Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Whither South Africa? (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the western outskirts of Johannesburg lies the “shanty-town" of Newclare—an ugly sprawl of wooden shacks, patched up with canvas and corrugated iron, dirty and horribly overcrowded. Buried deep in the misery and squalor of Newclare and other places like it, live the Native workers of Johannesburg and the gold-mines of the Rand.

On February 13th this year, two armoured carloads of police drove into Newclare. Their object was to make a surprise check-up on passes, the documents which the law compels all adult male Africans to carry to show they are in work (and which, incidentally, most of them are unable to read).

These “pass laws” have never been completely effective. They are even less effective now when the Natives have been flocking into the towns in such large numbers that the authorities have found it quite impossible to keep up with them. And so, to remind them that the law still exists even though it cannot be administered properly, the police have taken to making surprise raids (often in the middle of the night), in which they make a sudden swoop on an area, quickly round-up likely suspects, arrest those found without passes, and carry them off to gaol. Sometimes the arrests run into hundreds, and the raid looks more like a minor military exercise.

Perhaps because it was only a small raid, the one on February 13th did not pass off quite so smoothly as usual. When the police tried to make an arrest on this occasion they were immediately attacked by a large crowd of Natives who eventually forced them to retire under a hail of stones and other missiles. Having driven off the police, the crowd then proceeded to throw barricades across the streets and began stoning every vehicle they found carrying Europeans, at the same time setting fire to shops and looting the contents.

The rioting continued unchecked until the following day, when heavy reinforcements of armed police and firemen were drafted to the scene, and to other places where disturbances had also broken out in sympathy. Covering the firemen with rifle and machine-gun fire to enable them to fix the hoses and at the same time prevent the crowd from cutting them, the police began to occupy the area. The crowd resisted fiercely, attacking both the police and the bands of armed Europeans who were now also roaming the district, bent on taking matters into their own hands. (The presence of these gangs was one of the most significant aspects of the riot, and is a disturbing indication of the level to which racial feeling has now risen inside South Africa.) Finally, after several hours of pitched battles, the police cleared the streets, and the disturbances came to an uneasy end.

The incident itself has since been referred to the Riots Commission, which is already sitting to consider five other cases of rioting. All of them have occurred within the last six months.

What has brought South Africa to this perilous pass? What has brought about this situation, in which certain elements in the White group are already expressing their intention of suppressing all future trouble, whatever the cost and whatever the consequences? Where some of the politicians are already talking about the dangers of civil war? South Africa has always had a racial problem. What has happened in the past few years to bring it to such a terrible state?

To answer these questions, we must first make a brief review of the events that have taken place since 1948.

The Past Two Years
There are two main political parties in South Africa, the Nationalist Party under Malan, and the United Party under Smuts. In addition, there are two smaller organisations, the Afrikaner Party led by Havenga, and a Labour Party.

At the last General Election, held in May, 1948, the Nationalists and Afrikaners combined had a slight majority over the United Party and the Labour Party. This enabled them to form a Coalition Government with Malan as Prime Minister, and Havenga in the key position of Minister of Finance.

Backed largely by the Boer farming vote, the Nationalist Party has always taken an extreme line on the racial question, and, indeed, they fought the election on this issue. Malan himself, in a speech at Praal on the 20th April, 1948, said about the election that it was 
  “dominated by the question of whether the European race would be able to maintain its rule, its purity, and its civilisation or float along until it vanishes for ever in the black sea of South Africa’s non-European population.”
Once in power, there is no doubt that Malan would have been prepared to go the whole way with his extreme racial policies if it had not been for the reluctance of Havenga to go the whole way with him. As his Government depends upon the support of Havenga and the Afrikaner Party, he has had to give way—at least for the present. This, however, has not prevented him from pressing on with all kinds of other repressive legislation, with or without the support of Havenga. Prominent in this legislation has been: —
(a) The pushing forward of the general ideal of "complete separation” of all the racial groups of South Africa, “socially, residentiary, industrially, and politically.” This means that, the four groups of South Africa—the Whites, the Coloureds (people of mixed blood), the Indians, and the Africans, will be for ever kept strictly apart. In line with this, legislation has already been introduced forbidding inter-marriage between Europeans and Coloureds (laws already exist forbidding marriage between Whites and Indians, and Whites and Africans).
(b) The intention to keep the Natives on the Reserves, and away from the towns—in Malan's own words, “the Native reserves must become the true fatherland of the Native." In the towns they must henceforth be regarded as “visitors.” 
(c) Repeal of the previous Government’s law allowing the Indians three representatives in Parliament.
(d) Abolition of present Coloured vote, and in its place a similar system to that now operating for the Natives in which they are allowed three separate representatives (who must be Europeans).
(e) Repeal of the previous Government’s Bill recognising Native Trade Unions.
(f) All training of Native skilled workers to cease.
(g) All voting rights to be taken away from the Indians, and from all Natives living away from the Reserves.
As the culmination to all these repressive activities Malan is now about to introduce an identity-card system by means of which every person in the Union will eventually be registered according to “race.” Its effect will be to put every individual, once and for all, into a racial classification from which there will never be a chance of escape. To the darker-skinned African it will be just another document to add to the others he has to carry already, but for the Coloured group its effects will be profound. It will put an end, in fact, to all possibility of a white-skinned Coloured person “passing over” into the White group.

Finally, the Nationalists have extended the racial laws to cover the Cape Province, formerly the least subject to prejudice. In the post offices, non-Whites are now directed to separate counters; there are separate exits and entrances at the railway stations; “Jim Crow” travels the trains; and rides shamelessly on the buses, where Europeans now sit in the front and members of the other groups sit at the back.

All these things show clearly that the Malan Government is determined to put the clock back in South Africa. But what of the United Party and Smuts? Are they any different? Only to this extent— that whilst they do not wish to put the clock back, they neither wish to put in very far forward. Their alternative boils down to a few reforms here and there which they hope will take the sting out of the Natives' rebelliousness, relieve the pressure on the Indians and Coloureds where it hurts them most, and leave them all once more contented with their inferior position.

The same applies to the Labour Party. Only recently there was a split in their ranks when their Leader and Deputy Leader in Parliament voted against the Indians being allowed the vote. One member abstained and the others voted in favour of the Bill, which was in any case a milk-and-water effort that only allowed them representation by Europeans.

What it comes to is this, irrespective of Party, irrespective of class, almost the whole of the White group are united in refusing to allow the non-Whites anything like a position comparable with their own. They may differ here and there amongst themselves as to which particular rung of the ladder each of the other groups should occupy, but one thing they are agreed upon—that they, the Whites, belong near the top of the ladder and the others a long way further down.

They continue to deceive themselves that they can maintain this situation, that for ever and ever 2½ million Europeans can keep the other 9 millions in subjection. There never was a more forlorn and fantastic hope, nor one with graver possibilities of terrible consequences for themselves. Speaking in the South African Parliament three days after the riot. Smuts said: —
  “Something new is coming into the life of this country. We are accustomed to the orderly conduct of our Natives and on the whole our Natives are well behaved, but some change is coming about  
  “Unless this new development is stopped and stopped at once and unless firm measures are taken no one can be sure of the future of South Africa.” (Johannesburg Star, 15/2/50.)
Unfortunately for Smuts, for Malan, for all the vast majority of Europeans in the Union who think like them on the Native question, there is a change taking place in the Natives, not only in South Africa, but throughout the whole of the continent. Smuts has sensed the change and would like to explain it by the recent activity of Malan and the Nationalist Party. What he fails to recognise is that whatever the Nationalists have done to provoke matters, they have only helped to bring more quickly what is bound to have come in any case. What all the Whites of South Africa fail to face up to is that the Natives are on the move, and will not stop until they have gained the same position as the Whites.

On this question we can do no better than quote from our pamphlet. “The Racial Problem.” What it said three years ago is even more relevant now than it was then:—
  “As industry develops, they (the Natives) will learn more, and want more, and then the same position will face the South African White worker as faces the American White worker at the present time. Then will the South African workers, White, Native. Coloured, and Indian, be at their own cross-roads. What their decision will be we do not know nor do we intend to guess. What we say to the South African workers we have already said to the American workers. They must realise that their interests as workers lie together: until they do so they will remain divided and weakened, wide open to the attacks and encroachments of the capitalist class. Much worse may result; the logical end of the road which the South African White worker is treading can only be bloody violence and destruction. No group can permanently hold down another many more times more numerous than itself, and sooner or later the working class, particularly the White section, will have to face up to the situation and make their decision.”
Recent events in South Africa have served only to underline the warning contained in this statement. The White workers in the Union will ignore it at their peril.
Stan Hampson

Of Mice and Men (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

According to The Economist (25/2/50), Mr. Herbert Morrison regrets that the activities that take place in the Stock Exchange are influenced by politics.

The society we live in is called capitalism. It received that name because “capital,” strictly speaking, money invested to gain more money, is the driving force in the production of society’s needs. This money is spent on means and instruments of production, fields, factories, raw materials, machinery and the buying of labour power, and under present conditions most of the money is invested in huge companies and state concerns which produce the bulk of the goods and services society requires. The title to ownership in those organisations is stocks and bonds, and the main market where they are bought and sold is the Stock Exchange. In the commodity market when prices rise this shows which goods are in demand and the production of these goods increases until supply overcomes demand and prices fall. So in general the price of shares on the Stock Exchange rise and fall under the influence of the same kind of factors. The Stock Exchange is a necessary adjunct of capitalist society. Mr. Morrison realises this: he “presumes the Stock Exchange has useful functions to discharge,” and says, “We ought to recognise that in our money and industrial system such an institution may well be necessary,” but Mr. Morrison “would urge them not to allow the political straws to affect investments.”

To this criticism, Mr. John Braithwaite, the Stock Exchange chairman, very effectively replied: —
  “It is quite true that prices are influenced by the ebb and flow of opinion as to the result of the election as they are by every form of news and opinion on domestic or foreign affairs that has any bearing on the investment market. . . .
“What Mr. Morrison seems not to understand is that movements of prices are not made by the whims or wishes of members of the Stock Exchange. They are the result of the actions of countless individuals and institutions all over the country and by no means all of one political persuasion who are moved by countless different reasons to send instructions to the Stock Exchange to buy or sell securities. . . . These are the tides of business influenced by economic and political conditions the world over. . . . The Stock Exchange can no more control or influence those tides than King Canute could order the tides of the sea.”—(The Economist, 25/2/50.)
What chance has Mr. Morrison and the other Canutes of the Labour Government planning a system like that? Even a Cabinet with the alleged talents of the Piddingtons wouldn’t have a chance.

Mr. John Strachey, Secretary of State for War in the present Labour Government, a few years before the war made the following statements in “The Nature of the Capitalist Crises”; they bear repeating: —
  “The whole of the present official leadership of the British workers looks forward, like G. D. H. Cole, to the possibility of an organised or planned high wage paying and centrally controlled capitalism. . . .

   "Unfortuntely, however, as we have seen, whatever else may happen upon this uncertain planet, the establishment of a planned, stable, high wage paying capitalism is impossible” (page 354).
Planning is only possible when goods are produced for use and not for profit, and at the present stage of social development with the gigantic social productive forces production for use implies common ownership of those productive forces—in a word, Socialism.
J. T.

Is There a Future for State Capitalism? (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Tory M.P., Mr. Hugh. Linstead, has tried to define the issues that will divide the parties in coming elections and has concluded that the electors will be asked to decide the question: “Is it State capitalism or private capitalism which can provide the largest amount of wealth for our community?” (Times, 8/3/50). Looking still further ahead he sees the possibility of a new division arising, that of Labourism versus Socialism. His second forecast is correct, but the first is over-simplified to the point of unreality. The Labour Party would now not attempt to fight an election on a programme of all-round Nationalisation, and the Tories are fully committed to retaining most of the existing Nationalisation schemes and to accepting some form of State regulation over the operations of private industry.

A better appreciation of the election is shown by the editor of the Observer (5/3/50) when he says that the Labour Party’s advocacy of further Nationalisation “was small and, in its character, noticeably lukewarm”; and by an Italian journalist in London who wrote: “The welfare State is accepted by all. Some parties want more and some less Nationalisation of industries, but this difference does not constitute a real battle. It is more a question of confidence as to who can guide the vessel of State better.” (Il Mondo, Rome. Quoted in Manchester Guardian, 22/2/50.)

Nationalisation is not very popular and the Labour Party is taking due note of the fact. One Labour supporter, Mr. Hannen Swaffer, wrote: “The British people decided last week that, for the present at least, it did not want any more Nationalisation.” (People, 26/2/50.) A Labour Peer, Lord Strabolgi, said in the House of Lords (7/3/50), “We did not get a mandate for further Nationalisation; we did not even get a mandate to continue the Iron and Steel Act.” The Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Tom Williams, assured the House of Commons, “the simple fact is … that land nationalisation forms no part of our programme and policy to-day.” (“Report,” 8/3/50, Col. 396). And one Labour M.P., Mr. R. Crossman, is reported by the Times (4/3/50) to have told the Oxford University Labour Club that he “thanked Heaven that the motorcar industry was still under private enterprise. He would rather have private enterprise with Government control and regulation than one of the gigantic public corporations which had been taken out of politics and over which there was no public control.”

The Ebb Tide of Nationalisation
As far as Western Europe and the British Dominions are concerned (except perhaps industrially very backward countries like India and Pakistan) the history of the years after the first world war is being repeated. After a brief period of widespread extension of Nationalisation a reaction has set in, at least for a time. New governments in Australia and New Zealand are opposed to its extension and in the ranks of the defeated Australian Labour Party a move is on foot to commit the party to the maintenance of “private enterprise” as the rule, with the introduction of Nationalisation as the exception. It is reported from France that Nationalisation is now so unpopular that for the next election “no party …. has yet advocated any extension.” (Daily Telegraph, 28/2/50.) All three of the Scandinavian Labour Governments, Denmark, Norway and Sweden have expressly or tacitly abandoned further Nationalisation. Sir Arthur Salter goes so far as to claim that the British Labour Government’s pre-election intention to extend Nationalisation to sugar, cement and insurance placed it in the position of being “alone in Western Europe, in the Commonwealth, in the whole of the free world.” (Manchester Guardian, 18/2/50.)

State Industries in Russia
Russia, too, has her problems of Nationalised industries, the interesting feature being the great extent to which their operations conform to the British pattern. While British Communists may criticise Nationalisation here for its "capitalist” features – as if basically it could have any other – State concerns in Russia show quite clearly that the Communists in power have found no means of running State industry to meet the needs of a capitalist world, except the traditional methods of Capitalism.

Some Labour Party theorists have argued in the past, and still do, that State capitalist enterprises can be run without the need to show a profit, i.e., either at cost or even at a loss, the loss being met out of State subsidies; and also that so-called “workers’ control” can be grafted on to Capitalism. In 1918 the Labour Party was committed to “democracy in industry,” “Nationalisation and workers’ control “; and the Communists in the early days took a similar line. None of them ever squarely faced the meaning of what they demanded, for if the workers who form the great majority were allowed “democratic” control of industry that would include control over its finances and power to take it over and stop the payment of profits or interest to shareholders or bondholders. In practice no Labour Government or Communist Government intend to concede such power – if it did the result would simply be to bring Capitalism to chaos. So in Russia, as in Britain, management of State industry and its finances belongs to directors appointed from above by and under the continuous control of the Government. And if in Britain nationalised concerns produce commodities for sale and have to show a profit, so they do in Russia.

In private industry if a firm cannot make a profit goes under. So every firm must strive to keep production costs below selling price. And nobody has yet discovered any other way of achieving low production costs in Nationalised industries than by requiring them to make a profit. In Russia, in addition to paying to the Government a turnover tax which is a percentage of what the concern receives from its customers, State enterprise has to pay profits to the Government. The procedure is explained in The Soviet Financial System by M. L. Bogolepof, Director of the Financial Division of the Russian State Planning Commission: —
  “Each establishment, having received from the State for its exclusive use both equipment and capital, proceeds to operate on its own. with its own financial accounting, bank account, credit facilities and, finally, with the right to make a profit,” (p. 9.)
What he here oddly calls the “right to make a profit” is in fact an obligation, rigidly enforced by the Government, and the profit does not belong to the undertaking—” his profit, as well as the proceeds from the turnover tax belongs to the State . . . .” (Bogolepof, p. 9.)

How much of the profit is kept by the Government and how much is returned to the undertaking depends on whether it can show that it requires additional capital for expansion. According to another Russian writer, A. Antonov (Soviet Weekly, 25/9/47), in some cases the Government keeps as much as 91 per cent. of the profits, while in other cases it may keep as little as 10 per cent.

Bogolepof explains (p. 34) how every State undertaking is compelled to go to the State bank for a loan (on which of course interest is paid) if this is needed as additional capital for short periods; and is likewise compelled to apply to the bank if it finds that it needs for an extended period more working capital than was planned for it.

Then the State bank acts as an inspector into the way the undertaking is being operated.
  “If the deviations from the production programme . . . are due to the fault of the enterprise, the bank refuses to supply additional credit, and the financial difficulties of the enterprise become the object of investigation by the competent authorities. As bank loans are provided on the basis of an analysis of the borrower’s financial and economic position, they have become one of the most valuable and effective forms of control by the Government over the activities of State enterprises.” (p. 34.)
It will be seen that if Mr. Bogolepof were to find himself transferred to one of the British nationalised industries he would find the capitalist-financial atmosphere remarkably like the one he breathes at home.

In one respect Russian State Capitalism does differ from British, because in Russia there is no burden of compensation to the original owners. (In the East European Russian satellites, however, some compensation is the general rule.) But while this was an important difference in the beginning it has become of less importance as the new army of bondholders has come into existence who have lent to the State the money used to provide new capital for State enterprises. The interest they receive is much higher than the rates received by Government bondholders in England.

Nationalisation of the Land
The Labour Party has disowned land nationalisation but they used to declare that it was an essential part of their policy. As set out in their 1918 programme, Labour and the New Social Order, their intention was to nationalise the land and organise agriculture on the combined basis of large “national farms,” small holdings, municipal farms, and farms run by cooperatives. In the meantime the Russian Government has established a farming system very much like the Labour Party’s scheme. It consists of large State farms, small family-farms, and co-operative or “collective” farms in which, however, the farmers also have their own private holdings. The whole idea of being “collectivised” was detested by large numbers of farmers and force had to be used. Large numbers, though they had to submit, have never become reconciled to it, and during the war while the authorities had their hands tied with the German invasion they saw their chance and seized collective farm land and added it to their own farms. According to a correspondent writing in the Manchester Guardian (1/3/50) the public reproof administered late in February to the Minister in charge of agriculture, A. A. Andreyev, rested on the allegation that his method of organising collective farmers into small units working only on their own collective farm (as against large units working on any farm) encouraged them in their attachment to the idea of private farming.

Late in 1946 a move was made to compel the farmers to give back the land they had illegally appropriated, and according to an official statement quoted by the writer referred to above, the authorities secured the return of some 11 million acres. But the illegal acts have continued and further large-scale seizures have been reported as recently as November last. A new campaign is now reported with the object of persuading the farmers not only to restore land taken illegally but also to throw their own legal holdings into the pool. “In this way all private ownership of even the smallest plot of land, it may be assumed, will be gradually eliminated.” Whether that writer’s anticipation will be borne out remains to be seen. With all the main features of Capitalism in full force, with the growing emphasis on inequality of income and ownership, the accumulation of property will continue to be universally attractive and the peasants are not at all likely to give up easily the private ownership of which every effort of the Government has so far failed wholly to deprive them.

The Myth of Nationalisation
One thing the experience of Nationalisation has shown is that the conception of all-round State Capitalism as a workable and stable alternative to private Capitalism is a myth. If Nationalisation is only partial, as in Britain (about 20 per cent. of all industry is nationalised) it has to be run on normal capitalist lines and brings no comfort to the workers; and if it is wholesale Nationalisation, as in Russia, it likewise has to be run on strictly capitalist lines, and likewise fails to satisfy the needs and desires of the population.

Events have played havoc with the theories of the nationalisers, here and in Russia, and the Labour Party now finds its propaganda robbed of one of its main ingredients. The deep-seated discontent of the working class has never been wholly satisfied with promises of immediate social reforms. There was always, in addition, the vague but persistent desire for some more alluring ultimate objective. Among the early Labourites Keir Hardie met this desire by the argument that Nationalisation, though not much worthwhile for its own sake, was justified because it was a necessary step to the achievement of Socialism (or “free Communism” as he sometimes called it). Later Labourites dropped Keir Hardie’s argument and put in its place the view that wholesale Nationalisation is the ultimate aim, to be achieved gradually industry by industry. But to make this acceptable they had to claim that Nationalisation is itself of great and immediate advantage. A generation of workers were converted to this belief and are only just learning that it is false. Now Nationalisation propaganda has turned sour on the Labour Party and they find that their responsibility for running Capitalism for five years has turned them into a Party trying to live on past achievements, a Party of “conservers” of what exists – the so-called Welfare State. Like the other Conservatives, the limit of what they can hold out as a glittering future prize is almost comprised in the ever-receding prospect of overcoming the crisis.

The Communists in Russia are in a like dilemma. Copying the Labour leaders whom they affected to despise so much, they have given to State Capitalism the name Socialism; but unlike the Labour Party, they have adhered to Keir Hardie’s line of holding out as a solace for present troubles an ultimate but never materialising Communism.

It remains to be seen for how much longer the partial and the complete nationalisers will be able to hold the allegiance of the working class in face of evils for which neither group of distorters of Socialism can find a remedy.
Edgar Hardcastle

Party News Briefs (1950)

Party News from the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Kingston Branch having passed through a comparatively inactive winter period has recommenced activities. The first outdoor meeting was held at Castle Street, Kingston, during election week with enthusing results. The station will commence, officially and regularly, on Saturday, April 18th, but meetings will be held there when branch speakers are available and weather permits before that date. The membership of the branch, which has remained numerically stationary for a long period, has begun to increase. The loss of Comrade J. Thorburn, who had to transfer to another branch, was a disappointment to the other branch members, but the return of Comrade G. Waters, transferred back from Lewisham Branch, has replenished the Kingston speaking strength. Three very active members who, although they remain on the branch roll, have had to take employment and find a residence in distant parts of the country, are, of course, unable to assist in local work for the time being. The meetings at Castle Street are the only activity contemplated for 1950 to date, but the steady influx of members may alter that very soon. Those friends and comrades who attended the Saturday evening meetings during the previous two years are cordially invited, requested—urged, to support those meetings again this year. Those who have contemplated membership of the party are reminded that the branch meets on alternate Thursdays at 9, Vicarage Road, Kingston, at 8 p.m. (meetings for April on the 13th and 27th), and that they can contact the secretary at 19, Spencer Road, East Molesey, Surrey; phone number, Molesey 4094.

Ealing Branch social and dance on March 11th, in the Princes Room, Ealing Town Hall, proved to be a great success. A good turnout of members together with a first-class orchestra and dance floor, and an efficient “refreshment” service, provided everyone with an enjoyable evening. This branch has had a fairly busy winter season, with four indoor meetings including one at Richmond. It is intended to wind up with two further efforts, one at Richmond on April 14th, with R. Critchfield as the speaker and the other at Ealing Town Hall on April 17th with C. Groves speaking. Plans for the outdoor season include the running of propaganda stations at Ealing Green on Saturdays, Heron Court, Richmond, on Sundays, and Turnham Green on Mondays. The last station replaces the one previously used at Shepherd’s Bush which has been abandoned owing to the difficulty of getting an audience. Three trips to the coast have been arranged, all of them to Southsea, in July, August and September. Members who have been to Southsea on previous propaganda excursions, will recall that this place has proved to be remarkably good for our propaganda efforts and it certainly warrants further attention.

The Parliamentary Committee has issued its provisional report on the General Election campaign in North Paddington and East Ham, South. The final report will be presented when the auditors have completed their work and a closer analysis of the meetings held, has been made.

In East Ham twelve outdoor meetings were held during the campaign and thirteen indoor meetings, three of them in the East Ham Town Hall. In Paddington we held two Town Hall meetings, four in the Emmanuel Hall, three in local schools and one at the Metropolitan Theatre, in addition to six outdoor meetings. Of the meeting at the Metropolitan Theatre the Parliamentary Committee says, "Probably one of the most successful in the history of the Party and it is no exaggeration to say the finest meeting held by any Party in the London area during the Election, both as to size and the manner in which it was conducted.”

During the campaign there was distributed in the two constituencies, 163,000 items of literature, comprising 25,000 Election Manifestoes delivered by hand, 50.000 Election Specials, distributed by hand, and 88.000 Candidates' Addresses delivered by post. 65,000 handbills were distributed, 50,000 of them in East Ham, the constituency being covered six times by members who undertook to distribute them. 1,100 posters were displayed in the two constituencies. Two separate units of loud-speaker apparatus were constantly in use in both constituencies and Party members and sympathisers used their cars as frequently as possible, nine cars being fairly constantly in use in Paddington and three vans and a car in East Ham.

More details of the canvassing efforts are to be given in the Committee’s final report, but we are told that bad weather curtailed much of the work.

The committee rooms at East Ham South cost us £36 for the six weeks and those at Paddington £49 1s. for the same period. This high cost was due to the shortage of shop accommodation.

The total costs for each constituency were. East Ham, South, £603 (approx.), and for Paddington, North, £615 (approx.), making an approximate total of £1,218. The income from collections at meetings amounted to approximately £130, leaving us with a total net expense of £1,088, which is £188 over our estimated figure. The committee devotes much of its report to recommendations for the next election, in particular to ways and means for cutting the expenses, based upon the lessons of this campaign. The report concludes with thanks "to all members in whatever capacity their work was performed for what was truly a wonderful effort of a voluntary organisation. It shows what revolutionary enthusiasm, which lies at the base of our socialist knowledge, can do, and will do, in the future.” The Parliamentary Committee is now engaged in collecting details of the number of Party members in each constituency throughout the country, the number of voters in each constituency and its geographical area. The collected information is to be presented to the Annual Conference which will discuss how many and which constituencies we shall contest at the next election. We are anxious to increase the number, but finances will determine. You can help with them. Send donations to the Parliamentary Fund addressed E. Lake, S.P.G.B.. 2, Rugby Street. London, W.C.l. 

The Food Parcel, mentioned in these columns in our March issue, sent by our comrades in the Wellington Branch of the Socialist Party of New Zealand, for use by the catering committee at the Annual Conference, has arrived. It is a splendid parcel and we thank our New Zealand comrades most cordially for the kind thought and for their generosity.

The Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Ireland is ready and we are informed that quantities have been dispatched to us. They have not arrived at the time of writing. We hope to have them in time for our Conference on April 7th, 8th, and 9th, and to review the publication in the next issue of the Socialist Standard, which will also contain a report of Conference proceedings.
W. Waters.

Circumstances alter attitudes (1950)

Editorial from the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Before it became the Government the Labour Party built up a reputation on the frail ground that it was in favour of applying the principle of democracy everywhere, with particular reference to the depressed native populations who suffered so much from the profit-hungry greed of the privileged class. Now that the Labour Party has become the Government, administering Capitalism, lofty ideals that gained them support have had to take a back seat and the interests of the British Capitalist class become, and must become, the ruling idea. A recent example is the instance of the native ruler Seretse.

The circumstances are fairly well known owing to the publicity given by opponents of the Labour Party; opponents, it may be added, who would in all probability have acted more or less in the same way had they been the Government. Seretse is chief of a native population in Bechuanaland. He came to England to study and married a white girl. The Regent who had been acting as chief during Seretse’s minority objected to the marriage. After considerable internal discussion the Regent was exiled and the majority of the population accepted Seretse and his wife. In the meantime the Government’s representatives had been taking part in the dispute. Finally Seretse was invited to England for discussions on the express condition, he claims, that he would be allowed to return. When he was here the Government refused to let him return and banned him and his wife from the territory for five years.

Why did the Government take this autocratic action, in face of the wishes of the local population? Obviously not out of consideration for the native people but from motives springing from the needs of national diplomacy; the national diplomacy of a capitalist government. What are these needs? One of them is to placate the South African Government which has passed a number of repressive measures against natives; another is fear of what might happen to the interests of the privileged class in other parts of the "Empire" if they failed to frown upon the union of white with black.

Thus, in spite of the high-flown style of the propaganda against Fascism and Nazism in the past, where capitalist interests are, or seen to be, involved all capitalist governments, including the Labour ones, are prepared to engage in racial discrimination.

Obituary (1950)

From the April 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard 

What an ungrateful lot the British workers are! Hardened fighters in the great battle for Immediate Demands have given the best years of their lives furthering the cause of that great fountain of reforms, the Communist Party of Great Britain; nay, have also been so generous as to urge the workers to give their lives not only in international warfare, but also in the streets against the forces of the State. But what do the workers do to show their appreciation of the herculean efforts of their self-appointed leaders? The result of the recent election clearly shows that the British workers overwhelmingly rejected the C.P.G.B. and its crypto-comrades.

Both M.P.s in the previous House of Commons lost their seats, and apart from these two and Harry Pollitt who fought Rhondda East, the remaining 97 Communist Party candidates lost their deposits, very few of them polling 1,000 votes or over.

As was to be expected, the Daily Worker of 25th February, 1950, gives a couple of false reasons for this calamity, in the hope of covering up the truth. Mr. Gallacher is reported as saying:—
  “The workers have not yet seen our point of view that it was necessary to vote Communist in order to ensure a real fight against their enemies."
The point of view of the Communist Party (as published at the time of the election campaign—it has a notorious habit of changing overnight) was all too discernible. A plethora of social reforms ranging from Home Rule for various sections of the British Isles, through the familiar hardy annuals—more wages, houses, schools, trade with Russia, etc., and less armaments, price increases, frozen wages, trade with the United States, etc., to the more exotic items such as banning the atom bomb and a more democratic constitution of the British Army.

But behind the camouflage of all these reforms, promises and vote-catching slogans, the insoluble tie between the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Russian Government stood out in bold relief, and here lies the real cause of the C.P.’s downfall. A working-class not accepting the Socialist solution to world problems, and stiff in support of Capitalism will be most likely to support the “home-grown” section of the capitalist class, and not the interests of some rival group of exploiters abroad. Hence, now that the American and British sections of the world capitalist class find themselves opposed to the imperialist policy of the Russian ruling class, the British workers (who are still nationalist in their outlook, thanks partly to the propaganda of the Communist Party itself) will naturally oppose any organisation which supports Russian capitalism. The popularity of the Communist Party in 1945, which resulted in their obtaining two seats in Parliament, was largely due to the temporary alliance between the United States. Britain and the U.S.S.R. during the war.

The other reason for defeat advanced by the Daily Worker was that the workers voted for the Labour Party rather than the C.P. in order to “ keep the Tories out.” Surely, if the “Communists” were really concerned about keeping out the Tories, they would have refrained from putting forward all those candidates, which, according to their reasoning, might have “split the Left vote,” a heinous crime for all so-called “progressives” to commit, and one, incidentally, of which the S.P.G.B. has often been accused. However, five years of Labour Party administration of Capitalism prompted large numbers of workers to vote Tory in 1950, despite the Daily Worker's glib excuse, in fact, so many workers supported the Tory candidate in West Fife that he topped Mr. Gallacher’s vote by nearly 1,000, the Labour candidate winning the seat which “oor Wullie ” had so stoutly held for the past fifteen years.

It is interesting to note here that in spite of the host of reforms and the vote-catching tricks employed by the “Communist” candidates (i.e., pandering to religious and racial prejudices in certain constituencies), they polled a mere 200 votes each more than the S.P.G.B. candidates in North Paddington and East Ham South. We of the Socialist Party, who stood for the single issue of Socialism, and who eschewed all forms of election stunts and vote-catching slogans and promises of reforms, insisting on socialist knowledge being the pre-requisite for the support of our candidates, have long been chided by the “short-cut boys” of the C.P. as being “impossibilists,” whereas they, the saviours of the workers, would lead them to victory in a flash of lightning. Now it appears that the leaders have moved so fast (in a circle) that they have left their followers behind, and have reappeared at the rear of the political scene.

What are the future prospects for the vanquished “vanguards of the proletariat”? Now that parliamentary representation no longer exists, and the chances of future representation seems remote, the Communist Party may once more advocate armed insurrection as being the only hope for the workers. The cloak-and-dagger element of the C.P. may once more become prominent, organising “parallel illegal machinery,” forming secret cadres, shock battalions and what not, in fact as it were reverting to type, and complying with Bolshevik theory inherited from the terrorism of the Blanquists of nineteenth century Russia.

This policy of bringing the workers out against the armed forces of the State may have sounded feasible in the days of rifles and barricades, but it is recklessly suicidal for the workers nowadays, when the modern State controls such weapons as tanks and flamethrowers. At the congress of the C.P.G.B. held in November, 1929, the Manchester Guardian of 2/12 /1929 reports Harry Pollitt as saying: —
  “Only through social revolution, only through armed insurrection, can the workers gain power."
And now, fresh from the crushing Communist Party defeat in 1950, the same Mr. Pollitt says: —
  “The great issues will be settled not in the arena of this reactionary Parliament, but by the workers’ mass struggle in the factories and the streets." (Daily Worker, 25/2/50.)
This statement may only refer to trade union activity and to street meetings and marches, but on the other hand it may be a hint of further dangerous anti-working-class machinations by the Communist Party.

Whatever the new Party Line will be. we can make two prophecies with confidence: —
  1. It will be strictly in conformity with the needs of the Russian capitalist government.
  2. It will not present an alternative to the present system of society for the consideration of the working class, but will offer innumerable reforms, as do all the other reform parties, in the hope of attracting support for its policy.
We have always held the view that the “Communists' ” misuse of the word “Socialism" by applying it to state-capitalist Russia has greatly hindered the task of explaining what Socialism really is despite the smokescreen of pseudo-marxian jargon with which they cloak their propaganda, and we have also seen many similar so-called “left-wing" parties perish during the last thirty years (Trotskyites, Independent Labour Party, etc.) due to the sterility of their non-socialist arguments.

The sooner the Communist Party of Great Britain also finally falls from the political scene the better, for the workers will then be rid of an organisation which has been nothing but a millstone round their political necks, and whose policy has helped in no way to remove the cause of the major problems besetting society to-day —i.e., Capitalism and substitute Socialism in its place Only a political party having this object as its aim is worthy of working-class support.

Upon a tombstone of crumbling clay in the political grave where the C.P.G.B. will be unceremoniously interred, the following epitaph, written in the blood of millions of workers may be seen: “Born 1920, Died ?. R.I.P. (Russian Imperial Policy).”
Michael La Touche

Guild “Socialism.” A Good Thing for Capitalist Ratepayers. (1922)

From the September 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

The “London Building Guild” commenced its existence in July, 1920, by promising to show government officials and builders how to build houses more cheaply and at the same time pay their workers for loss of time through sickness or inclement weather.

An offspring of the “Guild Socialist” movement, it endorsed the principles and promises of Guild Socialism, claiming that the workers themselves would control, and that by the growth and extension of their movement the workers would gradually gain control over the whole of industry and be enabled thereby to set up a new order of society in which the capitalist would be entirely eliminated.

Because of the demand for workers’ dwellings the Building Guild rapidly outstripped the guilds of other industries. Their contracts., according to the “Building Guildsman,” May, 1922, spread over 70 Guild committees, amount to £3,000,000. Notwithstanding this rapid growth, however, it is questionable whether the Guild is financially sound. The Co-operative Wholesale Society, concerned about the competition between their building department and the Guilds, have declined to finance them further, and the Guilds have retaliated by placing their insurance business elsewhere. The Federation of Building Trade Operatives have come to the rescue of the Guild for the time being, but the latter is evidently in a tight corner financially as they are making desperate appeals for loans. The June number of the “Building Guildsman,” displays on its cover in bold type the words, “Lend promptly or the Guild can’t develop.” Before doing so, however, the trade unionist, at any rate, will do well to critically examine the need for its development.

What, in the first place, would the workers say of a builder, or any other capitalist, who, while constantly boasting of the extension of his business, appealed to them for loans in order to carry out the work? Yet this is what the Guild does; because under it the workers organise themselves merely to give service. The capitalist is eliminated but the Guild does not get the profit, while the local authorities get their houses at the bare cost of labour and materials. The Guild contract, according to Mr. Ernest Selley, writing in the “Building Guild in London,” is described as follows :—
 “The Guild form of contract, as Approved by the Ministry of Health for Municipal Housing Schemes, provides that the price paid by the local authorities shall be the prime cost of material and labour at standard rates. To this sum, 6 per cent. is added to cover head office administration, plant, insurance, and, if necessary, interest on borrowed capital. In addition, there is an allowance of £40 a house to enable the Guild to guarantee continuous pay to its workmen in all contingencies. Thus, with full publicity as to costs, the Guild removes all doubt as to the existence of invisible margins and hidden profits.”
In the London District Area committees are set up consisting of delegates from trade unions and there is also a board of directors elected by the trade unions affiliated to the National Federation of Building Trade Operatives. The board is responsible for the appointment of managers and headquarters staff while the local committees make arrangements for the supply of labour. Members of the committees can be selected by the committee itself, to fill the best jobs without reference to their qualifications, and the way is open for wire pulling and jobbery. It is easy to see that whatever line the committees adopt there is bound to be friction over this question. Where jobs are concerned there is always competition and jealousy, together with numerous charges of corruption, true or untrue.

The business of the Guilds is carried on by means of borrowed capital, the interest on which is a portion of the surplus value produced by the Guild workers. Whether the Guild obtains a share of this surplus value for the extension of their business, or for any other purpose, does not transpire. In building working-class dwellings, however, they profess to be prompted by a desire to keep the cost of building low in order that the rents may be low; but the corporations they build for are under no obligation in this respect, and whatever profits are made by them on the letting go to the relief of capitalist ratepayers. Neither corporations nor guildsmen can any longer pretend that the workers are affected by reductions in rates, when every reduction in the cost of living—even where sliding scales are not in operation—is a signal for a reduction in wages.

Maintenance during sickness and inclement weather is made the most of by Guild propagandists. Really it is their only asset, though such payment is not confined to the Guilds nor does it represent a big slice out of profits. In itself it is certainly not worth the tremendous propaganda of confusion carried on by Guild Socialists. As an immediate benefit it is small compensation for the extra amount of unemployment likely to be caused by the general adoption of Guild methods—if all the Guild tales of quantitative results are true. Moreover, the Guilds can only guarantee employment while they obtain contracts; to do this they must be cheaper than capitalist firms.

They must enter the competitive market with the ordinary capitalist—who only differs from them in that he does not promise a millenium when he has captured all the trade—adopting all his methods for intensive exploitation of their wage slaves.

In fact they have already arrived at this, point and the need for coercing and hustling their workers is not only admitted but is seriously discussed in the May issue of the “Building Guildsman,” by Mr. S. G. Hobson, who. Says :—
 ”If we succeed in making Labour the first charge upon the industry and in consequence establish industrial maintenance; and if, as a result, production falls to an uneconomic level, one of the pillars of the Guild edifice would be seriously shaken. No use blinking that !

  “As a matter of fact, it is not true. Guild production, generally stated, is in excess of capitalist production, whilst there can be no question of Guild quality. But it is true that there are men working on Guild contracts who are without conviction of any kind, and who regard the Guild very much as they would regard an employer. Let us be quite frank: these men are a danger to Guild development. Whatever the cost, they must be dealt with.

  ”There still remains, however, the broad question : Must Guild discipline be maintained by the usual Capitalist methods of dismissal, driving, threats, and (wherever possible) Taylorism, piecework, and bonus? Or is there a better way? “
We see, therefore, that it is merely a question of the method, there is no doubt about the necessity of getting more out of the workers even though “Guild production, generally stated, is in excess of capitalist production.”

The capitalist nature of the Guild is fully demonstrated in the above quotation; particularly in the assertion that production must be kept at an economic level. The cry of the capitalist everywhere and always.

The quality of Guild work, too, is always stressed by their advocates; but this is a doubtful advantage from the workers standpoint. Many workers owe their jobs to the fact that capitalists, as a rule, pay more attention to cheapness and quantity than they do to quality, with the result that expenditure on repairs and maintenance becomes necessary.

Again, why should the employee of the Guild regard it as anything else but an employer? What else is it? Is he not exploited by the Guild? The Guild committee may give their services free. Their customers may obtain a better and cheaper commodity; but all that only proves the Guild worker’s more intensive exploitation, because, after all, he only gets wages; no more and no less than other capitalist employees.

Guild Socialism is a fraud on the workers, because it promises to eliminate the capitalist while it retains capitalism. It patches up the wages system with maintenance, instead of showing that wages, or the price of labour power, must always be but a mere fraction of the wealth produced by the workers.

Guild Socialists promise betterment for the workers here and now, and an easy transition from Capitalism to Socialism. Already their chief concern is for the financial success of their business contracts and not at all for the education of the workers in Socialism, without which there can be no transition, easy or otherwise.
F. Foan

“What Could You Do With £600?” (1922)

Party News from the September 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard


The above question is extracted from an advertisement which is appearing daily in the Capitalist Press.

In case there should be any members of the working class seriously puzzling their brains as to what they could do in the event of such an enormous amount of wealth being thrown at them, the £1.000 Fund Committee is prepared to supply the answer FREE OF CHARGE to any person or persons disposing of one BOOK of stamps and remitting the proceeds thereof within ONE MONTH from date of issue.

Stamps books can be obtained on application to the Secretary, T.P.F., 17, MOUNT PLEASANT.

Producing and Paying: A Grim Fairy Tale. (1922)

From the September 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

When discussing with the average member of the working class, or at meetings that bring forward their opinions, as soon as the Socialist attempts to show the futility of concern with this or that expenditure of the master class, he is invariably asked, “But don’t we pay for everything?” and this to the questioner appears an obvious truth.

Indignation is often aroused and shown when it is pointed out that the working class cannot have any part in the paying or contributing towards the colossal expense of running the capitalist system of society. True, some may feel the injustice of a system which on all sides presents itself as a glaring contrast between stupendous wealth and sheer stark naked poverty. True, others may dimly perceive that the existence of this wealth is due to the efforts of the working class. That at the docks, on the railways, in the mine or the office, the activities of the master class are unknown—from the highest to the lowest, skilled or unskilled, all are workers.

If, however, those who think thus, do not carry their observations and enquiries farther, such knowledge remains superficial, and will lead to wrong conclusions. They must go deeper and seek to understand what portion of the wealth that is produced accrues to the working class. They will then know that they CANNOT PAY either directly or indirectly towards the upkeep of the very system that exploits them; though it is quite desirable from the master class point of view to foster the belief that they can and do.

When we speak of the working class, we mean the class that works as the name implies. This presupposes a non-working class. The former are without any property in the means of life, and have only their bodily activities to sell in order to live. The latter own the earth and all upon it (machinery, mines, raw material, railways, etc.).

Wealth used to exploit labour power for profit is capital and its owners are capitalists. Capital is therefore merely wealth used for a particular purpose and is itself the product of wage labour.

Now the working class have only three methods of existing, either begging, stealing or working. Obviously the first two methods cannot become general, and to a small section, begging, unless upon a large scale (such as the Salvation Army and various charitable organisations) is a rather poor occupation; while to steal, after everything worth stealing has been stolen, with politically controlled force to maintain its ownership, is also a foolish proceeding.

There is, therefore, only that enervating pastime left to the workers, to work—for somebody else. And what does work give when obtainable? Wages. And what are they? Marx and Engels wrote in 1848 :
  “The average price of wage labour is the minimum wage, i.e., the sum of the necessaries of life, absolutely needful to keep the worker in life as a worker. Thus what the wage earner appropriates by his labour is just as much as is necessary to assure him a bare existence” (Communist Manifesto.)
But the worker is paid in money, and it is this fact that disguises from him the exploiting nature of the transaction, the buying of his labour power. What the master really buys is the full use of that energy, but when it is expended in the production of wealth, the worker produces much more in value than the value of his own necessaries of life expressed in price as wages. Six hundred years ago a man could produce in twelve weeks labour sufficient to sustain himself and family for a whole year (Thorold Rogers.)

How much greater must be his productivity to-day with the aid of steam, electricity, machinery, and every labour saving device science has placed at his disposal. What the worker produces over and above the value of what he receives as wages the Socialist calls “SURPLUS VALUE.” And it is from this source, whether it takes the form of Rent, Interest, or Profit that the masters MUST PAY.

The worker is robbed of the major portion of the wealth he alone produces and is left relatively poorer year by year as that wealth increases. All improvements in the means and methods of wealth production must benefit the comparatively few owners of those means, for to them belong the results. While the workers remain labour power sellers they cannot command more than the price resulting from that sale (wages).

If the master class can persuade the workers to continue in the belief that the latter have a part in the paying of national or local expenditure, they can help to disguise the exploiting nature of their system. The worker cannot pay out of what he NEVER RECEIVES, though at times he argues that he pays indirectly by consuming such things as tobacco, beer, etc.

Even here again it is a question of wages. Whatever the sum total of the prices of the necessaries required to reproduce the worker (including some sort of entertainment and small luxuries) must be given to him first in his wage, otherwise his labour power deteriorates. When prices rose during the war, bonuses had to be given to cover the increased cost of living; when they fell to any extent bonuses disappeared, or in other words, wages came down. The sliding scale is another example of the adjustment of wages to the cost of living.

Capitalist agents often tell the workers that it is the employed that must support the unemployed. Their object is twofold, to delude the workers, and endeavour to keep as low as possible their masters expenditure. At times they give the game away by stating that it pays better to receive “Guardians relief” than work for wages, and that’s saying something.

How little the reduction of such expenditure concerns the workers was evidenced recently at Poplar, when certain Labour members of the Council went to prison, avowedly in the interests of the workers, but we find the truth in strange places, thus ! “We have in our possession a return showing that the ‘large ratepayers’ actually saved in rates £300,000, as a result of the ‘Poplar Labour Borough Council.’ One firm in Millwall saved over £3,000, and another in Bow £1,222.” (Ed., “East London Pioneer,” April, 1922). Certainly good for the “large” ratepayers.

No, fellow workers, if the paying were yours the masters would trouble little about the expense much less spend large sums in propaganda upon matters which didn’t concern them. What concerns you is how long you intend to be the victims of profits and production for sale. Understand your importance in society and your historic mission as real men and women and then organise for Socialism. Social ownership of the means of producing wealth for use and not profit. That will destroy the power of the few to dominate the lives of the masses. The working “class” will then be abolished because all but the child and the feeble will take part in the useful necessary work of society and all will enjoy the benefits such social life will give.
W. E. MacHaffie

“Remedies.” (1922)

From the September 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

The remedies which were propounded as a solution for the slump in trade which has prevailed are now well known. First it was “increased production,” “reduced wages,” “longer hours,” and “Governmental Economy.”

A year or more is surely a reasonable period in which to test the efficacy of these remedies. Without doubt they have all been given a fair trial. The workers have increased their output, not so much as a result of the exhortations of Clynes, Brownlie, etc., as from economic necessity. Every worker knows that the enormous number of unemployed is used as a means to compel him to work harder. In almost every factory the workers have to compete with each other in order to retain their jobs; the slowest are the first to be put off. Wages have been reduced wholesale, and hours, in many cases, have been extended. Also some attempt has been made by the Government to curtail its expenditure.

That these expedients have failed to cure the slump is unquestionable. And no wonder !

The slump is brought about by the excess of supply of commodities over the demand for them ; therefore to increase production is but to worsen the situation. Every reduction in wages, in general, reduces the purchasing power of the working class, who constitute the enormous majority of the population. A great cause of the lack of demand in relation to the supply of commodities is the fact that the workers receive in the form of wages only a small portion of the total wealth they produce. To take a step, then, which must lead to a further reduction in the demand for commodities is a peculiar way of solving a problem, which, from the point of view of the capitalist, requires an increase in demand for its solution.

The latest nostrum trotted out by the capitalists through their press was “reduce income tax!”
  “This humble petition sheweth that whereas grave distress is being caused by the existing high taxation, which prevents the revival of trade and the return of prosperity to the nation, thereby also keeping in a state of unemployment a large number of people.”
This solemn nonsense is part of a petition to Parliament which the workers were called upon by the “Daily Mail” to sign. I have copied it from the “Weekly Dispatch” (30.4.22) and have searched the paper through for any proof, or argument in support of, the assertions made in the petition.

How the spending of the shilling in the pound by the capitalist income tax payers on champagne, etc., instead of by the Government on salaries to civil servants, etc., can have any effect in relieving unemployment is nowhere explained. The usual argument urged in favour of lightening the capitalists “burden” of taxation is that by so doing more money would be at their disposal thus enabling them to provide more employment for the working class. It is only necessary to point to the capital lying idle or being but partly used at the present time in order to show the fallacy of this argument. If capital already existing in the form of means of production, raw material, etc., cannot be used, obviously there is little room for the investment of new capital. 

But even if the argument were sound, the workers, by supporting the agitation and signing the petition are acquiescing in their own exploitation. When the capitalist “provides employment,” he does so only in order to exploit, to rob those whom he employs.

This depression is a world wide phenomenon. Capitalists are compelled to reduce the prices of their commodities and curtail production. This means to them a considerably reduced income; to the smaller capitalists it spells imminent bankruptcy. Each capitalist, then, is compelled to seek for means to compensate himself for these losses. The methods he adopts to this end are, urging the workers to work harder, thereby increasing their output, and therefore the surplus value appropriated by the capitalist. Reductions in wages have the same effect; less for the worker, more for the capitalist. The desire of the capitalist to reduce his expenses has given rise to the demand for Government economy and reduced taxation.

The support of the workers for these measures has been gained by telling them that only by these means, reducing the cost of production and so enabling the capitalist to compete more successfully with foreign rivals could any improvement in their (the workers) position be brought about. This fallacy has been exposed frequently in the columns of the Socialist Standard; it is, now exposed in the most convincing way by experience. Two years have gone by during which the various remedies have been tried and the situation is now, if anything, worse than ever.

The process of recovery from a trade crisis is, we know from past experience, a slow and gradual one. But even if the most extravagant forecasts of those who, from time to time shout “Trade is reviving,” were realised, it would be but the prelude to another period of depression. The history of capitalism has been an alternation of prosperity and stagnation, of boom and slump. The worker, forced to sell his labour power for an existence wage, is buffeted about by the varying winds of supply and demand; overworked at one period, unemployed at another; his existence becoming ever more insecure, a slave to the capitalist class, he is the victim of the present system of society. This has been the lot of the worker under capitalism and his position must become worse as the system develops.

There is but one remedy for the poverty, unemployment and overwork suffered by the working class. It is the socialisation of the means of production and distribution, which are now owned by the capitalist class (a small minority in society) and used exclusively for their benefit.

The initial step towards the realisation of this object, fellow workers, is, once understanding your slave position in society and desiring your emancipation, to organise yourself along with us in the Socialist Party and help to bring to a close this system of slavery.
J. D.

Shall We Mourn? (1922)

Editorial from the September 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

On August 15th the newspapers displayed large headlines announcing the death of Lord Northcliffe, the newspaper magnate. It is an interesting sidelight on the sham hostilities of the papers, that those who were lately his bitter enemies—on paper !—are now deploring his loss as that of “a great national figure and a prince of journalists.”

Working men who ponder over the actions of such “great men” are not moved to deplore his loss. It is to them but the loss of one who has climbed upon their shoulders ; a member of the privileged class ; a staunch supporter of the evil that Capitalism signifies—the havoc of wars and the miseries of peace.

The daily Press, without exception, exists in the main, not merely to give news “calculated to attract at the moment the legitimate interest of a reasonable man or woman,” as one paper would have us believe, but to provide a source of income to the proprietors. In doing this, it endeavours to gloss over the worst features of Capitalism and keep the workers satisfied with the present system of wealth production, which brings ease and comfort to the propertied few, and overwork and misery to the property-less many.

A large slice of the revenue of a newspaper comes from advertisements. A paper that cannot command a large circle of advertisers stands little chance of surviving.

Broadly speaking, those who advertise in the newspapers (we are referring to large advertisers, of course) favour the paper having the largest circulation among those interested in such advertisers’ wares; at the same time, being Capitalists, they will fight shy of a paper publishing information likely to harm their enterprises. Consequently the proprietors of a newspaper have two points of prime importance to bear in mind in the conduct of their journals—to obtain as large a circulation as possible, and, at the same time, to avoid, if possible, publishing anything that may offend their advertisers. The importance of the latter point many an Editor has learnt to his cost.

From the above we can see what attitude a flourishing newspaper must of necessity take towards the workers. It must side with the masters in keeping the workers in servitude. The news we are favoured with is selected with this end in view, though the papers dare not keep back some matters without risking a fall in the circulation upon which largely depends the quantity and value of the advertisements received.

Lord Northcliffe was a successful newspaper proprietor because his papers were conducted with a careful eye to these points ; in other words, he was an enemy of the working class.

How much the Press is concerned about the workers is illustrated by the statement of one paper (Daily News, 15/8/22), which, in an editorial, makes the following reference to Northcliffe’s death :—
“Next to the war, it is probably the most important fact in the history of this generation.”
What a callous lie ! The most important fact in the history of this generation is the fact that hundreds of thousands—ay, millions—of human beings are dying of overwork and underfeeding in presence of wealth, and means of producing wealth, accumulated in quantities undreamt of in the world before. Beside this the death of a newspaper magnate sinks into insignificance.

The Daily News (15/8/22) whilst commenting on Northcliffe’s death, made the following significant remarks :—
  “His judgment of men was sound, with the result that he surrounded himself with a band of able colleagues and assistants, who did much to aid him in establishing and carrying on the manifold undertakings of which he was the founder.”
The above remarks may excuse us for making a little digression.

Turn, to the life of any of the so-called “Great Men” produced by Capitalism, and it will be found that the tale is nearly always similar; they climbed to wealth and fame by appropriating the product of other men’s brains.

In this connection two men in particular may be mentioned—Andrew Carnegie and Pierpont Morgan. Both acquired huge fortunes, and both accomplished this end by using the genius of others.

Carnegie, the “great” ironmaster, knew nothing of metallurgy, but employed those who did, and rose to affluence on the results of their genius. He successfully took the fruits of others’ toil from the time he got control of Woodruff’s invention of the embryonic Pullman car until his mills turned out steel made by the Bessemer process, the process discovered by a genius whose name is unknown.

Pierpont Morgan acquired much of his “fame” in connection with the organisation of combinations in the American railway industry. He is spoken of as having had a marvellous head for taking in the position of the affairs of a company almost at a glance. How did this “great” man do the trick? The following quotation from “The Life Story of J. Pierpont Morgan,” by Carl Hovey (Heinemann), gives the key :—
  “All credit for this series of railroad rehabilitations is by no means his alone ; to one of his partners—the late Charles H. Coster—was assigned the task of solving the intricate and interwoven relations of railroad obligations, bonds, underlying bonds, collateral trust mortgages, and every other artificial form of securing a loan—and determining the amount fairly represented by each. Coster was a kind of rare genius, a sort of financial chemist, and possessed a gift of analysis in this new and difficult field; it often happened, when everyone else was baffled, that he alone was able to lay before his chief solutions clear and sound, which made it possible for Mr. Morgan to go ahead with his plans for a new structure” (p. 233).
That is how the trick was done ! And that is the way the “prince of journalists” did the trick.

When the workers of the world own the product of their labours, there will be no need for one to steal the work of another. Each will take his part in the production of needful things, and each will share in the enjoyment of such things.

Prison Reform and the Class Struggle. (1922)

From the September 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

Owing, partly at least, to the large but not surprising increase of crime which has, followed the close of the war, much interest has of recent months been shown in prison treatment and punishment generally, and a fine opportunity has been afforded to reformers to prove that the present penal system has failed to reform the criminal or check the growth of crime. Their humanitarian demand for a new method has gained the more attention, because of the demonstrable failure of the old.

Retired military officers, deprived of the twin joys of bullying their subordinates which their rank gave and of walking on “niggers,” which is the white man’s privilege in the outlying parts of “our” Empire, conspire equally sincerely with amiable old ladies of the upper class to clamour for the all round application of the lash as a cure for what appears to them to be lack of discipline.

The interest has been maintained by press stunts about the Home Secretary’s alleged discrimination between poor and wealthy prisoners, and by the publicity given to various persons (including the C.O.’s) of a type not previously well represented in jail; while the “Daily Herald,” without intentional humour, announces that it opposes capital punishment because ”vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay” (7th July, 1922). Also an informative report has been issued by a Committee of the Labour Research Department.

While extensive knowledge of the facts is certainly possessed by many who have helped in the agitation, there has been a noticeable ignoring of important economic and class aspects.

The case made out against the present prison system is, considered alone, overwhelming. Experience shows that a very large percentage of first offenders who are committed to prison return again and again and become “habitual criminals.” Yet in seeming paradox we have the testimony of many investigators that there is no special criminal type. Thomas Mott Osborne, prison reformer and sometime Governor of “Sing-Sing” and other American jails, writes that there is
  “no radical difference between the minds of men in prison and mine. We are all, I discovered, potential criminals” (Daily Herald, July 1st, 1922).
Conditions make criminals and while some respond to degrading influences more readily than others, habitual criminals are in the main those who through prison treatment and associations have been prevented from regaining their lost positions, poor though these may have been.

Prison reformers have to combat a popular misconception which holds twentieth century prisons to be havens of rest. Lack of knowledge and the equally important lack of sympathetic imagination, make it hard for the average person to believe that imprisonment can still be incredibly cruel. He has probably read of the state of order and cleanliness which prevails, and of the good and sufficient food supply. He knows too that actual physical discomfort, whether of corporal punishment or of living conditions, have been largely abolished as part consequence of the efforts of an earlier generation of penal reformers. What he does not know, and finds difficult to accept, is that the sufferings which now exist are no less real, though apparently less tangible, than those which have been removed. Incidentally it is a signal mark of the futility of philanthropy that Howard and others who gave their lives to the work of destroying various evils should themselves have been responsible for the creation of others equally outrageous. These people observed that in the old debtors’ jails the prisoners were herded together indiscriminately, with results far from beneficial to the less hardened and more impressionable. They agitated successfully for the institution of the cellular system which condemns each prisoner to the drab confinement of his own cell for by far the greater part of the day, never realising that severance from the friends and interests of the outside world was the most intolerable of the burdens prison imposed, and that for those who were in a position of helplessness and hopelessness the company of fellow prisoners did at least create an illusion of comradeship and help to make the isolation less galling. A writer in the “Manchester Guardian” (30th June, 1922) remarks that the
  ”physical filth and barbarity that characterised our gaols little more than a century ago have been replaced by a system that, in its mental and moral effects upon the prisoner, constitutes but a more refined form of cruelty ” ;
and Dr. Starkie, a police doctor, who has suffered imprisonment (he alleges innocently) and who has written on his experiences, describes prison with a strong journalistic flavour, but not inaccurately, as a “Living Tomb.”

Another writer reviewing the above mentioned report, says : —
“Even a few months of imprisonment appears to be sufficient in many, if not most, cases to produce an effect upon memory, concentration, and the power of will. In the case of the long sentence prisoner, this process of deterioration may lead to premature senility, or a childish weakness of mind which renders him almost incapable of resuming normal life in any efficient capacity.” (Reynolds, July 2nd, 1922.)
Perhaps it is unfair to say that the prison authorities do nothing to help their charges. After lack of education, bad surroundings, poverty and insecurity of livelihood have combined to produce the criminal; and after confinement, the denial of recreation for the mind, and the brain-numbing prison tasks imposed, have reduced him to a state of acute mental anguish or stupidity, harmful busybodies are permitted to provide him with the pestilential literature of some religious tract society in an endeavour to reclaim his soul for the Lord.

In summing up, the “Manchester Guardian” writer quoted above, holds prisons utterly condemned by their
  “depressing bareness, their perpetual silence, their monotonous uniformity, and the obtrusive and military discipline,”
and affirms of imprisonment that
  “if conceived with the express object of unfitting a man for subsequent freedom, it could not have been more cunningly devised.”
Yet it must be emphasised that while these charges are hardly capable of serious question, they do not go to the root of the matter.

The others who would make prison life more nearly what it was in the “good old days” are equally wide of the mark. Those who would reform the criminal by kindness and those who would flog him into virtue alike fail to understand the problem.

The truth is that neither of these groups has sought to explain the origin and existence of crime. Dr. Starkie says :—
“as a doctor, I know that the cures for crime are the same as the remedies for all social disorders,”
and he correctly adds that the problem, which has to be solved, of removing bad living conditions and providing proper education, makes the subject really a political one. Again, T. M. Osborne admits that
“anything done to improve social conditions will reduce crime,”
and it is a fairly widely recognised and easily understood phenomenon, that unemployment and distress are always accompanied by numerous crimes, especially by robbery.

Let us briefly examine the nature of the various things gathered under the one word crime.

The human race has inherited from its animal ancestors, and has acquired during its early condition of perpetual struggle with nature, certain fundamental characteristics or instincts. The continuance and development of the race depended on these and they have persisted with little real modification under conditions of civilisation. These impulses, such as self-preservation, the need for food and for protection against the elements, have taken different forms under widely varying conditions, and, given a long period of prosperity and comparative peace, it may have seemed that the cultivation of the arts of civilisation had altered man’s savage nature. But let passions be stirred by war, fear be roused ‘by disaster, and the threat of hunger or death and it is soon seen how little man has changed in this respect.

Other important characteristics have also been acquired. Men are by nature gregarious ; it is natural for them to associate in communities. They have developed cooperation in production to its present far advanced stage, and in periods and empires of comparative stability, truly wonderful cultural edifices have been built on this foundation. In those primitive societies where social co-operation in production obtained, and the means of living, simple though they were, were held in common, this social solidarity and the human need for food and shelter were in conformity ; but this condition long since ceased to be. The means of wealth production have become privately owned; and slave and slave owner, feudal proprietor and serf, and finally wage-worker and capitalist have faced each other in conflict. The savage and his tribe, self-interest and the loyalty of kinship, were one; individual interests and thoughts of isolated existence were alike impossible. The various classes which have been dominant have had interests in opposition to those of their subject class, and their interests, their ideas, their codes of morality and ethics have prevailed throughout the particular society. The sense of social solidarity still shared by the oppressed has formed a useful buttress for their own oppression and at the same time has hidden the force on which ultimately it rested.

Not the community, but the capitalist class now owns the machinery of wealth production. This class lives on the proceeds of the robbery of the workers who, by their property-less condition, are compelled to operate that machinery for its owners, in return for doing which they receive as wages only part of the product. The capitalists, as a prime need, require to be maintained in possession, and that need is met by the State which controls the forces of society. Now crime consists roughly of two kinds of acts. Firstly those which are anti-social in the sense that they would conflict with the smooth working of any society, such, for instance, as murder and other attacks on persons; and secondly the more numerous and at present more important crimes which are actions detrimental to the interests and stability of the dominant class.

It has to be recognised that crime is a matter of definition in written law, or of the interpretation of custom, and not a questioning of the breach of some external and everlasting moral standard. The law itself arises directly out of, or has been adapted to, the needs of the ruling body. Vengeance is, in fact, not the Lord’s, but the prerogative of the capitalist class.

This should not be confused with improper and prejudiced administration. While some Judges may, more or less, consciously allow their opinions to influence their decisions, this is probably rare and matters but little. It is the law, not its administration, which reflects its class origin. As Anatole France says :—
  “the law, ‘in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.’ “
But the millionaire just doesn’t need to, because his living is assured by the robbery of workers whom he pauperises.

Those who do not look below the surface are struck by the apparent inconsistency of the law. They point to the fact that men are hanged in peace time for killing their fellows, but that C.O.’s were imprisoned and threatened with death for refusing to kill; again, that there is only a difference of degree between ordinary robbery and the brigandish exploits of every civilised Empire against the territory and property of its civilised neighbours, or preferably, because it is safer, against the backward races. We, however, realising the supreme need for the ruling class to maintain their dominance, recognise that they can consistently, and in fact must, do all these things. Class government rests on force, and no government can or dare tolerate defiance from a minority, or even from one single individual, when such defiance threatens their supremacy. This is a rule to which there is no exception. No government can ignore it with impunity. The natural desire for food in hunger clashes with the property rights of the owners of the land and other means of food production. Thus it is easy to see how crimes against property have a direct economic basis and motive; but that is not the whole of the result of private ownership.

Not only does the starving man steal bread to allay his hunger, but through other disadvantages from which he as a worker suffers, his entire outlook on society may be distorted. The denial of proper education, decent living conditions, and opportunities of self-development produce indifference and actual hostility towards the restraints imposed by convention; and the consequent misdirection of instincts and desires denied proper outlet, gives rise to numerous other crimes, not themselves directly to be explained by the desire to live.

Most forms of crime then, other than those to which men are driven by poverty, owe their existence, or at least their aggravation to the numerous disadvantages suffered by the under dogs of society. The present crime wave is therefore an instance of the chaos which has followed the rise of class division in society and the resulting conflict between the human needs of one section and the economic interests of the other. In this conflict the dispossessed class has to meet not only the might of the possessors but also the force of the accepted social regulations which, while appearing to have universal validity, really serve one class only.

Much of the activity of any Government must be devoted to regulating the day-to-day intercourse between its own subjects,, for without such guarantee of security, trade and commerce would become impossible. Crimes against property by masses of striking workers or by individuals must be suppressed. This is true of democracies as of autocracies. It is imposed equally on the lately “rebel” Government of Ireland, as on the Bolsheviks; the Australian Labour Government has had to use State forces against strikers and maintain intact the prison system; and the Labour Party here, if it gets into power, must do the same or forfeit its right to govern. This necessity will remain while private property and consequent class government remain.

Faced then with the problem that many workers are seldom in a position of security or of employment at all, the Government must devise means of deterring them from turning to crime as a way out. They must make their places of detention for criminals worse than conditions outside. They have had fair success. Just as the military authorities undoubtedly succeeded in making military prisons and detention camps so hellish that few men would exchange the trenches for them, so the civil authorities have aimed at convincing the workers that semi-starvation is better than imprisonment.

Both the people who opposed the removal of the more barbaric army punishments and those who advocate greater severity in the-treatment of civilian prisoners, are logical; but the latter fail because their method is, now proving ineffective. The force of the conditions which induce to crime is so great that the old methods no longer serve. The war and the general loosening of restraints have had their effect. The ruling class must endeavour to solve this problem by changing the method; but most reformers forget that the problem they are considering is not the one which faces those who have the power to act. Not sympathy for the prisoners, but increased knowledge is behind the move of the capitalist class.

Mr. Osborne for instance ‘.—
“believes in sending men to prison for crimes. Society could not allow them to throw monkey wrenches into its machinery. . . . I’m just a hard-headed business man who can’t bear seeing good material going to waste anywhere. Society needs protection, and if society were protected by killing or putting prisoners in chains, I would advocate these methods. But it isn’t.”
Dean Inge puts his class position in a nutshell when he says :—
  “With the exception of political criminals, whom I would treat with the utmost rigour, I advocate a determinist attitude towards crime. The treatment at first ought always to be curative.” (Daily Herald, July 14th, 1922).
In other words, political prisoners are men who deliberately attack the class privileges of Dean Inge and his kind, and must he beaten into submission. Ordinary criminals act blindly and may, many of them, be induced, if given the opportunity, to enter the “honest” occupation of providing profits for an employer. Reason dictates that a differentiation should be made, especially in view of the little result and high cost of maintaining prisons.

Experiments have shown that there is no need for the capitalist class to have to support a large “criminal” population. Many of those who have constantly returned to jail are there only because their record or their treatment has prevented them from entering the labour market on equal terms with other workers. Without therefore in any way lessening the deterrent nature of imprisonment, much of the great expense of keeping these misfits in prison can be got rid of if with proper training they can be made to starve submissively outside. This the capitalists can do, and in time will do. 

The Socialist does not concern himself with it because it is not an agitation the workers can usefully support. His unconcern proceeds not from lack of sympathy for the victims, but from the knowledge that while the capitalists remain in power they will solve their own problem in their own way, and that the wider problem they cannot touch. Property crimes can be removed only by the removal of private ownership of the means of life and the political question of providing the education and surroundings without which self-restraint and social loyalty are impossible, can also be solved only by the preliminary conquest of power which shall enable the organised workers to set about building a new class-less social order. The efforts of penal reformers are in the meantime not only futile for the end in view, but are also a hindrance to the Socialist propaganda which alone can remove the barriers to the very progress these reformers desire.
Edgar Hardcastle