Sunday, March 28, 2021

Muddled Money Theory (2021)

Book Review from the March 2021 issue of the Socialist Standard

The deficit myth: modern monetary theory and how to build a better economy. Stephanie Kelton, John Murray Publishers, 2020

You may have read or heard about Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), which has become popular in some left-wing circles as a means for justifying government spending programmes. In essence, it affirms that any state that can issue its own inconvertible (fiat) currency, cannot go bankrupt (so long as it only borrows in its own currency).

This leads to a model of the state in which it is not reliant on taxation nor borrowing to spend. Taxes, for MMT, are merely a means for driving demand for the state-issued currency, and any money paid in tax is effectively destroyed. All state spending is simply the issuing of newly created money. The national debt is simply a different form of money that attracts interest in the normal money the state issues. The national debt, in this model, is merely a means to regulate interest rates.

The only limit to state spending, for MMT, is the availability of resources in the real economy. These limits only become evident through the appearance of inflation: prices would begin to rise as demand from government spending outstripped supply. The method that Kelton promotes to regulate this spending is a government jobs guarantee scheme, so that full employment is maintained at all times. If private sector employment drops, the government jobs scheme kicks in to offer employment, at a minimum rate. As the economy recovers, people leave the job scheme, attracted by private sector wages.

This is, then, unlike the Keynsian prescription, in that MMT encourages government spending at any stage of the business cycle, rather than cutting spending during the upswing and borrowing during the recession.

The core premise of MMT is banally true: the state can always issue more money in its own currency. There is a question of just how much scope there is for increasing state spending before inflation kicks in, and Kelton certainly seems to write a lot of cheques against that spending capacity: healthcare, university education, pensions, etc.

She seems to imply that the current models, wherein the state is assumed to be funded through taxation and borrowing, are simply an error, rather than representing the ideological form of the interests of the owners of money and capital.

Before 1971 other currencies had a fixed rate of exchange with the dollar and the dollar was convertible into gold at the fixed rate of $35 an ounce. This provided an indirect link between a currency and gold. The currencies themselves, however, were not convertible into gold and states could issue as much as they wanted. To the extent that they over-issued them this led to inflation and in the end to a formal devaluation of their exchange rate with the dollar.

When this ‘gold exchange standard’ was abandoned by the US in 1971 the commodity origin of currencies was completely disguised, giving rise to the illusion on which MMT is based that money is entirely a creation of a state. Since then currencies have floated up and down against each other in accordance with the demand for them, for instance to pay for imports. An increase in their supply was still liable, if excessive, to cause inflation. The result wasn’t a formal devaluation, simply a downwards float vis-à-vis other currencies.

To an extent, the commodity origin is still relevant because the state monopoly of fiat currency is not absolute. People can abandon pounds or dollars by buying foreign currencies or value-bearing commodities (in a crisis, the price of gold shoots up, as people buy gold to try and protect the value of their assets). Contrary to Kelton’s assertion, the banks do not have to buy the national debt, they have other options, but it has to remain attractive, and the currency has to retain confidence.

Further, her dismissal of ‘crowding out’ theory only goes so far. The usual idea of crowding out is that government borrowing attracts investable capital and pushes up interest rates, making it harder for private sector businesses to find investment and thus damping down overall economic growth. Kelton argues that the state can effectively set its own interest rates for borrowing, and can thus borrow and hold down interest rates at the same time.

To an extent that is true, but only within broad limits governed by general confidence in the security of the government debt. With international money markets, setting the interest rate too low or too high would make the currency a target for speculation, as people would move their assets into or out of the country. Further, leaving interest rates to one side, as the state can only consume resources (as a state) all the resources employed by the state cannot be employed by private capital to produce profits. Whether this transfer really comes from borrowing, taxation or from creating money is moot, the fact remains that from a capitalist’s perspective, state spending is a threat to their profitability. This means less wealth overall is created for the state to commandeer.

The same can be said for a jobs guarantee. It is useful for Kelton to tell us that the US Federal Reserve sees it as part of its role to deliberately sustain a certain level of unemployment in order to control inflation. While she sees this as the result of mistaken theory, we would see it as part of the essential features of capitalism. Capitalism relies on the lash of the threat of poverty and unemployment in order to sustain its profitability for the capitalists, as well as having a buffer of laid-off workers in reserve for the next boom.

A job guarantee scheme would see wages pushed up to the point where they cut into the profits the capitalists make (and this would happen without causing inflation, since the demand would simply be transferring effective demand from one pocket to another). This would likely result in a capital strike occasioning a form of economic crisis. Just as likely, the state might be called in, as it was under the Keynesian nostrums, to regulate wages and use its job guarantee to control wage levels.

To the extent that Kelton talks about looking past money to think about real economic resources and how they can be commanded for the interests of the whole community, she is on the right path. The lever of state-issued money is insufficient. The distortion of money markets would get in the way of that. Likewise, simply seeing the problem as a misunderstanding of theory, rather than actual contesting class interests, is a greater barrier than any theory of how the state is financed.
Pik Smeet

Global Socialism (2021)

From the March 2021 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ is a Sanskrit phrase found in Hindu holy texts such as the Maha Upanishad, the Rig Veda and the Bhagavata, which means ‘the world is one family’. Although anti-religion, the companion parties in the World Socialist Movement embody that concept in our axiom ‘One world, One people.’

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency has shown us that there is something very wrong with the system we live under. It has led many people to contemplate a future other than apocalyptic catastrophes and instead hold hope that the threat of pollution and plague might lead to a better world. Both crises have made clear the oneness of the peoples of the world. What we share is much more powerful than what keeps us apart. All people are inescapably interconnected, and the more we can come together to solve our problems, the better our chances that we can avoid a possible collapse of civilisation.

Capitalism, through its creation of a world market, has broken down many of the barriers between the nations. The capitalist method of production draws all the peoples of the globe together. But this same capitalism also promotes the strengthening of nationalism through trade wars that from time to time turn into armed conflicts to secure more of that world market. Commercial rivalries intensify national enmities. That is why the idea of a world community and universal peace cannot prosper under capitalist society.

Whereas the globalisation influence of the corporations is continually frustrated by competing national capitalisms, the internationalism of the working people is strengthened by the mutual solidarity of the interests of all the workers, regardless of their location or nationality. The position of the workers is almost identical in its essential features throughout the world. While the interests of the capitalists of different countries unceasingly conflict with one another, the interests of the working class coincide and workers come to realise this in the course of their struggles. For instance, in their attempts to secure higher wages, a reduction of hours, and other workplace protections, our fellow workers continually meet obstacles, which arise from the competition between the capitalists of various nations. An increase in wages or a reduction of the working day in any particular country is undermined by the competition of other countries in which these reforms have not yet been achieved. Such things convince workers of the solidarity of their interests and of the necessity for joining forces in the struggle to improve their condition.

Emancipation from wage slavery is unthinkable without a worldwide socialist reconstruction of society. The Socialist Party’s goal is the union of the workers of the whole world in a common struggle for liberation, the greatest social movement in human history. A movement is rooted in the blood, sweat and tears of millions who have spent their lives throughout history clamouring for a better society that works for everyone. This movement does not appear by magic and we need to consciously commit ourselves to the systemic transformation to a classless society where the resources of the Earth become the common heritage of all humanity. Humanity can work together to prevail over problems and learn the folly of battling one another.

The climate crisis and the pandemic demonstrate the mutual dependencies of the world’s peoples and the requirement that the planet’s resources be redirected for the service of health and peaceful life. The overriding goal must be human security, providing food, water, a clean environment and good health for people. Socialists recognise the value of collective social relationships. We’re brothers and sisters who must think and act cooperatively to achieve common goals.

We must become one world through genuine cooperation and collaboration among all the people of the world, coordinating to protect humanity. We need a mighty movement to transform the political institutions and economic structures. The same dedication and determination with which wars have been conducted through the ages must now be applied to building a peaceful and prosperous planet.

Human beings can only take so much. The living natural world can only take so much. The peoples of the planet are ripe for change. But unless we make the world socialist commonwealth our goal change may not be necessarily progressive. It could be reactionary and fuelled by religious extremism, xenophobia, racism, and tribalism.

What is up to us within the socialist movement is to present a positive vision of the future. To point out all the mutual aid networks we see flourishing across the world. Now is the time for the alternative. Society must redirect the resources it’s currently wasting and instead provide for the needs and wants of people.

To survive and prosper, to fulfil our potential, we must reject divisions and recognise that it is possible to build a new system of social justice. From the chaos of the old, we can create a future civilisation in which humanity can live in harmony. In times of crises such as these, people are offering support to one another. This as an opportunity to reset society for a better future. We can rebuild our society in an egalitarian way, in an environmentally friendly way. We can banish the politics of hatred.

The Socialist Party proposes a society-wide democracy, and an end to the profit system. Working people have had enough of being fed the false arguments that human nature, over-population or shortage of resources prevent socialism and that we need leaders and a process of gradual reforms to bring about a socialist society. We have had enough of waiting. It’s possible now. We can bury forever all national chauvinism, racial prejudice, and religious bigotry beginning today.

Cooking The Books: Is capitalism based on unsustainable debt? (2021)

The Cooking The Books column from the March 2021 issue of the Socialist Standard

A new group calling itself ‘Blue Revolution’ has sent us a couple of pamphlets. In one of them, The History of Politics Simplified, they talk of the ‘debt based free market system’ and make the claim that the ‘free market … relies on an economy that is dependent on debt’. They invoke Marx in support of this:
  ‘… unless change take place the western economy will in the words of Karl Marx collapse under the weight of its economic contradictions … Reliance on this system will bankrupt the government first and then, the nation.’
Marx never expressed such words. He never wrote of capitalism collapsing under its economic contradictions. He did point out capitalism’s contradictions – such as between use-value and exchange value, and between co-operative production and private ownership – but did not expect these to lead to the system’s economic collapse. What they did cause was production under capitalism to be erratic, veering continuously between boom and slump and back. His view was that capitalism would have to be brought to an end through conscious action by the wage-working class.

Marx didn’t even see dependence on debt as one of capitalism’s contradictions. Debt is something owed by somebody or some organisation to some other person or organisation that has lent them money. So, if you are claiming an economic system is based on debt you are at the same time claiming that it is based on lending.

Borrowing (i.e., getting into debt) and lending are certainly features of capitalism, and if lenders stopped lending the system would be in trouble, but why would lenders do that? Banks and other financial institutions make money by lending money (theirs or other people’s or organisations’) in return for interest, a part of which is their profit.

There are three types of borrowers – individual workers, capitalist enterprises, and governments. Lenders lend workers money to buy consumer items such as household goods, a car or a house but they always check first the chances of getting their money back out of future wages; if they don’t think these chances are high enough they will refuse a loan. Lenders lend to capitalist enterprises to invest in some profitable project and calculate whether they will get their money back out of future profits. They lend to states for the interest states will pay them out of taxation.

In all cases they weigh up the chances of getting their money back with interest and, if the chances are not good enough, they won’t lend. They sometimes get it wrong, but not on the systematic and massive scale assumed by those who think that debts are likely to get out of hand and bring the system down.

Ironically perhaps, it is governments that are the least likely to default. This is because they have the power to raise money from taxes. Which is why, when they scent a recession coming, financial institutions switch to buying government debt (bonds). The leading capitalist states are not going to go bankrupt; their borrowing is sustainable and lenders know it.

It is lending to capitalist enterprises that causes trouble for the system from time to time. Capitalist enterprises are driven by the pursuit of profits; in a boom one sector always eventually overestimates the chances of this, as do those who lend them money. The result is an economic downturn and financial crisis. However, this is not the end of the system. Slumps eventually create the conditions for a recovery by restoring profit-making prospects, and profit-making and capital accumulation resume until the next slump.

The present economic system is not dependent on debt but on making profits.

Material World: Crackdown or Backdown?

The Material World column from the March 2021 issue of the Socialist Standard

While there are many unsettling questions posed by Aung Sang Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD)’s complicity in the persecution of ethnic minorities, the World Socialist Movement expresses its solidarity with our Myanmar fellow-workers in their present struggle. Having had a taste of liberty, no matter how limited, the people of Myanmar have shown that they will not passively submit to the return of the army dictatorship. The pro-democracy movement has taken on a life of its own in rejecting the rule of an authoritarian military junta. There is now a new generation of young people accustomed to accessing social media. The defiant three-fingered salute of the Hunger Games movies, adopted by pro-democracy activists in Thailand and Hong Kong has now become the gesture of resistance in Myanmar.

‘This movement is leaderless — people are getting on the streets in their own way and at their own will,’ said activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi to AP Press.

Peaceful public demonstrations and spontaneous unofficial strikes have become widespread, actions which are full of personal risk as this army has not hesitated in the past to brutally suppress opposition.

There is much speculation about why the army re-imposed full control but we do know that it was not because of any concern about fraud in the November’s election. The only way to counter the coup is non-violent civil disobedience of one kind or another to win over the state’s forces of coercion, which our fellow workers are now engaged in. This cannot be a fight between the NLD and the generals. It has to be to deprive the junta of legitimacy and recognition and hinder it from functioning by strikes in the hope that this type of mass participation tactic will disable the dictatorship’s ability to rule and disrupt the vast business empire of the Tatmadaw (the armed forces). In addition is the anticipation of possible mass defections from the police and army. Nearly fifty police departments in Loikaw, the capital of eastern Kayah state, crossed lines and joined the protest march where the banner read, ‘No military dictatorship.’ Importantly, without mutinies within the armed forces and police, the ruling clique is likely to win, at least, temporarily.

As the major actor in the Myanmar economy, owning substantial investments, the Tatmadaw has been reluctant to yield meaningful political power. The coup could have been a business decision made in the boardroom rather than the war-room by the upper echelons of the military who feel threatened by Suu Kyi’s continued popularity which could potentially lead to a campaign against corruption and further constitutional change. Suu Kyi and her NLD have tried to re-model the military-dominated economy by implementing the ‘Myanmar Sustainable Economic Development Plan’ which welcomes foreign investment but could bring the hegemony of the military clique to an end.

Who knows what might happen? Information still remains mainly limited to hearsay and guesswork. What we do know is that the NLD collaboration with the Tatmadaw led to garment workers on strike being attacked in 2018 and union activists in May 2020 being arrested. Suu Kyi calculated that Burmese Buddhist nationalism was a winning electoral strategy. Ethnic minorities represent around 40 percent of Myanmar’s total 54 million population. But around 2.5 million ethnic minority citizens were unable to vote in last year’s election – including 1.5 million voters in conflict-affected areas due to security concerns and one million Rohingya who are denied citizenship and voting rights. Political democracy in its current shape has not served Myanmar’s ethnic minorities, but it’s still better, even in an illiberal form, than Tatmadaw rule, a hybrid civil–military system which protects military dominance. The previous political reforms were orchestrated by the country’s military in ways that safeguard its own power interests. This explains the persistence of authoritarian rule and military dominance in contemporary Myanmar politics.

And because the global economic system was interested in profiting from Myanmar’s economic potentials, its largely untapped natural riches – including minerals, natural gas, and hydropower and an undeveloped market – it presented ideal commercial opportunities and so the looming shadows of the generals in the background were conveniently ignored.

Many commentators have excused Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s complicity in the oppression of the Rohingya as a sign that she and her party were never really in charge and that she was obliged to compromise her own democratic ideals in a Faustian pact with the army. If true, the lesson is very clear for all to see now – that those who sup with the devil should have a very long spoon.

Critics of socialism say that what has arisen in Myanmar will happen if there is a socialist victory at the polls — those in control of state power won’t concede their power. Our answer is that if there exists a majority for socialism the socialist movement will eventually prevail one way or another, sooner or later. The immediate reaction would be strikes and demonstrations and mass disaffection, the same disobedience which we witness happening in Myanmar.

Not the alternative (2021)

Book Review from the March 2021 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why America Needs Socialism. G.S. Griffin, Ig Publishing, New York, 2019

It wasn’t a bad idea to introduce socialism to Americans prejudiced against it, by quoting people and writers they know of such as Einstein, Martin Luther King, Helen Keller, Mark Twain, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, George Orwell, all of whom made criticisms of capitalism as a system based on inequality and production for profit. Technically, this is the invalid ‘argument from authority’ but Griffin puts their quotes to good use to back up his argument against capitalism, at least against private capitalism.

The facts he presents are referenced in 70 pages of footnotes. All the same, there are a few inaccuracies. In 1936 the Spanish people did not rise up against the fascist dictator Franco; Franco rose up against the elected Republican government. The Mondragon cooperative had nothing to do with any Marxist tradition in Spain; it was set up under Franco by a Catholic priest.

When it comes to describing the alternative to capitalism, what Griffin (a member of the Democratic Socialists of America) sees as socialism, the book fails. He describes socialism as a society ‘full of cooperatives’; all places of work – factories, farms, offices, shops, transport, hospitals, schools, colleges, theatres – are to be owned and run by those working in them. This would not be socialism, as in a socialist society the means of life would be owned by society as a whole and not by those who worked in them. Society-wide common ownership allows production to be geared directly to meeting people’s needs; the question to solve is then not to sell what has been produced but how to distribute it to where it is needed.

Certainly, in socialism workplaces will be democratically run by those working in them but they won’t be their property. Griffin’s scheme, on the other hand, involves worker-owned cooperatives producing for sale on a market, which means that they will have to at least break even, with money spent being balanced by money from sales, while free services will have to be financed from taxes. The objection to this is not that it wouldn’t be better than what exists now but that it wouldn’t work, at least not as intended. Market forces would still control things and, since in practice the cooperatives would have to aim to make a monetary surplus (aka profit), eventually lead to a return to capitalism as we know it.
Adam Buick

Letter: Reflections (2021)

Letter to the Editors from the March 2021 issue of the Socialist Standard


Dear Editor

I think we can say that, if it doesn’t abolish capitalism, humanity doesn’t have a very long time, because capitalism is destroying the very planet we live on. As a system, it cannot go against its own raison d’être, which is the accumulation of capital. This is the very definition of capitalism, and life itself is sacrificed for it and must always be while the system lasts. Governments cannot resolve this because they are the representatives of capital. Their helmsmen (leaders, presidents, prime ministers, etc.) lead nothing. They cannot control capitalism. It controls them.

Nothing stands still; not in nature nor in society. Ironically, capitalism, with its very destructiveness, is socialism’s greatest ally. People, throughout history, become political when the environment they are in compels them to, and this is our hope.

It isn’t that the Socialist Party (that is, the real socialist movement for a stateless, classless, moneyless society) could ever convert the majority of the world’s workers through its political activity, but that the world’s workers themselves will come to the same conclusion as us through many independent routes and threads and coming to that conclusion (that the system of prices and profits, buying and selling, wage-slavery and capital accumulation must go, if we are to save the Earth and if our grandchildren are to live) without any need to study Marx or even to read a single book.

They will come to that conclusion because every reform they attempt, every conservation project they undertake, every patching-up attempt they make, every charitable endeavour of theirs, is punched to the ground by capitalism every day, it being the root cause of all of it: famine, war, poverty, pollution, destruction.

The threads are yet to come together, but I think they are heading in that direction, bit by bit, and independently of us socialists today. That may sound optimistic but the pessimistic alternative is that capitalism will never be got rid of, and will, instead, get rid of life on Earth. That is the distinct possibility. Maybe that will happen, and socialism remain a fond dream. So, are we to give up? I think giving up would be unethical.

It would be unethical toward not just our fellow humans, but all our fellow animals and our planet, and to all the yet unborn too.

A mass movement becomes a reality not one by one, but by tipping points being reached. Initial tipping points are the longest to reach, and successive ones more and more rapid. The first need only take a couple of thousand, after which the pace quickens thereafter – with tipping points also being reached independently in different parts of the globe before contact, after which the pace becomes a deluge.

And this last is why the capitalists’ state apparatuses would be helpless to stop it.
Anthony Walker

Obituary: Suhuyini Nbang-Ba (2021)

Obituary from the March 2021 issue of the Socialist Standard

A socialist’s life

Anoushka Alexander writes: Suhuyini Nbang-Ba, socialist activist, journalist and teacher died at home in the Gambia on 16 September 2020. He was nine days short of his sixty-first birthday and is survived by a brother, a sister, three nieces and four nephews.

Suhuyini was born in the small town of Ejura, near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana. He was, however, a Dagomba, a member of the Muslim tribe of that name from Ghana’s Northern Region. He was originally named Mohammed Yacabou, and known as M.Y. to his friends, but chose the name Suhuyini Nbang-Ba in later life. This was a political act reclaiming his ancestry and history — his Muslim name could be traced back to colonisation of the Dagomba area by traders between the 12th and 15th centuries. Instead, Suhuyini chose a name in his mother tongue, Dagbani — ‘Suhuyini’ meaning ‘unity’ (literally ‘one heart’) and ‘Nbang-Ba’ meaning ‘I know them’— a reference to his ancestors and the act of reclaiming them embodied in changing his name. In fact, having previously been very religious and renowned for his piety, as a young man in the early eighties he renounced Islam and publicly denounced both the activities of certain Muslim leaders and religion in general.

As a schoolboy, Suhuyini was sent to live with his aunt in the north so he could attend Tamale Secondary School. He was also educated at the prestigious University of Ghana, Legon, where he took his undergraduate degree and then later began an MPhil in African and European history. While at university, he became very active politically and was a member of the United Revolutionary Front (URF), an underground anarchist movement opposed to the military junta led by Jerry John Rawlings. However, Suhuyini later opposed armed struggle. During his time as an undergraduate, he was beaten up by the military, hospitalised and placed under house arrest due to the student union’s opposition to the military junta.

Suhuyini then spent two years as a teacher back in the Northern Region, also setting up a self-help association for impoverished women and a drama troupe.

In the late eighties, when the ruling regime introduced District Assemblies to lend a semblance of democracy to the dictatorship, Suhuyini contested the Nalung Constituency seat and won 75 percent of the vote. He became one of the first members of the Tamale District Assembly (a sort of district parliament.)

After his time in the north, Suhuyini returned to Accra to take his MPhil.

While studying for this he joined the communist Weekly Insight newspaper as a reporter and columnist; the Insight was at that time the only non-governmental newspaper. His column was titled ‘The Dark File’ and targeted corrupt government officials. As he did not use a pseudonym, he started receiving anonymous threats from the top echelons of Ghanaian society and from hit-men of the military dictatorship. Despite this he continued his political work.

When he could stand the threats no longer, and when the military turned up at his home while he was out, he fled on foot to the Gambia, having to sell the very shoes he was wearing to pay for his passage and to bribe border guards. Once in the Gambia he continued his teaching and journalism.

During this period, five of Suhuyini’s close Gambian friends were rounded up by the military on suspicion of being involved in a failed coup attempt; all of them died while being transported between prisons. Officials claimed at the time that they had died when the car they were in crashed, but the circumstances surrounding the event were suspicious and his fears for his safety led to Suhuyini finally giving up his political journalism in the Gambia.

However, Suhuyini continued his political work by writing for publications based outside West Africa. He became a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) and contributed articles to the party’s journal Socialist Standard. He also edited a magazine of the SPGB called African Socialist which was later renamed Socialist Banner.

At the time of his death Suhuyini was working on a book of essays, despite limited access to a computer and an erratic electricity supply. Although the hospital did not give a cause of death, he had been increasingly weak for a year with little appetite.

I came to know Suhuyini in the late nineties when he was living in Nsawam, Ghana, teaching English literature and French at secondary school and working at the Weekly Insight. Here he was known by pupils and teachers alike by yet another name: Afah, a Dagomba word meaning a Muslim teacher. This name had sprung up spontaneously and was indicative of the respect in which his pupils and colleagues held him.

Tellingly, it was not widely known outside his home region that Suhuyini was born into Dagomba royalty. In fact I doubt any of his colleagues in Nsawam knew of this fact. His father was the sub-chief of the tribe and he was the only son of his mother, the tribal queen. However, when Suhuyini became an atheist he also chose not to inherit the chieftaincy and he kept his royal lineage as secret as possible.

I only became aware of it myself at the school where we both taught when one of his pupils, also a Dagomba, prostrated herself on the ground before him as a sign of respect. Suhuyini quickly told her to get up and that she did not need to do this. It was only when pressed by me that he explained the meaning behind her actions, otherwise he would not have mentioned it.

This was typical of the man. There are some people who make a show of espousing socialism in theory, but fall short of its principles in the way they live their lives. This was never true of Suhuyini — his political views were deeply held and stemmed from his character; he lived socialist principles. Unlike some of his nominally socialist colleagues in West Africa, he refused to bribe his way into a lucrative post, preferring to remain a poorly-paid teacher with his principles intact. He tenaciously battled depression, ill-health and constant technical problems to work on his political writing, and throughout his life he campaigned tirelessly, experiencing violence and risking death many times for his principles.

More than that, Suhuyini treated everyone he met as an equal and spoke to everybody with the same friendly respect, from the highest born to the most lowly street-seller. While teaching in Nsawam he sponsored a schoolboy through his education, even though the child was no relation, out of pure compassion. He sponsored a child again later in the Gambia, despite his own limited means. When he died in the Gambia, the family where he rented a room told me he had been like a son to his landlady and like a second father to her grandchildren, who knew him affectionately as ‘Baba.’

He certainly had a life-long effect on me. When I first met him I was seventeen, and my discussions with him then and over the intervening years helped form the political beliefs I still hold today.

Indeed, Suhuyini left his mark on everyone he met. He held strong views, yet was always willing to hear others out — debates never became rows — and with his humanity, sharp wit and easy, infectious laugh he enriched the life of all who knew him, no matter which name they knew him by. He is deeply missed by those he left behind and the world is a lesser place without him.

Suhuyini Nbang-Ba, political campaigner, journalist, teacher and loved one, born  25 September 1959; died 16 September 2020.

The articles he wrote for the Socialist Standard can be found here.

The Peace Ballot and the League of Nations (1935)

From the March 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

The League of Nations Union, formed with the object of spreading information and gaining support for the League of Nations, has come into the news with its Peace Ballot. The ballot is a house-to-house canvass on five questions, drawn up by the Union. The questions are: (1) Should Great Britain remain a member of the League of Nations? (2) Are you in favour of an all-round reduction of armaments by international agreement? (3) Are you in favour of the all-round abolition of national military and naval aircraft by international agreement? (4) Should the manufacture and sale of armaments for private profit be prohibited by international agreement ? (5) Do you consider that if a nation insists on attacking another the other nations should combine to compel it to stop by (a) economic and non-military measures; (b) if necessary, military measures ?

It was to be expected that Lord Beaverbrook and his newspapers would oppose the ballot, as they oppose the League of Nations. They call it the “Ballot of Blood.” War, they say, will be avoided only if the British Government turns its back on the League, cultivates Empire relationships, and firmly refuses to meddle in the affairs of any country outside the Empire. In their wilder moments, Lord Beaverbrook's papers convey the impression that the League of Nations is itself the cause of war.

At the other extreme are the pacifists, who see the cause of war in the machinations of armament firms, and of mysterious wire-pulling international financiers.

In the middle are the people who vaguely accept the doctrine of the Union, that the avoidance of war only requires the cultivation of peaceful and friendly sentiments, plus the habit of using the international machinery of arbitration and discussion provided by the League of Nations. Where all three groups err is in turning a blind eye on capitalism itself. Let us forget foreign affairs and take a look at capitalism at home. Why are there strikes and lock-outs, unemployed demonstrations, frauds, thefts, swindles, forgeries, adulteration of products; hold-ups, property-murders, and a hundred-and-one other manifestations of conflicts over property and the division of the products of industry? Is it lack of propaganda? On the contrary, we cannot escape the cloying stream of pious sentiments in the Press, over the air, in churches, schools and anywhere else where workers can be compelled to listen. Is it lack of machinery? Not at all. Large Government departments, employers organisations and trade unions, and innumerable voluntary associations work day and night under the shadow of a maze of boards and committees designed to dissuade the capitalist and worker from conflict. The class struggle, in its varied aspects, exists and continues because capitalism divides mankind into warring classes, those who live by owning the means of production and distribution, and those who are propertyless and must sell their labour-power to the former. Some people accept this strife as a supposed law of nature. Others preach peace, but steadfastly defend the property basis, which means war. Socialists preach the abolition of the private ownership of the means of life. That is the only way of ending the war of classes.

As it is at home, so it is abroad. Capitalism gives the ruling class the incentive to protect vested interests bound up in trade routes, sources of raw materials, and areas of foreign investment. Control of the machinery of Government gives them the power to wage war. The only sure road to peace is the road which leads to Socialism, conquest of the powers of the Government by a politically organised Socialist majority. While Lords Beaverbrook and Rothermere, and the rest of the capitalist class, own and control the means of life they are the enemies of the working class and a danger to the human race. Their pious oath that they are not interested financially in this or that armament, or aircraft, or any other particular company, is of no significance. They have the supreme vested interest, a vested interest in the maintenance of capitalism. They can be expected, therefore, to sacrifice the interest of society to the interest of themselves and their class.

The Socialist who examines the Union’s five questions has no difficulty in seeing their futility. The real position boils down to one question: “Are you in favour of depriving the capitalist class of their control over the machinery of Government, including the armed forces?" “Yes," says the Socialist. “ No," says the capitalist and his avowed supporters. “Yes and no, but only gradually, and not unless the capitalist agrees," says the Labourite, with his muddled conceptions of capitalism and Socialism.

It will be seen, therefore, why the Socialist does not share the enthusiasm over the ballot expressed by the League of Nations Union. Nevertheless, even if the mass of the population have a long way to go before they understand the question of war or of the larger question which includes it, the surprisingly large vote for the League of Nations is, in its way, a welcome sign. It is a tribute to the Union’s effective canvass, but it also suggests that the average worker is taking a greater interest in affairs that were once the close preserve of the politician, and is breaking away from old ideas about passively accepting war as if it were as inevitable as changes in the weather. The first two million votes gave a 97 per cent, vote in favour of the League, and votes nearly as large for all the first four questions, and for question 5 (a). Question 5 (b), on the use of military measures, shows a smaller majority, 72 per cent. “for" and 28 per cent. “against." An equally surprising thing is the large number of voters in relation to the total population. In some places well over half the population over the age of eighteen have voted.

One interesting aspect is the efficiency with which the Union has conducted the ballot. By the time it is completed about 250,000 canvassers (mostly voluntary) will have visited 10 million homes and solicited the votes of over 30 million people. That this was possible must be accounted to the large membership and influence the League of Nations Union has acquired. It claims over a million members on its books, about half being paying members, and is well supplied with funds, some of the donations amounting to thousands of pounds. The Union would, no doubt, lose many of its wealthy supporters if the ruling class, after having formed and entered the League of Nations without asking the electorate, should decide to scrap it— also without asking the electorate.
Edgar Hardcastle

Capitalism and Speculation (1935)

From the March 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

An attempt by a group of speculators to enrich themselves by cornering two commodities has recently failed. The two commodities are shellac and white pepper; both, it might be mentioned in passing, of importance in connection with the production of war materials. About a year ago the group, through its agents, began to buy up all supplies of these commodities as they came on the market, the object being to force the price up and then to sell at a substantial profit. Shellac and pepper were, presumably, chosen by the speculators for their market manipulations because they thought that the amount of money required to create a comer in these commodities was relatively small, and that supplies could not be rapidly increased. They were mistaken in both respects. As the operations of the group lifted the price of pepper from 8¾d. per lb. to 1s. 6d. per lb., and that of shellac from around 70s. per cwt. to 120s. per cwt., larger and larger supplies came on to the market and buyers went round the back of the speculators and obtained their requirements in the native markets. Imports into this country increased enormously, as the following figures show: —

By the end of January stocks of pepper in London amounted to 21,000 tons (four years' supply) as compared with 3,000 tons a year earlier. About 7,000 tons was due to be paid for on February 8th. At the last minute the speculators found themselves not able to command the financial resources they had relied upon. The gamble had failed.

The storm has centred around a Mr. Bishirgian and a firm of metal brokers, James & Shakespeare, of which he is a director. This business was established in 1842 and was converted into a private company in 1917. In September of last year, after the buying of shellac and pepper had begun, the company made a public issue of £300,000 of preference shares and 300,000 ordinary shares of 5s. each. Part of the proceeds of this issue was utilised to acquire the metal and produce departments of G. Bishirgian & Co., and a majority interest in another firm, Williams, Henry & Co. Among the shareholders of James & Shakespeare are Mr. Reginald McKenna, chairman of the Midland Bank, Ltd., who, however, disclaims knowledge of the pepper gamble. Another is Sir Hugo Cunliffe Owen, chairman of the British-American Tobacco Co., Ltd., and the Dean Finance Co., a company of which we shall have more to say later. Purchases of shellac were made by Williams, Henry & Co., while pepper was bought by James & Shakespeare, both firms acting in the market through brokers. Their dealings, however, were not for their own account, but were on behalf of the group of speculators whose identities are not positively known. It was only because the market confidently believed that there was a powerful group behind the ostensible buyers that dealings were permitted to reach their final unwieldy size. There is now a demand for investigation, but we think it is a safe prophecy that there will be no real inquiry into the gamble and its initiators.

When the bubble burst, all the shellac bought by Williams, Henry & Co., was taken up. Arrangements were made by which the Dean Finance Co., Ltd., took over from James & Shakespeare their holding of shares in Williams, Henry & Co. The Dean Finance Co., Ltd. (director, Sir Hugo Cunliffe Owen) is a subsidiary of Tobacco Investments, Ltd. (directors, Mr. McKenna and Sir Hugo Cunliffe Owen), which in turn is owned by Tobacco Securities Trust (chairman, Mr. McKenna, vice-chairman. Sir Hugo Cunliffe Owen), a subsidiary of British-American Tobacco Co., Ltd. (chairman, Sir Hugo Cunliffe Owen). The managing director of Williams, Henry & Co., Mr. Louis Hardy, resigned. He is on the board of a number of tin companies, which have been connected with the tin restriction scheme, which has the blessing of the Government.

The pepper position, however, could not be propped up, as the shellac was. A winding-up order was applied for against James & Shakespeare. With that company unable to carry out its obligations, the brokers. Rolls & Sons, and J. T. Adair & Co., Ltd., who had acted for it, were also forced to default. Pepper and shellac are now back to their former level of prices. Three firms have smashed. Their employees are out of jobs. The City, in a fit of righteous indignation, is demanding the heads of the real culprits.

This indignation is farcical. There have been many cornering gambles in the past, and there will be more in the future. Capitalism provides scope for gambling of this kind. It offers fortunes to the successful speculator. Its apologists prate of the useful functions performed by the speculator in helping to make a market. When the gamble goes wrong those who get hurt in their pockets always set up howls of indignation. While a system based on the legalised robbery of the workers persists, there will always be struggles over the swag. That is what speculation is, and that is why talk of “cleaning up” capitalism is bluff and pretence. To end speculation it would be necessary to end capitalism.

The fate of the innocent victims, the clerks now out of jobs, provides a pretty commentary on those who say that profits are payment for risk. The speculators, if they had won, would have made huge profits. The clerks have lost their jobs. What reward did they, or could they, have got for running the risk of unemployment? They suffer when the gamble goes wrong, they would not have gained if it had gone right.

One final point worthy of notice is that we see here a banker, Mr. McKenna, investing money outside banking. Perhaps the illusionists who believe that bankers possess in the banking system a means of creating wealth without limit for themselves will explain why Mr. McKenna should have sought profit in another field.
B. S.

War! Psychological Causes (?) Aldous Huxley Psychoanalysed ! (1935)

From the March 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

Aldous Huxley is a writer of some repute, but that he is not of the calibre of his illustrious ancestor is shown by some of the material which he occasionally publishes. One of his latest efforts appears in The Listener, under the title of “Sadist Satisfactions in War,” and a more illogical lot of nonsense it is difficult to conceive of.

He starts by saying that out of a mistaken idea to simplify things, it is now fashionable to state that the causes of war are economic. We were unaware that it was “fashionable,” but let that pass. He gives as the causes of war: "psychological causes," geography and climate, differences in race, language, and culture, the intellectual gifts, passions, and subconscious tendencies of great men, and, finally, and presumably least important, the economic causes of war.

“Strictly speaking," we are told, "all the causes of war are psychological." Mr. Bertrand Russell is quoted as having passed judgment in his latest book on the dispute between psychologists and economists in a single sentence, to wit: "It is true that the conflicts between nations are largely economic, but the grouping of the world by nations is itself determined by causes which are in the main not economic"—“causes," adds Aldous, “which are largely psychological." A careful reading of the quotation from Bertrand Russell gives one the impression that he is of the opinion that the causes of war are mainly economic, so that although Bertrand Russell is quoted in support of Aldous Huxley, it would seem that he is of a different opinion.

"Wars," he goes on to say, “are not fought by climates or systems, but by human beings" (Really!), “and wherever there are human beings, the question of psychology inevitably arises." No sane person would take the affirmative of the denied proposition, but it is evident from the last part of this sentence and other matter in the article, that Aldous is of the opinion that the mental states of a people taking part in a war are the cause of that war. Yet the majority of pictures of mental states which are given are those which have arisen once the war has started and cannot, therefore, be described as the causes of war.

There is, however, one paragraph which deals with the mental states preceding a war. Let it be quoted:
   So far from discouraging nationalistic hatred and vanity, all governments directly or indirectly foment them. At school, children are taught to boast about their own nation and look down on all other nations. In dictatorial countries, this education in jingoistic sentiments is continued by the state throughout adult life. In liberal countries, it is left to the voluntary labours of the Press. Our rulers profess to desire peace, but do their utmost to make their subjects think and feel in such a way that, the moment a crisis arises, they will all acquiesce in or even actively clamour for war.
Why do governments directly or indirectly foment nationalistic hatred and vanity? Aldous Huxley does not give the answer. Yet surely here is the point which does require to be answered if it is honestly desired to get to the roots of the matter. Aldous Huxley has omitted this point, Possibly, had he thought of it, we might have been told to look for it in the sub-conscious minds of the Government officials! Yet everyone knows that governments exist by virtue of the support of the majority of the people, and under capitalism the different parties gain that support by making various promises to the electorate, and these promises have as their basis the satisfying of certain economic needs on the part of the electorate. The promises are frequently not carried out, but the backing is there. The parties themselves act in the interest of the capitalist class or sections of it—economic self-interest again! Why does a capitalist (Labour in office) Government operate a Poor Law Means Test? Why does a National Government decrease and then increase the unemployment benefit? The answer to both is "to enable capitalism to function." Again, economic interest. And why wars? The Marxian analysis of capitalist society explains the conflict of interests which causes capitalist wars. The capitalists use the State power to capture markets and sources of raw materials, to protect trade routes and areas in which they have invested their surplus wealth—the motive all the time is the profit one. It is so clear and easy to understand as to be almost self-evident.

We will, however, endeavour to deal with a few more of the points in the morass of “psychological causes," in which Aldous Huxley would have us believe.

Perhaps the most farcical of these is the suggestion that, because less suicides are committed in war time, therefore life during war time is more worth living! Continuing, he says (and now prepare to laugh!): “We say, and with our conscious minds, we firmly believe, that war is a catastrophe; but our sub-conscious selves, it is evident, do not agree with our conscious selves!” How the warriors must have loved the mud in the trenches, how they must have enjoyed the sub-conscious delight of falling over rusty barbed wire, half their face being blown away by a bit of shell, or the amputation of a gangrenous leg! According to Aldous, the suicide statistics show that this sort of life is 45 per cent. more worth living than the dull humdrum life of peace! It would be difficult to believe this, were not Aldous Huxley there to assure us that it is so. Aldous Huxley has forgotten one thing, however, namely, that the majority of people who commit suicide do so, not from peregrinational gallivantings in the sub-conscious mind, but simply and solely because life is not darned well worth living. Has Huxley not read in the papers during the recent economic depression how day after day people committed suicide because they would sooner be dead than cold and half-starved? And is it not a fact known to everyone (except Aldous Huxley) that during a war, when capitalist powers need all the labour power at their command in order to wage it to a successful conclusion, jobs are easier to find and that, although destruction is the business of the majority of the people, yet everyone can get jobs and that, therefore, the prime cause of suicides at once disappears?

It should also be borne in mind that the official statistics of suicides during war time are unreliable, because they omit to take into account the suicides of the soldiers at the Front. There were hundreds of such cases during the last war, and these were almost invariably reported as “ killed in action.”

In the same issue of The Listener is the report of a broadcast discussion between Captain Ludovici and A. A. Milne. Captain Ludovici, who advocates armaments for "self-protection,” states "I am not a militarist. I loathe and detest war, and nobody could have been more wretched at the Front than I was.” This is probably the feeling of the majority of those who participated in the last quarrel over the wealth stolen from the workers. Yet Aldous Huxley would have us believe that, at least for many individuals, war is a source of “substantial pleasure” !

Aldous Huxley quotes with approval the saying of a psycho-analyist that the battle of Waterloo was prepared in the nurseries of Corsica. If the Huxley of our generation knew anything about history, he would know that the Napoleonic wars were caused mainly by the lust for markets, the invasion of France by surrounding countries, who saw in French capitalism a menace to their trade, and in the French revolution a menace to their own systems. And that revolution, which enabled the rising bourgeoisie to throw off the yoke of feudalism, was, it need hardly be said, due absolutely to economic causes.

The question may be raised as to whether the mental outlook of psychologists themselves is not determined by economic interests. The psychologists, if they are to get a living, must write books which will have a sufficient sale to enable them to get a living. The new “science” also opens the door to certain professorial appointments. These appointments being under the control of capitalist interests, they must be careful not to say anything which would undermine the capitalist system. Psychology, with its mostly incomprehensible terminology, unduly impresses the bourgeois mind and opens the door to the much-desired El Dorado. The bourgeoisie also, in their desire to find an excuse for the continuance of the present insane system, find natural allies in the psychologists.

Much light entertainment could be provided by giving further quotations from the article under review, but lack of space forbids. It must be added, however, that, in an article purporting to deal with the causes of war, the discussion of a remedy would naturally have first place, though, if war is so satisfactory from a psychological point of view, it would hardly be necessary to worry about its prevention. And the psychologists are not impatient, as the concluding paragraphs of the article, here below quoted, will show: —
   The psycho-analysts profess to have explored the unconscious to a greater depth than has been reached by other investigators. Perhaps it is for this reason that they are so pessimistic about the immediate prospects of abolishing war. Dr. Edward Glover, in War, Sadism, and Pacifism, asks for fifty years of intensive research into the human mind. Only then, he thinks, shall we know enough to be able to act with any real prospect of getting rid of the tendencies that make for war.
  What is to happen in the interval? We must be content, I suppose, to prescribe such political, economic, and psychological sedatives as shall prevent the patient from going completely out of his mind and committing suicide. If we can keep him alive long enough, the doctors may at last agree on the diagnosis and discover a cure.
If the workers are going to rely upon the psychologists to bring about a mental state unproductive of war, they will evidently have to wait a long time!

If our contention is correct, however, that is to say, that wars naturally arise from the existing form of society, then it is evident that only by a revolutionary change in the structure of society can they he eliminated.

Lecture Notes (1935)

From the March 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blogger's Note:

For a short period in the mid-1930s the Socialist Standard would carry lecture notes from SPGB meetings. In this case, the two lectures notes listed below were from an SPGB Educational Course for party members from the winter of 1934. Comrade Stewart was Stella Stewart, a daughter of a founder member of the SPGB, T. A. Jackson, who, interestingly enough, would still have been a leading member of the CPGB in 1935. Comrade Lestor was Charlie Lestor, better known as a speaker and writer for the Socialist Party of Canada in the early decades of the 20th century. The late Labour MP, Joan Lestor, was the daughter of Charlie Lestor.

The French Revolution
(Lecture by Com. Stewart, November 18th, 1934.)

1. Antecedents.

(a) Ideological,
  1. Traditional Classicism (of use of Bible during English Revolution).
  2. English Materialism. 1600, Bacon. 1660, Hobbes, 1670, Locke.
  3. French Encyclopaedists. “Reasoned System of All Human Knowledge,” Diderot, Social- historical viewpoint. Complete scepticism.
  4. Iconoclasts. Voltaire, Brilliantly narrow, Super-reformer, Deist.
  5. Emotional Individualism. Rousseau, Golden-Age idea. Extremely popular.
  6. Communism. Meslier, Morelly, Mably, “All evil due to private property. No need for exchange.” Atheists. Not popular. Influenced Babeuf.
(b) Factual.
  1. In France. Normal development of capitalism checked after Renaissance by strong absolute monarchy. After Louis XIV decay of absolutism. No constitution. Extreme class-contrast. 1780 conditions ripe for machinofacture but outworn political system shackled production.
  2. Outside France. (1) English Revolution, 1649 and 1689. (2) Contrast between English prosperity and French poverty. Commercial treaty, 1786, intensified this. (3) American Revolution : (a) “No taxation without representation ”; (b) War cost France .£60,000,000.
2. Immediate Causes.
1783. Severe economic and financial crisis. Bad Harvests, etc. -
1789. May 6th: First assembly of States General for 185 years. Third Estate (lawyers, merchants, etc.) militant. Dispute as to voting. June 17th: Secession of Third Estate. Spontaneous anarchy throughout France. Bread riots, etc. 

3. Course.

(a) Big Bourgeoisie, 1789-1792.
National Assembly. Aug. 4th: “St. Bartholomew of property” abolished feudal privilege but NOT property rights. Feudal Lords cap; Landowners. 1790-91: Reforms for traders and industrialists. Civil Constitution of Clergy. 1791. June 14th: Trade Unions banned (“contrary to equality ”).
Constitution: Property and money qualification for franchise. “Rights of Man”; Liberty, Security, Property.
(b) Petty Bourgeoisie, 1792-1794.
Legislative Assembly. Girondin-Jacobin rule. Counter-revolution. 1792, April: War—Austria, Prussia, Russia, then England. August: Fall of monarchy. Sept. : Massacres; victories. Convention elected on much wider suffrage. REPUBLIC.
  1. Girondins. Resisted further attacks on property. Fell.
  2. Jacobins. Petty-bourgeois reforms, pensions, “work or maintenance,” etc., maximum price for necessities, also maximum wage.
  3. Danton’s dictatorship. Committee of Public Safety. Terror.
  4. Jacobin split: (1) Bourgeois intelligentsia, e.g., Danton; (2) Petty-bourgeoisie, e.g., Robespierre (3) Small shop-keepers, craftsmen, e.g., Hebert; (4) Nucleus of proletariat, e.g., Rous, Varlet. Centre destroyed others.
  5. Robespierre’s dictatorship. Religious Utopianism. Then war danger over need for consolidation made his theorising unpopular. Thermidor. July 27th, 1794.
(c) Bourgeois Republic.
Return of Girondins. Apathy. “Order.” Gains of Revolution to be protected from both reactionaries and levellers. See-saw politics leading to military dictatorship.
1795. Bonaparte quells Royalist rising. (Whiff of grape-shot.)
1796. Babeuf’s Conspiracy of the Equals. Demanded entire abolition of private property, but no real understanding. , Secret—of Blanqui. Foredoomed because proletariat still only embryonic.
The underlying function of the French Revolution was to enable the powers of industrial development to be utilised to the full. In five years it solidly established a new order of society. It was left to Napoleon merely to consolidate and clarify the results, and to carry them further afield.

Read : 
Booklet in “Working-class History Course.” Pub. Martin Lawrence.
French Revolution,” by Albert Mathiez.
“French Revolution ” section of Cambridge Modern History.
Last Episode of French Revolution,” by E. B. Bax.
The Gods are Athirst,” by Anatole France.
Revolution, 1789-1906,” by R. W. Postgate. 
Various references by Marx, particularly in “Holy Family” and "Eighteenth Brumaire.”

#    #    #    #

The Paris Commune
(Lecture by Com. Lestor, November 25th, 1934.)

A. Previous Events in French History. 
1789-1800, Great French Revolution liberated forces of capitalist production. 1800-1815, Napoleonic wars. 1815-1830, Restored Bourbon monarchy; reaction. 1830, July “revolution” set up Orleanist constitutional monarchy. Growing influence of English Chartism. 1848, February “revolution.” Second Republic. Louis Napoleon President. 1852, Second Empire. 1854, Crimean War. 1864, First International growth of Trade Unions ana Co-operative Societies. Unemployment—National Workshops.
B. Immediate Causes.
Louis Napoleon’s position weak; desired prestige through military glory. Germany wanted Alsace-Lorraine. July, 1870, Franco-Prussian war. French army inadequate. Louis Napoleon incompetent in command. Three French defeats. Sept. 2nd, Battle of Sedan. Surrender of Louis Napoleon. Sept. 4th, Paris declared a Republic and a “Government of National Defence.” Sept. 25th, Paris besieged. Oct. 31st, Fall of Provisional Government. Blanqui in office. Anarchy. Plebiscite. Return of Provisional Government. Arrest of Blanqui. No defence of Paris. Starvation. Unrest in National Guard (100,000 men). 1871, Jan. 22nd, Pro-Commune riots in Paris. Jan. 29th, Armistice. Feb. 8th, Elections. Monarchist Assembly returned. Riots. Thiers, Chief of Executive. Versailles made the capital. Mar. 13th. All rent and debts to be paid within three days. Mar. 18th, Thiers’ attempted seizure of National Guards’ cannon. Fraternisation with troops. Spontaneous popular insurrection. Flight of Government. Central Committee of National Guard found itself the sole authority in Paris. Mar. 26th, Paris elections. Victory of advanced party. Mar. 28th, Proclamation of the Commune. Membership unco-ordinated—Fenians, Blanquists, Internationalists, Republicans, veterans of 1848. No communication with provinces. Provincial Communes short-lived. No manifesto or programme.
C. The Commune.

1. Legislation.
Post Office, Hospitals, Museums reorganised. Maximum Government Salary, £240. Rent degree repealed; all rents from Oct., 1870, to July, 1871, waived. Pawnshops suppressed, pawned goods returned. Church and State separated. But: Departments of Police, Justice and War chaotic. Careful of property. No plan. No constructive programme in education. 
Department of Labour and Exchange: Forbade night-work for bakers (decree ignored) and fines or stoppages of wages. Factories not in use to be confiscated and run by workers' syndicates. But compensation agreed. Though defective in detail, declared for emancipation of worker and expropriation of exploiter. Ineffective. Commune failed to seine Bank of France.
2. History.
April 2nd, Thiers bombarded Paris. Commune inexperienced in warfare: National Guard disorganised. Collusion between Thiers and Bismarck, though France and Prussia still at war. Commune wrongly expected support of enemy rank and file. Vacillation. Incompetence. Delay. April 19th. Programme : “Communal Autonomy"—impractical, unwanted. Factions within Commune Government. Line of fire closing in on Paris. May 21st, Thiers entered Paris. Barricades. Anarchy. Members of Commune dispersed. May 21st-27th, Street fighting. Heroism—devotion— but no method, no organisation, lack of ammunition. Piecemeal annihilation. May 27th-June 2nd, The Week of Blood. At least 20,000, probably 40,000, massacred.
The Commune was important as the first attempt of workers to seize power and organise society. Foredoomed because it attempted to force the pace of history; not based on understanding; an unprepared unthinking movement; the work of a well-meaning but confused minority.

Books to Read.
E. B. Bax: Short History of the Paris Commune.
Postgate: Revolution (Commune section).
Kautsky: Terrorism and Communism (Commune section). 
G. L. Dickinson: Revolution and Reaction in Modern France (Commune section).
Lissagary: History of the Commune.
Marx: Civil War in France.