Thursday, May 20, 2021

Nationalisation or Trust Busting? (1952)

Editorial from the May 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

While capitalism in Britain, Continental countries and the British Dominions has gone in for a certain amount of nationalisation and Russia has carried it to the point where all important industry and about half of agriculture is run under the State, capitalism in America has followed a different policy. In Britain Liberal and Tory governments in the 19th century nationalised telegraphs and telephones when the capitalists as a whole felt their interests adversely affected by those two services being in the hands of private monopolies. For the same reason Gladstone in 1844 was responsible for the first Act giving die government power to nationalise the railways, a power that was not used because the government held that the mere threat of it served to keep the railway directors in check.

In the United States nationalisation has so far made little headway as the capitalists have preferred to use Anti-Trust laws as a means of curbing too-powerful monopolies.

Because of the pre-eminence of the United States in world production and because private capitalism still holds the field there, more than half of world production, transport, etc., is still in the hands of private concerns. This applies to basic industries such as coal, steel, food, rubber, oil, textiles, motor cars, railways, shipping, road transport, telephones and telegraphs, banking, insurance and manufacturing generally.

In the past few years nationalisation has had a certain set-back in a number of countries and British capitalism, following the American example is now experimenting with the Monopolies Commission as a means of checking monopoly; both the Conservatives and the Labour Party being committed to developing this line of attack.

But this does not mean that the Anti-Trust legislation in America has fulfilled the expectations of those who backed it. Loopholes in the law have enabled the big monopolistic group such as the American Telephone and Telegraph company with its concentration of telephone services and the manufacture of equipment, to go on expanding. When an amending bill to the Gayton (Anti-Trust) Act of 1914 was being debated on 15th August, 1949, Congressman Celler, New York, stated that between 1940 and 1947 more than 2,500 formerly independent concerns had disappeared as a result of mergers and acquisitions, and that “two hundred and fifty concerns now control two-thirds of the industrial facilities of the country that were controlled by 15,000 companies before the war.” He added, “The anti-trust laws are a complete bust unless we pass this bill.” (“Labor and the Nation” New York, September-October, 1949.)

Most of the demand for action against the Trusts and for amendments to strengthen the laws comes of course from the small traders and businessmen.

In addition to the Anti-Trust laws the charges that may be made in America by such services as the telephones and telegraphs are subject to regulations issued by the State Utility Commissions and the Federal Communications Commission. If complaint is made that charges are too high these bodies are empowered to investigate whether the companies are making an unduly high profit. The companies may and, of course, do appeal to the Courts against Commission rulings. In 1934 the American Telephone and Telegraph company reported that through adverse court decisions one of its associated telephone companies had the prospect of refunding 20 million dollars to subscribers.

One of the leading anti-trust politicians, Senator Benton, spoke on the Trusts to the Anglo-American Press Association in Paris in November last He maintained that in Britain the electors have had to choose between nationalisation as advocated by the Labour Party and the Conservative policy of leaving industry to private monopoly, and that if American electors had the same choice they “would line up for Government ownership" and that by an overwhelming majority. (Manchester Guardian, 8.11.51.)

He also made the curious suggestion that if Marx were alive today “he would certainly have approved" of American capitalism though not of the “cartel-ridden capitalism of Europe.”

But later on the same Senator Benton charged that the British Imperial Chemical Industries group “has a deal with the DuPont firm not to go into the United States.” (Daily Mail, 22.11.51). As this must be a violation of the American Anti-Trust laws it suggests that the laws are by no means as effective as the Senator believes.

In the meantime the alternative capitalist method of dealing with monopolies by nationalising them is under fire in Great Britain where the Conservative Government, having disowned responsibility for the rise in railway, etc., fares, now professes to discover that under the Act which nationalised the railways the government has no power in the matter of fares except to refer them to the Consultative Committee which can merely make recommendations. A group of Conservative M.P.'s are now therefore proposing an amendment to the Act to enable the government “to put the Transport Commission under more effective Parliamentary control.”

It need only be added that whether nationalisation is carried very far, as in Russia, or much less far as in Britain, or whether the government relies on Anti-Trust laws as in America the state of the mass of the population continues to be that of poverty existing alongside the great wealth and large incomes of the privileged few.

A Philosophical Digression (1952)

From the May 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard
 

Zeno of Elea was an early Greek philosopher who denied the existence of motion. He said that the change and movement going on everywhere was illusory, had no real existence, and he devised some very subtle arguments to try to prove this. One of those “proofs” was that if an arrow is shot from a bow, the arrow must, at every point in the line of flight, occupy space; therefore it is at rest at those points. If it is at rest it can’t be in motion. The Eleatics, the school of philosophy to which Zeno belonged, were the first to question the senses as a reliable source of knowledge, and their arguments prepared the way for the view that only through reason alone could real knowledge be attained.

Readers who haven’t read the philosophers and don’t know the questions they have asked may think it absurd to mistrust the senses. Those readers may say that the philosophers have had a lot to think about and that if they had some practical work to take up their time they wouldn’t be asking such silly questions. There is some truth in this opinion as such questions could only be asked when a leisured class had arisen and had the time to think about them. Taking no part in the practical work of producing society’s needs, these philosophers would exaggerate the part played by reason in the understanding of the world. But those questions and the answers given to them have been steps in the development of human understanding. And those readers who think such questions absurd should note that to-day many scientists claim that the qualities perceived in things, like colour and taste, have no real existence, the real world being a whirling mass of protons and electrons.

Since the days of the Eleatics, succeeding ruling classes, once they had become firmly entrenched as the State power, found the belief that the senses are false witnesses very useful. The subject class or classes may reject this view when it is stated simply and clearly yet accept it when it is applied in particular instances.

For example, in present-day society, the evidence of the senses indicates that the working class are exploited. They are compelled by economic necessity to produce wealth for the capitalist class and receive back insufficient to allow them to live decently, while the capitalist class don’t have to work and yet live in luxury.

Those who wish to preserve capitalist society say it only appears as if the working class are exploited, and, like Zeno, they provide many arguments to attempt to show that appearances are deceptive. They attempt to explain the “seemingly” privileged position of the capitalist class.

They argue that members of the capitalist class work also. This may be true in certain very small concerns, but not for the giant companies which produce most of the wealth in modern society. The shareholders in these companies take no part in production at all.

And it is argued that the large shareholder with investments in dozens of different companies earns his huge dividends because of his organising ability. It is impossible for one man to have the knowledge of the complicated processes involved in running one company, let alone trying to run several. The capitalist class employ workers to do their organising for them and even employ members of the working class to advise them how to invest their money.

Another argument put forward is that the capitalist class are entitled to their large profits because of the risks they take with their investments. What risk is involved buying State bonds? And in these days of “increased” crime is the person who keeps his money at home not taking a bigger risk of losing it? And what about the meagre compensation the working class receive though they risk their lives and health in such industries as mining, transport, etc.

Another aspect of the “risk” argument is that for saving his money and sacrificing present pleasures the capitalist must have some recompense. To talk of the Rothschilds, the Ellermans or the Nuffields foregoing pleasures because of their investments is absurd. Again to abstain from the pleasures of present spending is to indulge in the pleasure of making more money for future spending.

The capitalist class also claim that by investing their wealth they provide the working class with the means to live. Many a black page has been written describing how the rising capitalist class dispossessed the majority of the population of the means to live. The capitalist class invest their money to procure profit. They buy the workers' physical and mental energies by the week or the month and after the workers have used their energies for the specified period producing wealth for the capitalist class they receive back just sufficient to enable them to live. The difference between what the worker produces and what he receives is the source of the capitalists' wealth and is the object of the whole process.

The senses do provide dependable information, but the arguments based on it by the supporters of Capitalism are deceptive.

Man evolved from some ape-like ancestor between one million and 500,000 years ago and his survival is proof that the senses are reliable. Millions of years before man's arrival on earth other living things not endowed with the faculty of abstract thought existed depending on their senses. Many of these species are still in existence.

Reason, though it can be deceptive, does provide true knowledge when it interprets sense-experience accurately. But reason is often led astray by overlooking certain facts because of prejudice or through not being acquainted with a sufficient number of facts. And reason is also limited by the circumstances of the time. Just as the telescope and the microscope extended the range of the senses so the new facts brought to light enlarged our ideas and increased our understanding, and the only way that reason can be trusted to give accurate information is if it is continually tested by the evidence of the senses.
J. T.

The Problem of Distribution (1952)

From the May 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The increase of unemployment, particularly in the textile industries, has once again raised the problem of distribution. Workers are unemployed in the textile industries because their employers cannot sell for a profit all the goods which their employees have produced.

This is not a new phenomenon, but since the end of the second world war it has up to quite recently been fairly easy for any capitalist organisation to dispose of the commodities they own. The S.P.G.B. has on many occasions pointed out that the absence of large-scale unemployment in this country since the second world war was not due to the late Labour Government. It has been largely due to the fact that such a large number of goods were required to make up for the low production of civil goods during the war years, and the need for new plant, equipment, factories, etc. When the war ended nearly everything was in short supply, about the only thing which was plentiful were the promises of the politicians.

Now, however, certain industries have produced a surplus of goods, that is, the supply is greater than the demand. This does not mean that more goods are produced than are required or needed, but that more goods have been produced than can be sold for the time being at a profit. It is only the rearmament programme which has prevented this happening in many other industries.

It must be recognised that under Capitalism the worker always faces the threat of war or large-scale unemployment. In a lifetime one usually gets a taste of both.

It has been shown once again that the capitalist method of production is capable of producing a surplus of certain goods. The problem once more arises as to how to dispose of this surplus. We know that in the past production was cut, the surplus of goods gradually disappeared and when the demand became greater than the supply then production went forward once again.

It is a short statement "that production was cut.” But it would take many pages to describe what it meant to the worker and his family to be unemployed. Surely the working class have learnt something since the 1930’s, then large-scale unemployment and war—and now, both are seen once more in the distance getting more threatening all the time.

Yet there is a way out. The socialist knows the answer. It needs, however, a majority of the population to take the necessary action. The socialist spends time and energy propagating the socialist case because he knows that unless the majority of people understand and take the necessary action, he can, by himself, do nothing to end the present state of affairs.

With the wages system there is bound to be sooner or later a surplus of certain goods, the supply becomes greater than the demand. (Always remember that demand depends on the ability to pay.)

Certain supporters of the capitalist system believe that this can be partly overcome by a national minimum wage. They argue that if the workers had higher wages they would be able to buy the goods which the capitalists were unable to sell. The Beaverbrook press, for example, often puts this or similar ideas. They show a lack of knowledge as to how wages are determined and of the nature of crises which occur under capitalism.

When supply is greater than demand the only thing the capitalist can do is to cut production. We, however, are not concerned with the problems of the capitalist class. Their problem is to sell at a profit, our problem is to obtain the things we need.

The solution for the working class is the abolition of production for profit. Production solely for use is the answer.

With production for use a surplus would only arise when mankind’s needs of a particular article was satisfied. When this situation arose production of the articles in which a surplus had accrued would be cut. The matter would be decided by the whole of society. Unemployment would not occur.

Unemployment is only a problem to the wage worker. A capitalist who does no work does not worry over the fact that he does not receive a wage nor does he consider himself as unemployed.

The division of labour in the capitalist system, whereby a worker is often skilled at only one particular job, would change as Socialism progressed. That is after Socialism had been established and a period allowed for a sufficiency of goods to be produced. Men and women would have a greater opportunity to change and vary the nature of their work. At the present time this is seldom possible without considerable hardship and privation.

Social production with private ownership can never provide for the needs of man. The wages system always prevents the distribution of goods, for demand is restricted by the ability to pay. Social production with common ownership is the only way in which distribution can be arranged to satisfy mankind. It is the establishment of common ownership of the means of production and distribution which the S.P.G.B. is striving to obtain.
D. W. Lock

Carry On Up the SPGB. (1952)

Excuse my jokey self-indulgence but this wee notice from the back pages of the May 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard caught my eye. 

Of course a public political meeting in 1952 entitled "Sin & Sex" would have drawn in a bigger than usual crowd. I bet Fulham Branch didn't have to turn people away from their public meeting at the same venue the following week because of lack of space: that meeting was entitled "Geography and its Effects Upon History".

I also love that they retitled the "Sin & Sex" meeting to the more mundane "Socialism and Human Nature". That was one way of ensuring that the more prurient - but less political - proletarian didn't turn up for the follow up meeting. 




Why Socialists Oppose Nationalisation. (1924)

From the November 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Case Against Government Ownership.
The Socialist propagandist is frequently asked by opponents, and by those who sympathise but are only slightly acquainted with the Socialist case, to defend “Nationalisation.” It is usually with surprise that the enquirer learns that the Socialist Party is not in favour of, but opposed to, the many forms of State or Municipal ownership.

While a few Conservatives, considerable numbers of Liberals, the bulk of the Labour Party, and the I.L.P. are advocates of Nationalisation, the Socialist Party does not hold that the workers can usefully support this demand. Our general reason is one that lies at the back of all our principles, that is, that Nationalisation will not benefit the workers. It is a matter of complete indifference to us whether this or any other proposal is, or is not, useful to the other class, the employers.

What, then, is Nationalisation? Let us take the mining industry as an illustration. At present certain moneyed people, capitalists, invest part of their capital in the lease of coal-bearing soil, machinery, etc., and use part in employing miners and clerks and managers to carry on the various processes connected with the hewing, hauling, sale, and distribution of coal. After they have paid wages and all expenses, they expect to, and actually do, receive in the price of their coal, an amount greater than the total they have spent on getting and selling it. The difference between income and expenditure goes into the pockets of the shareholders or owners as profits or dividends, and this happens irrespective of whether those shareholders have or have not any knowledge of coal-getting, and irrespective of whether they spend the whole of their time idling and enjoying themselves, or whether they take an active interest in the concern in which their money is invested. Generally speaking, the amount of their profits depends not on their own efforts, but on the amount of capital they happen to possess.

This is the normal organisation of the capitalist system in its undeveloped or “competitive” stage, and it is objected to by us and by the advocates of Nationalisation. The agreement between us, however, does not go very far. We object to the control of the means of life being in the hands of non-workers. We object to the owners of capital being permitted to consume part of the wealth the workers have produced while they take no active part in production themselves. We hold that society can now dispense with the capitalist class, because they no longer perform any function which cannot be performed at least as well by members of the working class, by which we mean all those people who, because they do not possess property, are compelled to offer their services to those who do. We do not regard the investment of capital as a service which entitles the owner to live at the expense of those who do the work. We therefore advocate Socialism, which is a social system in which every able-bodied person will be expected to engage in wealth production before he earns the right to enjoy the use of those things which society can provide for its members. Society itself will set aside wealth in the form of machinery, etc., for the purpose of future production, instead of paying a privileged class for permission to use the results of the workers’ past labour, as is done at present. The capitalist class will cease to exist.

This is Socialism, but it is not Nationalisation. Nationalisation, or Municipalisation, is said to exist when the State or some local authority takes over or initiates an undertaking instead of leaving it in the hands of any capitalist or group of capitalists who choose to invest their money in it. Thus the railways in Germany, the Post Office and Telegraphs in Great Britain, and butchers shops, sawmills, and other concerns under Labour Governments in Australia, are nationalised. This development is a natural successor in certain industries to the early competitive stage of capitalism. For instance, the overwhelming importance to a great trading nation of efficient means of communication and transport makes it imperative that private individuals shall not be entitled to act quite irresponsibly. The result of leaving such industries in individual hands would have been a chaotic lack of organisation which, while profitable enough to the owners, would have been fatal to those industries which needed cheap and, above all, dependable and widespread transport services. In self-interest, therefore, the capitalist class as a whole, through their Governments, had to step in and either take over, or at least control, those services which had become too big and important to be left in individual hands without grave danger to the stability without which trade would be impossible. There may, of course, be other reasons for the introduction of national control. Bismarck took over the German railways partly for military purposes, partly in order to have a source of income outside the control of the German Parliament, and lastly because he hoped with centralised control to be able to deal more effectively with any attempted insurrection by the German workers. He and other Continental Ministers have used bureaucratic control to stamp out Socialist propaganda by penalising the active workers, and by denying State employees ordinary political rights. In France, State employees, like those in most Continental State concerns, have been denied the right to organise or to strike, and have been compelled to carry on blackleg services by the simple device of calling them to the colours. Sometimes in wartime and only during that emergency it becomes imperative for other industries temporarily to be put under the sole control of the Government. This happened here during the last war.

Again, it may happen that, owing to changed world conditions, new inventions or some such reason, a powerful group of capitalists may be faced with the threatened loss of the whole capital invested in an industry, as might happen, for instance, if oil fuel completely replaced coal. In such circumstances thé owners, if powerful enough, would become enthusiastic supporters of Nationalisation, in the hope that they might get compensation and pass their losses on to the State. A circular recently issued by a firm of Leicester stockbrokers to their clients, explaining why they favoured Nationalisation of the mines, may very well be dictated by a fear of this kind. (See August issue.)

There is yet another frequent explanation of capitalist enthusiasm for State control. La Follette, who is running as Third Party candidate for the U.S.A. Presidency, is an old-fashioned representative of capitalist interests who regards trusts and combines as a departure from the early “purity” of the capitalist system, and he wants the Government to intervene and, if necessary, take over certain vital industries. He is getting quite an unexpected amount of support from a host of small capitalists, manufacturers, farmers, etc., who are being slowly throttled by the banking, railway, and other rings, and who wish to put back the economic development of society. In this country we have Mr. Clynes, who believes, like La Follette, that it is better to have a large number of small capitalists than a small number of large capitalists. (Preface to the “Failure of Karl Marx.”)

Now, if you examine all the schemes put forward by these various advocates of Nationalisation you will see why it is that the Socialist opposes them. They all of them perpetuate the very feature which is essential to capitalism and which leads us to seek the abolition of the system. We do not hold that capitalism would be all right if only profits were limited to 5 per cent. or 1 per cent., or that it would be all right if trusts were abolished or prevented from charging high prices. We know very well that it is the system itself which is the cause of the chief economic evils from which the workers suffer, and these were as bad, and in some respects far worse, before trusts and combines had been heard of. We do not share the pathetic belief of the “Daily Herald” in 1923 (November 12th, 1923, and following days) that capitalism would be all right and there would be no unemployment if only wages were higher. Their unfortunate example was America, but we learn from the “Daily Herald” of October 23rd that there are now more than 5,000,000 unemployed in that country in spite of “high wages.” For the Socialist, capitalism is the enemy; not big capitalists or little capitalists, not high wages or low wages, not efficient or inefficient capitalism, but simply capitalism. And the essential feature of capitalism is reproduced in all these nationalisation proposals. IN ALL OF THEM THE CAPITALIST INVESTOR IS STILL GOING TO BE ALLOWED TO LIVE ON THE PROCEEDS OF HIS INVESTMENT. The only difference—a minor one—is that he will receive interest on Government or Municipal Bonds instead of receiving profits or dividends on ordinary company shares. He will still be able to live without working, and the system which permits this will still be the capitalist system.

The main underlying cause of the worker’s poverty is the private ownership of the means of producing material wealth. The class that lives by owning, maintains its position because it controls the political machinery and can invoke the aid of the armed forces whenever necessary. The remedy can only be the abolition of private ownership, and this can be done only in face of the opposition of the present owners. Examine Nationalisation proposals on these three claims : (1) That it solves the whole problem. (2 That it improves the workers’ position within the present system. (3) That is makes the final solution easier than it would otherwise be.

The “Daily Herald” (July 27th, 1923), under the heading “Socialism at Work,” instanced the Port of London Authority as a Socialist success. “… What Socialists propose is to set up other bodies like this very enterprising and energetic Port of London Authority.” It has on other occasions mentioned in the same connection the Post Office, and Municipal tramways, electricity undertakings, etc. Now, are these things Socialism, or do they as Socialists contend, merely alter superficially the form of the capitalist system?

First, let us take Mr. Herbert Morrison, Secretary of the London Labour Party.
  “The Port of London Authority was established by Mr. Lloyd George some years ago to enable the capitalists of the Port to have the advantages of public credit and to do for themselves collectively what they and a number of private companies had been unable to do with success individually. . . . The Port of London Authority is a capitalistic Soviet . . . the constitution of which is thoroughly objectionable from the Labour and Socialist point of view, and which has certainly not been as friendly to the workers of the Port of London as it might have been” (“Daily Herald,” July 30th, 1923).
The last remark refers, of course, to the many strikes to enforce better working conditions. We do not care to question the “Herald’s” assertion that “By the unanimous admission of the capitalist Press it works exceedingly well.” It is, however, sufficient to say that the capitalist Press does not usually describe in these terms anything which is likely to benefit the workers at the expense of their employers. Next, I am going to quote another Labour supporter, Mr. G. T. Sadler, LL.B., writing in the “Herald” on the subject of the capitalist nature of Municipal undertakings (April 2nd, 1924) :—
  “Many socialists have the idea that by municipalisation they can get rid of capitalists. May I remind such that by municipalisation you create State capitalists? This process has been long going on in all our chief towns. Take a few examples— 
The debt of—
L.C.C. £105,000,000
Lincoln £1,667,000
Liverpool £22,000,000
Manchester £31,000,000
Leicester £4,995,000 
“On all this interest is paid, say, 5 or 4 or less per cent.—to capitalists ! ”
Mr. Sadler is wrong in only one respect—in thinking that Socialists share this Labour Party idea.

To show how completely many critics of the capitalist system miss the really vital feature is well illustrated by another reform of capitalism advocated by the Labour Party. In the “Daily Herald” (October 20th, 1924), Mr. Emil Davies has an article in which he holds up for the imitation of English workers a milk-distributing co-operative society formed four years ago in Minneapolis. He says : “Those who produce and those who distribute the necessaries of life” will, in the co-operative commonwealth, “not be the wage slaves of people who allow the real workers a mere subsistence, and themselves take large profits which enable them to live in luxury.” He then goes on to tell us that this concern, employing only 400 workers, actually made £40,000 profit last year ! He admits that the workers who formed it could raise only trifling amounts of capital themselves, and it was to outsiders that they had to go to start the business. Thus they began operations with promises and actual investments totalling £23,000, and it is of course mainly to these investors that the profit goes. If this instance of intensive exploitation were really what Socialists aim at, the workers might justly detest the name of Socialism. In fact, co-operative capitalism is open to the same criticism as State capitalism or any other variant of the wages system. And. as Mr. J. A. Spender, the Liberal economist, correctly says, “the MacDonald-Webb School of Socialists . . . would disown the Marxian doctrine. . . . These men have no economic doctrine about wealth or its distribution between classes, and are more correctly called State-capitalists than Socialists” (“Weekly Westminster,” October 25th, 1924).

Even the “Herald” has been compelled on occasion to see the weakness of its own party’s position when some particularly flagrant case has come to its notice. Thus in an Editorial of April 12th, 1924, we find the following :—
  “We do not believe that there is any fundamental distinction so long as the wage system exists, between the relationship of a private employer to his workers and the relationship of a municipality or State to its workers. In each case the latter sell their labour-power, and their capacity to sell it at a fair price depends on their capacity, through their trade unions to refuse to work.”
This brings us to the second argument in favour of Nationalisation, i.e., that it improved the position of the worker within capitalism. The “Herald,” in April, 1924, thinks that it makes but little difference, and we are all familiar with the poverty and discontent among postal employees, who complain, moreover, that the Labour Government has been not better, but worse, in respect of the restrictions imposed upon Civil Servants in their political activities. There is no evidence that State employees in Germany or under Australian Labour Governments have been better off than workers in private employ doing similar work. And if, as the “Daily Herald” points out, “the price of Nationalisation were the giving up of the weapon of self-protection” (the strike), then “under capitalism a nationalised industry would actually be worse off than those left in private hands” (September 13th, 1922). Lest it be thought that there is no possibility of this right being denied, it is as well to remember that the Court of Enquiry set up by the Labour Government after the London Traffic Strike (“Daily Herald,” April 12th, 1924) recommended that there should be compulsory arbitration, which, as the Editor said, meant in practice the taking away of the right to strike. This report was signed by the Labour representative, Mr. Pugh.

There still remains the argument that Nationalisation is economically desirable because it paves the way for Socialism. If it is merely size that counts, then this argument obviously fails, because the trust has solved the problem of large-scale organisation, and in many industries the international combine has been organised across State boundaries and over a larger field than any single Government can possibly cover. Cotton and oil are instances of this. Further, from the point of view of the future, State enterprises are economically bad, because they often introduce political considerations which are less likely in the trust. As pointed out above, Bismarck, when he took over and extended Prussian railways, was influenced largely by purely military needs and not only by the question of providing an efficient means for the transport of goods. In short, the technical and organisational basis of Socialism has long been prepared, and there is no need for half-way houses. The problem before us is solely one of propagating Socialism, no less in States like Queensland, with its ten years of Labour Government, and countries with a relatively high proportion of nationalised industries, than in countries where competitive capitalism is still strong. The private property of the capitalists, which is what we desire to take for society, cannot be touched until the workers as a whole will back up such a step. Advocating Nationalisation within the capitalist system is unnecessary, because the pressure of their own problems will force the capitalists to do this in suitable industries, and its advocacy is injurious to workers because it obscures the real aim and delays its realisation.
Edgar Hardcastle

Correspondence. (1924)

From the November 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

Thompson (Hull). The evidence for our statement of the decline of Communist membership is contained in the organ of the Communist International—“The International Press Correspondence” (August 12th, 1924). The report of C.P. of G B. membership is given as 5,116 at date of 4th International Congress, and 3,000 at date of 5th Congress (1924).

John Jacob (Alberta), F. Goulding (Manor Park), F. L. Remington (Leicester), G. F. Foster (North London)—replies will appear next issue.

Five Penny Pamphlets. A Review. (1924)

Pamphlets Review from the November 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

Of these, one, The Condition of the English Working Classes contains some really useful information for the Socialist. The conclusion drawn from the full particulars of money-wages, prices, and unemployment since 1900 is that there has been “from 1900 onwards, a steady lowering of the standard of life to the working classes.” An attempt is also made to estimate the effect produced by the payment of unemployment benefit.

The others, while carefully prepared, were intended chiefly for the defence of the Labour Government at the Election, and are a typical product of the disgruntled Liberal now so common in the Labour Party, the kind of people once happily described by the “Morning Post” as “Bourgeois turned sour.”

The “British Bondholders” after pointing out that the bondholders “are not the working class,” asks the workers to support the Russian Treaty, which is to force payment of interest to bondholders on old loans, and arrange a new loan on which more interest will be paid to bondholders.

Why a Treaty with Soviet Russia?” instead of explaining why some capitalist interests support and others oppose the Russian Treaty, is based on the simple and misleading statement that “The capitalists hate Soviet Russia.” It contains a summary of the relations between the British and Russian Governments since 1905.

Facts about the Combines” and “Who Keeps Prices High?” contain figures about the profits, and facts about the organisation, of several big trusts. They both argue in the style of the old Liberals, that capitalism would be all right if it were not for the wicked trusts which keep prices high. “Under these trusts in the last twenty-four years the condition of the working classes has become worse and worse; if the condition of the workers is to improve it will only be after they have broken the power of the capitalists who control these trusts.” One might suppose that before trusts were heard of, back in the middle of the nineteenth century, the working class (Who are these working classes?) were doing very well, instead of being actually in the same position as they are now.

These are obtainable from the Labour Research Department, 162, Buckingham Palace Road, S.W.1.
Edgar Hardcastle

Socialism and Religion. Reply to a Vicar. (1924)

From the November 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Reply to a Vicar's attack upon our pamphlet.
  The Vicar of Watford (Herts) recently took it into his head to attack Socialism, taking as his text our pamphlet “Socialism and Religion.” A member of our Watford Branch sent a reply to the Vicar for insertion in the “West Herts Post” (the paper reporting the Vicar’s address), but this paper could not find space for it. 
   The local Labour Party were highly indignant at the attitude taken up by the Vicar, and spared no pains in the endeavour to prove that “Socialism” and “Christianity” were practically synonymous terms. They imported an East End parson to defend them against the imputation of supporting anti-Christian doctrines, and even threatened to secure the aid of the Bishop of St. Albans. 
  As the matter may perhaps be of general interest we print below the letter rejected by the “West Herts Post.”—Editorial Committee, S.S.
Under the above title the “West Herts Post” for September 25th reports an address delivered at the Watford Parish Church by the Rev. Henry Edwards, the Vicar of Watford.

In this address a pamphlet entitled “Socialism and Religion,” published by the Socialist Party of Great Britain (of which I am a member); was attacked by the Vicar, and is the immediate reason for the following criticism of his address.
In his address the Vicar claims that:

Religion is the true remedy for the ills of humanity ;

The Church is just as keen as Socialism to see a better state of things;

The working men of to-day owe to Christianity their freedom, homes, education’ and hospitals ;

Socialism is essentially immoral and advocates free-love.
The word “Religion,” as used by the Vicar, is rather confusing. The religions of the world are countless, and each sect claims that it alone holds the true philosophy of life. I take it, however, that the Vicar is not speaking on behalf of Mohammedanism, Buddhism, or Shintoism, for instance, but only on behalf of the Christian Church. I will therefore confine my remarks to the attitude and activities of this Church.

Christianity and the Workers.

The Church has enjoyed for centuries a power over the affairs of men unparalleled by any other single organisation. During part of the time it was the largest land-owner in the world, owning one-third of the entire land of Europe and controlling the bulk of the educational facilities. This period is familiarly known as the “Dark Ages,” when persecution was rife, knowledge languished and almost died, and the poor suffered from oppressive and barbarous regulations. The Church taught but little beyond the singing of hymns, the saying of prayers, and the belief in miracles. Every step made by science then, and since, has been in spite of, and in face of, the bitter opposition of the Church. Galileo was persecuted by the Church for his scientific discoveries, and only saved himself from torture and death by recanting. Giordano Bruno was burnt for teaching that the earth goes round the sun.

From the time it became a State religion until the present day Christianity has supported the oppressors against the oppressed. The barbarities of the pagan empires were outdone by the barbarities perpetrated after Christianity became the ruling religion in the Roman Empire. The subsequent history contains records of vice on the part of the clergy that would be difficult to equal, as anyone can verify by looking into “The Life and Times of Machiavelli,” by Villari, or, better still, the book the Vicar recommends us to read, “The History of European Morals,” by Lecky. Lecky’s book contains multitudes of illustrations of murder, rape, and other crimes committed by the leading figures in the Church. For instance, on page 261 of Vol. II he points out that Constantine, shortly after his conversion to Christianity, put to a violent death his son, his nephew, and his wife.

The doctrines taught by Christianity are slavish and calculated to make the slave satisfied with his oppressed condition. On this point let me quote Lecky again :—
  “Slavery was distinctly and formally recognised by Christianity, and no religion ever laboured more to encourage a habit of docility and passive obedience.” (Page 66, Vol. II.)
  
  “Christianity for the first time gave the servile virtues the foremost place in the moral type.” (Page 68, Vol. II.)
Are not “docility” and “passive obedience” the ideas most opposed to working class improvement? As long as slaves are satisfied with their lot they will submit to wage reductions and all the other oppressive conditions imposed by their masters. Acting on these ideas, the workers would not have gained the limited advantages they now possess, such as Trade Union combination, factory regulations, “limitations” of the hours of labour, and the suffrage. All these, as a matter of fact, have been obtained against the opposition of the Church.

Christianity is, therefore, proved by its own supporters (Lecky was a Protestant) to be a religion favouring the continuance of slavery.

The Church of England itself has little of which to boast. It was the offspring of the Reformation movement. The Roman Catholic religion, with its numerous holidays, feastings, and taxations for religious purposes, stood in the way of the free exploitation of the workers by the rising commercial magnates of the time. After the Reformation the holidays and feast days were abolished, the workers were driven off the green fields into the factory hells, and their fearful sufferings there—under the control of Christian employers, backed up by Christian clergy—have been recorded on many a burning page in books written by Christian and non-Christian writers. The reports of factory inspectors, Shaftesbury’s “Diary,” Gaskell’s “Machine and Industry,” Gibbin’sIndustrial History of England,” and a host of other books provide illustrations of the depth of brutality Bright, Cobden, and other Christian employers of the time, sank to in their lust after profit.

Martin Luther, the leading figure in the Reformation movement, hated the peasants, the poor people of his time, and supported the savage repression exercised by the feudal lords of Germany. He is reported to have written the following exhortation :—
  “Crush them, strangle them, and pierce them, in secret and in the sight of men, he who can even as one would strike dead a mad dog.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th Ed. article Luther.)
That his suggestion was faithfully carried out appears probable, as the ”Harmsworth Encyclop√¶dia” states that 130,000 peasants were slaughtered during, and immediately after, the revolt (page 4623, Vol. VI).

Religion and Slavery.
The Vicar quotes Wilberforce as an example of the Church’s work for freedom, but what was Wilberforce’s attitude towards the oppressed?

In the period following the Battle of Waterloo, when industry was changing over from hand work to machine work, children from six years of age and upwards were employed for long hours in factories, and girls and boys were working up to sixteen hours a day in coal mines. Wilberforce was deaf to all appeals for assistance on their behalf, and used his influence to support the Government in savage acts of repression against the overworked and starving workers. In 1818, when a peaceful meeting of working men assembled at Peterloo to protest against oppressive regulations, a body of militia set upon them and massacred numbers. Wilberforce opposed any enquiry into the matter, and, in the same year, voted £1,000,000 to build new churches ! (See “John o’ London’s Weekly,” September 6th, 1924, and also the “Diary” of Lord Shaftesbury.)

Lord Shaftesbury struggled for years to interest influential people in the terrible plight of factory children, but he failed to enlist the Church in the support of factory legislation. Those who shed tears over the condition of the black slaves in far-away America were blind to the anguish of the tiny white slaves at their door. Here is a brief extract from Hodder’s “Life of Lord Shaftesbury,” which will give a faint idea of the horrors prevailing at the time in the coal mines of this Christian country :—
  “A very large proportion of the workers underground were less than thirteen years of age ; some of them began to toil in the pits when only four or five; many when between six and seven, and the majority when not over eight or nine—females as well as males. . . .
 
  “From the time the first coal was brought forward in the morning, until the last whirley had passed at night, that is to say for twelve or fourteen hours a day, the trapper was at his monotonous, deadening work. . . . Except on Sunday, they never saw the sun. . . .

  “It sometimes happened that the children employed in the mines were required to work ‘double shifts,’ that is to say, thirty-six hours continuously, and the work thus cruelly protracted consisted, not in tending self-acting machinery, but in the heaviest kinds of bodily fatigue, such as pushing loaded waggons.” (Pages 221-222.)
Shaftesbury complains bitterly of the indifference of the clergy to the children’s sufferings. In his diary he makes the following remarks on the clergy :—
  “I find as usual, the clergy are, in many cases, frigid ; in some few, hostile. So it has ever been with me. At first I could get none; at last I have obtained a few, but how miserable a proportion of the entire class ! The ecclesiastics, as a mass, are, perhaps, as good as they can be under any institution of things where human nature can have full swing ; but they are timid, time-serving, and great worshippers of wealth and power. I can scarcely remember an instance in which a clergyman has been found to maintain the cause of labourers in the face of pew-holders.” (Hodder’s “Life,” page 378.)
I may add that Wilberforce and other Church dignitaries who were so concerned about negro slavery raised not a murmur about the indentured white labour, which was equally as bad, if not worse, that flourished in America at the same time.

Religion and Patriotism.
The Vicar urges patriotism, and blames Socialism for being unpatriotic. We had a good illustration of the patriotism of Christianity during the war. The Christian Churches of Germany blessed the arms of the German soldiers and wished the soldiers success in their endeavour to murder their fellow-beings of other lands. The Christian Churches of England likewise blessed the English soldier and prayed that he would be successful in the slaughter. Incidentally, I may mention that the English Church had thousands of pounds invested in War Loan ! The patriotism of the Church has been dealt with by Lecky as follows :—
  “Much misapplied learning has been employed in endeavouring to extract from the Fathers a consistent doctrine concerning the relations of subjects to their sovereigns; but every impartial observer may discover that the principle on which they acted was exceedingly simple. When a sovereign was sufficiently orthodox in his opinions, and sufficiently zealous in patronising the Church and persecuting the heretics, he was extolled as an angel. When his policy was opposed to the Church he was represented as a demon.” (History of European Morals, page 261, Vol. II.)
The financial interests of the Church are bound up with the continuance of the present system of profit-making. It has millions of pounds invested in railway and other securities, from which it draws dividends, so that it stands to workers in the relation of an employer to the employed. As such, therefore, it is in favour of wage slavery and against its abolition.

Religion and Education.
And now a few words on Education.

Christianity has been the prevailing religion among Western nations for two thousand years, and yet educational facilities were not provided for the mass of the people until comparatively recently. Every step in education has been opposed by the Church. It was “infidels” like Robert Owen and William Lovett who pressed forward the movement for elementary education, and the Church flung the same charge—“immorality”—against Owen that it has flung against every innovator. When National School Boards were established, the Church saw that its resistance was futile, so the clergy fought for control of the School Boards in order that religious teaching should occupy the main part of the curriculum.

Pestalozzi, who has been called the “Founder of the Elementary School,” met with opposition and indifference in his attempt to spread education among the poor. His biographer, Gabriel Compayre, writes :
 “In every time and country, fanatics have been found to decry innovators. He was accused of countenancing anti-Christian doctrines. . . Those of his colleagues who had remained orthodox Protestants were the first to cast stones at him.” (Peslatozzi and Elementary Education, page 57.)
Religion and Family Life.
The Vicar contends that the coming of Socialism will bring immorality and destroy family life. There is no need to look into the future, the evil is here in our midst to-day, and the source of the evils is the system in which we live. The introduction of the factory system long ago dragged the father, mother, and children from the home and set them in competition with each other in industry.

The streets of every large town in this country are thronged with women who are compelled to barter their bodies in exchange for bread. They must live, and the avenues of employment are already thronged to overflow with the unsuccessful. When women are assured of their bread they will be able to spend their affections freely upon those they love, and some of them will not have to adopt the sordid refuge of the streets. But it is not only on the streets that bodies are bought. The woman that enters into a loveless marriage, in order to obtain security of livelihood, is just as much a prostitute as her sister of the streets, the only difference of account being that one sells herself for a short while and the other does so for life. The boasted morality of to-day is a sham, as the ugly facts published in the divorce columns of the daily papers bear eloquent witness.

How much home life does the average worker get? In many instances the whole family are out at work all day trying to obtain the wherewithal to keep a roof over their heads. Their home is more of a sleeping and meal-snatching place than anything else. Overwork makes them irritable with each other, and the time they have together is too brief to enable them to thoroughly understand one another. Trying to make the meagre wages cover the needs of the family, crabs and twists the minds of all. Finally, it is surely idle to speak of home life to working people nowadays, when multitudes of them cannot even find, or pay the rent of, houses to live in, and have to pack themselves into rooms under unhealthy conditions and with the fear of eviction from even these poor shelters constantly haunting them.

Religion and Submission.
That the virtues extolled by Christianity are the virtues of submission is borne out by the statements of the Founder Himself. In his celebrated “Sermon on the Mount” Christ says :—
“ Blessed are the poor in spirit. . . .
“ Blessed are the meek. . . .
“ Blessed are they that mourn. . . .
“ Blessed are the peacemakers. …”
The following out of these ideals is a passive submission to the misery and oppression of this world for the sake of the happiness to be enjoyed in a mythical world hereafter. The true Christian is exhorted to “Resist not evil,” and, therefore, must not take any action to alter the existing order of society, in which the workers are a class of poor and oppressed slaves, subject to the laws and whims of a profit-seeking class of employers.

Socialism aims at taking from the masters the power they wield and the wealth they have stolen. Its object is to raise the workers from slaves to freemen. It is therefore opposed to Christianity.

I have now shown, by a few illustrations out of the multitudes that exist, that the ideals and attitude of the Church were, and are, opposed to the interests of the workers. Any real advance the workers make will have to be made, now as in the past, against the opposition of the Church. If the workers would cast off the chains of wage slavery, then they must cast off the slavish doctrines of Christianity, which counsel them to love, honour, and obey those who oppress them.
G. McClatchie

Labour and Value. Harold Cox on Karl Marx. (1924)

From the November 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent (Francis H. Napier) takes exception to Mr. Harold Cox’s criticisms of the Labour Theory of Value expounded by Marx. He quotes from a series of “Daily Mail” articles by Mr. Cox as follows :—
  “… many socialists . . . even when admitting that the greater part of modern wealth is created by the machine and not by the men will try to wriggle out of the consequences of that fact by arguing that the machine itself is the product of labour, and therefore anything that it produces ought to belong to labour. This very common Socialist contention ignores the fact that the workpeople who produced the machine were all paid for the work they did. Some of them may have been underpaid; some may have been overpaid; but they all received payment. They are not entitled subsequently to claim that the machine is theirs.”
Mr. Napier correctly points out that in admitting that the machine was produced by labour, Harold Cox is also admitting the accuracy of the statement that wealth is produced by labour; but both Mr. Napier and Harold Cox misrepresent Marx in suggesting that he made this the basis of a moral claim for the labourer of the full value produced. Mr. Cox, of course, is very well aware that Marx made no such claim. We cannot deal with that point here, but with regard to the question of payment for work done it must be quite apparent that if the workers did receive the full value of the machines produced by them, then the machines, or their equivalent, would belong to the workers after the work was finished, and there would be no surplus to go as profits to the employer. That profit represents the difference between the value of the product and the value of the workers’ labour-power. The workers do receive the value of their labour-power, their wages, but they do not receive the full value of their product.

Mr. Napier goes on to ask if it is correct, as Harold Cox says, that Socialists argue that “value . . . merely depends upon the amount of labour.” He states that he was not aware that Socialists held this view, “but rather that the value of the commodity was determined by its cost of production.”

Mr. Napier has fallen into an error here through a confusion as to the meaning of terms. When Marx speaks of “cost of production” he means its cost in labour, not the cost to the manufacturer of materials, wages, etc.

Marx deals plainly and simply with this subject in “Value, Price, and Profit” (chapter 6). He writes as follows: “The relative values of commodities are, therefore, determined by the respective quantities or amounts of labour, worked up, realised, fixed in them” ; and again, “The greatness of its value . . . depends . . . on the relative mass of labour necessary for its production.”

Mr. Napier quotes further from Harold Cox a question as to whether labour spent in pulling down a house is creating value, and answers it himself by showing that if a certain plot of land is required for the building of a new house or factory, then the work of demolition is a necessary part of the new building scheme, and the labour is therefore, in the words of Marx, “socially necessary” and value creating.

He quotes also illustrations of what Harold Cox calls “wasted or non-productive labour.” Two fishing boats set out to sea, and only one of them succeeds in getting a catch. Two watchmakers make a watch, but only one of them will go. Have the unlucky boatman and the bad watchmaker created value? asks Mr. Cox.

The answer is that a certain proportion of unlucky voyages is inevitable, and this wasted labour is therefore a necessary feature of the security of the amount of fish required by society. The socially necessary labour cost of obtaining fish includes this proportion of wasted labour. Marx, as Harold Cox knows, never claimed that value “merely depends upon the amount of labour,” but on the amount which at a given time it is necessary for society to expend. If labour is wasted unnecessarily, then it is not value creating. This is the position of the watchmaker who knows so little of his trade as to make a watch which will not go.

While we are on the subject of Harold Cox, it is interesting to learn that he has only just found out that MacDonald is an anti-Marxist. After quoting from MacDonald’s writings to show that the latter has long ago repudiated Marxism, he continues :—
  “To repudiate Marx is to repudiate Socialism as well as Communism. Ramsay MacDonald may claim to have a peculiar brand of Socialism of his own manufacture, but he is not entitled to act as interpreter for other socialists when he repudiates the prophet who founded their creed.” (Saturday Review, 25th Oct.)
It is noticeable, however, that the Harold Cox of the “Saturday Review” does not agree with the Harold Cox of the “Daily Mail,” to whom MacDonald is not merely the proprietor of a “peculiar brand of Socialism of his own manufacture,” but a representative Socialist.
Edgar Hardcastle