the gloom in the last sentence. Perhaps they secretly realise that an “impartial” tribunal under Capitalism is about as likely as a “fair trial” in a political case.

The Daily Express, usually the vehicle of hollow skulled hysteria, was singularly mild. It confined itself to commenting upon the good-tempered manner in which the dispute had been conducted, and hoped “Mr. MacDonald’s Government” (lése majestie !) “will now lose no time in pushing through the Traffic Bill.” Advocacy from such a quarter is sufficient in itself to damn anything. One sentence from their leading article is worth embalming :— “Ten days have been lost, to say nothing of the enormous sums that have been wasted in this futile strike.” So that a strike that results in 17,000 men getting a rise of either 4s. or 6s. per week is futile ! What will they call it when, in the next industrial depression, the masters knock it off again?

The Daily Mail—well, you know what the Mail would say, don’t you ! Not that it was futile. Oh ! no. “Mr. MacDonald has by his feebleness presented Mr. Bevin with a great success . . . .” The Mail has a tiresome, senile habit of referring to movements in terms prominent individuals. In the present instance it obscures the fact that Bevin took the lead because the men compelled him. Curiously enough the “great success” was given the heading “A Bad Settlement” and follows :—
  “Mr. Bevin, by the merciless use of force, has obtained an immediate increase in wages of 6s. a week for skilled and 4s. for unskilled employees, though it was admitted that the industry cannot afford such a wage rate. The settlement is therefore a bad one in itself. It has a further grave disadvantage of offering direct encouragement to the methods which Mr. Bevin has employed in demanding money whether it is there or not.”
It is said that immediately prior to the strike Lord Rothermere was travelling by his usual tram, when the conductor had the temerity to ask him for his fare. His proffered twopence was refused until by a merciless use of force he was compelled to pay threepence, although it was admitted he could not afford it. The conductor admitted that his employers expected him to demand the money whether it was there or not. It is a sad world.

Further search through the leading article mentioned reveals another relatively lucid interval. Remember the Daily Mail is a Tory paper:—
  “The Government’s duty was to recognise that a transport strike differs fundamentally from other industrial disputes. A transport strike is not like an ordinary strike, because it aims its blows at the whole body politic and because it attacks the public rather than any body of employers. It is a political movement, not an economic struggle, and it ought to be dealt with accordingly by the authority which represents the public and the nation.”
We seem to recall the same criticism in connection with a coal strike, a dock strike, and any strike that is big enough to give Capital a severe jolt, and then whilst that is still fresh, read the Manchester Guardian’s leader, particularly the following extract, remembering that the Guardian is a Liberal paper:
  “The men had a legitimate object, but the method is one which no community will tolerate for long. Traffic strikes are not industrial disputes between employers and employed, but attacks upon the public, and especially on the working-class public, who are forced to travel to their work and have not the means to command private conveyances. There ought to be full and proper machinery for the just settlement of all working conditions, but the method of securing justice by holding up the public ought to be ruled out. It can only be described as the tyrannical exercise of monopoly power, and if persisted in it will meet the fate of all monopolies. Step by step the public will organise itself against such emergencies. Struggles might ensue of a kind which we do not care to contemplate, and eventually the public would win.”
Notice the great gulf that yawns between Tory and Liberal ! The article is singular in that it incorporates a very, fair statement of the ordinary workers side of the case: —
   “On the one side, let us do justice to the men and their leaders. The men had a case, and the Court of Inquiry pronounced it a good case. To underpaid workpeople when they complain, it is not an adequate reply to urge the necessity of their work in the public service. Their very natural rejoinder is that, while it is very gratifying to find themselves so much needed, the more the reason for recognising their necessities as well. If work is particularly useful, why not pay the workers enough? If some departments of it are not earning the wherewithal to pay so much, that, in the view of the worker, is a reason for re organisation, conceivably in extreme cases for the closing down of unprofitable services—services which by the test of figures the public do not, after all, need to the extent of being willing to pay for them adequately. In short, the worker makes a fair remuneration the test of public as of private industrial service. For this he cannot be blamed as long as his views of “fair” remuneration are reasonable, as in this case they have been held to be.”
Then lower down follows the piece first quoted, where the Manchester Guardian prophesies that the “public” will win. You are naturally curious as to who the “public” really is. The Guardian anticipates this question :—
  “When we say the public, we do not mean, as is so often meant, the middle classes. We mean all the people except the particular section of the workers interested.”
This is refreshing candour, to say the least of it. One might hastily assume that the best course of action before the workers would be for them all to go on strike together, when, of course, the “public” would have ceased to exist. If the “public” is this shifting entity; if, for instance, when the Lots Road electricians go on strike, the tube railwaymen are part of the public, and when vice-versa, a strike on the Tubes makes the electricians part of the public, how is the public going to “step by step . . . . organise itself against such emergencies?” It is somewhat bewildering.

But the Manchester Guardian has a remedy :—
  “What will have to come in the public services is something on the analogy of a Wages Board, in which the workers will themselves take a responsible part, and which will be instructed to have regard not merely to paying capacity, but to movements in the cost of living and to rates prevailing in other occupations comparable in respect of the skill and the efforts demanded of the worker. What has gone awry in our industrial system since the war is the disturbance of the balance between one occupation and another. Where the workers have a pull on the public they have maintained the relatively high standards to which the war brought them. Where they have had no such pull they have fallen, and we have the spectacle of skilled engineers, the very pride of English industry, working for less than unskilled labourers. If we ask for the workers respect for order we must show them our respect for justice.”
This is a tremendous advance. This, surely, is the first rosy flush of the dawn of Utopia—Liberty variety. Wages in future are to be determined not merely by “paying capacity,” but also by the cost of living, and by what “the others” are getting. Now, of course, as is well known, wages are determined by the state of the tides, the average rainfall, and the height of Ben Nevis :—
  “What has gone wrong with our industrial system, since the war is the disturbance of the balance between one occupation and another?”
Oh that war. What a happy, happy world did it terminate. “Before the war,” has become a phrase signifying bliss unimaginable. Who does not remember that golden period before August, 1914. No unemployed ; high wages; short hours; cheap food; everyone lived in his own house; sickness unknown and no one ever died. Even the weather was better then. The coal strikes, rail strikes, engineering strikes, building lock-out, unemployment crisis, etc., recorded in the newspapers of the pre-war period—pah ! we have forgotten them, therefore they do not exist. There was the uniformity with which workers in all trades approximated to the poverty line. So obvious, so uniform was it, that Campbell Bannerman served up the refreshing statement that thirteen millions of the nation were constantly on the verge of starvation. That unfortunate war, which only killed a million or so of them, has upset the balance. How annoying. We must have “something on the analogy of a Wages Board,” to get us all back to that delightful pre-war balance arrangement.

The Daily Graphic, that odd Victorian survival, badly grafted with a latter-day bud, felt the situation called for a leader from them. Peppered with the muddled cliches of rotund surburbia : “Irritation,” “disgust,” “disgrace to trade unionism,” “intimidation,” “bludgeoning,” it is nevertheless, not without humour. Compare “The same, or very nearly the same, result would have been achieved had the men, instead of striking, merely threatened to strike . . . . ” with this :—
  “It is possibly true that he (Mr. Bevin) has extorted a shilling or so more than the men would have accepted if the strike had not been in operation. That may be a “triumph” for him, but it is a triumph for force, and force will not always triumph.”
Dear ! Dear ! ! Thoroughly naughty boys these strikers are, to be sure.

And now for the Daily Herald. This paper did not deem the strike worthy of a leading article that day, but contented itself with comments in the news columns. Nothing is specially worth preserving except the following :—
  “The strike has also been remarkable in that the Government felt compelled to prepare to invoke the powers of the Emergency Powers Act.

  Had the underground railways been stopped, a Royal Proclamation was ready to have been issued on Saturday last, declaring it “state of emergency.”

  The Prime Minister and other members of the Government took an active part in arranging the negotiations which made that step unnecessary.”
Need we remind you that the Emergency Powers Act was the legitimate offspring of Dora, the ruthless measure by means or which all criticism or independence was bludgeoned into submission during the war for freedom? No Act was so plaintively reviled by the Herald and the sentimental pacifists, than Dora. As the war receded and conditions approached “normal,” its place was taken by the Emergency Powers Act, a measure which provides for practically dictatorial government, on the declaration of an “emergency.” We hope the workers will not allow themselves to forget that it was a Labour Government that enjoyed the signal honour of being the first to invoke the Emergency Powers Act. You will be wondering what different action a “Capitalist” Government would have taken. Wonder no longer. Simply reflect that a Capitalist Government could do nothing worse. There is nothing worse. It is Capitalism’s trump card. Labour played it—nearly. Do not forget that.
W. T. Hopley

How we live. (1924)

From the May 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

At Brighton recently the National Council of the Evangelical Free Churches held its Annual Assembly. The speakers included Ramsay MacDonald, Sir Oliver Lodge, Lloyd George, and several Divines. They spoke on religion, science, politics, and various social matters. Confusion was great, and a splendid selection of subjects for Socialist criticism was provided. But alas! our time and space is limited. Therefore I have selected from the mishmash what I consider to be a most glaring example of absurdity. This item of “wisdom” was uttered by Mr Ramsay MacDonald. Here it is:—“We live by faith, not by fact.”—Daily Telegraph, 7/3/24. Would you believe it! However, in fairness to Mr. MacDonald, and in the words of Marx, let us look at the matter a little closer.

What is faith? In this case faith is belief, or trust, in a religious system, the head of which is God. In short, faith is belief in God. What is fact? Fact is truth, reality, something that actually happens; something that is made known to us by one, or more, of our five senses; something we can see, or feel, or hear, or smell. Now we cannot know God through our senses. That is to say, he does not show himself to us; we cannot hear him speak or sing; we cannot shake hands with him. We cannot send a letter or a telegram to God, because we do not know his address, neither are there any means of communication with his supposed place of abode. The reason of this negation is, there is “no sich persun.” The idea of God was born through mankind’s ignorance of the workings of Nature. God did not create man; on the contrary, man created God. God only exists in the imagination, and has no external existence. We only hear of God what it pleases certain people, for certain reasons, to tell us. Thus, we live by faith. Faith in what? Something that does not really exist. Marvellous ! Now, you workers, who have been out of work, and had faith, know perfectly well that your faith did not keep you alive. In order to live you had to eat, drink, and sleep; you had to be clothed and have shelter. You have learned that to get a sufficiency of these things you must work. Thus you live by reality, or fact. You workers who are out of work and have faith, just study the above statements and you will see that they meet your case also. Those of you who have never been out of work and have faith, ask yourself why you work. You will learn that you work to get the realities stated above so that you can live. You know that if you depended on faith to keep you alive you would very soon cease to exist as living human beings. And do the Eminent Divines—the “most faithful”—live by faith? Oh! dear no, they live, very much, by fact. The Archbishop of Canterbury, for instance, enjoys a stipend of £15,000 a year. The Bishop of London gets £10,000 a year. The Gloomy Dean Inge gets £2,000 a year, and Ramsay himself, at present, enjoys a salary of £5,000 a year. Now if we live by faith why do these people require these large incomes? Because they can only live by fact. And so in opposition to Mr. MacDonald : We live by fact, not by faith. The Prime Minister increases his absurdity in the same speech :—“The temporal can never receive quality except from the Infinite, and until our Churches and politicians seize upon that and bring the nation back to fundamental facts, you can pass,” etc. How Churches can seize anything I do not know. “And bring the nation back to fundamental facts.” We assume he means the British nation, and so, suppose, that the other nations of the world have nothing to do with the matter. And why bring the nation back to fundamental facts if we live by faith? According to Mr. MacDonald we do not live by fact, therefore, it is obvious, fact is useless to us. Why, then, does he suggest that the churches and politicians undertake—what to me seems a very difficult task—to bring the nation back to something which is useless to it? Simply a waste of time and energy. Here is a poser for Ramsay. If we live by faith, not by fact, why the dickens has he troubled himself for many years with politics ? The truth of the matter is that Religion is a part of the means by which the Capitalist Class keep you in ignorance. These “intellectual” and “Christian” people who take part in the “dirty” work do so because their social and financial positions depend upon it.

These “Judas’s” know that when the workers learn that they suffer want, poverty, and the evils arising therefrom, because they are robbed of the wealth they produce, it will be “all-up” with the wretched system the Judases uphold—the Capitalist System. This article contains a statement to the effect that God has no external existence, but only exists in the imagination. Even to-day many people consider this to be a very grave and terrible statement. However, should anyone desire more convincing evidence we recommend the study of our pamphlet, “Socialism and Religion.”

Here will be found sufficient facts to steer one from the Mystical World to the Scientific World; from the world of misunderstanding to the world of understanding, that is, of course, should they desire to make the journey. Fellow workers, don’t forget, Study Socialism.

“The procession of protracted death.” (1924)

From the May 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the average working class child comes into the world it is faced with circumstances that are a foretaste of the miseries to come. The poor food that is the best its parents can provide destroy the digestive system. The poor houses into which it crowds, cramps and deprives it of the necessary light and fresh air. The sordid surroundings develop a miserable outlook on life-—an outlook from which the hills, the seas and the flowers are excluded. How many children there are in the large industrial towns that have never seen the sea, that know not the delight of a flowery field or the wonder of lovely mountains !

At school the child is crammed with knowledge it cannot assimilate, knowledge that as a rule is of a kind to make the child a good work beast, not of a kind that would make it a happy. Its playground is generally the street, where it plays marbles, football or tops, whilst dodging the traffic.

Though still a child, its “education” ceases at twelve, thirteen, or fourteen years of age, and it enters some factory hell to learn how to endure poisoned or broken fingers; to forget play; to answer the hooter; to swear and tell filthy stories, and to work until the eyes ache and the limbs tremble, all for a few shillings a week.

Childhood passes into manhood in the midst of the degrading and toilsome struggle for a livelihood. The form is cramped and twisted and wasted in the struggle to keep pace with the machine. Alternating periods of furious toil and idleness, take the elasticity out of the frame and the youthful zest for life out of the brain.

A few short years and the child becomes a hopeless and depressed work beast without even the desire for anything better.

If the frequent accidents, diseases, or starvation that are the products of modern industrialism do not bring life to an earlier end, the heavy hand of industry crushes the life out of the worker when he should be in his prime, and his life closes in the grave before he has had an opportunity of reaping benefit from his toil.

How many workers escape this curse of their inheritance? Their lives are but a procession of protracted death. But they could be something different.

“Civilisation,” “Progress,” the boast of modern politicians, is but the sweating and the destruction of workers. Yet, it need not be so.

The capacity of production is tremendous, but this capacity is utilised to make easeful and joyous the lives of useless idlers. When the workers demand and obtain control of the means of production, their lives will cease to mean a living death to them but will be for all a procession of protracted pleasure. It is for this that we are working and struggling.

Socialism and Religion. (1924)

Party News from the May 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Educational Society of New York have, by permission of the S.P.G.B., reprinted the above pamphlet. The S.P.G.B. are the sole agents for the pamphlet in this country, and copies can be obtained from Head Office at 5d. each, postage 1d, extra, special terms for quantities.


Readers of the Socialist Standard interested in Socialist Educational Work may communicate with

Socialist Educational Society
of New York,
127 University Place New York City.

King Canute up-to-date. (1924)

Editorial from the March 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is a restiveness amongst the workers. There is a growing revolt against the present particularly depressed state ot wages. Workers on the railway, in the shipyards, and in the transport services have already taken action to improve their conditions and there are threats of similar ‘action being taken by other workers; amongst them the mine workers.

These are welcome signs to us. The pendulum is swinging back again after the abject acceptance of the sweeping reductions in wages and speeding up of work during the past few years.

But though these are welcome signs to us they are not welcome to the employers, and the latter are urging that some method be adopted to pacify the workers and turn their attention away from wages and conditions of employment.

An editorial in the Daily Mail for April 3rd draws attention to an appeal that has been made denouncing Sunday politics. The Daily Mail urges that the abolition of Sunday politics will not help matters, but that the preachers and teachers should come down off their perches.
  “Our civilian officers will have to come off their perches. They will have to sacrifice a good deal of their Sabbath peace, including their Sunday afternoon round of golf, and come down into the streets and go among the people. They know what things are and what facts mean. They will have to tackle resolutely and courageously the prejudices and misconceptions which have been instilled—while they remained inert—in so many honest but imperfectly informed minds.

  The British working man is by nature fair-minded, just, willing to learn, and, above all, willing to talk things over. But he does not get a chance of correcting his misapprehensions. The absent are always wrong ; and he sees very little, if anything, of the men who do the brain work of this country.”
How artfully the case is put! The manager, the professor, the cleric, the M.A., the B.A., and all the other lettered gentry; in other words, the “Intellectuals” or salaried officials are obviously those to whom the Daily Mail points a reproving finger. How these people will swell with importance on reading such complimentary remarks. And yet it is nothing but “spoof.” “Spoof” for the “intellectual” and “spoof” for the worker. Where were the “brains” when the London transport services ceased to operate? We were promised that awful calamities—the collapse of the food supply, the break-down of commerce—if these refractory workers continued to adhere to the principle of freedom of contract by withholding their labour power until they obtained better pay.

But who are the intellectuals, the salaried officials, anyway? They are simply a particular section of the working class, the most backward section, the most abject slaves—they who kiss the hand that smites them. They receive “honourable mention” when their performances assist the interests of the employers and the sack when their performances are unsuccessful. Like other workers they depend for their living upon the sale of their energies, and, like other workers, they go under if they can’t find a ready sale for such energies.

All work done by workers under Capitalism requires the use of brains, and each kind of work is equally necessary.

The term "brain worker” is only a sop thrown to a particular section to ensure the continued support of – Capitalism by that section. The sop is thrown with the old principle in the mind of the thrower—“Divide and Conquer.” Set one section of workers against another and each will be so taken up with their sectional quarrel that they will overlook their fundamental solidarity as wage-workers.

The Northcliffe millions have been piled up by the Northcliffe papers providing gullible workers with carefully doctored news, and the suppressing or glossing over of the glaring and ugly facts of working class life. The relations between master and worker are daily dealt with in a way that obscures the fundamental antagonism of interests that exists between the two. The fact, for instance, that the master thrives on the unpaid labour extracted from the worker. But the Press method of propaganda is not proving sufficient, powerful though it is. The foundations upon which the Northcliffe and other millions are built are being slowly but surely undermined. To hinder this process, therefore, the Northcliffe paper advocates a more vigorous vocal propaganda to go along with the written.

Alas for the Capitalist the Daily Mail proposal is analogous to the attempt, made by King Canute many years ago, to stop the movement of the ocean with the human voice.

The Socialist view of religion (1924)

Party News from the May 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

Readers of the Standard desirous of information on the above matter are referred to the notice appearing on page 133 of this issue. Since our pamphlet, “Socialism and Religion,” went out of print, the need for a scientific exposition of the Socialist case against Religion has become more urgent. The pamphlet is the official pronouncement of the S.P.G.B., and since it was first issued has remained the most concise and accurate summary of the facts available. Lack of funds has prevented us from re-printing this pamphlet. However, our comrades of the S.E.S. of New York have published an American edition. Copies of this edition can be obtained from Head Office.

Meanwhile, we take this opportunity of reminding the friends and sympathisers of the S.P.G.B. that we are desirous of placing, not only a third English edition of Socialism and Religion on the market, but other pamphlets of equal importance to the working class. Shortage of cash prevents us from fulfilling these objects. We therefore appeal to those of our readers in a position to help to do so by augmenting our £1,000 Fund. Then shall we more effectively be able to counter the misrepresentations of the Capitalist Class.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Our Daily Bread. (1924)

From the May 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

The “Blessings of Civilization” are continually being impressed upon us lest we waver and doubt that the modern world is the “best of all possible worlds.”

Some of these “blessings” are painfully familiar to us, such as dodging death when crossing the streets, or dodging shells and gas during war-time, or trying to live on air during peace time. But there are other “blessings” that affect us just as painfully, only we are apt to miss them as they are dressed up in a very pleasing and becoming, manner.

One of these latter “blessings” is brought to our notice by “An Economist” in the Daily Mail (April 3rd, 1924). This particular “blessing” is white bread— “The Staff of life.”

Its whiteness gives it an inviting and pleasing appearance, but the cause of this whiteness is—guess what? The introduction of poisonous chemicals—introduced so that the employers of the bread producers may make greater profits.

Here is “An Economist’s” statement of the constituents of white bread. Now read what modern civilization provided for your consumption :—
  “Most of the bread on sale at present is of very inferior quality and is chemically treated with a view to improving its appearance.

  Wheat of very inferior quality is imported and ground into flour, and the bulk of this inferior flour is bleached by means of chemicals and gases into startling whiteness. Thus it is given fraudulently the appearance of high-quality flour which is naturally white.

   From the millers the flour goes to the bakers, who convert it into bread, and the majority of bakers add to it other chemicals euphemistically quantity called “improvers,” by means of which they can convert a given quantity of flour into a larger number of loaves.

  In other words, the “improvement” brought about by the “improvers” consists in this—that the public gets an artificially waterlogged and blown-up loaf.”
Now, having read the above, how thankful we should be that we reap the advantages of progress ! Think of the poor savage, over whom the learned professor delights to mourn, doomed to the misery of consuming the unadulterated products of Nature instead of the refined article produced by modern ingenuity—and fiendishism !

£1000 Fund. (1924)

 Party News from the May 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

By The Way. (1924)

The By The Way Column from the May 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

The anti-Socialist tell us that under Socialism we should become a stereotyped humanity; but their use of the word “State,” signifies that it is really State Capitalism to which they refer, Socialism implying the abolition of the State, to-day a Capitalist institution. Commenting on a recent play in which the central idea is the invention of mechanical men, a writer says :—
  “These robots had all, and more than all, the material efficiency of human beings, but no soul, no heart, none of those attributes which make life individual and interesting. That is what your Socialist would have you and me be like in his perfect Socialist state.”—Democrat, April 12th, 1924.
Think of your individuality when the hooter goes and you clock on at the dog biscuit factory or the soap works, think how interesting the routine of the office, the beautiful scenery viewed by a carman, or watching the beer in the brewery, calculating how much you and your pals could account for if only you had it outside. Ah ! you see you’ve a soul (!), and having one, perhaps a further item, same paper, same date will interest you :—
  “Where are these small, but important details that used to make our houses feel like homes? We do not find these things to-day. All the happiness has gone out of our houses. They are all alike, all plain and dull. For all the distinction or variation there are in them, they might be so many bathing machines or hen-coops.”
And in like manner you will find most of the “ bogeys ” of Socialism right here today.

* * *
  “There is one reasoned alternative to Socialism, the very simple yet perfectly true doctrine that small families and willing work would quickly banish poverty from our country.”—New Voice, April.
This doctrine, we are told, will win the support of the wavering masses, who in desperation are inclined “to give the Socialists a trial”; and although it contains reason, truth, work, and gutta-percha economics, we remain cold and unmoved. Smaller families mean cheaper living, and in the age of competition and sliding scales, cheaper living frequently means lowered wages. The more willing you work to-day, the fewer of you will be required for the job in hand, that means more unemployment, and therefore more poverty. The “reasoned alternative” to Socialism’ may appear “very simple,” but only to simple people.
  “The nation to-day is not producing enough to satisfy the natural human demands of the workers.. . . The demands for a decent standard of life have been increasing, but the means of satisfying them have not increased ; and to demand what is not there is crying for the moon.—Daily Chronicle, 31.3.24.
What an indictment of the present system ! In the world’s richest country the “natural human demands” for its workers cannot be met, so the Chronicle leader writer informs us, and by the naive assumption that “the Nation” would be one harmonious entity but for these demands, he attempts to conceal the cause of the contrast of wealth and poverty, and the inevitable conflict between the propertyless producers of wealth and its non-working Capitalist owners. Even for the workers to demand a “decent standard of life” is with true Liberal cant considered “crying for the Moon.” But the idle shareholders; they evidently may smile complacently upon the earth. Take only one instance, typical of the average concern, and what a difference we find in the reward of abstinence— from the dignity of labour :—
  “The twenty-second annual report of the Imperial Tobacco Company (of Great Britain and Ireland), Limited, issued last night, shows a nett trading profit for twelve months ended October 31st, 1923, amounting to £7,467,925 12s. 10d”—Daily Mail, 9.2.24.
What are the facts? Man’s power over Nature reached the stage of being able to maintain an idle ruling class in the dim and remote past; this he could only do when he could produce more than was necessary for his own individual subsistence, later in the middle ages, roughly fifteen weeks’ labour of the year enabled a labourer to sustain a family of five for that period (Thorold Rogers), while to-day, modern manufacture with its giant machines, electricity, railways and applied science, makes production possible on a scale that could far outstrip societies’ needs. Yet the workers are poor! and the best reason the Capitalist Press can advance is a dirty lie. The invention and industry of countless generations of workers HAS increased the means to satisfy the most extravagant demands ever likely to be made upon them, BUT those means are the property of the few, and operated solely in their interests. Need we stress the point?

* * *
  “But we have yet to meet the Socialist who’s willing to learn anything from anybody without doubting the motive of his teachers.” (Democrat, 9/2/24.)
Within the Capitalist system there are thousands of “anybodies” laying claim to be the teachers of the working class.

All profess to be in deepest sympathy with the sufferings of that class, and every library is filled with their voluminous vapourings. The Socialist, however, did not obtain his understanding by blindly accepting every nostrum that was placed before him. His mental evolution has been through the stages of doubt, investigation to understanding. He does not consider his the final word in knowledge, but is ever prepared to enlarge that knowledge. Unlike the Capitalist supporting worker, the Socialist reasons from a class basis, his class interests, for it is only from that basis that he can judge the usefulness or otherwise of any teaching to his class. Through the method of discussion and critical enquiry men and women develop the power to reason for themselves. Our advice to the worker in this age of political chicanery is to trust none, but to acquire that learning that dispenses with the need for trust or doubt and enables them to test, the teachings offered, written or oral, on the touchstone of Socialist knowledge.

* * *
  “Socialism meant complete destruction of private property and individual liberty. God save England from Socialism.” (Harold Cox, The New Voice Feb.)
The worker may read the above and yet retain his composure. The property referred to is not his watch and chain or the odds and ends that often find their way to “Uncle,” but Capitalist property, the bulk of the wealth of modern society. It is usual for Capitalist apologists to speak or write of Marx as “exploded” or out of date, but how his words meet the whines of that class and their agents to-day.
  “You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population ; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths.” (Reeves, Ed., p. 18, Communist Manifesto.)
The above was written nearly eighty years ago, but Capitalist development has but served to emphasise these facts. The Capitalist pretends to see in his form of private property (the ownership of societies’ means of wealth production) a form that permits of no further development without social stagnation and the destruction of what he terms individual liberty.
  “The abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! … By freedom is meant, under the present bourgeois conditions of production, free trade, free selling and buying.” (Ibid.)
The freedom to exploit and plunder a working class free only to sell their labour power—if they can. Property in its present form is but a transient form, it will undergo change when there is no further room for development within the present system. The main force generated within that system and the human factor that must bring that change, is the growing conscious discontent of the working class, who in order to achieve their emancipation must realise that the barrier of freedom and comfort for all stands in the present socially operated, but privately-owned means of life. The only possible alternative is social ownership, by which the evils of to-day will be removed and the communal form of society in which the human family was cradled for so many thousands of years restored on an infinitely higher plane.
W. E. MacHaffie

Marx on Free Trade. (1924)

From the May 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard
A speech delivered before the Democratic Association of Brussels, at its public meeting, January 9th, 1848.
Reprinted from “The Poverty of Philosophy.” (Twentieth Century Press, Ltd., London, 1900).
Gentlemen: – The Repeal of the Corn Laws in England is the greatest triumph of Free Trade in the nineteenth century. In every country where manufacturers discuss Free Trade, they have in mind chiefly Free Trade in corn or raw material generally. To burden foreign corn with protective duties is infamous, it is to speculate on the hunger of the people.

Cheap food, high wages, for this alone the English Free Traders have spent millions, and their enthusiasm has already infected their continental brethren. And, generally speaking, all those who advocate Free Trade do so in the interests of the working class.

But, strange to say, the people for whom cheap food is to be procured at all costs are very ungrateful. Cheap food is as ill reputed in England as is cheap government in France. The people see in these self-sacrificing gentlemen, in Bowring, Bright & Co., their worst enemies and the most shameless hypocrites.

Everyone knows that in England the struggle between Liberals and Democrats takes the name of the struggle between Free Traders and Chartists. Let us see how the English Free Traders have proved to the people the good intentions that animate them.
This is what they said to the factory hands : –
  “The duty on corn is a tax upon wages ; this tax you pay to the landlords, those medieval aristocrats ; if your position is a wretched one, it is only on account of the high price of the most indispensable articles of food.”
The workers in turn asked of the manufacturers : –
  “How is it that in the course of the last thirty years, while our commerce and manufacture has immensely increased, our wages have fallen far more rapidly, in proportion, than the price of corn has gone up ?

  “The tax which you say we pay the landlords is about three pence a week per worker. And yet the wages of the hand-loom weaver fell, between 1815 and 1843, from 28s. per week to 5s., and the wages of the power-loom weavers, between 1823 and 1843, from 20s. per week to 8s. And during the whole of the time that portion of the tax which you say we pay the landlord has never exceeded three pence. And, then, in the year 1834, when bread was very cheap and business lively, what did you tell us ? You said, ‘If you are poor, it is only because you have too many children, and your marriages are more productive than your labor !’

  “These are the very words you spoke to us, and you set about making new Poor Laws, and building work houses, those Bastilles of the proletariat.”
To this the manufacturers replied : –
   “You are right, worthy labourers ; it is not the price of corn alone, but competition of the hands among themselves as well, which determines wages.

   “But just bear in mind the circumstance that our soil consists of rocks and sandbanks only. You surely do not imagine that corn can be grown in flowerpots ! If, instead of wasting our labour and capital upon a thoroughly sterile soil, we were to give up agriculture, and devote ourselves exclusively to commerce and manufacture, all Europe would abandon its factories, and England would form one huge factory town, with the whole of the rest of Europe for its agricultural districts.”
While thus haranguing his own working men, the manufacturer is interrogated by the small tradesınen, who exclaim : –
  “If we repeal the Corn Laws, we shall indeed ruin agriculture ; but, for all that, we shall not compel other nations to give up their own factories, and buy our goods. What will the consequences be ? I lose my customers in the country, and the home market is destroyed.”
The manufacturer turns his back upon the working men and replies to the shopkeeper : –
   “As to that, you leave it to us ! Once rid of the duty on corn, we shall import cheaper corn from abroad. Then we shall reduce wages at the very time when they are rising in the countries where we get our corn. Thus in addition to the advantages which we already enjoy we shall have lower wages and, with all these advantages, we shall easily force the Continent to buy of us.”
But now the farmers and agricultural labourers join in the discussion.
  “And what, pray, is to become of us ? Are we to help in passing a sentence of death upon agriculture, when we get our living by it ? Are we to let the soil be torn from beneath our feet?”
For all answer the Anti-Corn Law League contented itself with offering prizes for the three best essays upon the wholesome influence of the repeal of the Corn Laws on English agriculture.

These prizes were carried off by Messrs. Hope, Morse and Greg, whose essays were distributed broadcast throughout the agricultural districts. One of the prize essayists devotes himself to proving that neither the tenant farmer nor the agricultural labourer would lose by the repeal of the Corn Laws, and that the landlord alone would lose.
  “The English tenant farmer,” he exclaims, “need not fear repeal, because no other country can produce such good corn so cheaply as England. Thus, even if the price of corn fell, it would not hurt you, because this fall would only affect rent, which would go down, while the profit of capital and the wages of labour would remain stationary.”
The second prize essayist, Mr. Morse, maintains, on the contrary, that the price of corn will rise in consequence of repeal. He is at infinite pains to prove that protective duties have never been able to secure a remunerative price for corn.

In support of his assertion he quotes the fact that, wherever foreign corn has been imported, the price of corn in England has gone up considerably, and that when no corn has been imported the price has fallen extremely. This prize-winner forgets that the importation was not the cause of the high price, but that the high price was the cause of the importation. In direct contradiction of his colleague he asserts that every rise in the price of corn is profitable to both the tenant farmer and labourer, but does not benefit the landlord.

The third prize essayist, Mr. Greg, who is a large manufacturer and whose work is addressed to the large tenant farmers, could not afford to echo such silly stuff. His language is more scientific. He admits that the Corn Laws can increase rent only by increasing the price of corn, and that they can raise the price of corn only by inducing the investment of capital upon land of inferior quality, and this is explained quite simply.

In proportion as population increases, it inevitably follows, if foreign corn cannot be imported, that less fruitful soil must be placed under cultivation. This involves more expense and the product of this soil is consequently dearer. There being a demand for all the corn thus produced, it will all be sold. The price for all of it will of necessity be determined by the price of the product of the inferior soil. The difference between this price and the cost of production upon soil of better quality constitutes the rent paid for the use of the better soil.

If, therefore, in consequence of the repeal of the Corn Laws, the price of corn falls, and if, as a matter of course, rent falls along with it, it is because inferior soil will no longer be cultivated. Thus the reduction of rent must inevitably ruin a part of the tenant farmers.

These remarks were necessary in order to make Mr. Greg’s language comprehensible.
  “The small farmers,” he says, “who cannot support themselves by agriculture must take refuge in manufacture. As to the large tenant farmers, they cannot fail to profit by the arrangement : either the landlord will be obliged to sell them land very cheap, or leases will be made out for very long periods. This will enable tenant farmers to invest more capital in their farms, to use agricultural machinery on a larger scale, and to save manual labour, which will, moreover, be cheaper, on account of the general fall in wages, the immediate consequence of the repeal of the Corn Laws.”
Dr. Bowring conferred upon all these arguments the consecration of religion, by exclaiming at a public meeting, “Jesus Christ is Free Trade, and Free Trade is Jesus Christ.”

It may be easily understood that all this cant was not calculated to make cheap bread attractive to working men.

Besides, how should the working men understand the sudden philanthropy of the manufacturers, the very men still busy fighting against the Ten Hours Bill, which was to reduce the working day of the mill hands from twelve hours to ten ?

To give you an idea of the philanthropy of these manufacturers I would remind you of the factory regulations in force in all their mills.

Every manufacturer has for his own private use a regular penal code by means of which fines are inflicted for every voluntary or involuntary offence. For instance, the hand pays so much when he has the misfortune to sit down on a chair, or whisper, or speak, or laugh ; if he is a few moments late ; if any part of a machine breaks, or he turns out work of an inferior quality, &c. The fines are always greater than the damage really done by the workman. And to give the workman every opportunity for incurring fines the factory clock is set forward, and he is given bad material to make into good stuff. An overseer unskilful in multiplying infractions of rules is soon discharged.

You see, gentlemen, this private legislation is enacted for the especial purpose of creating such infractions, and infractions are manufactured for the purpose of making money. Thus the manufacturer uses every means of reducing the nominal wage, and even profiting by accidents over which the workers have no control.

And these manufacturers are the same philanthropists who have tried to persuade the workers that they were capable of going to immense expense for the sole and express purpose of improving the condition of these same working men ! On the one hand they nibble at the workers’ wages in the pettiest way, by means of factory regulations, and, on the other, they are prepared to make the greatest sacrifices to raise those wages by means of the Anti-Corn Law League.

They build great palaces, at immense expense, in which the League takes up its official residence. They send an army of missionaries to all corners of England to preach the gospel of Free Trade ; they print and distribute gratis thousands of pamphlets to enlighten the working man upon his own interests. They spend enormous sums to buy over the press to their side. They organise a vast administrative system for the conduct of the Free Trade movement, and bestow all the wealth of their eloquence upon public meetings. It was at one of these meetings that a working man cried out : –
  “If the landlords were to sell our bones, you manufacturers would be the first to buy them, and to put them through the mill and make flour of them.”
The English working men have appreciated to the fullest extent the significance of the struggle between the lords of the land and of capital. They know very well that the price of bread was to be reduced in order to reduce wages, and that the profit of capital would rise by as much as rent fell.

Ricardo, the apostle of the English Free Traders, the leading economist of our century, entirely agrees with the workers upon this point. 

In his celebrated work upon political economy he says : –
  “If instead of growing our own corn… we discover a new market from which we can supply ourselves… at a cheaper price, wages will fall and profits rise. The fall in the price of agricultural produce reduces the wages, not only of the labourer employed in cultivating the soil, but also of all those employed in commerce or manufacture.”
(To be continued)

Lucretius quote. (1924)

From the May 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard
For fools are always fain
To measure meanings by the gaudy show
Of twisted words that hide them. And a strain
That fills their ears with honeyed overflow
Of phrase and music is at once decreed
Surely to hold the very truth indeed.

BP’s profits and the pipeline (1971)

From the June 1971 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a full page spread of the Financial Times of 6 April, the British Petroleum Company (BP), gave a summary of the chairman’s statement and accounts for 1970. Among the snippets in large print were these: “Total sales continue to rise but margins eroded” and “considering the problems we had to face, I think we did well in 1970.” The report gave details of the erosions and problems faced by BP, and in so doing of those of the world of capitalism in general. Gross income (sales) had risen from £2,124m. in 1968 up to £2,659m. in 1970, while net income (profits) fallen from £101m. in to £91m. in the same period. The chairman summed up the position neatly:
  The whole of the year has been a struggle to recover additional costs in our selling prices. In the earlier part of 1970 we had rising freight costs; now we have rising taxes and royalties in producing countries stemming from an increase in government take which the oil industry had to concede in the autumn of 1970 to producers in the Gulf and Mediterranean.
It is worth noting that the cost increases ate into profits. Price rises cannot automatically be made to compensate. Oil companies have to compete for markets and dare not let their products become uncompetitive. For once rising costs are not blamed on workers’ wages but on the sections of the capitalist class. “Larger quantities of oil had to be lifted from the Middle East in tankers chartered on a short term basis at greatly increased rates.” When it came to royalties and taxes, those paid to the Middle East, Libya and Nigeria, rose from £210m. in 1966 to £465m. in 1970. This was not all, when taxes in the consumer countries are taken into account £l,359m. was taken from BP. How their shareholders including the British government must fume, knowing that so large a part of their profits are ending up in other hands. However in spite of these “eroded margins” the company raised its capital expenditure to £322m. from £244m. last year. After all, even if their cut comes only to £90m. it is not to be sneezed at.

This all adds up to big business, very big business indeed. In the field of discovering and extracting oil BP lead the industry, to the extent that major rivals get some of their crude oil supplies from them. In the early years of this century they gained concessions to the oil fields of Persia, which are to this day a major producing area. Their discoveries of oil in Alaska recently, may prove equally important. In spite of its name BP is an international company,
 Over 90 percent of the groups trade . . . was carried on overseas and the majority of the crude oil and products was neither imported nor exported from the U.K.
Alaskan oil will, or so BP hope, gain them access to, and a large share of the American market. To this end they have been acquiring facilities such as refineries and distributive outlets. In the process they have had to overcome objections raised by government trust-busters. Now they are faced with more problems, those of transporting their product from the frozen wastes to the markets. Not only must heed be taken of technical factors, but also of costs and the aforementioned 'eroded margins’. Their proposal to build an 800 mile-long, heated pipeline, over frozen tundra to the port of Valdez has met with objections from conservationists. According to the statement ". . . the Valdez line can be built whilst fully meeting the legitimate anxieties of the conservationists”. These include the fact that the line would run over an area subject to earthquakes. From Valdez the oil would be carried by tankers. This has given rise to fears that the West coast of North America would face the consequences of polluted waters and shores as a result of having become a very busy tanker route.

The rush to get the pipeline built, and oil to the customers and a profit realised on the investments, militates against a sane and rational decision being made. Time would be needed to make thorough investigations of conditions and alternative proposals. More than this, sane terms of reference would exclude cost accountancy and commercial rivalry. How can the best decision from an environmental standpoint be taken when such objectivity is impossible under capitalist conditions?

All the arguments, whether or not they are expressed in terms of environmental considerations, must under capitalist conditions produce an answer in terms of profit margins. And we cannot help but suspect that some of the environmentalists’ genuine concern must be to the liking of some of BP’s rivals. After all if it helps to keep a rival commercially handicapped, then the preservation of the flora and fauna of Alaska is worthwhile.
Joe Carter