Friday, February 25, 2022

New Publications Fund. (1926)

Party News from the April 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard



Marx on Free Trade. (1926)

From the April 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Continued from a previous issue)

But what of that? The class will still exist; nay, more, it will have increased.

But this is not all. The progress of industry creates less and less expensive means of subsistence. Thus spirits have taken the place of beer, cotton that of wool and linen, and potatoes that of bread.

Thus, as means are constantly being found for the maintenance of labour on cheaper and more wretched food, the minimum of wages is constantly sinking. If these wages began by letting the man work to live, they end by forcing him to live the life of a machine. His existence has no other value than that of a simple productive force, and the capitalist treats him accordingly. This law of the commodity labour, of the minimum of wages will be confirmed in proportion as the supposition of the economists, Free Trade, becomes an actual fact. Thus, of two things one: either we must reject all political economy based upon the assumption of Free Trade, or we must admit that under this same Free Trade the whole severity of the economic laws will fall upon the workers.

To sum up, what is Free Trade under the present conditions of society? Freedom of capital. When you have torn down the few national barriers which still restrict the free development of capital, you will merely have given it complete freedom of action. So long as you let the relation of wages-labour to capital exist, no matter how favourable the conditions under which you accomplish the exchange of commodities, there will always be a class which exploits and a class which is exploited. It is really difficult to understand the presumption of the Free Traders who imagine that the more advantageous application of capital will abolish the antagonism between industrial capitalists and wage-workers. On the contrary. The only result will be that the antagonism of these two classes will stand out more clearly.

Let us assume for a moment that there are no more Corn Laws or national and municipal import duties; that in a word all the accidental circumstances which to-day the working-man may look upon as a cause of his miserable condition have vanished, and we shall have removed so many curtains that hide from his eyes his real enemy.

He will see that capital released from all trammels will make him no less a slave than capital trammelled by import duties.

Gentlemen! Do not be deluded by the abstract word Liberty! Whose Liberty? Not the liberty of one individual in relation to another, but liberty of capital to crush the worker.

Why should you desire farther to sanction unlimited competition with this idea of freedom, when the idea of freedom itself is only the product of a social condition based upon Free Competition?

We have shown what sort of fraternity Free Trade begets between the different classes of one and the same nation. The fraternity which Free Trade would establish between the nations of the earth would not be more real, to call cosmopolitan exploitation universal brotherhood is an idea that could only be engendered in the brain of the bourgeoisie. Every one of the destructive phenomena to which unlimited competition gives rise within any one nation is reproduced in more gigantic proportions in the market of the world. We need not pause any longer upon Free Trade sophisms on this subject, which are worth just as much as the arguments of our prize essayists Messrs Hope, Morse, and Greg.

For instance, we are told that Free Trade would create an international division of labour, and thereby give to each country those branches of production most in harmony with its natural advantages.

You believe perhaps, gentlemen, that the production of coffee and sugar is the natural destiny of the West Indies.

Two centuries ago, nature, which does not trouble itself about commerce, had planted neither sugar-cane nor coffee trees there. And it may be that in less than half a century you will find there neither coffee nor sugar, for the East Indies, by means of cheaper production, have already successfully broken down this so-called natural destiny of the West Indies.

And the West Indies, with their natural wealth, are as heavy a burden for England as the weavers of Dacca, who also were destined from the beginning of time to weave by hand.

One other circumstance must not be forgotten, namely that, just as everything has become a monopoly, there are also nowadays some branches of industry which prevail over all others, and secure to the nations which especially foster them the command of the market of the world. Thus in the commerce of the world cotton alone has much greater commercial importance than all the other raw materials used in the manufacture of clothing. It is truly ridiculous for the Free Traders to refer to the few specialties in each branch of industry, throwing them into the balance against the product used in everyday consumption, and produced most cheaply in those countries in which manufacture is most highly developed.

If the Free Traders cannot understand how one nation can grow rich at the expense of another, we need not wonder, since these same gentlemen also refuse to understand how in the same country one class can enrich itself at the expense of another.

Do not imagine, gentlemen, that in criticising freedom of commerce we have the least intention of defending Protection.

One may be opposed to constitutionalism without being in favour of absolutism.

Moreover, the Protective system is nothing but a means of establishing manufacture upon a large scale in any given country, that is to say, of making it dependent upon the market of the world; and from the moment that dependence upon the market of the world is established, there is more or less dependence upon Free Trade too. Besides this, the Protective system helps to develop free competition within a nation. Hence we see that in countries where the bourgeoisie is beginning to make itself felt as a class, in Germany for example, it makes great efforts to obtain protective duties. They serve the bourgeoisie as weapons against feudalism and absolute monarchy, as a means for the concentration of its own powers for the realization of Free Trade within the country.

But, generally speaking, the Free Trade system is destructive. It breaks up old nationalities and carries antagonism of proletariat and bourgeoisie to the uttermost point. In a word, the system of commercial freedom hastens the Social Revolution. In this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, I am in favour of Free Trade.

(conclusion)

Population and Poverty. (1926)

From the April 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

A debate took place recently in South London between an alleged Communist and a champion of the New Generation League on the question, “Is Birth Control Necessary for the Abolition of Poverty?” This is not a report thereof, but an attempt to put before our readers the Socialist view of the question raised.

The speaker in the affirmative was decidedly modest in his claims. He did not assert that Birth Control would abolish poverty, or even ameliorate it, but simply that poverty could not be abolished without it. He advanced, of course, the time-worn dogma that population tends to press upon means of subsistence, no matter what the latter may be, and left his audience to conclude that poverty was a result of this pressure and, therefore, short of artificial control of births, unavoidable. He further attached great importance to the facts that Marx formed his opinions prior to the publication of Darwin’s “Origin of Species” (based upon Malthus) and was, moreover, a townsman ignorant of agriculture and its limited possibilities.

Let us examine these claims. In the first place poverty is not merely a relative term, it is a description of the condition of a particular class in society, namely, the working class, i.e., the class which produces the antithesis of poverty, which is wealth. This wealth is enjoyed by a comparatively small section of the community, namely, the capitalist, or master, class, who own the material means by which the workers produce it. In this ownership is to be found the cause of their social position and not in the size of their families. Broadly speaking, it is true that the workers have more numerous progeny than their masters, but it is equally true that no amount of abstinence from the function of procreation will make a man a millionaire. Something more is necessary, i.e., the exploitation of social labour.

This fact is ignored by the Malthusian. He talks imposingly about “the struggle for existence” (a term which he never accurately defines), but omits to mention that before the struggle for wealth can commence, it has to be produced by some measure of co-operation. Every historical form of society has involved the co-operative efforts of the labourers as an element in its economic basis. The ancient empires, founded on chattel-slavery, the feudal kingdoms of the middle ages resting on serfdom, as well as the capitalist régime of to-day based upon wage-labour, could not conceivably have existed if the productivity of the workers’ labour had not exceeded their necessary consumption.

The pressure of the workers upon their means of subsistence is thus the product not of “nature” but of society under certain conditions in the course of its development. In other words, the contrast between wealth and poverty is of historical origin and came into existence only when, by dint of labour, mankind had acquired a degree of control over nature’s supply of the means of subsistence sufficient to permit of the existence of an idle class.

Under pre-historical conditions, a primitive form of Communism existed. The small, narrow social groups of those days knew no class distinctions. If nature was niggardly, all suffered ; if generous all benefited. Property rights as understood to-day did not exist. Mankind exploited nature as their state of development permitted, with none but the savage beasts to say them nay. The basis of the group was kinship, i.e., descent from a common ancestor. Under Communism men advanced from the lowest depths of savagery to the threshold of civilisation. They discovered fire, invented the bow and arrow, and the arts of smelting and pottery-making, domesticated animals and initiated horticulture. They laid, in fact, the ground-work for all subsequent progress.

Tribal communism, however, broke up with the advance of chattel-slavery, an institution, the origin of which affords an interesting refutation of Malthusianism. In extremely primitive times, groups engaged in warfare among other objects for women to add to the numbers of their tribe ; the men they slew. With the increase of the fruits of labour, however, a use was discovered for the male captives of war as well. They became slaves of their conquerors, and the wealth of a Roman patrician was in proportion, not to the smallness of his household, indeed, but, on the contrary, to the numbers of these slaves who constituted its most important element. For their maintenance he was responsible just as the farmer is responsible for his cattle ; but the surplus-product of their labour was the source of his wealth, and the same principle has applied under various forms to this day. The wealth of the feudal lord was in proportion to the number of his tenants, while the modern financial magnate controls huge industrial armies.

On the other hand the avowed birth-controlling peasants of France “enjoy a standard of life lower than that of the wage-slaves of Britain and America; a fact which is due, not to any niggardliness of nature in France, but to the antiquated methods of exploitation upon which its rulers depend.

The Malthusian claims that this is due to the absence of coal in France. He forgets that if this is true then the presence of coal would have led to similar results as in England, i.e., a higher degree of exploitation and unemployment !

It is clear in any case that the progress of industry and, consequently, in the long run the progress of society, depends upon the further development of social labour. The restriction of population can at best play but a negative part in this progress, while, pushed to extremes, it can only produce stagnation. Modern industrial development necessitates the existing population with its massing of the workers in highly organised productive centres. As a remedy for poverty, therefore, birth control is a policy of reaction and despair, whatever its value may be from a hygienic point of view.

To recapitulate, present poverty is due to capitalism, i.e., to the monopoly by a diminishing class of the fruits of social effort. It can be abolished so soon as the class which suffers from it realises the cause of it and removes that cause. When the workers organise as a class, seize political power, and convert the means of living into the common property of all, then and then only will class distinctions and their social and economic accompaniments disappear.

The struggle between the capitalists over the surplus wealth wrung from their slaves on the one hand and the struggle between the slaves for jobs on the other are the fruits of immature development. They will vanish when in the struggle between these two classes as a whole, the workers, are victorious. Production will then be carried on in conscious co-operation in order to secure the fullest possible development for every individual.

The limits of productive possibility no one can foresee, and it behoves the workers in their own interests to study existing conditions for the solution of existing problems. Mathematical calculations with regard to the number of elephants per square yard likely to result from unchecked multiplication may be ingenious and even exciting to an overheated imagination, but they have no bearing upon the problem of poverty. As for Marx, whatever his views on Darwin may have been, he was able to expose Malthus for the plagiarist he was (see footnote 1 to page 345, “Capital,” Sonnenschein edition).
Eric Boden

Party activities. (1926)

Party News from the April 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

A well-attended meeting was held at Battersea (Small) Town Hall on Sunday, February 21st. Com. Fitzgerald lectured on “Why We Oppose All Other Political Parties” A large number of questions were asked, followed by much discussion. The stream of anti-political questions were easily and convincingly answered, and Labour Party supporters were supplied with many unpalatable truths about their idols. The collection was £2 14s. 0d.

Another lecture at Battersea (Lower) Town Hall will be given on April 11th, at 7.30.

A very successful public meeting was held at Stratford Town Hall on Sunday, March 14th, to commemorate the Commune of Paris. The large audience listened very attentively to the speakers who told the story of the Commune, its historical causes and its great lessons for the workers of to-day, A collection of £4 8s. 6d. was taken, and a good sale of literature resulted.

Quotes. (1926)

From the April 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

STATE SOCIALISM !

“Out of a civil service of 300,000 people, 225,000 get less than £4 a week, inclusive of bonus, 150,000 get less than £3 a week, inclusive of bonus, and scores of thousands get less than £2 a week inclusive.”—The Secretary of The Civil Service Association (“The Star,” Feb. 17).

* * *

THE USE OF RELIGION.

“In societies such as ours, in which the inequality of fortune presents a striking contrast besides our political equality, the religious sentiment is the best means of reconciling and uniting together the rich and the poor. … It teaches the poor man to be patient and honest amid all temptations, to be confident of a brighter future here below, and to look beyond the world to the hope of a good reward in another and a higher sphere of existence.”—M. Chevalier.

The Antics of the Left-Wing. (1926)

From the March 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Without even having read the book one cannot help smiling at the diverting title chosen by the novelist who wrote “The Man with Two Left Feet.” How can a man have two left feet? If they both point to the left, as left feet should, the man must walk forever in a narrow circle, arriving nowhere in particular. If the feet are not side by side but in line, how does he manage to preserve his balance? Probably the novelist credits nature with this deformity, but if such things happened one might well imagine it to be an instance of nature imitating art—the art of politics.

Can a man have two left feet? Can a “united” party have one right, a centre or so, two and possibly three left-wings ? It can.

Can such a party march forever in a circle, arriving nowhere? It does. Can a party be achieving “progress” continually for. a generation and yet leave the beneficiaries of that “progress”—the workers—worse off at the end than at the beginning? If you doubt it, look at the Labour Party. Can a man balance on two left feet? Can one oppose Weir Houses and not vote against them, and support Weir Houses without voting for them? Watch the statesmanlike MacDonald and the Jesuitical Wheatley. Can Mr. Thomas and Mr. Cook engage heatedly in public conflict and remain loyal to the same programme, the same policy and the same methods? The “Daily Herald” says that they can.

Mr. MacDonald has reached the pinnacle of success, but there are many who are ready to pull him down if he stumbles, and fight like wolves for his place and power. Every political student knows that there is no surer method of forcing one’s way to the front rank than by stagemanaging well-timed rank and file “revolts”—hence the present flood of left wings.

Mr. Wheatley.
MacDonald was in his own tortuous way something of a genius, but for sheer subtlety we think he has met his match in Mr. Wheatley. Wheatley is on one of the left wings, but not so far to the left as to have to refuse office in the Labour Government. He is himself a Capitalist of some degree of wealth, advocates the abolition of Capitalism when speaking on the Clyde, believes a Labour administration prolongs the life of Capitalism, introduced as Labour Minister of Health a Housing Bill which he himself described as “Capitalist”—“an attempt to patch up Capitalism,” says the Labour Party is not Socialist and also that the Labour Party’s support of religion proves that Socialism supports religion. But perhaps his finest piece of work was shown in his attitude to “direct action.” He proclaims his belief in the necessity of urging soldiers to disobey orders should they be used against strikes. He attached his signature to a letter protesting against the Communist Trial Verdict. It read as follows :—
“It was stated on behalf of the Crown that it is seditious—(1) to preach the Class war; and (2) to appeal to soldiers, in case of industrial troubles, not to shoot their fellow-workers. There is a special danger to Labour in this assumption that these doctrines are illegal. The great mass of the Labour Movement believes in them, and expresses—and will continue to express—its belief.”—(Daily Herald, 30th November, 1925.)
This, you may say, is perhaps rash, but surely the spirit is commendable? But just consider with me for one moment. When troops are so used they are under Martial Law, liable to the death penalty for disobedience; and when in 1924 an amendment was introduced in the House of Commons to abolish the death penalty, Mr. Wheatley voted against it. (Hansard 3 April, 1924, Army (Annual) Bill).

Is this not a mark of genius? Mr. Wheatley is a Catholic and a worthy descendant of the sixteenth century Jesuits who proved that Catholic subjects might legitimately assassinate Protestant rulers. But they added a rigid proviso that on no account may one put poison in a man’s food or drink, for this, they said, would make him a suicide—which would be most improper.

In a coarse age like ours it is at first sight by no means easy to appreciate the refinement of scruple, the delicate thoughtfulness of these Jesuit Philosophers. But, rightly looked at, what comfort it must have brought to the souls of murdered princes that they were despatched to their Maker not by poison in their beer, but by a poisoned dagger in the back. Wheatley, explaining his point of view to soldiers sentenced under an Act he voted for, because they took advice he gave, is surely entitled to a place beside his Jesuit forefathers.

A “Better Spirit.”
Mr. Cook is another left wing hero—an evangelist unaccountably strayed into the Labour Movement. He has the usual Capitalist outlook on work and wages. He asks for instance (“Daily Herald,” 9 March, 1925) “was it not a mistake that a miner was working for a less wage than that paid to a scavenger?” Why this slighting reference to scavengers? Why is it not a mistake, may we ask, for a miner to get less than a miner’s official, or less than the Editor of the Herald? Is this how Mr Cook proposes to unite the working class?

Mr. Cook, in company with Lansbury, Purcell, Ellen Wilkinson, Coppock, Tillett, and other left wing “stars,” put his signature to a recent manifesto of the Industrial Christian Fellowship, which manifesto contains useful information about their queer beliefs.

It begins, “We stand for Christ and His Principles, independent of Party,” which is surely a promising basis for a left wing. “It is our conviction that statesmanship will fail, and political programmes will prove futile as a solvent of social troubles, unless they embody the spirit and practice of Christ. . .. . We are moved . . . in a sober and serious spirit, to make this appeal to our fellow-citizens of all classes, without regard to their political affiliations …”

This, you may observe, is not quite in the strain these people use at left wing gatherings. But then, of course, some of them are in the habit of being moved, if rumour speaks truly, not by a “sober, serious spirit,” but by some other.

It does seem that those who call Cook “Emperor Cook” are hardly fair. Surely in his more exalted moments it is Jesus Christ he thinks he is?

Why not two left wings? Or three? Or four?
As we pointed out above, there is more than one left wing. The man has not only two left feet, but the two left feet want to walk in different directions. One, engineered by the “Sunday Worker,” called its little meeting of selected persons, only to find that “Lansbury’s Weekly” had called another little meeting of selected persons. Then they fought over the right to be the original and only left wing. One bone of contention was the Communist Party. Should they be admitted or not? In the meantime the Communists claim that they are themselves the real genuine article, but their position, it must be confessed, as a potential third left foot, is somewhat obscure. The parent body quite rudely cut them off and they are really the foot of another man altogether—a man living in Moscow. Does an amputated foot which insists on hanging around, really belong to its former body or not? That is the question of the moment. The I.L.P. claims to be a self-contained left wing itself, but Mr. Brailsford has given his Editorial benediction to one of the other left wings—which one we forget at the moment.

To be quite candid, we find this business of left wings a trifle confusing. What is going to be the outcome of this mess of intrigue? Suppose we grant, for the sake of argument, that the prime movers in these backstairs “palace revolutions” have only one motive—the welfare of the workers. Are they likely to achieve something beneficial by such means? Does experience show that anything worth while ever came out of such plotting and lying and wire-pulling? Is it not obvious that the only gainers will be the Wheatleys and Cooks and their imitators, and that the climbers who get left below will simply perpetuate the disgusting tradition in endless years of silly “tactical” marching and counter-marching, groupings and dissolutions, amalgamations and secessions? They agree only on the unworthiness of the Labour Party. Yet, ironically enough, we who alone maintain an attitude of open hostility to that unworthy party, and who consistently fight for Socialism and nothing else, are told by these very people that we confuse the minds of the workers !
Edgar Hardcastle

Letter: Socialism and parliamentary action. (1926)

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

The following letter from a correspondent in Glasgow is printed in full and our reply follows :—

To S.P.G.B.

Comrades,

The S.P.G.B., holds that supreme power in present day society is political, and is centred in Parliament, owing to the fact that Parliament controls the armed forces.

As proof of this, it is stated that Parliament votes the necessary money for maintaining the armed forces, from year to year. The S.P.G.B. say that to get control of the armed forces is to get control of political power; and logically deduce from this that when a class-conscious majority of the electorate sends Socialists to Parliament they will control the armed. forces. That, from that day forward, “everything in the garden will be lovely,” and that Capitalism will die a sudden death.

But I am afraid that there are one or two things the S.P.G.B. has forgotten, such as, that Parliament only controls the armed forces when the Capitalist class have a majority there; that, as a Socialist majority will not take away their (the Capitalists’) money, the latter will still be able to pay (and handsomely at that) for the maintenance of the armed forces. This, the more easily, since the officers are all members of the Capitalist class. For proof of this it has only to be stated that it takes more than the pay or salary of an officer to maintain his position, as such. As everybody knows, most of the wartime “officers” are to-day on the bureau, or begging on the streets. That the Capitalist class are preparing for “the day” is surely obvious to anyone who “has eyes to see,” when organisations such as the Secret Service, O.M.S., Fascisti, etc., are already in existence and for a purpose which they do not seek to hide.

Also we should not lose sight of the fact that “specials” and other auxiliary forces (Black and Tans) were organised at short notice when occasion demanded, in the past.

The Logic of this is that Capitalism will be abolished like all past systems of society, not through the method of capturing Parliament, but at the barricades. Further does the S.P.G.B. deny that Finance Capital through the medium of the cabinet, dictates the policy of Parliament?

Hoping that this communication is published in full when answered.
Yours for Revolution,
ANTI-PARLEY.


Our Reply.
The above letter contains the usual anarchist objections to political action which have been answered continually in the “Socialist Standard.”

In the first place, we must correct some crude mis-statements of our critic. We do not say that “everything in the garden will be lovely” when a class-conscious working class controls Parliament. The capture of the political machinery is, as Marx says in the Communist Manifesto, the first step which must be taken to obtain emancipation. The succeeding conditions may be quite unlovely, depending upon the circumstances of the time and the degree of counter-revolution attempted.

The statement that Parliament only controls the armed forces whilst Capitalists are in the majority in Parliament is pure bunkum. Parliament is a machine which arose and evolved long before Capitalism. The tremendous outlay of finance and effort on the part of Capitalists to assure that the workers vote for Capitalist candidates and their lackeys shows how important control of Parliament is. Then we are told that Socialist control of Parliament will allow Capitalists to have the money to pay for the upkeep of the armed forces for their own use.

The actual fact is that the armed forces are maintained out of funds voted by Parliament. These huge sums are obtained from taxation paid by the employers out of the surplus extracted from the result of the workers’ labour. This exploitation will stop when the workers control political power and hence the funds out of which Capitalists can pay armies will cease.

The Capitalist system could not be run by bodies of employers hiring some armed bands to attack the whole working class. Capitalism depends, upon the regular and smooth conduct of affairs under which the wheels of industry can turn, commerce be carried on and profits be obtained. Therefore a constitution with delegated functions and a Parliament controlling nationally the forces of repression is an essential thing to the life of Capitalism in all “advanced” countries.

Therefore, the resolute efforts of all those aiming at conquest of the social powers to control the political machine.

Mussolini in Italy or Lenin in Russia, or the worldwide struggles of rising Capitalists—each had to first of all conquer political power as represented in the political machinery of each country.

Our policy is framed for the country in which we live, and according to existing conditions.

Parliament being the central machine of the present constitution, we are compelled to control it in our own interests as a working class.

Should the Capitalists destroy the constitution, the situation would be changed and the detail policy of the workers would be different. But this assumption of destruction of Parliamentary institutions reckons without the facts of economic life. In destroying the constitution the Capitalists would cripple their system. Capitalism in advanced countries depends upon government by elected authority, local and national and the disruption of these bodies would result in chaos, not in a system. The incitement to open warfare resulting from the abolition of Parliament would prevent that ordered working of affairs upon which Capitalism depends.

After denying the power of Parliament, our critic admits its importance and its power by pointing out that finance capital dictates the policy of Parliament.

It is obvious, then, even to our confused critic, that not merely content with having the finance, the financiers find it essential to influence the policy of Parliament. That they can do so is due to the fact that it is in the interest of their fellow Capitalists in Parliament to carry out the wishes of the bankers, etc. A Socialist working class intent upon abolishing Capitalism would have a policy directly in conflict with the interests of Capitalists—financial or industrial, and the day of Parliament carrying out the wishes of the Capitalists would be over.

While “Anti-Parley” states that the army is officered by the Capitalists, he also tells us that there is a large number of officers on the dole. Does that show that officers belong to the Capitalist class? Actually it shows that when Parliament votes no funds for them they are sacked—then they are on the dole. Officers in the main are not Capitalists. The Capitalists being few, are compelled to hire the workers to run the system, and also the civil and military forces to control it. Further, officers are helpless without an army and the army acts not according to its officers but according to instructions which are given by those in charge of political power.

If the officers do not carry out these instructions they are liable to severe punishment apart from losing their position. Our critic’s reference to the large number of officers on the dole shows how rapidly they can be trained and how many are available. If our critic studied history, recent history, he would know that officers, to maintain themselves, are compelled to transfer their allegiance to those who control political power and who can give them jobs. Look at the huge number of German officers who took well paid jobs to organise the famous Red Army of Russia. Look at the helpless state of the Czarist officers in March, 1917, when the rank and file revolted.

We are next told that the capitalists are preparing for “the day” by forming the O.M.S., Fascists, etc. These bodies depend for success upon recruiting the workers to their ranks and while they can obtain a large measure of working class support it shows the need for Socialist propaganda, for until the mass of the workers understand their class interests, they cannot be expected to act in the interests of their class.

The dangerous and misleading alternative to Parliamentary action offered by our critic is—the barricades. What, then, becomes of his argument about the officers of the Capitalist class being in command of the Army? How can unarmed workers fight the army?

In these days of powerful instruments of death dealing and after the experiences of the World War—we are told by our anarchist opponent to throw up some barricades ! The lessons of the Paris Commune, of the Rand, of Munich, of Hungary, etc., are all lost on our “anti-parley” friend. Read Engels’s introduction to Marx’s “Class Struggles in France” (1895) on the insanity of barricades in face of modern developments !

Apparently our critic has been listening to the anarchist element denouncing Parliament and as neither the anarchists nor he falls back upon the policy that reactionaries everywhere have tried to get the workers to adopt so that they can drown them in blood.

Barricade or bombs, chemical parcel post or street fights—our opponents advocate everything except the one policy—Socialist knowledge, Socialist organisation and Socialist political action by the mass of the working class.

As seen in our opponents’ alternative, the enemies of political action become dangerous to the working class.
Editorial Committee.

Two pamphlets. (1926)

Pamphlet Review from the March 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr. R. Neft sends us two pamphlets “The Wage Trick,” one penny, and “Doctor and Dustman,” twopence, both obtainable from the author at Stepney Street, Llanelly.

We have criticised earlier pamphlets by Mr. Neft and these are decidedly better. The first does succeed in explaining perfectly, plainly and simply how the worker is robbed. It is only marred by confusion about the nature of capital and the incorrect assumption that money will continue to function under Socialism. Mr. Neft also knows quite well that the Labour Party does not propose to deprive the Capitalists of their property rights, and that the 5,000,000 who voted Labour were not voting for Socialism.

When Mr. Neft invites us to get inside that party he offers no advantage which can compensate for the necessity of having to lie to the workers as he is compelled to do in order to remain a Labour candidate.

Doctor and Dustman” is a really interesting series of arguments in story form against Capitalist inequality of income. It curiously misses the point which is more fundamental than mere inequality, that is that Capitalist income is unearned. Mr. Neft might with advantage ponder Liebnecht’s remark that “enthusiasm for equality is not Socialism.”

The class war is the only sound basis for Socialist theory and Socialist organisation.
Edgar Hardcastle

New Publications Fund. (1926)

Party News from the March 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard





Blogger's Note:
See 'An Encyclopædia for Twopence' from the same issue.

The Communist Party and I.L.P. Unity. (1926)

Editorial from the March 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The alleged revolutionary nature of the Communist Party can be seen by the article of the Acting Secretary of the C.P. (Robert Stewart) in the Sunday Worker for January 17. He refers to the “recent offer (which is still open) to co-operate with the I.L.P. in a campaign on such points as 100 per cent. trades unionism, a living wage, and nationalisation of mines.” If these two parties can find common ground in such work, which leaves capitalism safe and sound, there is no reason why they should not unite. We suggest they should call the United Party—the Political Patchers Alliance. One of the final pleas of Mr. Stewart is pathetic.

He says : “Surely, if Mr. Brockway finds it possible to co-operate with (say, Mr. R. MacDonald, Mr. J. H. Thomas, or Mr. Will Thorne from each of which he differs widely in matters of theory, his co-operation with the Communists should be equally possible.”

Certainly ! Why not !

The Communist Party and Violence. (1926)

Editorial from the March 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Neither the Communists, nor any other section of the working-class movement, desire or advocate violence or civil war in any form.” Thus writes Palme Dutt, of the Communist Executive, in the Labour Monthly for Dec., 1925. Reading this and some of the speeches in the C.P. trial one would imagine the Communist Party were sworn enemies of insurrection and armed uprising. But the theses of the 3rd International on the “The Role of the C.P. in the Communist International” lays down a very different policy. Thus : “The working class cannot achieve victory over the bourgeoisie by means of the general strike alone and by the policy of folded arms. The proletariat must resort to an armed uprising.” The Statutes of the 3rd International are very clear upon this point. They state :“The aim of the Communist International is to organise an armed struggle for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie and the establishment of an International Soviet Republic as a transition to the complete abolition of the Capitalist State.”

Party or Mass. (1926)

Editorial from the March 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

The continual claim of Communists and others is that we must be with the great masses of the working class. If the masses want “immediate demands” and reform agitations then we must go with them in this policy. Shout 44 hours and 4 pounds per week or nationalisation of coal mines or any other plank the masses take up. Sometimes this leads to quarrels about which reform should be supported. MacDonald, Mitchell & Co. shout Weir houses whilst the other section wants a different kind of steel house or brick one. Mitchell accuses Geo. Hicks, of the Builders, of signing a report in favour of the weird houses and Hicks tells Forward readers he is sorry he ever did such a thing. So the reformers, with their crowds of supporters, unite the workers by fighting about the kind of plaster to apply to capitalism. Yet, those who think we must join the large numbers, are always talking of Glorious Russia, the very country where Lenin and other Bolsheviks refused coalition with the much more numerous Menshevik and Social Revolutionary elements, though these parties had behind them the bulk of the workers and peasants. Lenin himself says in his pamphlet, “Towards Soviets” :—
“Is it not more honourable for the internationalists at such a moment to be able to resist the fumes that stupefy the ‘masses,’ than to ‘desire to remain’ with the masses, i.e., to give way to the general intoxication? Have we not witnessed, in all the belligerent European countries, how the jingoes defended themselves on the plea of desiring ‘to remain with the masses’ ? Is it not essential to be able for a certain time to be in a minority against the ‘mass’ intoxication? Is not just the work of propagandists essential precisely at the present moment, in order to set free the proletarian line of policy from the ‘mass’ effect of the chauvinist and lower middle class intoxication? It is just the fused state of the masses, proletarian and non-proletarian, without any class distinction within them, that constitutes one of the conditions of the rise of chauvinist epidemic. To speak contemptuously of ‘a group of propagandists’ of the proletarian tendency, seems to be a little out of place.”
Our work is not to pander to the prejudices of the ignorant but to win the workers’ minds for Socialism. Not by agreeing with their unsound ideas but by replacing these wrong notions with sound knowledge.

Those elusive profits. Economics from a Silk Hat. (1926)

From the March 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

A few weeks ago the “Daily Herald” published extracts from the “Economist” showing that while wages have suffered substantial reductions during the past three years the average profits of some fifteen hundred companies have been steadily rising. It followed this up with the revolutionary proposal that Mr. Churchill should increase the income tax on the larger bugs.

Such unwonted temerity on the part of “Labour’s only Daily,” could not pass uncastigated by its Liberal tutors; and the following day there appeared in the “Westminster Gazette” a correction of the Rooster’s “fundamental errors” which reduced that lusty bird to silence.

Here is some of the stuff which the “Herald” could not answer, although it can find plenty of space for Mrs. Leonora Eyles' accounts of her hunt for God (who has, it seems, got himself lost), and similar rubbish.
“As to profits’ being something the ‘dividend-makers’ do not get, what does the D.H. think is done with the profits? Even that part which goes to ‘dividend-takers’ is spent on goods which ‘dividend-makers’ receive wages for producing.”

“That proportion of profits which is utilised in restoring plant and machinery similarly goes to pay wages to the workers in the industries concerned.” (“W.G.” 20/1/26),
Lest any irreverent reader feels tempted to explode in ribald laughter, let me solemnly assure him that this statement is made by no less an august personage than the W.G.’s City Editor; and let me further insist upon the necessity of taking him seriously, for the views he expresses are accepted by millions of our fellow-workers even to-day.

The possibility of advancing “arguments” such as those quoted arises from the illusion created by money in the process of circulation. The exchange of objects of utility is obscured by the commodity-nature of these objects. What appears to take place is an exchange of values expressed in the form of money.

Thus our City Editor would have us believe that in parting with the money-form of his profits the dividend-taker parts with the profits themselves ! What he has actually done, however, is merely to change about in them; nor does the similar case of other workers enable them to become the owners of factories, railways, docks, etc.

Let us turn the matter the other way round. The workers spend their wages upon food, clothing, shelter, etc., necessary to enable them to exist and produce wealth. The sale of food, etc., is carried on for profit. In selling goods to the workers the capitalists therefore are simply realising the profits (produced in the factories) in a money form. If we argued as does our City Editor, we should urge that our wages really go to the Capitalists, since they are spent in the manner above stated. Any such argument, however, would not alter the fact that the workers and not the Capitalists consume the impure food, shoddy clothing, and jerry-built structures that wages buy.

The most important point, however, which the Editor ignores, is the fact that in selling their power to labour in return for wages, the workers part with the force which produces all wealth. The wealth produced belongs to the purchaser of labour-power (i.e., the employer) as a matter of course, and he realises both wages and profits in the sale of his goods,

One piece of confusion which is surprising even in a City Editor is the statement that a portion of profits is “utilised for restoring plant”! What about raw material? Has not that also to be “restored”? Apparently the Editor does not grasp the fact that in transforming raw material and machinery, etc., into finished articles, the workers preserve the value of the materials consumed. The restoration, therefore, is made from the return of the original capital and not from profits. The increase of capital from profits is, of course, another matter.

The Editor then tells us that “wastefulness is bad” because it “consumes capital needlessly.” What becomes of his former argument that all expenditure employs labour, whatever its form? His standard of “goodness” or “badness” is, of course, a Capitalist one. If, instead of rioting in luxury, Capitalists invested all their profits in industry, perhaps the W.G. man will explain what would happen to the workers in the luxury trades or, for that matter, in the trades in which the superabundance of capital was invested ?

His closing paragraph, however, is a gem ! After stating that the increase of profit must be the object of all trade and all production he says : “That the margin of profit, at present is not large enough is proved by the existence of unemployment and distress.” Unable to market the wealth produced like water by the workers, the exploiting class have the cool cheek to suggest, through their mouthpieces, the pressmen, that not enough wealth is produced. Could anything give clearer evidence, fellow workers, of the hopelessness of the present system of society from your point of view. Could you ask for a more damning proof of the intellectual bankruptcy of the class which robs you?
Eric Boden

Who are the public? (1926)

From the March 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

The protracted “crisis” in the mining industry has given rise to much talk in the Press and elsewhere concerning the rights of the public in relation thereto. This is, of course, by no means unusual. Whenever the workers in any large industry, supplying a commodity or service in common use, offer resistance to attempts on the part of their exploiters to increase the rate of exploitation, they are attacked on all sides as opponents of the “public well-being.” Section after section of the working class have had this accusation made against them in turn until it is perfectly clear that whoever the “public” may be, they certainly do not include the workers, although these latter comprise the overwhelming majority of the population.

A somewhat different aspect of the matter is presented in an article recently published in the “Daily News” (26/l/25) entitled “The Case for the Public.” Herein it is the mine-owners who are taken to task for asserting their absolute right to their property, irrespective of the “interests of the public.”

According to the Cocoa Rag the State (representing the interests of the public) tolerates and encourages private property in all sorts of things in the belief that the public interest is best served so; but there are, it seems, exceptions, and the “News” goes on to give a list of instances during the war of the State interfering with private property in the public interest.

Returning to the mine-owners, we are told that the public has a great interest in the efficiency of the pits since this is an important element in price ! Here we seem to be getting to the core of the matter.

Who are concerned with the price of coal? Not the workers, certainly; though fatuous “leaders” endeavour to persuade them to that effect. Experience has shown that an all round lowering of prices is rapidly followed by an all round lowering of wages and that the worker has nothing to gain by a policy of cheapness. On the contrary, efficiency and economy under capitalism simply involve the squeezing of, more wealth out of fewer workers and a conse-quent increase in the unemployed.

The “News” advocates short hours and high wages—on the basis of a readiness to instal labour-saving devices ! All of which goes to show that it is not concerned with the interests of the workers but with cheaper coal. Again, in whose interest? Obviously, in the interests of the rest of the Capitalist class, who depend upon coal for the carrying on of their various profit-making concerns and who want cheaper power of all kinds in order to compete more effectively with their foreign rivals for the markets of the world.

It is significant of the degraded level to which the miners have been pushed that the Capitalist press should turn its guns for the nonce from them to their immediate exploiters. It is still more significant that the State, the executive committee of the Capitalist class, should have found it necessary to subsidise the owners rather than force through a further reduction. The “Labour” and “Communist” leaders who hailed “Red Friday” as a victory for the workers, showed thereby the abysmal futility of their leadership—to the workers.

Nothing but the sheer impossibility of reducing wages in the mining industry (without imposing heavier burdens upon the local rates) induced the Government to grant the subsidy. The resources of local bodies in the industrial areas generally and the mining areas in particular, are already so low that constant recourse to State aid is necessary. For the master class as a whole, therefore, the subsidy was the more economical of two evils. All the same, it is a burden they do not relish; hence they call on their fellow wolves to be less wasteful in their methods.

Thus our question is answered. “The State?” said the French king, ‘‘I am the state.” “The public?” echoes the British bourgeois, “we are the public.” Fellow workers, how long will it take you to realise the fact that you are disinherited outcasts in the land of your birth? That the power you place so readily in the hands of your “betters” is used only to flout and rob you?

“Public control,” or “public ownership,” whether introduced by Liberals, Labourites or “Communists,” can avail you nothing. The better organisation of capitalism means the more thorough exploitation of your class. Leave, then, these empty discussions upon the “justice or political morality of “public” versus “private” Capitalism to those whose interests are at stake. Your interest lies, in achieving your emancipation from wage-slavery. Whether you be miner or railwayman, sheltered or unsheltered, “high” paid or “low” paid, you are paid merely the necessary cost of your maintenance so long as profits can be squeezed from your nerves and muscles. When they cannot, then your “public” heritage is—the “dole” !

Nothing can help you but the conscious organisation of your class for the conquest of political power and the introduction of a social order in which “private” or “public” property based on profit-making shall find no place, but in which the means of life shall be the common heritage of all.
Eric Boden

Letter: The policy of the Socialist Party. (1926)

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

An Answer to a Correspondent.

Mr. H. G. Robinson asks :—

1. Does not Marx say somewhere that a proletarian dictatorship must necessarily exist during the transition period from Capitalism to Socialism? In other words, do you think it possible to make the Capitalists hand over the spoils by simply voting for revolution, or will the workers be compelled to use some sort of physical force?

2. “Declaration of Principles” states that “as political parties are but the expression of class interests . . . the party seeking working-class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.” Does this apply to the Communist Party? Surely that party cannot be construed to be a Capitalist party, even though they may be “off the track”? Are they not also a working class party?

3. Could not members of the S.P. help Socialism by propaganda within the ranks of the Labour Party?

Answers.

1. This is partly answered elsewhere in this issue (see reply to “Anti-Parley”) and has been dealt with at length in back numbers, to which you are referred. “Dictatorship” and “force” need careful definition to avoid the confusion which arises through attaching loose meanings. The vote does not itself abolish Capitalism ; but the vote in the hands of an organised Socialist working class in advanced “democratic” Capitalist countries, gives control of the machinery of force, the army, etc. Whether and how that force will need to be used depends on the Capitalist minority, who will then, if they resist the majority, be rebels. If the questioner means by “dictatorship” the special steps taken in such an emergency, then we can admit the pos¬sibility of such a “dictatorship” democratically and constitutionally maintained by the working class majority against the minority, which is offering armed resist¬ance. Usually, however, in the mouths of Communists, for instance, “dictatorship” means the rule of a minority based on open force. In Russia such a dictatorship has been in existence, the dictatorship of a few hundred thousand Communists over a population of millions. No evidence has ever been offered by the Communists entitling them to claim that Marx endorsed such anti-democratic, and for the purposes of Socialism, such futile procedure.

2. This is a generalisation explaining the existence of political parties, not the sentiments of their members. We do not suggest that Communists, any more than Conservatives, are actuated by motives of malice towards the working class. But it is not, therefore, a “working class party,” except in the sense that its supporters are largely workers—and this applies equally to the Liberal and Conservative parties. Our main differences from the Communists are concerned with fundamentals of Socialist policy. We cannot both be advocating the correct method, and wrong methods—minority action, armed revolt, etc., are no less dangerous because the advocates are sincere. In our view sound principles clearly understood are of absolutely first importance to the workers; both soundness and clarity would be sacrificed if we ceased to oppose policies we regard as suicidal.

3. If Socialists joined the Labour Party they could do so only by accepting a constitution and programme they regard as fundamentally anti-Socialist. How, in face of this dishonesty, could they consistently and persuasively urge the need for political honesty and plain speaking? They would, too, as many have found by experience, have the bulk of their energies absorbed in explaining, not Socialism, but their inability to agree with the policy of the party to which they belonged.

Lastly, it is assumed that the Labour Party would allow membership to those who were hostile to the principles of the Labour Party, as that Party is bent on getting non-Socialist votes it would gain nothing by admitting Socialists unless the latter consented to remain silent about Socialism. It would, as is shown by its rejection of the Communists, decline to retain Socialists except on terms which would make Socialist propaganda impossible.
Editorial Committee

An Encyclopædia for Twopence. (1926)

Party News from the March 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are few of us who can resist an obvious bargain. Those who take their stand in our street-markets know this little characteristic of ours, and bend all their energies into persuading us that to miss that opportunity of becoming the possessors of their particular commodity, is to achieve a lifetime of remorse. Usually one finds remorse follows, even when one purchases, so that experience makes one somewhat hardened to the cry of the huckster. The utility of a bargain depends entirely upon the use to which one can put it. This is not quite the commonplace it sounds. It is not entire tautology. One might purchase an elephant for half-a-sovereign and then not have a bargain. One may buy the Encyclopædia Britannica for half-a-crown and have no earthly use for it. But whoever spend twopence upon our new pamphlet, will have made the investment of their lives. This is no mere tradesman’s “puff.” This is a statement of deliberate fact.

Of a size to comfortably fit the pocket, it is packed from cover to cover with vital information. It is crammed with the facts, all duly authenticated and verified. How often in an argument with a chum have you been “stuck” for the appropriate reference, just that clinching statement that leaves him without a leg to stand on? You’ll find it here.

Just look at some of the cross-headings. “Who are the working class?” Of course, you know in a rough, general sort of way, the answer to that question. But when someone points to a Capitalist who works hard, and to a workman who obviously doesn’t, and challenges you to place them, how do you reply?

With our little book you can flatten him out. What is better, you can convince him. There are no dogmatic assertions, no equivocal statements, no vicious attacks upon individuals. Just plain simple appeals to everyday experience.

Then : “The Cause of Poverty” ; “The Cause of Unemployment” ; “Is the Struggle for Higher Wages Necessary?” How often are these questions asked? Here is the answer to each of them, carefully worked out, with reference to authorities. “What is a Social System?” “The Basis of Modem Society” ; “The Basis of the Future Social System.” Here is food for thought. The pamphlet provides the meat. How the essence of Marx, Engels and Morgan has been compressed within 48 small pages, without apparent cramming, is little short of marvellous. Is there any real necessity for Revolution? The pamphlet devotes three pages to the question, “Has The Hour Come?” Six pages are occupied with the answer to that. “What are The Essentials of the Political Organisation?” Here they are all carefully reasoned out on the last five pages, clause by clause, and item by item.

For the public speaker, or for those useful little chats with one’s fellows, the pamphlet is indispensable. Filled, as it is, with scores of verbal illustrations of the points dealt with, it should be found more convincing than hours of argument. For instance, you are just arguing with a “Labour” man on the crass stupidity of his leaders, in asserting that greater production will benefit the working class. You quote him the American automobile industry. You turn to page 17 of the pamphlet and show him the figures from 1899 to 1923. You give him reference to the official report. You prove to him that in that industry the productivity of each man employed has increased 10 times in the 24 years since 1899. Unless he is entirely hopeless, you give him furiously to think. Follow up with the facts about the coal industry, the iron and steel industries, etc., and his defeat becomes a rout. You then sell him a copy.

Look at the number of times Campbell-Bannerman’s famous pronouncement that a third of the population are constantly on the verge of starvation, has been quoted. When did he say it? What was his authority? Our pamphlet gives both. Is it true that bricklayers are deliberately slower than before the war? We give the official figures given before Lord Bradbury’s Court of Enquiry in 1925. Does the adoption of machinery actually displace labour, or is it eventually absorbed by increased demand for cheapened products? (A favourite with Liberals, this.) In spite of condensation, this is convincingly dealt with. All those little “teasers” that give the novice pause are held up to the light and shown for the transparent frauds they are. If, under Capitalism, the lot of the worker is to get steadily worse, why struggle? Also, if that be true, why are wages higher in America than here; and higher here than on the Continent? Yes ! They are dealt with, too. And not only dealt with, but answered. Answered with a wealth of quotation and illustration. And so on. At the very least you will want two copies of the booklet; one for your own personal use, and one to sell or lend as occasion offers. Why not help the Socialist Party in a practical way by buying at least one copy a month, when you buy your Standard? You will be sustained by the reflection that in helping the Socialist Party, you will be helping yourself. It cannot be too often repeated that Socialism is not inevitable in the sense that the return of the Seasons, the alternation of day and night, the ebb and flow of the tides are inevitable. Socialism is the first conscious putting forth of human genius in a concrete endeavour to make the earth a common human possession. Humanly speaking, it appears to us to be humanity’s next step. We recognise that the process can be helped or retarded. We can form but the merest estimate of the extent to which selfishness and stupidity may retard the change, but we are certain that each and every new member of the Socialist Party hastens its coming. We send out our pamphlet with the sure conviction that its wide circulation will result in a great access of members to our Party, and the speedy realisation of our hopes-SOCIALISM.
W. T. Hopley