Sunday, March 7, 2021

Has Christianity a Solution for Social Problems? (1939)

From the March 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalism is its own grave-digger. That is to say it provides and develops the means by which the capitalist social order will be brought to an end. Before historical processes mature thus far capitalism will have virtually buried many of the philosophies and religious ideas which in its day it nurtured. It is almost self-evident that where capitalism is the more developed there religion has the least influence over the minds of the workers. The explanation lies in the material conditions peculiar to capitalism.

Religion had its origin in the childhood of the human race. The farther man’s history is traced back, the cruder his religious superstitions. Each group had its god, which primitive man invested with the miraculous powers of being able to influence tribal fortunes in the struggle for existence. In the workings of nature he saw manifestations of the god’s pleasure and displeasure, of his power to deprive him of his sustenance. Crudely, therefore, he supplicated the gods with offerings and sacrifices. Refined examples of these rituals are practised among Christians to-day.

Tribal man’s god-ideas were related to his material conditions of life and to his degree of understanding of those conditions. As the material conditions changed, so his god-ideas changed. With the growth of larger tribes and confederacies of tribes, the tribal gods disappeared and new ones took their place, which reached maturity in the slave civilisations. Thus the way was prepared for a new conception of the god-idea—the abstract God of Christianity. The slave empires had reached the civilised stage where man’s knowledge of the world, his philosophic speculations upon life, demanded a conception of God which the older religious superstitions did not meet. In the Roman Empire Christianity arose to meet that need. It did not introduce the god-idea, but a particular conception of it, which was a modification of the God-ideas evolved from savagery.

Socialist teaching is not concerned with controversies which favour one god concept against another: it is concerned only with god-ideas in themselves and how they arose. This approach is in conformity with the Materialist Conception of History, which holds that, broadly speaking, the ideas of any particular epoch are related to, and can only be explained by the material conditions then prevailing. This approach religionists find devastating. To deny its fundamental correctness would seem like denying what appears to be self-evident. Yet its logic explodes the basis of Christian teaching. The Christian conception of the revealed God, eternal and unchanging, is destroyed by history’s revelations. The Christian god-idea is shown to be just one of the manifested forms through which the god-idea has evolved. The idea of an independent, all-powerful god, laying down laws and precepts which hold good for all time, is just a man-made myth. True, Christianity has persisted beyond the times which gave it birth, but only by adjusting its teaching to changing conditions. Protestantism appeared when Feudalism was breaking up and expressed in a religious form the antagonisms of the new capitalist class to the old regime. No theologian can explain why the Reformation arose in the fifteenth century and not the fifth. To simple minds the amours of Henry the Eighth might seem a sufficient explanation—but that cannot explain its rise in Germany, France and Holland. Nor, except by the material conditions, can it be explained why the Christian god-idea arose in the days of Rome and not in the period of savagery. God-ideas have changed and have become modified as society has evolved to higher forms and man’s knowledge has increased. Capitalism has brought into existence and has developed scientific knowledge of the workings of the world in which we live. Manifestations of nature, which man understands and can explain, are less attributed to the unseen activities of a god. Hence the modern tendency to the abstract and the impersonal in the god concept among many modern Christians. Yet modern Christianity and savage superstition are fundamentally alike: in both the god-idea has its basis in ignorance.

Socialism and Christianity, therefore, are opposites. The one arises from a knowledge and understanding of the material world and the other from ignorance of it. Socialism is based upon science, Christianity upon faith. It is the refined equivalent of savage superstition. Its ritual has features common to the Pagan and earlier savage practices with which they have a common origin. Christian-Socialism is a meaningless phrase. Yet capitalism has produced movements which claim adherence to both ideas. In the early nineteenth century, Charles Kingsley was a prominent advocate of Christian-Socialism. Kingsley’s “Socialism” expressed nothing more than a compassionate interest in the worst evils of working-class poverty. He gave no support for, and, indeed, had no conception of a social order in which class society did not exist. To the workers he was condescending, conventional and pious: he was as sincere as his Church training permitted him to be. Kingsley’s successors in the Christian-Socialist tradition conformed more or less to type. There is, however, one movement which claims deviation from the type. It is a movement within the Church of England which describes itself as the Catholic Crusade. They pose Christ as the militant and revolutionary agitator, opposed to the tyranny and oppression of his day. They claim that general acceptance of Christianity will end oppression and class society; would, in effect, bring about what Socialists are working to get: though they call it the “Kingdom of God on Earth.” It is a pretty theory and adds just one more to the countless |varieties of “true” Christianity.

But it does just not bear critical examination. The Crusaders have the usual Christian habit of giving Biblical extracts just that twist which suits their purpose. Thus they quote such excerpts from Christian writings as “He shall drag the mighty from their seat and shall exalt the humble and meek,” as though such exhortations were intended to have worldly significance. They can bear no such interpretation. To early Christians they meant nothing more than an adjustment in the next world of the inequalities and sufferings endured in the earthly life. It could not have meant adjustments in this world: for the very good reason that the world had not then reached the stage where it was ready for classless society. The idea of Socialism had not, and could not, have shaped itself in the mind of man. Any “dragging down of the mighty from their seats” might have clothed in religious form the antagonisms of the oppressed slaves of the Roman Empire for their particular ruling oppressors, but it had no connection with the idea of society organised without a ruling class. Society then could not have been organised in any other way than on a class basis. The Christian ethic was the opposite of what some of its modem unorthodox interpreters imply it to mean. It offered compensation in the “next world,” not in this one. It exalted poverty and submissiveness. The ruling class of the Roman Empire adopted it because it made the slaves more contented. With modifications it has been adopted by subsequent ruling classes. To the slave, compensation in another world was attractive, because the material conditions of this world did not show a way out of their miseries. It is different with the modern working class. The system of society in which they are the subject class, the wage-slaves, shows the material social forms through which their oppression and poverty can be ended. True working-class consciousness of its purpose is incomplete, but the unmistakable evidence that it is moulding itself is everywhere.

The duty of the Socialist is clear. The material world demands critical analysis in order that social problems are understood. The solution to those problems must be explained in unambiguous and practical fashion. Working-class problems are material; their solution, Socialism, consists of material proposals. To countenance the clothing of those proposals in the mystic garb of a dying superstition does not assist working-class understanding and would be a disservice to the Socialist movement.
Harry Waite

Christianity's Diminishing Returns (1939)

From the March 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard
“Thy Kingdom Stands, nor Falls for ever.”—(Well-known hymn.)

Thirty-five years ago, when the S.P.G.B. was founded, religion was an issue in debate. To-day the churches are trying to recapture their failing interest, and preserve what is left. A year or two ago the Archbishop of Canterbury, and others, loudly announced a Recall to Religion. The promoters of a united faith have been busy. At the world conference on “Faith and Order,” in August, 1937, the Scottish Roman Catholic Archbishops departed from a long-established practice, and sent observers with a watching brief. On the one hand, growing scientific knowledge has lowered the Church’s stock. The pundits thought they could find refuge in the  writings of the oracles of modern physics. But they found none among recent discoveries in other fields, and especially in psychology. These latter were much more intelligible to most people, equally exciting, and widely read. On the other hand, week-end amusement, ready to hand in the shape of cheap transport, radio and cinema, has eclipsed the churches in their appeal. Even the cheap-jackery of advertisement fails to fill many a parson’s empty pews. God is on diminishing returns.

One of the attempts to weld together the faithful appeared in the form of a report on “Doctrine” last January. Ostensibly, the Committee was set up in 1922, by the late Dr. Davidson, then Archbishop of Canterbury, and Dr. Lang, the Archbishop of York, to—
  Consider the nature and grounds of Christian doctrine with a view to demonstrating the extent of existing agreement within the Church of England, and with a view to investigating how far it is possible to remove or diminish existing differences.” —(Page 55, Manchester Guardian Weekly, January 21st, 1937.)
but it is patently an attempt (adapting the words of the Manchester Guardian at the time) “to make the acceptance of the traditional doctrine of the Church easier for men of modern ways of thinking.”

The Committee was prepared to modify what were once thought to be central tenets of the Anglican faith in order to make adherence less exacting. (For instance, they no longer demanded belief in the Virgin-Birth. Some were prepared to grant the “symbolism” of the creeds and the miracles. They were, likewise, not prepared to insist upon the historicity of the Gospel accounts, but were willing to accept a wide variation of opinion on the character of the Sacraments.) They practically omitted to deal with more fundamental matters, on the ground that these lay outside the terms of reference. As a matter of fact, to face the issue squarely in the light of modern knowledge, would be filing a petition of Christian bankruptcy.

True, as the report sometimes states, even members of the Commission were not always unanimous—a circumstance which they bore with greater composure than the history of the Church would have led one to expect.

But even though unification may be achieved, religion is rapidly losing its claim on the people. C. E. M. Joad wrote two articles in the New Statesman and Nation (January 22nd, January 29th, 1938), in which he analysed the losses on various flanks. Between 1906 and 1936 the Anglican and Free Church schools lost over three and a half million scholars—about fifty per cent. The number of clergymen active in the Church of England has also halved during the same period. An analysis carried on in churches and chapels shows a drop during this time of over seventy-five per cent, in attendances. This drew one resentful letter from a cleric, who tried unsuccessfully to discount the facts. There is also a shortage of candidates for Dedication. A memorial submitted to the Archbishops (December 13th, 1937) proposed to combat this by a number of simple devices. One of these was to urge celibacy as a less expensive mode of life, which would enable the ministers to live on a more meagre salary: —
   The memorial deals with the changes in the social aspects of country districts. Fewer sons of the wealthier classes are being ordained, it is stated; fewer ordinands have any private means. Filling country livings becomes increasingly difficult.
   The remedy at present sought is the amalgamation of benefices, very unpopular in the parishes. This, says the memorial, is surely wrong. The remedy is for the priest to live not in the big glebe house but in a cottage, like his humble parishioners.”—(Daily Telegraph, December 13th. 1937.)
The growth of the poorly-paid element in the Church has been partly responsible for a new outlook, especially in the great cities. In the words of the New Statesman and Nation (January 22nd, 1938): "The Church of England, once the backbone of Conservatism, has become increasingly sympathetic to the more moderate aspirations of Labour ” (p. 107).

But now that working-class demands and actions are a factor in the life of the nation, the Church has had to trim its sails accordingly. The working class will find little support, however, from the classical upholders of privilege and wealth. The Bishop of Durham's letter to The Times (September 24th, 1935) is quoted because, typically, it hides under a cloak of apparent devotion to the miner’s interest a deep antagonism:—
   As matters stand with us in England, I am fully persuaded that strikes and lock-outs are not only widely calamitous to those directly concerned, but unfair to the nation as a whole, and, in the true sense of the word, immoral. It has been my experience to live through two great strikes in this Diocese, and I am unable to see that any other result came from them than suffering, economic confusion, and lamentable social embitterment
   Therefore, in the interest of the whole community, and therein specially of the miners, the clergy cannot, in my judgment, rightly or wisely associate themselves with movements which contemplate, and logically result in, open conflict.
But, to confine ourselves to exposing the religious sham would be a sterile undertaking. Belfort Bax wrote in 1902, in ”The Religion of Socialism ”: —
  There is a party who think to overthrow the current theology by disputation and ridicule. They fail to see that the theology they detest is so closely entwined with the current mode of production that the two must stand or fall together . . .
And that, indeed, is the truth. Religion has slavishly adapted itself to the needs of the hour, and can in these latter days even court the working class. The Kingdom of God has been proven a myth. The Church is no longer militant. Religion serves no ethical, moral or social purpose other than that which corresponds to the need of a privileged class, who take little further stock in it. And the sooner the workers get rid of both, the better; and so much the quicker find a more prosperous state than they are likely to get from the declining ministry upon earth.
C. J. Kilner.

What Do You Want From Life? (1939)

From the March 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

All men and women of the working class who think clearly, and feel deeply, must come to one conclusion when they consider the worker’s existence under capitalism. They cannot help seeing the great contrast existing between their own lives, as a class, and life as it might, and could, be.

To very many of the workers life seems one long round of economically-forced toil, with very little of the so-called “leisure” we read so much about, insufficient rest and sleep, impaired health, and precious few opportunities for real enjoyment. It is painfully evident that, in this country to-day, existence has its worst phases in the “distressed areas.” The conditions obtaining there are a disgrace to a country vaunting its " civilisation" and evince the callousness of capitalism.

We, as Socialists, are out to abolish, not only these conditions of poverty, privation and preventable misery, but the very system itself which causes them.

Being Socialists, we have an Ideal ever before us—an attainable Ideal. Socialism, we claim, is the only practicable solution for abolishing the many evils that are the product of the operations of capitalism. Socialism, we claim, is the only system that can effectually realise for the world’s multi-millions of toilers a real, true and full Life, such as should be theirs who are the wealth creators.

We want a world where peace reigns from Pole to Pole; a world where war and the very causes of war are abolished.

We desire a full, joyous and unfettered life for the peoples of all climes. And, for this purpose, we seek the complete emancipation of the world’s workers from their wage-slavery, so that all these desirable things should be theirs in complete fulness.

And, to obtain this, we must overthrow the capitalist system, and establish in its place the Socialist Commonwealth of the World.

The three primary essentials in the life of man are food, clothing and shelter. It is to obtain these basic things that the workers seek employment. To “make a living” is the chief concern of millions of people.

Socialism concerns itself with “making life worth living” for every human being: life in its fullest and finest sense—life that is Life indeed! Socialism, being based on the facts and experiences of working-class existence, is pre-eminently a practical social system.

Now, the social system of to-day does not assure or guarantee that the world’s inhabitants shall be amply fed, adequately clothed and properly housed to suit human needs. Based on the private ownership of the means of life, capitalism exists simply for the benefit of those who live on “Rent,” “Interest” and “Profit.”

Nothing is sacred to the capitalist class but their own capitalistic rights. Their ownership and control over the sources of wealth; their “right” to exploit human labour-power; and their ”right” to the surplus-value they appropriate (from which is derived rent, interest and profit)—these are, to them, sacred.

So long as we continue to tolerate this system of private ownership and production for profit, so long will the needs of humanity be disregarded. The starving poor want food, and they cannot buy it because of their poverty. They are ill-clad and poorly shod, yet there are immense quantities of clothing and footwear unsold. They live in hovels amid squalor and filth—while the race-horses of the wealthy are splendidly housed and cared for. “Man's inhumanity to man,” as Bums so aptly phrased it, is exemplified to the nth degree by the social system we know as capitalism. In time of ”peace” or war, human considerations are the last things the ruling-class think of.

Now, as Socialists, we want to make it very clear that we are not only concerned about the ”bread-and-butter” business of "making a living”; we know that is fundamental, and that we must have the three essentials: food, clothing and shelter. We consider our objective is such that these are but the basis of living. We desire that Life for mankind should be the freest and fullest possible, and that every part of his physical, mental and cultural nature should have the finest opportunity for splendid development. In spite of the sneers of anti-Socialists at our "materialistic outlook,” we claim that Socialism, alone, being based on a splendidly firm economic basis, can assure mankind of a perfect foundation on which humanity can build, ever upwards towards the ideals which are possible of attainment only through the Socialist Commonwealth.

We must have a goal to reach, a splendid purpose to fulfil far beyond the petty idea of working for wages in order to get a living; or the parochial ideas of reformers.

Socialism, alone, opens up an immense vista of boundless development for the individual and for the world’s multi-millions.

For Socialism will come to free Man from his age-long bondage.

Now, this bondage—this wage-slavery which holds the world’s workers in its grip—is, in spite of what unthinking or prejudiced non-Socialists say, a very real thing. It is the essential outcome of the means of life being in the hands of a small, but immensely powerful, ruling-class. Owning the means and instruments of wealth-production and distribution, and being in complete control of Political Power, they thus have the means to exercise their will and wish over the world’s toilers in any and every way they desire.

It is obvious that, having these powers and this control over our lives, they are the Master Class.

The capitalist system exists for their benefit as a class; it is operated to increase their wealth; and lives and thrives as a system of thievish gain by systematically robbing the wealth-producing working class.

Let us get rid of our intellectual blinkers, and look squarely in the face of the economic and political facts of our working-class existence.

The vast majority of youths at school-leaving age embark on the hazardous business of trying to “make a living” (if they can “get a job” !), little thinking that, perhaps for fifty years of their life, they will have to work as wage-slaves. They will have to create surplus-values for their employers, which they, as workers, will be robbed of, and will not benefit by. After being exploited and robbed for, say, fifty or sixty years, by the operations of a ruthless wage-system, they will be very little better off financially than when they started. What a prospect! 

Such is the economic life of the average working man. He has worked all through his working life, and his labours have been chiefly to enrich an idle, parasitic and thievish class who live on “Rent," “Interest” and "Profit." This is only one aspect of the case.

For the average working-man is, throughout his toiling years, like a harnessed horse that goes round and round a central mechanism which is kept in motion by his constant movement in a prescribed circle. Occasionally the horse is allowed to stop and feed or drink. Yet, outside his slavish circle, are the luscious fields of sweet sunlit grass— and Freedom!

Of those delights that real freedom would bring he has no opportunity.

And, ask yourself, what opportunity does the working class have to participate in the advantages and enjoyments that are appropriated by a leisured and privileged class?

Most of the things that we, as workers, desire, are unprocurable; for the life of most toilers is arid, cramped, and limited to a very great degree. It in no way approximates to the life that we, as Socialists, visualise and desire all men to have and enjoy.

We desire an equality of opportunity for every man and woman in the world—an opportunity to reach the very peaks of development for the individual’s sake, and for Mankind. Talent and ability should have every encouragement and scope; and self-expression in all that is worth while should be full and free.

To enjoy life to the full in their own way, whilst participating in the greatest freedom possible, should be each man’s right—so long as his actions were not anti-social or prejudicial to the interests of Mankind.

We have not yet reached such a splendid state of human society—but we visualise it! ! And we know that the Socialist Commonwealth, alone, can realise in full a social condition of equality and concord that is expressed by the phrase: “Each for all, and all for each!”

What, then, do you want from Life?

If you have the Ideal before you that we, as Socialists, have, you must be profoundly dissatisfied with capitalism; and if you chance to be a Socialist you will know that the things you desire you will not obtain under the present system—at any rate, not to a satisfactory degree.

Let us, briefly, summarise a few of the most important that, having, will make Life, for you, worth living.

You want good and sufficient food, adequate clothing, and a shelter which is really a home in the fullest sense. You want to feel that these things—the primaries—are assured to you.

You want a reasonable amount of work to do to usefully occupy your active brain and hands— work that is socially useful and productive of good to the community and yourself as an individual. That work should not be a drudgery, or a means of stunting the worker’s mind by its deadly monotony, or wearying by its duration. You want radiant physical and mental health, and every opportunity to sustain it at a splendid pitch of human efficiency for yourself and those around you. Freedom—economic, political and social—is as the breath of life to us. We must have Freedom!—as we Socialists understand it. Leisure, in abundance, in which to develop our many-sided natures, and cultivate the garden of our talents and abilities, so that their finest flowers shall blossom forth. Recreation, too, that shall be productive of splendidly healthy men, women and children, as well as a source of joy. Access, in full, to a knowledge of all the finest products in the field of Art and Science, Literature and Music. Opportunity to travel and enlarge one’s international sympathies and see the marvellous beauty that Nature so prodigally displays. You want an existence that is as productive of joy and happiness to yourself and others as it can possibly be. In one sentence: You want a useful, satisfying, free and happy life.

This, in the main, is probably what many of us desire.

Well, when the working class understand what slaves they really are to the master class, they will begin to start on their splendid wayfaring. When they realise that, if they desire to accomplish their emancipation, they must, as a class, emancipate themselves, they will really be on the move. And when they fully understand that Socialism is their only hope, they must, if they intend to achieve its triumph, study it, and find the way to the goal.

They will become convinced Socialists, and be bent on the one means that will realise a Socialist Commonwealth—the capture of Political Power by a majority of Socialists. Capitalism will thus be overthrown, and a Socialist administration will be ushered in. Nought else avails.

Do you want Life to yield you and your class joy and peace and freedom in all their fulness and splendour ?

You will get these only through your own wise and determined efforts—by establishing a worldwide Socialist Commonwealth !! 
Graham May.

Peaceful Manifestations (1939)

Editorial from the March 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

For many months, leading statesmen of various nations have made moving pleas for peace. If we were to take their statements seriously, we would be compelled to believe that England, France, Germany, Italy and America had but one object in their foreign policies—to secure a lasting peace.

But capitalism is a curious system and has strange ways of securing its ends.

While, on the one hand, the newspapers have a great deal of space devoted to reports of these peaceful speeches, on the other hand they have pictures of the new gigantic battleships that are being launched for the strange purpose of securing this peace. The peace aimed at is peace among the European nations. Peace among the nations, each of which is building huge armaments, competing against each other in building faster and more destructive aeroplanes, tanks and other killing machines and methods.

The real facts, of course, are that capitalist spokesmen are following the honoured methods of using hypocritical phrases to cover their murderous designs. The basis of these designs is simply the securing of a more favourable position by which to obtain a larger share of the wealth wrung from wage workers.

Reform or Revolution by Rosa Luxemburg (1939)

Pamphlet Review from the March 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reform or Revolution by Rosa Luxemburg 53 pp; 25 cents. Three Arrows Press, New York.

So far as we know, this is the first English translation of Reform or Revolution. Originally, it appeared in German in 1899, its aim being to show the weakness of the case of Eduard Bernstein and Kondradt Schmidt, which stated that the German Social Democratic Party should abandon all idea of a revolutionary transformation of society and aim to improve the status of the working-class by means of the winning of reforms. Bernstein and Schmidt held the view that reforms themselves, if continuously enacted, would gradually make an inroad into capitalism, with the result that Socialism would slowly arrive.

Two groups formed themselves in the Social Democratic Party which hitherto had claimed to be Marxist; one group led by Rosa Luxemburg, Wilhelm Liebknecht and Karl Kautsky, which still called itself Marxist; the other which gathered around Bernstein and advocated gradualism or reformism.

The pamphlet under review, written in defence of scientific Socialism and to demonstrate the fallacies of gradualism, deserves to be widely read, and we recommend it especially to members of the Labour Party, trade unionists and Co-operators.

Before dealing with the pamphlet itself, there is one aspect of its history that is worthy of note. From it can be learned a lesson in party organisation.

The arguments of Reform or Revolution, though sound in the main, were not accepted by the majority of the German SDP. Bernstein’s reformism was preferred. The question arises, “Why did a party which claimed to be Marxist, reject Rosa Luxemburg’s teaching and adopt that of Bernstein?” The answer is that the SDP, while declaring Socialism to be its aim, entered the political arena from the first with a programme of demands for immediate reforms. Consequently, despite the wishes of many of the founders, adherents were gained who were interested in the reforms offered, rather than in the Socialist objective. Because of this unsound foundation, the party became overwhelmed with reformists. As Liebknecht said in his No Compromise, written in the same year as Reform or Revolution, “When once the thin end of the opportunist wedge has forced itself into the policy of the party, the thick end soon follow”. Readers of Liebknecht’s pamphlet will know that very soon the German capitalist class lost its terror of the SDP, many of them joined its ranks and the class basis of the party was gone. The unsound basis of the party was again revealed in 1914, when it supported its own national group of capitalists in the war, just as the British Labour Party supported the British capitalists. Rosa Luxemburg’s Reform or Revolution had been powerless against the strong waves of reformism within the SDP.

The lesson to be learned from the above facts is obvious: when organising for Socialism, the offering of reforms on the party programme spells ruin. Thousands may flock into the party, but they are mostly interested in the reform of capitalism, not in its abolition, and these members swamp the Socialist element. Here is a definite answer to those who urge Socialists to join the Labour Party. History has proved, in the case of the German Social Democratic Party, that Socialists inside a reformist organisation cannot convert it and bring it on to the Socialist path. The only logical thing they can do is to break with the reformists and organise on the clear-cut programme of Socialism. Says Liebknect: “Once . . . we have started upon the inclined plane of compromise, there is no stopping”.

And now let us turn to the pamphlet itself.

The argument put forward—and shown to be true—is that the working-class cannot hope for Socialism from trade unions, Co-operatives or from reform movements.

Trade unions, Rosa Luxemburg, shows, are a part of capitalism itself. They are the workers’ weapons of defence against the capitalist class which aims at increasing its profits. They are useful in that they enable the workers to sell their labour-power under more favourable conditions than would otherwise be the case. However, they are not able to take the offensive against capitalism, to overthrow it, because they are badly handicapped. They are handicapped because the continued increase in the use of machinery makes for a greater productivity of labour, and therefore enables the capitalist class to employ fewer hands for the production of a given quantity of goods. Furthermore, trade unions cannot increase the share of wealth going to the working class. Owing to the development of capitalism and the greater productivity of labour, this share is continually being reduced. When the workers produce more, their wages do not rise in the same proportion (pp. 16-18 and p. 37).

Co-operative Societies are no more able than trade unions to end capitalism. As Rosa Luxemburg points out (pp. 35-6) they can survive within the present system only if they become pure capitalist enterprises. They have to compete with capitalist firms, and to do so successfully they must adopt capitalist methods of production.
  “Labour is intensified. The work day is lengthened or shortened, according to the situation of the market. And, depending on the requirements of the market, labour is either employed or thrown back into the street. In other words, use is made of all the methods that enable an enterprise to stand up against its competitors in the market. The workers forming a co-operative in the field of production . . . are obliged to take toward themselves the role of the capitalist entrepreneur—a contradiction that accounts for the usual failure of production co-operatives, which either become pure capitalist enterprises or, if the workers’ interests continue to predominate, end by dissolving”.
How capitalist the co-operatives have become in England may be seen from the fact that their employees, like employees in any capitalist concern, have frequently had to strike against their conditions of work.

Those who hope to establish Socialism by means of a long series of reforms will find in this book an explanation of why they are doomed to disappointment.

A revolution and a legislative reform are two completely different factors in the development of society. “A social transformation and a legislative reform do not differ according to their duration but according to their content.” A revolution is the work of a class which has gained political power in order to transform society to suit its interests; a reform is carried out only within the framework of the social system created by the previous revolution. Hence reforms cannot end capitalism; they can modify it to some extent, but they leave its basis untouched. To establish socialism, a revolution—a complete transformation of private property into social property—is necessary.
  “That is why people who pronounce themselves in favour of the method of legislative reform in place of and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modifications of the old society” (p; 43).
Furthermore, the State to-day is a class State, established by the capitalist class and carried on in its interests. It is the representative of capitalist society, wherein capitalist interests dominate. Any social reforms that are passed, therefore, will not be injurious to capitalism. Says Rosa Luxemburg (p. 21):
  “The present State is, first of all, an organisation of the ruling class. It assumes functions favouring social development specifically because, and in the measure that, these interests and social development coincide, in a general fashion, with the interests of the dominant class. Labour legislation is enacted as much in the immediate interest of the capitalist class as in the interest of society in general.”
Since the struggle for reforms cannot alter the slave position of the working class, it ends by bringing indifference and disillusionment to the workers who look to reforms for emancipation.
  “Since the social reforms can only offer an empty promise, the logical consequence of such a programme must necessarily be disillusionment” (p. 26).
If trade unions, Co-operatives and reform movements are unable to oust capitalism and usher in Socialism, what must we do to reach our goal? Rosa Luxemburg indicates the way.
“From the first appearance of class societies . . . the conquest of political power has been the aim of all rising classes” (p. 42). 
The workers, too, being an oppressed class, must aim at capturing political power. And they must make use of democracy for that end. Democracy is indispensable to the working-class “because it creates the political forms which will serve the proletariat as fulcrums in its task of transforming bourgeois society” (p. 45). Democracy the working-class needs, and this can be best preserved, not by compromise, but by struggling for Socialism. Lovers of democracy should ponder carefully the following:
  “Democracy does not acquire greater chances of life in the measure that the working-class renounces the struggle for its emancipation, but, on the contrary, democracy acquires greater chances of survival as the Socialist movement becomes sufficiently strong to struggle against the reactionary consequences of world politics, and the bourgeois desertion of democracy. He who would strengthen democracy should want to strengthen and not weaken the Socialist movement. He who renounces the struggle for Socialism renounces both the Labour movement and democracy” (p. 41).
Rosa Luxemburg puts forward certain points of view with which we do not agree. For example, we hold that she lays too much emphasis on the decline of capitalism and its collapse. Readers of Reform or Revolution would do well to study also our penny pamphlet Why Capitalism Will Not Collapse.
Clifford Allen

("Reform or Revolution" is obtainable from 42 Great Dover Street, S.E.1, at 1s, post free 1s. 1d.)