Sunday, May 23, 2021

Lansbury and the “Daily Herald”. A forgotten incident. (1925)

From the February 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

We see from the Daily Herald of January 19th, that Mr. George Lansbury is publishing a history of the Herald. Lest Mr. Lansbury should omit to record the treatment meted out to Charles Lapworth, a former Editor, for the offence of assuming that the duty of a workers’ paper is to fight for the working class, we reprint the letter Lapworth wrote when his connection with the Herald came to an end. A lesson is also to be learned about the futility of trying to build up a workers’ movement except on the basis of solid understanding. The wealthy and “disinterested” friends are likely to prove disappointing supports in time of trouble. Those who pay the piper call the tune !

Lapworth’s letter appeared in the New Age on December 18th, 1913, after the Herald had refused to publish it !

* * *

Daily Herald” and Chas. Lapworth.

A letter from Chas. Lapworth to the “New Age” (18/12/1913).

Sir,

I sent the enclosed statement to the Daily Herald. The management declined to publish it. Will you be good enough to give it a space in the New Age?

(Signed) Chas. Lapworth.


“Why I Left the “Daily Herald”

After a fortnight’s delay, an announcement has been made in the Daily Herald of the fact that Mr. G. Lansbury has been appointed Editor in my place and it has been necessary to say that “there will be no change of policy.” I think it is due to these enquiries, and certainly in view of events subsequent to what I am about to relate, it is due to me personally that my explanation of what happened should be published. The notice in to-day’s “paper” states merely that I had resigned, and many may wonder why I should desert my post at such a crisis in the industrial war as the week before the “Dublin Conference.” The statement, if it had given the full truth, would have said “that I had been forced out of the editorship against my will.” Most readers know something of the romantic career of our little paper, and will remember that in June last the “Daily Herald Co.” was forced into liquidation through no fault of its own. “The Limit Printing and Publishing Co.” was then formed, consisting of Mr. G. Lansbury and myself, and we acquired the paper. By this time the expenditure had been cut down to £500 per week, as against £1,100 per week of a year previous, and the weekly loss reduced to about £200 per week, which several anonymous rich friends of Mr. G. Lansbury agreed to make good. Later Mr. Francis Meynell, as representing these friends, was added to the Board of Directors, making the maximum of three allowed by the “Articles of Association.” The only other shareholder besides the Directors is Mr. Robert Williams.

Mr. Lansbury is Chairman and I am Secretary of the Company. On Sunday, December 1st, 1913, I received a summons to a meeting of the Company, signed by Mr. G. Lansbury and called for the following Monday morning. Mr. Lansbury, Mr. Meynell, and myself were present, and the meeting was opened by the Chairman without any preamble addressing me: “We have come to ask you to resign the Editorship. Either you go out or I shall refuse to have anything more to do with the paper.” And he went on to say that he must refuse to enter into any argument or give any other reason than that there was a fundamental difference between his own frame of mind, his own outlook and mine, which difference made the position absolutely hopeless so far as the future of the paper was concerned. Naturally, I urged that, even admitting this “fundamental difference,” it was not serious enough ground for me to resign my position, and that with all respect I must ask for something more specific. Placing a copy of the Daily Herald on the table, I said that was what the staff and myself stood for, obviously, or we would not have been working as conscientious journalists, and that being so, the request for my resignation necessarily implied a departure in policy. Mr. Lansbury denied that it did. I answered that a mere negative did not help me to understand, and I asked for particular criticism of the conduct of the paper. The Chairman objected to what he called my cross-examination of himself, but conceded that as I have been honest and conscientious in my editorial work, I was only doing the right thing from my point of view in fighting for the status quo. He also agreed there was no personal feeling in the matter, but we disagreed about a principle. Mr. Lansbury repeated that so far as he was concerned the position was hopeless if I remained Editor. I pressed for reasons. Mr. Meynell then proffered this : “We want the paper to represent Mr. Lansbury’s ideas, and we propose that Mr. Lansbury be Editor.” I suggested that the change of Editor and mention of “ideas,” seeing that Mr. Lansbury had stated his ideas coincided with mine, did warrant my assumption that change of policy was intended. To which Mr. Meynell replied: “We are against the gospel of hatred you preach. I pointed out that the paper stood for the class war, without modification, and Mr. Lansbury interposed that “it would continue to stand for the class war, but not class hatred and attacks on persons of another class.” “Hatred of conditions, by all means, but not of persons,” I think were his words, and Mr. Meynell said something about the absence of the spirit of brotherhood in the paper. Incidentally Mr. Lansbury strongly condemned some public remark of Wm. D. Heywood about middle-class people. Readers will have to put their own construction on the foregoing. My construction was that the paper was to be allowed to retain its “kick,” but that it was to have a feather bed tied round its foot. Both Mr. Meynell and Mr. G. Lansbury insisted that their complaint was against the tone and not the policy of the paper. Mr. Meynell said that almost every day his father or somebody else complained of something offensive. My reply was that the Daily Herald was not written for rich people, but by workers for workers, and so far the latter had not made manifest any objection to the tone. In response to further pressure, I got one or two items mentioned about which there was complaint. It is hardly believable, but I, Editor of a militant working-class paper, was taken to task for uncomplimentary reference to a duchess, to a bishop, to a prominent Fabian, and for a cartoon of a certain Labour Member of Parliament.

Prior to this particular meeting, complaint bad been made about neglect of the woman’s movement and “Too much Dublin.” In reference to this, I contended that it was not fair to blame the paper for the past few months’ apparent slump in militant suffrage methods, and that if my editorial judgment was wrong in attributing to Dublin the greatest importance in the industrial war, then I must certainly accept the blame for devoting to it so much of our eight small pages. Finally I said I had diligently assembled all the—to me—little molehills to which exception had been taken, and for the life of me I could not build a big enough mountain of reason why I should desert my post, and I refused to resign. Mr. Meynell then moved : “That Mr. G. Lansbury be Editor in place of Mr. Lapworth.” I voted against the proposition. Mr. Lansbury as Chairman used his casting vote and declared himself appointed Editor. Subsequently, as a graceful concession to Mr. Lansbury, I formally resigned and duly entered on the minute book the new Editor, and that was all, except—at the evident desire of Mr. Lansbury—I left the office at once. I also proffered the undertaking that I would not speak to any of the staff, who would naturally want some explanation of the extraordinary turn of events, until Mr. Lansbury had had an opportunity of giving his own explanation.

Mr. Lansbury objected to me taking notes of the discussion, but I think I have reported fairly correctly what took place. Mr. Lansbury also intimated that he would allow no discussion in the Daily Herald, so I don’t know whether this statement will be permitted to appear in the paper, which has hitherto made a boast of its “free and open platform,” but it is in view of events subsequent to the above meeting that I am obliged to press for publication.

I have since been criticised for allowing myself to be forced out of the Editorship. My answer is that the proposition came upon me so suddenly that it did not occur to me that I could alone shoulder the responsibility of stopping the £200 a week subsidy, as I was made to feel was inevitable if I proved obdurate. The money had always been put up solely on account of Mr. Lanhbury’s personality, and his withdrawal meant the withdrawal of the cash.
(Signed) Chas. Lapworth.
December 12th, 1913.

(Italics ours.—Ed. Com., “ S.S.”)

Wages and the cost of living. (1925)

From the February 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

If the cost of living to the workers fell to the level of a few shillings per week, wages would be quickly reduced to a level which left them little or no margin after satisfying thqir wants each week.

This is due to the fact that labour power is a commodity, the price of which is determined by its cost of production. All commodities are subject to this law. There may be temporary fluctuations in the price of a commodity due to variations in supply and demand; but these compensate one another in the long run, and a mean level can be traced through the ups and downs which is the actual cost of production.

Wages fluctuate because they are the price of a commodity. The demand for labour power, however, is seldom in in excess of the supply; consequently wages for any particular form of labour power are rarely above the cost of production for that form. Striking an average and taking the more highly-paid with the lowest, we say the cost of production of labour power is synonymous with the cost of living.

As there are always more workers than jobs, competition for them is so keen that wages can always be kept down to a point which, for the bulk of workers, represents a meagre portion of the necessaries of life. It therefore seems to them, that if the cost of necessaries were lower their lot would be improved. The same result would follow if wages were higher and commodities remained the same in price.

The workers, only seeing this much, are between two stools. They can struggle for higher wages, or reduced prices; or both. To concentrate on price reductions is a fallacy; because cost of production determines prices. True the price at one time may be above the cost of production, but that very fact induces greater production and thereby reduces price. While some commodities are rising in price others may be falling. In the first case the capital is increased, in the second it is withdrawn. In this way the fluctuations compensate each other, and the cost of production is shown to be the real price. Hence the fallacy.

On the other hand, if the workers concentrate on wages they are met by stubborn opposition from the masters, and are powerless to effect any real improvement in their standard of living. Only by con stant struggle, even, can they prevent reductions in their standard inliving. On either hand they are faced with forces that are invulnerable to their puny weapons. Hence the need for them to understand Socialism.

Almost hopeless as is the struggle for higher wages any agitation for reduced prices is still more so. Yet we find the I.L.P. definitely advising the workers to follow this line. The National Administrative Council passed the following resolution (New Leader, 5-12-24).
  “The I.L.P. declares that the rise in food prices is due to manipulation and speculation in food supplies by profiteering combines and trusts, and expresses the view that the effective remedy is State purchase of food and grain imports through a National Board of Supplies. We recommend the branches to educate and organise public opinion in favour of this reform with a view to its adoption by the Government at the earliest opportunity.” etc.
Whether trusts and combines are responsible for high prices does not affect the question, because trusts and combines cannot be broken except by breaking the capitalist state. The New Leader, 28-11-24 admits this in a leading article, as follows :
  “There may be talk of breaking up the Trusts : America, with all the bull moose energy of a Roosevelt, tried that and failed​ The disease of profiteering is organic : it is not to be cured by such simple means.”
What then is the means according to the New Leader? In its issue 28-11-24 they say :—
  “The ideal is to attain and to keep the general level of prices steady. We believe that by a conscious regulation of credit this can be achieved. It would be necessary, however, to take special measures to stabilise the prices of wheat and meat, and this again we would do by creating a national monopoly of these imported foods, based upon long-term contracts with the organised producers. Stunt thinking will not help us, nor guerilla attacks on the profiteer. Our battle is to alter the basic fact of instability with which private enterprise gambles.”
All the I.L.P. promise the workers is to fix the prices of necessaries at a level that would remain constant. Obviously wages would gravitate to a level that coincided with such prices, and the workers would be as they were minus the ups and downs in the money name of the value of their subsistence.

Notwithstanding this foolish advice, the I.L.P. in its leading article, New Leader, 5-11-12, says :—
  “It is our task as a Socialist [?] Party, which is struggling to understand these obscure causes which govern our lives, to insist on probing this fundamental fact of the trade cycle.”
They appear to recognise the need for serious study, but will require to prosecute that study for some time before they “probe the fundamental fact.” Such of their members as reach this goal will then, leave the I.L.P. to join a Socialist Party—the S.P.G.B.
F. Foan

The Capitalist Principles of the I.L.P. Confessed. (1925)

From the February 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our criticism of the I.L.P. in the January issue has brought from a correspondent copies of a letter written by him to the I.L.P. Head Office on this subject, and their reply. The letter of enquiry was passed over to the I.L.P. Information Committee, and the reply, signed by Ernest Hunter, contains the following illuminating passages :—
  “The I.L.P. does state that production should be for use and not for profit, but this is not the be all and end all of Socialism. This statement does not exclude any possibility of the State making a profit. What it does mean is that service should be considered of more importance than profits​.

  “There is nothing in Socialism that prevents a man owning property. Socialism is chiefly an expression against the power which this possession of property involves. Hence some Socialists believe that interest—(not, as to-day, dividends)— should be paid to the wealth lent to the State; this interest to be equitable and fair. The chief feeling against the National Debt is not that it exists, but that it is owned by a comparatively few people who draw a huge tribute from their fellow countrymen.”
The really startling admission is this :—
   “It is a little difficult at the present moment to give a statement of what accurately represents the I.L.P. point of view on these financial points.”
One cannot but be amused at the spectacle of a political party which, after thirty years of propaganda, finds it a little difficult to say exactly what it believes on a fundamental Socialist principle.

In reply to another definite question, the I.L.P. Head Office wrote :—
   “I do not think there is any official I.L.P. view regarding the limited use of interest in a Socialist State​It is a matter for future decision whether it will be absolutely abolished under Socialism.”
It is therefore not surprising that we should have Mr. Fred Longden, a member of the N.A.C. of the I.L.P., writing of that Party’s unemployment programme, that it
  ”Is the very antithesis of Socialism, and lends itself to the entrenchment of a system that is naturally dying and is out of date.”—(Labour Monthly, January, 1925.)
A similar enquiry addressed to the Labour Party brought a quite definite statement of their intention to allow the capitalists to go on “living by owning,” their property to take the form of Government Stock :—
   “. . . I think I am right in saying that there is a considerable concensus of opinion in the Movement against the usual principles of compensation being applied with regard to unknown minerals.
 
   “Generally speaking, however, the Party accepts the principle of compensation, and, although close details have not been worked out in many instances, the problem will be met by the issue of redemption bonds.”
(This letter is signed by Mr. J. S. Middleton, the Assistant Secretary.)
Edgar Hardcastle

A Happy New Year ! Its empty meaning for the workers. (1925)

From the January 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is usual at this time of year for each of us to greet all and sundry, friends, relatives, acquaintances, and the rest, with a wish that the ensuing year will be a happy one. One can read several lessons in this little practice. One can deduce the overwhelming power of custom which impels whole nations to utter the same commonplaces at the same time. One can be cynical and sneer at the empty meaningless formula that is so easy to utter and so divorced from actuality. One can also be fatuous, and jovially join in the universal quacking whilst also sharing in the universal forgetting which usually follows. But there is another attitude. Our lives are dotted with many such harmless and essentially useless little customs, and we can take advantage of them in just such measure as we can turn them to practical use. The phrase, ”A Happy New Year to you” dies as it is born, for it is just a wish. Few or none ever follow it by a single thought on what would constitute a happy year or on how such a period could be established. There are difficulties, of course.

Happiness is a condition which almost defies definition. Millions have sought it; in fact it might be described as man’s chief pursuit. Of those who claim to have been successful we are in grave doubt. Some have seen in the amassing of worldly goods the clearest road to happiness. Having achieved it scores of them tell us it was not worth the trouble. Others have held that happiness consists in making the fewest possible demands on life; on limiting one’s needs to the most frugal necessities. This view is always suspect. One always wonders if they are cutting their philosophic coat according to their very material cloth. Others speak of a via media, a middle road, perfectly level, and only mildly eventful. From its even surface one benignantly surveys the unhappy rich on the surrounding heights, burdened with great possessions ; and one gazes pityingly into the valley below, where struggle the millions not so burdened. Philosophers, teachers, orators, and preachers, all down the ages have counted their lives well spent in telling mankind how to be happy. Yet mankind is not happy. Like children, mankind usually imagines happiness to consist in the immediate satisfaction of some momentary need. That need satisfied, a short interval finds the elusive bird of happiness has again taken flight, and the eternal chase begins anew. One meets people to whom Fortune has dealt the most stunning blows, and who yet seem to find life a huge joke. One knows others to whom Fate has never been unkind, and who are profoundly miserable.

This is not the most scientific way of examining the question of happiness. One can multiply individual instances until the brain reels, and draw no valid conclusion whatever. So far as one can offer a formula at all, happiness would seem to consist in a frame of mind, varying with individual temperament, wherein it feels good to be alive, born of good health and nourished by good conditions. Complete happiness is too near ecstasy to be possible or even desirable, but we can at least examine the conditions that make or mar our lives, and render them reasonably happy, or the reverse.

First, being living beings, it is essential to happiness that primary necessities should be available for all. These prime needs are self-evidently food, shelter and clothing. Now without following any of the philosophers into obscure discussions on the nature and pursuit of happiness, let us see to what extent we are supplied with the first, elementary ingredients of creative comfort and existence. The columns of this journal have groaned with official figures, giving the numbers of those of us perpetually on the verge of starvation. There is no need to give them again. The daily Press gives constant illustration of wide-spread permanent poverty, and it is a commonplace that millions of Great Britain’s workers have but a nodding acquaintance with a square meal. Food, the first physical requisite of life, is scarce, adulterated, and of doubtful quality.

What of shelter ? Here the situation is more obvious. An empty house is more easily visible than an empty stomach. Our civilisation cannot properly shelter its people. It simply refers to their sorry condition as a “Housing Problem,” and speaks of gradually overtaking it in some 30 or 50 years. The “problem” is tacitly attributed to the war, but the festering slums of Hanley, Ancoats or Sheffield, of Glasgow, Lanark, or Belfast, existed long previous to the war. Just the same terrible tales of big families occupying one room, of verminous tenements, of crime, and immorality due to overcrowding, of dilapidated dwellings, of people living in cowsheds—just the same florid facts used to decorate the daily papers before the war as since. And they had just as much effect. Enough was done to keep capitalist society secure, and little more. The facts are not obscure. Even the Daily Express (Dec. 19), that staunch upholder of things as they are, gives its readers the thrill they love in a column describing present-day conditions in Southwark.
  “Those who travel by tramcar or omnibus along Blackfriars Road or through Stamford Street, or the main roads leading from Blackfriars and the Elephant to London Bridge have no conception of the network of hovels, the jig-saw of warrens on either hand, in which thousands of people exist.

  Warrens ! A rabbit would not live in them. Some of them are nothing more than sewer abodes for human rats.

  Here is a court eight feet wide, with twelve so-called houses in it. No backs to the houses. Each house, two rooms. No place to wash, no place to cook.

   At one end of the court are three open lavatories. At the other end one, and another in the centre. Men, women and children, tenants paying rent that should ensure good cottage accommodation, all use them. Tramps from the alleys, lewd women, anybody could have access. One was locked up. That left four to the whole colony of, say, 100 people.

  “We women dare not approach these places after dark,” said one young wife whose life has been utterly damned in this network of misery.

  “Look at my home,” she added in an agony of despair.

  There were eight beings existing in the two small dismal rooms.

   “If only I could get out of it!” she cried.

ALL THE SAME.

   I went into house after house. There was no sign of alleviation anywhere. I was in miseryland. It was blank tragedy. One of the people spoke quietly in tones of utter despair. Others raved against landlords. Some cursed life itself.”
And so on for a column. And the remedy? None was mentioned.

And then clothing. No figures are needed here. One simply uses one’s eyes and supplements that by personal experience. Is it an exaggeration to state that the vast majority of workers are inadequately clothed and shod, and that most of what they do wear is shoddy?

Then with a perpetual paucity of the three primal necessities, would we not be better employed in searching for the root cause of this simple misery than searching for abstract definitions of happiness. Has there been a great natural famine? Is Mother Nature a niggard? Has some great catastrophe dried up the fountains of well-being? There is no evidence of it. Rather the contrary. We read about a month since of enormous catches of fish in the North Sea. We read also of boat-loads being thrown away so as not to spoil the market. We are told further that millions of acres of food-growing land have gone out of cultivation. We learn also that the Lancashire and Yorkshire textile workers are standing idle, waiting for their cloth to be saleable. Some time back the bootmakers of Kettering, Leicester, Northampton, were starving because of “overproduction,” that is, they had made too many boots. There seems to be something wrong somewhere. Nature appears to be doing her part. It is evidently in this “market” where lies the trouble. Obviously instead of goods being produced to supply human necessities, this can only be done through the medium of a sale. And if a sale cannot be effected the goods remain where they are and the would-be recipient goes without. Evidently, therefore, it is not sufficient for the farmer, the fisherman, the fruit-grower, the cattle-raiser, to know that hungry humanity needs their produce. The builder will not build simply because people want houses. The weaver will not weave solely because we shall perish without clothing. These needs must exist, certainly, but their satisfaction depends entirely upon a sale taking place. But is this not a reasonable state of things ? Do we advocate a system where goods are given away? We do not ! But we say a better system of supplying ordinary physical needs can be evolved than one that introduces starvation as a consequence of plenty. Than one that compels the producers of wealth to hire out their one possession—their power to labour—for the cost of their upkeep. Than one that condemns them to starve in the midst of the plenty they have created because they cannot buy back the whole of their product. We say that human society could be and should be a coherent whole. That all should take part in the necessary work of production, and that all should share in the common result. Can it be done? Let us conclude with an illustration.

Some few months back our astronomers directed their telescopes upon our beautiful celestial neighbour, the planet Mars. Several claimed to have discovered overwhelming proof of the existence thereon of sentient beings. Their difficulties were recognised even at a distance of hundreds of millions of miles, and they had overcome them in a highly ingenious way. Their great enemy, drought, had been met by the construction of tremendous canals that conducted the melting polar snows to the more fertile, warmer regions near their equator. Even the fact that the incidence of sunshine varied in the two hemispheres over a period of thousands of years had been provided for. But one significant thing seemed to escape the reflections of our astronomers. All their observations implied that the Martians viewed their planet as a coherent whole, a common possession. None was guilty of the lunacy of suggesting that the Martians were divided into separate, jealous, warring gangs, each gang subdivided into toilers and parasites. It is not impossible, of course, but all our scientists’ suggestions tacitly recognised that works of such magnitude, directed to a common end, would naturally be the work of beings who had risen superior to the stupid divisions with which we are familiar. Then let us take a celestial leaf from their (possibly nonexistent) book, and view our earth as a common heritage. Let all take part in the winning of wealth from Mother Nature’s storehouse. Then let all share in the result of a co-operative mutual effort. Let us banish slavery, poverty, ignorance and wretchedness to the limbo of forgotten things. You have nothing to lose but your chains : you have a world to win.
W. T. Hopley

A Look Around. (1925)

From the January 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Progress of Poverty.

How much improvement has taken place in working class home life (!) since Engels wrote “The Condition of the Working; Class in 1844”? Despite eighty years of capitalist reform every industrial area to-day contains its quagmire of slumdom. Our masters pretend horror, for they say the wicked Socialists would destroy that sanctified citadel of the humblest—the home. But lo ! what is this ?
  “Five children, their mother and father, had been compelled to sleep in one room, so tiny that it would not hold a cot” (”Daily Chronicle,” 5-12-24).
A child was consequently smothered, and at the inquest a neighbour said :
  “In her home a girl of 20, a boy of 17, a boy of 13, and another child all slept in one room.”
In an appeal case (murder) at Warwick Assizes, defence drew the attention of the court to the appalling conditions under which the prisoner lived :—
  “Three families lived in 3 rooms and X, his wife and 10 children occupied one room, 7 sleeping in one bed” (“Evening News,” 8-12-24).
In one riding of Yorkshire 3,000 children have been excluded from the public elementary schools suffering from tuberculosis, admittedly due to overcrowding in the mining district. (Manchester Guardian, 1-12-24). The Capitalists are quite aware that such conditions prevail, and have made them an asset for vote catching for years. In the first case cited the foreman of the jury considered a rider useless: as plenty of pressure had been put upon the authorities for years without making any difference. Is there a remedy within the present system? Grant that your masters allow you to be better housed you will become more efficient workers, and eventually fewer of you will be needed to produce the limited wealth their markets can absorb. The years have proved that any attempt to alleviate your conditions in one direction often worsens them in another.

While Capitalism lasts your social suffering whatever its form is the necessary accompaniment of your slave existence, it must continue while you tolerate that system. There is nothing to choose between deterioration as a slum dweller, an unemployed worker, or an employed one for that matter. Your choice must be between freedom or slavery.

A study of Socialism will teach you that it will be just as hellish to be sweated and robbed of life under a Labour administered Capitalism as under any Liberal or Tory inferno.

* * *

Empire, Honour, and Cotton.

According to the Democrat, 29-11-24, there are amongst us many who aver that British Imperialism is “grossly materialistic,” and embedded in a greed that is as callous as it is brutal. Of course it isn’t true; at least so says the writer. “Our” Empire, we are told, means lots of things, such as “the keeping together in happy union many millions of human beings,” and not forgetting our old friends “Honour and Justice.” We begin to sniff when we read : “that was one reason why the British Government were right in their firmness with Egypt,” but our lofty altruism comes a cropper when the same page informs us :
  “The Sudan has become a great cotton-growing area, producing a raw material superior in quality to any other cotton grown in the wide world.”
And what a blow to those trusting souls of the I.L.P. and others, their peace preserving League of Nations “goes to pieces” at the first touch of reality :
  “Any intervention, therefore, of the League invoked by Egypt will be unacceptable to His Majesty’s Government.” (Morning Post, 5-12-24).

* * *

Philanthropic Task Masters.
  “The daily business of the worker is production of good articles for mankind to use. The Capitalist’s task is to provide the money, find the markets, organise the work, so as to spread the benefits all round” (Business Organisation, Dec.)
What a delightful world we live in—according to the Capitalist. For a jumble of concentrated cant, half truth, and deliberate falsehood, the above wants beating. No unemployment, no shoddy, adulterated commodities, no sad lives, the sole purpose of human existence is to enable our rulers to “spread the benefits all round.” And how, pray, are they spread vide one of their own apologists?
  “When we realise that 38 out of our 43 millions are poor, the statement of Booth and Rowntree ceases to surprise us. In analysis the United Kingdom is seen to contain a great multitude of poor people veneered with a thin layer of the comfortable and rich (P43, Riches and Poverty. C. Money).
To-day it is the workers’ task to furnish the energy required to convert the earth’s resources to social means of living, including the making of the money with which they are paid, and the supervising and organising of such wealth production. Any child or imbecile possessed of wealth could play the part of landlord, shareholder, or dummy director, nor need you tax your brain capacity greatly to understand why they attempt to conceal the fact. When you do you will smile with contempt at the vapid inference that the Capitalist is a Capitalist for your benefit.

* * *

Mock Prudence.

One of the traditional scares served up for the non-thinking worker is that of the immoral teaching of Socialism. We are not concerned with our masters farm-yard morality beyond exposing the humbug of their pious dread. Some people know that shop-lifting can be termed stealing or kleptomania, according to the social position of the individual concerned. In back numbers of the Socialist Standard we have shown that even the White Slave Traffic can be elevated to something less criminal and obnoxious when its patrons are wealthy and move in the best society (sic).

The debauchery of a ruling class has ever been a symptom of decadence from the orgies of the Roman Empire to the licentious escapades of our modern parasites, details of which their own Press often consider unfit for print. It is interesting to note the different tones adopted by our opponents in their attempts to discredit Socialism and that assumed when the “idealistic indiscretion” involves a six-figure gift for the use of another man’s wife. Socialism will allow both women and men the fullest access to the means of life. Under such conditions human affection unfettered by economic considerations need consider no other attraction than that which is mutual, thus removing the sordid and mercenary basis of sex relations to-day.
W. E. MacHaffie

The capitalist principles of the I.L.P. (1925)

From the January 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is common enough to hear the I.L.P. and the Labour Party attacked and defended on the ground that they are Socialist parties. Yet we find leading members of the I.L.P. affirming that the Labour Party is not really socialist, and members of the Labour Party agreeing with them. Indeed, if the members of the I.L.P. considered the Labour Party a Socialist party they could not very well justify retaining their own separate organisation claiming to be socialist, too. Then, again, the Socialist Party of Great Britain opposes both of these parties and maintains that they are anti-socialist.

It cannot fail to be confusing to the enquirer about Socialism to witness this disagreement between those who are all apparently socialists, and an attempt is usually made to dismiss the disagreement as a question not of principles but of policy and method, and of only minor importance. “We are all,” they say, “bound for the same place, but we travel by different roads.” Yet this explanation is not by any means true, for our opposition is not concerned merely with method, but is one of basic principle. We have to reject offers to sink our differences and join forces because we travel by a different road to a different place. The success of the I.L.P. would mean defeat for us, and we can get what we want only after defeating them.

If there exists this clash of aims no good purpose is served by minimising it, or ignoring it; hence our assertion that the I.L.P. is not deserving of working-class support. We must, however, not attach undue importance to mere names. We cannot prevent our opponents from calling their politics “Socialism” however much they differ from own own. The importance lies not in the name but in the thing, what it is and what it does for the workers, not what it is called. The Socialist Party and the I.L.P. both come before you to tell you the cause and the remedy for your poverty and insecurity. What we want you to notice is that their explanations and their remedies differ from ours as chalk does from cheese, in spite of an apparent similarity in the use of words. There are people who think that the I.L.P. and the Socialist Party are both wrong, but what you ought to avoid at all costs is thinking that we can both be right. If we are right, then the I.L.P. are wrong and vice versa. We ask you to examine our principles and choose between us.

To make clear why the Socialist Party takes up this uncompromising attitude, let us examine the case it presents.

We live in a system of society which by general agreement is known as Capitalism, and whose outstanding features are private property and wage-earning. A certain few fortunate individuals are the owners of the land, the railways, factories and other means of production, and the non-owners have to work for a wage or a salary in the service of the owners of property. Society is divided into a class of workers who must work to live, and a class of capitalists who can live without working. We know from everyday experience that there is no wealth without work, yet the workers are poor and the non-workers are rich. The Socialist says that the poverty of the poor and the riches of the wealthy are the results of the system of private property, and the only remedy is its abolition. We do not condemn the Capitalists as “wicked” because they live by exploiting the workers, but we do regard private property as no longer necessary to society. We shall, therefore, deprive them of their property. Whatever services the Capitalists may have rendered in the early days of their system in directing industry and as the medium through which accumulations of capital were made, they render needful services no longer. Society can manage now without them, but they still continue to levy tribute on production to which they make no active contribution. It is now a quite normal Capitalist practice for the property owner to be, in fact and in the eyes of the law, a passive investor without knowledge of the industry or the right to share in the management. Occupying this position it is possible for the wealthy to live in luxury and yet grow continually wealthier. The Capitalist is, moreover, interested in production only from the point of view of the dividend-receiver. There is hardly an industry in which more or less complete combination does not exist, and an admitted object of combination is to control and limit production in the interest of the shareholder. We even have associations of employers providing individual firms with an annual grant conditional on their loyally refraining from producing anything.

Socialism will terminate once and for all the right of any individual to receive rents, profits, or interest by virtue of being an owner of property. THE ONLY JUSTIFICATION for a claim on the produce of industry for able-bodied persons will be that they give personal service. Work, and work alone, will entitle any fit man to consume the wealth which work alone produces. That is the Socialist aim, but it is not the aim of the I.L.P. Their slogan is not the abolition, but the stabilisation of profit and interest.

They endorse and wish to extend the movement in Capitalism towards removing from the hand of the Capitalist whatever active control of industry there is left to him, thus making him simply a passive owner receiving interest by right of ownership. They wish to hasten the Capitalist tendency towards nationalisation, and propose to give the Capitalist Government Bonds which will guarantee to him a secure and regular income without risk of loss, and without the right to share directly in administration, at the same time saving him the expense and trouble of dealing with the discontent of the workers. The I.L.P. does not attack the rights of capital; it defends them and holds out hopes of adding to their value. In the fight between the Socialist and the defenders of Capitalism, it stands on the side of property.

Thus, in “Socialism, Critical and Constructive,” in chapter 7, which is headed, “Socialist Society,” Mr. J. R. MacDonald writes :—
  “When Labour uses Capital and pays it its market value, property is defensible, when Capital uses Labour and retains …. the maximum share in the product upon which it can keep its grip, property is devoid of a sure defence.” (Page 274).
In “How Socialists would run Industry” (I.L.P. Programme Pamphlet, Number 5, 1924) a footnote on page 14 asks :
  “Why should not Labour hire Capital and devote the whole of the surplus to the improvement of the service?”
and again :
  “… the surplus earnings after paying a fixed rate of interest for the hire of loan capital, should …. be reserved for specific purposes. …”
In “Socialism in the Village” (I.L.P., 1920) we read :
  “The owners will receive Government Bonds in return for their land, the interest on which will be more than covered by the rents paid to the State” (page 5),
and (page 7) :
  “There is every reason to expect that agriculture under public management will yield a far better return on labour and capital than it now does.”
A prominent member of the I.L.P. is Mr. J. Wheatley, himself the owner of considerable property, and ex-Minister of Health. In a recent speech reported in the Daily Herald (20th November) he declared that
  “The only hope of saving us from catastrophe lies in a certain number of influential Capitalists recognising that Capitalism itself is becoming the greatest menace to their capital. Nationalisation is likely to prove the only way to salvation.”
He goes on to elaborate his proposals and adds :
  “It could be effected without making the Capitalists poorer, or lowering their standard of life.”
In a pamphlet, “The Catholic Working Man,” a publication of the “Catholic Socialist Society” (1909) which declares its “hearty agreement” with the I.L.P., Mr. Wheatley expressly clears himself from the charge of being a Socialist in the sense understood by the Socialist Party. He remarks that his political creed “differs from the Socialism condemned by the Pope in that it retains the right to own private property” (page 22) and he assures his critics that nationalisation will show “due consideration of vested rights.”

When we remember that of the Labour M.P.s in the last House of Commons well over half were members of the I.L.P., we see in their support of the policies of the Labour Government further evidence of their anti-socialism. Mr. Wheatley introducing his Housing Bill declared in reply to an interruption, that
 “The proposals which I am submitting are real Capitalism —an attempt to patch up in the interests of humanity, a Capitalist ordered society.” (See “Houses to Let,” page 8. A verbatim report published by the T.U.C. and the Labour Party.)
He again made his position clear in a speech at Glasgow on Sunday, November 2nd, when he commented on the election results,
  “My own view of the return of the Tories in such an overwhelming majority is that it will considerably hasten the end of the Capitalist system of society. . . . Had the Labour Government been allowed to proceed it would have produced a greater amount of content among the toiling multitude, and it would have established Capitalism longer than it is likely to exist now.” (“Times”, November 3rd.)
The Socialist does not, of course, believe that it is possible to improve materially the workers’ position inside Capitalism, nor that the return of a Conservative majority will hasten the progress to Socialism, but of the deadly work done by the Labour Party and the I.L.P in making the workers contented with the private property system there can be no doubt.

Another prominent member of the I.L.P. is Mr. R. H. Tawney, author of “The Acquisitive Society.” On pages 66 and 177, after condemning various forms of property, he argues that the payment of “pure interest” will be necessary under what he calls “Socialism.” It is justified, he says, provided the owner of the capital is not allowed to have any share in, or responsibility for, the organisation of industry.

We see, then, that the view generally held by the I.L.P. members is that poverty can be removed without the abolition of private property in the means of production; while the Socialist Party demands, as the only solution, the extinction of all property claims whatever their name and form.

Were it not for the repeated refusal of the I.L.P. to defend its principles on the public platform against the criticism of the Socialist, the question might usefully have been thrashed out in debate.
Edgar Hardcastle

The economics of social amusement. (1925)

From the January 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

The history of mankind’s social amusements and recreational activities corresponds closely with and can only be explained from the development of economic life and of successive forms of society.

Man is a gregarious creature, and to be at one with his herd—with a multitude of his kind when it is surging with a common emotion and to be feeling, thinking and expressing his feeling in unison with his fellows is one of the most stirring and pleasurable things he can experience. This psychological factor is strikingly manifest in all organised play and entertainment, but to explain the forms of recreation prevailing at any time we must consider the conditions of economic and social life in which they have their roots.

Primitive man must have had little opportunity for pure play of a systematic and organised kind, but with increased productiveness came relief from strictly useful employment and various forms of true social amusements came into being—often by the modification of more serious occupations.

The savage hunting tribe indulges in strange dancing and singing that is quite mystifying to the uninitiated observer. He may explain these—to him—weird performances as forms of diversion and relaxation ; but to the savage they have a very serious and practical significance. They are magical rites by which he believes he can influence the rainfall or the supply of animals or bring luck to the tribe in its hunting. They are, therefore, to him a necessary part of his economic life.

Even later, when agriculture is practised and patriarchal organisation has grown up ritual dances and seasonal festivals exist which are intimately connected with the fertility of the soil, the sowing of the seed and the reaping of the crops.

These ceremonial practices, serious as were their objects, undoubtedly generated in the people who took part in them a high degree of emotional excitement and pleasure and contained the germs of the true public amusements of the future. In that very interesting book, “Ancient Art and Ritual,” Jane Harrison describes for us the evolution among the Greeks from the spring festival of Dionysos—the spirit of vegetation—to the genuine dramas of Aeschylus and Sophocles—from the dromena or rite to the drama or play.

With the institution of slavery came also a leisured class and, thus stimulated, the arts of pleasure reached a high pitch of variety, refinement and extravagance.

In Greece and Rome the enormous population of slaves had, in the main, little or no leisure nor amusement, but in the lives of the free citizens, both rich and poor, the public games, theatres and festivals came to play an increasingly important role. To all citizens admission to the arena and the theatres was free, or the fee only nominal. They were publicly organised by the State or the city authorities, were held usually at the religious festivals and continued to have vital social importance and some degree of religious significance throughout the entire period of their history. * They acted as a social bond, emphasising the common tradition and stimulating the sentiments of patriotism and citizenship. Thus they were a factor of considerable importance in welding all grades of freemen into a solid mass in opposition to the numerically overwhelming but unorganised and politically impotent slaves. Moreover as, particularly in the Roman dominions, slaves were used in the public games in great numbers and without the slightest regard either for their feelings or their lives, the arena became a means of widening the gulf twixt slave and free, increasing class contempt, arrogance and hatred, developing even further the callousness and cruelty of the free class and yet inspiring them with an increasingly intense fear of widespread revolt amongst the chained, suffering mass in the underworld.

When Roman civilisation reached its zenith the slave-system was so extensive and the supply of slaves so well organised that free-labour became economically unprofitable whilst morally it came to be regarded as the contemptible badge of servility and beneath the dignity of free citizens. In the cities an ever-growing multitude of workless and propertyless free-men became dependent upon the free distribution of corn by the State. Then came the clamour for amusement and more and more of it, and the wealthy slave-owners and politicians who dominated the State were compelled to yield to the insistent demands of the reckless horde of state-fed citizens.

The so-called “games” had now become a political necessity, and they assumed extraordinary proportions, and became ever more extravagant and terrible spectacles. At the great Roman circuses wild beasts from every part of the Empire were matched in combat, and thousands of slaves fought to the death for the diversion and excitement of immense throngs of citizens. In such a debauch ended ancient civilisation, based on the first primary form of exploitation—chattel-slavery.

Under the mediaeval feudal system which retained the village community and much of patriarchal society, the public games and entertainments were again markedly social, traditional and religious in character, but they strongly reflected the hard and fixed system of class differentiation characteristic of feudalism. The serfs and peasants had their own Maypole and other semi-ritual festivals connected with cultivation; and these, though they had a veneer of Christianity, were hoary with an antiquity going back far into barbarism—as we have previously noted. The Church, ever on the watch for subtle means of maintaining its hold upon society, held its Mystery and Morality plays which were often performed within the walls of the Churches and monasteries. These religious plays were, of course, intended to foster belief and provide religious instruction rather than amusement, but there is evidence that they were amusing enough and they were certainly the nearest thing to the true drama that the Mediaeval period evolved. The nobility, a class closely marked off from the rest of the population, had its own peculiar institution—the tournament, which fostered the veneration for rank and the warlike virtues so necessary to a class owing its existence and its sanction to the sword.

Economic evolution undermined the feudal system and killed it. With the growth of trade and commercial relations of production, the disappearance of serfdom and the rise of the wages system, the old social order of things, with all its ideas, its sentiments and its customs, lost its economic basis and slowly and tardily passed away.

The village community was broken up, the common lands disappeared and the population concentrated into the towns; social and personal ties were replaced by monetary relations—in the language of the jurists “status” gave place to “contract.” The rigid stratification of social orders with fixed rights and duties was dissolved and in its stead arose a system wherein the possession of money alone formed the class division and which knew as a regulating force only the balance of the market—the impersonal, non-traditional pressure of “economic law.” It was the new era of “liberty, equality and fraternity”—capitalism.

As it expanded itself the new economy cut the social soil from under the feudal forms of amusement and new forms began to appear. The mountebank and strolling player (the primitive actor, dancer, singer and clown) even under feudalism was the counterpart of the earliest travelling merchant, the pedlar moving from village to village with his wares. But the nerve-centre of the new system was in the towns, there the merchant was established, and the new classes—capitalist and proletarian—were arising, and there developed the new habits of thought and the new amusements—among them, the theatre. The first public theatre in England was opened in Blackfriars, London, in 1576, and others were soon established and were performing the works of Shakespeare and the other Elizabethan dramatists.

The new theatre was from the first free from the feudal tradition. It was commercial in its aim and methods, had no connection with the Church, which indeed opposed it, and it voiced the new dawning spirit of individualism. Since its birth the bourgeois theatre has flourished, and it is perhaps the most typical social amusement of the bourgeois era.

The only set-back in the history of the modern theatre took place under the freakish domination of the Puritans, to which we can here only briefly refer. The Puritans were a section of the lower bourgeoisie who developed to an extreme degree a religion and philosophy of life involving excessive reverence for the petty-capitalist virtues of industry, thrift and accumulation and who frowned upon all amusement and frivolity as sinful. During their short period of political rule in England and America they attempted with partial success the suppression of all forms of social entertainment. Their social influence unfortunately long outlasted their actual rule in both countries.

The subject matter of the drama is not here our prime concern, but it may be noted that with the rise of bourgeois relations of life and of individualism in outlook, traditional, mystical, symbolic and heroic themes tended to be supplanted by studies of individual character and of personal problems, especially sexual ones, that the individual in society is compelled to face. In these plays bourgeois morality, ideals of conduct and theories control the plot and action.

On the other hand, since capitalism has entered on its decadent phase and its insoluble difficulties have become chronically manifest, the satirist and social critic has increasingly used the medium of the drama and plays denouncing the evils and ridiculing the inconsistencies of the social order have appeared. The Ibsens, Shaws and Galsworthys are products of this phase. This class of drama is, however, as yet appreciated and supported by only a comparatively small section of theatre-goers, and even these are largely tolerant members of the bourgeoisie.
R.W. Housley

(End of Part I.)

* The Bull-fight in the Spanish countries—a relic of Roman domination—is a modern survival of this phase.

Knowledge. (1925)

From the January 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard



Socialism and the so-called “middle class”. (1925)

From the January 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Salaried Slaves.

The present writer wears a stiff collar as a boot-maker wears a leather apron, or as a lamplighter carries a pole—it is the sign and badge of his profession. He is a bank clerk. Not having been blessed with that rare quality reserved for some members of the capitalist class alone—business ability— and lacking foresight, he was foolish enough to choose two proletarians for his parents, although there were millionaires available. He is now reaping the reward of his pre-natal folly in an office. He is a “brain worker,” selling his labour-power for wages, but not by the week, mark you, not by the week, but by the month !

Ignoring outward signs of superiority, the brain worker can be distinguished from the mere plebian by the following characteristics. He uses a machine to do his writing, another machine to do his calculations, is very respectable and deferentially reverent towards those set in authority over him. Moreover, he, as he is only too fond of saying, is the backbone of the Empire, the defender of the constitution, and at the same time the crushed worm between the millstones of organised Labour and Capital. To the first he pays its wages, the other he pays its profits, and in short he thinks that he occupies a very special position in the community, a position which needs and deserves to be defended from the wicked Socialists. A Socialist bank clerk is, therefore, somewhat of an enigma to those among whom he works. He is frequently asked what he hopes to get out of being a Socialist, what he stands to gain by the overthrow of Capitalism, what there is in his present condition to cause him dissatisfaction.

It is the purpose of this article to answer briefly as many of these questions as space will allow. It is hoped to prove that Socialism is the only political theory of any use to all workers, and in so doing to show that there is no “middle class,” that in Capitalist society, as we know it to-day, there are but two classes, and that anyone, whether he be a navvy or a bank manager, who is compelled to sell his labour power for wages, and who can only exist at a given standard of comfort by such a sale, is a member of the working class, is a proletarian, and, as such, is a slave in society, whose interests demands that he should help to abolish Capitalism.

The Position of the Propertyless.

Now a proletarian is one who possesses nothing but the power to labour and who, in order to live, sells that power to those who own and control the means of production and distribution, that is to the Capitalists. As his power to labour is bound up in, and cannot exist apart from, his physical being, he sells himself by the day, the week, month or whatever period is arranged. In the form of wages (called by some income) he receives just sufficient to maintain himself at the standard of life common to his group. Competition for jobs ensures that he shall not be able to demand more except for a limited period. The wage he receives includes not only his own cost of living but also the cost of rearing a family, of providing children to replace him in the mine, the workshop or office after he has gone, for to-day the family is still the unit of society generally, and calculations of maintenance costs are made with reference to it, not to the individual. If a worker remains single, or limits his family, he may make slight improvements in his own condition but, as will be shown later, these are of small account and in any event their value can only be estimated after setting: off against them the sacrifices involved.

This is the position of economic dependence in which the working class finds itself, but while the people who fancy they are the “middle class” would probably admit this as a correct description of the position of the other workers they do not recognise its application to themselves. But wherein does their position differ? Consider the shop-keeper. He regards himself as independent, yet he is usually as much bound as any employee. If he is a confectioner, for instance, he is, in effect, the employee of the producers, Cadburys, Rowntrees, etc., just as much as if he were a labourer in one of their factories. He sells their products at their prices, and is dependent on their continuing to supply him with goods and on working himself in the selling of them for his living. He is merely a kind of commercial traveller, and, like him, is immediately affected by any worsening of working class life through unemployment, lowered wages, etc. The publican, whose independence is even more illusory, is particularly dependent on the brewery company on the one hand and the condition of the labour market on the other. Lower wages mean less business.

It is true that there are some workers who also enjoy dividends from relatively small investments, but this does not alter their position in society, although it may colour their outlook on social questions. The fundamental question is whether the individual is or is not compelled to sell his labour power in order to live. If he is compelled to sell his services, then his position is that of the worker who must work or suffer privation, not that of the Capitalist who is able to please himself, and who may, in order to escape the boredom of doing nothing, add to his income by taking employment.

The fact that money wages vary does not relieve the better paid worker from the same compulsion that presses on the lower paid. Use makes it just as urgent a problem for him to maintain the standard he has been in the habit of enjoying, although there may be a wide margin between it and the bare physical minimum which will keep him alive and well. In passing, it may be mentioned that the tendency is for the variations between the different grades of workers to become less with increasing competition for employment. The simplification of labour processes, consequent on the introduction of improved machines and their standardisation, makes it easier for labour to be trained for any kind of employment, and this levels out wages.

The members of the so-called “middle class,” to the degree that they are really better off than other workers, therefore have just the same interest in destroying the evils consequent upon the wages system.

As for the suggestion that the “middle class” are distinguished from the workers in being owners of property, statistics will show how much exaggerated the claim is.

Who owns the property.

According to the 64th Report of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, the total number of incomes exceeding £500 per annum was only 563,000 in the year 1919-1920, the last year for which figures are available. When it is remembered that there are more than 20 million persons in this country entitled to vote, and that this excludes males under 21 and females under 30, it will be seen how small a proportion of the population is in receipt of such an income, even after allowing for those who are dependents. Obviously, in view of this, the opportunity to accumulate property is limited to but a small part of society. The following figures taken from the report of the Coal Industry Commission (Vol. 3, Appendix 66) afford some idea of the wages actually paid to those who fancy themselves in a superior position. The figures relate to 57% of the collieries in this country, and as the return was not compulsory, the probability is that only the better paying companies gave any information.

Prices had, of course, risen in 1919 nearly 200% over the 1913 level.

Again, only 27 persons out of every 1,000 pay Death Duties. In other words, only 2.7% of the population leaves over £300 : while at a recent dinner given to the Chilian Minister the guests who numbered a mere 150 were worth between them £200 million (Daily Sketch). The property of the “middle class” and their ability to save, are, like those of the rest of the wage-earners, largely mythical. In 1922 there were 11,733,564 depositors in the Post Office Savings Bank, their total deposits being £268,143,235 or an average of £22 16s. Id. each. The average for 6,298,376 of them was the grand sum of 1/10. (Statistical Abstract for United Kingdom, 1908—1922).

And in any event these savings are for the most part the provision made for the education and upbringing of children, for sickness, accident and old age, and therefore do not represent a surplus at all. They are merely part of the cost of maintenance of the worker. The low standard wage earner does not have to make provision for all these things, or else he does it in some other way. It is interesting to notice the opinion recently expressed by Lord Dawson of Penn on the “need for extended sickness insurance” for the “middle class” who, he said, were excluded from the Medical Insurance Act which provided for the manual workers, and who were to be distinguished from the rich, “who could provide for themselves” (Daily Herald, 18th November). The manual workers are provided by the State or by some other public body with education for his children sufficient to fit them for the work they are expected to perform; with hospital treatment ; old age pensions and the dole. Above a certain level of income allowance is made in the wages paid for the satisfaction of these needs, which below that level are publicly provided.
A.L.T.

(To be continued.)

Blogger's Note:
'A.L.T.' could have been Albert L. Torr, who joined the Manchester Branch of the SPGB in October 1916 (alongside a William Torr). It makes sense that a bank clerk,  a 'brain-worker', would seek the anonymity of a pen-name in the pages of the Socialist Standard.

The Bankruptcy of “Communist” Theory. (1924)

Editorial from the December 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

Immediately after the Bolshevik seizure of power there was some excuse for the misconceptions of the significance and causes of that event, which were prevalent here in working-class circles. Reliable information on Russian affairs had been lacking throughout the war years, and to those who were not familiar through historical study with the slow growth of social forces, no rumoured happening behind the wall of censorship was too fantastic to be believed. Those people outside Russia who erred in crediting the Bolsheviks with achievements which were hardly dreamed of by Lenin and other responsible Communists, were quite unable to examine critically the proposals which were put out by the Third International for the conduct of the workers’ struggle elsewhere. They erred again and more seriously in assuming that methods which may have been useful and probably inevitable in Czarist Russia could be applied here where almost every condition is different. Underlying Communist doctrines lay the assumption that constitutional action is futile for the Socialist’s main aim, that the democratic idea is a myth and a danger, and that capitalism can be overthrown not by the deliberate act of an organised working class, but only by a minority, the Communist Party. To the superficial observer the condition of Europe at the end of the war and at the beginning of the peace made these assumptions less absurd than they appear now. There were sections of the ruling class which had lost their grip on the situation in face of a war which they began and could not control, and in face of peace problems which threatened to be insoluble and fatal. The moment passed and even during capitalism’s difficulty, the workers, in spite of equally superficial views to the contrary, were never less ready to act as a class against their exploiters. All that can be said for the Communists is that many of them did believe their desperate creed. They were prepared to pit their puny strength against the might of the capitalist state, to have their own and other people’s heads broken in trying conclusions with the armed forces, to go to jail for defiance of capitalist laws and in general to face the consequences of their own foolhardy actions. Not so our present-day Communists. The violent doctrines of 1920 will no longer stir even the most emotional and youthful would-be rebel. They are too obviously impracticable to stand the test of discussion in the light of the present situation. But while they dare not go on preaching civil war they are not prepared to admit their error. Instead, they now ask us to believe that they are the innocent victims of wicked misrepresentation, and that they never believed these doctrines at all. Accordingly we give below a selection from the host of declarations they now want be forgotten, prefaced by their recent repudiation of their original policies.
  “The Communist Party has repeatedly pointed out that unless it is able to win over to its standard a decisive majority of the working class it cannot realise the social transformation. The Communist Party believes that without the activity of a majority of the workers both in the struggle to set up a real Workers’ Government, and in the subsequent Socialist reconstruction, emancipation is impossible.” (Editor, Workers’ Weekly, November 7th, 1924.)
Lenin writing on Bourgeois Parliamentarism versus Proletarian Revolution (Workers’ Dreadnought, August 28th, 1920) used the following words :—
  “The accusations of siding with the Bourgeoisie can indeed be levelled at all … who, while proclaiming adhesion to the dictatorship of the proletariat in words, in deeds propagate the belief in the necessity of gaining under the capitalist régime the formal consent of the majority of the population (that is a majority of the votes in a bourgeois parliament) before political power can be transferred to the proletariat . . . Let the revolutionary proletariat first overthrow the bourgeoisie, throw off the yoke of capitalism . . . and then it will be in a position to gain the support of the non-proletarian working masses.”
Lenin here uses “proletarian” to mean only the class-conscious minority, not the whole of the working class, as is shown by his following remark that “economically and politically it (the proletariat) represents the true interest of the vast majority of the workers.”

Eden and Cedar Paul, two members of the C.P.G.B., in their pamphlet “Communism” (Labour Publishing Co., 1920, p 12), wrote— “the Bolsheviks believed in the concentration of revolutionary energy in the hands of a comparatively small group prepared to seize power and declare the dictarorship of the proletariat. . . The dictatorship will not be exercised here, any more than it has been exercised in Russia, by the masses. It will be exercised by an oligarchy by a revolutionary élite.”

Lenin, speaking at a Peasants’ Congress (“Ten Days that Shook the World,” p. 303), is reported by John Reed as saying : “If Socialism can only be realised when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see Socialism for at least 500 years.”

Karl Radek (“The Development of Socialism from Science to Practice”) describes “the notion that the proletariat should undertake no revolution until it is satisfied it has the majority of the people at its back,” as “nonsense.”

Bela Kun (“Liberator,” March, 1920), declared in an interview that “only a small part of the Hungarian workers were Bolshevik . . . But the most effective means of revolutionising the masses is revolution.”

Clara Zetkin, speaking for the Third Interrnational at the Berlin meeting of the three Internationals in April, 1922, declared that “The new political organism cannot at first be broad-based upon the people’s will . . . The revolutionary élite wrests the powers of the State from the grip of the capitalist class, and establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat.” (Official Report, p. 15, Labour Publishing Co. Ltd)

The Thesis of the Third International on “Parliamentarism, etc.,” adopted at the Moscow Congress, 1920 (C.P.G.B., p. 4), “repudiates the possibility of winning over parliament.” “The Statutes and Conditions of Affiliation” (C.P.G.B., page 4) declares that “the aim of the Communist International is to organise an armed struggle for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie …”

The “Workers’ Republic” (Communist Party of Ireland, April 7th, 1923) states that “the advanced workers, organised in a Communist Party . . . will put the capitalist class out of existence by handing back to the workers that which has been filched from them.”

So much for the Communists’ repudiation of minority action and the armed revolt against the capitalist class. They have changed their watchwords because the old ones were growing ever more unpopular and absurd, but they have failed to see where they have drifted.

In 1920 they were sharply differentiated from other so-called working class parties, but this distinguishing feature removed, they fall back where they truly belong, into the ranks of the reformists. With their long and continually changing list of “Immediate demands,” ranging from capitalist measures like nationalisation to the dissolution of the British Empire, both of them a recognised part of the stock-in-trade of the Labour quack in the ‘eighties, they will have difficulty in showing any reason for their separation from the I.L.P. and the Labour Party. They have demonstrated that Communist theory is barren of hope for the working class.

Lloyd George tells the truth. (1924)

From the December 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard

There may still remain some simple souls who think there exists an essential difference between Liberal and Tory. Be in doubt no longer friend. Lloyd George, who is getting on in years, has been moved to glorify his latter days by a burst of real truth. When one remembers what he has said about his Tory opponents, one can only conclude he wants to appear before Peter with at least one good deed on his record. Anyhow he has set your doubts at rest.

It was at Cardiff it happened, on the night of October 20th, when according to the “Daily News,” he spoke as follows :
  “Now one word to my Tory friends. They are honestly afraid of Socialism. I will tell them how to get it. Destroy the Liberal Party first. (Cheers.)

   I ask the Conservatives : Are you going to take the risk of having no alternative, no support? Are you going to destroy a party which does not agree with you, which takes a different point of view, which looks at things from a different angle, which has a different tradition, but which is just as firmly rooted as you in the existing order?”
So there you have it all in its naked simplicity. Comment is almost unnecessary. We will confine ourselves to emphasising that their difference is merely one of angle, of point of view; not fundamental at all. The Liberal Party is an “alternative,” a “support.” They are “just as firmly rooted . . . in the existing order” as the Tories. The Socialist Party has said so for years. Lloyd George has now publicly admitted it. Then doubt no longer. Join a party with a bedrock difference, not one with a squint.
W. T. Hopley

Quotes from Engels. (1924)

From the December 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard 
“Nature exists independently of all philosophies. It is the foundation upon which we, ourselves products of nature are built. Outside man and nature nothing exists, and the higher beings which our religious phantasies have created are only the fantastic reflections of our individuality.” —F. Engels.
* * *
“Men make their own history in that each follows his own desired ends independent of results, and the results of these many wills acting in different directions and their manifold effects upon the world constitute history. It depends, therefore, upon what the great majority of individuals intend.”F. Engels’ ” Feurbach.”

A Look Around. (1924)

From the December 1924 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The L.S.D. of Capitalist Remembrance. 

What slimy hypocrites are the ruling class of to-day. Every opportunity is seized upon to pour out tears of sympathy for their victims, when the process is not a costly one; but let it mean dipping into the merest portion of their wealth and, what a difference. Armistice Day is one of those occasions when our masters launch upon us a flood of nauseating cant. It is, we are told, in remembrance of our “glorious dead,” but compare such pretended capitalist sympathy with the treatment meted out to the workers at all times. It would indeed be surprising were it otherwise.
  “At the present time there are 800,000 ex-Service men unemployed, of whom 300,000 are young men not much over 30 years of age, who gave their best years to serve their country. “—Daily Chronicle, 16/9/24.
In like manner their wartime heroes are left to die in want; same paper says (25/10/24) :—
  “Thomas Whitham, V.C., who won the honour when a private in the Coldstream Guards during the war, died of peritonitis at Oldham Royal Infirmary yesterday. Mr. Whitham, who leaves a widow and six children, had been out of work and had had to raise money on his medal.”
The following is also a specimen of our kind masters’ gratitude :—
  “Wages of workmen in the Manchester Corporation Gas Mains Department were yesterday found to be 2s. 3d. short . . . the explanation given was that the sum represented two hours’ stoppage for Armistice Morning. Six hundred workers, all ex-Service Men, are affected.”—Ibid, 15/11/24.
Well might the workers remember their masters’ recruiting appeals : “Isn’t this worth fighting for?” “What will you lack sonny?” May they remember that it was the Labour Party that rendered such able assistance in such appeals. Likewise that it was the same Labour Party that was prepared to use the masters’ military legions as strike breakers when you were fighting to maintain your standard of living during their term of office.

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Capital Nonsense.

An applicant at Greenwich County Court said that his landlord, who was a “great Socialist,” refused to accept rent from him. Whereupon the oracle of justice, dipping deep into his reservoir of wisdom, delivered himself of the following : —
   “Probably then he doesn’t want the rent. A Socialist I believe is a person who has no objection to accumulating Capital on his own account but denies the right of other people to do so.” —Star, 4/10/24.
Let us reason ! A capitalist is one who owns wealth in the form of capital : A Socialist is a member of the working class who realises his slave position and works for Socialism. Like the rest of the workers he is poor. It is his class whose wage labour applied to nature’s minerals provides the wealth which the capitalist class dissipate in luxury, spend on wars, armies, navies, etc., or accumulate in the form capital in order to further exploit the workers for profit. Wage slavery never permits of more than a continued poverty existence. The workers’ accumulation is one of misery and insecurity. The Socialist doesn’t deny the “right” of the capitalist to possess capital because he knows that “right” is backed up by the political control of armed forces. What the Beak calls “right’ is called by the Socialist “might.” When the workers organise to control that might the masters will be welcome to the right. We stand for the common ownership of the earth and its control by the whole people, i.e., the abolition of capitalism and its corollary capital.

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The Meaning of Poplarism.

We have never doubted the sincerity of George Lansbury’s actions in the interests of—George Lansbury. Through the columns of the “Daily Herald,” 8/11/24. He puts forth an admixture of “Jesus,” “What I Think,” and spurious economics. Says he:—
  “All who possess health and strength should be only too glad to help maintain those unable because of disability to do a full week’s work for a full week’s wage.”
Quite a common mis-statement dear to the Labour Party confusionist, plus the sentiment which is such an asset to Lansbury. He knows that the wages the workers receive hover round a bare cost of living basis, which only suffices to replenish their energy. In the “Herald,” 17/3/24, he wrote of “thousands of miners whose wages had sunk below subsistence level.” presumably by short working time, which had to be supplemented by Poor Law Relief. That section therefore of the working class not required by the masters, either because they are physical wrecks or those whom it is unprofitable to employ, must be retained in some sort of condition by the capitalists who own the mass of the wealth, which constitutes the proceeds of the robbery of the working class. Dare Lansbury deny that? Obviously the masters wish to keep their expenses (rates and taxes) as low as possible, for they come out of their profits.. This is where the Labour leader renders assistance, first by endeavouring to disguise the process of working class exploitation, and second by trying to convince the workers that the masters’ rates and taxes concern them in order to keep them as low as possible. Proof:—
  “The larger Poplar ratepayers who squeal so much about the rates have therefore on the balance been saved at least £250,000 yearly as a result of the Poplar Labour Movement during the last four years.” —Poor Law Officers Journal, quoted Labour Leader, 6/3/24.
The “larger” ratepayers ought, therefore, to be grateful for they pocket an extra million in profit. Those who confuse the workers, knowingly or otherwise, are the best friends of the capitalist, and will merit their appreciation despite the pretence of their opposition. It is clear that it doesn’t matter whose the votes are, because—
   “As your member in the last two parliaments, I desire to thank both friends and opponents for the loyal support which they have given me during that period. “—Lansbury Election Address, October 24th.
As Socialists we know we will meet with bitter opposition from our opponents (Labourites included) : It is significant that while it took us six years to rake up £1,000 the I.L.P. Election Fund contained anonymous £500’s and £l,000’s, and one large employer of labour, Mr. Bernard Barron, while deploring the defeat of the Labour Government could contribute to the Labour Party funds, £5,000 in one gift. (“Chronicle,” 13/10/24.)

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Your Work and Their Profit.

Business Organisation” is a magazine devoted to devices and schemes for extracting the maximum amount of energy from the workers, with the minimum cost. It claims to be disinterested in politics, save in so far as they “check trade and hamper the efforts of our readers to find work for labour and make profit for themselves.” (October.) Eager to obtain insight into this divine arrangement, we read on, and learn of the great Woolworth : "The thought occurred to him that in future he would pay others to work for him, and so large did his business grow that he had never even entered some of his stores.” Another gentleman who also discovered the trick of how to find work—for others—was Mr. Selfridge; he embarked on a world tour a few months ago, “just to show he isn’t indispensable in the business” (Ibid,). The above instances apply equally to the capitalists as a whole. When the workers no longer consider it a privilege to be allowed to fashion a world of pleasure for others, that pleasant world can be theirs.
W. E. MacHaffie