Saturday, September 25, 2021

Letters: Eco-Socialism (1987)

Letters to the Editors from the September 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard


Dear Letters Editors,

Congratulations on your August issue "One Green World”, which addressed some of the multifarious issues of the environment.

I have been a fairly regular reader of the Socialist Standard in the past and have been consistently disappointed at your failure to look at "green" issues. All too often I have come to the view, after reading your journal, that the SPGB languishes in the past, placing an overriding faith in the ideas and doctrines of Marxism and attempting to apply them unquestioningly to the modern world. That is not to say that Marx's fundamental theories do not hold good — indeed they do — but it is necessary, in my view, to appreciate how capitalism has surpassed Marx's expectation of how ingeniously it would strive to keep itself going.

For example. Marx could not have forseen the invention and proliferation of the atomic bomb, the ultimate symbol of capitalism's self-destructive tenacity, nor could he have envisaged the sheer scale of waste and ruthless exploitation of the world's finite resources which we are now witnessing.

I believe that the future — if there is to be one — must be a "green" one. It is my hope that it will be a socialist "green” future if we are to avoid a return to a form of feudal societal structure.

It is all very well to sit in an ivory tower of pure, untainted Marxist socialism, pronouncing an "I told you so" view of modern society and waiting for a "mass understanding" which will bring about true socialism. I too believe that genuine socialism can only come about through the collective will, but in the meantime there is a world out there and if we don't act to protect it through means pragmatic as well as pure, then we may well lose it. Yes, capitalism with its absurd self-contradictions is a dying order — the very real danger is that it now has the power to take us all with it (and thus all hope of genuine socialism).

Having made these points, I wish to come back to your August issue: 1 was dismayed to see that in all your considerations of green issues you didn't mention SERA — the Socialist Environment and Resources Association. SERA is a growing body (currently over 1.000 members) of "green" socialists actively campaigning for a green and socialist future.

May I, through your letters page, urge you to return to the theme in future issues and look at the work of SERA? Perhaps the SPGB might consider trying to organise a public debate with SERA? Further, if I may be so bold — members of the SPGB might consider also becoming members of SERA — membership of the one organisation is not. in my view, incompatible with membership of the other.
Yours sincerely.
Steve Dent

We welcome the invitation to debate with SERA. However we cannot agree that membership of The Socialist Party is compatible with SERA. Although we recognise the urgency of the ecological problems facing the world, reformist activity perpetuates capitalism and so postpones their solution.

Theory, theory and even more theory

Dear Editors.

I have only been reading the Socialist Standard for a short while but to me it seems that the principal fault in your presentation is that you are too academic.

You theorise so much that you ignore what happens in society in practice. If a certain society is not theoretically correct in terms of your rigid Marxist analysis then you dismiss it totally. You are completely hostile to anyone that does not completely support your case.

In terms of strict socialist analysis, based upon Marxist principles, perhaps Russia is not socialist. But the vast majority of people are not concerned with such theoretical analysis that the SPGB keeps coming up with. They are concerned with practical matters such as jobs and homes. The fact of the matter is that in practice Russia does provide jobs and homes for its people. In theoretical terms the SPGB may deny that this could take place but in the real world the SPGB's theory has little relevance. While the SPGB remains trapped within the language of theory and abstract analysis then it will remain an irrelevance to ordinary people.
Paul Jenkins 

The aim of the Socialist Standard is to put across socialist ideas. We try to do this by publishing articles which offer a socialist interpretation of current affairs and political ideas and by including articles written in a variety of styles and taking different approaches in the hope that they will appeal to as many readers as possible. However the common element in all the articles we print is the case that capitalism cannot meet the needs of the working class and that socialist revolution is necessary if that objective is to be met.

Although we agree that in putting across our ideas we should not ignore reality, it is true that how people see reality may very well be affected by the ideas that they hold — the two are not totally independent of each other. Indeed one of the most important functions of the Socialist Standard is to challenge the conventional view that capitalism, despite its problems, is the best of all possible worlds by highlighting the extent to which the political rhetoric of capitalism does not conform to people's everyday experiences.

That kind of thinking also informs our approach to countries like Russia. In this case the rhetoric used is that of "socialism" and because our sole objective is the establishment of a socialist world we are bound to be interested in any country that claims to have already established socialism. But an examination of the social and economical system in Russia demonstrates that, once again, the reality does not live up to the rhetoric. What The Socialist Party understands by socialism is a system based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, a society where everyone has access to the things they need, a society where there is no buying and selling, no wage slavery, no production for profit and a society where everyone can participate in the making of decisions affecting their lives. That kind of society is not to be found in Russia. It may be that workers have jobs and houses in Russia but this does not affect the things they do not have — free access to all the things they need, freedom from the tyranny of wage slavery and state coercion.

The Socialist Party is concerned with practical issues like people's standard of living — housing, health care and so on — and it is because we are so concerned that we ask questions about why it is that millions of workers throughout the world are deprived of such basic necessities. The only answer that makes sense is that it is because of the way society is ordered. And the only permanent solution that makes any sense is to abolish the present social system and instead establish a socialist society.

There are three stages in the development of political ideas. Firstly, an analysis of what's wrong with society as it is and most people from their own experience of life in capitalism could come up with a list of persistent problems that they would like to see solved. Secondly, if we are serious about trying to find permanent solutions to those problems then we need to try to explain why such problems arise. Theory may very well be useful here, enabling people to put their own personal experiences into a broader context. Having come up with an explanation that fits what we know about the world we can then think about ways to solve the problems identified in the most effective way. At this stage we need not only political theory but just as importantly, political action and organisation.

The Socialist Standard provides a forum for a discussion of ideas about life in capitalist society and why it is the way it is and of socialist ideas. These issues are not abstractions but are of vital relevance to all workers. But The Socialist Party is not just concerned with ideas. Why not visit your local branch of The Socialist Party and find out about socialist action in your area?

Between the Lines: Our people (1987)

The Between the Lines column from the September 1987 issue of the
Socialist Standard 

Our people

It's good to see television which shows what life is like for us working people. Not Coronation Street dummy workers, but real workers talking for themselves about real life. Such TV is all too rare, but Yorkshire TV's On The Manor (Monday. 3 August. 8.30 pm. ITV) showed how to do it. The documentary was about The Manor estate, a mile and a half from Sheffield city centre. Sixty per cent of the estate's inhabitants are below the official poverty line; 75 per cent have no car; only one per cent "own" their homes. The programme showed (with the use of excerpts from a government propaganda film made in the 1940s, claiming that towns belonged to the people and would be developed to make life happier for them) that all that has really happened with the building of new council estates has been the replacement of new slums for old. As Barry Pennington, who lives on the estate, said. The Manor is a prison of poverty: people can’t escape because they lack the money to do so.

Inhabitants of the estate make weekly visits to an open-air market where second-hand clothes and shoes can be bought: three blouses for a pound. Ann Matthews from the estate defined poverty as "people not looking their best, not living in the best conditions". She is right. The poverty of life for the workers shown in this documentary, just like thousands of workers in other towns and cities, is a deprivation not only of what people need in order to survive without extreme suffering, but a denial of access to the extreme comfort which all of us could enjoy. On The Manor workers have boosted their confidence by forming a tenants' association and learning to resist those who supervise their poverty. Such resistance is necessary and educative but it is not going to break down the walls of the prison of poverty. Only the struggle for a socialist society will succeed in doing that.

Naughty people

Capitalism, the most ethically bankrupt and socially obscene system of living in the history of humanity, loves to depict itself as a moral society. The Cook Report (Wednesdays. 8.30pm BBC1) is all about showing that crime does not pay — or that, when it does, the criminals will not escape the public gaze. The idea of the programme — which is very compelling viewing — is that the fearless reporter, Roger Cook, accompanied by a camera team, confronts wrong-doers and urges them to bare their wicked souls to the honest viewers. One week he was on the Costa del Sol in Spain being hit by umbrellas owned by dodgy East End characters wanted by the police in Britain; the next he was exposing the sick traders in child pornography. It is all righteous stuff and perhaps it even puts some fear into people who have put fear into others. But — and this is the but which makes The Cook Report an essentially superficial and phoney exercise — Cook's exposes are only of those who have illegally exploited, molested or lied to others. The legalised criminals are not up for exposure.

When is Roger Cook going to do a programme in the offices of M15. asking them a few of the questions which our masters seem to be rather touchy about us wanting to think about? But then, MI5 vets all employees for the BBC, doesn't it? What about going into the churches to look at some of the corruption there? Cook may well derive some satisfaction from exposing the child-pom producers (who are usually seriously disturbed people and certainly small-fry when it comes to child molestation) but there would be plenty of mileage in an expose on the routine repression of children by the education system. Following East End gangsters to Spain made exciting viewing, especially when one of them punched Cook straight in the gob but when are we to see the next programme on the robbers who have become Stock Exchange millionaires by paying workers less than the value of what we produce? When is Cook going to stop picking at the scabs and start shining the light on the cancer itself? Now maybe some good investigative journalist could infiltrate The Cook Report Office and show us just how stories are chosen to be followed up — and how they’re dropped.

Trendy people

This column has in the past complained about the patronising nature of the presentation of rock music on TV. Well, it's only of interest to proles, and young ones at that — probably uneducated and unemployed — so we'll make it pretty basic, say the producers. Of later matters have become worse; Network 7, the new Channel 4 programme for the 18-25 market, seems to be directed at viewers with serious brain damage. Features on why Tony Blackburn fell in love with his wife and why Tony Blackburn divorced his wife and other issues of profound importance to people inhabiting a world which could go up in smoke at any time is insulting drivel. Trendy, illiterate, artistically uncouth, socially shallow rubbish like Network 7 and No Limits are a reflection of the cultural degeneration of a system which was fit for the dustbin of history long before the kids watching these programmes were born.
Steve Coleman

Cry from the Bronx (1987)

TV Review from the September 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

Watching The Bronx: A Cry For Help (C4. 27 July) you could be forgiven for thinking you were seeing bombed cities during world war two. We were shown a landscape of rubble and rubbish; we were told of rats the size of cats, the lack of basic amenities like water and heating, the high rents and landlords who would do nothing for their tenants; and we were told of the spread of poverty from a few streets to many.

Meanwhile what were the politicians doing about the conditions in the South Bronx? Making promises of course! Jimmy Carter promised 56 million dollars in aid. It did not materialise. Ronald Reagan told the people of South Bronx that he could not do anything unless elected as president. He was elected but did nothing. In fact doing nothing seemed like a deliberate policy: a New York City official hoped that the people would move away so that the whole area could be bulldozed. The capitalist system runs for the minority and if you're poor you're meant to be thankful for what you've got — even if it's akin to a bomb site.

The Bronx: A Cry For Help showed a side of the "Land of the Free" that is seldom seen — the degrading poverty that exists alongside the extreme wealth of the few.
Brendan Cummings

The Great Tin Crash (1987)

Book Review from the September 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Great Tin Crash. Bolivia and the World Tin Market by John Crabtree, Gavan Duffy,  Jenny Pearce.  (Latin American Bureau, London, 1987)

1985 saw the collapse of the world tin market with the price of tin falling from over £8.000 a tonne to less than £4,000 in October alone. A market surplus of tin had been occurring for some years but changes in dollar and sterling exchange rates exacerbated the market collapse. The repercussions were felt in areas as wide apart as Cornwall and Bolivia, where tin miners lost their jobs.

But capitalism takes no account of the human misery it causes as this book makes clear. It quotes Eduardo Galeano as saying that:
Bolivians die with rotten lungs so that the world may consume cheap tin. Tinplate is made from tin and the tin is worth nothing: a half dozen people fix its global price.
Seventy per cent of workers in Bolivia’s state mining company, Comibol, lost their jobs and this in a country where poverty is second only to that in Haiti in the Western hemisphere. Bolivia is a country in debt. It has been estimated that as many as 50 per cent of the population may be unemployed. It is also a country unable to compete effectively — a victim of new technology, of changes in consumption patterns and of economic recession. But the authors of this book also point out that Bolivia is a victim of capitalism, a "system [which] is fundamentally wasteful of the resource which lies at its very foundation: human beings".

But the human tragedies created by poverty are not the concern of the London Metal Exchange which dominates the world metal market. It ensures that consumers are not dependent on a single producer and guarantees a single price for metal of a given type and quality, regardless of source. But the metals market has been subject to the economic recession that has affected all aspects of the world economy. Demand for tin has fallen and so only low-cost tin producers could survive. The International Tin Association attempted to maintain the price of tin by the operation of a stockpile: during periods of shortage tin was released onto the market and during periods when demand was low tin was purchased for the stockpile.

Bolivia is a high cost tin producer and its position has been worsened by competition from Brazil — a major low cost producer — and a fall in the amount of tin sold on the world market due to substitution, technological change and the use of alternative materials for packaging. In addition. Bolivia was more vulnerable because of its dependence on tin production — in 1980 tin made up about 40 per cent of Bolivia's exports — and its generally weak economy. In 1985 the inflation rate was 8,163.5 per cent. The exchange rate fell from 25 peso to the dollar in 1980 to over one million peso in September 1985. In an attempt to stabilise the economy the government froze wages (but not those for members of parliament or the military). It is little wonder that many Bolivians turned to coca cultivation where money could be made preparing cocaine paste for export to USA. The tin miners' response to the wage freeze and the removal of subsidies on food was to organise mass underground hunger strikes. The response of the management at Comibol was to be grateful to be freed from their contractual responsibility to pay wages.

Bolivia's future looks bleak. It will perhaps be able to weather the present crisis because of the informal economy — one estimate suggests that the production of coca has risen to 160.000 tonnes in 1985, enough to produce 437 tonnes of cocaine. But, as with other exports, it is the American sellers who make the profits. Nevertheless it does provide employment, with as many as one in six families engaged in coca production. Meanwhile the Bolivian miners' union. FSTMB. still argues that losses at Comibol have been exaggerated by the government and they reject "the closure of any mine without a prior technical and economic survey", a rearguard campaign not unlike that waged by the NUM in Britain over pit closures. But increasingly the role of the FSTMB has been one of negotiating compensation for redundant miners.

The precarious situation of tin miners in Bolivia is typical of workers in any industrial nation. The FSTMB has long been a thorn in the flesh of the Bolivian government and the present administration of Paz Estenssoro has been happy to see a weakening of the miners' influence. At the same time the competition for employment has turned miner against miner within Bolivia and. internationally, the insecure future of tin mining divides workers between countries.

This book claims that the failure of the rich nations to maintain stable exchange rates and to support the International Tin Council means that they must "bear the considerable responsibility for this hardship". The use of tin is undergoing a profound change and the management of that change is harsh because capitalism permits change to occur regardless of human cost.
 Under capitalism, however, not only are the benefits not shared but the very process of change itself generates losses and hardships to its victims. National agreements in the third world do not have the resources to compensate their citizens for changes in the international division of labour. The tin crash has shown the importance of sharing the costs of a crisis of this dimension equitably, with wealthy consumer nations assuming more of the burden.
Benevolent capitalism, as suggested here, is a pious hope. The authors call for "a more humane and democratic world order" and "a genuine transfer of economic power and wealth". Neither are possible without the abolition of the capitalist system which, they recognise, takes no account of the needs of human beings.
Philip Bentley

Society without exchange (1987)

From the September 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

It may be hard to imagine a society totally without exchange, but nevertheless for the vast majority of human history, around 15.000 years, this was exactly the way things were organised in a stage of human history called primitive communism.

At this time humanity lived a tribal existence with each member of the tribe as important as another: the men as hunters, the women as gatherers of fruit and roots. The young, as the future of the tribe, the old as the wisdom of the tribe, who knew the migratory patterns of animals, where the best roots could be found and much more besides. When the men and women returned with food it was not (as portrayed in some of the more pathetic films such as One Million Years BC) a mad rush for food and the strongest getting the most but a fair and equitable share-out, as the tribe realised the importance of each member of their society.

Examples can still be found today of such tribal societies: the Kalahari Bushmen and Pinaro Indians to name but two who, when first confronted by colonialists and asked about greed and property and who owned what, could not even find words in their language for such concepts and would end up laughing and looking bemused.

Socialist society
The Socialist Party however is not advocating a return to primitive communism. Far from it. but we can learn from history. Socialism must be on a world-wide scale, to replace worldwide capitalism — no individual countries, just one world. Also, it can only be established when the majority understand and want it. There will be no leaders and it can only be brought about democratically, by the ballot box, through conscious political action.

Socialism is only viable when the means of producing and distributing wealth are sufficient to provide for everyone's needs. Even the most conservative estimates of food production conclude that with farming methods now available we could feed six times the present population of the world — a total of five billion people.

Money is only necessary today because, living in capitalism, the means of producing and distributing wealth are in the hands of a tiny minority of the population. A person's position in society is determined by their relationship to these means of production. If someone is lucky enough to be one of the owning minority then they are members of a capitalist class whose ownership of the means of producing wealth means that they do not have to work but are able to live off rent, interest and profit. If however you are one of the vast majority of people who do not own factories, banks, shipping lines or whatever, then you are a member of the working class. You must make a living by selling the only thing of any value you own; this is your labour power — your ability to work — for which you receive a wage or salary.

Some people say that even workers do not have to work. They could live on social security, but anyone who has tried to manage on this pittance realises how hollow this argument is and that, if a worker is able to get a "decent" wage, he or she is forced by necessity to take it.

Workers, even though they and their class produce everything in society and run it from top to bottom, are only able to gain access to the fruits of their labour through money. A worker who helps to produce, for example, £50.000 worth of cars a week will only receive a small fraction of this in wages; the rest is the surplus value (unpaid labour) extracted from all workers, which yields the rent, interest and profit from which capitalists derive their wealth.

In socialism however things will be very different. Once a majority of people want and understand socialism and how to get it, then they will take control of the various state machines and implement it. When socialism is established the land, factories, transport — all the things we need to live — will be taken into common ownership and democratic control. No one will own anything (apart, of course, from personal items). This is not to be confused with nationalisation, which is merely state controlled capitalism as exists in countries such as Russia. China and Cuba.

Production for Use
How will things be produced? Who will produce them? They will be produced as they are now. by the people who produce them now. The important difference will be that instead of the rationing of a wage or salary, there will be free access to all wealth for everyone. Everything produced will go into a common store from which everyone will take what they need. Everyone will have free access to the common store because you cannot buy what already belongs to you and everyone else. People will not be left out because they are too old, young or sick to contribute to production as happens now. These people will be looked after to the best of society's ability. Things will be produced directly for human use, not for sale with a view to profit as now. when, if there is no profit there is no production and if you are unable to pay then you are not able to consume.

Human Nature
One of the arguments socialists often encounter is that all the greedy and selfish people will take more than they need. How correct is this argument?

First of all, in a socialist society people would have to be very greedy and foolish to consume so much as to cause any kind of problem. However, apart from that the notion of greedy people is quite wrong.

"Human nature" does not exist. Human behaviour, which is its proper title, is not fixed but is the result of the society people are conditioned to live in. At present we all live in a "dog eat dog" society of competition; a vicious society where the weak are fair game. Yet even now anyone can point to examples where people forget about the greedy nature of this society to help others. They co-operate even though there is no economic reward; think of voluntary workers, or blood donors for example. There is no reason why our rational desire for comfort and human welfare should not allow us to co-operate even further in a sane society based on cooperation.

So-called human nature is no barrier to a concept of “from each according to ability, to each according to need". Human beings are not naturally greedy, selfish, aggressive, or naturally anything else; human behaviour is determined by the kind of society people are conditioned to live in. There is only one barrier to socialism: a lack of understanding by people and therefore a lack of desire for it — in other words, a lack of socialists.

The Socialist Party does not have or need leaders; the party is only used by politically conscious socialists as a vehicle to get socialism; when socialism is established the need for the Socialist Party will disappear. Its job done, it will go out of existence.
Steve Colborn

Democracy—Fact or Slogan? (1941)

From the September 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Lady Rhondda, daughter of a South Wales coal owner, contributes an article entitled “The People’s Will Must Prevail,” in a recent issue of The Star (August 8th, 1941). The article commences with the following grandiloquently worded paragraph : —
 The intention of democracy is as Abraham Lincoln defined it, but the machine for achieving that intention can be fashioned in many different ways. Our model, for example, is quite unlike the American. Both are based on the ground-plan of universal suffrage and the election of representatives, but the superstructures are vastly different. Nor does either country suppose that its particular machine is yet perfect. Each is being gradually shaped to get better results in respect to the two tests by which every democratic machine must be judged : Does it enable the considered will of the people to prevail ? And does it work ?
The rest of the article is of minor importance. It suggests the necessity of speeding up legislation after the war, criticises the actions of certain “anti-democratic” cliques in influencing Government policy before the war and also criticises the dictatorial attitude of Civil Servants. In fact, a rather poor finish up tp a somewhat flamboyant start.

Let us see if we can develop Lady Rhondda’s introductory paragraph on more rational lines. Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy was “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but we accept the definition of the Harmsworth (1906) Encyclopaedia, which says: “Democracy means, however, in its last analysis, popular control.” This corresponds to Lady Rhondda’s, query as to whether “it enables the. considered will of the people to prevail.”

Most people, if questioned as to what was meant by democracy, would probably reply—”the system of government as we know it in this country and the U.S.A., whereby means of periodical elections the people select those who shall rule over them for a given period.” In association with this idea it is also frequently stated that people with unpopular ideas in these countries are freely allowed to express them. Yet the same people will frequently state that for expressing certain ideas, certain people “ought to be shot.” This shows the weakness of the belief in the right of a minority to express and publish its opinion. Yet, in actual fact, the ability of minorities to express their opinion is at the very basis of the democratic idea, for how can a legislative body be said to be freely elected if the ability of the electors to consider the pros and cons is fettered by an inability to hear the whole of the arguments for and against? How, in such circumstances, is it possible for there to be even such a thing as the “considered” will of the people?

The next point to be considered is whether democratic capitalism does give minorities the ability to give full expression to their views.

The thing democracy cannot be considered in a vacuum. It can only be considered in relation to the system of society in which it functions, and as we are living in a capitalist era, in which the U.S.A. and Great Britain play two of the leading roles, consideration must of necessity be given to the manner in which it functions in either or both of these states. Our readers will be more familiar with conditions in this country, so let us confine ourselves to the United Kingdom. To what extent is the expression of opinion free and untrammelled? We do not think it is necessary to labour the point. What happens to the man in a provincial factory who is suspected by the local magnate or his toady hireling—the foreman—of holding “advanced” views? In the Metropolis conditions are not quite so bad; but how many workers feel that they can openly express unpopular opinions to their workmates without the fear that some seeker after promotion will run and tell the boss ? Here we get at the core of this question of the freedom of expression of opinion. It is the property basis of existing society which gives the boss the power to place the holder of disliked views into a state of semi-starvation; it is the desire to improve those living conditions which it is in the power of the boss to improve, which causes the tale-bearer to hurry to his boss. Again, if those who hold certain ideas are poorly paid workers, their ability to spread those ideas is seriously handicapped by their lack of means. But for the wealthy no such handicap exists. Newspapers can be bought and sold, and even operated at a loss, if the owning clique have certain ideas which they wish to put over. The whole of British industry is gradually getting into the control of fewer and fewer hands, but, within recent memory, the separate interests pursued separate policies, and so we had the spectacle of the News Chronicle continually hammering away at the necessity of “Free Trade” —really, of course, a campaign in favour of the shipping interests—for these were the people to whom unrestricted trade was an obvious advantage. Of course; it was never expressly stated that “Free Trade” was to benefit the shipping interests—instead we were told that it made food cheaper, prices lower, etc., etc. Not so long ago the wealthy Sir Oswald Mosley was able to lavish large sums on furthering his Fascist ideas. The running of a daily newspaper is an expensive business: only big capitalist concerns can operate the present type of newspaper; but the newspaper is regarded as a necessity by most workers. With the news goes the views, and so workers get their opinions, as well as their news, ready made. Not only this—but the news is frequently distorted or suppressed in order to colour the views. And the news and views, of course, must not be detrimental to the big advertisers—again the property influence. Furthermore, newspapers, being capitalist concerns themselves, are naturally interested in the preservation of capitalism, and so wealthy writers of harmless or amusing articles, such as Lady Rhondda or Lord Castlerosse, can get their articles accepted without much difficulty, whereas any article which endeavoured to show up the deficiencies of the existing form of society AND to point to the only logical alternative, would be extremely unlikely to be accepted. A recent example is the statement of the big business chief, who is now Minister of Food, to the effect that a number of small retailers had become such merely in order to get foodstuffs, etc., for supplying their family and friends. This statement was accorded quite a lot of publicity in the Press. One is inclined to think that a statement by a small retailer that he had been forced out of business owing to the reduction in trade, and that numbers of retailers, in order to make ends meet, had taken up air-raid precautions work, leaving their wives to look after the shop, would not be accorded so much publicity. You have to be a lord to get away with a statement like that.

In their attempts to arouse interest in wider circles, minority movements are to a great extent dependent upon advertisements in the national newspapers. Yet the ownership of a newspaper gives the proprietors the right to refuse such advertisements. Thus, the Daily Telegraph, after inspecting a copy of the Socialist Standard, which we had wished to advertise, declined the advertisement and refused to give any reason for their action.

Prior to and during a war newspapers get hints from so-called “official circles” as to what attitude to take up on certain questions. Why are these “official circles” so influential? The answer is that they are a department of the Government—which, under capitalism, is the executive committee of the ruling class, i.e., the employing or propertied class. The Government also controls the schools and the wireless, and is this able to exert an enormous influence in the moulding of people’s minds.

For those who have property, in order to preserve their rights over that property, it is essential that certain ideas should be put over into the heads of the propertyless—the proletariat. And the interesting thing is that it is this very fact of the possession of property winch makes it so much easier for them to get these ideas put over and accepted.

We think we have said sufficient to show that in a social system based on private property relationships, true democracy is an impossibility.

Under war conditions the power of minority expression is further restricted, not only by the aforesaid property qualifications, but also by special regulations issued under authority of Parliament, enabling not only the stoppage of certain publication but also the destruction of the printing press to be carried out by the authorities under certain conditions.

In Canada, our associated paper, The Western Socialist, which is produced in the U.S.A., has, together with five other papers, been banned. The action puts the last nail in the coffin of the assertion of Canadian ministers that they have entered the war in order to safeguard democracy.

A word or an idea can also be used as a slogan in the leading capitalist countries millions of workers are going more or less willingly to war for various mixed and hazy notions. One of these is that the war is one which is being fought to safeguard democracy. Since the inception of the war thousands of headlines and articles which have appeared in the popular Press have sledge-hammered this idea in their heads. In this sense the idea of democracy is being used as a slogan, and a very effective one that.

For reasons connected with “war-time democracy,” many of the points of this article have not been developed to their logical conclusion. We must let the reader do that for himself. But, at a rate, we think we have made it clear, firstly, that the ability of minorities freely lo express themselves is the essence of democracy, and, secondly, that true democracy cannot possibly flourish under the existing social order.

Notes by the Way: No Politics in the Army (1941)

The Notes by the Way Column from the September 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

No Politics in the Army

Under the heading “Every Soldier Must Learn Why He Fights,” the News Chronicle (August 21st, 1941) reports a scheme of discussions now being arranged for soldiers by the Army authorities.
“Free discussion will be encouraged . . . but politics will not be introduced, and officers must not emphasise their political views.”
After they have solved the problem of explaining war without mentioning politics, they should turn their attention to explaining beer without mentioning alcohol, and explaining air raids without mentioning aeroplanes. It will be just about as profitable.

* * * *

The Poacher Comes into His Own

The following is from the Daily Herald (August 4th, 1941) : —
“The Army needs poachers and ex-poachers.
Gamekeepers and men with experience of poaching have been asked to give in their names to commanding officers.
The poachers need have no fear that their illegal activities will be charged against them. The Army will gladly take them for special duties.
Such men would be able to detect, by means of the movements of birds and animals and through broken twigs and tracks, the presence of concealed troops in woods and undergrowth.
They would be very valuable if there were an invasion.”
This should produce some entertaining back-chat in rural courts after the war, when poachers return to their normal pastimes.

* * * *

Those Who Direct Us

The classical defence of the present system is that, whatever its faults, it brings to the fore in industry and politics the best brains and best characters. Two newspaper editors who ought to know their subject don’t appear to be satisfied with the result.
There are more boneheads in positions of authority in this country at this moment than at any previous period in our history. We are suffering from national ossification of the brain. And unless we make some very swift and drastic changes we shall rue the day.—Mr. John Gorden (Sunday Express, July 20th, 1941.)

There is no doubt in my mind that the present system of selecting directors of these big corporations (banks and railways) is definitely bad.—Mr. O. R. Hobson, City Editor (News Chronicle, June 3rd, 1941.)
Mr. Hobson has to admit that some of the directors are “chosen for their military, political or social powers, and for their business connections rather than their business acumen.”

By the way. Mr. Hobson believes that the Capitalist era has already passed away : —
“Contrary to the belief of many people true Capitalism, the system under which the man who provides the capital runs the business, hardly exists any longer.”

* * * *

Hitler’s Dupes

Much argument has been going on as to whether any distinction should be made between Nazis and Germans, or whether all Germans should be held responsible for the crimes of Hitler. One German, a former County Court Judge, in a letter to the Daily Telegraph (July 18th, 1941) made quite a telling point when he asked : —
“Shall they be blamed for trusting the words of a man who succeeded in cheating the informed, educated and scrutinising governments outside the Reich?”
After all, when it is remembered how many influential people in this country described themselves as trusting admirers of Adolf Hitler and his associates, it will be obvious that if all of Hitler’s sometime admirers and dupes are to be liquidated, there will be quite a lot of empty seats in the House of Lords and elsewhere.

* * * *

Sob-Stuff And Its Uses

Speaking in London recently, Mr. B. Seebohm Rowntree said: —
“Sob-stuff is no good in wages conditions. I have sobbed myself when telling employees I could not afford more wages.”
If this is meant to imply that employers as a whole could not pay higher wages than they do, it is, of course, all eyewash. Employers are primarily concerned with making profit, not with paying away as much as they can afford to their employees.

A recent report of a wine auction—published by the Daily Telegraph (June 10th, 1941)—indicates that quite a lot of people who do not work for wages have been able to sob themselves into a very comfortable taste for expensive wines.
 A wine auction, with attendants grave as priests carrying around sample glasses as gravely tasted, is always an enjoyable mixture of festivity and almost religious ceremonial.
 Yesterday’s was notable for enthusiasm, too. Men in the wine and catering trades had to reckon with spirited bidding from private connoisseurs, including several women and a bearded R.N.V.R. officer.
  “The prices,” said a representative of Christie’s, “delighted us, and I am sure they will delight the sellers.”
  By far the largest stock of champagne came from the cellar of Sir John Buchanan-Jardine. The prices for all the leading brands for a good year like 1921, and for Lord Moyne’s Pol Roger, 1915, were about the same—from 250s. to 260s. a dozen.
  Lot after lot, three dozen in each, were bought at this price by a white-haired man in a raincoat who might have been a rather austere farmer, but actually is a well-known figure in the catering world.
  Despite the popular notion that champagne should not be more than 12 or 15 years old, 260s. was paid for Perrier-Jouet, 1919; and even two dozen and 11 half-bottles of Bollinger, 1903, practically museum pieces, brought 75s. a dozen.
  Anyone with a less fastidious palate could have St. Marceaux, 1919, Brut, slightly ullaged—an ullaged bottle is not as full as it should be—for 135s., or Lemoine, 1911, for 115s.
  Among some distinguished clarets Chateau Latour, ’93, sold for 230s., Haut Brion, of the same year, 240s., and several lots of Cheval Blanc, 1921, 310s. and 320s., after very lively competition. By contrast, some Chateau Lafitte, 1870, ullaged, went for 135s.
  Good sherries averaged 130s. and ports 80s. to 94s., with some special Cockburn. 1900, reaching 180s.
  Cigars sold extraordinarily well, prices ranging from 260s. a hundred for first-class brands to 325s. for A. Allones “Lonsdales.”

* * * *

The Finnish Labour Party and The War

The attitude of the Finnish Labour Party in supporting the war against Russia is an example of the difficulties that are bound to arise when workers’ organisations are involved in international disputes under Capitalism. When the Soviet Government picked a quarrel with Finland in order to destroy the Mannerheim Line and push back the Finnish frontier further away from Leningrad, they were denounced by the British Labour Party, and the latter, along with the British Government, gave help to the Finns. Now the Russians claim (and rightly as far as purely military considerations are concerned) that subsequent events have fully justified their action in removing a potential German threat to Leningrad. But against the purely strategic argument is the fact that in so doing the Russians stirred up bitter enmity towards themselves in the minds of many Finnish workers and thus paved the way for the present situation, which sees the Finnish Labour leaders urging the British Labour Party to support their attitude even though Finland is associated with the German attack on Russia.

Mr. Tanner, who is now in the Finnish Cabinet, representing the Finnish Labour and Trade Union movement, says: —
“Surely Britain is not ignorant of the fact that Finland is fighting for all Democratic principles based on the right of self-determination which the Russian aim is to destroy.” — (Daily Telegraph, July 8th, 1941.)
Now comes another development. The reactionary Field Marshal Mannerheim has announced that in addition to trying to recover the territory lost to Russia, Finland should also take Karelia “to make the frontier easily defendable”—(Manchester Guardian, August 2nd, 1941.)

Once grant the necessity for nations to have rival interests necessitating the existence of armed forces, there is no answer to the argument that frontiers must be rectified in order to make them more easily defendable, and no escaping the fact that there is no limit to such claims, quite apart from the certainty that every movement of a frontier in one direction stiffens the demand in the country affected to have it shifted back again and more also.

* * * *

A Squint-Eyed Parson

The following is taken from the Sunday Express (July 20th, 1941): —
Was This Our Life?

Criticising life in the pre-war years, the Rector of Eynesbury, Hunts, the Rev. J. E. Cowgill, in his parish magazine, says:—”We have taken the Beatitudes in St. Matthew’s fifth chapter and altered them somewhat, thus:—
  Blessed is he who looks after himself, for he shall collect many pennies.
  Blessed is he who wins a pool or a sweep, for he shall have something for nothing.
  Blessed is he who makes a promise, for when he breaks it it costs him naught.
  Blessed is he who oils his tongue, for he can deceive other people.
  Blessed is he who scamps his work, for he shall be looked on as clever.”
The Rev. J. E. Cowgill, though perhaps he does not realise it, is condemning an attitude that is the outcome of Capitalism, for it has always been Capitalist doctrine to praise the accumulation of wealth and to condone the tricky ways in which it is done; not to mention the basic fact that the whole system is based on the exploitation of the workers.

Notice in particular the things that escape the attention of this parson. He has not observed other Capitalist Beatitudes, such as : —
  “Blessed is he whose father was a millionaire and who was thus able to live in luxurious idleness all the days of his life.”
  “Blessed is he who gambled on the Stock Exchange or made a fortune in the last war.”
 “Blessed is he who sold shoddy goods and became universally recognised as a public benefactor through his gifts to charitable institutions.”
 “Blessed is the politician who wins an election for his party by promising to solve the unemployment problem.”

* * * *

Mr. Pollitt Again

Mr. Harry Pollitt, of the Communist Party, who supported, opposed, and now again supports the war, has been telling the workers at a meeting in Manchester that “even now this country was only playing at war. . . . How long, were the Russians to be allowed to fight in isolation? The way effectively to help them was by the opening of a second military front in the West.”—(Manchester- Guardian, August 25th, 1941.)

During the eighteen months or so that Mr. Pollitt opposed the war, he and other Communists (echoing Moscow propaganda) had one simple formula which they applied to every fresh outbreak of fighting. They opposed it on the ground that it was an extension of the area of war, and urged their then policy of opening peace negotiations. Now it is Mr. Pollitt who wants to extend the area of war by invasion of the Continent.

Those who appreciate how closely Communist policy and Communist explanations and apologies adhere to Russian foreign policy, will notice, for possible future reference, Mr. Pollitt’s further statement : —
 “Unless we were prepared to organise something .that would take a great part of the German pressure away from the Eastern Front we would have no right to be surprised at anything that might happen on that front.”
Mr. Pollitt also had a word for the workers in the factories: —
  “They would have to set a personal example, in the way they did their job. There must be no limit to what they produced in the way of munitions of war, and they must produce them in the shortest possible time.”

* * * *

Not Too Old at 60

Men and women workers have, in peace-time, always had to view with apprehension the oncoming of age. Instead of being able to count on easier conditions as they became older, they had to fear losing their jobs to younger workers. Now there is a shortage of labour, and the Press is full of items like the following : —
 The position is becoming serious, and, in my opinion, could be greatly eased if more of the “over-forty” women would volunteer to become shop assistants.
 There are tens of thousands of women between the ages of 40 and 60 who could easily do this kind of work, even without experience.
  But they are not coming forward as we had hoped.”— Mr. J. M. Paynton, Secretary of the Drapers Chamber of Trade (Evening Standard, August 23rd, 1941.)

  “The employable age limit for women in City offices has advanced at least ten years within the past few months. This is due to the increasing shortage of office staff.
   Now, London secretarial employment agencies report that good posts are being given to women up to 45, provided they have had good experience within recent years or have other good qualifications.
  One London agency is proud of having placed a 65-year old woman clerk this week.”—(Evening Standard, August 23, 1941.)
What will be the position when the war is over ? Will employers then be willing to ignore the age of applicants for jobs ? Will they and the Government come forward to make provision for workers who are too old in recognition of their services during the war ?

If there were no other evil result of Capitalism than the callous treatment of workers past their prime, it would stand condemned as a system of society.

It is one of the ironies of Reformism that one of the changes demanded by reformers (the institution of pension schemes for clerical, etc., workers, in order to provide a pension on retirement) has actually had the effect in recent years of making things harder for workers no longer young. It is a condition of many of the pension schemes that staff shall not be eligible to join and make contributions unless they are juveniles, with the result that many firms which previously were willing to recruit staff without special regard to age now refuse to take anyone on the permanent staff unless their age is about 16-18. All that is left for them is temporary work.

* * * *

The Big Trader Calls The Little One “Dishonest”

When the Capitalist system was younger, and the small trader and small manufacturer were typical, it was customary for economists and business men to praise the virtues of the little business man. Now the case is altered, as witness the following from the Sunday Express (July 27th, 1941) : —
 One of the big London stores has, in its annual report, made an extraordinary attack on the small trader.
After a grudging admission that the elimination of the small trader is “certainly regrettable from some stand-points,” the report says:—
  “Many a man and woman who as an independent trader would be dishonest or extortionate or a petty tyrant is a far better citizen in a position in which he is under less severe economic pressure or not free to give way to bad tendencies in his own character.” It states also that the small trader “has tended to become a byword for petty knavery and for cringing deference to his customers.” He is “obviously destined to disappear.”
The Express condemns this and assures us that small traders are still the backbone of a free, independent and efficient State; “they keep alive healthy competition and a spirit of comradeship.”

It would seem that the Express has been missing a lot of things going on around it. If the war is, as the Express says, a war against the day “when big business has killed the little man,” many little men would have to conclude that the war, for them, has already been lost.
Edgar Hardcastle

A Glance Backward — and Forward (1941)

From the September 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many of our readers who, as young men, full of vigour and enthusiasm for life, fought in the last Great War, will remember the adulations lavished upon them by the many admirers of their heroic exploits. There were organisations to welcome their home-coming and to cheer their departure, and no effort was spared in arranging for their entertainment while at home on leave for convalescence. Well-to-do young ladies were among those who “sacrificed” their leisure to “do their bit for the boys” by feting and hero-worshipping them.

Nothing was too good for them; no praise was too high; and John Smith, the factory hand, and Bill Brown, the clerk, became heroes, endowed with all the virtues of which human beings are capable. It was good to be young and in uniform !

Special sympathy was extended to the “boys in blue,” such sympathy being equalled only by the gifts of cigarettes, comforts and delicacies heaped upon them by people no doubt motivated by generous impulses and genuine sympathy for the sufferings of these men. They were heroes, every one of them. Men of tremendous courage and reckless daring, who had responded to their country’s call in her hour of need, and, as such, they were feted, lauded and praised by a grateful community in a manner befitting a nation’s heroes.

In 1918 the war came to an end. Thousands of men who had been through four years of mud and slime, blood and slaughter, filth and brutality, four years of hell, were demobilised.

All over the country there were scenes of wild enthusiasm and joy. The war was over ! All praise to the heroes who had given their lives and limbs in the defence of the Motherland. Cheering crowds met the mud-stained, war-weary men who returned to resume their interrupted lives in a country bursting with gratitude. Tears were shed and monuments erected for the dead; promises were given to the living, to the men whose noble sacrifice had saved the country. Some of those who returned remained “boys in blue” for many years after the cessation of hostilities, forgotten by those who had been most ardent in their hero-worship. Inevitably so, for an emotion which had amounted almost to hysteria cannot be maintained for many years, it must wane with the passage of time and eventually die.

When the last victory parade was over, the last triumphant flags waved and the cheering died away, men began to settle down to a life which somehow seemed strange to them. They needed jobs, but it seemed there were not enough jobs to go round. They found that women had been absorbed into many industries and many of them continued to do jobs formerly carried out by men who had left them to join the Colours.

With the impetus given to trade by the needs of the war, methods of production had changed, rendering the skill of many workers obsolete. Men who had interrupted their training to “join up” found themselves unfitted for any particular trade.

This was indeed a strange and tragic homecoming. No more were they honoured, feted and admired; no longer were they heroes; they were units in the industrial machine, some to be absorbed in the process of reconstruction, some to be rejected, thrown on to the .reserve supply of labour, to be used when “better times” came along.

Unemployment, anxiety and insecurity were their lot, and even their medals, tangible evidence of the sacrifices they had made, failed to gain for them the jobs they so desperately needed.

They remembered the promises of a “better world,” “homes for heroes,” “equality of sacrifice,” and they looked around and saw that the rich were still rich and the poor, still poor, and they wondered what it meant.

Bitterness and disillusionment was the reaction of some, while others asked the whys and wherefors, and pondered in an effort to seek a solution for their problems.

Some of them came into contact with the S.P.G.B. and discovered, as a result, of their study of Socialism, that war, unemployment and poverty are social evils which arise out of the system of society under which we live.

That in order to abolish these social evils it is necessary to abolish the system which produces them, namely, capitalism, which is, briefly, a system which has as its basis the ownership and control of the means and instruments of production by a tiny minority, i.e., the propertied class, who, by virtue of their ownership have accumulated enormous wealth, privilege and power at the expense of the majority, i.e., the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced. The exploitation of the working class is a necessary condition of capitalism.

The alternative to this system, which gives rise to the anomaly of poverty in the midst of plenty, wars and periodically recurring crises, is Socialism; that is to say, the common ownership of the means of production, by and in the interests of the whole of society.

Production of goods solely for use will replace the wasteful, contradictory and brutal method of production for profit, involving the ruthless exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few.

To bring about such a system involves the emancipation of the working class, and this task must be the work of the working class itself. The task of the S.P.G.B. is clear and uncompromising; that is, to continue at all times to propagate the cause for which we are organised (the establishment of Socialism), whatever the difficulties and however powerful the forces of reaction may be.

Let us, then, go forward to the accomplishment of our task, sure in the knowledge of our ultimate triumph, spurred by the memory of fighters of former days; cheered by the response to the Socialist message in all parts of the capitalist world, and steeled by the difficulties and formidableness of the task confronting us. This, comrades, is a battle worth fighting !
Arthur Price

Editorial: The Peace Settlement : Back to 1815 or on to Socialism? (1941)

Editorial from the September 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Times, in a recent editorial, was discussing the kind of settlement that should be made when the war is over. Comparison was made between the Versailles Peace Treaty made after the last war and the settlement made in 1815, when Napoleon’s armies had been disposed of, and the comparison was wholly in favour of 1815 !
 Neither ingenious formulas nor noble aspirations will of themselves suffice. Those who made the Vienna settlement of 1815 were less affected by sentiment and took less account of abstract ideals than the peace-makers of Versailles. But the settlement proved more enduring because it was based on a shrewder estimate of the relative strength of the principal European Powers. No peace settlement can last which is not rooted in the realities of power. Mr. Eden was right, in his speech last Tuesday, to set down as the first of peace requirements the military measures necessary “to prevent a repetition of Germany’s misdeeds.”— (Times, August 1st, 1941.)
Thus does the Capitalist world progress. During and after the last war the keynote of the utterances of most of the leaders of the Liberal and Labour Parties was that the mistakes of 1815 must not be repeated. Instead of a peace based on the balance of force we must have, they said, a peace based on principles and ideals. Now that it is popular in the same quarters to ascribe the present war to the last peace, there is a revulsion of feeling, and back we go to the good old principles of the reactionaries who disposed of the boundaries of Europe 126 years ago. And what will that mean?

One thing the Times does not attempt to hide is that even when the Peace is settled, trouble will still be round the corner.
  “The danger point is likely to occur not at the moment when the settlement is made, but some 15 to 20 years after . . . when a new generation rises to challenge it.”
Indeed, the Times need not have postponed the trouble for so long a period. In accordance with its newfound enthusiasm for 1815, the Times pointed out that after this war.
  “Leadership in Eastern Europe is essential if the disorganisation of the past 20 years is to be avoided … This leadership can fall only to Germany or to Russia.”
This line naturally caused some apprehension in the minds of the Governments of the smaller Powers, notably Turkey and Poland, especially in view of the Times’ further remark that “an enforced disruption of Germany would run athwart the modern trend towards larger and more integrated units, and would be unlikely to endure.”

The rulers of the smaller Powers anxious to preserve independence can see the difficulty of doing so whether Germany or Russia rules the roost in Eastern Europe.

Then, a few weeks later, came a Times report about the growth of a Pan-Slav movement in Russia: —
  “Hence to-day virtually the whole Russian nation— and, indeed, all the Soviet peoples—stand in conscious solidarity behind the Government. They believe that a greater Russia may arise, destined to be the nucleus of the Slav peoples, and to play the same unifying role as Prussia did in Germany.”—(Times, August 25th, 1941.)
What with the existing Empires and new Russian and Chinese Empires in process of formation, or at least being thought about, will the new world be any better than the old? Let there be no mistake about it, there is no formula or principle, new or old, Prussian or Russian, British or American, which will solve the nationality problems of Europe and the rest of the world under Capitalism. Capitalism breeds conflict, and conflict leads on to war even though a Napoleon gives place to a Kaiser or a Hitler.

Think on these things (1941)

From the September 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Henry Longhurst concludes an article on Douglas Bader (the legless airman) in the Sunday Express (August 17th, 1941), with the following paragraph: —
“I never thought the Germans would get him. I was so convinced that he was destined to be head of Fighter Command in the next war! Maybe he still is (Italics ours.)
The last paragraph in the editorial column of the Evening Standard (August 19th, 1941) commences as follows :—
  “Soviet Russia must never go down. All our own prospects are governed by her endurance.”
On August 21st, 1941, the Evening Standard editorial concluded with the following words : —
  “If the great dam of the Russian armies now holding back the Nazi avalanche should ever fall, a vast darkness and blight would descend on the hopes of all mankind.”
How circumstances change attitudes !

Socialism Will Forge Ahead (1941)

From the September 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is obvious to the students of Socialism that the material conditions engendered by the war will have much to do with advancing or retarding the well-being of mankind. The situation in which the various nations will find themselves at the cessation of hostilities cannot now be gauged with any degree of accuracy, and, therefore, it is only within certain limits that we may venture to speak of the future.

In the piping times of peace the forces of mass production are throttled by narrowing markets, and therefore do not produce to their capacity, but when the dogs of war are at their heels the flood-gates are opened and in certain branches of capitalism everything is accelerated.

The discovery and utilisation of more and better means of producing commodities simply means, other things remaining the same, that we shall, at the end of the war, have unemployment on a larger scale than we had before. So long as the system of ownership and control is not changed nothing accrues to the advantage of the working class, and our masters have not the slightest intention of renouncing their class privileges or foregoing their right to exploit those who are dispossessed.

There is, however, one thing that our rulers will be unable to prevent, and that is the enlightenment of their victims as to the cause of their sufferings. The exigencies of the conflict will help to bring into the open, clear of all camouflage, the basic cause of class antagonisms and convey both to the working class and the capitalist class a full understanding of what the situation demands: both sides will then know what to do.

Enrico Ferri, in his book “Socialism and Positive Science,” can be quoted here: —
 “Political life will have no fresh birth except through the development of the Socialist Party, because when the historical figures of the patriots and the personal reasons for differences between the representatives of the various political shades have disappeared from the political arena, the formation of a single individualist party will become necessary. The historical duel will then be fought and the class struggle will then unfold on the political arena all its beneficient influences, not in the paltry sense of of pugilism and outrages, malice and personal violence, but in the grand meaning of social drama. With all my soul I desire that this conflict may be solved for the sake of the progress of civilisation without bloody convulsions; but historical fatality has initiated it, and it is given neither to us nor to others to avoid or retard it.

  “As a result of all we have just said, these ideas of political Socialism, because they are scientific, dispose to personal tolerance at the same time as to theoretical disagreement. That is also a conclusion of scientific psychology in the philosophical domain. Whatever may be our personal sympathies for such or such representative of the radical fraction of the individualist party (as also for every honest and sincere representative, of no matter what scientific, religious or political opinion), we ought to recognise that there is not by the side of Socialism any party organically connected with it. We must be on one side or the other—individualist or socialist. There is no intermediate situation, and I am more and more persuaded that the only useful tactic for the formation of a Socialist Party that will live, is precisely this theoretical independence and the refusal of every ‘alliance’ with the partiti affini, who only constitute for Socialism a ‘false placenta’ for a foetus unlikely to live.”—(Page 148.)
The political truce between the Labour Party and the Government is likely to meet with increasing opposition from the rank and file of the former. Many of the Labour Leaders will be discredited because of the actions they are compelled to do owing to the circumstances in which they find themselves. A Socialist policy is called for, but they cannot deliver the goods.

Read the following from the Daily Express, of June 12th : —
From Hilde Marchant.

Hundreds of girls between 20 and 21 who have registered for employment under the new order, have been sacked. Mr. Ernest Bevin, Minister of Labour, describes this as “disgusting.”

The Ministry has sent inspectors to try to reinstate the girls, but they have no powers over employers who wish to get rid of them. 
“All we can do is appeal to their decency to keep these girls in jobs until they are needed,” an official said yesterday. 
Girls are already being called up on the first registration, but to spread them out smoothly, the call-up is slow. Each case has to be investigated. In the meantime, some are being sacked as “dead” labour. 
There was one case of a large lingerie factory. Most of the girls were within the registration age. 
They were given notice, for they were still learning their trade. Older women were brought in, but when clothes rationing was announced many of these were sacked. 
These are girls in clerical jobs who have been told they are under notice, and have to teach older women their jobs. The girls are sent on the dole, for it will be some time before they can be called up. 
The Ministry of Labour says it can do little but appeal to the patriotism of employers. Meantime, many hundreds of girls are being thrown on to a floating labour population, with no work to do.”
What I wish to call the attention of the reader to is the fact that Mr. Ernest Bevin is unable to do more than appeal to the patriotism of the exploiters of the working girls.

We will give him credit for the best intentions and say he would reinstate the girls if he could, but he can’t in face of the opposition of employers.

It is interesting to note how those who apparently think they are not of the working class consider the Government should act when some of the wage slaves take advantage of the fact that their services are at present in demand. The Daily Sketch had a letter in the other day which illustrates the point: —
  “Sir,—I see four men have been fined £5 each for gambling in an air-raid shelter when they should have been at work in a factory. All were of military age.

  I also see that Mr. Bevin is creating a flying squad of 100,000 men for the building trade—picked workers, exempt from military service, with a “guaranteed week,” one day’s holiday every six weeks and week-end leave with free rail passes every eight weeks.

  Is it not time this ridiculous squandering of public money was stopped?

  Remark heard in a public-house: “Oh, we go a bit slow during the day, as if we work too hard there would not be so much overtime pay.”

  Can nothing be done to bring the wage of the factory and munition worker more in keeping with that of the man in the Forces? Is it not time that we conscripted labour?
Sybil Tufnell 
The lady evidently, unlike the Government, does not rely upon an appeal to patriotism; her wish is plain: she wants the Government to become dictatorial and conscript labour in order to compel the workers to work more cheaply. If someone asked the Government to conscript all employers and compel them to run their business for a soldier’s pay the request would be looked upon as absurd, but there are many members of the “middle class” who will no doubt agree with the lady and consider her letter worthy of the sincere attention of Mr. Bevin’s department.

While the war is going on the Government is assuming ever-increasing powers over the means of life: the ruling class are pooling their interests and heading for State capitalism.

In order to run State capitalism in their interests the ruling class will be tempted to curtail political democracy, because under State capitalism the intelligent section of the workers will in ever increasing numbers not only perceive more clearly how they are exploited, but also how it is possible to put an end to the exploiting process. We must stand ready to oppose any attempt to restrict present-day political privileges.

It is our duty as Socialists to continue our work of education, time and tide are with us from now on.

The encouragement we are now receiving is the logical outcome of present-day developments. Let us be worthy of the job we are called upon to accomplish and do our utmost to get those who incline a willing ear to understand that the only economic foundation of a peaceful world is Socialism.
Charles Lestor

Synthetic Socialism (1941)

From the September 1941 issue of the Socialist Standard

Society’s emancipation from the chaos of war, want-amid-waste and mental stagnation, must await the Socialist education of the working class, for which purpose the Socialist Party of Great Britain exists. Logically expected is the colossal opposition of avowed capitalist propoganda; but what irony, what tragedy, that working-class organisations should set up a further barrier.

Such bodies not only put forward the demonstrably false idea that a revised capitalism could operate in the interests of the workers, but also perpetrate the additional and even greater crime of tagging “Socialism” to such proposals. More : despite the S.P.G.B. example of nearly thirty-eight years of political integrity, these parties manifest such inconsistencies that the worker, confused and disillusioned, loses his progressive urge, and either returns to political apathy or else goes as far as active antagonism to any movement styling itself working-class.

An outstanding instance is that of the Labour Party—non-Socialist, according to the scientific exposition of the S.P.G.B. Further misconceptions, unfortunately common, are that “Socialist” can be applicable to schemes for “public ownership” and to the regime in Soviet Russia. Particularly significant are, such statements as : —
The difference between common ownership and public ownership is metaphysical. The Post Office is an example of common ownership”.—(Mr. John Paton, Labour Party prospective Parliamentary candidate, Welwyn Garden City, February 12th, 1941.) 
“. . . there should be public ownership of the land, banks, and industry, for only then is planning in the public interest possible.”—(Mr. Pat Sloan, “Russia Has a Plan” Series, No. 1, p. 15; his black.) 
“Emergency powers to be used to take over the banks, land, transport, armaments, and other large industries in order to organise our economic life in the interests of the people.”—(People’s Convention Program, point 4.) 
“The one essential thing is that all the various forms of socialist organisation should involve the public ownership of the means of production.”—(Mr. John Strachey, “Why You Should be a Socialist,” p. 65.) 
“The Soviet Union represents planning for human welfare, on a basis of common ownership (p. 39). Socialist Planning—The U.S.S.R. (title, Chapter II)”.—(Mr. G. D. H. Cole, ” Practical Economics,” Penguin Edition.)
To the S.P.G.B. alone can the worker turn for unwavering and scientific political enlightenment. In 1917 we stated that the Russian revolution could not achieve Socialism, and thereafter have consistently indicated and explained the rise in that land of a form of State capitalism, evolutionarily consequent upon feudal backwardness. It should here be noted that rapidly increasing production, industrialisation, widely extended education, improved health services and other public welfares—claimed by pro-Soviet propagandists as evidence of Socialism—are in fact normal features of capitalist growth in many countries.

Regarding nationalisation, or public ownership, its quality is State capitalist, not Socialist; so, axiomatically, its function is not in the interests of the workers. What fundamental working-class problems were solved by, say, the German State institutions from Bismarck to the Nazis ? Turning to Great Britain, is that not equally true of such bodies as the London Passenger Transport Board ? Then, too, the conditions of Government and Municipal employees are basically typical of capitalism.

It is essential to understand that the State, often presented as being identical with society, is, on the contrary, a superstructure thrown up by society and seized upon for the purpose of rulership and exploitation.

With the advent of Socialism it will go the same way as the bow and arrow, the tinderbox, the penny-farthing, the yoyo and other things society decides it has no use for.

“Russia is Socialist!” “Public ownership is Socialist!” Oh, for William Shakespeare to pronounce: “Call any other flower a rose, and it will not smell as sweet.” Or for Donald Duck to squawk “Phooie!”
Richard Tatham