Monday, May 17, 2021

A Look Round. (1924)

From the September 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

Who are the loafers.
   “Deducting loafers and criminals one person in three was in a state of perpetual poverty . . . The merely idle should be taught with the lash if need be, the dignity of work.” (Rev. Basil Bourchier, St. Jude’s, Hampstead, Morning Post, August 11th, 1924.)
Without doubt the bogey men of Capitalism fear the danger of being left behind with their out-of-date contributions toward stifling working-class discontent. Statements upon social evils become increasingly common; but a tirade against poverty does not imply the knowledge or desire to remove the cause. Witness Lloyd George, who, with his fulsome pretence of sympathy for the workers’ suffering, still makes every effort to win their support for the system that makes that suffering inevitable. Our cleric is another, but lacking the experience of the astute politician, he lets pussy out of the bag easily. He said :
  “Poverty was dangerous, it created the revolutionary temper, and was a menace to the very existence of society.”—(Ibid.)
The Socialist knows, of course, that poverty alone does not make the revolutionary. It is the knowledge of their class position and knowledge of their potential strength as a united body that makes revolutionaries among the ranks of the working class. But when we read the suggestion of flogging loafers, well ! We fear there is a grave mistake somewhere. A real Lady, writing in the Express, August 11, 1924), says :—
  “The London season that has just closed has been the most brilliant and noteworthy in my memory. . . . Three months of perpetual amusement take their toll of everyone, and society is obliged to retire to the sea and the moors, or to seek the peace and tranquility of the countryside in order to recuperate. … I am inclined to think it would be better to reserve some charitable functions for the winter months, when there is little to do and time hangs heavily on our hands.” (Lady Alexander.)
* * *

A Message From Mars.
  “Attempts are to be made during the coming days by several scientists to communicate with the Planet Mars, which will be in closer proximity to the earth than it has been for years. Life of a very high order it is suggested lives upon the Planet.”
Man of Mars : Say ! you must be pretty comfortable over yonder with your science, machinery, fertile soil, etc.

Earthly Socialist: Well, not exactly, there is plenty of everything for all, but the producers haven’t got it.

M. of M. : Here, no leg-pulling ! Who the stars has got it if the producers have not?

E.S. : Truth to tell, the non-producers, our masters who we do the job for.

M. of M. : Good heavens ! Are you all mad?

E.S. : No, not exactly; we, the workers, keep the show going, but our masters keep us mighty poor. You see, they have pinched this old earth and everything on it. We’re trying to get our mates to see through the game. Better news next time.

* * *

The Reward of Ability.

It is not in the least surprising to the Socialist that in the rotten system of to-day those with any outstanding ability unless possessed of cunning and business acumen, lay up little for moth and rust to corrupt. Just as the labours of the inventors have mainly benefited those who could financially exploit their ideas, leaving them mostly in the direst poverty, so we find the story re-told in every walk, of life. For over 30 years the late T. E. Dunville, the music-hall comedian, continued to provoke laughter, holding his own, until quite recent time, with every popular star of his day. But fear of a declining popularity and a much reduced salary brought him to a watery grave in despair. (Daily Chronicle, March 24, 24.) As a laughter maker he must have brought fortunes to the music-hall magnates, yet he left behind the paltry sum of £236. (Daily Chronicle, August 11, 1924). How much of the great wealth of the few is coined in the tears and agony of men, women and children of the working class?

* * *

The Artful Dodgers.

Ask the average worker, Do the capitalists as a class work? and he will probably answer: “Well, with their brain.” Karl Marx, in his work, Capital, showed how the reaching of a certain stage of capitalist development relieves the capitalist of his one-time function of directing industry, bringing forward at the same time a special kind of wage labourer whose exclusive function now becomes the work of supervision, management, etc. Capitalists still endeavour to convince the workers that they are indispensable in order to justify their now entirely parasitic part in society. The enormous wealth extorted from the working class demands no service or ability from its receivers; they may be financially interested in dozens of concerns without any personal contact:
  “Colonel Arthur Barhum is director of 62 concerns, Mr. Seymour Berry, J.P., appears as director of 71, while five of the Cory family, partners in Orders & Hansfords, are directors of 136 different companies.” (Directory of Directors.)
Let our so-called business men speak and show how they buy the brains they require like they do raw material.
  “Mr. Eric Gamage, Director and General Manager of A. & W. Gamage, Ltd., says: ‘I never wastĂ© time in doing work other people can do for me equally well.’ Sir Ernest Benn is Managing Director, Benn Brothers, Ltd. ‘These,’ he says, ‘are my rules. I never do a piece of work that can be avoided; I never do anything until I am perfectly sure that no one else is capable of doing it. It is the greatest folly to hug work.’ Sir Charles Wakefield, Director, C. C. Wakefield and Co., Ltd., ‘is emphatic upon the importance of the delegation of duties which it is not necessary he himself should perform. “I must not be interpreted wrongly when I say that I have found the golden rule to be ‘Do no work that you can put on other shoulders”.’ ”—Quoted from “How we get more into the business day,” System, July.).

 * * *

Catching them young.

Outlining the objects of the Boy Scout movement at St. Andrew’s Hall, Glasgow, Gen. Baden Powell said (Observer, June 22, 1924) what was at the root of our troubles to-day was :—
  “Selfishness of class against class, party against party, between employer and employed, and between the rich and the poor; there was continual fighting for self interest, and that was what they were out to combat.”
Which we call, without sentiment, the class struggle. That the object of the Scout movement should be to combat self-interest we never doubted—but in whom? Do the capitalists, who enjoy all the advantages arising from the workers’ efforts, require instruction as to which is the most desirable life, theirs or the workers’? Or will they rather use every effort to subdue self-interest in our class, upon whose docility and submission their privileges are based? The Chief Scout tells us other objects are the stimulation of character, handicraft, and physical health.
  “All three went together, and the fourth was to harness those three points of efficiency to the service of others of the community.”
There you have it. Our masters require patriotic, industrious, and healthy boys, so that when the time arrives they may be efficient in the SERVICE OF OTHERS—in war and peace. Fellow workers, to-day you are notoriously unselfish. When, like your masters, you fight for self-interest through understanding your class position there can only be victory for you and the establishment of Socialism.
W. E. MacHaffie

May Day and the Heritage of the Past (1953)

From the May 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the early years of this century there was a ferment of co-operative ideas in the International Labour Movement that two world wars since appear to have killed. 

In those years mass meetings attended by thousands of workers were held on the 1st of May. At a conference of the 2nd International in 1889 this day was set aside for international demonstrations in favour of the eight-hour day; subsequently they became demonstrations in favour of working class international solidarity and from numerous platforms, attended by crowds in holiday dress complete with the banners of different groups, a varied assortment of speakers delivered passionate orations condemning the actions against strikes, the subjection of nations and groups, and glorifying the martyrdom of individuals. Speakers representing all sorts of groups took part, including Indians, Chinese, Russians and Negroes.

Over the years changing national and internal lineups have so altered the aspect of affairs that the passion of May Day and its misguided hopes have departed. All, all are gone. The story of them must come as a tale from a strange world to the young generation of today. Even the passion that inspired the misguided ranter against wrongs has departed with them, converted into the acceptance of privilege. Impassioned radicals became bulwarks of governments based upon privilege; fiery denouncers of imperialist oppression took their places amongst the privilege supporting a new imperialism in the erstwhile subject nations; bitter spokesmen of subject groups came to the top and in their turn exercised as ruthless an oppression as their privileged forebears. Underneath it all, and cutting across all frontiers as of yore, there still remained the fundamental class cleavage between propertied and propertyless, between the relatively small section of the world's population which occupies the seat of privilege, reaping power, leisure and luxury, and the vast mass which remains the pedestal upon which power and privilege rest; labouring that others may enjoy.

The budding international solidarity of the past has been swallowed up by the armed and antagonistic camps of to-day, but our independent May Day message still remains as urgent and as alive as when it was first delivered, the message of Socialism, the only message of hope, of solidarity, of certainty in a world of hatred, strife and uncertainty.

This message has its roots far back in the past. The germs of communistic ideas go back centuries, but the germs of socialistic ideas, as we know them to-day, were synonymous with the growth of capitalism. Their vague beginnings are to be found amongst a group of French writers who were raising a ferment in the 18th century, when Capitalism was rising to its feet. Borrowing from Hobbes, Locke and their contemporaries, these writers put forward ideas some of which fit the present in spite of their somewhat confused context.

The earliest of these French writers appears to have been Jean Meslier, who, in “The Testament of Jean Meslier," at the beginning of the 18th century, used phrases that sound singularly modern. These are some of his ideas: He was opposed to property, believing in the common control of the wealth of society. He argued that among the evils which oppressed mankind and called for reform the worst was private property. Property meant inequality; Inequality led to injustice and oppression. The rich were respected and honoured, while the poor must toil in neglect. Property was a cause of idleness; the idle rich class found its complement in an idle poor class. This latter class was made up of the unemployed, who, because of the existing system, had nothing to do and were hence in poverty. Cupidity and its attendants, ambition and greed, are the evils in a society based upon property. Property does not unite people; but through jealousy tends to break up social harmony, and hence destroys social unity. Fraud, deception, theft and murder find their cause in property. Society might be happy were goods made common and equality secured. The basis of equality is equality of economic condition.

Later on another writer, Morelly, carried some of the ideas further. He had a definite plan for the future in which each would labour according to his ability and share according to need. He argued that it was not labour but the conditions of labour that people objected to. That there would be no exchange as goods would be stored and distributed according to needs. On property he made the following remarks
  “From the sceptre to the shepherd's crook, from the tiara to the meanest monk's frock, if one asks who governs men, the answer is simple; personal interest or the interest of others which vanity makes one adopt and which is always dependent on the first. But where do these monsters get power? From property.” P. 100-101 “Code de la Nature,” 1755.
He denied the existence of innate ideas as also did his contemporary (Helvétius), who said:
  “The ideas supposed to be innate are those that are familiar to and as it were incorporated with us; they are the effect of education, example, and habit.” P.15 “System of Nature.
Barnave, another of Morelly’s contemporaries, saw a bit farther than the rest. He could see the rise of classes and considered the part which economic changes played in history.

Morelly laid down definite plans for a new social order based on natural rights, the heritage of everyone born into society. There was no room for historical development in the systems of those who thought like him; history and its results had no value. Society did not grow out of the past, the present had to be obliterated root and branch, to make way for the future. This form of thought, together with the revolutionary tradition, dominated radical movements until the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848. Morelly’s merit was that he looked for the cause of social evils in society as organised in his day; the environmental theory later pressed so vigorously by Robert Owen.

The BabuefConspiracy of the Equals" at the end of the French Revolution drew from these early French sources, justifying their rising, like the Trotzkyists, on the ground that the Revolution had got off the track. They advocated the conspiratorial seizure of power.

One of the members of the “Society of Equals" who escaped from France formed the Babouvist movement after the Fall of Napoleon. The object of the movement was to carry on where Babuef had left off. This movement became tied more and more closely to the workers' movement in France, finally becoming a definite working-class party under Blanqui and exercising a considerable influence upon the French risings of February and June, 1848.

In the beginning of the 19th Century the Revolutionary tradition was carried on, associated with the Utopian experiments of Owen, Fourier, Cabet and Weitling, but in a less turbulent fashion than formerly. Weitling studied in Western Germany, where working men’s clubs were being formed for reading and discussion. At these clubs radical literature was available to those who otherwise would not have had the means to obtain it. Weitling had considerable influence on those who founded the “League of the Just”—a secret society with communistic ideas that eventually merged into the Communist League, that published the Communist Manifesto.

In England machine production brought ruin to masses of hand workers and by simplifying productive operations, introduced women and children into factories and mines to work under conditions that were appalling. It was the hand workers who were the prime movers in the revolt against the new world of industry, and who sought a way out of their difficulties; first, by incendiarism and machine breaking, and later by vague visions of some sort of co-operative world based upon small proprietorships.

Some of the earliest reactions to the industrial revolution were political reform associations, the Utopian schemes of Robert Owen, and the land reform ideas of Thomas Spence and William Qgilvie. Owen argued that abundance was the cause of crises and misery. This turned the attention of some writers to an examination of economics. They came to the conclusion that as “labour was the source of all wealth” the labourer was entitled to the fruits of industry. Ricardo's book, “Principles of Political Economy,” published in 1817, established that labour was the source of value and, working on his conclusions, writers like Thompson, Hodgskin and Bray demanded that all products should belong to the labourer.

Under the inspiration of the American War of Independence, a corresponding society was formed in 1780 under the title of “ The Society for Constitutional Information.” Its formation was mainly through the instrumentality of Major Cartwright and Horne Tooke. It had a programme that included the Six Points that later formed the basis of the “People's Charter.” The French Revolution gave a fillip to the movement for reform and corresponding societies sprang up all over the country, engaging in bitter and thinly-veiled attacks on the government. In 1792 the first genuinely working-class movement commenced with the formation of the “London Corresponding Society'' by Thomas Hardy, Robert Boyd and George Walne, holding its first meeting in January of that year. The motto of the Society was “Unite, Persevere and Be Free.” It was formed for the purpose of corresponding with other societies that had the same ends in view. It only lasted a few years and repressive action compelled it to disperse, but agitation continued to simmer, finding expression in various ways, in lectures, Utopian writings, the publication of the “Gorgon,” the first trade union paper, in 1818, and eventually the formation of a new London Corresponding Society, “The London Working Men's Association, in 1836. Members of this Association, such as Lovett, Cleave, Hetherington, Watson, Vincent and Harney, were afterwards active in the Chartist Movement. The Association published an address to Workingmen’s Associations that concluded with the words, “Be assured that the good that is to be must be begun by ourselves.” It also started the practice of sending addresses to working men of different countries, beginning with Belgium in November, 1836. One of its members, Lovett, drafted the “ People’s Charter,” that started the Chartist Movement, and another, Harney, formed the “Fraternal Democrats,” which brought the English movement in contact with the Continental.

In 1848 the genuinely Socialist movement began with the publication of the “Communist Manifesto.” A brief history of the working-class movement from that time onwards will be found in the Introduction to our pamphlet, “The Communist Manifesto and the Last Hundred Years.” An examination of this history will reveal how wayward the movement has been, and how ready to chase after will-o’-the-wisps. But the movement goes on and understanding is growing, although the struggle has been long and die disappointments bitter.

So this May Day we again call attention to the only bright gleam in the heavy clouds that hover over us—our message of hope. The determination to establish a new form of society in which everything that is in and on the earth shall be the common heritage of all mankind; where security, comfort and harmony will be the lot of all. All that is necessary for the establishment of this society is understanding and the will to achieve it.

Slings and Arrows: Time off for Apes! (1953)

The Slings and Arrows column from the May 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Time off for Apes!

So often is man's inhumanity commented upon by critics of the present social system, that it becomes a pleasure—if not a duty—to bring to our readers' attention an incident which will show that the milk of human kindness runs warm in the veins of one man and a great man at that!

We all know that during the late war the efforts of every politician and military leader were devoted to finding the quickest, most efficient and. of course, the cheapest method of killing the greatest number of people in the shortest space of time. The Germans developed flying bombs, rockets, and human incinerators. The Allies added atom bombs. During this destruction and loss of life appeared a light “no bigger than a man’s hand," but nevertheless, still offering hope to suffering humanity. Who was the man who thus illuminated the world, who, while making wonderful speeches and organising battle-fronts where thousands lost their lives, still found time to perform an act of mercy ? None other than Mr. Churchill

The story about to be unfolded will touch the hearts and minds of our readers and if there is a dry eye left when this has been read, there must be harder hearts than we thought possible. On the Rock of Gibraltar depends, to some extent, the safe keeping of sea routes and strategic points for the British Commonwealth. Legend has it that if a certain species inhabiting the Rock were to become extinct, British ownership of Gibraltar would come to an end. In 1943, while Mr. Churchill was convalescing in Morocco after a severe illness, news was brought to him of a startling fall in the population of Gibraltar. In spite of his convalescence, Mr. Churchill was not disposed to view the matter with equanimity. In wartime falls of population were to be expected. But our gallant leader was not to be daunted. He went into action immediately. One can only imagine, for history has not yet recorded, the rolling prose, the fine sounding sentences, with which Mr. Churchill addressed himself to the problem. Within a short time and due to his exertions the situation was rapidly transformed, and readers will be relieved to learn that this species is now flourishing again on the Rock of Gibraltar, and Mr. Churchill is personally informed of any "happy event" that occurs there.

It is good to know that our Mr. Churchill, bowed down, as he was, with cares of State, could take time off to save life—even if it was only that of monkeys! 

* * *

Time off for Mourning

When King George VI passed away, and again on the recent death of Queen Mary, journalists, politicians and the like assured us that it would be in line with the wishes of Their Majesties for us to go on working as usual. It is true, however, that in the case of King George we were expected and, indeed, allowed to take two minutes off to stand in silence on the day of the funeral. We cannot complain. No employer likes giving time off and even though Kings and great men pass away life must go on. But all this takes place in capitalist Britain, and that is all one should reasonably expect

In other lands, however, we are told that “Socialism" exists under a label marked “People’s Democracy." In these lands things are vastly different, as they should be, since Socialism is not Capitalism. When a great man passes “over” in Russia or Czechoslovakia, the obsequies and public mourning are on a much vaster scale. The body of the departed “Father," or, if in a smaller “People’s Democracy," “little father," is embalmed so that not only this, but succeeding generations may gaze upon and contemplate the glory that has departed. If in capitalist London the queue to see the lying-in-state stretches for two miles, in the “Land of Socialism” they stretch for ten. If in capitalist Britain the dead ruler is laid to rest and then almost forgotten, in Russia he is embalmed, canonised, and almost turned into a God . . . But this is not all. In the “land of Socialism" poets compose odes of love and praise to the qualities of the dead man, while in Britain Mr. Pollitt tells us that our eyes are “ dimmed with tears,” and Mr. Campbell in the Daily Worker, rebukes the British Press for not observing the decencies expected when the great ones pass into the Great Beyond.

But of all the distinctions that mark off life here from life in the People’s democracies, one stands out most prominent of all. True that when Stalin and later Gottwald died, we were told that they would have wished the workers to go on working. And so far, it would appear to be no different from capitalist Britain. But, and here is the great distinction, in Moscow and in all the villages and towns of Russia and the “people's democracies" from East Germany to China and Mongolia, every worker was allowed to take time off for mourning to the tune of five minutes. How different from those greedy capitalists of the Western world, who only allowed us two minutes. It's almost worth emigrating for.

* * *

Profound thought dept.

“Raise level of honesty and we can smash crime, says Fyfe” (headline, Evening Standard, 14/3/53). Who would ever have thought of it ? Such genius must obviously be preserved and applied in other spheres. For example, “Raise level of health and smash disease, says Health Minister"; "Raise level of bank balance and smash overdraft, says Bank Manager.” The permutations are inexhaustible and no prizes are offered for any submitted to us.

* * *

“Enough, no more!”

Since the accession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth not a newspaper has been published without some mention of the Queen, her husband, her children and the rest of the Royal Family. Journalists have tripped over each other in their efforts to boost circulation by publishing highly-coloured stories of Royal doings. The articles are written in such obsequiously nauseating terms that one can only turn from them in disgust. No effort is spared to convince everybody that the Queen is the repository of every human virtue, that she smiles, is sad, has dignity and poise, and yet is modern and even advanced. We are told that this will be a new and glorious Elizabethan Era for Great Britain. Playwrights will become Shakespeares, musicians Purcells, and adventurers Drakes or Raleighs.

It would appear, if these scribblers are to be believed, that the Queen has no faults whatsoever. We are not disposed to dispute that assertion. As we are not personally acquainted with Her Majesty we are unable to pass judgment. But now that this publicity is reaching its zenith with the approach of the Coronation, is it too much to ask that it should come to an end ?

So that these Fleet Street hacks may be assured that their message has reached us all we hereby declare that we believe every word they tell us about the Royal Family, that we accept every tale of the indomitable courage with which Her Majesty faces her duties, and that we believe that under the inspiration of the Queen this country will become Glorious again. Having issued that declaration, we hope that these inane drivellings will cease and that journalists will now devote themselves to other and more serious matters, that is, provided always that they are capable of anything other than Society chit-chat

* * *

Threat or Promise?

The Sunday Pictorial (5/4/53) tells us that American scientists are far advanced in experiments which, if successful, will enable men to live for ever. " What could this mean in everyday language?" asks the Pictorial, and proceeds to tell us. “It would mean that outstanding men like Winston Churchill and President Eisenhower could still be conducting affairs on either side of the Atlantic in the year A.D. 2953.” Cripes!

Here at last is what we Socialists have been looking for. Here at last is the short cut to Socialism that we all want. War, poverty, hunger and all the other evils of capitalism do not constitute so telling an indictment as the threat that Eisenhower and Churchill might still be in control in a thousand years' time.

If mankind will not rouse themselves for their own sakes, surely they will hear the cry of generations yet unborn and establish Socialism before it is too late.
S. A.