Sunday, May 9, 2021

Letter: Currency (1924)

Letter to the Editors the April 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Comrade,

1. J. F. nowhere convinces me that a sovereign is not a commodity. He could settle the polemic at once by giving us the laws whereby we distinguish commodity wealth from capitalist wealth, and from wealth in general. You will see how important my point is when I say if we understand the laws we will be able to put all use-values in their different categories, and will be able to say, without further aid, whether a sovereign is, or is not, a commodity. I say laws deliberately; for to find the common factors that commodities possess, or obtain in their relation with other commodities, would only give us the law of commodities, but could not possibly give us the law whereby we distinguish the forms which wealth takes up under Capitalist production. How well Marx knew this is seen in “Capital,” where he takes 122 pages to explain commodity wealth. He only starts to explain Capitalist production on page 123. I again assert that it is J. F.’s duty, as teacher, to give us the law. I make no apologies for using the term as it is the correct one. I am fully aware that J.F. says he has already given a “definition,” but I point out that it is inadequate, and lacking, because we cannot classify by its aid.

2. I have not, and do not agree with J. F. when he says that I “failed to understand the difference between a sovereign and a mere piece of gold.” I will endeavour to make my position clear to him. Gold is the universal equivalent (U.E.) which, if it is to exist at all, take up some form, or forms it must, or if you will, the U.E. exists in and through its forms. The forms are different in different countries, and it takes up the form of bullion internationally. The forms of the U.E. can, and do, change, e.g., when we make sovereigns into bullion, or when a state strikes a new gold coin. Now, my point is, whatever forms the U.E. takes up, and however much they may change, their universal nature remains the same, i.e., they are still money. The Sovereign being a part of the U.E. functions as the general equivalent in Britain, and the dollar does the same in the United States, and bullion acts in the same capacity internationally. The difference between the U.E. and the general equivalent, is the difference between the general and the special. Seeing then, that the ”commodity par excellence” can only exist in and through its forms, then it is apodictically certain that a sovereign is a commodity, if Marx is correct. But that is merely taking Marx’s word for it, which is dangerous, for the reader has still a perfect right to ask, “What gives us our concept of a commodity?” That is where J. F. comes in, as teacher. If he, still disagrees that the U.E. takes up the form of the sovereign in Britain, will he tell us what form it does take up, for it is certain that no person in Britain tenders a “mere piece of gold” in exchange for commodities.

3. I assert then that the U.E. in each country takes up the form of gold coins, whose weight and quality is guaranteed by the different states. But that fact does not hinder Marx from illustrating in “D. The Money Form” that other commodities reflect their value, in certain definite ratios, in a specific quantity of gold. Further, it does not mean that a particle of weight enters into value. What it does mean is, that in a specific quantity of gold there is a certain amount of a common something which all other commodities possess, and because of that the gold is able to reflect their value. That clears up the first point that J. F. tries to make against me by the use of form D.

4. It is one thing to quote Marx, it is another thing to understand him. J. F. also gives form D. in order to try and convince the readers of The Socialist Standard that gold is “exchanged by weight.” A little investigation of the items therein will convince the readers, that have studied Marx, that it proves the opposite. For example, we note that 10lb. of tea, or 40lb. of coffee, or ½ ton of iron is equal to 2 ounces of gold. Now it is crystal clear that no two of the items are equal in weight ; ergo it cannot possibly be gravity that makes them exchange in definite ratios; and even the standard of weight, used to weigh gold, is different than the one used to weigh the ordinary commodities. And what about the poor coat and 20 yards of linen that are not exchanged by weight? Might I point out to J. F. that he has made a slight error by mistaking the “standard of price” for “the measure of value,” a thing that might happen to any beginner. I trust that J. F. will not try to hold such an untenable position, after the error has been pointed out to him, or the C.L.C. will have a new cult in political economy to contend with, namely, “The Gravity School,” with J. F. as its Pope.

5. I don’t deny that “capital has not invented surplus-labour.” What I do assert is, that it is the cause of surplus-value. A very different thing. The problem why the slave could not produce S.V. could not arise until S.V. existed. For its existence it had to wait the advent of the free labourer, as Marx says. It is a long story that could not be fully worked out here. J.F. is so little acquainted with the dialectic method that he cannot distinguish a thing’s nature from its forms; fails to distinguish between gravity and abstract labour; mistakes surplus-labour for surplus-value ; and up to now, cannot even put a sovereign in its correct category. There is certainly room for improvement.
Yours fraternally,
Wm. Walker.

Answer to W. W.
The above letter shows that “W. W.” had run through his little stock of clumsy phrases, shuffles and evasions, in his communication published in the November issue of the Socialist Standard.

So he begins all over again like a badly cracked and chipped gramophone record that has reached the end of its particular impressions and is set off again after the spring has been rewound.

The whole of the statements in the above letter have been dealt with in our previous replies. For ease of reference we have numbered “W. W.’s” paragraphs.

No. 1 completely demolished in S.S. for November, 1923.

No. 2 fully dealt, with in S.S. for May, 1923.

No. 3 “W. W.’s” confusion thoroughly exposed in S.S. for September, 1923.

No. 4 “W. W.’s” ignorance of Marx fully explained in S.S. for November, 1923.

No. 5, the ignorance of “W. W.” on simple history, fully exposed in S.S. for November, 1923.

The first run of the record was painful—very. The second is worse and in compassion for our readers we cannot allow any further repetitions of its harsh and côntradictory tones.
Jack Fitzgerald

Wool-pulling. (1924)

From the April 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

The game has nothing in common with leg-pulling. Authorities differ as to which is the older, and there is a marked difference of opinion as to their exact origin, but that need not concern us. Baudelaire attributed laughter to the satanic influence in man, and as leg-pulling is usually aimed at promoting laughter, this game seems possessed of a very antique parentage. On the other hand, wool-pulling was not known by that name until the invention of the American language. Was it not to one of the American Presidents who attended the post-war conferences, that the advice was tendered, “Don’t let ’em pull the wool over your eyes?” Whether they did or not is beside the point. Suffice it that the Americans have invented a phrase much more living and vivid than our own terse “spoof” or “codology,” neither of which are dictionary words.

But without spending any more time in profitless research, let us direct our gaze to Bradford, where the wool comes from. This is not necessarily the wool that is used in obstructing the vision, but as you will presently perceive, the Bradfordians are not unacquainted with the practice. Doubtless, inspired by those disinterested, high souled patriots who advise us by poster to ”drink more milk,” to “eat more fruit,” to ”own your house” and what not, they hired a large space in the Daily News, on February 21st, in which, to tell us to insist on buying Bradford products. Everyone can help,” they said in heavy leaded type, ”to reduce unemployment. If the, purchase of a foreign-made article causes unemployment in Great Britain, then to the price paid for that foreign article must be added the cost of maintaining the resulting unemployment.”

There is much more, of course, in the advertisement. British prosperity, British interests, national safety, relief of taxation, full production, and all the usual tags of the wool-puller are utilised. We are assured that “the greater the demand by the home trade, the greater is the opportunity for successful competition in foreign markets.”

Simple, isn’t it! You buy British goods only and thus bankrupt the foreigner. Having reduced him to a beggar, “the greater is the opportunity for successful competition in foreign markets.” Then, obviously, the home unemployed should be an ideal market for the home manufacturer. Of course, there is more in the argument than this. The British worker, like any other worker, buys what his wages permit him to buy. As his wages are determined by the cost of living, he can do no other. In point of fact, he does precisely what the Bradford manufacturers do. The best answer to their case is contained in the same issue of the Daily News. And it concerns Bradford itself.
  “The decision of the Bradford Corporation Electricity Committee to accept the tender of a Belgian firm for the supply of four machines, has aroused some feeling. The Belgian firm’s tender was for £l3,000, whereas the lowest British tender was £l7,000. The Committee held that the desire to relieve unemployment did not justify paying the additional £4,000.”
Comment would spoil it. We confine ourselves to the simple statement, that it is not what you spend, or how you spend it, that should be your chief concern. It is what you get that matters. It is in the workshop that you are robbed. Your efforts should be concentrated in obtaining, along with your fellow workers, ownership and control of your means of livelihood. Compared with this, how you spend your pittance is a secondary matter, and a bad second at that. Own your means of living ; all else is ”wool-pulling.” Don’t let ’em pull the wool over your eyes.
W. T. Hopley

To a new reader. (1924)

From the April 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

You work hard when you have employment, you search hard when you have not employment. Your very existence depends upon your finding and keeping employment. Yet, in or out of employment, your daily life is hard, crammed and cramped with hard work and skimpy of enjoyment. From infancy to old age you are surrounded with poverty and the manifold miseries that are due to poverty. While you work and live amidst privation others are idle and enjoy the best the world has to offer.

Poverty is not a disease imposed by nature ; it is not due to a shortage of wealth but to the way in which wealth is distributed. It is born out of particular social conditions and its existence to-day is due immediately to the way in which wealth is distributed. The way in which wealth is distributed depends upon the method of production, so that this is the fundamental cause of poverty.

To-day wealth is produced by means of privately owned means of production (land, machinery, and so on), consequently the wealth produced belongs to those who own the means of production. The workers work upon and operate the means of production but they do not own a fraction of the wealth produced.

The economic evils that exist are caused solely by the fact that the means of production belong to private individuals and not to the whole people. The only solution of these evils is to change the basis of society ; transfer the means of production from the hands of private individuals to the whole of society—change private ownership of these things into social ownership. That is Socialism.

Perhaps you think that this solution, the Socialist solution, of your evils is too easy to be correct. Perhaps present arrangements appear to be too complicated to allow of a revolutionary change without tremendous friction.

If you will consider the matter carefully for a little while you will discover that much of the complication existing to-day is due to, and bound up with, the making of profit.

The fog surrounding international exchange ; the fickleness of demand and supply; the credit system; taxation; Wages Boards ; and the multitude of other things that are such perplexing problems at present, and which in turn are given as the cause of low wages and unemployment, are all problems bound up with a system in which business is carried on for private gain. You can satisfy yourself of this fact by turning to the older systems of society that flourished during barbaric times. There you will find that the problems mentioned above did not exist. These older societies had other problems, chief of which was the lack of the means to produce wealth easily.

If the means of production and distribution are owned in common by the whole of society and used to meet the needs of the whole of society the necessary measures to be taken to secure the requisite production and distribution would be comparatively simple.

Let us assume for a few moments that the majority of society have considered that Socialism is desirable and have elected delegates to Parliament to make the change. What would be the steps to be taken once these delegates had obtained control ? We will emulate the prophets and indulge in a little idle surmise, on the assumption that general conditions will be as at present on the morrow of the revolution.

First of all three main lines of investigation would have to be followed. It would be necessary to—
  1. Ascertain the needs of the population.
  2. The means available to satisfy these needs.
  3. The labour required to do the necessary work.
Let us take these three items in turn and examine them.

1. It would be necessary to divide the country up into areas according to the distribution of the population, and to find out the kind and amount of goods required for different areas. The skeleton of such an organisation already exists to-day in the form of Urban, Rural and County Councils.

It would only be a question of compiling different kinds of statistics from those which are compiled to-day. The main things we require are food, clothing, and habitations.

2. The means available to satisfy the above needs would include land, raw material, machinery, and transportation facilities—roads, canals, railways, sea routes, air routes. Again a question of compiling statistics.

3. It would be necessary to find out the number of workers, the various kinds of skill, and the distribution of the workers over the country.

In the above three directions it would be a matter of compiling statistics. The vast amount of statistical work that is done at present and its nature show that the organisation for doing such work is already in existence and would be available.

Once having compiled and collected the statistics (a relatively simple matter) it would be necessary to distribute the work according to workers and resources, and spread the work approximately equally over all so that more work would not be demanded from one than from another.

It may be urged that England is not a self-supporting country and that once dealings are entered into with people abroad complications would arise. Here it must be borne in mind that all over the world the degree of advancement in the important countries (those that would really matter) is roughly about the same. By the time the majority of the people in this country had arrived at the idea that Socialism was desirable, the people in other countries would be near, if they had not actually reached, the same view. So that a fundamental social change in England would rapidly develop a corresponding change abroad and ease the necessary international dealings. While each country must settle its own social problem, yet each cannot do so without involving the world in its operations. Hence the international character of Socialism.

At the moment of writing a matter is occupying considerable attention in the newspapers that may provide us with an illustration of the complexity of affairs at present.

Within a few days two wild fluctuations occurred in the ratio of English money to French money. The French franc was quoted at 2½d. not long ago, then it suddenly went down to 2d., and at the moment of writing it has suddenly risen to 2½d. once more. These fluctuations, we are assured, are extremely dangerous to business. The production of goods, and buying and selling, are interfered with, and the existence of empires is imperilled. So we are informed by the newspapers. Now surely this is curious and perplexing. Raw materials exist in abundance, workers are walking the streets for lack of employment, yet we are pinched for want of the necessaries of life, and the reason given is that certain purely financial operations are clogging the wheels of production.

The point to be borne in mind is that financial operations are built up on the production and distribution of wealth, and that without such production and distribution there would be no financial operations. On the other hand production and distribution of wealth can exist, and has existed, without financial operations.

When the workers of the world take control of the production and distribution of wealth on their own behalf there will be no room for the financier and the latter’s operations will no longer interfere with the production of the things necessary to life. Born out of profit-making he, and all his tricks and entanglements, will go out with the going out of the profit-making system.

Letter: Elections. (1924)

Letter to the Editors the April 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard


I note with interest your Election Manifesto of current issue. My attention has been arrested more particularly with regard to that part which runs as follows (page 51, column 24, S.S. :— “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.” “Here you offer advice.” It is specifically the paragraph marked with * that I wish to deal with. That statement I accept as definite, and upon analysing same deduct the following : (a) Sufficient number, a portion definitely held in mind by the S.P.G.B. organisation. (b) You would fall into line with other political expressions, i.e., L.P., C.P., or I.L.P., and adopt Parliamentary candidates. (c) The possibility of witnessing a nominee of the party contesting a by-election. (d) A Socialist in the “House” with his or her hands tied to their back. I do not think I can be accused of misrepresenting your statement. There certainly is a significant deviation from Marxian philosophy, and it is hoped that it is not wilful. If you hold that the putting into operation of your objects (and mine) depends on a sufficient number of Socialists acquiring the useful Parliamentary machine, whether or no, democracy demands and desires that change of society, you will, as the principled men that I know you to be, stand by that conviction at the next election. This, although constituting a compromise and place your party on par with C.P., would in itself be inconsistent with your general principles. I trust this letter will be published in your next issue, and that the anticipated reply will be given in accordance with true camaraderie.
I am, fraternally,
P. J. Lockwood, U.P.W., E.C.D.O. A Wage Slave.

Reply to Lockwood. 
Mr. Lockwod asks that our reply hall be given in accordance with true camaraderie. What a pity he did not write his letter in that same accord instead of trying to hide deliberate misrepresentation under the guise of “deductions.”

The paragraph Mr. Lockwood refers to is as follows : —
   “As a sufficient number of the working class is not yet desirous of establishing Socialism to permit of any candidate 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.”
Instead of dealing with this paragraph as it is written, Mr. Lockwood prefers to draw what he calls “deductions.”

Let us examine some of these.

(b) Either Mr Lockwood has read our literature and heard our speakers, or he has not. If the former is true then his “deduction” is a deliberate misrepresentation, because, as all our writings and speeches show, we are directly opposed to, and have fought on every occasion, the methods of the parties to whom he refers. First, and above all, these organisations are anti-Socialist and run their candidates on anti-Socialist programmes. Secondly, as a result, they engage in underhand trickery, open and secret bargaining for votes, and indulge in various intrigues to obtain money from Trade Unions and other organisations.

If Mr. Lockwood has not read our writings, or heard our speakers, then his impertinence in classing us with anti-Socialist organisations is great. Neither he, nor any one else has any right to criticise a person or an organisation of whom they are in complete ignorance, still less to attribute to them the very things they oppose.

(d) This “deduction” sounds curious. Why should a Socialist have his hands tied behind him (or her) any more than any other individuals member? If Mr. Lockwood means that a Socialist Member of Parliament could not pass a resolution, or a Bill, by himself, this almost childish truth is equally true of any other individual member, whether he belongs to any party or whether he does not. But why stop at an individual member? The same, is equally true of a minority. The Labour Party at the present moment can only do those things that suit the other parties in the House of Commons. As soon as it attempts to interfere seriously with any interest of the Capitalist class, it will be thrown out of office by the majority in the House. All this has been pointed out scores of times in the Socialist Standard.

Mr. Lockwood says “there certainly is a significant deviation from Marxian philosophy, and it is hoped that it is not wilful.”

Where is this deviation?

Mr. Lockwood does not tell us, because it only exists in his misrepresentation of our case, and cannot be found anywhere in the Manifesto he is supposed to be criticising.

Mr. Lockwood’s next statement is a contradiction in terms. Having apparently filled his head with Communist rant about a minority seizing power, he is unable to see the facts of the situation.

“A sufficient number of Socialists” could, obviously, be nothing less than a working majority above all other parties combined. This majority can only exist when a majority of the Electorate desire to establish Socialism, and show their desire by voting for Socialist candidates. But what is the “democracy” Mr. Lockwood has in mind? He does not tell us. Unless he has some fantasy of his own on the matter, “democracy” means the mass, or majority, of a people in a given society. Hence the return of a majority of Socialists to the House of Commons is impossible until a majority of the working class (we prefer this clear unequivocal term) or the “democracy” as Mr. Lockwood prefers, had become Socialists.

Where is the “compromise” ? So far being on a par with the Communist Party, as shown above, our Marxian position is in direct opposition to that freak and fake organisation.
Editorial Committee

Ideals and realities. (1924)

From the April 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

No doubt the upholders of this best of all worlds—the present Capitalist system—would like everything to appear coloured in the satisfaction of their own being. From the Duke of Northumberland to Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, all are intensely satisfied, because they want for nothing. A rosy world it is for them, coloured in the light of their own satisfied needs. What matter that hunger and poverty stalk abroad unhampered among the working class ; the class that produces the necessities, as well as the luxuries of life upon which these people fatten. “Be reconciled to the present state of things,” they say to the working class “for fear worse things befall you.” “Look at Russia,” and they hold their breath at this spectre, not long enough, unfortunately, to cause internal disruption.

“How silly to strike for better conditions, look at the loss in terms of pounds, and the harm you do to the community by so doing,” they inform the workers. How quickly these people can change their names.

Societies for the reconciliation of capitalists and workers have sprung up like mushrooms and have as quickly disappeared.

The attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable are more than they or their arch priest, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, with all his astuteness, can manage.

They may turn aside for the moment the efforts of the workers to raise their standard of life; an effort which can only be attained at first at the expense of the Capitalist class, but with irresistible force the dam of platitudes is broken down under the pressure of economic forces. The inherent contradictions in the present social system are such as to play havoc with all absolute ideals.

On the one hand the Capitalist desires as much profit as possible. To obtain this he must pay as little as possible for the worker’s commodity, “labour power.” It is always the Capitalist’s desire to keep the price of labour power at a minimum, compatible with its efficiency. On the other hand the worker desires to obtain as high a price as possible for his commodity, labour power. The result is an antagonism between the two, which is impossible in the present social system to prevent. The workers in Trade and Industrial Unions are so organised because they realise that by this method they can more effectively struggle for a better price for their labour power, which price they obtain in the form of wages.

In spite of the nebulous sitting on the fence attitude of many Trade Union officials they are forced to act in this struggle, for otherwise the workers would repudiate them.

During the last few months this conflict of interests has been shown by the Railmen and the Dockers, and now the Miners are proving the truth that this class antagonism cannot be prevented under this system.

The platitudes of Reconciliation. Pacifism, No More War, etc., are like feathers blown about in a gale. 

Not long ago we had the spectacle of professed pacifist Members of Parliament, including J. H. Hudson and A W. Haycock, Parliamentary Members for Huddersfield and West Salford respectively, both of whom had served long terms of imprisonment during the war in their stand against militarism, voting credits for five cruisers, while jingo liberal M.P.’s voted against the bill.

Thus we get the difference between pacifist platitudes and practice. War, and therefore the means for waging war, are almost inevitable in a system in which countries like Great Britain, America, France, Japan, etc., producing an enormous surplus of commodities, and desiring markets for these commodities, get in each other’s way in that desire. The main cause of the last war lies in this fact.

Very few now deny that the competition for markets between Germany, and Great Britain was a big factor in bringing about the last war. The camouflage phrases of the “Rights of Small Nations,” the “crushing of Prussian Militarism,” were but the poison gas behind which the real cause was concealed.

Thè working class by applying their energy to Nature’s materials produce all wealth, yet they do not own it. A small non-producing class owns the greater portion.

In the Manifesto of the S.P.G.B., page 22, a calculation of thé wealth produced in this country from a Capitalist source gave the workers share of this wealth in Great Britain as one-third. On page 23 a computation by Carol D. Wright, one-time Commissioner of Labour to the U.S.A. Government, gave the workers’ share in U.S.A. as an eighth of his product. What does the Capitalist Class do with the remaining portion?

However lavishly it expands this superfluity it is impossible for this class to rid itself of all this abundance very quickly by ordinary channels. Markets must be found to realise the profit on the goods produced. Otherwise these goods lie in the warehouses and become a burden instead of an asset. The fact that people need these goods does not form an effective demand. Workers may go about without boots, clothing, and starve, while the warehouses and shops will be overflowing with these essentials of life. This, simply because the worker has not the wherewithal to purchase them. The more overstocked with goods the warehouses are the greater generally is the misery and poverty of the working class. Such is the paradox of this social system. War is one method of finding an effective market for these goods. There was no unemployed during the war, when commodities produced were quickly destroyed. If only the Capitalist Class could find such an effective method now of ridding themselves of their superfluous goods, what a happy world it would be for them. Unfortunately for them war does not last for ever.

So we have a million and a half unemployed workers living from hand to mouth in the hope that their labour power may be required some time or other when the good god or some other divinity of chance helps the Capitalist Class to rid itself of this superfluous wealth which the workers have produced to their own detriment.

If the working class would only realise that there is no way out of this rut in the present system. If pacifists and other sentimentalists would realise that the cause of war, unemployment, poverty, lies in the Capitalist system, and that the only way to deal effectively with these problems is to abolish this system of the private ownership of the means of production and establish Socialism ; if instead of plaintively attacking the evil results of this system by means of shallow platitudes which, on coming up against reality, they find necessary to throw overboard ; if, in short, they would attack the root instead of the branches, then, and then only, would they have some hope of realising a new and better world.
H. A.

Lucretius quote. (1924)

From the April 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard
That is a property which cannot be
Disjoined from a thing and separate
Without the said thing’s death. Fluidity
Is thus a property of water ; weight
Is of a stone. Whilst riches. poverty,
Slavery, freedom, concord, war, and hate,
Which change, and not inhere in things of sense,
We name not properties, but accidents.

By The Way. (1924)

The By The Way Column from the April 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard
  “But you ask why the Socialists, who are supposed to be the champions of the working classes, and endeavouring to obtain them employment, should be against emigration. It is because they think that the working classes are their supporters, and with a steady emigration of them the Socialists would look askance at their dwindling forces.” (Democrat, 15/3/24.)
You do your own supposing, answer your own question, then dispose of the Socialists —easily! This method also allows for the introduction of several working classes; we, however, have never been able to discover more than one, a class who have the complete monopoly of employment, a monopoly their masters, the Capitalist class, are not likely to deny them. At present the majority of the workers support Capitalism, not Socialism, because they fail to understand with what ease the world’s resources could be made to promote abundance and leisure for all, if commonly owned and used for that purpose. Without such understanding they imagine they are born for work alone, they live for it, emigrate for it, and often die from an overdose of it, not knowing that they give up their lives for no other purpose than sustaining a set of parasites in all the ease and comfort that could be theirs—aye ! and many times better, if they wished it—if they would scrap their cardboard Capitalist heroes and realise tneir own importance.

* * *
  ”Mr. Wm. Leach, Under-Secretary for Air, in a clever speech, showed how slices of Socialism saved the country in the war period and abolished unemployment.” (Report, Daily Herald, 17/3/24.)
Unfortunately, lacking the vivid imagination of our brainy labourite, we mistook the above “slices of Socialism” for very thick slices of Capitalism. And having some recollection of the “war period,” ungrateful wretches that we are, we feel unable to appreciate or anticipate a recurrence of such methods of abolishing unemployment. The above quotation is taken from what the Daily Herald considers a “clever speech.” Opinions differ, however; from the standpoint of truth and intelligence it would be unworthy of a village idiot.

* * *
  “Against that which was really Socialistic the soul of England would swiftly rise in revolt, for God had meant us to be a free and not an enslaved people..​.​. What was wanted was a truly humane campaign of courage and wisdom, conducted by all the men and women of goodwill in our land, who had not bowed the knee to this alien conception called Socialism.” (Prebendary Gough, New Voice, Feb.)
Of course, it is nice to be know from an authoritative (!) source all about the future movements of the “Soul of England” (whatever it may be) and likewise God’s views on slavery. For our part the above timid twaddle merely offers evidence that there are still many in the twentieth century whose mentality is largely made up of slightly modified primitive superstition and ignorance, an ignorance the medicine men of the Capitalists seek to perpetuate for their masters’ sake. According to the press who term a “Labour” Party with a Capitalist programme a “Socialist” Party, and the prophetic vision of the above reverent gentleman, we may now anticipate the revolt of the “Soul of England” and the opposition of Anti-Socialists with “courage and wisdom.” From past experience, the latter will at least be a welcome change.
W. E. MacHaffie

Phrase Worship. (1924)

From the February 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are few things more dangerous to the student—whether of politics or of any other subject—than the habit of mind which mistakes an eloquent phrase for a powerful argument, and, accepts a striking illustration as proof of the principle it is intended merely to illustrate. Persuasive eloquence may be a gift, or it may be won by arduous toil, but there is at least no reason to believe that it serves only under the banner of Truth. There would be lean times for lawyers if this were so.

As for the seductiveness of the carefully chosen example, there never was an unsound theory which could not be supported by battalions of plausible instances ; and there is no notion so transparently false that it will not serve to explain certain experiences to some person or other.

How else could fallacies win adherents or be conceived at all?

Everyone knows how the skilful orator can persuade people by his eloquence to accept an argument which would fail to convince them if they examined it coldly and critically. And even if the argument be sound, it is probable that most of those who hear it and are so readily persuaded that it is true have in fact not understood it at all. It is not possible to grasp in a moment the whole of the strong and weak points of a new principle ; but it is fatally easy to grasp its application to a special instance, while overlooking the probability that the instance has been chosen because it is appropriate, and not because it is typical. The general principle, to be true, must apply without exception to all – the events coming within its scope.

Protectionists urged at the recent election that unemployment cannot exist where there is protection of home industries, and for evidence they said : “Look at America.” It gained many votes, but it will be remembered that there was usually no attempt made to prove the assertion. Those who made it relied solely on the force of the illustration, which was of course selected because, to the unreflecting, it seemed to be conclusive. No account was taken of the many countries where unemployment and protection are existing side by side at the present time, nor of the many occasions when they have coincided in the U.S.A. This illustration is of so little value really, that it could be used to support any number of other fallacious explanations of unemployment. For example : “Those countries are free from unemployment whose national pastime is gum-chewing. Look at America ! ”

In order that such a statement could be regarded as proved it would be necessary to list all the main possible consequences of protection in a particular country, and show how they would be likely to affect the amount of unemployment. The existence of both unemployment and protection in any other country would be fatal unless it could be accounted for by some special counteracting circumstances, for there can be no exceptions to a valid principle.

The saying, “The exception proves the rule,” is, as usually understood, just nonsense. What is really meant is that the apparent exception tests the rule. We, for instance, assert that unemployment is a necessary feature of the capitalist mode of production. If that is true, then every capitalist country should be subject to periodic trade stagnation and unemployment. France at once presents itself as an exception, until we remember that France has a large standing army composed of men who would otherwise be unable to find civil employment. The rule is thus tested by the apparent exception, and found not to have been shown incorrect as far as France is concerned.

There are many people who have phrases like the one given in the last paragraph, which they use on all occasions to explain any controversial question. Unfortunately, they do not realise that they are erecting a barrier between themselves and the truth they wish to comprehend, and that through making no real effort, but simply satisfying themselves with a surface explanation, they are retarding their mental development. They also lay themselves open to deception by interested persons who know the powerful effect on the mind of these deadly drugs.

How often do we meet opponents who think they have answered our arguments by repeating the proverb, “Half a loaf is better than no bread.” By this they mean that Socialism is not immediately obtainable, therefore, it is advisable to make the best of a bad business and try to reform capitalism.

They have some near relations—described satirically as the “step-at-a-time-and-the-smaller-the-better” school—who reach the same conclusion by way of the saying, “You must walk before you can run.”

Now let us examine these two wise remarks, beginning with the first. As a simple statement of fact, meaning that the persons who want bread to eat had better the half a loaf than no bread at all, its truth needs no demonstration; but when used as an argument it is intended to mean much more than that. We can safely go further and agree that it can be applied correctly to all things of the same kind in similar relationships.

But it is just here that the danger arises. Examination ought to be, but generally is not, made before we can be satisfied that there is any analogy. For this reason we might usually just as well try to get our independent proof by treating each new problem on its merits. The trouble is that the phrase is used without discrimination, as if it were a general proof, valid in all kinds of circumstances; which it certainly is not.

If someone were searching for things to throw at your head you would hardly consider that “half a loaf is better than no bread at all.” Again the force of the proverb depends on the nature of loaves. Solomon had no hesitation in deciding that half a baby is not better than no baby at all, and the baby’s mother agreed with the verdict. And the Prince in “Hassan” quite rightly foresaw that his chief of police and his military commandant, who were rival claimants for the credit of capturing an important prisoner, would not feel honoured by being compelled to split a gorgeous robe between them.

Before this proverb can properly be used as an argument in favour of reforms as against concentrating on the demand for Socialism, it is necessary to show that Socialism is divisible like bread, i.e., that it is merely the result of adding reforms to reforms. Examination however shows that it is not. Socialism is a system of society based upon the common ownership of the means of wealth production. Reforms are reforms of capitalism, which is a system of society based on private ownership. It therefore untrue that “reforms of capitalism” and “Socialism” stand to each other in the same relation as “half a loaf” to a “whole loaf.” There is no analogy and thus the proverb has no bearing whatever on the problem under consideration.

It is, of course, open to those who hold this view to argue on other grounds that agitation for reforms is justifiable. They might try to prove that such agitation yields, or could yield, material benefit to the workers; but they would need to bear in mind that if they could give satisfactory proof, they would then be in danger of proving at the same time that Socialism is unnecessary. Our contention against the reform programme is that it usually fails, that the efforts are out of all proportion to the gains, and that it obscures the main issue, and thus hinders progress towards Socialism.

It is not my purpose here to substantiate my assertion : that has often been done in these pages. My present purpose is merely to show that our case is not so much as touched by the story of the loaf.

Treating in the same way the proverb, “You must walk before you can run,” notice how this too depends on the special nature of the activities referred to, while like the other, claiming universal application. Is it necessary to walk on one leg before you can walk on two? Do tadpoles have to learn to walk before they can learn to swim? And has it any real bearing on the kind of activities required in replacing one economic system by another? Is it not merely a piece of laziness to avoid the necessity of dealing, with the facts of the situation?

Some of the things requiring proof are these: (1) That modification of capitalism, such as nationalisation or State capitalism, are steps towards Socialism, and not away from it; (2) That they are in themselves beneficial to the workers; and (3) That they are necessary. The facts are: (1) That they are only additional obstacles; (2) That they are intrinsically bad for the workers; and (3) that they are quite unnecessary.

Having said that, the onus is on us to prove it, and on our opponent’s to disprove it. If I were to point out that a doctor tending a smallpox patient does not waste his time treating each spot separately, but goes straight to the root of the trouble; and if all the members of the Labour Party were to reply in chorus : “You must walk before you can run,” no advance would have been made towards the settlement of the disputed question. But both statements are unquestionably true, and each is legitimately applicable to certain phenomena.

I would like to add that it is now about 120 years since capitalism began its “great” code of social reform. During those years the system has been constantly changing, but it is still the same capitalist system. The workers have had inflicted upon them innumerable reforms of different kinds, yet they are now, relatively to their powers of production, worse off than ever before. And the reason is simplicity itself. Reforms are but attempts to remedy the ever-increasing evils wrought by capitalism, but even if successful, the system still goes on producing new evils or aggravating old ones, and it does so much faster than the reformers can hope to arouse a sufficient demand for the passing of reform acts to meet them.

It has yet to be proved that further experience of “walking” under capitalism will teach the workers how to “run” under Socialism. It appears to me that the State-regulated “Labour” administered capitalism of to-day or to-morrow has no useful lesson to teach the worker with eyes to see, which was not plainly visible in the competitive anarchy of fifty years ago; and there are many activities, modes of thought and ethical notions that must be unlearned before Socialism is going to be a reality.

Running may be regarded approximately as “quickened walking,” but Socialism is not by any means capitalism polished and tinkered up; it is something different, because its foundation is different.

I suggest that the workers have been passive under capitalism because they have not yet learned to see that it is obsolete and therefore a social nuisance. If the inevitable worsening of conditions under capitalism breeds discontent in place of passivity it is a criminal act to turn that discontent towards reforms of capitalism, when without much more trouble it might be turned towards Socialism.

That passage like the one I wrote before contains assumptions to be justified and conclusions to be proved, but again I am not going to try to prove them here. All I wish to do is to repeat with emphasis that they are not to be proved nor disproved by references to quite other forces operating on objects of a different kind.

It is not possible to compile a complete, twentieth century “Guide to Emancipation” out of ancient proverbs, old wives’ tales, nursery rhymes and other interesting odds and ends of learning and wisdom, gathered from the mind of the race in its infancy, or coined in rough and ready fashion in the turmoil of every-day life.
Edgar Hardcastle

Queensland's Labour Government. (1924)

From the February 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the December issue an attempt was made to disprove some of the many untrue assertions about Labour rule in Queensland which have appeared in Forward and the Daily Herald. Tom Johnston has not replied to the charge of deliberate misrepresentation, and to support the charge against him further evidence is now to hand.

Among other things, I stated that the exploitation of the workers is keener and the rate of profit greater in Queensland than elsewhere in Australia. If anyone wants to see the full substantiation of this, it is contained in the reports of the debates in the Queensland Legislative Assembly (Parliamentary Debates, No. 25, Legislative Assembly, Oct. 4 and 5, 1923, page 1481 and following pages). The reason for the publication of the statements, some of which I am going to quote, is that the Queensland Government is faced with the problem of raising new loans to meet repayments of old loans falling due now. Twenty-four million pounds is required at once, and Premier Theodore is in London to negotiate these loans, as cheaply as possible. Failing London, he will be forced to go to New York, but in either financial centre it will be necessary to prove to the investors that Queensland is really a safe and profitable field for investment. Thus we have Mr. Fihelly, Agent-General in London, writing to The Times (Aug. 29, 1923) as follows :—
  “I would again ask critics of Queensland to await the Premier’s arrival, and in the meantime I can assure readers that no sensible investor seriously regards Queensland securities otherwise than of the soundest description.”
It must be comforting to the workers in Queensland to know that the absentee investors who exact tribute from their labour can rest secure that those securities are of the soundest description. The additional material provided in the Legislative Assembly must be still more comforting.

A Mr. Weir, Labour Member for Maryborough, answers home critics at length, and so ably does he do so that it is a matter for regret that the whole speech cannot be reproduced here owing to its length :—
  “The production of the workman in this State is head and shoulders above that of any other State . . . This year I have again gone to some considerable trouble to frame a set of figures which will prove that this State, far from being ruined by the workers, owes more to the workers for its prosperity than to anyone else, and that this State is taking more out of the workers in the matter of industry than any other State. I have graded these figures and have segregated the items, to make my case clear, into raw materials, fuel and light, wages, and then surplus. The surplus is what 1 shall call ‘swag.’ . . . Some belongs to us, the workers, and some to them, but they take too much.”
Mr. Weir then gives figures of wealth production per head of workers engaged, one set taken from the Official Commonwealth Year Book for 1922 (p. 403), and the second set taken from Government publications for the current year (1923). In the first set Queensland, with £921 per head, comes third, after Victoria (£953) and New South Wales (£951). By 1923 Queensland, then the only Labour State, had come top with £954, leaving New South Wales a bad second with only ££892. Deducting the value of raw material and fuel and light, M. Weir gives the percentages going as wages and profits :—

He does not give the percentages wages in Tasmania or South Australia, but states that both are higher than Queensland’s. He protests on behalf of the Queensland workers against this difference. “We claim that they are entitled at least to the same percentage of wages based on the total output as is received in the other States.”

He then gives statistics of actual average wages. “In a table on page 397 of the Official Year Book the Commonwealth average for wages is £169 per head. ‘The amounts paid in the various States are :—

Mr, Weir then gives later information from “Bulletin No. 92 :—

It will thus be seen that in the first year Queensland’s average wage was £8 below the average for Australia as a whole, and £21 below the highest. In the second year it is still £15 below the highest.

Mr. Weir also deals with one or two industries to give further illustration.

In the sawmills of Queensland the total output is £2,971,079, while wages amount to approximately £750,000. Raw materials, fuel, light, etc., account for £1,635,221, leaving a balance of “swag” of £584,858. Mr. Weir, after allowing apparently for depreciation, puts profit at £500,000 and wages at £750,000. In other words, out of the total wealth produced by the labour of the sawmill workers no less than 40 per cent., or, two-fifths, is appropriated by nonproducers at home or abroad.

While for Queensland as a whole, out of every 36s. worth of wealth produced by the workers about £1 goes as profits to members of the property-owning class.
  “On the total cost of production, the men doing the hard work in this State get the least in the Commonwealth.”
In effect we have these Labour “caretakers” of capitalism in Queensland inviting the investment of foreign capital with the plea “that our slaves are the most profitable, the most heavily exploited, and the most docile in Australia.” Well may the Workers’ Weekly of Sydney complain that “the Queensland workers are being sold on the auction block” (Nov. 16, 1923), and well may the workers demand an explanation from their “revolutionary” leaders who ask them to continue returning to power Theodore and his gang who are responsible for this flagrant betrayal of the working-class interests.

Let me repeat that there is no hope for the workers save in Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle