Monday, April 19, 2021

Points for Propagandists: Mr. Lloyd George sums up. (1929)

From the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Lloyd George sums up. 

In an address to the Liberal M.P.’s, delivered at the National Liberal Club on June 13th (See “Manchester Guardian,” June 14th, 1929), Mr. Lloyd George gave his view on the position of the Labour Government. Apart from the obvious incorrectness of his statement that the Labour Party is pledged to destroy Capitalism, his summing up is worth noting.
 We shall await with considerable interest the forthcoming declarations of Ministerial policy, but we must declare that as far as lies in our power the mandate of the Government ends when it fails to pursue a Liberal policy.
 The very hour the Ministry decides to become a Socialist Administration its career ends, for it has no authority from the nation to embark upon Socialistic experiments. It could only then be kept in power by Tory votes or Tory indulgence. It will be an interesting Parliament, but there will be no more edifying spectacle than that of a Socialist Government engaged in strengthening and perpetuating the economic system their party is pledged to destroy and fortifying that system in the most effective way by carrying through a series of reforms that will remove the evils of that system — a truly Liberal performance. (Cheers.) 
It only needs to be pointed out that their own past experience ought to have convinced the Liberals, as Mr. Lloyd George himself has admitted, that evils multiply under Capitalism faster than the reforms which are intended to palliate them. The condition of the workers in 1914, after many years of Liberal reforms, was not anything to cheer about.

The I.L.P. in Parliament

The “New Leader,” of June 14th, tells us that, including 37 Labour M.P.’s whose candidature the I.L.P. financed, “over 200 of the members of the Parliamentary party belong to the I.L.P.” This is more than 70 per cent., which represents a higher percentage than in the last Parliament, or in the 1924 Parliament. Its significance lies in the fact that it makes the I.L.P. fully responsible for every action and policy of the present Labour Government. The selection of the officials of the Parliamentary Labour Party including its leader Mr. MacDonald, the policies of that body, and all the measures supported by the Labour Party in the House, can be brought home to the I.L.P., since its members are in the clear majority and can by their votes elect what officials they like and pursue what policy they like.

The same was true in 1924, but by some subtle reasoning the I.L.P. officially tried and still tries to repudiate responsibility for the acts of its members who constitute the majority of the Parlia­mentary Labour Party.

In actual fact, if the I.L.P. tried to control the actions of its members in Parliament it would find itself completely unable to do so. Since every single one of them owes his or her election to Labour votes and the backing of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions, the Labour Party is in a position, if it wishes, to compel the I.L.P. M.P.’s to do its bidding and in a conflict of policies to repudiate their own I.L.P. programme and Conference decisions. While claiming that its object is Socialism, the I.L.P. has been built up by recruiting members on non-Socialist issues, and by securing the election of its members to Parliament on non-Socialist programmes supported by non-Socialist votes and financed by money from non-Socialist trade unionists and others. Outwardly an imposing and powerful body, it is in fact utterly impotent to support a Socialist policy or to carry on Socialist propaganda.

A Case in Point

This has been very clearly illustrated by the I.L.P. Conference decision on War-credits. At the 1929 Conference (reported in the “New Leader,” April 5th) a resolution was passed, after a short dis­cussion, by 160 to 125, “instructing all I.L.P. M.P.’s to vote again War-credits.”

Mr. Shinwell, M.P. (who is not only a member of the I.L.P. but is also financed by them at elections), promptly protested and declared that whatever Conference might decide he would act just how his electors pleased.
  I say, quite frankly, as an I.L.P. member, I will take any decision that requires to be taken from my constituency and not from this Conference.
The officials of the I.L.P. knew quite well that other M.P.’s would follow Shinwell’s example, for the simple reason that to carry out Conference instructions would lose them Labour Party support and consequently their seats. When someone challenged Mr. Maxton to show courage, he replied :—
  If I were to come to you at the next Conference and tell you that there were only half-a-dozen I.L.P. M.P.s left, and that they were out of the General Labour Movement, would you call that courage or folly? —(“Daily Herald,” April 3rd.)
A way out was therefore soon found. As soon as Mr. Maxton and others indicated the difficulty which would certainly arise if the I.L.P. tried to compel its members to abide by its policy, the Standing Orders Committee recommended, and Conference agreed, that the Chairman (Mr. Maxton) be given, “discretionary powers in applying today’s decision,” The sequel is amusing and instructive.

Mr. Shinwell has been made Financial Secretary of the War Office in the Labour Government. Other I.L.P. Members of Parliament may be expected to take this lesson to heart.

Communists not a working-class party.

We have often pointed out that the principles and policies of the Communist Parties are not in line with the interests of the working class. Mr. Saklatvala, writing a May Day message in the “Sunday Worker“ (April 28th), put this beyond question. He wrote:—
  But we must remember on our platforms that our slogan is now no longer merely “Proletarians of all countries, unite!” but “Proletarians and oppressed peoples of all countries, unite !”
  Not only textile workers in Bombay and Cal­cutta, miners in India and China, and steel smelters in Bengal, but millions of oppressed peasants in India, China, Egypt, and the African colonies are now with us in our fight against the common enemies of imperialism and reformist Labour.
Behind that innocent-looking but conveniently ambiguous word, “peoples,” the Communists carry on their anti-working class campaign in support of the Indian, Egyptian, Irish and other Capitalist nationalists. Those struggles are struggles between sections of the Capitalist class and victory either way is of no gain to the workers. The Indian workers will learn, as the Irish have learned, that Capitalism administered by native Capitalists is not essentially different from Capitalism administered by Britishers.

Capitalism in Russia

It is one of the delusions of the I.L.P. that Capitalism ceases to be Capitalism where it is administered by people calling themselves ”Labour.” An equally pathetic delusion is held by the British Communists with regard to Russia. A correspondent, writing to the “Sunday Worker“ (June 9th), held this common but mistaken view. He argued that the wages system in Russia cannot be called “Wage-slavery” because the terms of employment are “dictated by the workers’ government.” It is true enough that the Bolsheviks would like to abolish Capitalism if conditions allowed, but conditions do not allow. What they have been able to do is to foster the growth of State Capitalism and limit the growth of private Capitalism, thus following the example of Australia. But from the worker’s point of view the difference is little. Capitalism is based on the exploitation of the workers, whatever form that exploitation may take. In Russia there is a new and rapidly growing Capitalist class drawing property incomes from private trading, and from invest­ments in the Co-operatives and the Russian State Loans.

In the Co-operatives the total share and reserve capital amounted in 1927 to £97 million. (See Soviet Union Year Book, 1928—P. 183.) While in October, 1926, Credits borrowed at home and abroad by the Co-operatives amounted to 108 million Roubles. (Ibid—P. i93.) The rate of interest is not given.

But the most important form of Russian Capitalism is the new National Debt.

Since 1925, State loans in Russia have been used exclusively for financing in­dustry. (See Soviet Union Year Book— P. 391.) Between October, 1925, and February 1st, 1929, the total debt grew from 367 million Roubles to 1,983 million Roubles, or nearly £200 million. (See Review of the Bank of Russian Trade a Soviet Bank publication, May, 1929.)

The interest rates on these loans vary from 5 per cent. to 12 per cent., and must average not less than 10 per cent.

In addition, there is a “floating debt,” whose amount is unspecified.

The land in Russia is privately worked for private profit, and the new Capitalist class of investors have first claim on the proceeds of the State factories, railways, etc. Russia has the usual features of Capitalism. Not only are the means of production privately owned but inequality also exists, as it is bound to. Hence the introduction by the Soviet Government of a graduated Income Tax, Excess Profits Tax and Inheritance duties.

When the writer in the “Sunday Worker” states that in Russia the terms of employment are dictated by the Workers’ Government, he forgets that conditions compel the Government to make those terms such as will permit the Capitalist system to function and develop.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Capitalist System: How It Works. (1929)

From the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following is taken from the “Daily Telegraph” (Wednesday, May 22nd). It tells its own story. The italics are ours :—
From Our Own Correspondent.

NEW YORK, Tuesday.

The owners of America’s surplus wheat crop, it is estimated, to-day will have to face a loss of more than £11,000,000 unless the price of the commodity rises substantially before the new crop is harvested.

Two big crops in succession have left the world “gorged” with wheat, and with the prospects of another full crop this year the price has fallen until it threatens to break through the four shillings a bushel level.

The world’s carry-over of wheat at the beginning of the new marketing year on July 1 is expected to be 350,000,000 bushels, or about double the amount on hand last year. The major portion of this amount is in the hands of middlemen, who will bear the brunt of the reduced prices. But the large carry-over is likely to continue to have a depressing influence upon the grain market. In that case it will be difficult for the American farmer to dispose of his new crop at a fair profit.

The only hope, apparently, is for a poor harvest, and of this there are no indications at present.

Socialist Brevities: A Life on the Ocean Wave-Under Capitalism. (1929)

From the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Life on the Ocean Wave-Under Capitalism.

I am afraid that, like many other people, no doubt, my conception of sailors has been coloured by the familiar picture which adorns Mr. Angus Watson’s sardine tins. I have never doubted that our sailors were boys of the bull-dog, and not the whippet breed. But this conviction has been sadly shaken by the following news item, which appeared in the “Daily News” (11/1/29) :
  Sharp criticism of the seaman’s working con­ditions is being expressed by Mr. Ernest Bevin, general secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union, and the officials of the Marine Section of that body.

These conditions, it is alleged, are responsible for the highest death-rate of any class of workers.

In this week’s issue of the “Seafarers’ Record,” published by the Union, a comparison is made between the air space of the living and sleeping quarters of sailors, and that of work-house inmates and convicts.

The legal minimum allotment of space to the sailor is 120 cubic feet, but it is stated that the locker and fittings deprive the occupant of 32 cubic feet, giving only 88 feet net.

The space given to a workhouse inmate is 400 cubic feet, and to a convict 800 feet.

Mr. Bevin contends that official figures—showing death-rates much more serious than among miners—do not indicate the full difference, as many sailors leave the ships when they are ill, work for a time in some shore job associated with shipping and dock work, and are not necessarily classed as mariners when they die from the illness contracted at sea.

Mr. James Henson, who contributes an article on the subject, quotes an official statement that seamen’s mortality exceeds the average by 48.8 per cent., while the death rate from accident is 430 per cent. higher.

Mr. Henson adds that for every 112 miners who die of tuberculosis there are 221 deaths of sailors from the same cause.

It is stated that on many ships the bunks are occupied by relays of men, and that the air is constantly foul. Liability to tuberculosis is attributed mainly to this condition.

Tribute is paid to one or two British ship­ owners who have greatly improved the sailor’s accommodation in ships built since the war. But it is alleged that the British standard is much below the average of American, Dutch, Scandinavian, and some other foreign vessels.

The Transport Workers’ Union intends to start a vigorous campaign.
It would appear that when our sailors are not “going down to the sea in ships,” they are going down to the tubercular ward of the Infirmary in an ambulance !

Some “Independence” !

The “Daily News” for February 15th contains a contribution to the Sex Equality Debate by Mrs. Eva M. Hubback, who is prominent in the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship. Among the feminist arguments put forward we get this gem :—
  The married women of to-day, therefore, except for the comparatively few with estates and incomes of their own, are entirely dependent on (a) their husband’s power; (b) his will to maintain them adequately. What is the result? It is that her income and the sum she has to satisfy the needs of her children are measured —not as in any other profession by her ability, and by the requirements of her job—but by her husband’s ability and employment, or lack of it.

Nowhere is there any other profession where rewards are in this way totally divorced from either services or needs.

Thus a first-rate mother with half a dozen children, whose husband is a labourer and perhaps unemployed at that, will be engaged in the hopeless task of making bricks without straw, and of trying to carry on her home making and child-rearing duties on a totally inadequate income.
And the proposed remedy? Now look serious, the remedy is :—
That a wife should be given a share in her husband’s income.
!!! Let us hope that when the wife gets a share of what is left over after the unemployment pay has been divided amongst eight persons, she will not expend her stupendous portion at night clubs, but will put it by so as to be able to leave the price of a packet of woodbines to her progeny.

Letters: Rates and Taxes. (1929)

Letters to the Editors from the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Rates and Taxes.

Battersea, S.W.11.
June 6th, 1929.


I have recently been reading a leaflet issued by the S.P.G.B., entitled, “Rates and Taxes: do they fall on the working class?” Which states that the working class is unaffected by taxes, since they pay none.

Am I not right in assuming that the tax on wages is a tax, and that the working class does pay it?

I shall be pleased if you can explain this to me; or give me the Socialist Party of Great Britain’s views on the matter.

I believe the tax on wages was instituted during the War, and as the Leaflet is a reprint of an article that appeared in the “Socialist Standard” of March, 1912, the question was not dealt with.
I am, yours faithfully,
W. A. Devine.

Our Reply.
Our correspondent has misunderstood the case put forward in the Leaflet to which he refers.

In the first place, we do not deny that a few workers pay Income Tax. (The number is, however, very small.) A single man does not pay Income Tax until his earnings exceed £162 a year, or £3 2s. 4d. per week. A married man without children does not pay tax until his earnings exceed £270 or £5 3s. 10d. per week. The total number of persons paying tax in Great Britain and N. Ireland is only 2,150,000. See Constitutional Year Book—P. 389).

What we are concerned with is a different question altogether, and the only one of importance. That question is: “Would the workers be better off if taxes were lower, and worse off if taxes were higher?” And the answer to both parts of the question is No!

If prices fall through the abolition of taxes on various articles, such as tea, sugar, etc., wages fall also; and the workers are no better off. When prices rise wages follow, even if somewhat tardily.

The workers, speaking broadly, receive as wages enough to buy the necessaries of life for themselves and their families. If prices fall and living becomes cheaper, wages fall, too. Taxes, so far as they affect the workers at all, are part of their cost of living. An increase in these taxes will result in employers having to pay higher wages. A decrease in these taxes, which cheapens the worker’s cost of living, leads to lower wages, and benefits the employers only. The question of taxation is not one which affects the workers. Our correspondent is referred to the October, 1928, issue, where the matter was dealt with.
Editorial Committee.

On Educating the Workers.

To the Editorial Committee,


Your much reiterated assertion that Socialism can only be brought into being by an intelligent and class-conscious working class, becomes more seemingly apparent as time passes. It is also very obvious that the progress of a clear understanding of their position by 
the working class is slow and infinitesimal in proportion to the rapid and relentless development and extension of Capitalism, which must reach its apex. What then? Must the workers endure an indefinite period of suffering whilst a small body of Socialists blandly continue that almost
 impossible task—education? Do you really believe that the workers as a class will ever accept your position? What credulity ! And optimism ! Incurable, too, from my experience of your party. The larger portion of the working class are steeped in superstition and bigotry of every kind, which will take centuries of education to remove. So far, among contemporary parties, you are unimportant. I assume, however, that the teaching of Socialism as taught by the S.P.G.B., will some day be more generally accepted. You will then find that you will be compelled—in order to further develop and achieve your purpose—to exploit and appeal to the emotions of the workers, religious and otherwise. In short, secure the acquiescence of the majority for your programme by any means possible.
Yours sincerely,
H. Watts. 

Our Reply.
It is difficult to understand exactly what our correspondent’s criticisms are. Having told us that the task of educating the workers is “almost impossible,” and that we are incurable optimists for believing it to be possible, he goes on to say, “I assume, however, that the teaching of Socialism, as taught by the S.P.G.B., will some day be more generally accepted.”

It seems, therefore, that Mr. Watts really agrees with us that we shall succeed in making our views “more generally accepted.”

He then makes another unsupported and contradictory assertion. Having conceded that our views will become “more generally accepted,” he makes the unexplained assumption that the methods which have been successful in making our position “more generally accepted” will fail to help us “to further develop.” We can only ask him why it will be impossible for us to spread Socialist knowledge when we have grown larger and stronger, particularly as he agrees that we shall have succeeded in growing stronger by that means.

Mr. Watts’ suggestion as to an alternative method is again self-contradictory. He says that we shall have to “appeal to the emotions of the workers, religious and otherwise,” in order to secure “the acquiescence of the majority” for our programme. What Mr. Watts fails to see is that no amount of “appeals to emotions, religious or otherwise,” would ever win support for our programme. The Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party has no attraction whatever for the person who can still be reached by emotional appeals. Such persons will continue to support the parties whose programmes suit their lack of knowledge.

Mr. Watts tells us that the larger portion of the working class are steeped in “superstition and bigotry of every kind.” Does he then really imagine that Socialism could be successfully carried on by such people, supposing (an unwarrantable supposition) that by appeals to their emotions they had been won away from supporting Capitalist parties?

Mr. Watts himself illustrates the need for Socialist knowledge, when he talks of Capitalism reaching its “apex.” Even if it were true that Capitalism could be left to itself and at a certain point would collapse, there would still be need of an organised Socialist working class to tackle the work of building up Socialism. In fact, however, this theory of collapse is a piece of anti-Socialist doctrine, repudiated by Marx and Socialists generally. Capitalism will remain in being just so long as the majority accept it. And so long as the workers accept Capitalism they will have to go on suffering under it. While they accept Capitalism no minority can save them from the consequences of Capitalism.

If Mr. Watts thinks he knows a way in which a minority can lead a non-Socialist working class into Socialism, perhaps he will tell us what it is.
Editorial Committee.

The Meaning of Disarmament. (1929)

From the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Among the numerous claims and promises made by the various parties in the recent election those relating to peace and disarmament held a prominent place. During the last War, representatives of the Liberal, Labour and Tory parties held office in coalition and assumed responsibility for making the machinery of warfare as efficient as possible. They now have just sufficient contempt for the memories and intelligence of their supporters to ask them to trust them to see that there is no more war.

The emptiness of their claims and promises, however, is enhanced by recent developments in the art of warfare. The aeroplane and the chemical factory threaten to render all previous weapons obsolete. In the issue of “International Conciliation” for March, 1929 (Carnegie Endowment, 44, Portland St., Worcs., Mass., U.S.A.), sufficient evidence is provided to show that even the wholesale scrapping of armies and navies, as hitherto under­ stood, along with tanks, battleships and other special forms of armament, would still leave in the hands of the master-class means of destruction more deadly than any yet developed. This particular issue is entitled, “Chemical Warfare—its Possibilities and Probabilities,” and treats the whole subject historically and scientifically with a minimum of sentiment and an entire absence of sensationalism. The authorities for statements made are, in the main, responsible chemical and military experts, with no obvious axe to grind in scaring the populations of the world at large.

Chemical methods of attack and defence are not in themselves new. Stink bombs were used in the Middle Ages and were apparently such terrible things that an Austrian chemist suggested that “Christians should only use them against Turks and unbelievers.” Even the Greeks used pots of pitch and sulphur for smoking out their enemies. Modern science and the development of Capitalist industry have, however, increased the effectiveness of this arm beyond recognition. In fact, it is (iironically enough) upon the basis of the tragic experiences of the workers engaged in the mining and chemical industries that the knowledge of the war-time value of certain gases has been established; and it was the advanced state of these industries in Germany (not some peculiar Hunnishness) which enabled and impelled the German military command to use this knowledge. Needless to add that, in spite of Hague Conventions, the Allies were not slow in imitation.

It is this close relationship between chemical warfare and normal peace-time industry, coupled with the slight distinc­tion between a commercial aeroplane and one adapted to military requirements, which reduces all talk of disarmament under Capitalism to sheer childish prattle. According to Brigadier-General Lord Thomson, Air Minister in the British Government:—
  “The next war will be fought in the air, it will consist of aeroplane raids above the great cities, and the primary attack will be against civilians, including women and children.
  Against these incendiary, explosive and poison gas bombs will be used. No defence that has as yet been devised will prevent the death of thousands of persons in any city thus attacked, and the organised life of any great metropolitan centre would be brought to a standstill for days and weeks.“ (p. 130.)
The High Cost of Killing.
During December, 1928, Dr. Hilton Ira Jones announced, in Chicago, the discovery of a new poison more deadly than any heretofore known, called cacodylisacyanide.
 “War, he said, will never again be fought with shot and shell. It is so much cheaper to destroy life wholesale with this new gas. It may be manufactured at the rate of thousands of tons a day, and it costs much less than powder and cannon—yet it will destroy armies more quickly and effectively. “ (p. 140.)
In face of these developments, the workers may well ask themselves what safeguards they possess from the potential horrors of another war. So far, none of the Governments have proposed the abolition of chemical factories and aeroplanes, and judging by past experiences, their scraps of paper hold good only so long as it suits the convenience of the contracting parties to observe their provisions.

The author of the pamphlet goes so far as to make the statement on page 125, that, “Statesmen will always be powerless unless the people are awakened.” She has not yet grasped the simple fact that the reverse is true, i.e., that the power of “statesmen” rests upon the political ignorance and passivity of the major portion of the “people,” the working class.

Warfare is in fact the supreme expression of the power of the modern State, and only when the workers conquer that power can they hope to put an end to warfare.

It is just here, at the crucial point, that the pamphlet fails. The author appreciates and emphasises the fact that technical disarmament is impossible in any complete sense, e.g., “the very fundamentals of our civilisation—coal, salt, air, etc., can produce poison gases” (p. 181), but can only suggest “the peaceful settlement of international disputes” (p. 189). She never attempts to deal with the causes of these disputes, or show how they are capable of peaceful settlement.

Modern states exist because of the conflict of interests in modern society. This conflict is due to the capitalist ownership of the economic resources of society. The international capitalist class is divided into competing groups endeavouring to secure control of the raw materials, trade routes and markets of the world. The most powerful of these groups use the machinery of the various States as weapons in the struggle. Two factors enable them to do this : their control of the States in question, backed up by the unconscious political support of the workers in the various countries.

It is not only in conflict with each other, however, that the capitalist groups are pre­pared to use lethal weapons. In all these conflicts they sacrifice the lives of the workers, and it is against the workers in the last resort that the modern States are armed.

The workers are a propertyless class, and constitute a standing menace to the security of property.

The State is the guardian of the interests of property against the producers.

Among the “peace-time” uses of poison gases the author mentions the following : “Tear gases, such as chloracetophenone, can be used on mobs, escaping jailbirds and other trouble-stirring individuals” (p. 180), thus clearly recognising that it is against its own subjects, as well as against external enemies, that the State needs arms.

The solution of the conflict lies not with an amorphous “people” but with a working-class, organised to emancipate itself, internationally. In the place of capitalism, with its economic chaos and political strife, it will establish a social order based upon the common ownership of the means of life and their democratic control in the interests of a class-less community.
Eric Boden