Wednesday, October 26, 2022

“Nationalisation is Obsolete.” (1929)

From the October 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. Walton Newbold makes a discovery.

Mr. J. T. Walton Newbold, M.A., who has been preaching nationalisation of the mines for nearly 20 years, has decided that it is now obsolete. He contributes to the Miner (August 17th) an article in which he argues that the grouping together of South Wales mining, iron and steel, wagon building, electrical and banking interests,
“Makes obsolete the whole notion of nationalisation of the mines. Actually, that panacea of the propagandists of the last twenty years has been as dead as mutton for half a decade.”
Although this is not by any means the first time Mr. Newbold has discovered his politics to be obsolete, and we shall not be surprised if, as on previous occasions, he shortly swallows his words, it is interesting to have this direct admission from one of the purveyors of obsolete remedies. It is still more interesting to hear why the secret has not been disclosed before. Addressing1 his remarks to the miners, he writes :—
“Every Marxist has known that, though, I grant you, most of them have been too fearful of your disapproval to tell you the honest truth. Socialists are supposed to be guided by science. Actually, they are all too often swayed by the most sloppy sentimentality.”
To that statement we would like to put in a protest and add a question. We deny that those who understood Socialism ever had any doubts on the question or ever believed nationalisation to be a panacea for working-class problems or deserving of any support whatever from the workers.

Newbold, the reformer, in his unstable passage through the Fabian Society, the Labour Party, the I.L.P., the Communist Party, the I.L.P. again, and finally the Social Democrat Federation, might have thought that nationalisation was a panacea; and Newbold, the carpet-bagger, when he learned differently may well have kept his thoughts to himself for fear of the disapproval of those whose votes and financial support he was seeking. Socialists never made the original error, nor had the need to be dishonest about their objects.

The question we would like Mr. Walton Newbold to answer is this :—
“What are his reasons for believing that Nationalisation, before it became “obsolete” half a decade ago, would have proved a panacea for the workers ?”
It would appear that Mr. Newbold still finds it expedient not to risk the disapproval of those who supply the funds and the votes. At the last election he fought as a Labour candidate, committed to support of the Labour Party and accepting its programme of nationalisation and its string of capitalist reforms. But although Labour Party rules definitely prevent Labour candidates from running as Socialists, we notice that when Mr. Newbold appealed for funds through a Canadian journal, his candidature suffered a strange transformation. In Epping he was a Labour Candidate seeking the non-Socialist votes of the Labour Party’s supporters. In Winnipeg, he became a Socialist, and the votes he polled were “votes for Socialism.”
Edgar Hardcastle

A Queer Party. (1929)

From the October 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. David Kirkwood, M.P., writes a letter to the Daily Herald (19th September) giving a corrected version of a speech he made on his party—the I.L.P.

These are his words :—
“The time was not far away when they would have to decide whether their aims could be realised within Capitalism or not. He did not believe that they could. If they could be realised under Capitalism, then there was no use for an I.L.P.”
One can only gasp in amazement at the spectacle of an alleged Socialist organisation which, after existing for 36 years, has not yet found the time opportune to consider whether its aims could be realised within capitalism or not. We implore Mr. Kirkwood to tell us how far away the time for decision is.

Birth Control, Wages and Private Property: The Attitude of the Catholic Church. (1929)

From the October 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard
Birth-prevention is a dodge of the rich man against the poor. The only defence of the poor lies in their numbers. The rich are afraid, hence some of them, with devilish ingenuity, advocate birth-prevention to rob the poor of his only strength. It was loudly proclaimed in the Rotary Club at Leicester that if the poor will practise birth-control they will be content with smaller houses and lower wages. The poor, gullible crowd, is walking into the trap set for them by a few cunning fellows. It is always awkward to have to use machine-guns on the mob; teach them birth-control. It is just as effective. It does not soil your hands; in fact, you will be hailed as a benefactor by the poor dupes.

* * *

I am asked what nature orders a starving and penniless man to do when passing a baker’s shop. I answer : To take as much bread as will fully satiate his hunger. The Catholic Church teaches that nature abolishes all private ownership in the extreme and immediate need of one’s neighbour.

(The above extracts are taken from a letter written to the Daily News, September 5th, by Dr. J. P. Arendzen, M.A., D.D., D.Ph., a noted Roman Catholic writer.)

A Correction. (1929)

From the October 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

By an oversight the words “working class” were printed as “working-classes” on page 7, line 6, column 2, of the September “S.S.” There is, of course, only one working class.

The correspondent who writes drawing our attention to this also points out that we allowed a contributor to write “God help the men” in the last paragraph of the article, “Aspects of the Woman Question.”

The correspondent is afraid that we may be thought to have deserted Socialism for Christianity, and are advising the men to seek the aid of a non-existent deity. We assure him, with due solemnity, that the words were “writ sarcastic.” We thank him for his zeal and commiserate with him on his apparent lack of a sense of humour.
Editorial Committee.

SPGB Meetings. (1929)

Party News from the October 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Plimsoll Line. (1929)

From the September 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard
“Only the older generation remembers the long struggle conducted by Samuel Plimsoll—to whom at last a memorial is to be erected on the Embankment Gardens—to make legal his famous safety load line, now marked on the sides of every British Ship.”—(Daily Chronicle, August 16.)
Though we do not advocate dependence on others where workers’ interests are at issue, and though we are not hero-worshippers, we can appreciate the sterling worth of men like this champion of the seamen’s cause. Inseparable from the history of Plimsoll’s struggle is the record of a dastardly deed worth recounting, inasmuch as it shows the mercenary nature of capitalist society. Plimsoll was no mere notoriety seeker, but one of the men of his day who could rise above place and pelf. He had a wholesome respect for the working class, especially that hard-working and long-suffering section who sail the seas. In his book, “Our Seamen,” he says :—
“Riches seem in so many cases to smother the manliness of their possessors . . . their sympathies are reserved for the sufferings of their own class and also the woes of their own class. They seldom tend downward, and they are far more likely to admire an act of courage than to admire the constantly exercised fortitude and the tenderness which are the daily characteristics of a British worker’s life—and of the workmen all over the world as well.”
Entering the House of Commons in 1871, Samuel Plimsoll met with bitter hostility from the vested shipping interests and was ejected from the House for denouncing the ship-owners as “cold-blooded murderers.” Hear the words of an eye-witness on the occasion :—
“Most of the house and most of the front benches were as ignorant as bull calves of the ways of the merchant service.

Mr. Plimsoll was a very quiet and quaker-like man. Perhaps there was not a fighting man in the house to back him except half-a-dozen Irishmen. Did he sit down in silent funk? Did he admit that the lives of British seamen were of no urgent importance? I can see the brave man now as I saw him then. In half-a-dozen strides he was in front of the mace at the table. With clenched fist and furious voice he threatened and he denounced, “Were the sailors to go down in coffin ships during another winter’s storms when the Bill could be passed this session. By God! It must be passed, though all the murdering insurers of rotten ships were there to stop it.” It was no use shouting, “Order, order,” or “Send for the Sergeant-at-Arms”; Samuel Plimsoll all along meant to save the sailormen and he called out to all England to have the Plimsoll mark made law.”—(Quoted by the Sphere, August 17th, 1929, from the writings of F. H. O’Donnel, 1913.)
As a result of this agitation, and the consequent feeling aroused, by one man mark you, the Government was forced to push through a temporary bill. So strongly did the vested interests resist the interference with their “right” to murder helpless seamen that it was not until 1890 that the Load Line was fixed by Act of Parliament.

And now for the dastardly deed referred to. In 1906 came the great Liberal Government, with 54 Labour members, and Lloyd George, President of the Board of Trade. Among its wealthy members and supporters were the following shipping magnates :— Lord Pirrie, director of Harland & Wolff’s, White Star Line and other shipping companies ; Lord Furness, director of six shipping concerns; Sir Owen Phillip, Mark Palmer, Lord Joicey, Lord Rendel, Sir Walter Runciman, Sir William Bowring, R. D. Holt, Lord Mulburnholme, Russel Lea, Hon. J. A. Pease, and so on, and so on, profit without end. Now will you need to ask why David Lloyd George, ambassador of God Almighty Capital, amended the Merchant Shipping Act, permitting vessels that could least afford to load deeper to do so, to the extent of 7 and 8 inches. The object was to save the ship-owners from the expense of building extra vessels, and the result was very soon apparent in the number of founderings and the consequent enornous loss of life. Numbers of ships went out to sea and were never heard of again. But in this day there was no Samuel Plimsoll, though there were 54 Labour members, who, for the most part, sat silent through it all. Greatly to their credit the late Keir Hardie and H. M. Hyndman carried on a vigorous campaign of protest, the latter even challenged Lloyd George to prosecute for the accusations he levied against him, but the Welsh lawyer was too busy “climbing.” We live in a commercial age, and the object of these lines is to call attention to the rottenness of a society in which the noble deeds of the dead can be turned to account, and even honoured, by those who batten and fatten on the living.
W. E. MacHaffie

Thoughts at the Pictures. (1929)

From the September 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

We thought our town was well supplied with cinemas, but three months ago another opened. This was really a grand affair, with everything right up to recent date. There was a beautiful copper dome, surmounting an artistic tiled front, and when all the lights were twinkling and reflected in the small lake before the building, it was like a dream palace. And then you walked through the polished doors and up the marble stairs,, helping yourself along with the heavy brass handrails until you came to the paybox. Here stood an ambassador (I am sure he was an ambassador, for he was covered in gold lace), who always made the same mistake. He always assumed that we were either American oil-kings or else ex-sergeant-majors, for he immediately called out, “Seats at 5/9, 3/6 and 2/4.” He never mentioned the 6d. and 1/- ones. He made us feel somewhat cheap, but we found he was paid to do that and thus increase his master’s takings, so we paid our shillings and went in. And inside ! What a vision ! To the great majority of people in our town, whose homes are furnished by Tallyman, Gombeen and Tick, Ltd , and decorated by Woolworth’s, the new cinema must appear the last thing in the palatial. Gilt and tinsel, plush and velvet, silken curtains and orange glow-lamps, all go to make the nearest approach to fairyland most of us have ever known. There was a cinema organ capable of making 591 different kinds of noise. I will not venture to express my own ill-balanced and highly prejudiced opinion of it, but will simply state that the majority of my fellow citizens were brought into a state of ecstasy by it. And then there was the orchestra of about twenty musicians. I mention this feature last, because we were assured that it was a highly efficient body under the baton of the well-known conductor, Mr. So-and-So. One must admit that when they played music they were a joy, a pure, unrestrained joy, but when they introduced those orgies of hoots, squeals and death-rattles that are miscalled dance music, they were not a joy.

However, I mention them last for another reason that will be presently apparent. I did not go to the cinema again, because I found that in spite of the fairy-like exterior, the beautiful interior, the organ, the orchestra and all the rest, there appeared upon the screen nothing but the slushiest of slush. One is not entertained by slush.

But there came a day when the owner of the luxurious building informed his “esteemed patrons” and the world at large that, true to the policy of keeping abreast with modern developments, and sparing no expense, he would inaugurate the newest scientific wonder, the talking picture.

So as soon after the opening night as possible, we again paid a visit to the hall of luxury. There were the shaded lights, the marble floor, the painted sky on the ceiling, the courteous attendants as before, and, as we entered, the organ was playing one of the Indian love lyrics. It was not until the great feature, the talking picture, came on, that we noticed a difference. The orchestra had disappeared. Where previously had sat some twenty men in dress suits, producing melody of charm and vigour, there was a boarded expanse, covered with coloured bunting and artificial flowers. Yes ! Gay bunting and paper roses. He had “spared no expense” with a vengeance. It was the tomb of the orchestra. All its members had been sacked. Instead of their merry fiddling, all the noises that are intruded to charm a cinema audience, proceeded from a machine situated in the orchestra’s tomb. I need not tell you what I thought of the film, or of the talkie device, which has obvious wonderful possibilities. But I could not keep my mind from reverting to a little argument I had had with a friend during the day on unemployment.

He had retailed the old, time-worn phrases as to its cause and cure that the Press provides each day for the satisfaction of its readers. He had admitted, willingly admitted, that the introduction of machinery displaced labour, but urged that effect was only temporary as, owing to the cheapening of costs, prices fell, leading to a bigger demand than ever, when the displaced workers were rapidly re-absorbed. I tried to apply this line of reasoning to the sacked orchestra but I am afraid it did not fit. And yet my friend was only saying what the Capitalist Press says. Another statement he retailed from the same source was that men displaced from an industry by the introduction of machinery, eventually found work in the making of that machinery. There seemed to be a flaw in this reasoning, too. I could not conceive of those twenty musicians selling their instruments in a glutted market, and setting out to find the place where the wonderful talkie machines are made, in the hope that their skill as makers of melody would avail them as makers of machines. Had they been so exceedingly simple as to act upon those lines, it is quite possible they would have been unable to get near the factory for crowds of other musicians similarly made redundant, and crowds of real engineers already seeking employment.

Another argument he used, or rather quoted, was that unemployment was caused by cheap foreign labour. And yet these machines were the product of highly-paid American labour. I heard later that a British talkie is now being marketed costing but a third of the American product. Even this information did not seem to me to be of great comfort to the starving musician. Whether the machine was made by labour aristocrats or sweated coolies, the effect on the musician seemed the same. However, thinking over these things interfered with my appreciation of the film, and as my friend was not there I could not ask him to explain his ingenious theories in the presence of the awkward facts. I must recommend him to make a little study of the case of the cinema musician and his sudden and dramatic displacement by the machine, and then go over his theories over again. Perhaps he will see that the reason the musicians are sent out to starve, whilst a machine does their work, is because the cinema is privately owned and it is to the interest of the proprietor to substitute a cheaper music maker if he can, for he thus enlarges the amount of his profit. It is nothing to him that the human musicians starve if they cannot find a hirer. He will tell them he is not a philanthropic institution. He is not in business for the good of his health or the good of his employees. If they are wise, they will take him at his word. He is not in business for their benefit. Then they must see that the private ownership of their means of livelihood is incompatible with their good. They will see further, that the whole of this society of ours is run upon the same basis, and that their unemployment is not to be distinguished from unemployment in general. Their problem is only part of the whole problem, and the whole problem can only be solved by a universal remedy. We say that the only remedy suggested, so far, that has stood every sort of criticism, is Socialism. All our means of livelihood are privately owned, and all of us workers are liable to be sent packing whenever our hirers can find a cheaper substitute. How long are we going to stand it? Why should we not own our own means of livelihood? Why should a relatively small and parasite class dictate to the vast mass of people when they shall work and when not? Let us take possession of the things that are vital to our very existence. We make them, we operate them, we repair them and renew them. We do everything but own them. Without us the whole of the machinery in the world, beautiful as it is, clever as it is, ingenious as it undoubtedly is, is so much junk. Let us make the land, the factories, the machines and the tools of production, common property, and then perhaps, instead of a machine making men into paupers, we shall welcome every machine that lightens labour, for it will bring us holidays and increased leisure. The system wherein the means whereby all live are commonly owned and administered, is called Socialism. That is what we are aiming at, and we want a million workers to say definitely they want it, and are prepared to help get it. Will you be one?
W. T. Hopley

All Quiet on the Parliamentary Front. (1929)

From the September 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

As the evenings draw in, it is more and more evident that Socialism will not be here by Christmas. This, we must agree, is disappointing. True, the Labour Government has done its best, but what with the lack of rain, and the holiday season coming on, one must not expect too much. Photographs of Uncle Arthur at Scheveningen, looking the reverse of revolutionary, have appeared in the papers; others of Ramsay in flying kit, so anxious to achieve Socialism in Our Time that he has to resort to the airplane ; others again of Snowden, scowling, sneering or smiling. Delightful little paragraphs have appeared depicting the charming home life and complete domestic harmlessness of the Labour Cabinet. Altogether they can be said to have had a good press. Even when they disguised Sidney Webb in the fustian of a Lord, the jeers were fairly restrained. And now, after three months of office, we find capital going further still and saying, “the whole Empire is behind Philip Snowden.” Here is a revolution indeed. Three months ago they were disrupters of the Empire ; to-day, Snowden talks of its prestige and its rightful foremost place in world affairs.

What has happened? It is very simple. There is no need to expend a great number of words in explaining. During the great European war, the Labour Party was on the side of Capital. In 1924, when they were “in office but not in power,” their most outstanding achievement was to threaten revolting workers with the Emergency Powers Act. In 1929 the first jobs they tackle are the safeguarding of capitalist rights in Egypt, the cheaper running of the Navy by arrangement with capitalist rivals, and the squabbling with European capitalists over the sharing of German reparations.

We submit those are not the actions of a party whose object is the overthrow of Capitalism. Briand, Stresemann and Snowden meet round the table as equals. They are equals. Each represents a separate capitalist entity. The workers will realise this as the months and years roll by and their lot remains the same. They will realise that to vote for a working man because he is a working man, and for no other reason, is the height of futility. Capitalism, administered by working men, differs in little from capitalism administered by capitalists. The workers must learn that it is not the individuals, it is the system that is at fault, They must grasp this fact and hold on to it, that changing the name and not the thing achieves nothing. They must cease to believe such tosh as that recently published in the New Leader, wherein the workers were urged to admire Socialism in practice at Bournemouth, Brighton and Blackpool. We hope to have many opportunities of commenting upon the career of foolishness that is now before the Labour Party. The problem is a simple one. The workers who produce all wealth are poor in the midst of plenty. A million of them cannot find a master. Their condition is acute. The remainder are poor, permanently poor. We shall see that the Labour Government has no remedy.
W. T. Hopley

Aspects of the “Woman Question.” (Part 3) (1929)

From the September 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Based on Notes of a series of Lectures on “The Sexes in Evolution.”)

It is not surprising, perhaps, that during the ages when no scientific knowledge existed, when nothing was known regarding the development of life on the earth, that man should have regarded himself as an infininitely superior being, possessing mental and physical qualities which were peculiarly “masculine.” Neither is it remarkable that woman, who was supposed to have appeared later on the scene as the result of a surgical operation performed upon him, should have been regarded simply as an adjunct, a being created to satisfy the requirements of the masculine nature. But when the scientific age dawned, when it became possible to trace through the ages the evolutionary development of the human race, it might be thought, especially in the light of modern knowledge, that these antiquated prepossessions would disappear. This is by no means the case.

When man was compelled to turn his attention to the crude agricultural pursuits which woman first of all developed, the so-called superior qualities which he possessed —acquisitions of war and the hunt—enabled him gradually to improve on these rudiments. The changeover from matriarchal to patriarchal forms necessarily involved changed conceptions of relations, both sexual and political, and man’s power over woman received the necessary sanction of custom and law. And there it has stood, with slight variations, ever since, with the blessing of the Church behind it. Even when we turn to the most advanced scientific writings we find that the old prejudices are by no means eradicated, and any discussion of the sex question still reveals traces of the old prepossession of man’s superiority over woman. Scientists have even, on occasion, gone out of their way to justify the subjection of women

Now that suffrage is practically universal, there are those who deplore the extension of the franchise to women on the grounds that as women outnumber men they may sweep the board at any and every election in the Labour interest, since the majority of women belong to the working-class. On the other hand, Labour politicians are jubilant, believing it to be a likely consummation. Strangely enough, the Conservative Government, which conceded this “power” to the women, depended upon them to support their class out of gratitude for the concession. At the time they pointed out that they were democratic enough to recognise and appreciate what the women had done for the country. Since women worked and suffered and paid exactly as the men did, it was only right and proper that the same rights and privileges should be extended to them. Selah ! In other words— women had proved their worth as citizens, which, by the way, apparently implies that up to that point they hadn’t.

In presenting what is, after all, merely a rough outline of the position of the sexes in society, the interpretation can, of necessity, only be a sketchy one. In the opinion of the Socialist the hopes and fears engendered by the extension of the franchise to women are by no means justified. The Liberal and Conservative Parties seek the support of the women, because they believe they can be bluffed. The Labour Party counts on the women’s support also, believing they now possess what the men have long possessed—political liberty—and that the moment has now come when woman will assert herself and strike a blow for social freedom. It is quite true, of course, that the employing class has always opposed any “rights” for women, probably actuated by fear that the labour market might suffer, and that, by and by, through a possible extended organisation on the part of men and women an end would come to class rule. Though their fears, at the present stage of working-class political education, are groundless, it was probably this aspect that the Liberal and Conservative Parties had in mind when they solicited the support of the enfranchised women. The mistake made by the Labour Party has been to assume that women were politically intelligent to a certain degree. They are not— for how can women be expected to attain a condition which men have not yet reached after years and years of agitation and education? The sad fact remains—the majority of men and women of the working-class are positively indifferent to the political an industrial welfare of their own class. Many there are—men and women—who have fought for years to improve the conditions under which workers live, and have given of their best to the end, that some day the workers would wake up and take what was rightly theirs. But ask them—has the task been an easy one? Have they perceived any tangible change in the workers’ attitude ? Have they received any encouragement even?

It might be asked—did the Socialist not see any usefulness in the extension of the franchise, since the vote is the only sensible weapon with which the working-class can emancipate itself? To which the Socialist might retort—the franchise for a great many years gave the males the power to effect any purpose, but so far it has been utilised to maintain their masters in political power. That means that workers have used their votes against their own interests. Why? Because of political ignorance. The vote is a mighty weapon, used intelligently. But in some respects it is like a razor—one can shave or cut one’s throat with it. So that the importance of the vote lies not in the securing of the vote itself, it is in the way it is used. What matters most is the recognition, by men and women alike, of their class position. That can come only by education and study along Socialist lines.

Much of the credit for the women’s “victory” has been claimed by those who support what is euphemistically termed the “women’s movement.” But a more obvious factor was a Government facing disaster. And when a Government, facing the probability of defeat, introduces complete enfranchisement, it can only be because they count on swelling the total number of votes to such an extent as to increase their chances of victory, knowing, as they do, that the already existing electorate is anything but politically wise.

It has been called “The Awakening of Women.” If that is true, then God help the men !
Tom Sala

Living the Double Life. (1929)

From the September 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard
“So hard it seems that one must bleed
Because another needs will bite.”
In one of his books, Fabre, the noted French entomologist, gives a wonderful description of the manner in which the Sphex wasp stings its victim in three places in order that its grub, when it wakes up, will find an adequate supply of fresh, living food immediately available.

This is a case of simple, or partial, parasitism, of which there appear to be several degrees existing in nature. Sometimes an organism will be parasitic for only a portion of its career, others are completely parasitic for the whole of their existence. Whatever the degree the association is generally specific and is bound up solely with the problem of nutrition.

Parasitism may be defined as one organism living upon another without rendering any useful service in return. When one individual directly kills another, the relation is called predatism ; when one party feeds upon another, without killing it directly, the relation is called parasitism. Various theories have been advanced to account for the origin of parasitism, but perhaps a good covering explanation would be that parasitism arose as a consequence of the discovery of the successful application of the law of least effort. Whatever their origin, the existing forms probably represent degenerate forms of former useful species.

This brings us to the consideration of another and more intimate phase of the subject, easily recognised by the discerning worker—social parasitism. Essentially this is the same as the organic variety so far as the end result is concerned—the acquisition and accumulation of the means of subsistence and enjoyment without effort. There is, of course, no moral involved, the question does not enter at all. The ability on the part of one section of society to extract the productive power of another section and to appropriate the results of the application of that power, is based entirely on the relatively unchallenged possession of the requisite machinery to enforce subjection. In nature parasitism on the part of certain organisms is known to possess what is termed “survival value,” that is, this feature plays a successful part in the struggle for existence. Not so in human society. Parasitism in human society owes its success to the fact that those who practise it control the means of enslaving their victims while at the same time permitting them sufficient to keep them from dying and so ensure an abundance of material to serve their needs. Though there are two classes in society—a slave class and a parasitic class—and though one class occupies what is termed a higher social rank, it is not because of its biological fitness to survive, measured by nature’s laws, but merely because in the course of the development of society certain individuals have seen their opportunity to relieve themselves from the necessity of providing a living by their own efforts, and in the course of time to improve the opportunity by introducing the necessary legal sanction in accordance with the degree of development.

It was mentioned that the organic parasite was generally specific—so is the social parasite. Yet he is not so discriminating in the choice of his victims. The wasp will select a particular caterpillar as its prey, but to the social parasite all are victims— red, black, yellow or white. One animal species, instead of killing its prey, will often subdue another and compel it to perform some service for it, as is the practice among certain ants. On the other hand man is the only instance known to Biology of an animal preying on its own kind. This is specificity with a vengeance !

As already suggested, this parasitic impulse is not by any means a primitive feature of human society. It does not appear in savage society to-day, any more than do the regular features of civilised society—slavery, robbery, murder, etc. It is essentially a product of “civilisation.” In another particular the social parasite resembles the Sphex in that he rarely fails to provide an abundance of material for the sustenance of his progeny. The only difference between the victim of the Sphex and the victim of the social parasite is that the former is stung in three places and the latter in one—but quite as effectively nevertheless. Despite the beliefs of many of those who claim to have the cause of the workers at heart, an accurate examination of the factors at work reveals the fact that the working class are exploited once, and once only—that is, at the point of production.

Man’s conquest of his environment has made possible a remarkable increase in the productivity of every kind of material wealth. But hand in hand with this development has gone an appalling increase in the differences of prosperity and well-being. This concentration of wealth into the hands of a relatively small section of the human race has meant the demoralisation and degradation of literally millions. It is quite true, as history will testify, that the emphasis upon luxury, idleness and extravagance has been just as demoralising to those who hold the wealth, but such an outcome is only in keeping with a system where slavery is practised. Degeneration is the natural corollary of a parasitic mode of life.

All sorts of remedies are forthcoming whenever the question of the extermination of organic parasites arises. Even the individual whom we are trying to reach will instantly produce a remedy for the elimination of parasites on the physical body when required, but appears to be at a loss, even if cognisant of its existence, when it comes to the question of eliminating parasites on the body politic. Hence the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
Tom Sala

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Editorial: The Cotton Dispute. (1929)

Editorial from the September 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The dispute in the cotton industry arose out of a decision by various employers’ associations to reduce wages by 12½ per cent. from July 29th. The operatives balloted on the question of accepting the reduction and decided by a large majority not to do so. Conferences arranged by the Ministry of Labour failed to secure agreement and a lock-out of nearly 500,000 operatives began on July 29th. The position of the locked-out workers was not improved by a recommendation of the Executive Council of one section, the Operative Spinners Amalgamation, in favour of accepting the principle of a reduction, the amount to be decided in course of negotiation. A delegate meeting, however, by a substantial majority refused to give its executive authority to enter into negotiations on this basis, and after 11 days the workers’ side was again united in its refusal.

On August 10th the Prime Minister intervened, and on August 15th it was announced that both sides had agreed to arbitration. Work was resumed at the old rates pending the award of the arbitrators, who were empowered to examine the merits of the employers’ demand for a reduction and determine “whether and, if so, to what extent, the employers’ claim to a reduction of wages is sustained.” (Manchester Guardian, August 16th.) Both sides pledged themselves to abide by the award. The arbitrators were five in number, including the Chairman. Two, Mr. C. T. Cramp and Mr. A. G. Walkden, were trade union officials.

The plea put forward by the masters was the usual one that trade is bad and a wage reduction would help the industry out of its depression.

Mr. Ogden, President of the Amalgamated Weavers, gives the answer. He tells how the same plea was made in 1920, and again in 1922.
“In 1920 wages were 215 on the list. I believed that a reduction of wages would help trade and give better employment. We accepted a reduction of 70 per cent. on list prices. The improvement did not materialise, but two years later the employers came to us again and asked for another 50 per cent cut. This, in all, meant a reduction of between 12s. and 15s. a week. . . .” (Daily Herald, August 1st.)
The pre-stoppage average pay of the men operatives was 47/- a week (according to the Ministry of Labour), and
“there are married men piecers in the spinning rooms who are paid as little as 25s. a week. Four-loom weavers on full time, with all their looms running, get only about £2 a week and to have full time at the mills and all looms fully working is very far indeed from the general experience in the cotton industry to-day.”—(Daily Herald, August 16th.)
Further reductions in pay will no more solve that ever-present problem of capitalism —over-production—than did the earlier ones. The Labour Party’s alternative solution is re-organisation and amalgamation with a view to increasing sales by means of cheaper and more efficient production. This means, in effect, making still more fierce the competition between Lancashire and its foreign rivals—a “remedy” which will but aggravate the disease.

There has been much mutual congratulation because arbitration was accepted and thus “reason” triumphed over “force.” It is necessary to point out, therefore, what is the real function and nature of arbitration. It is no more than a means of measuring up the strength of the opposing sides at a given moment and giving an award accordingly. Arbitration does not obviate the need for the workers to organise with a view to withholding their labour when conditions enable them, by so doing, to bring a certain pressure to bear. It does not bring peace into industry, nor supplant the struggle between those who own the machinery of production and those who operate it; nor does it materially affect the level of wages.

Professor Henry Clay, President of the Section of Economic Science of the British Association, dealt with this subject in a general way in his 1929 address. (See Times, 3rd August, 1929.) He summed up as follows :—
“Arbitration did not, because it could not, materially affect the economic factors that ultimately determine what wages can be paid; and the course of wages, as formulated by arbitration, was much the same as it would have been —with a time-lag and less uniformity —had there been no arbitration. In other words, the arbitration authorities interpreted—and interpreted with fair accuracy—forces which they could not in any case control.”
We would, in passing, commend to the operatives two things for them to ponder over. One is the fact that wage reductions are as much the order of the day when capitalism is administered by the Labour Party as at other times, and the Labour Government, like its predecessors, declines to side with the workers against the employing class.

The second is a gem from the Daily News. The Daily News wholeheartedly welcomed the setting-up of the Arbitration Board, a Board, be it remembered, whose terms of reference were to consider a reduction in wages. Four days later (20th August) its editorial contained a little sermon on revolution. It pointed out first that the British working man “is not impressed by talk of revolution.”

Then it added, with unconscious humour, “He prefers to listen to sensible talk about higher wages and better conditions.”

The award is for a reduction in pay of approximately 6¼ %, thus reducing the employer’s wages bill by £2,225,000 a year (see Daily Telegraph, 24th August). It was agreed to by all the members of the Board, including the two trade union officials.

The Board’s award will doubtless leave the British working man still preferring to listen to “sensible talk about higher wages.”

The Dictatorship in Russia. (1929)

Book Review from the September 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union.” By V. Molotov. Published by Modern Books, Ltd. 80 pp. Price : One Shilling.

This book deals very frankly with the internal problems of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has consistently maintained that the upheaval in Russia accomplished the overthrow of the absolute monarchy, and was a revolution only in the sense that the power of the land­ owners was shattered, and the obstacles to development along Capitalist lines were swept away. In the early days of the Bol­shevist regime, the Communist Parties in this and other countries claimed that Russia was the first country to achieve Socialism. Whilst due credit was given the Bolshevists for their intentions and actual achievements, we exposed this harmful contention—even at the risk of antagonising would-be suppor­ters who failed to grasp the real signifi­cance of Russian events. Our standpoint has been amply justified by the evidence during the last ten years or so, and the Communist Parties do not as often make this untenable assertion, realising, perhaps, that conditions in Russia could not be cited as an advertisement for Socialism. There is, however, one erroneous and harmful assertion that is still being spread about, namely, that in Russia the working class is supreme, or, in their own vague phraseo­logy, that there is a “Dictatorship of the Working-class.”

This assertion is made repeatedly in Molotov’s book, but, unfortunately for the author, he has himself supplied in this work the evidence which proves the absurdity of his claim.

In the first chapter (p. 13) he states :—
“Our Party cannot be regarded as separate from the mechanism and the whole system of the proletarian dictatorship. The Party is one of the most important organs of that dictatorship, it embodies within itself the leading role of the working-class in the proletarian revolution.“
From this quotation the impression is gained that in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union there is a preponderance of working-class members, but this is not, and never has been, the case.

The following quotation is from page 16:—
“The Party decided at its Thirteenth Congress that more than half of its members must be workers from the bench; that was more than four years ago. That task could not be realised within a year, and it has not been realised as yet. A year ago the Central Committee again resolved to take up this task, which was to be realised in the course of two years. The year which has elapsed since that decision of the Central Committee has shown that if we proceed at the present rate of recruiting workers into the Party, that task will not be accomplished by the end of the two years. “
So it is evident that in spite of periodical “recruiting drives,” working-class mem­bers are still in a minority in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. When we take into consideration a statement (p. 22) that the proportion of industrial workers in the Party has remained practically stationary since the beginning of 1925, the prospects of achieving their limited objective in the course of the next few years is extremely doubtful.

Is the Russian Working-Class Communist?
On page 23 we are told that, according to the Central Statistical Department, there were 7,148,000 industrial workers (including factory and transport workers, agricultural labourers, builders, and handicraft workers) in the U. S. S. R. in 1927-1928. The proportion of these in the Party is 7.7 per cent. For factory workers only, numbering 2,900,000, the proportion is 11.9 per cent. Amongst transport workers Communists constitute 14 per cent.; amongst building workers and workers in small and handicraft industries there are 5 per cent. Communists; the oil-workers and workers in the printing industry have the highest percentage of Communists (18.5 per cent.); the leather, metal, chemical, and food workers have a percentage of Communists slightly below this figure, whilst agricultural workers lag behind with only 1 per cent. It is true, of course, that figures can be juggled with, but the magician is not born who could prove from these figures that the phrase “Communist Russia” is other than a figment of pious imaginations. The only deduction to be drawn is that 7.7 per cent. of an “insignificant” fraction of the population of the U.S.S.R. (i.e., the industrial workers) are “Communists,” and only a very tiny percentage of the “overwhelming mass” (i.e., the peasants, etc.) is “Communist,” and that this 7.7 per cent. of all industrial workers constitutes only a minority (42 per cent.) in a party which claims to be the party of the working-class.

Even so, it may be urged, does not the huge aggregate of 1½ million members of the C.P. prove that the population of Russia is far more advanced, politically, than that of any other country ?“Where else in the whole world can be found such a huge body of Marxists? But Molotov himself informs us that membership need not necessarily imply the possession of Socialist knowledge or even a Socialist outlook.

Is the level of Russian Communists high?
It may quite fairly be inferred that Molo­tov’s work would not be needed if all was well with the Party of the U.S.S.R. On page 14 he states :—
“But the question of the development of the Party was always bound up primarily with the question of bringing the most progressive elements of the working-class into its ranks.

Parallel with this the Party has, in the course of the last ten or eleven years, keenly considered the question of cleansing its ranks of alien elements, of people who joined it under false colours, and of degenerates.

Intensive recruiting of working men and women to the Party was inevitably bound up with the purging of the Party organisations of socially and ideologically alien elements.“
Again on page 25 :—
“Many examples could be given to show that non-party workers complain of the low cultural and political level of Communists. These are facts.“
On page 28 he writes :—
“The figures on the October recruitment show that 45 per cent. or almost half of the new workers accepted to the Party have an industrial standing of less than 5 years.“
And on page 34 :—
“It must be realised that we cannot postpone any further the problem of a cardinal improvement, the question of cleansing and renovation of our rural ranks. If we are not simply talking, but are seriously undertaking to advance and gradually to transform agriculture, the present make-up of our rural organisations can by no means be satisfactory to us. We find in our rural organisations a considerable percentage of elements incapable of realising these tasks, elements who even work directly against their realisation. (Our italics.)
On page 53 there is a letter of resignation from a member of the Party. The following is an extract therefrom :—-
“The workers say it is high time to have a general cleansing of the Party, and the fact that many are labelled as workers need not stop us, for under this label plenty of filth has crept into the Party. Let there be but half of the members left, but the Party should be of flint and not of jelly. … If you throw all self-seekers out of the Party, for which the help of the broad non-party masses is necessary, resignations will become less frequent. “
And finally on page 59 :—
“On the other hand, an out-and-out opportunist Right deviation from the Leninist line has lately raised its head in the Party …. The Right deviation has entered the scene at a moment when our economic situation has be­ come acute. But the Right deviation is not exclusively a result of the economic situation of this year. The roots of the Right Wing tendency are no doubt deeper than that.

The Right deviation cannot be regarded as a temporary and rapidly passing phenomenon“. (Our italics.)
The above quotations are ample proof that the Socialist movement need not look exclusively to Russia for guidance in the tasks which lie before it.

The Rural Party Organisations. 
In the early days of the Bolshevist regime, and right up to the present time, we have pointed out that the existence of a population which is 80 per cent. peasant in character, would prove not only a stumbling block, but an insuperable obstacle to the attainment of Socialism in Russia. The Bolshe­vists have throughout attempted to apply Lenin’s formula :—
“The supreme principle of the dictatorship is to preserve the alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry, so that the former may retain its leading position in the government.”
In practice, however, the application of this formula has tended to strengthen the position of the peasantry, particularly the rich peasants, whose influence acts as a brake on all attempts even at land “nation­alisation.” Molotov gives figures of the Central Statistical Department which show that the rich farmers constitute a far higher relative percentage of Rural Party members than any other category, and, further, that the relative strength of workers in the Rural Party organisations is only 25 per cent., agricultural labourers working for wages being about 8 per cent. In view of these facts it is not surprising to find that Government schemes for the reconstruction of agriculture are rendered abortive. Regarding the Government farms, about which we have heard such rosy accounts, Molotov states :—
“Nine-tenths of the government farms have no Communist nuclei. Only 7,280 workers on government farms, out of a total of 140,000 be­ longing to the agricultural union, e.g., 5 per cent., are Communists. Such is the state of affairs in the government farms.“ (P. 32.)
The position in relation to the collective farms is much the same :—
“But here is a remarkable thing about the question of the role of the Party organisation in collective farming. Only a little over 4 per cent. of all rural Communists belong to collective farms. Of the 311,000 rural Communists only a little over 13,000 belong to collective farms. The fact that only 4 per cent. of the Communist farmers belong to collective farms is very ominous.“
With regard to the success in organising collective farms, an illustration is afforded by the following passage :—
“The non-Party peasants gladly came in, but the rich Party member, Ivan Gussev, categorically refused to join us for fear that our farm should fall to pieces and that he would not get his land back.

By this refusal he undermined the organisa­tion. Ivan Beliakov agitates against the collective farm, telling the peasants that the Party is wrong in urging them to organise collective farms. We have quite a few such Party members. The well-to-do Communists who possess their own farms not only do not agitate in favour of collectivism, but are definitely against it.“ (P.33.)
The suggested remedy of cleansing the ranks of alien elements, however, will not help to put Socialist ideas into the heads of the “overwhelming mass,” who have no desire to assist in schemes of “Socialist reconstruction” against their immediate interests. What the peasants want is private ownership.

So much for “the alliance with the peasantry” and the “leadership of the working-class” ! But other sores are exposed in the book.

The Rise of Bureaucracy.
Communists are apt to talk largely about “smashing the State machinery” and “building our own State,” but when the Bolshevists came into power they found that the working-class was inexperienced, and that very few among them were capable of organising the industries of the country, owing to lack of technical knowledge and training. The Bolshevists were compelled therefore to rely upon technical experts and men skilled in administrative functions, who were, in many instances, hostile to them and friendly to the old regime. Although much has been done since then to train members of the working-class for these vital positions, it is nevertheless admitted that “the old officialdom of the apparatus leaves its imprint on some of the Communists working there” (p. 37). In the Communist Party of the Soviet Union there are no less than 35 per cent. of Government office wor­kers. Obviously, as in the case of the rich farmers, a considerable proportion of these have joined the Party from motives other than the advancement of Socialism. On page 41 Molotov says plaintively,
“Is not perhaps the reason why we had so many excesses in applying Article 107 (which deals with the concealment of grain by peasants) and general distortion in the work of our local institutions, that rich peasant and White Guard elements get into some of the organs of our Government machinery and deliberately distort the policy of the Soviet Government, and mock the instructions of the superior government and Party institutions without ever being punished for it?”
So it will be seen that Russia is by no means immune from the diseases common to all capitalist countries.

The Trade Unions.
The existence of Trade Unions, which we are told embrace nine-tenths of the workers, is an indication that the class-struggle is just as much a reality in Russia as else­ where. As might be expected, these institutions suffer in full measure from the defects which characterise them in all countries. Molotov complains that the “leaders” have lost contact with the masses and are mainly reactionary in outlook, whilst ” there is much to be desired in the development of trade-union democracy” (page 49).

It is shown that Managers of Trade Unions are capable of evicting tenants as brutally as any British slum house-owners. Some shocking examples of Jew-baiting in large factories reveal an appalling back­wardness amongst the workers in the grasp of elementary Trade Union principles.

There certainly appears to be much scope for Socialist propaganda amongst the Russian Trade Unionists.

With regard to the Co-operatives, they have the same “petit-bourgeois” outlook as their counterparts in other countries. There is a casual allusion to the Red Army, showing that in it there are about 100,000 Communists (page 20). As the Red Army is about 800,000 strong, this is 12½ per cent.

The remedy advanced by the author for all the diseases encountered by the Bolshe­vists within their Party is to carry on a struggle against each of them. In no instance is an attempt made to find and destroy the cause of the disease.

There is one way by which the Bolshevists could mitigate the effects of these diseases and others which will of necessity arise from the economic conditions, and that is to make the utmost use of their opportunities to spread Socialist ideas broadcast amongst the workers in Russia. No other course can replace this. “Make Socialists ” is a sounder, if a less soundful, slogan than any yet coined in Russia.

The book could be improved by the dele­tion of much repetition of the same argu­ments and phrases. Otherwise it is force­ fully written and contains useful data.
W. J.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Some Interesting Quotations. (1929)

From the September 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Times” on the Unsolved Problem of Capitalism.

Virtually, there is no problem of production in industry. In nearly all industrial countries many plants work at less than full capacity, for the real problem with them is to sell and not to produce.—(Times City Notes, July 15th.)

* * *

Mr. Snowden on the War.

Let it be remembered (he proceeded) that Great Britain entered the War in support of treaty rights and in defence of the safety and security of other nations. She willingly did that; she willingly sacrificed her blood, not in her own interests. As Lord Balfour said, no vital British interest was menaced when Great Britain entered the War.—(Mr. Snowden, addressing the Hague Conference on Reparations. Report in Times, August 9th.)

* * *

The “Morning Post” on Mr. Snowden.

When, for example, he pretended that Great Britain entered the War, not in her own interest, but in defence of others, he was using a sort of cant most offensive to those who know (as we all know who are frank with ourselves) that Great Britain entered the War for the defence of her own existence, which was threatened hardly less directly than the existence of Belgium and France.—(Morning Post, August 12.)

* * *

Miss Ellen Wilkinson on the Futility of her Party.

This one simple truth has got to be borne in mind (and stated)—that unemployment is a byproduct of Capitalism, and you can’t solve it, or even appreciably lessen it, within a system which by its working is bound to create more unemployed. That is the real difficulty of this Government.—(New Leader, July 12.)

SPGB Meetings (1929)

Party News from the September 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Friday, October 21, 2022

Editorial: Trade Unions on the Rocks (1946)

Editorial from the October 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a confused welter of argument about unofficial strikes, big and little unions and the "Closed Shop,” what is by far the most fateful aspect of the trade union situation is being disregarded, though it is the underlying trouble of which the others are largely symptoms. What has happened during the war, and still more since the Labour Government came into power, is that the trade unions have increasingly ceased to be independent organisations of the workers in the struggle against the employers over wages and conditions of work, and have become instead organisations for disciplining the workers in the interest of the Government’s wages and production policies. The present Government, having taken over from Churchill the responsibility of administering capitalism, puts at the forefront of its programme an intense drive to find markets abroad for British exporters in competition with the capitalists of other countries. The plan has several features that are related to each other. One is the continuation of “ austerity ” at home so that more goods can be sold abroad. Another is the effort to lower costs of production to a competitive level in the markets of the world, partly by modernising the technical equipment of various backward industries and partly by seeking the co-operation of the workers, through the trade unions, in the campaign to increase production. The third part of the plan was the Government’s belief that by retaining the control of prices for essential goods, clothing, etc., wages would remain more or less unchanged at the level reached at the end of the war. Not wanting to take the very unpopular step of preventing wage increases by making them illegal—as some governments have done—the Government here hoped to keep wage increases in check by appealing to the workers, and particularly by appealing to the Trade Union executives, to moderate their demands. In short, it was regarded by the Government as essential, if British capitalism was to regain its overseas markets, that the trade unions should largely abdicate their proper function of struggling to raise wages in the present favourable situation, and should instead act as a brake on the demands of the workers. That this is a correct reading of the minds of the Ministers is shown by Mr. Dalton’s speech ill the House of Commons on October 23rd, 1945, when introducing his budget. He pointed out that the Government was spending some hundreds of millions of pounds a year subsidising food and other articles in order to keep prices down, then he went on to talk about the effect on wages : —
“It has also helped to restrain any disproportionate increase in wage rates, which, if it had occurred, might have disturbed the whole balance of our economic life, and might have sucked us into the fatal whirlpool of inflation. Here I wish to pay tribute to the steadiness and good sense which the trade unions and their leaders have shown during the war in this regard. . . . Wage rates . . . have climbed steadily all the time, and that has been right; yet there has been no break-away rise, no uncontrolled rise such as we might easily have seen had it not. been for this continuing cooperation between the Government—in this case the Coalition Government—and the trade unions, both recognising that the common interest was best served by this joint effort of the two parties to keep prices and wages on an even keel.”
Mr. Dalton calls it “co-operation” between the Government and the trade unions, but in fact it has been co-operation between the Government and the trade union executives to hold back the natural and correct desire of the workers to struggle for higher wages before unemployment and eventual slump make it impossible to do so.

Mr. G. D. H. Cole, himself a Labour Party supporter and one who approves of this damping-down policy, described it in very appropriate terms in the Observer (8/9/46). He sees that the workers are restive because they feel they no longer control their officials, and feel that the unions are “merely a bureaucratic machine run by the officials for the purpose of keeping them in order.”

Mr. Cole seeks a remedy, but adds:—
"This is not too easy, now that most wage bargains are national in scale, and wage demands have to be squared with the requirements of a national wages policy—as they have in fact, even if the existence of such a policy is disclaimed. The Trade Unions have become, perforce, instruments for disciplining their more unruly members, as well as for representing them; and this sets up a tension that will be cured only by time, as people settle down to the changed conditions.”
Mr. Cole has correctly diagnosed the cause of the present discontent of trade unionists which shows itself in unofficial strikes and efforts to break away from the discipline imposed by the officials on behalf of the Government, but he and the trade union officials who support that policy are quite wrong in their belief that the workers should, or will, go on accepting it. The trade unions must regain their independence and freedom of action or they will become moribund and useless. The unions are not being endangered by the virile independence shown already by some trade unionists; they are being throttled from above by the fatal tie-up with the Government. Their health will tie restored only when the members can again know that they are able to exercise democratic control over union policy and are free, when they deem it wise, to use the only weapon they have under capitalism, the strike.

It is popular in Labour circles to denounce totalitarian regimes under which trade unions are State organs, and strikes are forbidden. Mr. Morgan Phillips, Secretary of the Labour Party, on his return from Russia, wrote about the Russian unions: - 
"I am not sure that the workers’ organisations can be regarded as ‘trade anions' in the British sense that they are free agents to act and speak as their members demand, irrespective of Government stricture. The very fact that strikes are illegal seems to dispose of any pretence to freedom of action as we know it ” (Daily Herald, 21/8/46).
It would not be a bad idea if Mr. Phillips would now take a look at what used to be independent trade unions in this country and observe that, by a less brutal and less obvious process of deterioration, they are heading towards the state of the Russian organisations. It is plain that the unions here will not be rescued from that fate by the Labour Government or by the trade union executives who have been responsible for the present state of things. Salvation will come from the members themselves when they wake up to the fact that Labour government cannot abolish capitalism or the class struggle inseparable from capitalism, and when they regain control of their own organisations for the purpose of defending their interests on the industrial field.

It should be added, however, that while Socialists support sound trade union action they have to point out, too, that trade unions, though necessary and useful organs of working-class resistance, cannot emancipate the working class from capitalism—that can be done only by a Socialist working class politically organised to take control democratically of the machinery of government, for the purpose of abolishing capitalism and introducing Socialism.

Communist slogans for capitalism (1946)

From the October 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

Leading Communist Arthur Horner, like the Jack Horner of old, has stuck his finger into the Trades Union pie, and pulled out a nice fat plum—the post of General Secretary to the National Union of Mineworkers. After the cheers of the C.P.G.B. have subsided, let us see if this appointment benefits the mineworkers, or the mine-owners.

Addressing a mass meeting of miners at Tonypandy, he said :—
“Production needs are so great that the time has come to apply the slogan “ If a man won’t work, neither shall he eat ” (Daily Express, 26/8/46). 
Horner, of course, has learned this brutal slave-driving threat from the source of all Communist inspiration—Soviet Russia, and although this self-same slogan was incorporated in the first Russian Constitution of 1918 for the new “Socialist State,” it is difficult to understand why Horner shall proclaim it in Capitalist Britain, unless it is for the extraction of more surplus-value from the miners. Perhaps he, like the Daily Herald, imagines that Britain is now a “Socialist State” !

This wolf in Marxist clothing continues:—
“The present manpower cannot produce the coal that Britain needs to maintain full employment.”
With unemployment figures growing all round him, this so-called ”leader” of the proletariat dares to suggest that “full employment” is even possible under Capitalism, which demands a constant reserve army of unemployed to act as a lever against the struggles of employed workers, much less that it is actually in existence now.

The next “ gem ” (he certainly “went the whole hog” at Tonypandy !):—
“ A large increase of manpower for the pits is vital if there is to be a rapid restoration of coal exports.”
Instead of telling the miners about Marxism, or Communism, this “revolutionary” is forced, by the very nature of his position as ”Labour Tamer ” in the capitalist circus, to sidetrack and confuse the workers’ minds with that old, old capitalist motto, “ Export or die,” which is so necessary (for the capitalist class) at this stage to beat rival capitalist states in the race to hustle commodities into the markets of the world.
Impressively, Horner juggles with figures containing heaps of 000’s, concluding that :—
“If we can restore the 1939 position . . . we can .. . wipe out the American loan and the burden its commitments represent.”
For these few words of cheer the British Capitalist class (who bear the “burden”) will have cause to thank “Comrade” Horner, and perhaps arrange a knighthood for him—who knows? But the matter should not interest the working class of either America or Britain, whose “burden” under Capitalism has always been that of “ making both ends meet ’’—whose wages represent the cost of keeping them fit for reproducing their work and their class. It is absurd to suggest that the American loan is anything but a business arrangement between the master class of America and Britain, and the millions that Horner quotes are of no interest to the working class of either country.

Speaking of unemployment in Wales (having already talked about “maintaining full employment”), Horner, like a Stalin contemplating a “purge,” says:—
“ The cause of the failure must be traced and ruthlessly eradicated.”
For once we can agree, but as the only answer to the social evils of the day is the abolition of the system of society that Horner is supporting, and the institution of a system based on common ownership of the means of life instead of private or state ownership, the task is left to us Socialists to explain to the miners of Tonypandy and workers, wherever the Socialist message can penetrate, their position in society to-day.

Armed with sound Socialist knowledge, and the will to unite for victory, the working class will achieve its emancipation, in spite of the confusion and disillusion spread by office-seeking Communist opportunists.
Michael La Touche

Muddled Thinking of a Labour Leader (1946)

From the October 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard
“If ever there was a risk of over-production causing unemployment there is none now. For at least a dozen years there must be conditions of shortage which with the best energy and effort cannot be removed. We are in arrears. We need have no fear of the supply exceeding the demand.”
(Reynold’s News, Nov. 30th, 1919.)
Within two years of making this statement there were over 2,000,000 unemployed.

Now Mr. Clynes is at it again. In a statement from his home in Putney he said:—“Avoidable stoppages, absenteeism and dislocation in the workshop lead to reduced production of goods. The less there is to buy the more men must pay to get what they want. ” (Daily Express, June 17th, 1946.)

Though the wording is different, the implication is the same. All we have to do to ensure a high standard of living is work hard. Intensified production inevitably produces a surplus; under capitalism goods are produced for sale, demand meaning the ability to pay.

At present, in a world denuded of goods, there is a ready market for goods of all descriptions. Modern mass-production methods, as applied to industry, will create an abundance. In due course the markets will be flooded. The capitalists, being unable to sell all the products at a profit, will curtail production, and many workers will be thrown out of work.

Mr. Clynes should think of the years between the wars before he commits himself to these bland statements.

"Rake's Progress" (Political Version) (1946)

From the October 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

The majority of people know Mr. Strachey as Minister of Food. There is a minority who have come to regard him as an exponent of Marxism as well. Indeed, Tom Driberg, M.P., in Reynolds' (1/6/46), said that it was as a Marxian economist that he approached the Labour front bench. That a copy of Marx’s “Capital” leaves Mr. Strachey’s bookshelves when invited to Cabinet discussions is doubtful. Nevertheless, in an article in the Daily Herald (28/5/46) on Mr. Strachey, Mr. Francis Williams resolutely refused to convey any suggestion of a Marxist skeleton in the cupboard of Mr. Strachey’s political past and merely commented "He wrote able and bitter political works, some of which have been regarded as minor classics of the Left.” In these minor classics Mr. Strachey developed major attacks on the Labour Party. In the ”Coming struggle for power” (p. 338) he accused them ”of laying down the working-class organisation necessary for Fascism.” Theorists like G. D. H. Cole, who, he alleged, believed in a form of controlled high-wage-paying capitalism, he charged with having the same political objectives as the Fascist Corporate State. His now somewhat uncomfortable prognostication of Mr. Morrison was that he envisaged a Whitehall or Smith Square controlled capitalism, adding that the difference between Mr. Morrison’s views and those of G. D. H. Cole were merely one of emphasis and mode of expression. His own party he summed up as—“Labour Party rotten before it was ripe” (“The Nature of Capitalist Crisis,” p. 341-352). From the Herald's viewpoint such a skeleton is best kept under lock and key. It was left to the New Statesman to frivolously twitter “Mr. Strachey’s series of Socialist studies must have been the one brilliantly successful attempt to translate Marxism into the King’s English.” While the King’s English reputation of the New Statesman is deservedly high, their qualifications to pronounce on Marxism is notoriously low. It is, of course, Mr. Stracliey’s Marxism which is in question.

Mr. Strachey’s exit from the Conservative Party into the Cloud-Cuckooland of I.L.P. politics, his pre- Fascist Mosley associations and monetary reform theories, are without significance apart from confused thinking. His Marxist reputation rests largely on the fact that via the Gollancz Press he spread and popularised Stalinist fairy-tales of Socialism in Russia for political adolescents of the vaguely termed middle class. Ironically enough it was the Fabian anti-Marxist Webbs who were his intellectual paramours in all this, their work, ‘‘Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation,” his authority. (“The Theory and Practice of Socialism,” p. 49.) The Public Hangman is not usually asked to write a thesis on the need for the abolition of Capital Punishment. Fabianism, whose high priests were the Webbs, is merely State Capitalism, and it was G. B. Shaw who, on returning from a visit to Russia, proclaimed, “The Bolsheviks have only realised the Fabian Programme.” The Webbs’ work on Russia was then but the priestly blessing of their own creed. The "Marxist” Strachey appears as the uninvited acolyte in the Fabian temple.

It is not surprising, then, that he hailed the new Russian Constitution (direct vote and secret ballot) as a super Democracy, quoting Soviet leaders’ views that a classless society was coming into being (‘‘Theory and Practice of Socialism,” p. 148), although admitting (p. 165) that hitherto the illiteracy of the Russian population had prevented it. Later, Engels is quoted to show that the State is an instrument of ruling-class coercion. The growth of Soviet State bureaucracy indicates, then, a classless society’s need for increasing ruling-class coercion. Leaders, however, were chosen in Russia through long and searching apprenticeship in the Communist Party (p. 163) and were controlled far more effectively than those of the capitalists. It is this, he said, which made working-class control unique. The carefully controlled “chosen” were later liquidated as wreckers, spies and Fascist criminals. Truly this form “of working-class control” was unique. In the section, the Economic System (‘‘Theory and Practice of Socialism”), Mr. Strachey heavily underscored his ignorance of the nature of Socialist society. To Marxists, Socialism is the democratic ownership of the sources of production. But not only will the producers control the instruments of Labour, they will also determine the character and manner of the productive process by which the products of their labour are turned out. Mr. Strachey simply denies this. For him, Socialism is planned production par excellence, the Soviet model its working hypothesis. For common ownership he substitutes a Planning Authority which would control and decree wealth production and distribution, quantitatively and qualitatively. His quick phrase that the Planning Authorities’ conscious and deliberate decisions will be set up and controlled by the community (p. 42) is a pure verbal concession. Ownership and control of wealth production are inseparably integrated; thus the non-control by the wealth producers must entail non-ownership as well, and the workers in Mr. Strachey’s scheme would he as effectively divorced from the means of production as they are now. Mr. Strachey’s “Marxist” production for use suspiciously resembles Stuart Chase'sEconomy of Abundance.” Both agree on the economic ideal of maximisation of wealth distribution and centrally organised control. Stuart Chase saw it as a means of continuing Capitalism. Mr. Strachey mistook it for Socialism.

Inevitably, then, all the economic categories of capitalist society reappear in Mr. Strachey’s new one, viz., trade, markets, wage labour, etc. in deference to the new social forces they are called Socialist. Mr. Strachey assures us that Socialism will have an unlimited market, but any Marxist Economic primer could have informed Mr. Strachey that the market is the economic mechanism whereby a profit-making society (Capitalism) merely realises the profits that are created in the productive sphere by exploitation in the form of wage labour. An unlimited market would then presuppose unlimited profits and, of course, unlimited exploitation. A desirable but hitherto unrealisable capitalist ideal. Production of value and surplus value is inherent, then, in Mr. Strachey’s “Socialist Society”; just as in “The Only Socialist Country,” profitability of Soviet enterprise to get higher levels is constantly being stressed by Stalin. Thus the productive limits of such an economy would be set by this profitability principle with its concomitant features of mass overproduction and unemployment. In substance, the difference between all this and a highly developed monopoly Capitalism or State Capitalism is less than the shadow of a ghost’s shadow.

Mr. Strachey thought that inventing, say, a working model of how a planned economy might work in America or here avoids our discussing Socialism in the abstract (“Theory and Practice of Socialism,” p. 29). Actually, it avoids discussing Socialism altogether. Only the theoretically incompetent would pose such a proposition. Socialism cannot be discussed in the abstract because it is itself the historic product and consequence of the actual concrete conditions of present society. True, Socialism will have its technical as well as economic problems (Strachey substituting technical re-organisation for an economic revolution in productive relations confused the two), but these can only be solved by the conscious participation of the majority, consistent with the prevailing ideas and genuine social needs—existing at that time. Socialism cannot, then, by its very nature be a sum of ready-made recipes imposed from above by a Planning Authority. Socialism, because it is an historical process, provides not only the conditions but the means for its own realisation and fulfilment, thus demonstrating its scientific worth over blue-printed Utopias. Mr. Strachey, on his own showing, is a Utopian.

Mr. Strachey did tell us that a knowledge of Marxism avoids our becoming the dupes of capitalist planning. Informed by such knowledge, he supported the idea of Popular Front government with a planned programme of social measures. Anyone refusing to co-operate in the formation of this get-together Mr. Strachey stigmatised with the sin of sectarianism. Out of all the political sinners, our sin was the most scarlet. Of our party, he said they neither attempt nor wish to attempt to work in the Labour movement (”What Are We To Do,” p. 909). Had we campaigned for and on behalf of co-operation with the Labour Party a little previously, Mr. Strachey might have hissed "Social Fascists.” He. added that our sole purpose, like religious bodies, was to provide subjective comfort and consolation to our members. Yet Mr. Strachey, in attempting to account for the failure of any real working-class political achievement, had to resort to the expediency of using a S.P.G.B. principle—that working- class knowledge is the essential condition for working-class emancipation—in order to show why this must necessarily be so. In ‘‘The Nature of Capitalist Crises” (p. 347) he admits that lack of working-class understanding leads workers to give their energies, even their lives, hopelessly trying to achieve what is inherently impossible, and finally becoming dupes and blind drudges for talented adventurers. Mr. Strachey unconsciously, it seems, presented the working class with a truly tragic Hobson’s Choice, but at least it concedes us the advantage of providing subjective comfort to our own members rather than material comfort to allegedly "talented adventurers.”

But all this was in the past. Came the war; the second imperialist war, which Mr. Strachey’s Marxist knowledge enabled him to predict with certainty (“The Nature of Capitalist Crisis,” p. 960). What he forgot to predict was that he would support it. At the beginning Russia was outside of it and his former Communist Party allies were violently, even if temporarily, proclaiming it as ”a war between robber nations for world domination.” Mr. Strachey was thus faced with a conflict of loyalties between his own fatherland and adopted one. It was then Mr. Strachey discovered Soviet totalitarianism. He even discovered in the same sentence that “it (Soviet totalitarianism) has not hitherto turned out to be of a totally different character from other totalitarianisms ” (“The Betrayal of the Left,” p. 201).

It is true that the Dictatorship versus Democracy issue (p. 204) is complicated for Mr. Strachey by the fact that the "Socialism” which he supported existed only in the form of a totalitarianism to which he was opposed; and the capitalism which he opposed possessed the democracy which he supported. So Mr. Strachey decided to burn his Russian boats by declaring (on p. 205) "that the enforcement of totalitarianism was a catastrophe from which the world might never recover.”

Nevertheless, the inevitability of war did not necessarily guarantee Allied victory. At times there were difficulties. In an article in the Observer (2/6/46) on Mr. Strachey it is mentioned that a critical moment in the development of British bombing policy had been reached. Heavy raids on German cities, causing heavy civilian casualties among German civilian women might, it was thought, rouse British public objection. But Mr. Strachey was standing by. Says the Observer:
“Strachey was put on the air. Gently he took the minds of his listeners off the receiving end of the bombing attacks and fixed it on the courage of the crews and the plans behind the attack. So the outcry feared by Bomber Harris never came.” 
Consequently, it seems, neither did any bombing respite for German women and children, as the possible result of public sentiment. Mr. Strachey had made a vital contribution. "Mr. Strachey believed in bombing,” says the Observer, "and developed Bomber Command faith with the same invincible logic that had gone before to 'Revolution by Reason,’ the Communist Party and the Popular Front.” The Spectator, once commenting on Mr. Strachey’s “The Coming Struggle for Power,” said "He had established a range of social, intellectual and political contacts which were likely to remain a record.” A range which includes Marxism and Mass-bombing is a record and should remain one.

That Mr. Strachey still accepts the "Marxist” inevitability of war seems to be evidenced in the House of Commons debate (12/3/46). Speaking on the future structure and character of the R.A.F., he said:
"Ultimately it would have to he decided whether the long-range bomber component of the R.A.F. was to be designed primarily for existing types of chemical explosives or atomic explosives.”
It would seem that on many an occasion in the Labour Party a left-wing Mrs. Gamp creates a right- wing Mrs. Harris, not only to give the lady a piece of his mind, but as a useful medium for proclaiming one’s political virtues. As in the case of Dickens’ Mrs. Harris, she becomes after a time an embarrassment to her creator. She is then allowed to quietly lapse into the obscurity from which she emerged. In Mr. Strachey’s case she may have become a war fatality instead—a victim of that mass-bombing from the British, which, from the British side, he supported with such faith and invincible logic.
Ted Wilmott