Saturday, April 17, 2021

Letter: A Statement Challenged (1950)

Letter to the Editors from the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have received the following letter from a correspondent:—

To Secretary, Socialist Party of G.B.

Dear Sir,

In your booklet on the Centenary of Communist Manifesto you state in the preface: That in the preface to the 1872 edition Marx and Engels say: “No special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at end of Section II.”

In a debate a speaker denied the accuracy of this, and produced a book which is supposed to contain all the prefaces. The above could not be found in it.

Can you enlighten me on this point? Thanking you in anticipation of your reply, for which I enclose stamped addressed envelope.
Yours faithfully,
L. Benjamin.

The above letter relates to a passage on page 3 of the Preface to “The Communist Manifesto—and the Last Hundred Years,” published by the S.P.G.B.

In our Preface we drew attention to the statement made by Marx and Engels in their joint preface to the. 1872 edition of the Communist Manifesto. The whole statement that we quote from Marx and Engels is:
  “No special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded to-day.”
Sixteen years after Marx and Engels wrote that passage Engels, after the death of Marx in 1883, wrote
a new-preface to the 1888 edition of the Communist Manifesto, and in that 1888 preface he quoted again the words that he and Marx had written in 1872.

For confirmation of the above our correspondent can refer his critic to any of the following editions of the Communist Manifesto:—
  • The edition published by W. Reeves, London, in 1888 (see page 6). This is the authorised English translation edited by Engels himself.
  • “Modern Books” edition, London, 1929 (p. xv). “Lawrence and Wishart” Edition, London, 1939 (P. 8).
  • The “Martin Lawrence” edition, London, 1930, with an Introduction and explanatory notes by D. Ryazanoff, Director of the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow (p. 260).
This last-named edition does not contain the 1888 Preface by Engels, and its version of the 1872 Joint Preface by Marx and Engels is a translation from the Russian, which was itself a translation from the German. This is doubtless the explanation of the fact that it words the passage slightly differently, as follows:
  “We therefore do not lay any special stress upon the revolutionary measures suggested at the close of the second section. In many respects the passage would have to be differently worded to-day.”
It is clear that the critic who challenged the authenticity of the statement in the S.P.G.B. edition is mistaken. It would be interesting to know what is the book from which he obtained his erroneous information.
Editorial Committee.

Food or Profit? (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once again over-production and unmarketable supplies of food are the order of our day. In America food is being stored in barns, caves and even aeroplane hangars, at a cost of approximately £9,000 an hour to pay for storage and the rapid deterioration which is taking place in certain food commodities. Mr. Brannan, America's Secretary of State, says “the situation contains warnings that we cannot ignore, but there is no solution in sight to stop the surpluses piling up higher and higher.” (News Chronicle, 6/3/50.) What wonderful system is this—that brings about the position of food piling up and deteriorating when there is still poverty in our midst?

Why is it—that in Asia, there are millions of people living in poverty and in the main underfed (News Chronicle, 6/3/50), and yet at the same time the other half of the world are letting food rot?

Lord Boyd Orr said at a meeting of the Association of Scientific Workers held on March 5th, that he saw threats of the same vicious circle that contributed to the crisis of 1929-30. He went on to say : “There is already a fight for world markets and this would be intensified when Germany and Japan again entered the field and other countries became more industrialised" (Manchester Guardian, 6/3/50). Lord Boyd Orr thinks that the United Nations with its Agricultural Organisation and World Banks will somehow or the other solve this problem, but it is very noticeable that he does not say how.

Statisticians in the same category as himself miss one vital point, that Food, Clothing and Shelter, which are necessary to sustain human life, are produced, not because people need them, but for sale on a market with a view to profit. When goods cannot be sold, markets become glutted and there arises the position of commodities piling high in warehouses and the like, as already witnessed in America at the present time.

The only solution to any problem is to remove the cause, and until this is accomplished all the Lord Boyd Orr’s in the world will not be able to bring about a state of affairs where there is plenty for all.

Only Socialism can solve this problem, a system of society in which goods will be produced solely for use, where people will work according to their ability and take according to their needs.
J. P.

Our Birthright (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

All members of the working class who ever attended school will, no doubt, remember their mentors’ eulogistic references to the "birthright” which is the proud heritage of everybody who had the great good fortune and common sense to get themselves born in Great Britain. The meaning of this great blessing has somehow always managed to elude the writer—certainly, a "birthright” during the last three or four decades seemed a very obscure and intangible possession, except, of course, for the master class, who by reason of their ownership and control of the means whereby all goods are produced, enjoyed a very real "birthright” in the wealth accruing from the sale of those goods. The extravagant opulence of their lives was accepted as the natural order of things, as was the fact that the workers were poor, and therefore had to make the best of the meanest dwellings, shoddiest clothes and food of little or no nutritional value. An odd sort of “birthright” in the second case, you say? But, nevertheless, it is the only one the workers can expect under the present system, capitalism. And we are grateful to the editor of Reynolds News (8th January, 1950) for his magnanimity in publishing the fact. He begins an optimistic leading article on "Why Labour Will Win the Election” by asserting:—
  "Because Labour is the only Government in Britain's history that has accorded to every man his birthright of work and wages."
Thank you, Mr. Editor, for your information, but it may interest you to know that there are quite a number of workers who look forward to attaining a very different and more concrete birthright than Labour’s offering, i.e.. Socialism.

Inherent within the quotation there is the erroneous assumption that the interests of all men are identical. Socialists, however, realise that present-day society, not only in Great Britain but all over the world, is divided into two classes—the capitalists or owning class, controlling all the means of wealth production and distribution, and the workers who, by reason of their propertyless status in relation to the means of living, are compelled to spend the best part of their lives in their masters’ factories, mills, mines or shops, etc., producing and selling goods. In short, the whole complex business of present-day society is run from top to bottom by members of the working class who, in return for their services, receive wages. You, fellow worker, do not need us to tell you that whatever the amount in your wage-packet, it is never quite enough to, colloquially speaking, “make ends meet.” In fact, in a great number of cases, workers are born to and live a life of direst poverty.

If every man and woman should enjoy such a birthright as just described, the capitalists would not be at all anxious to claim it. We feel sure that they would not consider it worth while leaving their villas in Nice or hotels in the Bahamas to stake their claim. They know and like too well the luxuries which the working-class make possible for them. We seem to hear murmurs of: "How is this possible if we barely get along on a standard of living far below theirs?”

This, then, is where a little simple economic illustration is called for. It is known to Socialists as the theory of value and surplus value and can briefly be depicted thus: A worker is paid the rate for the job at which he is employed but that sum will be much smaller than the values he will create during working-hours. This difference is known as surplus-value, and is the source of the capitalists’ income. For an excellent insight into this aspect of Socialism we would recommend Karl Marx’s "Value, Price and Profit,” in which this question is ably dealt with in a very interesting discourse.

To conclude—Socialists do not want the birthright which the Labour Party acting for capitalism offers. Instead, we want our children, and children’s children to know and accept the birthright of a world wherein labour and wages will not exist. Work will then be the happy performance of some task which will benefit the community—when "Each for all and all for each” will become a fact instead of the pious and hypocritical utterance it is to-day. Wages will be an anachronism in a community where "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is the maxim, and with the existence of common ownership in the means of wealth production and distribution which Socialism presupposes, there cannot be use for either masters or money.

Even to-day, productive powers have reached a level where it would be possible for everybody to have enough—even to-day, it would be possible were it not for the capitalist class who control not only their factories, mines, etc,, but our very lives as well.

Are you going to allow this state of affairs to continue?

Are you going to vote once again for the system which enslaves you?

Or are you, fellow worker, going to join our ranks and help in the historic mission of the working-class —the overthrow of capitalism and the realisation of our real birthright—Socialism?
D. E. A.

William Thompson (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

"Westdene,” 3, Charteris Road,
Woodford Green, Essex.

The Editor.

Dear Sir,—May I through your valuable columns enquire whether any reader has information about the Irishman William Thompson (1775-1833), Socialist, co-operator, economist, and writer on social questions.

Though largely forgotten to-day, Thompson, who was a friend of Robert Owen, Jeremy Bentham, William Pare, and others, played an important role in his day.

I am engaged in writing a life of Thompson and would be extremely grateful to know if any reader knows of manuscripts, letters or other writings of Thompson.
Yours sincerely,
Richard K. P. Pankhurst, B.Sc. (Econ.).

Blogger's Note:
Pankhurst's biography of William Thompson was reviewed in the June 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard by Bill Waters. 

Forecast for the future (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is no doubt that for the majority of people in this and other lands the future does not offer very much. It is not necessary for us to turn the pages of the history books to see the horror and tragedy that Capitalism has produced. A glance at what has taken place during the life of any reader shows that Capitalism has so far not succeeded in making life the enjoyable adventure that it well might be. Poverty, unemployment, war and insecurity are the main features of which it can never rid itself. More and more wealth is produced, new methods of production discovered and yet millions of working men and women are insufficiently fed, clothed and housed. As more wealth is produced the greater becomes the gulf between worker and capitalist—for all wealth that is produced belongs to the capitalist class. No oppressed class has ever produced more wealth than that produced by the workers to-day and yet, in comparison with what is produced—no section of any community has ever been worse off.

It is only five years since the end of the last war and what do we see? Despite the promises of prosperity, despite the slogans “war to end war” and “peace in our time” which were so glibly given to us by the ruling class, one thing stands out a mile. All modern nations are preparing for war. However much we may desire peace, however sick we may be of the unending blood baths of capitalism, we cannot blind ourselves to the fact that another war is on the way. As capitalism develops wars become greater, the weapons of destruction are more effective, new means of mass murder are discovered and periodically the world working class are hurled against each other in a disastrous struggle in order that the interests of the capitalist class may be preserved. The victory of war is never a victory for the workers. It is always a victory for a section of the ruling class.

Socialists are often dubbed pessimistic. Our policy is not one of pessimism or hopelessness, but we tell you to face up to the facts. The future lies before you and it is up to you to fashion it as you desire. Two roads are here—Capitalism or Socialism—which one are you going to take? Capitalism you know and if you are satisfied with it you will continue to give it your support. We Socialists are not satisfied and we have made an effort to understand the world in which we live. Our solution to the problems that confront us is simple—We stand for the abolition of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism—a system based on common ownership of the means of wealth production. But we cannot establish Socialism until you and the majority of the working class desire it Capitalism with all its horrors will be your lot until you join with us to abolish it. If you are unconvinced have a look at the history of Capitalism and you will see what it has to offer you.

Are you content to make this your lot? At the end of your life will you be able to say you have enjoyed it to the full? Are you not sick of war, unemployment and misery? Do you want to pass this state of affairs on to posterity? The world is really a very beautiful place; life, too, could be beautiful, and yet the conditions of the majority of the people make it very ugly. If you desire something better why not study the case for Socialism? Once you start to do this it will not be long before we will have your agreement. Then you too can join with us in the work that will ultimately lead to the abolition of Capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. Only then will the working class put the past behind them and go forward to a future of peace and prosperity—that of Socialism.
Joan Lestor

It’s an ill wind (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are many objectionable things during a war; property and homes are destroyed and lives are tortured and twisted in more ways than one. When peace is declared much remains for which the war must take and get the blame.

The late Robert Lynd had Saturday articles in the News-Chronicle showing the good side to many subjects which were generally accepted as unpleasant, but I never remember his praise of war.

The redeeming feature of modern war is that in so-called civilised countries the great mass of the workers are able to “get by.” This solves their greatest problem. I well remember working as a collector in the 1930’s and being brought close to the problems of my clients, who could not find a few pence each week for me to record on their premium books.

Then came 1940 and the A.R.P., when people previously unemployable were in receipt of the princely sum of £3 5s. every week, without such things as short time or lost time.

What a blessing for “tally men” like us; we found life much easier. Thousands of people in war work who would have ended their days in penury if our generation had been blessed with peace.

Owing to the terrible devastation during the war we find that five years since it ended we are still blessed with full employment and the Labour Party using it as a main plank in their election programme.

Commercial cables received in this country are delivered by special messenger. Before the war this was done by young boys of 15 to 18 years of age, at a wage of about 20s.

Owing to the Greater Production drive and National Service at 18, this labour is now scarce and almost unobtainable at anything approaching an economic rate, and the cable company have been compelled to look to fresh fields. The only available labour is that of the type that in peace time would be on the scrap heap, men of 65/70, incapable of ordinary work but still able to hobble off and on buses. If you live in London and happen to be in the City, glance into Creechurch Lane, E.C. (Leadenhall Street), and you will see the grandfathers sitting in the waiting room of the Commercial Cable Company, and you will realise “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good.”

Many casualties of the 1931 economic blizzard may still lose sleep at night, worrying about the future, but with the help of God, a bit of luck at the “pools” and two more major wars, he may finish up his days in a job. That is all that matters (perhaps), unless you can think of an alternative.
David Boyd

Another banker comes unstuck (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The assertion that higher productivity is the only solution to the problems facing the working class to-day has been repeated so often by the politician and his numerous henchmen that there is danger of the idea being accepted through the sheer force of constantly reiterated suggestion.

The latest interested party to lend the full weight of his personality as a “someone" in the financial world is Mr. H. Bibby, chairman of Martins Bank. Ltd., who was quoted in the Manchester Guardian of 13th January, 1950, as follows: “The truth is there is greater danger of unemployment if we do not use advanced mechanical aids." He also finds necessary “a willingness to work conscientiously when they [the workers] are at work. Any other course would lead to disaster. . . ."

So we are led to believe that increased efficiency is the all-important thing. Only through harder work and better machinery will we solve our problems.

In case you too have read this statement and are suffering from qualms of conscience, or developing a guilt complex over those stolen minutes in the only place where the foreman cannot follow, perhaps you will not feel too badly about it if you turn over the page of your newspaper and read the small item at the bottom of column three. For those who have mislaid their copies it reads as follows: —
“A further two hundred workers have been dismissed owing to redundancy in the engine division of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. This follows the dismissal of two hundred workers between July and November last year, and is described in an official statement issued by the company last night as ‘part of the normal continuous process of strengthening the efficiency of the company’s organisation.' "
And what is efficiency in industry but higher output per man, and how is this achieved but by Mr Bibby's advanced mechanical aids and harder work, and with the same inevitable results as those at the Bristol Aeroplane Company?

Puzzle corner (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

This month we set you a different type of problem. This short item, outlining the problem, originally appeared in the Lansing Labor News, and was reprinted in The Western Socialist, organ of our companion party in the United States, in December, 1947. The solution of the problem is presented in the first column of the back page of this issue of The Socialist Standard : —
   “Man can circle the earth without touching the ground; man can kill other men many miles away; man can weigh the stars of heaven; man can drag oil from the bowels of the earth; man can compel an icy waterfall to cook his meals hundreds of miles from the stream; man can print a million newspapers in an hour; man can breed the seeds out of oranges; man can coax a hen to lay 365 eggs in a year; man can persuade dogs to smoke pipes and sea lions to play guitars. Man, in other words, is quite an ingenious and remarkable package of physical and mental machinery.
  “But when this astonishing person is confronted with one problem, he retires to his hut defeated. Show him six men without money and six loaves of bread belonging to men who cannot use it but who want money for it, and ask him how six hungry men can be put in possession of the six surplus loaves, and watch him then, it is then that man attends conferences and appoints committees and holds elections and cries out that a crisis is upon him. He does a score of useless things and then retires, leaving in the shivering twilight the tableau of six hungry men and the six unapproachable loaves.”
Get your pen, paper and envelopes ready; you may need them. When you have read the solution in column one, page 64, right through, from first word to last, from top to bottom, think it over. Then read the sentence in italics at the foot of the column. That’s when you may need the pen, paper and envelope. It’s a prize worth having.
W. Waters.