Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Victory and then what? (1945)

From the June 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Another preventable tragedy is drawing to a close. The War that has spread death and destruction over a great part of the earth has come to an end in the western countries, and men and women in the fighting forces are anxiously awaiting the signal to go home. Home! Back to the old monotonous life in the office, the shop and the factory, toiling like beasts of burden for the enrichment of those who own the means of production, and with the constant dread of unemployment and penurious old age.

Europe is strewn with cities of the dead, the demented, the hungry and the homeless. Wonderful products of man's age long ingenuity, constructed by the labour of slaves, ancient, mediaeval and modern, have been reduced to shapeless heaps of rubble in a wild orgy of destruction unparalleled in any other period of human history. The unbridled savagery of the uncivilized Vandals and Huns of Antique and Mediaeval times has been surpassed by the calculated savagery of the highly civilized nations of to-day. War is always brutal and when the result of decades of scientific discoveries are centred upon means and methods of carrying on warfare, the brutality and cynical destruction is correspondingly colossal. And even so the last year of the War has shown us that we have only had a taste of things to come if the cause of war is left untouched by the only people who can abolish it—the working class.

The tragic aspect of the last six years is the fact that war solves no working class problem; it even throws up more problems and makes old problems more pressing On the one hand it gives an impetus to methods for reducing the amount of labour required to produce a given amount of wealth, on the other hand it converts thousands of ordinary workers into highly skilled technicians to compete with each other for a relatively reducing number of jobs. Many a trained specialist in different fields of industry will be walking the streets looking for a job in the not far distant future, just as their lesser skilled brethren did a year or two after the last War. And yet it is just the working class that bears the overwhelming burden of War, does nearly all the fighting and makes the principal sacrifices.

We now learn that the new world for which so many were called upon to struggle, and for which so many laid down their lives, is not yet. Food in the world is short, transport is ruined, the destruction of bomb and gun must first be made good before any improvement can be expected. We are exhorted to forgo the alleged fruits of “victory", tighten our belts and produce as voluminously as possible so that industry may get on its feet again.

The glowing promises of the early days of the War have gradually dimmed and in place of them we are urged to think of the starving peoples, of the vanished trade, and of anything else that can fob the workers off demanding the beautiful world of dreams by which they were seduced to the battlefields and the bomb devastated workshops. Not for them the type of dinner given by Mr Eden to a select party of diplomats at San Francisco which, according to the Daily Express (3/5/45) consisted of: Martini cocktails or tomato juice; oysters; sirloin steak; new peas, asparagus, potatoes au gratin; ice-cream ring with chopped fresh strawberries, small cakes, champagne. Yes, we must think of starving Europe, deny ourselves and work, but the exalted emissaries of our masters are permitted to forget—and eat.

In the meantime the capitalists of the different nations are completing their plans to fight each other in an economic war for markets, sources of supply and lines of traffic. Already British and American interests have fallen foul of each other over oil and airlines, shipping and island bases. And the scramble is only beginning.

In spite of the curtain of exalted sentiments behind them the Yalta Conference, the Frisco Conference, and all the other conferences past and future, have only one fundamental object—the enrichment of groups of capitalists out of the labour of the international working class. What we are witnessing now is simply a jockeying for place in this race for enrichment. The capitalists of each nation are asking themselves: “What point of vantage can we get out of the spoils of victory. Hurry or the other fellow will get there first.” Thus among the “United” nations and their friends, the late-comers, there is seething distrust. France tries to hang on to Stuttgart and growls; Yugo-slavia does the same at Trieste; Russia adopts an amenable Polish and Viennese government and the others do the growling; Turkey licks its lips and pounces in for a share; and so on and so forth. Hence another “War to end all wars” with still greater catastrophic results is already in the making, even before the present battlefields have been cleared of their broken human debris.

Working class memories are short and the spokesmen for the capitalists are cunning. The horrors of Buchenwald are trumpeted around the world because it suits the present interests of our masters whilst other misdeeds of capitalist civilization, equal in fiendish cruelty, are overlooked. It was not only Germans who transported hundreds of thousands of negroes in coffin ships from tropical Africa to work as chattel slaves under appalling conditions in the United States; who forced thousands of children of tender age to work in the factory hells of this country and America; who suppressed with ruthless ferocity the French Communards of 1871; who brutally exploited the native populations in every part of the world for personal enrichment. Capitalism drips with blood and tears wherever it raises its ugly head and flaming youth treads the ghastly path to the grave in defence of it. It is not only dictatorships, but capitalism itself that represents the spirit of ruthless unbridled domination.

In these days of “Victory” we remember what capitalism was and is. The relief at the lifting of the war clouds is apt to inspire in many an understandable desire to get back to work and forget, like a bad dream, the horrors they have been through. But the workers must not forget. They must remember, and remembering search for and apply the only remedy for wars and other social ills from which they suffer. The real enemy of the working class is, and always has been, at home. That is the capitalist class of every country and the system of wage-slavery it represents.

The workers must grasp the real meaning of the facts presented to them, and find and apply the only remedy or once again pay the penalty for allowing a privileged class to direct the course of events. They must recognise that they are the producers and distributors of the wealth of the world, but an idle class lives on the results of their toil because the workers allow that class to retain the ownership and control of the means of wealth production although constitutional means are at their disposable to dispossess that class.

Modern wars are not caused by human frailty, but by the greed of capitalists for profit out of the labour of the workers. When the population of the earth owns in common the means of production the product of human labour will be distributed to each according to the needs of each. Then no one will make profit out of another’s labour and the scramble for markets will disappear. This is Socialism, and it is for this alone that Socialists are struggling. When the workers have made up their minds to build a Socialist society, and have set about doing so, war and its causes will disappear from the earth.

A Glance at San Francisco (1945)

From the June 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Allies meet at San Francisco as 26 years ago they met at Versailles. In 1914 they said that they went to war, not for any “territorial aims” or “aggrandisement," but for the purpose of making the world democratic and peaceful. As they had met at Versailles to discuss and arrange peace, it was disquieting to read Keynes' “Economic Consequences of the Peace” of the disputes that raged between the Allies during the Conference. Within nine months of the Armistice the myth of a democratic and peaceful world was shattered). Clemenceau, the French Premier, referred to some of the other diplomats as “jackals.” They met in the Hall of Mirrors—Clemenceau was old, perhaps blind. The “jackals” have met again, different men, but with the same principle and policy to guide them—the retention of the present social order. Workers hoped that Versailles spelled peace. It was a tragedy that they pinned their hopes to their muster’s activities then—it will be a farce if they hope for peace from the ramshackle conference at San Francisco.

This conference starts where the Versailles conference finished. Already there are disputes between the victorious powers. Germany is not merely defeated; her cities are heaps of rubble, her factories and workshops destroyed and millions of her capable workers slaughtered. The German capitalists cannot regain their strength for many years. Who stands therefore in the path of peaceful settlement? We remember Mr. A. Greenwood broadcasting the evening war was declared (3/9/39): “But with clear consciences, we shall know that we are fighting the last war for final peace and liberty.” Does Mr. Greenwood think that this promise will be realised? What are the views of other observers on this question? General Smuts has stated that “If San Francisco fails then I see nothing but stark disaster before mankind."—(Manchester Guardian Weekly, April 13th, '45). Later in San Francisco he said: "Our race has reached the limit of human endurance: If we fail here the world may be psychologically shocked beyond repair."—(Daily Herald, April 23rd, 1945). Mr. Emrys Hughes after examining the League of Nations and asking if this Conference will take steps to end imperialist rivalries, declares that: “If it does not it will just be the beginning of the Old Geneva farce all over in an American setting with the peoples of the world being betrayed again.”—(Forward, April 21st, 1945). Have we to accept these conclusions as correct? Here we have two persons, both well-informed on political matters, speaking from different political viewpoints, but both emphatic that a San Francisco failure spells disaster or betrayal for the human race. Both are making an error, although Hughes' error is largely confined to his conclusion. It is an error that arises from an inability to understand the causes of war and their removal.

The world is divided into two classes—those who own, the capitalist class, and those who are property-less, the working-class. The capitalist live on income derived from ownership and the workers live on wages obtained by selling their energies. The income of the capitalists arises from unpaid labour of the workers and exists in the form of rent, interest and profit. This income cannot be obtained until the goods produced by the workers are sold. Control of markets, sources of raw materials,, spheres of influence and control of strategic military areas are among the factors essential in the competitive struggle between capitalist powers. The struggle is fierce and although disputes are settled sometimes by diplomatic means, ultimately the decision rests on the weight of the armed forces of the rival powers. Force is the final arbiter. Where do workers stand in this trade struggle? America, a “creditor” nation, a victor in the last War had 25,000,000 workers existing on relief in 1932/33. Victory or defeat will leave the working class in poverty so they have no fundamental concern in the. decisions at this conference. The conference is to settle capitalist differences and its failures and successes alike will leave working-class problems unsolved. It will fail to ensure peace as it will not remove the cause of war —capitalism. It is useless for the purpose of uniting mankind. Does this mean that we accept the despairing attitude of Smuts and Hughes? Before dealing with that let us touch on the immediate post-war period of 1919.

When the last war ended widespread discontent with war existed amongst workers in the Army and in industry. After the efforts they had made to win the war they were condemned to poverty and unemployment. Here was the time for a clear statement of the Socialist case and concentrated propaganda for Socialism. But the Labour and Communist Parties scorned the idea of Socialist propaganda and jeered at our insistence on the need for Socialist understanding. They guided the healthy discontent of workers into political activities harmless to the capitalist system, but dangerous to the working-class. Little did the speakers of these organisations, who said that the immediate problems of 1932 onwards was to prevent war by supporting the League of Nations and collective security, think that within a few years they would have helped thousands of workers into an early grave in a world war. Their policies led inevitably to that result. Their efforts made workers easy prey to the war propaganda of capitalism. Now, having learned nothing from the dismal failure of their pre-war policies, they are repeating those efforts by boosting new “peace” machinery that will fail in its avowed object. Have they any guarantee that the incorrect policies of 1919-39 can become the correct policies for 1945? Of course not; the truth is that they can no longer separate themselves from the policies of the capitalist parties.

Workers need not accept the blind and stupid policies of the Labour leaders; they can hammer out a policy independent of the capitalist parties. That is why we do not accept the conclusions of either Smuts or Hughes that the failure of a few capitalist diplomats spells disaster for mankind or betrayal for the workers. The strength of the capitalists rests on the political ignorance of the working-class. Growing socialist knowledge amongst workers will rob the capitalists of their strength. When large numbers of workers understand that whether they are British, German, American, Japanese, they have a common interest in the abolition of capitalism, the capitalist diplomats will be unable to threaten war in the defence of capitalist interests.

The immediate task is to make Socialists and the conditions for propaganda have never been more favourable. After the most devastating war in history, capitalism is still torn with dissension and struggle. It is as useful to write in dust as to work for peace on a capitalist basis. The way to prevent war is to establish Socialism. Let us not bow our heads and complain of betrayal; let us organise together for the establishment of an International society—Socialism.
Lew Jones

The “Victory” Election & Our Parliamentary Campaign (1945)

Party News from the June 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a very short time Parliament will be dissolved and the country thrown into the excitement of a general election for the first time for nearly ten years. The first shots have been fired. The leaders of the Parties forming the National Government have made their opening speeches. Each of the Parties is manoeuvring for position and advantage. Each warns the voter of the dire consequences for the country should either of the other Parties succeed in becoming the government of the day. Before the election is over it might well seem, if the accusations and mutual recriminations be believed that the menace they have been fighting for nearly six years is the lesser evil. Licence takes giant strides, and what in other spheres would be considered libel, is accepted as part of the game. That is the way of English politics, and for that matter, the way of politics in many other parts of the world.

The Old Sad Story.

Whichever of the Parties win and becomes the government the affairs of the country will be administered in much the same way as in the past. There will be no fundamental changes. The workers will work for small wages when in work and receive smaller doles when out of work. True there will be the insurance scheme which all Parties seem to be supporting. Under the scheme a meagre unemployment benefit is allowed, though Sir William Beveridge, the author of the scheme, points out that its success depends upon full employment!

It is quite certain that there will be no fundamental changes. There will be, and must be, aggravation of all the old problems of capitalism. Competition between the capitalist both at home and abroad will be fiercer, competition for jobs between the workers will be keener and insecurity more threatening. The Party in control of the machinery of Government will attempt to meet these problems in the same way that they have been dealt with for the past 150 years, by doles and social reforms.

Failure to Remove the Cause of Poverty.

As surely as these means have failed to remove working-class poverty and insecurity for a century and more so they will fail again. They must fail because they do not get at the basic cause of poverty and insecurity—the private ownership of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, the mines, factories, railways, and etc.

We Challenge Private Ownership.

The Socialist Party is entering the contest and will nominate a candidate in a London constituency. Paddington North. This is the beginning of a wider electoral activity to be pursued in the years after the war is over. We shall challenge private ownership of the means of production. and proclaim the indisputable case that only by its abolition and the establishment of Socialism can working-class problems be solved and the world freed from future wars.

Our Case is Indisputable—Socialism will Emancipate all Mankind.

The issue for us is simple. We stand for Socialism. All others, under whatever label they fight, stand for capitalism and the retention of the present order of things.

Now is The Time.

Time is short. We need your help and assistance. Members branches and supporters should send offers of help and donations without delay. Any odd hour or so which can be given in assisting in routine election work at the committee rooms will be welcome.

SEND YOUR DONATIONS NOW.—E. Lake, S.P.G.B.. Rugby Chambers, Rugby Street, W.C.l.

P.O.s, cheques, etc. must be crossed and made payable to S.P.O.B. Send Your offers of help now.
The Parliamentary Committee.

Further meanderings of G. B. Shaw (1945)

Book Review from the June 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Shaw insists periodically on exhibiting his lack of knowledge of socialism and his poverty of ideas regarding it. He is at it again in “Everybody’s Political What’s What.

Much of what he says may best be described as sheer waste of paper; the tragedy is, however, that although it got very poor notices from the critics the Shaw fans, i.e., admirers of his excellent and witty plays, carry their adoration of him into his other fields. It is apparently hard to conceive that an individual capable at his particular job albeit a difficult one may be a hopeless duffer at others; Oliver Lodge, a scientist, believed avidly in spiritualism!

He devotes whole chapters to how money should be paid under “socialism” (as he calls it) stating what is recognised under the present system, that it costs more to produce an admiral, doctor, lawyer, etc., not even admitting the possibility that the world could go round without money and would not therefore require either lawyers or admirals. Mr, Shaw's socialism is a thinly disguised nationalization in which compensation though not so called would be administered to the erstwhile possessors of capital, land, etc..

He is an admirer of Soviet Russia and hopes to model other countries on similar lines and comments naively “Although the Country (Britain) is up to the waist in Communism because there are so many vitally necessary public services out of which the capitalists can make no profit. . . .” Mr. Shaw should enquire a little more deeply into where the interest comes from paid on Government Bonds, with an eye on the Post Office. How Lord Ashfield lives, with an eye on the L.P.T.B., and also enquire if sewers, etc., are supplied to local authorities on a non-profit basis. Incidentally he does our case a service in pointing out the differences of income in the U.S.S.R., the varying types of workers and bureaucrats, and the recent changes in the educational system. To Mr. Shaw it is all in order, he explains it away as a cognisance of things as they are, not perceiving them as retrograde and necessary to modern capitalism albeit a state variety.

He ranks the works of Stanley Jevons and Ferdinand Lassalle as more correct than Marx, without however, one real word of proof. Stanley Jevons' followers it may be remembered were challenged to debate on Marx by Hyndman, and did not accept the challenge! He also talks of “Post Marxism” coupled with the wisdom of the Fabians and recommends that his other works should be read: as a consumer of royalties this may perhaps be justifiable, not however to those who value their spare time.

It would be better for Mr. Shaw’s reputation with coming generations, if he would now quietly die; his plays will keep his name alive for many years, but not his so-called political writings as they serve to illustrate bow foolish a “practical socialist ” can be.
W. P.

Editorial: The Misreporters of the Capitalist Press. (1945)

Editorial from the June 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

In our January issue we drew attention to the way in which the “Daily Express" under the guise of reporting textually the words used by Mr. Eden in a speech, carefully doctored it by altering “Labour" to “Socialist." This is an old custom of the Beaverbrook Press and shortly afterwards they were caught doing it again in an alleged report of a speech by Mr. Bevin. This time the Manchester Guardian took it up. In an editorial “Hard of Hearing" the Guardian (April 10th), pointed out how the Sunday Express (and also the Daily Telegraph), altered the words, so that where Mr. Bevin actually said “Labour" they altered it to “Socialism." Doubting whether the reporters were to blame the Guardian said one must suspect “the existence of some of those 'directives' of which our ‘press Lords' are fond. . . . It would be a pity to have to conclude that we have lost that old principle in journalism of reporting what was said, not what the newspaper owners would like to have had said."

The Daily Express, on April 12th, published what was supposed to be a reply to the Guardian’s charge of deliberate faking. This is how they did it. Carefully refraining from mentioning what the charge was, the Express lightly and obscurely referred to it as "a mistake in one of the provincial editions of the “Sunday Express."

Of course it was astute—and characteristic—of the Express not to let its readers know the nature of the charge; the way is thus left open for the “mistake" to go on being made without the readers suspecting it.

We are entitled to wonder how much other falsification goes on in the columns of the Express and Telegraph under the guise of reporting.

In a rather different category is the habit of most newspapers of using the terms Socialist Party and Socialism to describe the Labour Party and its programme, but without actually falsifying reports of speeches. On April 11th, 1945, “Candidus" in the Daily Sketch devoted the whole of his column to the claim made by the S.P.G.B. that the Labour Party is not a Socialist Party. He admitted that he habitually refers to the Labour Party as the Socialist Party and to its spokesmen as Socialists and put forward the naive (or was it disingenous?) explanation that he “thought it was correct.”

As the Labour Party has existed for 40 years under that title it can hardly have escaped the notice of “Candidus," so his explanation is as unconvincing as it would be if we said we “thought we were correct" in describing him as “Uncandidus."

Although he wrote at considerable length he made no attempt to justify his belief that the hotch-potch and ever-changing Labour Party programme of reforms, and its state capitalist schemes for regulating capitalism can be correctly described as socialism. Perhaps it would be uncharitable to say that busy journalists whose job it is to promote the circulation (and profits) of their employers' papers while at the same time keeping the readers’ minds away from dangerous thoughts about the evils of capitalism have no need and little time to find out what Socialism is all about. 

We can, however, place it on record that the Daily Sketch (May 3rd), published a reply sent by the S.P.G.B.

Atrocities—Cynical Ruling Class Attitude (1945)

From the June 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

For weeks on end the British Press carried horrifying accounts and pictures of atrocities committed in Nazi concentration camps; mass starvation, brutality, sadistic cruelties perpetrated by degenerate guards on helpless men, women and children, prisoners buried alive, tortured by solitary confinement and so on. Some of the worsened conditions of recent months may have been due, as one of the German guards said, to transport difficulties—the stupendous Allied bombing of roads and railways can hardly have failed to produce disorganisation—but this does not affect the main facts of appalling brutalities over a long period. But if the facts are substantially agreed this is certainly not true of the conclusions that can be drawn from them. Far from accepting the views of many newspapers and capitalist politicians we deny their right to raise hands in holy horror; or to attempt to fasten the responsibility on the German workers. On several counts the British ruling class and their spokesmen have not the slightest justification for the attitude they adopt.

Mr. John Gordon in the Sunday Express (April 22nd). recalls that this is not a new story. “It has been going on in Germany for something like 15 years," and the Sunday Times correspondent who visited the Belsen camp writes: “It is a thing you read about and refused to believe in from 1933 onwards."—(Sunday Times, April 22nd). A News-Chronicle correspondent, under the heading “Guilty Germans" makes a specific charge against the German workers that their guilt was that of “supine surrender" to the Nazis and that their slavishness was brought on themselves “when they failed to seize their chance in 1918." (News-Chronicle, April 24th). It is all very well for these charges to be made, but what were the newspapers and politicians (with a very few exceptions) saying and doing in 1933 when Nazi atrocities began, or to go further back, in the years from 1922 when Italian Fascist atrocities began? Some, like the late Lord Rothermere were carrying on active propaganda in support of the Nazis and Fascists. They knew all the facts about atrocities (at that time perpetrated against German and Italian workers), but they either denied the truth or glossed it over, or maintained that it was a purely internal affair of the German and Italian Governments. Here was the late Lord Rothermere's declaration : — 
  These ranters . . .  have started a clamorous campaign of denunciation against what they call 'Nazi atrocities' which, as anyone who visits Germany quickly discovers for himself, consist merely of a few isolated acts of violence, such as are inevitable among a nation half as big again as ours, but which have been generalised, multiplied, and exaggerated to give the impression that Nazi rule is a bloodthirsty tyranny. If one turns to the English newspapers of the years 1921 and 1922, one finds that the old women of both sexes in our country were just as hysterical then about alleged Fascist ‘outrages' in Italy. . . . the minor misdeeds of individual Nazis will be submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany."—(Daily Mail,  July 10th, 1933).
It suited British capitalist policy in those years to give support to Mussolini and Hitler so there was no protest about concentration camp horrors and no attempt to hold those two individuals responsible. Instead we had stuff like Mr. Churchill's account of his interview with Mussolini, reported in the Times (January 21st, 1927):—
 "I could not help being charmed, like so many other people have been by Signor Mussolini's gentle and simple bearing and by his calm, detached poise in spite of so many burdens and dangers." 
Lord Rothermere was similarly affected by Hitler :
  "He exudes good fellowship. He is simple, unaffected, and obviously sincere. . . . His courtesy is beyond words, and men and woman alike are captivated by his ready and disarming smile. He is a man of rare culture:.”—(Daily Mail, May, 1938, quoted In “Socialism Can Defeat Nazism."—I.L.P.).
Others, like the Beaverbrook Press, and many Conservative politicians, were preaching for British capitalism the line of cutting off from all Continental entanglements (meaning in effect let Germany and Russia fight it out), so they were against any interference in Germany's internal affairs, and German concentration camps were an internal affair. It was only when capitalist interests were involved in the struggle with German capitalism that these gentlemen discovered that Nazi brutalities were horrifying. When it was only working class organisations that were being crushed in Italy and Germany, British capitalism did nothing, made no protest, and was utterly indifferent; in some quarters actively approving.

Russia, too, was following the same line, just after the Nazis came to power Russia renewed her agreements, with Germany, and Litvinov for the Russiau Government had this to say in shamefaced defence of Russian policy :—
  ‘‘We, of course, are sensitive to the sufferings of our German comrades, but we Marxists can be reproached least of all for permitting our feelings to dominate our policy. . . . We do not interfere in the internal affairs of Germany, just as in those of other countries, and our relations with her are determined not by her internal, but her foreign policy. We want to have the best relations with Germany, as with other states."—(Moscow News, January 6, 1934).
As for the charge that the German workers were supine and that they ought to have seized their chance in 1918, does the News-Chronicle recall the attitude of the British ruling class towards those German workers who were not supine? The Daily Mail was urging that Karl Liebknecht should be shot “like a mad dog,” and the Allied authorities, put pressure on Germany by threatening to withhold essential supplies of food and other materials unless the authorities suppressed the insurgent German workers.

Ruling class sensitiveness to atrocities is not based on sentiments of humanity, but is merely a weapon in the struggle to protect capitalist interests against rival capitalist States. Their horror consequently changes direction along with foreign policy, it is worked up or allowed to subside according to the needs of the moment. At one period it is directed against Turkey or the Boers, at another against Russia or France. It is always on tap, ready to be turned on or off as interests dictate.

It was, of course, not the British Government, but mainly working class organisations that protested against the sufferings of Boer women and children in the Concentration camps established by the British authorities in South Africa during the War with the Boer Republics.

A British historian: G. M. Trevelyan has this smug account of it. “Finally, to catch the farmers in these vast spaces where the scattered population was on their side, it was found that no method would answer but to destroy their farms and concentrate their families in camps. Unfortunately many of the children died there." (British History in the Nineteenth Century," 1922 (p. 422).

Michael Davitt in his “Boer Fight for Freedom," (1902, p. 587), says that there were 45,000 women and 50.000 children “inside of barbed wire fences surrounded by British soldiers, arms in hand," and that “14,000 of these children have died already of sickness induced by the cold and the privations inflicted upon them in one year.”

In the first World War much was made of German atrocities, including the fictitious, but very effective propaganda story of the Corpse Factories in which German dead were supposed to he boiled down for oils and fats, etc. It was not until 1925, when British policy had veered against France and towards Germany, that the story was dropped. Only then did Sir Austin Chamberlain announce in the House of Commons that “The Chancellor of the German Reich has authorised me to say, on the authority of the German Government, that there never was any foundation for it. I need scarcely add, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, I accept this denial, and I trust that this false report will not again he revived.’’ (Hansard, 2nd December. 1925). The German Government, by the way. had been denying the story for eight years and it was the British Government in the first place which had circulated the false report

Memories are short or the use made by the capitalists of atrocities would be realised. In 1927 when Mr. Churchill found Mussolini such a charming man, Russia was still a main worry of the British Foreign Office, and Churchill was therefore not concerned to denounce the “bestial appetites and passion” of Italian Fascism, but applied those words to what he called “Leninism.”

In 1919 Mr. Churchill, as Minister for War, had told the House of Commons that he had been looking at photographs of Bolshevik atrocities and found them “of a very painful nature."—(Hansard, November 20th, 1919). That year the Foreign Office published a White Book dealing with alleged Bolshevik atrocities and some of the contents of the book were recounted by Mr. Clement Edwards, M.P., in the House of Commons, on April 2nd, 1919. In Mr. Edwards' view they showed that the Lenin regime was synonymous with “mad anarchy” and “wicked cruelty beyond any possible conception of any British mind at least.” Among the cases cited was that of 12 labourers who were alleged to have been cast alive into a hole in which were hot slag deposits; naval officers burnt alive on planks which were slowly pushed into furnaces inches at a time; others tortured with jets of scalding steam followed by exposure to freezing air; men bound, put into barges and the barges sunk.

Another alleged Bolshevik atrocity was the employment of Chinese executioners, “who were sawing prisoners into pieces.”—(Hansard, April 16th, 1919 (col. 2,978). About this last story Colonel Wedgwood pointed out that it was based on what an anonymous Englishman was told at Stockholm by an anonymous Estonian—nevertheless it was good enough for our Foreign Office. He also pointed out that the stories about the Bolsheviks were “worse than any atrocity stories we have seen during the war against Germany." He should not have been surprised. Capitalist Governments are not concerned with atrocities as such, but with the use that may be made of reports, true or false, proved or merely rumoured, against the enemy of the moment.

In “The Russian Soviet Republic,” by E. A. Ross, Professor of Sociology, Wisconsin University (Allen & Unwin, 1923), there are further particulars of alleged atrocities reported in the British and American press, including such incidents as 38,000 Russian soldiers, returned from imprisonment in Germany being starved to death in a Russian Concentration Camp (New York Times, 24th February, 1919). The newspaper's correspondent passed on the statement of his informant who “saw train load after train load of corpses being transferred from the camp to the municipal refuse destruction furnaces." (p. 280).

In the same issue was a report of “impalement on wooden stakes, torture by flame, and mutilations too hideous to relate."

Just as Germany was the target from 1914 for many years until it was finally dropped in 1925, and is again the target now, so also Russia was alleged to be the worst offender for many years after 1919. All attacks on Russia stopped in 1941, but does any one doubt that with some future change of policy that tap may be turned on again in full force. Then we shall be told about existing concentration camps in Russia, not to mention the material already used only a few months ago against the Greek E.LA.S., and its Communist supporters.

Those with long memories will recall how, for a space in the early nineteen twenties, France was singled out on account of the French occupation of the German Ruhr by black troops: British foreign policy had by then diverged from close association with France.

An important aspect of the recent German atrocities is the conclusion drawn by many people that they prove the brutality and degeneracy of the German people as a whole. If they do then the world is peopled with degenerates—no nation escapes the indictment. Who invented concentration camps? The British in South Africa; and many foreign countries affected to be horrified. Were Churchill and the British Government, in 1919, right about Bolshevist atrocities? are then the Russians, as a Nation also brutal and degenerate? What of the Belgians in the Congo slaughtering or maiming native men, women and children by the thousand because they failed to bring in sufficient tribute of rubber? Or the French in their neighbouring African colony, with a like brutal record. What of the atrocities alleged against the Boers in the Boer War; against the British Black and Tans in Ireland; the Chinese in the Boxer rising and their counter charges against the occupying white troops?

The charge against whole nations will not hold. Every nation can show u certain number of people brutalised by the conditions under which they live, but the responsibility rests in every case with the authorities who deliberately train and use such people as part of the state machinery of suppression.

During the last War the British Government appointed a committee to consider and report on the evidence of outrages committed by German troops. It was presided over by the late Lord Bryce and among its members was the late H. A. L. Fisher. Mr. Francis Hirst writing to the Times (May 3, 1945), quotes from Fisher’s life of Bryce the following observation:—
  “Bryce knew far too much to draw an indictment against the whole German nation. He knew that in every country there are a certain proportion of savage natures, in some countries more than in others, and that in the excitement and demoralization of war such temperaments find a free vent."
As far as the recent Nazi atrocities are concerned we should remember that when there were in existence working class organisations opposed to the Nazi regime (and eventually suppressed by it), the ruling class in countries outside Germany who could have helped did nothing to protect them or aid them. Later on individual Germans opposed to Nazi brutalities were helpless. As a contributor writing to the Times reminds its readers (April 23rd), the large majority of the prisoners in the Nazi camp at Buchenwald, Belsen and elsewhere were Germans, and the Observer's correspondent who interviewed a German Pastor in a village near Belsen received from him a convincing answer to his question why did the Pastor not make a protest.
  “But what could they do said the little man. Preach against it? If he preached against it once his wife and children would be taken to a concentration camp."—(Observer, April 22).
   The Pastor went on to remind the correspondent that he had himself just seen what the camp was like, and asked the correspondent if he would have done anything to send his own wife and children to such a fate.
Of course the German people were responsible for voting, in large numbers, to put the Nazis into power, but the Germans can hardly be distinguished from voters of other nations in respect of credulously swallowing the extravagant and high sounding promises made by vote-catching politicians and discovering their mistake only by experience.

Moreover, there is evidence that at least some German workers were opposed to the Nazis and their methods and did what little they could. The News-Chronicle (April 21st), reports an interview with a French Army Officer who had been a prisoner in Germany. He said:—
  “There was considerable anti-Nazi sentiment in the Ruhr among the workers. They have been opposed to the War I think since the start, and many of them have been cruelly punished by the Nazi for their views." The News-Chronicle correspondent adds this;—
    “I came across concrete instances of how some German workers helped the victims of the Nazis.
    One working-class family in a Duesseldorf suburb has for two years hidden two Jews, feeding them out of their own rations, to save them from the Nazis.
    A Polish slave worker hunted by the Gestapo for his underground activity was sheltered by a German girl who helped him in his work.”
By all means we protest against atrocities and brutality, but we do so not as an expedient according to circumstances but against atrocities and brutality wherever and whenever they occur.

It is for the working class of the whole world to see as it really is the cynical and hypocritical use made, by the capitalist class of atrocities, and not to let themselves be divided by capitalist propaganda directed against first one and then another foreign nation. It is capitalism itself that produces the worst atrocity of all—war, and which everywhere has a record of brutality towards the working class and colonial peoples in peace or in war.

Only Socialism can end it and only world working class unity can achieve that end.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Dennis O’Neill case (1945)

From the June 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Recently the country was outraged by the story of the death of a fourteen-year old boy, Dennis O’Neill, at the hands of a Shropshire farmer.

The facts are widely known. We give the barest outline here.

In the summer of 1918 John and Mabel O’Neill were married in Newport, Monmouthshire. He was 22, she 21. Both had served in France, he was lightweight boxing champion of the South Wales Borderers, she was a nurse. On the dole, the O’Neills had eleven children. One died at birth. They tried to bring up the remaining ten on £2 a week—in one room.

In 1923 O'Neill served one month's imprisonment for neglecting one of his children.

In December, 1939, Inspector Jones summoned the O’Neills before the Newport magistrates for neglect of their four youngest children.

The Inspector (N.S.P.C.C.), said their conditions were “indescribable,” though the children were fairly well nourished. Mrs. O’Neill stated that she often went without food for days that they might eat.

The magistrates fined each parent £3 with the alternative of a month in jail. They could not pay: while they served their sentence, the children were cared for at the Newport Poor Law Hospital.

Coming out of jail, John O'Neill at once joined the Army (December, 1939). While he was away in France, Inspector Jones got an order by the Newport magistrates for the removal of the four youngest children.

The O'Neills were ordered to pay 2s. a week for each child. They often defaulted.

Reginald Gongh, was the son of an agricultural worker who had a very hard life on the land.

In 1942 he was managing a farm in Shropshire. After marrying in 1942, he took Bank Farm (where young Dennis died) on borrowed money. His sole income was his monthly cheque for the sale of milk. Life on the farm was “bleak with poverty."

The Newport Educational Committee paid Gough £1 weekly for Dennis’s upkeep.

The rest of the story is well known. For a socialist the whole business is an epitome in miniature of the evils of the capitalist system. Almost every publication in the country has demanded investigations into the boarding-out system. Paradoxically enough, the Home Office, after years of agitation for the establishment of suitable institutions, issued a circular a year ago urging local authorities not to keep children in institutions, but to send them to foster-parents.

To those who might claim that the O'Neills should have “ known better” than bring eleven children into the world on the dole, we would point out that all the Governmental Authorities from Mr. Churchill downwards (or. up), have insisted on the need for more children—and have adopted a family allowance scheme to get them.

O'Neill could not have been the worst of workers— his boxing prowess shows considerable mental and physical ability. Nevertheless he remained permanently unemployed from 1919 to 1930—the period of “peace.” They could not have been the worst of parents, the wife often went without food to feed her children.

Small wonder that, harassed and persecuted by Inspectors and officials, the O’Neills dumbly and helplessly suffered the removal of their unfortunate children.

Everything that needs to be said has already been indicated by the circumstances of Farmer Gough’s life. Obviously, only a struggling poverty-stricken farmer would be interested in boarding poor town children at £1 weekly in the hope of getting some work out of them. Equally, the rapidly growing, and learning, children would resent having to work—for nothing.

Actually, it amounts to State connivance at juvenile slavery, through the local authorities.

The whole evidence at the trial of Gough for manslaughter, showed this to be the cause of the friction. In a certain sense, Gough has done a service in exposing one of the crying scandals of the age. Thousands of children suffer in misery, unknown and unheard.

Over a hundred years after Dickens’ searing and harrowing exposures of vicious inhumanity to children, “Oliver Twist,” “Martin Chuzzlewit,” “Little Dorrit,” etc., after a century of all sorts of “Waifs and Strays,” “Societies for Protecting Children,” and public philanthropy and charity, we find the treatment of very poor working men’s children very little different to-day from then. O'Neill’s crime, like Gough’s—and young Dennis’s, was that he was poor, in a society dominated by money.

Socialists do not demand the “tightening-up of the boarding-out system,” or “More Inspectors of the Children’s Homes,” or “More Efficient Control,” as repeated ad nauseam in the public press. They organise politically to abolish social system which makes Poverty the worst of crimes.

The facts about working class savings (1945)

From the June 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Institute of Statistics, in the issue of their Bulletin dated January 13th, 1945, publish the results of an inquiry into working class savings, undertaken by the British Institute of Public Opinion in the Spring of 1944. The inquiry was based on a sample of 1,153 working class families chosen at random and distributed throughout the country. Taking into account all money savings in Cash, Savings Banks, Savings Certificates, Government Bonds, Co-operative Societies, Building Societies, etc. (but excluding savings in the form of house property and insurance policies), it was found that the total savings of over half the families amounted to £50 or less; and three-quarters of the families had £100 or less. Only about one family in eight had more than £200. The cautious conclusion reached is that “the results of the inquiry—after allowing for errors inherent in this sampling method—do suggest that the bulk of the working class population have comparatively insignificant holdings of money-savings."

The reason is, of course, that the working class only receive about sufficient to meet day to day expenses, and the campaigns of the National Savings Committee are largely wasted as far as members of the working class are concerned.
P. S.

Track And Trace (2021)

The Proper Gander TV column from the June 2021 issue of the Socialist Standard

There’s a long, long, list of things which are accepted as part of today’s world and which will sound barbaric and bizarre to those living in a sane future society. One of these is ‘tagging’ people convicted of a crime – ordering them to have strapped to their ankle a box which traces their location. Tagging, or ‘electronic monitoring’ as it’s officially known, is seen as a cheaper alternative to jail for some of those judged guilty of crimes such as shoplifting and fraud who are still required to be monitored. In a society based on free access to goods and services and with production owned and run in common, shoplifting and fraud wouldn’t be possible, and the reasons why people turn to crime today wouldn’t be there. And so people wouldn’t have to be subjected to something as dehumanising and demeaning as being fitted with a tracker.

Tags have been used by the UK’s enforcement agencies since 1999, having been introduced in America during the early ‘80s. They record data about the movements of their wearers, checking that they are avoiding areas proscribed by the court, attending necessary appointments and keeping to a curfew. The tag sends a regular signal to a receiver unit installed in the wearer’s home, with alerts generated if the equipment is disconnected or if the wearer is not inside when they are required to be. An alert means that the wearer is in breach of the conditions of their sentence or bail, which could lead to them being sent back to prison. Since 2019, GPS technology has been used to more precisely identify a tag wearer’s whereabouts, with this newer generation of devices having cost £60 million. Each year, 60,000 people in England and Wales are ordered to wear a tag. 7,000 of these are women, three of whom were followed around by cameras for a recent documentary in BBC Three’s Tagged series: Women on Tag.

Amy and Stacey, both in their twenties, are living on tag in a stark bail hostel in Greater Manchester. Amy was placed there after a prison sentence for fraud, theft and shoplifting, while Stacey is awaiting trial for an assault charge. Jody, living in a flat in Cambridgeshire, has been convicted of burglary and is also wearing a tag until an upcoming trial. She and Amy both have children who were taken away from them when it was decided that their drug use and criminal behaviour meant they couldn’t provide adequate care. All three have a history of problematic drug use, which, as they explain, was a method of blocking out past traumas but which soon led to the routine of stealing to fund their habits. As the programme mentions, 49 percent of women arriving in prison have a drug problem, which is likely to continue inside. Little money and few opportunities pushed them into breaking the laws which are part of the system which put them in that situation. Jody describes her unsettled upbringing, guessing that by the age of 29, she’s had over 50 bedrooms through moving home so many times. Already pushed down by the system, she and the others now face the additional humiliation of being tagged. Stacey says ‘I feel like a robot’ while she stays by the wall for over two hours until her tag charges up from the mains. The documentary also finds a parallel with how animals are treated, when Amy and Stacey see a field of goats with tags stapled to their ears to denote who they belong to.

By the end of the programme, only Amy is looking forward to a better life, having been allocated a rented flat of her own. Stacey gets evicted from the bail hostel, loses hope and eventually gets authorisation to stay at a friend’s house while she waits for her trial. Jody is arrested for a breach of her conditions and returns to prison, with her daughter’s placement in care made permanent. So, the tags haven’t been as successful in controlling behaviour as they’re supposed to be. Figures show that over half of people fitted with a tag in 2018 didn’t comply with their curfew or tampered with the equipment. Tags, along with prison and other punishments, aren’t able to prevent criminal behaviour because the people most oppressed by capitalism sometimes can find no other way to survive.

Regardless of their ‘effectiveness’, tags have been a money-spinner for the private companies which operate them under contracts with the Ministry of Justice. Senior staff in these companies have been much more audacious with their law-breaking than the people wearing their tags, motivated by greed rather than poverty. The Serious Fraud Office investigated Serco and G4S for attempting to defraud the state, and together they were fined nearly £178 million. Both companies hid the true extent of the profits generated by their tagging businesses, in the hope that the Ministry of Justice wouldn’t notice how favourable their contracts were and then try to decrease their revenue. Serco and G4S were stripped of their contracts, and in 2020, some of G4S’s senior executives were charged with fraud. If the justice system has a sense of irony, at some point they’ll be fitted with the tags they used to profit from.
Mike Foster