Saturday, May 8, 2021

The bacillus Mussolini. (1924)

From the February 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Daily Telegraph of October 25th seized the opportunity of Fascism’s anniversary of accession to power in Italy to review its history. The review is the more valuable in that the writer makes little effort to conceal the direction in which his sympathies lie. No time is wasted on detailing how the poor peasant boy of Romagna, the bricklayer of Lausanne, the “Socialist” agitator and journalist, fought his way to the highest position of a Capitalist State. At the commencement of the article we find him there. No mention of his horde of Dirty Shirts, with their bludgeons, stilettos and castor oil. He is there! This is a free condensation of the article (italics mine) : His first sweeping reform was to throw out of office the great army of lazy “grafters,” political protégés, etc., created by a generation of government by unscrupulous and self-seeking politicians. The higher the official, the smaller his chance of being spared. The next step was to hit out against the petty political groups. One after another the old political groupings were smashed up and obliged to pronounce themselves for or against, but mostly for, the great Conservative reaction. The Liberals, the Populars, the Socialists have all been attacked on questions of principle; their ranks have been broken and scattered. In electoral reform he preserves proportional representation, but gives to the winning party two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. As the Telegraph man naively says : “This is in order to ensure for the governing party of the day the possibility of carrying out the reforms promised in its electoral programing. The world will follow with interest the working of this experiment in practical politics.” We shall. “Mussolini has been eminently successful in bringing about social peace and the cessation of class warfare. In the beginning the means employed were physical pressure by the Fascist militia, which had recourse to very drastic means.” (Pause for fiendish laughter.) “But very soon the tendency became manifest to apply more peaceful methods. The results are excellent, and during the last twelve months there has not been a single strike in the whole of Italy. This is a fact from which even Mussolini’s detractors cannot get away.”

The gloating contributor makes a bad slip just here. They can get away, for lower down he tells us quite refreshingly, in the long run Mussolini’s foreign policy is entirely governed by the necessity of finding satisfactory outlets for Italian emigration. The country is a great reservoir of man-power which must be exported, and Mussolini is casting about for outlets.”

What a country ! What a Paradise ! What a prospect ! Having bludgeoned, hacked and castor-oiled his way to political power, he discovers he is lord of a huge reservoir of excellent, exploitable material for foreign capitalists. His message to the Italians is, “Italy is no place for you.” There is one reservation. “A new departure is the decree forbidding the emigration of doubtful characters, so as to raise the reputation of Italy abroad.” Mussolini has judged his world well. As the reservoir is emptied of all save the ”doubtful characters” (doubtless fitted up with black shirts and oil equipment), the surrounding capitalist states will warm up wonderfully. A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind. It is good to learn that in this holy business he has the blessing of the Church. To again quote in full :—
  “The ex-Socialist Prime Minister has frankly recognised and accepted the preponderating part played in Italian life by the Church. He has established a firm friendship with the Vatican, which in its turn supports him. .​ .​ . The alliance with the Vatican gives to Mussolini, not only the active support of the powerful clerical elements in the country, but also assists him to a great extent in the development of his foreign policy.”
Now read the bit about his foreign policy again. And then you will, or will not, be pleased to learn that 50,000 railwaymen have been ruthlessly sacked, in the name of economy. Presumably they are now at the gates of the reservoir. They may even be numbered with his detractors. Happy, happy country ! Surely someone will inform the wretched denizens of Old Compton Street, Greek Street, and Little Italy, of what they are missing. Perhaps they are wise after all. Why go to the expense and inconvenience of a voyage, when all these inestimable benefits will soon be brought to our doors. One reads with delight that Britain possesses at least two Fascist organisations thanks mainly engaged at the moment in squabbling over which one is the real, genuine, dyed-in-the-wool article. This question settled, and an agreement reached as to who is to sign the cheques, one can already discern the rosy flush of a new dawn. Italy, hitherto associated in our minds, with ice-cream men, opera-singers and organ-grinders, is to fill our cup of indebtedness to the brim by presenting us with the New Liberty. Our cup runneth over. Already its prophets are afoot. You will remember Earl Grey at Newcastle on February 3rd last: —
  “It is possible, under the chaos and confusion in Europe, that democratic representative government may go down for a time in favour of some other system.”
Italy, we presume, shows us an example of the ”other system.” We hope you like it.
W. T. Hopley

* * * *

Since writing the above, we read in the “Westminster Gazette” of October 26th :
  “Italy at present offers a remarkable spectacle. The country is absolutely quiescent, the people intent only on their calling, and abiding by the laws. But the Fascisti leaders and rank and file alike .​ .​ . are quarrelling among themselves, unable to resist the temptation to usurp functions and prerogatives pertaining to the Government, unable either to rid themselves of the primitive, expeditious habit and the craving to take the law ruthlessly into their own hands.”
Readers can supply their own comment. It may be useful to mention that Mussolini is referred to as the Duse. The deuce he is.
W. T. Hopley

Correspondence: Labour-power. (1924)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

Manchester.
November 14th, 1923.

Dear Comrade,

I would be greatly obliged if you could please explain to me the following point in the next issue of the Socialist Standard.

I remain,
                   Yours fraternally,
                                            S. Million.

In “Capital,” Chapter 7, Section 1 (The Labour-process or the Production of Use- values), Marx says :
  “Suppose that a capitalist pays for a day’s labour-power at its value; then the right to use that power for a day belongs to him, just as much as the right to use any other commodity, such as a horse that he has hired for the day. To the purchaser of a commodity belongs its use, and the seller of labour-power, by giving his labour, does no more, in reality, than part with the use-value he has sold. From the instant he steps into the workshop, the use-value of his labour-power, and therefore also its use, belongs to the capitalist.”
Marx thus shows that it is his labour-power, and not his labour, which the labourer sells to the capitalist.

In Chapter 7, Section 2 (The Production of Surplus-value), Marx says :
  “The circumstance, that on the one hand the daily sustenance of labour-power costs only half-a-day’s labour, while on the other hand the very same labour-power can work during a whole day, that consequently the value which its use during one day creates is double what he pays for that use, this circumstance is, without doubt, a piece of good luck for the buyer, but by no means an injury to the seller. . . . Every condition of the problem is satisfied, while the laws that regulate the exchange of commodities have been in no way violated. Equivalent has been exchanged for equivalent. For the capitalist as buyer paid for each commodity, for the cotton, the spindle, and the labour-power, its full value.”
Since Marx admits that the capitalist pays for the commodity, labour-power, at its full value (i.e., a sum of money necessary for the means of sustenance and reproduction of labour-power), and since the circumstance that the labourer can in a day create double the value to that he consumes, “is by no means an injury to the seller,” by what economic law does Marx prove the exploitation, or the robbery, of the working classes?


Answer to S. Million. 
If the questioner will read more carefully Sec. 2 of Chapter 7 (from which he takes his second quotation), he will see that Marx is speaking from the point of view of the market, and is dealing with appearances only, accompanying his statement with ironical remarks. Equivalent is exchanged for equivalent, therefore how can there be any robbery, is the view of the capitalist as set out by Marx. Subsequent chapters investigate the problem in greater detail and go behind the appearance to see what gives rise to it.

The buying and selling of labour-power presupposes the labour market, which in its turn presupposes a propertyless class that must find buyers for its labour-power or perish. The labour-power sold on the market is consumed outside the market in the sphere of production, and it is here that the worker is robbed. In using up his labour-power the worker not only produces surplus value for the capitalist, but at the same time he produces his own means of subsistence ; the worker is paid with a portion of his own product. This position arises from the fact that the worker does not own his product.

Owing to a process of robbery that has gone on for ages, the means of wealth production have eventually come into the hands of their present owners—the capitalists. The bulk of society—the workers—are thus left with only one method of obtaining a legitimate living—selling their labour-power to the capitalist. In doing this they do something more in reality : they hand over to the capitalist a portion of their product without any equivalent. This latter fact is concealed from the worker by the money—or wage—relation. Just as the serf gives over to the feudal lord a portion of his product for nothing, so does the wage-labourer.

Marx sums the matter up in Chapter 24 as follows : —
   “The exchange of equivalents, the original operation with which we started, has now become turned round in such a way that there is only an apparent exchange. This is owing to the fact, first, that the capital which is exchanged for labour-power is itself but a portion of the product of others’ labour appropriated without an equivalent ; and, secondly, that this capital must not only be replaced by its producer, but replaced together with an added surplus. The relation of exchange subsisting between capitalist and labourer becomes a mere semblance appertaining to the process of circulation, a mere form, foreign to the real nature of the transaction, and only mystifying it. The ever-repeated purchase and sale of labour-power is now the mere form ; what really takes place is this—the capitalist again and again appropriates, without equivalent, a portion of the previously materialised labour of others, and exchanges it for a greater quantity of living labour. At first the rights of property seemed to us to be based on a man’s own labour. At least, some such assumption was necessary, since only commodity owners with equal rights confronted each other, and the sole means by which a man could become possessed of the commodities of others was by alienating his own commodities; and these could be replaced by labour alone. Now, however, property turns out to be the right on the part of the capitalist to appropriate the unpaid labour of others or its product, and to be the impossibility, on the part of the labourer, of appropriating his own product. The separation of property from labour has become the necessary consequence of a law that apparently originated in their identity.” (pp. 597/598).
Gilmac.


The Manorial System. (1924)

From the February 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

How often do we hear discussion stifled by that familiar remark from the lips of some defender of things as they are, that “Capitalism has always been and must therefore always be.” Even if the first part of thè statement were true, the second part, the conclusion, would still need proving. Because cows through all the ages since they were first domesticated had been milked by hand, that did it in not prevent inventors from trying (finally with success) to make a machine to do the same work. But it is not true that capitalism has always been, and if only the workers were even slightly familiar with the way in which capitalism has grown up, and with the forms of organisation which preceded it, how much easier our task would be.

You will all of you have heard of the “Lord of the Manor”; nowadays, a country gentleman who sits on the Bench of Magistrates, draws rent from his landed estates, and is generally an ornament of county society, even if not a very useful person. There was, however, a time when the Manor, was a vital part of the life of the country, and I will try to give a brief outline of the system that then existed, in the hope that it may make some readers interested in the history of their own class and its predecessors.

The Manorial system is the name given to the agricultural organisation of society which was general in Western Europe in the Middle Ages; that is, between the breakup of the Roman Empire and, say, the fifteenth century. Whether it arose in England as a direct result of Roman rule over the original inhabitants, and was continued through the replacement of the Romans by the Anglo-Saxon invaders, or whether it developed out of the free villages which the latter introduced from the Continent, it is difficult to decide. It can be said, anyway, that its hold over Western Europe was evidence that it was admirably suited to the needs and conditions of the age, and it was certainly far advanced in this country at the time of the Norman invasion in the year 1066.

To outline the system one may conveniently consider the Manor, which was its unit, but it must be remembered that not only did manorial customs vary greatly with the locality, but also the continual process of change was by no means uniform. Some parts of Europe, and even of this country, developed much faster than others.

The basis of the system was the tenure of land. In the eleventh century there were about 1,400 direct tenants of the king, who as Manorial Lords had to give him military and other services. Then these chief tenants had 8,000 sub-tenants, who had to give similar service and allegiance to them. Each of these sub-tenants might hold one or two manors, while the chief tenants would have a large number. Within each manor were various groups of inferior tenants who received military and judicial protection, and gave their lord in return some payments in kind—that is, goods—and also gave him some of their labour free of payment.

A typical manor would consist of perhaps 20 or 30 small dwellings grouped together, and standing somewhat apart the much bigger house occupied by the Lord of the Manor. There would also be a church, and if there was a stream, a mill standing over it. Round this village would be several hundred acres of ploughland in two, three, or four large fields—three being the usual number. Outside this would lie the pasture land, and beyond the pasture there would be a great stretch of waste and woodland.

This little centre of production would be almost self-supporting and independent of the outside world. In it could be produced all the food and clothing needed, except for one or two articles like salt for meat preserving, mill-stones, and a small quantity of iron for swords and ploughshares.

Under the lord were the following classes:—The “villeins,” who were the most numerous, and had holdings of about 30 acres; the “cottars,” somewhat less numerous, who had up to 5 acres ; a small class of “freemen” or “socmen” ; and a still smaller class of slaves. All of these, except sometimes the freemen, were tied to the manor where they were born, and were not permitted to leave it; at first, however, they did not want to do so, because there was nowhere for them to go. The land of these various classes was not in a compact holding, as it would be in our day, but was scattered all over the three big fields in acre or half-acre strips. No man would have two strips together, and they were re-distributed each year so that each man would have a chance of getting his fair share of good and bad land.

The Lord of the Manor protected his tenants or “serfs” against attacks from outside, and they gave him labour service, and the freemen, who gave him military service as well. The freemen used to do what was called “boonwork” for him; that is, work at special seasons like haytime and harvest. The villeins had to do boonwork, and would also have to work three or four days each week on the lord’s land instead of on their own ; and the cottars would give perhaps one day a week. The cottars, having little land of their own, would work for some kind of payment. All this work was done under the supervision of the bailiff, and the land of the Lord of the Manor—the “Demesne” land—would often, but not always, be scattered about in strips like the rest.

It used to be complained by the lord or his bailiff that although the serfs worked hard on their own land, when they were ploughing the demesne land they would stop at the end of each furrow to pray and sing hymns. You can imagine your employer having a fit if you did this in his workshop, or on his farm, but in those days people were much more pious than they are now.

The work on the arable land, both ploughing and reaping, was done by the villagers working in common; they would all help each other, instead of each doing his own little plots. In those days this was a very economical way of getting the work done, and it prevented any of the land from being cultivated less carefully than the rest. Of course, it also had the disadvantage that it prevented one man from introducing any new ideas, and later on, when men began to learn better ways of farming, this became a serious matter.

The villagers had the right to graze their oxen and swine on the waste and woodland, and after harvest on the stubble land as well. There are, many places in this country, especially in the Southern Counties; where the villagers still have the right to graze cattle and cut bracken on the manorial lands; but most of these rights have long since been stolen.

The methods of cultivation were rigidly fixed by tradition, so that each year one field would contain wheat or rye for bread, one would contain barley, oats, beans, or peas, and the third would lie fallow, waiting for the soil to recover from the exhaustion of previous crops.

It will be noticed that no money passed between the lord and his serfs, and there was no buying and selling. Even the king’s taxes and the Pope’s tithes were paid in wool or other produces.

This organisation was at the height of its development during the thirteenth century, and signs of decay began to appear in the early years of the fourteenth century, just as capitalism has long shown signs of decay in our own day. The main forces which disintegrated the Manorial system were the appearance of money and its general use in place of the old labour services, and changes in agricultural methods which led eventually to the setting up of farms on which the farmer and his labourers do the work as he thinks fit, quite independently of the other villagers. Men began to work individually instead of in common.

By the middle of the thirteenth century it was already customary for the bailiff to sell some of the produce outside the manor, and with the money so obtained to hire day labourers to work alongside the “villeins,” who still gave their services according to the old arrangements. Gradually both lords and serfs became familiar with the use of money, and they got into the habit of reckoning the services as worth so much money even where no money was paid over. Neither of these changes I have mentioned could become important until there was a reliable coinage, and until there was someone who wanted agricultural produce and was able to pay for it.

The market was provided by the towns which had been growing up during the centuries. They were formed round monasteries and garrison towns, and at places where foreigners came to buy English wool and sell their fine cloths, and they were recruited by runaway serfs who found that there was a demand for blacksmiths, cloth-workers, and other handicraftsmen. At first these towns were only like big villages, and grew their own food, but when they got too large they had to get what they wanted from further afield. As these towns became more important and their craftsmen and merchants more powerful, they required a stable coinage in order to carry on their business. The kings at that time were in need of money, too, so that they could carry on their foreign wars, and they eventually took steps to provide the necessary coinage.

The Lords of the Manors also wanted money to buy luxuries from abroad, and to equip themselves for the wars of the Crusades, and to get this they began the practice of accepting money from the serfs in place of labour service. To this the villeins readily agreed, because they had always resented being called away from their own work at the busy seasons of the year just when they could least afford to be away. The valuation of services in money had probably become fairly general in the first half of the thirteenth century, although it cannot be said that all the serfs had established any right to demand this.

It was a growing practice, too, for the lord to let the demesne land to his bailiff for a money rent, which was something quite unknown before, and he then might draw revenue, but be freed from all trouble and responsibility himself. And, owing to the more settled state of the country and the increasing power of the king, it was no longer necessary for the Lord of the Manor to provide military protection, and the Manorial courts were deprived of their old power.​

The fact of having rent-paying tenants in charge of the demesne lands naturally led these men to try to improve their methods of cultivation and bring in big profits. Nothing like this could have been attempted under the old order of things.

These various changes were going on with increasing speed when an outstanding event occurred which drastically hastened them. This was the plague called the Black Death, which happened in the year 1348. Nearly half of the population was swept away, and this completely upset the existing relations between lords and serfs. The shortage of labour naturally made itself felt in an increase of money wages for those workers who had firmly established the custom of money payments, in spite of severe and repeated legislation to prevent them from getting any more than had been paid before 1348. Equally naturally, those who were still bound to give their services were much dissatisfied when they saw how much free men were able to demand. On the other hand, the lords were impoverished by the loss by death of so many of those on whose labour their wealth had depended, and at the same time they found that they had to pay more for their hired men. There had alwavs, of course, been some discontent, but now it broke out in open insurrections. The greatest of these, the Peasant Revolt of 1381, was of importance, although it did not seem to have been fully successful at the time. The Manorial Lords looked in another direction to save themselves. They turned their lands into sheep farms, instead of ploughing them, as had been the rule.

The growth of the wool trade with Flanders cloth merchants helped them materially. First, it made sheep-farming very profitable ; and as sheep require large areas and only a small amount of labour to tend them, the Lords used every conceivable means to rid the Manors of their small tenants, who had been serfs and had bought the right to work their holdings without giving labour service in return. They also found means to become possessed of the huge wastes and commons which, of course, did not really belong to them. Secondly, a class of wealthy merchants had sprung up who were willing to pay large rents for farm lands which they wanted to cultivate on a basis very much like that with which we are familiar to-day.

Thus many strips were amalgamated to make compact farms, and these again were grouped into still larger ones.

The result of all this was that by the reign of Queen Elizabeth about the middle of the fifteenth century there were no longer any serfs in England, although the rest of Europe was much more backward. In Russia serfdom was not abolished until 1861.

Instead of the Manors on the old basis, there were now a number of individually cultivated farms run for profit and a large number of small farms owned or rented by the free descendants of the serfs, but still cultivated in the ancient manner by the whole of the villagers working together and dividing their holdings up into scrips. It was, however, now the rule for money rent to be paid for all these farms, whether big or small, except where they had been bought outright as had often been done.

Those who had been turned off the land drifted amid intense suffering into the towns to take part in the industries which were everywhere growing up, They became in the main independent craftsmen, and it was not till long after that anything arose similar to our modern factory-system, where one capitalist employs hundreds or even thousands of “hands.”

In the same way there were not yet in the country a very large number of labourers without any land, compelled to work all the year round for someone else, and entirely dependent on their wages for their upkeep.

These further changes did not come till the eighteenth century, and must be described in another article.
Edgar Hardcastle

Election Manifesto. (1923)

From the December 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

Fellow Workers,

Five years after the official ending of the “War to end War” we find the successful ones still unable to agree upon an amicable division of the plunder. So fierce have been their quarrels that one of the “defeated” countries, Turkey, has emerged from the turmoil stronger, economically and territorially, than she was before the War !

Among the Allies France has been the only one with a direct and clear policy. This policy is the apparently simple one of smashing Germany and stealing the ore and coal areas of the Ruhr, the Saar Basin and Silesia. That, of course, will mean “no Reparations.” But the ruling class in France are not much concerned over that. The policy mentioned suits them best.

France is more than half an agricultural country, but her peasants are scattered, difficult to organise, and slow to move together. The Industrial capitalists, on the other hand, are compact and well organised, and so easily retain control of political power, which they wield for their own purposes. At present the peasants are cajoled with the tale of “Germany must pay,” while the small business man is deceived by the yarn that the expensive Ruhr occupation is only for the purpose of proving whether or not Germany can pay. As taxes are relatively light, trade fairly good, and those who would otherwise be unemployed are called up into the army—a point Mr. Garvin carefully ignores—the big Industrialists can carry on their schemes without much protest.

The furtherance of these schemes includes the allowing of Monarchists to gather stores of small arms for their “loyal” bands, and to assist, nay even organise, gangs of criminals and slum rabble, to proclaim a “Rhineland Republic” in the name of “self-determination.” To balance this, however, workers striking for a living wage are ruthlessly shot down. As the rest of the ”Loving Allies” cannot agree upon a common policy, France pursues her course unchecked.

In England one section of the master class, who fear the competition of a restored Germany, are supporting the French policy, while another section, who hope to find markets for their goods in Germany, call for intervention to prevent the total breakup of that country. Germany is on the brink of chaos, and, to prevent that, rapid action is necessary. But what action should be taken?

Twelve months ago the Conservative Party was returned to power to deal with three main problems : Russia; The Situation in Europe ; Unemployment. They proposed to deal with these questions by the method of “Tranquillity.” The present Dissolution is an admission of their complete failure either to solve these problems or find tranquillity. Apart from the attempt to revive “Protection” as an issue, the situation has some peculiar points.

We do not rate Mr. Baldwin’s intelligence above the mediocre, but we would not dare to place it so low as to imagine for a moment that he believes that his half-baked, ambiguous, Protection proposals could have the slightest real effect upon so serious a situation. He must have known that these proposals would split the Conservative Party, while the throwing over of Austen Chamberlain and Lord Birkenhead cannot be explained away by gossip of Undersecretaries.

Consider the position of the two men. Both are front rank platform propagandists, but there the similarity ends. Birkenhead is a very useful and entirely unscrupulous political tool, but that is all. Chamberlain, on the other hand, is a big industrial magnate, possesses considerable influence, and carries a name still of considerable power with certain people. He is almost the last man the Conservative Party would throw over for an Under-Secretary—or a dozen of them. Further evidence of the peculiar situation is given in the leading article in the “Daily Telegraph” (16/11/1923), where, in careful language, the impression is conveyed that not only will the Conservatives be likely to sustain defeat at the polls, but that is probably the best thing that could happen in the circumstances.

These factors seem to point to the conclusion that Mr. Baldwin and his colleagues wish to evade the responsibility of attempting to deal with the menacing situation in Europe and so, under the smoke screen of “Protection,” they hope to escape from office and leave someone else to try and wade through the morass. But who is to take their place?

The Liberal Party, despite all the stale promises about peace in their programme, carefully avoids saying how that peace is to be reached. When that programme a read through it will be found that, apart from a few vague generalities, the Liberal Party proposes to leave things in all essentials just as they are now. That Party is no more anxious than the Conservatives to come to grips with the realities of the situation.

The Labour Party’s programme contains a most imposing array—of Promises. Their chief plank is the section for dealing with the unemployment, where a large number of expensive schemes are put forward for the purpose of finding work for the workless. Expensive schemes, however, cost money, while the Labour Party are pledged to “Relief for the Taxpayer.” To fulfil this lateter pledge they propose to reduce Income Tax, Food Duties, Entertainments Tax, and the Corporation Profits Tax. How then can they pay for schemes of work? Quite simply. They propose to institute a “War Debt Redemption Levy”—which sounds so much nicer than “Capital Levy”—and from the saving effected, accompanied by the necessary increase in Taxation of Land Values, all the money required will be found. In other words, the Labour Party proposes to reduce Taxation by raising the Taxes !

For the working class the problem takes on a different aspect. Even if the “victorious” capitalists compose their particular differences over the plunder from the Great War the cause of unemployment, and national wars, would still remain.

While wealth is produced for private profit only that number of workers will be employed that is required to produce for the effective demands of the market, plus those attending to the personal wants and pleasures of the capitalist class. With improved means of production—and war accelerates the improvement of these means —fewer workers are required to turn out a given amount of wealth. As these improvements are brought into being far faster than either the growth of population or the waste of the master class can keep pace with them, it is evident that, apart from temporary fluctuations, unemployment is bound to increase. Even the temporary fluctuations tend to decrease as capitalist control becomes more highly organised in International Trusts or Rings.

None of the political parties at present represented in Parliament desire the abolition of the private ownership of the means of life. Conservatives, Liberals and Labourites openly repudiate any such intention, while the Communist Party by its support of, and endeavours to crawl into the Labour Party, shows its readiness to support capitalism in practice, contradictory though this may be to Communist theoretical claims.

Only by abolishing the cause of unemployment, wars and misery can the workers achieve health and happiness. The workers must give their attention lo the abolition of this cause—the private ownership of the means of life.

The master class rule to-day because the workers have voted them into Parliament —the great law-making and force-raising portion of the political machinery. With this power in their hands the masters can dictate terms of living to the workers, because with the forces mentioned above at their disposal they can not only keep the workers away from the means of production but also from any wealth already produced. The workers lives are thus under the control of the capitalist class. In other words, the workers are slaves.

And slaves they will remain until they acquire—first the knowledge that they are slaves ; then the will to attain freedom ; and build up the organisation necessary to capture political power.

The only organisation capable of reaching that object is a Socialist organisation. Until that organisation is sufficiently strong to put forward its delegates as candidates, it must continue its educational work of making Socialists.

There is a Socialist organisation in this country—THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF GREAT BRITAIN—the only organisation that works for the emancipation of the workers. As a sufficient number of the working class is not yet desirous of establishing Socialism to permit of any candidates being put forward at this Election, we call upon all those who wish for Socialism to express their wish by going to the ballot-box and voting for socialism by writing it across the ballot paper. Among other things this will help to advertise the number who wish to see Socialism established. Any use of the vote to support any of the candidates in the present Election would merely be a vote for capitalism.

STUDY SOCIALISM. BECOME SOCIALISTS. THEN ACHIEVE YOUR EMANCIPATION.
Executive Committee,
S.P.G.B., Nov., 1923.

Labour Governments. The Australian Fiasco. (1923)

From the December 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

One of the greatest pieces of sustained and successful bluff imposed on the modern working class is the bluff about that colossal fraud, Labour Government in Australia. In the early days of the war we read pamphlets sold by the I.L.P. describing the New Jerusalem under such lying titles as “Socialism at Work in Queensland.” Unfortunately, the credulous—who are legion—believed this fiction; not only those who in a vague way desired Socialism, but also those who opposed it. The harm done to the cause of Socialism was enormous. It provided, first of all, yet another bogey to be used by the anti-Socialists in their frantic anxiety to attack anything on earth except Socialism. It also closed to Socialist propaganda the ears of all those who were persuaded that here at last was to be found a satisfactory and working substitute for Socialism. Their ultimate, but inevitable, disillusionment will make our task harder than ever.

Before we can preach Socialism we have to destroy belief in such spurious imitations. Let me therefore emphasise the fact that in no part of Australia has the capitalist system been destroyed or even checked ; nor has any attempt been made to destroy it by any Labour Government at any time. Capitalism was, and is, the economic system; the capitalists were, and are, the dominant class ; and the workers were, and are, exploited. The only noteworthy change during Labour’s term of office has been a heightening of the degree of exploitation.

Before the Labour Party came into existence in Australia the capitalist system was in full working order. That is to say the land, the factories, mines, steamships, railways, and all the means of production and distribution were privately owned, and the class who owned them was able to live on the revenue which came to that class as rent, interest, or profits. The work was done and profits produced by a propertyless class compelled to sell its mental and physical energies for wages or salaries. The workers were politically free to come and go as they pleased, but because the land in which they lived belonged not to society but to a section only, they might work only by permission, and on the one condition of allowing the capitalist class to live without the obligation of useful service merely by virtue of having and holding.

Capitalism was working very well, which means that the constant overcrowding of the labour market was putting into the hands of the employers a weapon, which they naturally used, to beat down the workers’ standard of living. As invariably happens, the workers in their discontent organised into Trade Unions in order that in the daily struggle over the amount of their wages they might lessen somewhat the disadvantage under which they suffered through having no accumulated property.

In 1890 and the following years these industrial organisations were put to the test, and failed to do what had been hoped of them. In great and bitter strikes Maritime workers, Miners, and Sheep-shearers were in turn heavily defeated. The cause of the defeats appeared to be the support given to the employers by the Governments of the various States. Police, armed strikebreakers, legal intimidation, in fact all the usual methods were freely employed to crush the revolt. It was at once seen that only by first capturing the State machine could the workers hope to achieve anything material, and Labour Parties were at once formed for this purpose.

Having the backing of the organised workers, and attaching to themselves the support of different groups of discontented small capitalists and farmers, the Labour Party met with rapid success in the years preceding the war, and by 1914 there were Labour Governments in five out of six States, and also a Labour Federal Government.

Now it had been supposed by the Trade Unionists who formed the Labour parties that political control was to be used to further their interests. They, or many of them, made an initial mistake in thinking that State enterprise was Socialism, and that its extension (while leaving capitalism intact) could better their position. They made a second mistake in supposing that their leaders had any intention whatever of defying the capitalists, or that they could have done so if they had wished.

State railways already existed before 1914, and their existence in no way constituted a denial of private property rights. All such State concerns are based, like company-owned ones, on the exploitation of the workers. Profit is made and is either paid away as interest on loans and bonds, or else it goes into State revenue as taxation relief. The capitalist class draw all the benefit either way. If every branch of industry and commerce, wholesale and retail, was turned over to this form of State capitalism, the worker’s lot would be worse not better, and his struggle to live intensified not eased. The real problem of abolishing the wages system, giving the wealth producers direct access to the means of production, and eliminating’ profit-making, would still have to be faced. The capitalist class would still have to be fought and defeated.

But the Australian workers trusted their leaders, and these leaders did not attempt to face up to this problem. Instead they did what we have always said they would have to do in such circumstances :—
  “The Labour Party in Queensland found itself called on to administer a capitalistic state of society, and without any direct mandate or authority to overturn the existing order or to undertake a drastic reconstruction.”—(Labour Premier Theodore, The Labour Magazine, Sept. 1923.)
And what Theodore says of Queensland applies equally to other Australian Labour Governments.

So these Labour men “administered capitalism” ; they used the armed forces to protect capitalist private property against the misguided workers who had put them in office; they put penalties on strikes; they provided blacklegs to smash them; they armed police to protect their blacklegs and browbeat strikers ; they jailed men for their organising activities, and when all these methods failed they sent troops to crush them as if they had been at open war. They organised to carry on the capitalist war in Europe, and to further the foreign interests of the Australian capitalist class; they introduced repressive legislation at home to prevent the propagation of anti-war and Socialist views, and four Governments out of five supported conscription. In short, they “administered capitalism.”

For this they won, but did not keep, the good opinion of the ruling class. Our Labour Leaders (some of whom, like Henderson, have nothing to learn about the use of armed force against workers who dare to struggle for better conditions) are now asking you to vote for them, and are instancing the alleged beneficial results of Labour Government in Australia. If you are alive to your own interests you will have none of it.

Let me quote for your guidance some statements of what Labour Government really meant:—
  “The last days of the Dooley Government in New South Wales were marked by free use of the police to crush unemployed demonstrators, and by a campaign led by the Treasurer to reduce the minimum wage of State employees “—(Quoted by the Labour Monthly, Oct., 1923, from “How Labour Governs,” by V. G. Childe, who was private secretary to John Storey, Labour Premier of New South Wales.)
 
 “Labour Governments have not only neglected to carry their platform into effect, in several cases they have initiated movements directly hostile to the workers. … In 1913 Labour Premier McGowen called for ‘volunteers’ to man the retorts during a gas strike. It was a Labour Federal Government which passed the merciless War Precautions Act which was used only against militant workers.”—(“How Labour Governs”)
The International Communist (Sydney) (March 11th, 1922) sums the matter up as follows :—
  “Why are the police armed with army service rifles under Labour Governments despite protests m the organised workers? To protect the workers? When the Townsville workers were fired upon by the Labour Government’s police, in rushed 100 special armed police to reinforce the local police, and said ‘Law and Order must be maintained,’ and the train men who refused to take the police were sacked. When the Brisbane workers in March, 1919, decided to celebrate the Russian Revolution, Theodore and his Cabinet gave orders to the police to stop the Red Flag bring carried, although the Sinn Fein flag had been carried without any trouble. The Labour Government imprisoned 14 men for taking part in the Red Flag procession, and a number of others were deported.”
The Socialist (Melbourne) was a consistent supporter of the Labour Party, and was owned by an affiliated body. In its issue of November 4th, 1921, it reported, under the heading “Queensland Government joins the conspiracy to reduce wages,” the attempt of that Labour Government to force an all-round attack on wages. The attempt led immediately to a 20 per cent. reduction for 17,000 miners, and the expectations of the Government’s capitalist masters were soon fulfilled by a general reduction.

In a strike of waterside workers at Mourilyan Harbour and Innisfail, Queensland Labour Party officials lent their aid to employers :—
  “The shipowners not being able to succeed by themselves had called upon various craft union officials and Labour Politicians to assist them in their attempt to utterly crush this militant section.”—(Communist, Sydney, March 2nd, 1923.)
These are a few illustrations of the methods Labour Governments will use when capitalist interests are in danger. As for their so-called Socialism, it is, as we have said, just the same profit-making system as existed before the advent of these Labour Governments. The workers are paid on a cost-of-living basis, and the surplus goes as, interest, or as tax relief, into the pockets of the class who own the country :—
  The Federal Government “entered the clothing trade and sold clothing … 20 per cent. cheaper than capitalist clothiers. Even then they made profits, after allowing for payment of interest and sinking fund.”—(“Labour in Power,” by Leach Williams.)
The lower price of clothing was no benefit at all to the workers, because the State Arbitration Boards based their awards on cost-of-living figures into which the cost of clothes had already entered.
  In the enterprises of the Queensland Government the “actual profits earned were £140,686 on the State Butcheries, £6,830 on the State Hotels, £52,361 on railway refreshment rooms—a total of £199,877. There was a loss on the State Fishery and Cannery, but when this is deducted there remains a net profit on these State concerns of £131,262.”— (Labour Magazine, Sept., 1923.)
And this is the system which has moved Tom Johnston, Editor of Forward, and other Scotch left-wing I.L.P.ers to delirious enthusiasm. In defending it they are, of course, doing the greatest possible disservice to Socialism. Johnston believes that workers under Labour Governments are better off than others, but he cannot prove (although he seems to believe) that there is or has been Socialism in Queensland or under any other Labour Government
 Labour Premier Theodore states specifically that “capitalism has not been abolished.”—(Labour Magazine, Sept. 1923.)
Also not only has Johnston to prove that the workers there are better off than, say, those in Victoria; he has also to show that any difference that may temporarily exist (it could not be permanent) is due to the existence of a Labour Government. He has not done so yet.

Sir John Simon made a statement that in Queensland there was in 1921 more unemployment than in any other State.. Johnston’s “triumphant” reply (Daily Herald, July 28th, 1923) consists of evidence to show that in fact Tasmania had a percentage of unemployment among Trade Unionists of 16.7, N.S. Wales 11.9, and Queensland 11.3, as against as low a figure as 5.9 for Victoria, the only State which never had a Labour Government.

What a glorious argument for Johnston’s brand of “Socialism” ! And, moreover, he carefully omitted to point out that four other States whose figures he quoted had also enjoyed Labour Governments, which therefore shared responsibility for the unemployment that existed.

His final shattering argument was that “the experience of the people of Queensland (after testing a Labour-Socialist Government for eight years) has been such that they voted last May for a further three years of it.” But he did not say that its majority, although higher than in 1920, was lower than it had been in either 1915 or 1918 ! And it is surely an indication of the workers’ dissatisfaction with Labour rule that after some years of it they threw the Labour Party out of four States, as well as out of the Federal Government.

Mr. E. J. Holloway, President of the E.C. of the Australian Labour Party, admitted in Conference 1921, that :—
  “The members of the Federal Executive know that the men are not satisfied with the programme and objective of the Australian Labour Movement.”—Communist, Sydney, Dec. 1st, 1922.)
Would they be dissatisfied if the Labour Party had been as successful as Johnston pretends ? Below is more evidence of discontent.
  “Although a young country, Australia presented a picture of economic unloveliness that was staggering to the moral conception. The mass of the workers could not under present conditions look for a reasonable standard of living, or hope to be assured of employment.”—The Chairman, Conference of Victorian Section of A.L.P., Melbourne Age, 19th Sept., 1921.)
The following is a resolution passed by the N.S. Wales Trade Union Congress in condemnation of a Labour Government : —
  “That while recognising the futility of solving unemployment under capitalism, this conference registers its protest against the State Government’s action in deliberately allowing workers in this country to starve, and calls upon the Labour Government to grant full sustenance to all the unemployed.”—( Daily Mail, 6th Oct., 1921.)
Why, the very evidence given by the defenders of this damnable system of State slavery is enough to condemn it, and one cannot but be amazed at the mentality of those who so cheerfully smash their own case. Is it the audacity of ignorance, or merely contempt for the understanding of the workers? A Herald correspondent (26/7/1923) actually backs up his case for Queensland by showing that : —
  “Far from Labour rule driving capital out of the country fresh capital has been introduced to the extent of over 55 millions.”
What a case for a Labour Government ! Does capital flow into Queensland because there is a more equal distribution of wealth? Do capitalists habitually offer themselves up for willing sacrifice?

No, capital flows into Queensland because exploitation is keener, and the rate of profit higher. With the assistance of the Labour Government wages have been forced down, and Federal arbitration courts have ruled that the pre-war standard of living can no longer be the basis.

Writing of these arbitration acts, the Socialist (Melbourne) (4/11/1921) has this:
  “Such acts have greatly increased the efficient of the capitalist system in Queensland. . . . The cost of production … in almost every industry in Australia was never less than it is at the present time, and the amount of surplus wealth over the cost of production which is being appropriated by the capitalist class was never greater.”
Will Tom Johnston defend this, too?

While he is lying about “Socialism” in Queensland, Theodore admits that his party never proposed to work for Socialism at all. He replied to a Mr. Scullin, who wanted to amend the Party programme, and who had said that “Nationalisation was but State capitalism,” that he (Mr. Scullin) was using the “term socialisation with a meaning quite different to anything which the Labour Party always stood for.” (Townsville Daily Bulletin, 12/10/1921.)

When the Labour Leaders talk about Socialism they do so with their tongues in their cheeks.

It is for these reasons among others that we urge you not to support the Labour Party. We contend that Socialism is the only object worthy of working-class support. The return of a Labour Government will not further that object.

If you ask what is to happen to workers in the meantime, our reply is simple. You are poor and your position is hopeless because you are wage-slaves So long as you remain wage-slaves you will have to suffer from the evils that go with wage-slavery, and it does not matter whether that be under a Conservative, Liberal or a Labour Government. If you think that it is better to be a wage-slave under a Labour Government, I ask you to consider Australia. We however urge you to recognise that it is the capitalist system which is at fault, and it does not matter to you what is the label of the political party which administers that system. Until you have overthrown capitalism you are going continue to suffer as you suffer now. You will not find a solution in binding yourselves hand and foot to the State machine of a Labour Government.

As for the notion that your efforts can be well spent asking for instalments of Socialism, that is based on utter illusion. This country is rotten with social reforms, and they are being added to every year ; and yet not only have these brought no progress towards Socialism, but the real foundation of capitalism is stronger than ever it was. The real basis is the private ownership of the means of life, and both here and in Queensland the rich are richer, and poor are poorer than ever before. After a century of “instalments” of Socialism there is more unemployment, more insecurity, and hopeless subjection than ever; and there are signs on every hand that your position will get worse not better.

The sooner you turn aside from the long-exploded quack remedies offered to you and set yourselves to the task of propagating Socialism and organising the workers for its accomplishment, the sooner your problems will be solved, and the less will be the cost to you in poverty and suffering.
Edgar Hardcastle

The "Mountain and the Mouse." (1923)

Editorial from the December 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have often been told that what we need in Parliament are “good business men” with “practical knowledge and sound instincts.” So when the Conservative Party obtained a majority of seats at the last General Election they took the opportunity of Mr. Bonar Law’s ill-health to put one of the foremost “business men” of the country at the head of affairs. By all the accounts in the Conservative and Liberal press Mr. Baldwin not only possessed wonderful business qualities and acumen, but was fond of home hobbies, such as rearing pigs. Surely a paragon beyond compare.

Less than twelve months has been sufficient to expose the absurdity of these claims. The Liberal press for some time past has been denouncing Mr. Baldwin’s weakness in “giving way” to M. Poincairé over the Ruhr question and the support by the French of the “Separatist” gangs in the Rhineland. Now the “great genius,” baffled by the complexity of the problems and interests assailing him on all sides, can think of no better solution than throwing-up the sponge and dissolying Parliament.

The reason given out in public is that the Prime Minister wishes to be absolved from Mr. Bonar Law’s pledge to tranquillity, particularly in relation to the Fiscal system, so that he can tackle the problem of unemployment, which
  “threatens to impair permanently the trained skill and the independent spirit of our workers, to disorganise the whole fabric of industry and credit and, by eating away the sources of revenue, to undermine the very foundations of our national and municipal life.”—(Mr. Baldwin’s address to his constituents. Observer, 18/11/1923.)
An appalling prospect truly ! And what has brought about this terrible predicament? We are told :—
  “In large measure this state of affairs is due to the political and economic disorganisation of Europe consequent on the Great War.”
While further on it is stated :—
  “The disorganisation and poverty of Europe, accompanied by broken exchanges and by higher tariffs all the world over, have directly and indirectly narrowed the whole field of our foreign trade.” (Ibid).
Here then is a situation so desperate that only giant remedies can be adequate. As Mr. Baldwin says, it is no time for palliatives. Let us turn then to his, and the Government’s, proposals on this tremendous problem, and see how “great business men” with the marvelously endowed brains so worshipped by the late W. H. Mallock, offer to solve the problem.

Were the position less serious, the proposals would arouse ribald laughter at their grotesque and childish character. A school child would be jeered at if it put forward such an idiotic “remedy.”

The main proposal is “to impose duties on manufactured goods” with the following objects :—
  “(i.) To raise revenue by methods less unfair to our own home production, which at present bears the whole burden of local and national taxation, including the cost of relieving unemployment.

   (ii.) To give special assistance to industries which are suffering under unfair foreign competition.

   (iii.) To utilise these duties in order to negotiate for a reduction of foreign tariffs in those directions which would most benefit our export trade.

  (iv.) To give substantial preference to the Empire on the whole range of our duties with a view to promoting the continued extension of the principle of mutual preference which has already done so much for the expansion of our trade, and the ‘development, in co-operation with the other Governments of the Empire, of the boundless resources of our common heritage.'”
Did ever such a mountain bring forth such a mouse? If the cause of the desperate situation is “the political and economic disorganisation of Europe,” how can a tax on manufactured goods entering one country, touch, let alone cure, that disorganisation? And what are “manufactured” goods?

Steel sections are manufactured goods of the steelworks, but are raw material for the shipbuilder, builder and engineer. Mr. Baldwin does not even tell us what manufactured goods are to be taxed. And the first object of the tax contains an insoluble contradiction.

If revenue is to be raised by the tax, then the goods must come into the country for this revenue to be realised. But if this occurs, then the unemployed in those branches will still remain unemployed. On the other hand, if the tax is high enough to keep out the goods, then there is no revenue from that source. There is no escape from this dilemma. Either the unemployed are not relieved from their workless situation, or there is no revenue from that tax.

What is “unfair” competition? Every manufacturer in this country will argue that all foreign competition is “unfair.” Those suffering from German competition will denounce the “low” wages of Germany as “unfair,” while others, beaten by the Americans, will vigorously denounce American “high” wages as “unfair.” So to meet their wishes “special assistance” will have to be given to all of them? This at least has the merit of simplicity.

On the other hand, “the greatest and most important of our national industries” is not to be protected by a tax !

Wonderful logic ! For, says the Government:—
  “It is not our intention, in any circumstances, to impose any duties on wheat, flour, oats, meat (including bacon and ham), cheese, butter or eggs.” (Ibid.)
However, to escape the awkward dilemma this declaration produces, the farmer of arable land is to receive a bounty of £1 per acre per annum, on the condition that he pays his “able-bodied” labourers—whatever they may be—at least 30s. a week. This £1 per acre is to come from the tax that won’t be raised by keeping out “manufactured” goods.

That section of the capitalists which desires a Tariff hopes, by keeping details secret till after the Election, to be returned to power, so that behind the Tariff—if it is effective— they may raise prices in the home market. The workers, who are constantly told that high prices are due to high wages, will then find that their low wages will form no effective barrier against prices going up, which may cause them to wonder which is which.

Mr. Churchill, in a speech at Manchester (18/11/1923) gave eight points of the Liberal programme as follows :—
  “Free Trade, the immediate reform of our electoral system on the lines of proportional representation, the strengthening and improvement of National Insurance, housing, land reform, agricultural reform and organisation, the development of the Empire, and, last but not least, peace abroad.”
He omitted the point of abuse which has filled so large a portion of the Liberal leaders speeches up to the present, or it may be that he considered his own efforts in this direction rendered any further emphasis unnecessary.

On the marvels wrought, and to be wrought, by Free Trade, one may quote from a famous epitaph and say “Look around.” If the present condition of things is the result of over 70 years of Free Trade it could hardly be surprising to find numbers of the workers turning to the equally fallacious nostrum of “Protection” in the hope that it may bring a better result.

And what a splendid remedy for unemployment is proportional representation. Think of the awful strain the brilliant brains of the Gallipoli gambler (in other men’s lives) must have undergone to have made this wonderful discovery ! Will not a strengthening of National Insurance provide the European markets with that purchasing power they so sadly lack to-day? Housing, land reform, agricultural reform—are not these promises at least as old—and as futile —as Free Trade? But then red herrings have to be very stale before they lose their scent. No doubt if returned to power the Liberals will develop the Empire—or promise to do so—before the winter is out. How that will settle unemployment we are not told. Peace abroad is certainly desirable, though how the Liberals will deal with their friends the French and the latter’s Monarchist intrigues in Central Europe, we are left to guess.

The Labour Party denounces the Government for their inadequate programme of winter work for the unemployed, and puts forward an elaborate list of proposals ranging from Electric Power Supply to Afforestation and Housing. But these things will cost money while the Labour Party promises relief for the Taxpayer, Is this a dilemma? Not at all. To pay for these schemes and relieve the taxpayer the Labour Party proposes to raise fresh taxes. Simplicity itself.

This Party had nearly succeeded in burying “The Capital Levy” when the Election was suddenly announced. The Capital Levy was hastily dug up again, but looked so shabby and mouldy that it was decided to dress it up in a new coat called “The Non-recurring graduated War Redemption Levy.”

If this title fails to sink it, the Levy will be laid on all individual fortunes in excess of £5,000. In its original form the amount of the fortune was lower than the sum above. But it was found that many of the Labour leaders’ war fortunes come within that zone, and so the amount had to be raised.

The superficial issues of this Election— Free Trade versus Ambiguous Protection —are of no interest to the working class. Whichever side wins they will still remain slave to the master class, because the private ownership of the means of life—the cause of the workers’ enslavement—will still continue. When the workers understand their slave position they will organise to contest an Election for the purpose of taking control of political power with the object of attaining their emancipation and establishing Socialism.

Letter: MacDonald's hypocrisy. (1923)

Letter to the Editors the December 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard
  Fred Easton of the Independent Labour Party replying to the October 1923 Socialist Standard article, 'MacDonald's hypocrisy'.
I find I have been brought into dubious notoriety through the columns of the Socialist Standard. We read, under the sub-title of “Simplicity”: “A Mr. Easton took up the point, and was apparently so staggered at the suggested duplicity of his ‘honourable leader,’ wrote MacDonald.”

Well, I am just “a Mr. Easton,” an ordinary comrade in the ranks of the ONE Socialist Party, which kept its international faith during the Great War when others beat the big drum and made munitions in their “simplicity.”

I was not “staggered” at the charge of duplicity levelled against a comrade of mine; for we are past being “staggered” at West Green Corner, Tottenham, by any charges made by the orators of the S.P.G.B.

The SIMPLICITY is seen by quoting Frank Rose, who voted against a Socialist resolution in the House of Commons which my comrade, Ramsay MacDonald, supported.

Knowing MacDonald’s faithful career, and his persistent refusal of honours, wealth, and position, so that he could fight for the workers, I naturally endeavoured to defend him. I have done so to the consternation of a noisy group of S.P.G.B.-ers at West Green Corner during this summer’s I.L.P. Campaign.

I knew his consistent attitude on Education, and I was certain that these charges were unfounded. I asked my comrade to meet the charge “that he backed Sir J. Brunner’s Bill to INCREASE child slavery.”

He asked me to accept his attitude on education and child labour as proof of his statement, “that whatever Bill he backed was to protect children from the capitalist and give to the children a BETTER CHANCE of education.”

Then, to my surprise, those two letters were published without permission in the Socialist Standard, and certain quotations were printed from the Bill of 17 years ago.

When I saw that the names of genuine educationalists like my friend the late Sir George White, Mr. Yoxall, and Mr. Crooks (apart from MacDonald) were behind the Bill, I felt certain that it was not a retrograde step.

When I read the clauses I at once saw that this Bill of 1906 was a noble attempt to kill for ever the damnable curse of half-time.

All thinkers know the baneful effect of half-time working; yet the workers of the North stood out to exploit their own children in the mills. So MacDonald, White, and other educationalists endeavoured to make one step forward in the emancipation of the child life of this country. No one imagines that this was a Socialist measure; but every fresh opportunity given for the mental development of our children is a help towards Social Democracy.

Suffice to state that all the child exploiters were against the Bill.

The little capitalists who found half-time work much cheaper were against the Bill.

The millowners and, alas! the mill-workers were against the Bill.

In the realm of practical politics you cannot legislate far in advance of the people.

MacDonald and myself stand by the fine ideals of the I.L.P. quoted on page 28 of your last issue :—
‘The raising of the age of child labour with a view to its ultimate extinction.”

The Facts.
What, then, we desire to know is : Was this Bill of 1906 a step forward? Did it attempt to clear the road for the children? Was it a move up or down?

Let us see the provisions.

School Age.
In 1906 school-leaving age governed by provisions of “Robson’s Act” of 1899, which laid down a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 14, with exceptions for agriculture and half-time.

With regard to agricultural children, they allowed to work half-time after the age of 11, provided :—
  1. They had attained the standard fixed for partial exemption ;
  2. That they attended school half-time till 13.
The 1906 Bill, if passed, would have improved the position in the following ways : —
  1. The minimum age for total exemption would have become 13 instead of 12.
  2. That exemption at the age of 13 was conditional of the attendance of children so exempted at continuation schools for three evenings per week until 16.
  3. That as regards agriculture the minimum exemption age was raised from 11 to 12, though after this age continuation school attendance two nights per week was substituted for half-time school attendance.
The improvement would have been more than appears from the mere provisions of the Bill, for according to Mr. A. J. Mundella, the authority on Education Law, the half-time provisions of “Robson’s Act ” never worked. Therefore, if the 1906 Bill had been passed, the agricultural child would have got full-time education till 12, instead of 11, continuation schools till 16, instead of an illusory half-time education till 13.

Here, then, we see that this was a great attempt. MacDonald struck at the half-time system. For that he is called a “hypocrite.” MacDonald’s case is completely justified in the splendid endeavour of 17 years ago.

The S.P.G.B. contains some very sincere and enthusiastic comrades, but they have a very bad example set by their leaders, who waste their time in fighting their own comrades when they should come into our ranks and face the common enemy.

Men, like myself, of the rank and file, who have sacrificed for Socialism for over twenty years, and preached it in the days when it was dangerous, are called “fakers” by the Plymouth Brethren of the Socialist Movement.

They malign every noble endeavour, and suggest the worst motives for every action. They alone have the Truth. They alone have the key of Salvation.

I have often given my best for the cause of Socialism from the platform of the I.L.P. I have seen the workers coming towards the Light, and I have seen them tripped by the wreckers of the S.P.G.B., and converts have been lost for Socialism.

This sort of thing makes me sad.
“A. Mr. Easton.”

(The above letter arrived too late for insertion in November “S.S.” Ed. Com.).


Reply.
I will deal with the central points at issue first: the trimmings can be left until afterwards.

The “Factory and Workshops Act” of 1901 laid it down that no child might be employed full time in factories or workshops, either in such factories and workshops, or on work that was given out to be done at home. This Act defined a child as follows :—
  “The expression ‘child’ means a person who is under the age of fourteen years and who has not, being of the age of thirteen years, obtained the certificate of proficiency or attendance at school mentioned in Part III. of the Act.”-Sect. 156, p. 99.
When a child became a “young person,” then such a person could be employed as a full-timer. A “young person ” is defined as follows :—
  “When a child of the age of thirteen years has obtained from a person authorised by the Board of Education a certificate of having attained such standard of proficiency in reading, writing and arithmetic, or such standard of previous due attendance at a certified efficient school as is mentioned in this section, that child shall be deemed to be a young person for the purposes of this Act.”—Sect. 71, p. 52.
The total exemption age, therefore, was fourteen, and under this age (that is, thirteen or over) children could not be employed as full-timers in factories or workshops, except under special circumstances—that they had obtained an educational certificate of proficiency.

Under the Bill MacDonald backed, all children were allowed total exemption from school at thirteen, providing’ they were forced to attend evening continuation classes.

By fixing thirteen in place of fourteen as the age at which children in general might be employed in factories and workshops, MacDonald proposed handing them over to the capitalist to be fully exploited at an earlier age than formerly.

The 1899 Act was an amendment to the “Elementary Education (School Attendance) Act” of 1893. This amending Act provided :—
  “that the local authority for any district may, by bye-law for any parish within their district, fix thirteen years as the minimum age for exemption from school attendance in the case of children employed in agriculture.”
The Bill MacDonald backed fixed twelve as the minimum age for total exemption of children employed in agriculture. Here again, MacDonald proposed handing children over to the capitalist for full-time exploitation at an earlier age than formerly.

Mr. Easton is eloquent on the subject of the half-timers. He states that he has read the clauses of the Brunner Bill, and “at once saw this Bill of 1906 was a noble attempt to kill forever the damnable curse of half-time.” Mr. Easton has wonderful sight. There is not a single statement, in the Bill under Review, that deals with half-timers except by converting them into full-timers ! If the Brunner Bill had been passed, children could still have been employed half-time in agriculture after the age of eleven. There is nothing whatever in the Bill against such procedure.

MacDonald did not strike at the evil of the half-time system.

The position remains exactly as we stated it in the October “S.S.” The Brunner Bill (backed by MacDonald) would have increased child slavery. For the provisions of the Bill, and a consideration of the effect of driving children to evening classes after a day’s work, I refer readers to that issue.

Mr. Easton states that under the 1899 Act agricultural children were allowed to work half-time after the age of 11, and that the Brunner Bill raised the exemption age from 11 to 12.

Here are the facts.

The “Elementary Education (School Attendance) Act,” 1893, made the following regulation :—
  "1. The age at which a child may, in pursuance of any bye-law made under the Elementary Education Acts, 1870 to 1891, obtain total or partial exemption from the obligation to attend school on obtaining a certificate as to the standard of examination which he has reached, shall be raised to eleven, and every such bye-law, so far as it provides for such exemption, shall be construed and have effect as if a reference to eleven years of age were substituted therein for a reference to a lower age, and in section seventy-four of the Elementary Education Act, 1870, eleven shall be substituted for ten.”
The 1899 Act amended this section, raising the age of partial exemption to twelve :
  “I. On and after the first day of January, one thousand nine hundred, the Elementary Education (School Attendance) Act, 1893, shall have effect as if ‘twelve’ were substituted therein for ‘eleven.’ ”
The ages at which children might be partially and fully employed and the limitations of such employment are covered by the following Acts along with those already mentioned :—
Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act, 1901;
Employment of Children Act, 1903.
As to the statement about the provisions of an Act not working : such an argument would have applied with equal force to the provisions of the Brunner Bill. Where capitalists are hindered by the provisions of an Act they usually find means of getting round such provisions.

The anti-working-class actions of Crooks and other backers of the Brunner Bill have been frequently dealt with in these columns. The recruiting activities of members of the I.L.P. (including MacDonald) during the late war have also been frequently dealt with in these columns. On such points there is ample information, for those who desire it, in our Party Manifesto.

The attitude of the I.L.P. “as a party” during the war is described by the “Labour Year Book,” 1916, as follows:—
  “Throughout, the official organ of the party has been highly critical of the diplomacy preceding the war, and has sought to take up the international Socialist attitude without directly demanding the cessation of hostilities.”—p. 347.
Mr. Easton gives us an unsolicited testimonial of himself. I know nothing of him outside the correspondence we have published, and we were assured that he was agreeable to the publication of the letters in question. Whether he has been misled or is crooked, I leave the reader to judge.
Gilmac.

By The Way. (1923)

The By The Way Column from the December 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

When we have pointed out that profit-sharing and bonus schemes introduced by so-called good employers were merely means to increase profit, effect economies, and attempts to subdue the growing unrest of the workers, we have been accused of being impossibilists, carping critics, or agitators actuated by malice. From time to time we have dealt with the boasted benevolence of the Levers’, the Cadburys, and the various co-partners, and now we have further confirmation of the correctness of our case from the profit-sharing proposals of Lloyds Bank, Ltd. Discussing these proposals, Mr. J. W. Beaumont Pease, the Chairman of Lloyds, said (Daily Chronicle), October 22, 1923;
  “The directors firmly believed the scheme would improve relations between employer and employed and would be all for the good of the shareholders, the directors and the staff.”
To improve relations means, of course, to anticipate the stifling of future discontent, and the recent organisation of bank clerks may have helped the directors toward their latest decision. Further we read:
  “The scheme was not likely to diminish the amount of profit available for the shareholders’ dividend, and it was quite possible it would not cost the bank anything. There was, Mr. Pease added, no question of the loyalty of the staff, but the scheme would increase the zeal with which they worked for the bank, and it would materially increase the profit. It would also lead to economies by the staff keen on increasing the profit. With the large number employed, these economies in the aggregate would mean much.”
Here the plain, brutal truth is revealed. For the staff, harder work and a probable reduction in their number, while for the directors and shareholders the prospect of an “increase of profit” guaranteed through the continued docility of their employees, and, cheapest of cheap philanthropy, “to cost nothing.”

At a time when the Capitalists are incessantly crying out for “more trade,” “greater efficiency,” “reduced costs,” etc., with, of course, the illusionary bait of ”more work” to appease the swelling numbers of the workless, it is significant to note the effect of these master class desires when put into operation :—
  “There has been a saving of £55,000,000 in the wages bill of the railway companies since 1921. . . . Mr. Thomas remarked that, as there was a greater volume of traffic dealt with on the railways with a personnel of 50,000 less, that would obviously indicate more efficiency.”— (Daily Chronicle, 17/11/23.)
Nor is that by any means the final word in economy, for the amalgamated companies propose further improvements by way of automatic signalling, electrical luggage trolleys and conveyors, the elimination of the army of railway ticket punchers, examiners and other officials by improved methods for the issue and cancellation of tickets, etc. Commenting upon these innovations, the same report says :—
  “These will be gradually carried out. The introduction of new labour saving and safety devices will mean big reductions in the railway staffs.”—(Daily Chronicle, 24/10/23.)
Could the brutal nature of Capitalism be more plainly revealed than in these few facts.

Disaster from profit and profit from disaster. (1923)

Editorial from the November 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

The risks of capital ! How often are the dividends of the idle justified on the plea that the investor is entitled to a “fair” return on the capital he has ”risked” ? When workers ask for an increase in the beggarly pittances they receive as wages then risks on the workers’ part are forgotten, and “what the industry can stand” becomes the watchword; the first charge on industry being an adequate return on the capital invested.

In the inquiry into the coal industry of a few years back employers spoke much of the risks of capital and but little of the risks of the wage worker. The fate of the bulk of the 42 miners entombed in the Redding Pit, Falkirk, on September 25th, is an illustration of the risks the workers run; they risk their lives, and they do so merely for bread and butter. Not only does the miner risk his life, but the miner’s family risks the loss of its mainstay.

Disaster after disaster have overtaken the mine workers, due in the main (as instance the Whitehaven disaster some years ago) to the cheese-paring economy of the mine owners in their desire to extract, the maximum of profit out of the coalmining industry. And yet, in spite of the ever-present dangers to limb and life, the miner only gets in return for his labour, in the best of cases, little more than sufficient to keep himself and his dependants from actual starvation.

In mine and factory, and on the seas, the workers risk their lives daily in order that capital may have a “fair” profit. Not in order that society may obtain the necessaries of life; because where profit is not forthcoming the wheels of industry cease to turn, though society may be groaning for the goods that do not come.

Disasters to humanity are often but sources of profit for the ghouls that control this misery-making function of wealth.

The earthquake in Japan that caused so much havoc a short time ago provides an instance of how precious property is in the eyes of its owners, and also how the economic advantages of a disaster become of more importance to capitalists than pity for misery suffered.

Only a little while ago we read harrowing tales of Japanese misery and a cry was raised to help those who suffered from the earthquake. Later information, however, reduces the protestations to a sham.

The Manchester Guardian Weekly of October 12th publishes an article from their correspondent in Kobe on the “Economic Effects of the Earthquake,” which opens up with the following paragraph :—
  “The immediate economic consequence of the earthquake is that 1,500 Europeans have come into Kobe, where a somewhat smaller number have fed, lodged, and clothed them. And no sooner were they comforted, than they organised two ‘expeditions’ (neither of which has sailed at the time of writing, exactly one week after the earthquake) to proceed to Yokohama and protect not only what movable property may have escaped the fire and the enterprising looter (who soon had the military on his track), but titles to land and so forth” (italics ours).
How much more important in the eyes of these gentlemen was private property than the misery of the poor Japanese, whom they appear to have forgotten !

A further quotation from this correspondent should interest those who believe in the idealism of the profit-seeking capitalist.
  “Of course, between profiteering and ruin the authorities are between the devil and the deep sea. If they have reconstruction they must let the profiteer get his percentage. It is a necessary part of the capitalist system. Big firms here have been advised that the earthquake here had no sooner happened than Japanese in England did their best to get a good grip on the metal market, but not very successfully. Everybody is on the watch for developments, and there is, in spite of the slump, quite a tense awaiting of the revival. The revival of Tokio means the rebuilding of Yokohama. It would be a disaster if, because of temporary embarrassments, British holders of original perpetual leases or even those of ordinary leases were to be forced to sell their holdings, as this would be a blow to British trade. It would be inadvisable for the Government to subsidise them as one subsidy only leads to another. But it is worth while for British firms to lay out money to gain or maintain a footing in the trade that is to come.”
In the eyes of the capitalist, then, the most important fact arising out of the earthquake is not the misery it has brought to those involved in the earthquake, but the profit it promises to those who “risk” their capital.

What a monster is this capital, brother, that it grows fat out of human misery, and dulls in its owners the human feeling of pity ! Doth it not reek with the blood of our fellows, and is it not time that the monster was buried ? Then join with us in digging the grave and burying for ever the exploitation of the many by the few, and with it all the misery and suffering that capital has called into existence.

By The Way. (1923)

The By The Way Column from the November 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard
  “Many working-men who voted Socialist would be the last to wish to see Socialism enthroned.”— (Dr. Macnamara, “Daily Sketch,” 24/9/23.)
A not unusual method of the capitalist vote-catching tout is to flatter and cajole the worker under the pretence of appealing to his “sound common sense,” his “level headed reasoning,” his desire to preserve his “hard won liberties,” all of which he unfortunately hasn’t got. We presume the pedantic doctor refers to those workers who voted for the reform programme of the Labour Party in the belief that they voted for “Socialism.” Those who did so were deceived and sold again, as they so often have been before, by Liberal and Tory frauds. The full realisation of the programme of the Labour Party would still leave the workers propertyless in the means of life, and consequently slaves to their masters. They (the workers) do not want to see Socialism established because they do not understand it. Dr. Macnamara is a defender of capitalism, and would have you believe that your continued toleration of that system is the outcome of your own power to reason. Our claim is that the workers’ support of capitalism, with the inevitable social misery it brings upon them, is not due to their calm and careful conation, but to the slavish ideas inculcated by their master’s education.

Have no fear of bogeys styled “Socialism,” but critically examine our position, apply the intelligence you so often use in your master’s interests, and then, with your new-born understanding, join us. Time and truth are on our side, but we can achieve our objective through you, our class organised –


* * *


”Do you want a bigger salary?” “Do you want to get on?” “Why not climb above the sloughs of unemployment?” Such are the inferential questions addressed to the salaried proletariat by various schools and colleges claiming to supply the necessary qualifications. The Pelman Institute advertising their course through the medium of Baroness Orczy state (Tit-Bits, 22/9/23) : ”There are millions to whom it would mean just the difference between a life of mediocrity and one of prosperity.” What glorious news !—almost brings tears to the eyes to think that there should be so many millions, who, it might appear, are living drab, uneventful lives out of sheer perversity. But even the capitalist press reveals a different state of affairs and shatters the fulsome promises of those whose business it is to trade in a particular form of knowledge required by the masters of to-day. Like the mass of the working class the products of the higher education must come into the labour market and compete in the merciless struggle that our present social system begets.
  “During the next few months some thousands of young men from Oxford and Cambridge will be looking for work in an inhospitable world. ‘The truth is that there is less and less room in modern life for a liberal education,’ said a former undergraduate (who had somehow found a job since ‘coming down’ last summer) sadly to a ‘Daily News’ representative yesterday. The most fortunate of these young men—that is those who have not absolutely got to earn a living at once—will drift to the Bar, with comparatively little prospect of briefs. The less fortunate will become schoolmasters, most of them with neither aptitude nor enthusiasm for their work. And there will still be a lot left over. These will scramble for odd tutorships—an occupation which is usually quite as fatal a ‘blind alley’ as that of a telegraph boy—and try to become free lance journalists. Perhaps some lucky ones will get jobs on the films.”—(“Daily News,” 28/6/23.)
Perhaps ! and more than likely, some unlucky ones will join the ever-growing army of the workless. The capitalists themselves will see that the quantity and quality of so-called educated workers is forthcoming for the purposes of their own profit, and,, like the rest of the working class, their supply exceeding the masters’ requirements, their price upon the labour market (salary or wages) consequently falls. We too seek to educate the workers, not as trained machines, producing and distributing wealth for the enjoyment and leisure of others, but to understand their usefulness and importance, using that knowledge to establish society upon a basis that will allow them to enjoy the results of that usefulness in increasing physical and mental comfort. Such education is indeed worthy of the name, for it has for its objective a higher social order, in which productive human effort will be in conformity with the greatest good of all.


* * *  
  “A railway carriage which used to take six weeks to construct, can now be completed in six days.”—(“Sunday Chronicle,” 23/9/23.)
Certainly a splendid item of information—but not for the railway coach builders, their labourers, or for other sections of the workers for that matter. Small wonder that the above is
  “viewed with the natural suspicion of workers who are afraid that machinery will rob them of a living.”—(Same report.)
Not a suspicion indeed, but a reality— as many workers in other industries could testify, and as other items from the same report bear evidence, for instance :—
  “A railway wagon loaded with timber runs in on ordinary metals and stops beside an inclined conveyor. On the conveyor the planks are thrown. Formerly ten men carried the deals away on their shoulders, the conveyor and two men empty a wagon in 15 minutes. . . There is a bolt machine, for instance, which can turn out 40,000 bolts a day ; its predecessors output was 1,600.”
No doubt the displaced workers will be able to ruminate upon the wonders of labour saving-machinery they and other members of their class invent, produce, and operate —in their master’s interest. What insanity ! All the means to make life easier, all the possibilities of reducing work to a minimum, but under capitalism only to serve the idle few, the owners of those means. The cause of your uncertain and insecure existence is plain to see, it becomes more obvious as the years go by, and means greater insecurity, increasing monotony of work, and an ever growing army of unemployed. The docker, the sailor, the cotton operative, all alike serve as wage hirelings for the purpose of profit and dividend, and all must eventually seek the same way out, the abolition of the privately owned means of life, supplanted by communal ownership by and through their own class concerted action. It is the only way.


* * *

Speaking as a delegate to the Congregational Union at Northampton, Dr. A. R. Henderson said (Westminster Gazette, 3-10-23) :—
   “In many cities and towns there were housing conditions which made decency impossible . . . in these slum areas a morally satisfactory social life was impossible. The separation of employers and employed into hostile groups eager to gain an advantage over each other was one of the most sinister facts of our social life. . . . Two courses were open to the Churches. They could so improve the conditions of the present system, that it shall give a fair opportunity to all, or they could abolish it in favour of some form of Socialism.”
It is not uncommon to-day to read such outbursts emanating from people, partly from a sincere desire to alleviate such misery, and partly from the increasing difficulty of explaining away the existence of such conditions as being merely temporary inconveniences that will vanish in future as the outcome of wise legislation, or the contrition of a once callous master class. Dr. Henderson inclines toward the latter thought. He says : “Employers knew very well what was wrong, and how to set it right if they would.” What these more or less well-meaning people fail to understand is the cause of these conditions, and their relation to the system in which they are an inseparable part. William Morris once aptly observed that : “The workers are poorly housed because they are poor,” and it would be equally true to say that they are poorly fed, clothed, educated and entertained, by the very fact that they are members of the working class ; a class who at present are content to fashion a perpetual panorama of pleasure for their idle masters, whilst themselves remaining content with the crumbs ; and why—why in the name of common sense—should the capitalists, even were it possible for them to do so, be expected to modify their system so as to “give a fair opportunity to all,” a system admitted by Dr. Henderson to rest upon class exploitation, and class oppression. Years and years of reforms have not prevented a worsening of the workers’ condition, neither can it be shown how reforms of the future can remove the cause of those conditions, they would not fundamentally alter the relation of Capitalist and wage worker, and if masquerading as a form of “Socialism,” could only be in such guise to delay the advent of Socialism a system in which class domination would cease to be. Only the working class themselves, understanding Socialism, and organised for its establishment, can end capitalism. It is their task, not their masters’.
W. E. MacHaffie