Monday, February 28, 2022

“Bear Ye One Another’s Burdens”. (1940)

From the February 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

There is a clever piece of duplicity used by the ruling class when they require an extra sacrifice from their victims—the working class.

It is usually phrased in some such terms as “let us pull together,” or “let us bear the burdens equally.” There is usually a strong flavour of brotherly love and Christianity about it. And the entry of this country into war brought forth a spate of such sweetness. But an examination of the facts show that such assurances are as hollow as a drum, and are only boomed out for the purpose of enchanting the simpletons who believe them.

Are the capitalists sharing the burdens ? If so, they are having the lion’s share of wealth while those who are conscripted are having the donkey’s share of risk, work and trouble.

Compare a soldier’s wage with the income of the leading lights of business, or of the Church and State, and see then if the, burdens are really being shared. Or compare the amount allotted to soldiers’ and workers’ children and put it against the sum spent on the children of royalty.

This disparity of “sharing” was brought out recently by a question asked in Parliament. Sir John Simon was asked if the old age pension could be increased, as large numbers of pensioners were on the verge of starvation. The reply was to the effect that the country cannot afford it. And yet Simon receives a salary as much as hundreds of pensioners put together. Now the pension is to be increased the increase is hedged about by restrictions and it only occurs after prices have substantially increased. Here we have a typical example of the cold-blooded hypocrisy of the capitalist way of thinking. What was meant was that the ruling class would not afford it. After all, of what use are aged and poverty-stricken workers to the capitalist ? They have already been sucked dry. Away with the nuisances. They shouldn’t have lived so long.

When the old age pension was introduced by a Liberal Government, in which Simon took an active part, it was hailed as a “crown of comfort for the aged.” And hordes of sentimental slobberers and snivelling humbugs of all sorts chanted hosannas in its praise.

The S.P.G.B. pointed out then that it was merely a dodge to save the capitalist the expense of keeping old workers in the workhouse. The few shillings a week given was less than the cost of erecting and maintaining large buildings and staffs. Besides, the old people in receipt of pensions could sponge on their grown-up family, and the burden of old age and poverty could be shared. That is what the capitalist really means by “sharing the burdens together.” It means putting a bit more on the workers.

Only when the means of life are comrnonly owned and controlled by the whole people will it be possible to speak of sharing and bearing one another’s burdens. But then the burdens will be only those imposed by nature. The real burden— a parasite capitalist class—will disappear.
R. Hart

Press Cuttings. (1940)

From the February 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Biblical Injunction.

From a letter to the Daily Telegraph (January 19th, 1940), criticising the Bishop of Birmingham, who had opposed the Blockade because of the Biblical injunction, “If thine enemy hunger, feed him” : —

“Is it permissible to bomb and shell the enemy, to inflict on him death and mutilation and destruction, but not permissible to interfere with his diet? Must the enemy, like the birds in a game preserve, be fattened only for the guns?”

* * *

A Knotty Problem for the Unemployed. 

“Can a man who has a few shillings to spend (having, we may add, taken up his full allowance of certificates and bonds) buy a bottle of champagne, or some other French product in the same category, without compromising the best national economic interests?”
(From a letter to The Times, January 23rd.)

* * *

“Sir, this is Monstrous!”

‘”Now, Sir, this is a monstrous state of affairs. This man is only one of a great multitude. He is being paid at least £8 a week more than he is worth.”

(From a letter to The Times, January 22nd, about an engineer fitter, formerly earning 65s., who, on piece-work, is said to have received £12 a week, not to mention “tea brought to him twice a day.”)

* * *

Where shall we send Tommy to School? !

” . . . It costs £300 a year to send your son to a good school.”
(From an article in the Daily Mail, January 22nd, 1940.)

* * *

She will Meditate on Democracy.

“Mlle. Marie-Louise Pusset, 57-year-old teacher at a girls’ school here, has been sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for attempting to defend Soviet Russia in her classroom.

“The judge declared that the teacher, a former member of the Communist Party, had shown activity favouring the Third International.—Exchange.”
(Evening Standard, January 11th, 1940.)

* * *

“Continual raiding of Germany would provoke retaliatory measures against this country which would use up still more material, as well as strengthen the determination of our people. Raids on Germany would shake the confidence of the people of Germany in Hitler.”
(From a speech of Mr. L. S. Amery, reported in The Times, January 24th, 1940.)

* * *

Unpatriotic Cats.

From an account of Germany by a neutral correspondent (Daily Telegraph, January 19th, 1940): —
“The nation that can eat the least can win the war.”

“German physicians privately express their conviction that the post-war generation will be physically unfit as the result of to-day’s feeding. Even cats refuse to drink the skimmed milk. . . .”

* * *

From The People, January 21st, 1940:—
” Germany’s miracle peasant girl has refused her ration cards because she has no need of food. . . . For the past 12 years she has taken neither food nor drink.”
* * *

Sensitive as Prima Donnas.

What the general said : —
“You’ll soon learn, like Repington did, that we generals are as sensitive as prima donnas!”
(Sunday Express, January 14th, 1940.)

* * *

Did they Listen to Keynes?

“November 14th, 1939: ‘Mr. Keynes, in The Times, urges the Government to introduce a scheme of compulsory savings, repayable after the war.

“January 12th, 1940: Copenhagen correspondent of Daily Telegraph reveals ‘astonishing new details of the desperate plan evolved by Field-Marshal Goenng and Dr. Funk.’

” ‘A most amazing feature’ is that the worker ‘will only receive an official receipt for the confiscated money, which is not redeemable until the war is over.'”
(Daily Telegraph, January 12th.)

* * *

Good Health from H. G. Wells.

“This is war, and this is what it must come to. I would rather bomb the Germans than starve them. In the end it will be quicker, and it will leave the Germans, it may be, in a healthier state of mind.”
(Daily Mail, January 25th, 1940.)

* * *

Not Hitler but the Pacifists.

“‘It is my firm belief, based on good evidence,’ the bishop said, ‘that these people-pacifists is the name they go by—are more responsible than anybody else for the fact that we are once again involved in war.'”
(The Bishop of Grantham, Daily Telegraph,January 15th, 1940.)

* * *

Stalin, the Dancing Master.

“The old peasant woman Anfisa Taraseyeva recollects that ‘Joseph Vissiaronovitch loved to sing, and even more to dance. He was a great master of dancing and taught the young people to dance.

‘ When asked to dance he would enter the circle at jog-trot, halt for a moment, shake his head and shoulders, clap his hands and cry out, “Let go, like lightning,” dancing with such fervour that he raised a whirlwind of dust.

‘He was some master at dancing; and could not see enough of it!'”
(Daily Worker, December 23rd, 1939.)

* * *

War, the Liberator.

It is not too much to say that always every reform that has been introduced since the war is the result of discussions and preparations that started during the war and under its liberating impulse.”
(Manchester Guardian Editorial)

Answers to Correspondents. (1940)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Revolt Against Socialism.

A correspondent sends the following question :
What would happen if the army supported the capitalists in a revolt?
This seems a very great possibility fraught with danger.
The question concerning a possible revolt by capitalist sympathisers after Socialists have gained control of the machinery of government is one that has often been dealt with in these columns. Placed in proper perspective it will be seen to be a much less likely and less dangerous possibility than our correspondent considers it to be. If Socialists envisaged the possibility of winning a snatch election on some issue of a temporary and unimportant character (as is the case with elections fought by the reformist parties, such as the Labour Party) then the position would indeed be grave. Our correspondent will, however, see that the position is different when we are dealing with an electoral majority achieved on the straight issue: Socialism versus capitalism. Such a victory presupposes a majority of convinced Socialists among the electors and also it means that the parties supporting capitalism have been slowly and surely undermined, in years of Socialist propaganda and election contests.

It implies also that large numbers of the men in the armed forces themselves (recruited from working-class homes which are by then predominantly Socialist) would have Socialist sympathies.

In those circumstances any individuals contemplating rebellion against the majority would know that the population as a whole was, and the members of the armed forces were, predominantly against them. Moreover, they would be plainly and unmistakably trying to reverse an electoral decision arrived at democratically and constitutionally. Such a rising would be undisguisedly unconstitutional and opposed to the declared convictions of the population. It would be most unlikely, and would be a forlorn movement foredoomed to failure.
Editorial Committee

Socialism and Wages.

A correspondent (P. B., Ilford) asks the following questions: —
1. Do you propose the immediate abolition of the wage system upon gaining power?
2. Won’t we have to compromise at first until everyone has a complete knowledge of Socialism?
3. Does Marx support your view? If so, where ?
4. You say the capitalists will have to work like the rest. How are we to make them without wages of some description?
Many of the points raised above were discussed in the Socialist Standard, August, 1936 (“Socialists do Stand for Equality”).

As regards question 4, the position is as follows. In a system of society in which property incomes (incomes from investments, land ownership, etc.) have completely and instantly disappeared, the ex-capitalists will have to obtain food, clothing, shelter, etc., in just the same way as the rest of the community. Some will readily turn to and do their best to fit themselves into the new social arrangements. Assuming that some other individuals are awkward, the majority of the population will have to decide what is the best thing to do in the circumstances. The number of the awkward squad is small and they could probably best be left to their own devices till they realised the unpleasantness for themselves of incurring strong popular disapproval by going against the tide.

Anyway, the whole problem will be a minor matter and the payment of wages does not enter into it.
Editorial Committee

Party News. (1940)

Party News from the February 1940 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our Sixpenny Stunt.

Our “sixpenny stunt” is still in operation. All you have to do is to send a sixpenny postal order to the Literature Secretary, 42, Great Dover Street, together with the address of an interested sympathiser, and we will send him or her the Socialist Standard for three consecutive months. A brief note will accompany the first month’s copy. At the expiration of the three months we shall write again, inviting the new reader to become a subscriber and to read our other published literature.

Price of Pamphlets.

Owing to an alteration of the exchange rate between the pound and the dollar we are compelled to increase the price of the following pamphlets imported from U.S.A.

The new prices are: —

Bolshevism,” 1s. 6d. post free.
State and Socialist Revolution,” 1s. 7d. post free.
Reform or Revolution,” 1s. 7d. post free.

Appeal from Party Funds Organiser.

Under war-time conditions, with increased costs and difficulties in the way of normal activities, the Party is in need of funds. Members who are in arrear with dues are asked to pay up. Debts for literature should be cleared off, and members and sympathisers are invited to make donations to Party funds.
Party Funds Organiser.

Cooking the Books: The Poverty Line (2007)

The Cooking the Books Column from the February 2007 issue of the Socialist Standard

Back in the days when the Tories were openly and deliberately the nasty party John Moore, Thatcher’s Secretary of State for Social Security (so-called), declared that poverty no longer existed in Britain. That was in a speech in May 1988 (the same month that Thatcher declared that there was no such thing as society), published the following year as a pamphlet, The End of the Line for Poverty.

What he meant was that destitution (people without enough to buy food, shelter and other necessities to survive) had disappeared thanks to handouts from the state. He rejected any definition of poverty as relative as an invention of those who wanted to “call Western capitalism a failure”.

Now the Tory Party has abandoned this approach and has embraced the view that poverty is a relative concept, measured in relation “to prevailing social norms which change over time” (Dead Link).

Poverty in the EU, and so in Britain, is officially measured in relation, not to changing views as to what are “necessities”, but to the living standards of the general population. The median take-home income including state benefits for each type of household (single, couples, couples with children, etc) is calculated on the basis that this is the income level at which there are just as many below as above it (about £330 a week, according to Daniel Finkelstein in the Times of 22 November, or about £17,000 a year for the average household). The poverty line is defined as 60 percent of this.

This is just one definition, and a rather arbitrary one (it used to be defined as 50 percent), and other countries such as the US have a different one, but it’s an attempt to measure how many have significantly less income than the other members of society.

It does lay itself open to Moore’s criticism that it means that poverty will never be abolished or, to be absolutely precise, would only be in the highly unlikely event that there would be no households with an income of more than 40 percent above the (moving) median, i.e., today, no more than about £24,000 a year for the average household.

To prepare their U-turn, the Tories got one of their MPs, Greg Clark, to analyse the statistics on poverty in Britain. He made an interesting discovery: that a large number of those classified as poor fell just below the 60 percent level; which meant that “poverty” could be reduced by increasing their income just enough to move them from 59 percent to 61 percent. He claimed that this was all the Labour government had done since 1997.

Socialists are not committed to an EU-type definition of poverty. We don’t need this to show capitalism’s failure to meet human needs adequately. While accepting that what are “necessities” is historically and socially determined and so varies over time and between (and even within) different countries, we define poverty, not in relation to people’s consumption (how much food, clothing, shelter and the like they can buy) but in relation to the means of production (whether or not they own any means for producing wealth).

The vast majority of people in the developed capitalist parts of the world are propertyless in the sense of not owning any means of production. The only productive resource they possess is their own ability to work, their working skills, their labour-power. They are thus poor in terms of ownership of the means of production, irrespective of how much they are paid and of how many personal possessions they may have. The line that divides the capitalist class from the working class, that’s the real poverty line.

Cooking the Books: International non cooperation (2007)

The Cooking the Books Column from the February 2007 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the December Socialist Standard we dismissed as quite unrealistic the claim put forward by Sir Nicholas Stern in his report to the government on the economic impact of global warming that, despite measures to cut carbon emissions affecting the competitiveness of different countries differently, this “should not be overestimated and can be reduced or eliminated if countries or sectors act together”.

Perhaps, if countries and sectors could be got to act together. But that’s precisely the problem. Companies from different countries and within different sectors are in competition with each other for a share of world profits. It is not in their nature or interest to act together or let one of their rivals get a competitive advantage over them. If one country or company feels that the adoption of some measure would result in this they won’t agree to it and will try to sabotage its adoption.

Stern’s pet measure to try to reduce carbon emissions was not, as might be expected in view of how serious he says the problem is, coercive legislation to force companies to comply, but carbon trading, or the buying and selling of a decreasing number of permits to emit carbon dioxide. The EU has already established such a scheme which has been functioning, not too successfully, since 2005. It is due to be renewed, in theory in a beefed-up form, from 2008 for a further four years.

At the moment it is essentially only power stations that are covered but the EU Commission is now proposing to extend it to other sectors, including air transport. Under a draft proposal published on 20 December, as from 2010 airlines would be required to record their carbon dioxide emissions and from 2011 would either have to keep their emissions down below a set level or purchase permits to emit more. This would initially apply just to flights within Europe but from 2012 will be extended to all flights leaving or entering Europe.

The airlines are not happy (except with the rather generous levels of emissions permitted). British Airways says that applying the scheme to flights going outside Europe will undermine its competitiveness. A BA spokesman declared: “It would disadvantage all EU long-haul carriers against their competitors around the world. All our flights would be covered but, for a US carrier, it would only be a small proportion” (Times, 16 November).

The Association of European Airlines predicted it would lead to “trade wars” while the US Air Transport Association said it “violated international law”. The US association added that such a scheme was unnecessary anyway as airlines were already taking adequate steps to reduce emissions.

That’s more like capitalism. Trade wars. International disputes. Denials that there’s a problem. If Stern’s warning in his report about what will happen if nothing or too little is done is not just scare-mongering, capitalism offers a truly disturbing future: “Our actions over the coming decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression.

Radical London History (2007)

Book Reviews from the February 2007 issue of the Socialist Standard

Keith Scholey: ‘The Communist Club’, (Past Tense (c/o 56a Info Shop, 56 Crampton St., London SE17 0AE), October 2006. £1. 
Stefan Szczelkun: Kennington Park, (Past Tense, June 2006. £1)

The Communist Club was the informal name under which German Workers Educational Association came to be known. Established in London in February 1840, as the name implies, the Association functioned mainly as an educational and social club for German workers in London. Usually meeting in rooms above pubs, the Association’s first venue was the Red Lion pub in Great Windmill Street.

Some of the same members were also involved with the Communist League, the organisation which commissioned Karl Marx to write the Communist Manifesto in 1847. The reading and adoption of the Manifesto probably happened at the Club’s new premises in Drury Lane.

The Club went on to play important roles in the Chartist movement, the First International, anarchism and socialism in Britain. In 1903 the Association now at Charlotte Street played host, in part, to the Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. The main outcome of this Congress was the emergence of Lenin’s Bolshevik faction within the RSDLP.

The Socialist Party had its first headquarters at the Communist Club (June 1904 to September 1905) and often held its Annual Conferences and Quarterly Delegate Meetings there up to 1919. The Club was closed a few years later and the building was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. In view of its importance in the history of the British working class and the Socialist Party, it is to be hoped that a more detailed version of this short pamphlet will be forthcoming.

The subtitle of Szczelkun’s pamphlet, “The Birthplace of People’s Democracy,” is something of an misnomer. The allusion is to Chartism. But the Chartist rally of April 1848, held at Kennington Park, marked the end of working class agitation for democracy in nineteenth century Britain. And this pamphlet contains other contentious statements. We are told, for example, that “History is not objective truth.” Undoubtedly much history is written from a ruling class point of view, but this does not mean that an objectively true account of the past is unattainable.

Presumably Stefan Szczelkun intends this work to be more than merely his point of view, particularly if he wants to persuade others about what really happened in the past. We are also told that “Socialist parties” (apparently including us) either considered working class culture to be a distraction or were active in encouraging our members to follow “middle class” forms of recreation (p. 14). Of course, the author provides no evidence for this preposterous assertion insofar as it refers to the Socialist Party. Apart from that, this work tells you all you could reasonably want to know about the history of London’s Kennington Park. There is much that is valuable in this short pamphlet and works like it.

Both publications are produced in conjunction with the South London Radical History Group. It is part of the process of rediscovering the truth about what happened in the past in our localities, and forms an indispensable part of the struggle for our socialist future. Where is your equivalent?
Lew Higgins

50 Years Ago: Macmillan must go! (2007)

The 50 Years Ago column from the February 2007 issue of the Socialist Standard

If we were Labour or Communist vote-catchers we would be campaigning for “Macmillan Must Go!” and telling anyone silly enough to believe it, how successful we had been with our last campaign for “Eden Must Go!”

Since the S.P.G.B. was formed in 1904 there have been ten such campaigns for getting rid of a no-good Prime Minister.  There have been rather more than ten governments because some of them, after being pushed, pulled or squeezed out have managed to get back again. When we survey the list we marvel at the rich variety. Scots, English, Welsh, and half-American (Churchill); spellbinders like Lloyd-George, and others who didn’t know how to gild the lilies of oratory; philosophical types like Balfour and Asquith and “plain, blunt men” like Baldwin; semi-Pacifists and war-mongers; business men and professional politicians; the relatively poor and the passing rich; religionists and agnostics; aristocrats and commoners; Tory, Liberal, and Labour.

There are the differences: what of the similarities? They have all had a strange belief that the country was very lucky to have them at the helm. They have all come in generously promising how much better they will make life for the people and have all gone out little lamented. And what difference has it made in the one thing that ought to be of paramount concern to the workers, the question of establishing Socialism in place of Capitalism? Just no difference at all. That job has yet to be done and it won’t matter in the least whether the next Prime Minister who tries to administer Capitalism is Mr. G., or Mr. B., Mr. X or Mr. Y.

(“Notes by the Way” by H, Socialist Standard, February 1957)

Greasy Pole: The Trouble With Kelly (2007)

The Greasy Pole column from the February 2007 issue of the Socialist Standard
“During the 1997 election she was heavily pregnant, which must have been worth not a few votes to her”
There was a time when the Labour benches in the Commons were thickly strewn with men whose leathery skin and calloused hands told of a past as coal miners, dockers or shipyard workers. Let these men pin you in a conversational headlock and you were likely to be anaesthetised by reminiscences of picket-line battles, wage bargaining carried relentlessly into the small hours and parliamentary struggles over some unmemorable reform.

All this flavoured with the defiant pride of someone describing themselves as self-educated, of drowsing over heavy tomes of history and economics while outside the dawn broke over the back-to-backs. If you were allowed a word in edgeways you might have been able to ask why such a background had failed to sensitise them to the waste of supporting the Labour Party style of trying to control capitalism in preference to that of the Tories. Such questions were unlikely to stem the flow of self-deception, or indeed to have been heard.

Well things have changed since then and those same benches are now peopled by a more furtive generation of Labour Members, although the divergence between their professed ambitions for a different society and their everyday support for their party of capitalism is as wide as ever.

For example there is Ruth Kelly, one time Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Education and Skills and now Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Kelly’s skin is not roughened (unless it be through changing nappies among of her four children) and she was not self-educated for she went to exclusive private schools. A scaringly responsive pupil, she graduated in Philosophy Politics and Economics at Oxford, then took an MSc in economics at the London School of Economics.

A spell as an economics reporter for the Guardian was followed by another as deputy editor of the Bank of England quarterly inflation report. These excursions into the jungle of deluded “experts” did not deflate her ambitions and in 1997 she won Bolton West from the Tories – which of course meant that had to prove her demotic credentials by supporting Bolton Wanderers, just as Blair supports Newcastle and Mandelson used to support Hartlepool.

When she was promoted to Education, after the sacking of Charles Clarke, Kelly was, at 36, the youngest ever member of the Cabinet by ten years. In fact she has a record of filling the shoes of fallen ministers. She was promoted at the Treasury into the job of the embarrassing Paul Boateng after patience with him ran out and he was shipped off to be High Commissioner for South Africa; her present job is a new ministry, created when John Prescott’s standing descended into farce – not all of it due to his affair with his diary secretary – and he was relieved of responsibility for communities and local government.

It seems that Kelly has been seen as a rare, highly prized, safe pair of hands. In more ways than one; during the 1997 election she was heavily pregnant with her first child, which must have been worth not a few votes to her. She has shown some ability to balance the demands of her job with the needs of her family, trying to restrict her working hours and when she was at the Treasury she refused to take home her red box. Tory MP Boris Johnson has declared the he admires “…the way she has managed to be a real person as well as succeeding in politics. She must be identical twins”. It remains to be seen how much damage this endorsement from Johnson – who does not strive to be a real person – does to Kelly’s career.

Opus Dei
While still in her thirties, Kelly conforms to some of the most desirable stereotypes in politics: female, well educated, experienced in journalism, banking and ministerial power. A busy, devoted mother. Not much else would be needed to make her eventually a strong candidate for Number Ten. Except that as she got into her stride as a minister the “not much else” began to look like a great deal by way of obstacles to her ascent of the greasy pole.

Her time at Education was marked by trouble, over disputes such as replacing GCSEs and A levels and the plans to introduce trust schools. In one clash with the NUT she was written down as the worst ever Education Secretary. An additional problem has been her possible membership of Opus Dei, a catholic pressure group the membership of which is by invitation only and which aims to promote catholicism on matters such as abortion.

Kelly has always refused to discuss whether she is a member but she has conveniently avoided parliamentary votes on matters such as gay equality, she refused to work at the Department of Health because of her opposition to abortion and at the Department of International Development because of its encouragement of the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and Aids.

And what of other issues on which Kelly, as a bright, heavily educated political leader, has expressed her views? She was a firm supporter if Identity Cards, in spite of all that that implies about a further assault by a growingly intrusive state on what are called civil liberties. She was a strong supporter of foundation hospitals, at a time when the “reconfiguration” of the NHS has provoked even the most robotic of New Labour acolytes – such as Hazel Blears and John Reid – into a rebellion, even if a modest one, against the closure of hospitals.

Kelly was in favour of student top-up fees, although when she was Minister of State for the Cabinet Office she was involved in drafting Labour’s 2005 election manifesto, when she may have noticed that the 2001 promise “We will not introduce ‘top-up’ fees and have legislated to prevent them” had been re-written as “The new proposals for higher education will…restore grants, and abolish upfront fees”.

Her support for the Iraq war was definite, although she would have known that it would be a struggle in which tens of thousands would be killed in the cause of protecting the interests of western capitalism in that oil-rich region and she could not have been so stupid and naïve as to believe that a stable, happy Iraq would quickly emerge from the wreckage there.

All of these votes were motivated, not by any religious convictions but by what Kelly sees as her duty as a politician to stand for the interests of the British ruling class and so to assist in the continuation of the system of capitalism, with all the devastation it inflicts on the human race.

Any doubts about Kelly’s capacity for duplicity should have been stilled by the revelation of her choice of school for her eldest child, her only son, who is classified as having special needs because he is dyslexic. This lad has been attending the English Martyrs Roman Catholic School in Tower Hamlets, which is widely regarded as one of the strongest educational authorities in the country. Kelly has removed her son from that school on the grounds that it is unable to cater for his “particular and substantial learning difficulties”. Instead he will be a boarder at the Bruern Abbey school, where the fees are £15,000 a year.

The local authority does not agree with this move, saying that “We have a strong record in helping  children with a wide range of learning needs to succeed”. An OFSTED report on the English Martyrs in 2002 stated that “Pupils…with special educational needs make particularly good progress…The needs of these pupils are identified clearly. They are given work that is well matched to their needs and effective support in lessons so they make good, often very good, progress…The result of good teaching is that, by the end of Year 6, many pupils with special educational needs …reach the nationally expected standard in English and mathematics”.

Of course Kelly is not the only Labour leader to place their children at expensive private school. It may be that such schools do achieve to higher standards with their pupils but that is beside the point. For the vast majority of the working class – the people who are deceived by Labour promises about education, health, employment and so on – simply can’t afford to place their children anywhere other than the state sector schools. The lesson of Ruth Kelly, her career and her son, is that capitalism sets different standards. The better, higher, standard is to be enjoyed by those able to afford it. The worse, lower, standard is for the rest, to be endured by them.

Shall we emigrate? (1926)

From the July 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

A World Migration Congress met in London on June 22nd, having been convened by the International Federation of Trades Unions, and the Labour and Socialist International, in order to discuss the problem of migration from the standpoint of the workers. As the problem is full of pitfalls, is the cause of much racial hostility between workers of different nationalities, and can easily lead to a dangerous waste of working-class energies, it is worth while considering the arguments of those who organised the Congress.

The lengthy report submitted to the Congress (“World Migration of Labour”) is a useful collection of interesting information concerning movements of population in every part of the world, but it fails completely to grasp the essentials of the problem, its attitude is throughout anti-Socialist, and despite the no doubt good intentions of those responsible, the effects of the policies advocated would be almost wholly pernicious from the workers’ standpoint.

The initial error—common enough with rash enthusiasts too hasty to digest their material—is the innocent acceptance without preliminary definition of terms which bristle with obscurities. We need only consider one of these because on its meaning depends the greater part of the arguments used. What, for instance, does “overpopulation” mean? It is not a simple question of arithmetic. It would be absurd to suggest that the uninhabitable arctic regions are under-populated as compared with, say, the U.S.A.; obviously natural factors must be taken into account. It is equally obvious that the same natural resources in succeeding ages with improved means of wealth production can support larger populations. Again, it is true that, as industry is organised to-day, it will be found generally that dense populations can more conveniently be maintained in manufacturing and mining areas than in agricultural areas. These simple qualifications are seen by the author of the report, but what he fails to see are the additional and even more important reservations necessary to justify the definition he finally accepts, without examination, from the economists. Over-population exists, he says, when the number of people in a given area exceeds a so-called optimum density. The optimum, in the sense used by the economists, is that number which gives a maximum productivity of wealth per head of the population. Any addition to or subtraction from that number will lead to a decrease in productivity. Now we can admit that the idea, although abstract and incapable of wide application, has its uses within certain well-defined limits; it does help to introduce some kind of order into chaos. But the writer of the report has forgotten to observe those well-defined limits and has never realised that the conception is useless for the solution here and now of the economic problems of the workers.

Why is it inapplicable? The definition in question relates to productivity per head of the population in a given area; but it does not concern itself with asking whose productivity, or how the product is distributed among the population. Adam Smith, 170 years ago, made a very true and simple statement, so true and so simple that it is beneath the notice of our instructors to-day. He pointed out that the amount of wealth produced over a given population depended on two factors—the productivity of the producers and the proportion which the producers bore to the whole population. Again, while it is true, of what use is it to be told merely that the wealth produced in this country or that, is so many pounds or dollars per head, unless we know who consumes that wealth ? The average wealth of any millionaire and any pauper is £500,000, but this, while statistically correct, does not help us to understand the real relations of the two individuals. In fact, in every capitalist nation we have a property-owning, non-producing class which nevertheless enjoys a very large share of the wealth which it has not helped to produce. The report goes into stupid raptures about American prosperity “unexampled in the history of the world” (279), and informs us that “skilled workers can demand—and obtain—wages that sound fabulous in the ears of the European” (p. 17). It does not mention the various factors which make a simple comparison of money wages in U.S.A. with money wages elsewhere invalid, and what is of more importance, it does not point out, as does the recent U.S.A. Federal Trade Commission Report, “that 13 per cent. of the population own 90 per cent. of the wealth.” It overlooks the fact that the proportion of the wealth they produce actually consumed by the American workers is probably lower than in any European country and that the proportion is not increasing. The 1925 United States census of manufacturers discloses the fact that in the motor industry, one of the most prosperous of all industries, in 1925, “only 32.4 per cent. of the value created in the industry went to wages, compared with 40 per cent. in 1923 and 38.6 per cent. in 1919” (American Appeal, June 5th).

The above shows the objection to applying this definition of over-population to working-class problems inside capitalist society, because it assumes that high productivity benefits the workers by increasing their income, whereas, in fact, no such result need follow. Another fatal objection is that it entirely ignores the cost of production in terms of human labour. From the point of view of the slave-owner, the horse-owner or the exploiter of wage-workers, the production of wealth by others than himself is an end in itself—the more produced the more for him without any cost. But what of the slave, the horse, or the worker? If they get no more, their interest is plainly to have increased leisure and ignore increasing the production of wealth. But it is also against the workers’ real interests to increase wealth production, even when they do get an increased income, if—as in America—that increased income largely represents a mere increase in the supply of fuel to maintain a human machine which is being worked at a greater speed. In this connection it may, too, be as well to point out that opinions are not quite unanimous on the question of American prosperity.

Sir Leo Chiozza Money (Daily Chronicle, March 24th, 1926) raises some pertinent objections. He points out that, among American miners, although mining is technically much easier owing to natural advantages, the death rate is much higher—which may not matter to those who live on mining profits, and which does not appear in statistics of wealth production, but is surely a point of interest to the miners. He says, “It is clear that, at least in some cases, they enjoy less than the standard of life which obtains in Britain,” and quotes the report of the U.S.A. Coal Commission, 1925, to the effect that “Too many of the American mining camps and towns are dreary and depressing places in which to live . . . heaps of manure within a few feet of the dwelling, garbage and other refuse awaiting collection for days, showers of flies and clouds of dust.” It is also curious, in view of the worker’s “fabulous prosperity” that, in the words of this official report, “sullen hostility prevails to an astonishing extent among the American mine workers.”

To return to our general criticism of the method of approach to the problem, we can say that every generalisation applied to such abstractions as “the industry,” and “the nation,” etc., has the defect that it ignores the separate and usually conflicting interests of employers and employed. To accept such generalisations leads to the unconscious advocacy of capitalist as opposed to working-class interests.

When we examine some of the detailed suggestions we see the danger and the absurd contradictions such loose thinking produces.

Stress is laid on the alleged danger of the worker’s standard of life being undermined by immigrant workers. The writer just glimpses for one moment and immediately forgets the fact that it is not the immigrant worker who actually does or can cause this undermining. The only person who can and does is the home employer, to whom the immigrant merely serves as an additional weapon. It ought also to be obvious by now that if the low-standard Chinaman is a danger to the white man in, say, British Columbia, because he can produce more cheaply, he is just as much a danger whether he comes to British Columbia or whether he stays at home— hence the futility of trying to keep him out. Cheap labour is cheap labour everywhere, and if capital is looking for cheap labour and cannot get it at home it will simply go where the cheap labour is to be found, and the goods produced in China will compete just as strongly in the Canadian market as they would if made there.

Many of the Labour apologists for capitalism, having now discovered this, are busy advocating protectionist capitalism instead of free trade capitalism, which, again, does not solve the worker’s problems.

The report contradicts its own argument when it informs us (p. 9) that foreign competition is caused by the emigration of skilled workers to other countries, where they get a higher standard of living. By the time it is recognised that low-wage and high-wage production under capitalism have precisely the same effect, it is time surely to realise that capitalism is the enemy. But advocating the abolition of capitalism is just the one thing these Labourites will not do. We are told (279) that universal free trade will not solve the present economic evils because “the present economic evils of Europe are more deep-seated. Moreover, they are chiefly confined to Europe; the United States has no reason to complain ; it has entered upon a cycle of economic prosperity unexampled in the history of the world.”

The facts are distorted, but especially we must notice the extraordinary assertion that the evils of Europe are “chiefly confined (italics theirs) to Europe.” If America, the land of the most brutal capitalism, with the most violent contrasts of wealth and poverty, is exempt from these evils, plainly, in view of those who think on these lines, capitalism cannot be the cause of the evils. Logically, therefore, they do not advocate its abolition.

They see three alternative solutions (p. 986) for the less industrialised countries of Europe : (a) industrialisation, (b) emigration, (c) restriction of population—not a word about Socialism.

Throughout the report there is much insistence on the so-called principle that migration policy should be based on “solely economic” factors. What on earth is an economic factor? If a government with tropical possessions uses taxation as a means of driving natives off their land, they are then driven by “economic” pressure to seek other means of livelihood elsewhere. In short, they are compelled to “migrate.”

But the attempt to limit consideration to the so-called economic aspect is absurd. Political control enables the ruling class to achieve their purpose by imposing this taxation, and the removal of that ruling class is a political problem. This is the essence of the whole migration question as it affects the workers, and it is the essence of all the workers’ “economic” problems.

The statement is made, quite truly for what it is worth, that “the natural result of over-population is the lowering of the standard of living” (289). It is true simply because over-population has already been defined as that condition in which wealth production declines. Our muddled migrationists then convert this useless truism into the utterly unwarranted assertion that the existence of poverty and unemployment proves that over-population exists. If it were true that England has millions of poor people and of unemployed because of overpopulation, we should expect to find all the people of England poor, and particularly all the unemployed poor. Actually, only workers are poor, and only some of the unemployed. Those of the unemployed who are property owners and have never had to work, are not poor. In face of the fact that in every part of the capitalist world there are property owners, non-producers living at the expense of the workers, and in face of the admitted colossal waste of existing powers of production, to urge the workers to neglect the one essential problem in order to go cap-in-hand begging concessions for emigrants from the capitalist ruling class is disgusting, and, from the worker’s point of view, a suicidal policy.

The workers are not poor because of over-population, or low-wage immigrants, or foreign competition from high or low wage countries, or because America bars further immigrants, or because of protection or free trade, or because they don’t work hard enough, or because they work too hard, or because raw materials are monopolised by certain capitalist groups, the workers are poor because they are workers. They live in a capitalist world, where property in the means of life means wealth, and propertylessness means the necessity of working and its accompaniment economic subjection and poverty. There are no purely economic problems. The conditions of production and of the worker’s standard of living are set by the capitalist system. Ending exploitation, utilising existing powers of production to the full, eliminating waste, are all dependent on the solution of the political problem of the conquest of political power. Through Parliament, the workers, when they wish, can eliminate all obstacles which now prevent the solution of any of these problems except on lines approved by and in the interests of the capitalist class. The work our Labour migrationists are doing is the work of the capitalist class, whether they realise this or not.
Edgar Hardcastle

Letter: Can we do without capital? (1926)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent asks :—
“How can the workers do without capital? I quite agree that they do not get a fair wage in many cases ; but if capital were abolished, as you suggest, where would the money come from to pay any wages at all ? Would it not be far more practicable to limit profits by law and compel the employers to give the balance to the workers in the shape of increased wages?”
Our correspondent, like a good many people, seizes upon a half-truth and loses sight of other facts which would enable him to understand it. It is, of course, quite true that wages form part of capital, and that the abolition of capital involves the abolition of wages; but only a person ignorant of history and economics imagines that the workers have always depended upon wages and must continue to do so.

Capitalism has not always existed. In the modern sense it dates in England from the sixteenth century. Previous to that time the workers were either peasants or handicraftsmen. The peasants, whether bond or free, held at least sufficient land on which to grow their own foodstuffs, etc., while the craftsmen in the towns owned their own tools and sold the products of their hands on their own account. All of them rendered tribute to their feudal lords either in labour, kind, money or military service, but in few cases did they depend upon wages. In fact, the bulk of the wealth then produced was for the direct use, either of the producers, or of their superiors in the social scale. Only a comparatively small surplus was for sale, and, consequently, money played a correspondingly small part in the affairs of mankind.

The merchants and moneylenders of those days occupied a subordinate and despised position in society, little dreaming of the future which lay before their successors, the modern capitalists.

If we enquire still further back into social development, we discover yet other conditions of labour, such as the chattel-slavery of Greece and Rome and the primitive communism of the barbaric races. Under these conditions, wages and capital in all its forms were as yet undeveloped.

The barbaric tribesmen hunted, fished, pastured cattle or rudely tilled the soil without waiting for any enterprising capitalist to come along to provide them with work.

On the other hand, the slave-owners of the ancient empires had no need to disguise the fact that they lived by exploiting their slaves. They possessed the persons of the workers and consequently had to feed, clothe, and house them. They no more thought of paying them wages than a farmer thinks of paying wages to his cattle.

If our correspondent has followed the argument thus far, he will see that the dependence of the workers upon masters arises out of the control by the latter of the means of living. Where the workers possessed their own means of producing wealth (as in the case of the barbarian or the mediaeval craftsmen) they were able also to appropriate the fruits of their labour without asking the permission of masters. It is only where n class has appropriated either the persons of the workers, the land on which they live, or the instruments by which they produce wealth that the workers become the exploited chattels, serfs or wage-slaves.

Further, it is only when the powers of production have reached their present scale, when most of the wealth is produced for sale, that the bulk of the population become dependent upon wages ; but why have goods to be sold, and whence arises the need for money ? The answer lies in the fact that the different instruments of labour, the mines, factories, farms, etc., are all the private property of different individuals or groups and that the products of labour become the private property of these groups likewise. Wealth to-day, therefore, can only be distributed by a process of exchange between the respective owners of commodities.

The workers, however, only possess their own energy. They lack the means whereby to apply it to nature in order to maintain themselves. All the accumulated fruits of the labour of their ancestors have been appropriated by a small class who have no need to labour ; for the workers are compelled to offer their power to produce, in exchange for the means of subsistence. Seeing that nearly everything is produced for sale, these means take the form of money-wages—by which the capitalists become the possessors of the force which wins wealth from nature. The workers produce a much greater value than is represented by their wages, however, and this value, when realised by the sale of the goods produced, thus yields a surplus from which the capitalist class derive their income.

The Socialist, approaching the matter scientifically, rather than sentimentally, is not concerned to argue about the “fairness” or “justice” of this order of things. From the workers’ point of view such argument is mere waste of time, seeing that the only standard of “justice” admissible under the present system is based upon the exchange of commodities, on the average, at their value. Thus, without doubt, the workers, on the average, obtain their dues according to capitalist canons. They obtain the value of their commodity, that is to say, they receive enough to enable them to replace the energy they expend in the production of wealth. This, however, does not alter the fact that the process involves their exploitation and is, therefore, contrary to their interests.

It is, then, from the conflict between the interests of the workers and the masters that the Socialist develops his proposition for the overthrow of capitalism. This conflict, which manifests itself on the industrial field in an endless series of strikes and lockouts, must find expression on the political field also. Here it can only have one conclusion ; that is, the organised capture of the machinery of government by the working-class who constitute the ever-increasing majority of the population.

Let us now consider our correspondent’s proposition, i.e., the legal limitation of profits. What party is going to introduce such a measure he does not tell us. It is difficult to conceive any such measure being seriously adopted except as a last resort, a sop with which to buy off a steadily growing revolutionary class. Admitting its possibility, however, our correspondent has not indicated what he considers a fair profit or a fair wage, nor how such an arbitrary standard of fairness could be enforced. The experience of centuries shows that Acts of Parliament cannot alter the trend of economic development unless they uproot entirely the property conditions.

Thus we find that legal efforts to keep wages down after the Black Death, failed because the number of labourers remained so small. Not until the great enclosures of land commenced, with the resulting dispossession of the peasantry, did the price of labour-power become subject to a steady fall.

To-day, any attempt to keep up the level of wages, much less increase it, has to contend with the rapid and constant improvement in labour-saving machinery, which increases the number of the unemployed, intensifying the competition for jobs, and thereby weakening the resistance of the workers to wage-reductions.

Thus, there is already at work a force tending to increase profits more rapidly than a legal enactment could limit them ; and the workers are left with the only remedy for their poverty-stricken, enslaved condition, that is, the conversion of the instruments of labour into the common property of all.

When that has been accomplished by means of their political control, they will no longer need wages. The products of labour, like the means of production, will be common property, accessible to all without money and without price. In the place of competitive exchange there will be established a system of co-operative distribution. Our correspondent’s question is, therefore, answered.

The workers can do without capital just so soon as they exercise their collective knowledge and organise democratically to obtain possession and control of the means of living; for the term “capital” simply expresses the fact that the means of social labour, and consequently the products of that labour are private property. In the same way, the terms “wages” expresses the fact that the power to labour is a mere commodity, exploited for the profit of those who purchase it.

When the workers act as we foresee, these terms will simply become as meaningless and obsolete as the terms of the feudal law (“villeinage” and “suzerainty”) or those of ancient Rome with its “patrons” and “clients,” its “bond” and “free.” In the place of class-society we shall have humanity.
Eric Boden

Sunday, February 27, 2022

New Publications Fund. (1926)

Party News from the July 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Letter: Socialism and Materialism. (1926)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Labour M.P.’s rejoinder and our reply. 

The Editor, Socialist Standard.

Sir,—I am obliged for your interesting reply to my letter. Perhaps you are able to find room for the following further observations.

You state that the whole of the idealistic school attempts to explain society in terms of ideals. In the absolute sense this is true, and I am convicted of using a careless phrase. But the unconscious dualism of the materialist is revealed clearly in the sentence, “from Plato to Hegel man’s being is explained by his consciousness rather than his consciousness by his being” Except as a doctrine of super­natural implications, I do not understand what can be meant by “consciousness” and “being” considered as separate enti­ties. I certainly do not attempt to explain either by the other, for both are part of the same evolutionary fact.

You ask, “How can the qualities of human beings be more fundamental than the environment to which they are related and in which they are inextricably involved?” Agreed. But when you speak of environment you speak of something bigger than economics and something which is not exclusively external. Strictly speaking, embryological facts are as much environ­mental as any other. I am aware of the ambiguity of the word “fundamental,” and I use the word only in the sense that a larger category of events may include smaller ones. Heredity cannot be ruled out. And you cannot rule out the intel­lectual history of the race in accounting for the culture of a period.

“The only hope of improvement for a wage-slave is in Socialism.” That depends upon the wage-slave. He may have ability, courage and no conscience. He may then become a capitalist jackal, a scab, or a “labour leader,” and would do so in strict, conformity with a philosophy which makes man’s “being” his belly. And it would be, to say the least, foolish to call him names if there is no ethical standard by which to judge conduct and only the stom­ach to explain it. The unfortunate feature of the whole situation is that the process leaves you with the incompetents on your hands.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am putting a case and offering you an explanation of a fact to which you so frequently draw attention—the existence of a whole tribe of working-class misleaders. These, if they are as venal as you say they are, seem to have absorbed non-moralism ex­ceedingly well.

You have not answered my question, “What becomes of ‘class’ if you discount idealism?” Material interests are first of all personal interests; they only become class interests when combination offers a reasonable prospective of collective advantage. The prospect of Socialism is some­ what uncertain—not to put top fine a point on it. I don’t fancy the odds at present, and I am not prepared to invest in the apathy and folly of my class. Any one of us is a hopeless dud if he could not have made his personal circumstances more secure, to say the least, had he never touched Socialism. The Socialist movement as yet calls for considerable sacrifice, and to put it in order you offer a post-dated cheque — or rather, an undated one, on the bank of revolution !

No wonder you say you have no concern with my personal motives, which, in the main, are much like other people’s. If you had concern with motives you would understand the psychology of class better. All that comes out of purely material motives even our way (if it is in any sense your way or mine) is “never mind what, but get it quick—we can’t wait.” Which is perfectly natural, if you “discount idealism.” Why should anyone ignore any old fleshpots that might be knocking about for the sake of “this day, next day, some­ time, never,” in the light of the progress of the S.P.G.B. or even the S.D.F? Come, sir, you must all be high-souled philanthro­pists without knowing it.

In practical fact, “class-consciousness” is only “brotherhood of man,” minus the exploiting classes. There is as much cant about one as the other. As for capitalists exploiting “war-cries,” they would prostitute anything and do nearly everything. All the more reason why we should insist upon the validity of certain “abstractions.”

I am asked to explain the origin and development of monogamy and prostitution if love does not play a part essentially sub­-ordinate to private property. Monogamy is a social custom hardly collateral with capi­talist society or of capitalist origin, and it can be only very doubtfully described as a property reflex. It has nothing to do, in any case, with the subordination or other­wise of love, which is an impulse that ante­ dates primitive communism and is shared by man with all sentient life and perhaps with the mineral kingdom. Prostitution is the oldest profession in the world, and a social phenomenon that runs through epochs of economic variations cannot, without gross misuse of language, be said to be “subordinate” to anything but its own passion. Strange you should have placed the two things together. Doesn’t prosti­tution cancel out monogamy, any way ?

In conclusion, if my “friends” had to be exclusively those who think exactly as I think, I should have few “friends.” Why should I object to Sir Henry Slesser airing views that are not mine in the paper I edit? And why the unction of “these be your friends”? Do you not share the “eco­nomic man” theory with all the Liberal gradgrinds and Tory buccaneers whatever?

Yours faithfully,

Our Reply.
It is a trifle difficult to take Mr. Monta­gue seriously. He appears to be bent on the time-honoured pastime of setting up Aunt Sallies and knocking them down again. The original article which he attemp­ted to criticise commenced with a reference to a plea by one of his political colleagues for “a new society based upon Christi­anity.” We sought to show that society is based upon economic development and not upon religious beliefs. Unable to show us wrong in this respect, Mr. Montague accuses us of all manner of philosophical errors which he equally fails to prove.

This time it is “unconscious dualism” of which we are alleged to be guilty because, forsooth, we distinguish, in the abstract, between man’s “consciousness” and his “being.” Does not man’s being include his consciousness, as the greater includes the less, or is his consciousness all-embracing and exhaustive? Do we judge an individual simply by what he thinks of himself? Must we accept every ruling class at its own valuation ? These questions only need to be asked to illustrate the absurdity of the idealist position. But is Mr. Montague an idealist? In his first letter (June issue) he asserted “that certain human qualities are more fundamental than any shaping process, economic or otherwise.” Now he “agrees” that they are not ! No wonder he does “not attempt to explain either by the other !”

This does not prevent him, however, from persisting in regarding the individual and his “personal motives” as the all-important factor in social development. He may pay lip-service to what he calls “economic de­terminism” but he evidently does not under­stand it. For instance, he refers to a whole tribe of working-class misleaders and appears to attribute their position to their “ability,” “courage,” and lack of “con­science,” instead of to the economic pres­sure arising from the conditions of capitalist society.

According to Mr. Montague, the bulk of the working-class are “hopeless duds,” see­ing that, although they have not “touched Socialism,” their “personal circumstances” become increasingly less secure ! “The Socialist movement as yet calls for consider­ able sacrifice !” Capitalism, of course, doesn’t, eh! Mr. Montague?

Our critic imagines that any unscrupulous scoundrel can get the best of modern soci­ety. He appears to be blind to the opera­tion of the economic factors which care as little for personal motives as do the winds and tides.

“Material interests are first of all personal interests,” he says, but fails to ex­plain how any person can exist apart from some class in a class-society.

“Class-consciousness” he regards as a moral term akin to the “brotherhood of man.” He ignores the fact that “minus the exploiting classes,” the term would be meaningless. Class-consciousness implies the conception, not merely of identity, but of antagonism in the economic realm. This antagonism cannot be explained by ethical abstractions, which only serve to confuse the workers’ minds and thus delay the hour of their triumph.

Mr. Montague’s handling of monogamy and prostitution indicates a very shallow knowledge of the subject. Monogamy is more than a social custom. It is a legal institution and, as such, bears the unmistak­able impress of its origin in the private ownership of the means of life. There have been other forms of private property be­ sides that at present obtaining, and we did not suggest that capitalism alone was re­sponsible for the origin and development of this form of sexual relationship. Modern marriage and prostitution in all its forms imply the economic dependence of the woman upon the man. This condition did not exist under the communal arrangements of primitive society, and sexual relations were, as a consequence, of a widely differ­ent character from those which at present prevail. We have not space here to describe them in detail, but Mr. Montague would be well-advised to study Morgan’s “Ancient Society,” and Engel’s “Origin of the Family” before indulging in more random generalisations about “love.” Women sell themselves, in marriage or out of it, because their economic circumstances so determine; and prostitution, so far from “cancelling out” monogamy, supplements it. The capitalist’s legal wife presents him with heirs to his invested wealth. His paramours help him to enjoy that which overflows from the field of investment.

In conclusion, we referred to Sir H. Slesser in order to illustrate our contention that, politically, Mr. Montague keeps strange company for an alleged Socialist, which does not exactly tend to remove our suspicions as to the utility of philosophy. As for the “economic man” theory, we should have credited even a member of the S.D.F. with knowing better!
Editorial Committee

New Publications Fund. (1926)

Party News from the June 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Will Co-Partnership End The Class War? (1926)

From the May 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Readers of that scintillating specimen of Liberal originality can hardly have failed to notice the recent propaganda of the "Westminster Gazette” in favour of co-partnership between Capital and Labour. The plea is advanced that, in order to meet "world competition,” masters and men must fraternise with a view to greater production, the incentive for the men being "a share in the profits.” Sir A. Mond, in fact, goes as far as to declare that the proposal is the only practicable alternative to Socialism. As such, let us examine it.

In the first place it is worth noticing that "world competition” appears to take two forms. There is that of America with its "high wages” and highly developed machinery on the one hand and that of the Continent with its longer hours and lower wages on the other. The Liberal organ appears to favour the Americanisation, rather than the Europeanisation, of British industry; but it sheds no light upon the rather ticklish problem of beating the Americans at their own game and avoiding an increase in the unemployed at the same time.

In Germany several years of "increased production” have resulted in raising an industrial reserve army of something like two millions and the reason is not far to seek. Under the existing social order, wealth is produced, neither for use nor for mere production’s sake, but for profit. Profit forms the sole motive for the investment of capital and when increased production is spoken of it is the increased production of profit that is implied. Consequently the practicability of any scheme for increasing production depends upon whether it will simultaneously add to the remuneration of capital. No capitalist concern is going deliberately to adopt a scheme which will involve the swallowing up of the increased product by higher wages. To do so would be to act in defiance of the reason for its own existence.

Nor is the capitalist likely to enlarge the scope of production merely for the sake of an equal division of the increased product. It is evident that he can only oust his rivals by cheapening his product and this involves an alteration in the relationship between what Marx calls the constant and the variable elements in the composition of capital; in other words, it involves the progressive displacement of the worker by the machine. The machine makes it possible to pay those workers retained a higher wage than formerly, while making a still greater profit as a result of larger turnover with cheaper commodities. What do the workers gain from this? Relatively to the share of capital in the product of their labour, their share has fallen, while the higher standard of wages merely compensates (and that not completely) for the added strain of machine production plus the insecurity of their jobs.

These being the general conditions for increased production, what chance has co-partnership of removing the antagonism between capital and labour? As profit can only arise from the difference between what the workers produce and what is returned to them to consume, it is obvious that, however much in detail such schemes may differ, they all have this in common.

They consist simply in a more or less elaborate piece of camouflage. Part of the workers’ wages are labelled “share of profits.” The illusion is thus created that the workers have an interest in their own exploitation, i.e., in increasing profits as opposed to wages. In the eyes of workers so deceived, strikes become senseless and trades unions are justified only as means of preserving discipline and good feeling towards the loss.

Several employers, who have profited remarkably well from this method of bluffing their slaves, are loud in its praise and are not slow to proclaim it as the road to the New Jerusalem. A little reflection, however, will show that, even if the whole field of industry could be covered by such schemes, the antagonism of interests would by no means have been abolished. The expression of that antagonism would merely change its form. The complete suppression of strikes would amount to no more than the suppression of a symptom, the cause of which would find an outlet in some other symptom far more serious to capitalism. “Industrial peace” can be bought only with the swelling of the unemployed army to hitherto unheard of dimensions, only by the substitution of doles for wages.

There is little likelihood, however, of any widespread adoption of the co-partnership principle in its fully developed form. While it may be suitable in certain trades such as the production of soap and cocoa while the demand for labour-power is comparatively stable, it is obviously unsuitable in industries where the rapid and considerable alterations in market conditions render the lockout as indispensable to the masters as the strike is to the workers. The instability inseparable from competition upsets all schemes based upon the attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable.

As long ago as the middle of last century Marx in the “Communist Manifesto" exposed the hollowness of bourgeois reforms. Said he (p. 27) “The bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best . . . and but requires in reality that the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society but should cast aside all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie. ”

How admirably the above extract hits off the attitude of the capitalist advocates of co-partnership and kindred suggestions! According to the “Westminster Gazette” the initiative must remain with capital. In
other words capital must determine the conditions upon which the workers are to be admitted to “partnership.” All that is necessary for the workers to do is to shed their suspicions of the benevolent intentions of their masters. What a comfortable world it would be for those masters if only the workers would be content with slavery, if only they would accept capitalism as final. Slowly but surely, however, the class-war moves into its decisive phases. Mentally bankrupt, the master-class apprehend more clearly the coming social revolution.
Eric Boden

Locarno and Fred Karno. (1926)

From the May 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Of course we shall scoff; that is expected of us. What else can one do with shams and hypocrisies? Besides, it is refreshing. It is a mistake to analyse laboriously and logically every exhibition of human folly. So we shall just scoff. Has it not been said that all enemies of the League of Nations will rejoice at its discomfiture. We are not among its enemies. One does not hate what amuses. But who could take seriously an aggregation of predatory rapacity calling itself a League of Nations? What a sight for the Gods ! What a spectacle for men ! Imagine these rulers of ours, with centuries of bloodshed and. massacre behind them, striding through, their latest hecatomb, trampling over the bones of their latest twenty-million victims, making for the quiet little town of Locarno. Why did they choose Locarno? Possibly because there, their ears were not deafened with the hammering in the shipyards, where the Labour Party’s six cruisers were nearing completion. Possibly to be out of earshot of the rumbling of tanks, the thunder of guns, and the clatter of troops engaged in the Autumn Manoeuvres, busily getting ready for the next difference of opinion. Possibly so that their deliberations would not be disturbed by the drone of aeroplanes practising the bombing of cities; or so that they would be free from the importunities of inventors, with the latest and most excruciating form of poisonous gas. Possibly because the other Continental holiday resorts were rather crowded, or perhaps with an eye to the appropriate, because Locarno reminded them of Fred Karno, England’s one-time prize comedian. But anyhow, they got there. There to do what? There presumably, to lay the foundations of a secure and permanent peace. How nice ! How laudable ! Yes ! and they were successful. Oh yes ! Mr. Austen Chamberlain ordered a new “bowler.” They told him he would be known as Sir Austen instead of Mr. Austen in future. Church bells were jangled, big drums were thumped, armament manufacturers shot themselves. Admirals jumped overboard and Generals went on the Labour Exchange. So you will see there is some sadness in all joy-making. As usual, the Admirals and Generals had been too precipitate. There was a further Conference to come. The Locarno spirit was to be supplemented by the Geneva spirit. The Locarno Conference had been marred by the absence of the dear friends with whom Sir Austen, when but a plain Mister, had drained a “loving-cup.” Geneva was to remedy that. The “loving-cup ” was to be furnished with additional handles, that all who would, might drink to everlasting peace and amity. So deeply did these delegates of free peoples realise their duty to their respective democracies, that it was thought advisable to hold their meetings in secret. We, with our narrow, restricted views on what constitutes democracy, look upon secrecy with suspicion, but there; are we not impossiblists?

However, the Harmony Kings disappeared behind their curtain, and the world hoped for the best. Alas ! Alack the day ! Sounds utterly unlike peace came through the veil. Groans and maledictions rent the dove-cot within, and the plain work-a-day world outside was grieved to hear unmistakable sounds of strife proceeding 'from the Temple of Peace. What was wrong? Nobody knows. The Press has released a farrago of jargon upon us, on the Scandal of Geneva; the Fiasco of Geneva; the Menace of Geneva, and so on, all about as useful as the Gin of Geneva. Questions of permanent and semi-permanent seats, Germany’s entry and Brazil’s veto, Spain’s claims and Sweden’s attitude, have been so bandied about that it is to be feared the average person has turned to the football results with a certain feeling of relief.

We will say it as modestly as we can—we thought as much. It is always a safe remark—after the event. Do not misunderstand us; we are not cynical. The horrors of another war like the last, are such as would justify almost any attempt to prevent it. It is the workers who have to suffer; we know that well enough. But to expect capitalism to abolish war, is like hoping for tigers to turn vegetarian. “It is their nature to” conquer and prey.

How profoundly pathetic it is to contemplate the thousands of well-meaning, earnest people pinning their hopes upon this phantasm, this illusion, this dream of the muddle-headed, the League of Nations. These are hard words. Many will read them with pain. We hope they will add to that, patience. For listen :

Here we have a system based upon robbery. You don’t agree ! You don’t like the word “robbery” ! That is simply because custom has blinded you to realities. Robbery is taking something from another without an equivalent. Even when the robbed is willing but is the victim of a trick, it is called robbery, even by capitalist law. The land was taken from the people by simple robbery. The wealth is taken from them to-day by a little more intricate robbery, but it is robbery just the same. They may tacitly agree with the robbery, but that is because they are unaware of the process. They are the victims of a trick. They are made to believe they are paid for what they do. They believe their wages are an equivalent to their work. It is not so. In simple language, we say that the whole working class produce each week a huge cake of wealth. Out of this cake, a slice is cut sufficient to keep the workers going for a further week. The difference between the slice and the cake is the extent of their robbery. Now in any given country, the size of this cake is becoming a source of embarrassment to its owners. Time was when they could exchange what they did not want at home, for some different kind of cake from other countries. But latterly the other countries have established capitalist bakeries of their own, and having exchanged portions amongst themselves until they are full up and running over, they each find they have large portions left. Here is a quandary. If they wait until ordinary usage has consumed the cake, two or three weeks may elapse. It is useless making cake with so much on hand, the masters say, so the working class must cease working until there is again a demand for cake. But the working class can only live by making cake. What is to be done? Experience has brought many expedients. First there is the device of colonies, and then that of trading with undeveloped races. These serve for a time, but obviously, when both the colonies and the backward countries proceed to produce cake for themselves, and later experience the same embarrassment in disposing of the surplus, the process becomes an urgent problem. Stoppages of the working class become more frequent and more prolonged. Portions of cake are crumbled off and grudgingly distributed under the various names of charity, Poor Law, insurance benefit, etc. It is easy to see that without such doles, the working class would not starve quietly in the midst of an abundance, kept under lock and key.

And then there are the foreign markets. What a scramble there has been for these ! Here the robbery has been open, crude, and undisguised. The so-called backward races have been invaded, their lands stolen, themselves massacred, the remnants enslaved. To what end? Primarily that their lands might furnish cheap ingredients for the cake, and next that they might become customers for the finished cake. It is in this struggle for markets, as it is called, that we find the genesis of modern capitalist wars. The first nation to reach the colonising, market hunting stage, of capitalist development was England. Each nation that has reached the stage where colonies and foreign markets were a necessity of further expansion, has found England first and later competitors blocking the way. Hence jealousy, competition, friction, warfare, bloodshed. Every struggle, even the last so-called war for democracy, has been followed by a re-apportionment of the earth’s surface. Now, without being by any means exhaustive, sufficient has been said to prove beyond reasonable doubt, that war is the logical outcome of capitalism. But capitalism is being compelled to realise that warfare is subject to the same laws of growth as all human institutions. Beyond a certain point its further expansion is at the expense of the rest of the organism. Modern powers of destruction tend ever more and more to involve victors and vanquished in a common doom. The day is quite near when one solitary aeroplane will be able to wipe out a town. Capitalism has endowed a giant with enormous strength, but like Samson in the Temple, the same act that destroys his enemies destroys himself. So capitalism pauses. Capitalists are human, like the rest of us; death is death whether one wears a silk hat or a cloth cap. So capitalism pauses. It confers. It recognises that expansion is the law of its being. But it recognises that expansion means war; and that war means destruction ; and that destruction may be universal. Here is a dilemma. The League of Nations is an attempt to find a solution. We wish them luck. Our great hope is that the form of their disillusionment may not take the shape of another war, but that they will realise that the cause of war is capitalism, and that the way to abolish war is to abolish the cause. We sadly fear that as so many supporters of the League are also ardent supporters of capitalism, they will take the bloodier road. The true League of Nations will be an International Socialist Party. Its aim will be to make the whole earth a common human possession, not a congeries of railed off portions, defended one from the other by bayonets and poison gas. Its beginning is here, here in Great Britain. The Socialist Party simply awaits your help and membership before joining with similar parties in all parts of the world, to achieve the release of mankind from the curse of toil, slavery, poverty, massacre and war. Is not the object a worthy one? Is riot that worth a little sacrifice and effort? Then why wait, why drift, why let the years go by? Socialism is possible now, to-day. Make it a certainty by joining the Socialist Party to-day.
W.T. Hopley