Friday, March 4, 2022

Editorial: The miners’ position. (1926)

Editorial from the September 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

For over four months the mine workers have struggled against the attempt to increase their hours of labour and reduce their wages. Their main means of resistance has been tightening their belts. In face of privation, daily becoming more intense, they have shown solidarity and resisting-power that is amazing, and a good omen for the day when they learn that the real solution of their difficulties lies in the organisation of society on the basis of common ownership of the means of production, and not in a struggle over wages and conditions of labour.

We have seen five pay-tickets of a South Wales coal-hewer (the hewer is the best paid man in the industry) who has been in the mines for nearly forty years. The tickets were taken at random between March and May, 1926, and the amounts he drew for each week were as follows :—

£1 11s. 9d.,​£3 9s. 2d.,​£2 4s. Id., 18s. 2d., £1 9s. 5d., and he had to pay a boy 4s. 6d. a day for part of the time. The actual pay-tickets of a miner disposes of the tales of the fabulous amounts they are alleged to earn.

Out of the total amount a coal-hewer, working on piece-work, gets for the coal obtained, he has to pay assistants and various charges—check-weigher, hospital, mine-examiner, stores, doctor, insurance, hall funds, etc.—all of which considerably reduces the actual money he is to receive for his work.

The attempt to worsen the miners’ position is backed by the plea that the industry cannot afford to pay the present wages. This plea is put forward by the pretended friends as well as the avowed enemies of the miners. Yet if ever there was an industry that had power for the wealth in abundance for idle parasites that industry is coal-mining. Mining companies during the last ten years have made large additions to their capitals and reserves without drawing a penny out of shareholders’ pockets. The profits of the industry have been enormous.

Here are one or two illustrations taken from recent years :—

North’s Navigation Collieries, Ltd., declared dividends of 20 per cent. a year for the years 1916-17-18-19, and 15 per cent. for 1920. In 1918 they also distributed a bonus of 25 per cent. For the five years ending in 1920, therefore, they paid, in all, 120 per cent. on the capital invested. In other words, the whole of the capital the investors put in was returned to them with an additional 20 per cent. as well—and they still had their original capital in the company on which to draw future dividends.—(Daily News, 11/4/21.)

The Weardale Steel, Coal & Coke Co. declared dividends of 19 ⅓ per cent. per year for the five years to 1920-21, 6 per cent. for 1922, and 10 per cent. for 1923, which makes a total of 112 ⅔ per cent. for seven years—all their money back with an additional 12 ⅔ per cent., and still the original capital to draw dividends on. On top of that, the company had a reserve of £610,000 which is equal to 84 per cent, of the issued share capital.—(Financial News, 16/11/23.)

The Old Silkstone Collieries, Ltd., an amalgamation of several other colliery concerns, sent out a prospectus which was printed in the Observer (10/12/22). This prospectus contains particulars of profits and output from 1913 to 1922 ; an examination of it gives very interesting information. The following list contains some of the figures :—

Note the steadily declining output with a steadily increasing profit ! 1913 was a record coal year for the United Kingdom, according to the Daily News, 24/6/14.

The annual average of profit for the nine years ending 1921 was £143,000, a total for the period of nearly one million three hundred thousand pounds. This profit was obtained on a total invested capital of £590,565. And they would have us believe that the industry is too poor to pay the present wages! !

What to the capitalist is yearly toll of diseased, maimed and killed in the mines? The interest on capital invested far outweighs the cost of its production, because the interest is taken by the capitalist while the cost is borne by the worker.

Whatever the result of the struggle in the mining districts may be, it is for the miners themselves to decide how far they are prepared to go, and what conditions they are prepared to accept. There are plenty of busybodies with full bellies who are urging them to make concessions in one direction or another, instead of leaving the sufferers to make what arrangements they themselves think fit.

Socialism and the essentials of Anarchism. (1926)

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

Another correspondent’s letter and our reply.
The Editor, Socialist Standard,
Socialist Party of Great Britain,
17, Mount Pleasant, W.C.1.

Dear Sir,

I have followed with interest the discussion which has been conducted in recent issues of your journal with Mr. Beer, of Deptford. It has prompted me to pen the following observations, which I trust you will publish together with a reply in your next issue.

A statement from you upon the theoretical differences which you assume exist between Socialism and Anarchism would be welcome. You must recognise that criticism of the activities of exponents of a creed is not criticism of the creed itself. The essential feature of Anarchist philosophy is the recognition, in the words of Herbert Spencer “that each man possesses the right to do that which he wills in fulfilling the demands of his own life, in so far as he infringes not the equal right of every other man.” Or, in other words, that he possesses rights as an individual. Anarchism asserts further that individuals when confronted with alternatives of action, choose that which is conducive to self-interest. Private property society tends to confine this self-interest within the narrow zone of immediate economic advantage, thus placing a premium upon petty cunning and scheming. It stifles the development and increasing differentiation of individuality and insists upon conformity to type. Mankind, however, is struggling, for the most part, unconsciously, toward a society in which the liberty of the individual, and the interest of the community will be synonymous terms. Recognising the essentially egoistic motivation of human behaviour, Anarchism asserts that only by fulfilling his obligations to himself in developing his individuality, can Man act in the communal interest. For individuality implies a logical self-completeness. The individual is a self-contained universe, the peculiar product of heredity and environment to whom no other individual is exactly similar. Consequently, no one but himself can legislate for himself, and therefore Anarchism is only realisable in a community of persons who have freely associated for mutual benefit. The antithesis of Anarchy is coercion. Moral values in such a free society would be based upon equity, and a mutual respect which is foreign tQ our present social structure.

The opinion is often expressed that Anarchists lack a policy, a suggestion with which I will now deal.

A blind evolution operates in the social, as in the organic and cosmic spheres, oblivious to human desires. Revolutions occur when the appropriate stage of evolution has been attained. They are the culmination of processes operating unnoticed over a lengthy period. Recognising this to be so, and also that man, in common with all matter, is the creature of the environmental stimuli amongst which he exists, Anarchists can only hope to convert humanity to an outlook diametrically opposed to that which its social surroundings induces, by the presentment of a clearly defined revolutionary gospel. That is the Anarchist policy, as I understand it. Persistent propaganda, characterised by clarity of thinking and consistent adherence to established principles. I used the term “Humanity,” above, intentionally. For the whole of mankind are the victims of social shortcoming, a logical deduction from acceptance of economic determinism which can scarcely be refuted, but is apt to be forgotten. The class conflict is the blind struggle of two camps, both of whom suffer from the same disease, which it is the role of the socially subservient to cure.

This is a brief sketch of my conception of Anarchist philosophy and policy. Trusting for a reply in the “ S.S.,” I am,
Yours sincerely,
John Adamson.

Our Reply.
This letter is printed as a further example of the difficulty in obtaining a statement of the Anarchist attitude upon social questions. The writer sets out by upholding Herbert Spencer’s individualistic dictum which followed from Spencer’s defence of private property in the means of life. In the very next sentence, our Anarchist rejects Spencer and opposes private property society. The argument that the individual possesses rights has been answered by other Anarchists that might is right, and the only right. The fundamental fallacy of the natural rights theory was completely refuted by Spencer himself in his “Study of Sociology” in his masterly statement of the organic nature of society.

Our correspondent is another Anarchist who ignores the fundamental conflict in Socialist and Anarchist ideas.

He claims that mankind are going towards a society in which individual and communal interest will be harmonious. What will be the basis of that society? Our Anarchist does not say. Our position is briefly that economic evolution has made common ownership of the means of life the inevitable next step in social progress owing to the form taken by the modern instruments of production. They cannot be individually owned except by a class of exploiters with the resulting poverty and insecurity of today. The economic pressure upon working-class life will compel the workers to seek knowledge to change the system in accord with the social necessities of production—social ownership. Further, that as the manner of ownership determines the manner of control, common ownership decrees democratic control by the wealth-producers.

Our correspondent offers no alternative to the Socialist position. He does not even deal with it. If he was a supporter of private ownership, his individualistic theories might be logical. If he agrees with common ownership, he must appreciate the necessity of social control.

The basis of social as well as individual life is food, clothing and shelter—the material requirements of life. How will they be produced and distributed in our Anarchist’s future society? We are not told. We are told that mankind is struggling unconsciously towards individual and social harmony. But our correspondent also says that Anarchism can only be realised by a body of persons who have freely associated for mutual benefit.

Which of his two positions he really favours we do not know. Economic necessity being the driving force, the workers will be compelled to carry on production for themselves. That economic necessity will not wait until the fruition of our correspondent’s dream of everybody freely agreeing to the terms of association. The common welfare decides, and therefore in matters of social necessity, such as the operation of the great means of production and distribution—the majority will count. Mr. Adamson and individuals who resolutely object to all forms of coercion will find that economic evolution is a great coercing force. In the production of every day’s means of living, all the producers must share upon a commonly agreed plan—democratically decided—not a plan that makes our everyday wants wait upon a whole series of groups of individuals debating and arguing until the last waverer is won to the others’ point of view. These matters of social evolution and economic development are forgotten bv our correspondent, who evidently does not see that the means of production demands co-operative working.

We are offered statements such as : “the individual is a self-contained universe,” and that “no one but himself can legislate for himself.” These are completely refuted by our Anarchist himself when he claims that mankind are struggling towards a society in which the individual and the communal interests will be synonymous. If the individual is a self-contained universe, why our correspondent’s desire for a community of persons for mutual benefit? Why the need for propaganda amongst others? The insistence of self-interest as a guiding motive by our correspondent ignores the facts pointed out by the Socialist, namely, that a common interest existing among the working-class, it is to their interest to act together as a class to establish a society which promotes the self-interests of the workers : Socialism.

We have frequently, in these columns, stated the attitude of Socialism to Anarchism, and do not feel that it is worth while to go into the whole matter once more at present, especially as each Anarchist who writes has an anarchism all of his own, each one apparently being a law unto himself, if not ”a self-contained universe.”
Adolph Kohn

Answers to correspondents. (1926)

Letters to the Editors from the September 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

W. H. Kett (Kilburn).—You confuse wages with value. Your labour creates a certain amount of value, but only part of your labour is paid for and part is unpaid labour. Read Marx’s ”Wage, Labour and Capital,” also “Value, Price and Profit” ; both are cheap pamphlets which answer your questions fully.

A. W. Smith (Wood Green).—Your currency questions will be dealt with in next issue.

E. Wright (London. S.E.).—Your letter about the “Money System” will be answered in next issue.

The Struggle for World Trade. (1926)

From the August 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Those members of the ruling class who have some understanding of the real nature of modern economic and political problems and are able to take broad views outside the narrow range of the professional politician, are not very numerous and seem fated to do most of their thinking after it has ceased to matter what they think. They discover the cause of the leak after the ship has gone to Davy Jones’ locker. The “Round Table” (June, 1926, page 478) has made the discovery that the Great War was, in the words used by a famous diplomat in another connection, “worse than a crime, it was a mistake.” The capitalist governments which went to war in 1914 for the dominance of Europe did so on the assumption that Europe was still “the undisputed centre of the world’s trade, the world’s finance, and the world’s military and industrial power.” Their mistake was in having overlooked the fact that that European supremacy was already being challenged. Had they been wise and realised this in time, “The Great War would probably never have been fought … ” While the allied and the central European capitalists were at war, the spoil for which they sent their conscript workers to fight passed out of the reach of both groups. America in the meantime has become a capitalist power of almost as much importance as the whole of Europe together, and other powers have also grown to an extent which threatens the basis on which West European capitalism rests.
“Fifty years ago there was no continent which was not economically dependent on Europe. To-day not only is North America completely emancipated, but she has actually become the universal creditor of Europe. … In Asia the war has given birth to a national consciousness in Russia, India, China and Turkey, which is giving them new powers of resistance to European control. Fifty years ago her peoples were the passive purveyors and purchasers who made the Eastern market the source of so much European wealth, but now they, too, are building their own factories, in which they are manufacturing goods for their own needs instead of buying them from Europe—and they are doing it largely with the aid of European machinery and European capital.”
The “Round Table” then goes on to give figures illustrating the economic basis of the new America :—
“In 1913 the average monthly production of hard coal in the United States was 43,088,000 tons, as against continental Europe’s 23,243,000 tons. In 1925 the disproportion had increased to 44,231,000 tons, as against 22,131,000 tons. … In regard to pig-iron the difference is even more striking. In 1913 the United States produced 2,601,000 metric tons per month, as against Europe’s 2,514,000 tons, but in 1925 the American monthly output had risen to 3,082,000 tons, while Europe’s had fallen to 2,143,000 tons. In crude steel the story is the same. . . Even in the matter of shipping an alteration in the balance may be found. . . In whatever direction one looks at the statistics, they point to a similar result. Although her population is only about two-fifths of that of Europe, the United States produces more maize, oats and cattle than all the countries of Europe (excluding Russia, Great Britain and Ireland) put together, to say nothing of cotton, oil and copper”
Then there is Japan, whose capitalists also found in the war between their European commercial rivals (both allied and enemy) a heaven-sent opportunity. The “Osaka Mainichi” in an “Overseas Expansion Number” (May 30th, 1926) analyses Japanese foreign trade over a series of years, in an article headed “European War, The Turning Point of Japan’s Foreign Trade Prospects.” While European manufacturers were busy with munitions, “Japan’s export trade suddenly increased to an enormous figure.” There was, of course, a temporary slump after the war owing to Japanese over-development and to the revival of manufacture in Europe, but again Japanese trade is developing rapidly, while the capitalists of Great Britain have had to face a long-continued decline. It is interesting to notice, too, that Japan is passing through the normal stages of capitalist evolution, “in the past, coarse manufactures and raw material occupied the leading position, but now the tendency of the trade is in manufactured goods. . . Industry has developed into machine industry” Exports since 1913 have increased nearly four times in value, and the more recent rapid growth has taken place particularly in some of Britain’s best markets, India, China, and Egypt.

The “Round Table” writer, having shown the extent to which the position of the British capitalists and those of Europe generally has worsened, then goes on to discuss possible remedies. The case is not quite beyond hope; the ship may, he thinks, be raised from the bottom of the sea. Great Britain is too small to stand alone, but she may yet hold her own either by throwing in her lot with the European nations, or by reorganising the British Empire on a stronger, more exclusive basis.

We are not concerned with the question as to which of these alternatives should be chosen by the ruling class of Great Britain. It is, however, necessary that we should be aware of the economic developments going on in the capitalist world, and that we should take note of possible regroupings on the lines discussed in the Round Table, especially as the question is presented in a way which deceives many workers into confusing other peoples’ interests with their own.

Already there are numerous international trusts and cartels in existence: for dyes, for shipping, for steel rails and other steel products, and an international coal association has lately been much talked of. The Federation of German Industry has expressed its favourable attitude towards a “European Customs Union” (page 491), and the whole of this field is to be covered by the forthcoming World Economic Conference of the League of Nations. On the other side there has never been a lack of advocates of the establishment of a British Empire customs union against the rest of the world. A serious feature is that these schemes have no difficulty in attracting the support of labour leaders and so-called working-class organisations. The attitude of the British Labour Party in support of the Empire idea is, of course, well-known. Within their ranks, however, in the self-styled left wing, the I.L.P., there is already a definite tendency to maintain, in opposition to the official view, an old-fashioned liberal attitude favouring the formation of closer relations with the continental governments. This they are pleased to call being “good Europeans.” The Social Democratic Federation in Great Britain has for a year or two advocated the “United States of Europe.” In March of this year there took place in Brussels a meeting between well-known labour M.P.s of Belgium, France and Germany, which adopted the following resolution (“Round Table”) :—
“The economic interdependence and interpenetration of nations proves the necessity for commercial agreements which will familiarise the peoples with the idea of a European Customs Union as a factor in a general scheme of international economics.”
We have Mr. Pugh, of the T.U.C. General Council supporting the international steel rail cartel (Daily Herald, March 26th), and Mr. Hodges proposing a similar association for the coal trade. According to the “Christian Science Monitor” (June 12th), the Austrian Social Democrats, through their official paper, the “Arbeiter Zeitung,” are urging the workers of Austria and Germany to work for a scheme of European federation, in spite of its capitalist origin and capitalist backers.

There are two main arguments used in support of these various plans to federate Europe, or develop the British Empire, or link up all the States of North and South America under the leadership of the U.S.A. First, it is said that “prosperity” can be obtained through the increase of trade which would result, and, secondly, that this is a way to prevent war. In defining the Socialist attitude (that is, the attitude which is in accordance with the interests of the working class), we have, therefore, to consider these two points.

First, what is prosperity? The “Osaka Mainichi,” quoted above, states that “Japan’s cotton industry is prosperous.” To prove the existence of prosperity, it shows that the employers have plenty of orders, are extending their plant, and finally that their reserves set aside out of profits amount to a very large sum. The cotton workers are not even mentioned. In fact, their conditions are so bad that the Indian manufacturers, whose workers are treated abominably, maintain that conditions in Japan are worse, and that this enables the Japanese exporters to India to undercut Indian textile products. “Prosperity,” whether measured in profits, or the amount of foreign trade, or the total amount of wealth production, or the amount of property owned by some sections of the population, is no guide whatever to the condition of the workers under capitalism. “Prosperity” does not mean prosperity for them. The recent large profits made by margarine companies have been ascribed, no doubt correctly, to the general depression and the general low wages among the workers (Observer June 27th). As the worker’s standard of living falls, he is less and less able to afford butter. His poverty produces prosperity for shareholders in margarine companies. The actual growth of the powers of the human race to produce wealth is still less an indication of the factors which improve the position of the workers. At the present moment there is depression in the coal industry, not only in Great Britain, but in almost every coal-producing country in the world. That depression is admittedly due to the fact that more coal is being produced than is required, and the falling demand for coal is in turn largely due to the discovery of better and cheaper ways of providing for fuel requirements. In other words, miners are everywhere threatened with increasing unemployment and lowered wages because the world has learned how to produce the same amount of power in a new way with the expenditure of less labour. The human race has become potentially richer, but, owing to the present organisation of society, great masses of workers are becoming actually poorer because of that improvement in the means of producing wealth.

Those means of wealth production in every capitalist country (including industrial Russia) are not owned and operated by the whole of society for the needs of society. They are owned almost exclusively by a numerically small class of property owners, and their use is not governed by human need for food and other necessaries and comforts of life, but by the condition of the market. Goods are produced for sale, and if sales decline so does production, although needs may be greater than ever. The cutting down of production means greater unemployment for the workers, and an increase in their poverty; but even if for short and exceptional periods capitalism in some part of the world does manage to find employment for all its workers, they do not on that account cease to be poor. The prosperity which such a condition spells for the shareholder, for the “industry,” and for the “nation” does not extend to the workers. There still remains on the one hand a class of wealthy persons living on income derived from the ownership of some form of property, and on the other the workers without any property worth mentioning. The private property system still permits the workers to be robbed of a large share of the wealth they have produced, and compels great numbers of them to be engaged in non-productive labour, essential only to capitalism.

And the evil does not stop there. Production for sale as inevitably produces war as it does working class poverty. Each capitalist or group of capitalists, whether in one country or combining several countries, comes into unavoidable conflict with rival interests. To realise his profit each must sell his goods; but demand is never great enough to absorb the whole mass of goods offered for sale. Productivity is always growing, but the amount the workers can purchase with their wages remains more or less the same absolutely, while in proportion to the total wealth produced it becomes relatively less. At the same time the luxury demands of the rich fail to increase sufficiently quickly to dispose of this ever-growing surplus.

The result is a competition for markets and a constant effort to cheapen the costs of production and undersell competitors. This constant effort hits the workers when it takes the form of an all-round intensification of working conditions aimed at increasing the output of the worker, and in another direction it leads capitalist interests and the governments behind them to seek to monopolise supplies of raw material in different quarters of the globe. This in turn leads, through the clash of national policies, to the extension of navies and air forces in order to “protect” trade routes, monopolised markets, and sources of raw material. When the tension becomes too great, and when the bluff of diplomats and governments has reached its limits and they have no alternative but to translate their threats into action, we have war? For some 20 years before 1914 such a struggle had been going on between the British capitalists who had been dominant, and the German capitalists, who had to choose either to challenge that, dominance or consent to yield up the glittering prizes which are to be won by the victorious group of exploiters of the working class. German goods and British goods competed in every market. German aims clashed with British aims in Africa, Turkey, Persia, and China. The German Navy was built by the German exploiters to challenge the position of the British members of their class. The pre-war conflict was fought with many weapons and under many guises before it came to open warfare, but capitalist trade was at the back of it all. As Tirptiz always maintained, “it was the competition not of ships but of goods which changed the political face of Europe.” (Gooch. History of Modern Europe, page 227.)

The competition of goods may again change, is already changing the political face not only of Europe but of the world ; and again it will not fail to produce war. The formation of the United States of Europe may link together lately hostile capitalist interests, but only for purposes of commercial conflict, and with the greater certainty of an eventual appeal to arms against Pan-America, the British Empire or some other great federation of capitalist powers. Japan is already actively invading the markets of the European states, India, China, Russia, are all on the way to becoming new and aggressive participants in this mad scramble. Where will Pan-Europe sell her goods and what will she do when the world again becomes too small to hold all the first class powers? Our labour supporters of these various rival schemes are silent on these points. What will happen at the not far distant date when the U.S.A. feels the really urgent pressure to dispose of her surplus abroad? That date has been delayed by various accidental conditions, and by devices such as the present extravagant development of instalment selling, which cannot solve the ultimate problem. It is in effect nothing but the anticipation of next year’s home demand for goods. When it breaks, as Mr. Ford is already confident that it soon will, the need to find markets for greatly extended production will be only the more acute because of the postponement. According to Alvin E. Dodd, of the U.S.A. Chamber of Commerce already the “absorption of surplus production presents one of the outstanding difficulties of the American manufacturer.” Production since 1913 has, he says, grown by 30 per cent., while population has grown by only 16 per cent. The problem now arises as to how to find a “Demand for the oversupply.” (Christian Science Monitor, 18th June.)

War is not caused by the wickedness or the greed of capitalists. It is the outcome of policies they are compelled to adopt by the forces at work in the capitalist system. Federating capitalist States into even larger groups can only extend the area of war, it cannot abolish it.

The interests of the workers require that they should resolutely refuse to be drawn into any one of these schemes. It follows no less plainly that they should oppose, as does the Socialist Party, all persons and organisations which advocate the contrary anti-working class policy, even though they masquerade as “labour” parties.

These organisations are urging policies which suit the interests of some section of the capitalist class in their respective countries. The American Federation of Labour, acting behind the convenient screen of the Pan-American Federation, is helping U.S.A. capitalist trade and capitalist finance to extend their hold over Central and South America. Our own Labour Party, with its tender regard for the needs of the Empire, is the tool in effect of one British capitalist group, as the I.L.P. is of another. The communists are in matters of foreign policy the unconscious (and it must be added the very inefficient) tools of Russia. The Australian Labour Party with its passion for the exclusion of Japs and other non-white races and its general advocacy of navalism and militarism, and the Labour Party of South Africa with its futile anti-native attitude are tarred with the same capitalist brush. That these parties act in the way they do has little or no connection with the merits or demerits of their respective leaders. As these, like their members, are not socialist, but have rejected the socialist contention that the prime, almost the only present aim worth consideration by the workers, is the abolition of private property in the means of wealth production, they must cling to their present policies or give way to blank despair. As we have so often insisted there is only one way of administering capitalism—the capitalist way. This remains just as true even although the capitalists or the Labour Parties may change the form of the system and retain the exploitation which is its essence under the name of state capitalism or nationalisation. Whatever the views and wishes and beliefs of those who administer capitalism, even if as in Russia they happen to be communists, the pressure of economic forces will compel certain policies to be followed, capitalist policies which presuppose working class poverty and lead to war.

Just as Czarist Russia was in repeated conflict with Austria over the control of Balkan territory and ways of communication, and with Great Britain over the Near and Middle East, so Russia to-day is “claiming” Bessarabia from Rumania and trying, through the clash of Rumanian and Italian capitalist interests, to bring Mussolini’s government into the scale against Rumania. Mr. W. N. Ewer, Foreign Editor of the Daily Herald, summed the position up well in a lecture on “Continuity in Foreign Policy,” reported in Foreign Affairs (July 1926).. He mentions this ancient Russo-British conflict of interests and adds :—
“The struggle was inevitable. If we obeyed those laws which had moulded our policy in the past we were bound to oppose Russia, or anybody else who hindered us in our gentle work of colonial expansion and exploitation. This was the fundamental continuity in our policy, and the only way to discontinue that policy was by a complete break with our previous economic policy. In 1924 the Labour Government had been bound to take the same course as any other government, as had been evinced by our attitude then to Russia, Egypt and Irak. No blame could be attached to anyone for this, so long as we intended to go on being an economic imperialist power. Reformism in diplomacy was impossible for it simply meant the acceptance of the other side’s principles. The only way out was by the abandonment of empire and exploitation. We could not have the best of both worlds.”
We would only correct that last sentence by pointing out that Mr. Ewer, who condemns exploitation and “continuity” and at the same time supports the Labour Party, has apparently found out how to make the best of both worlds. But those who really wish to avoid those policies must join us in fighting for Socialism and against all the defenders of capitalism, including Mr. Ewer’s party.
Edgar Hardcastle

Birds of a feather. (1926)

From the August 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent Labour government took office as a gift from the Liberal Party. Their short term of “power,” with its attendant rewards, no doubt whetted the appetite of these Labour Leaders.

Philip Snowden, in an article published in Reynolds, June 6th, exhibits a hunger that is ravenous, and a contempt for the minds of his followers that is surprising,— even in a Labour Leader.
“The Coalition,” he claims, “Justified the contention of the Labour Party that in all fundamental matters of economic and social reform there was little or no difference between the Liberal Leaders and the Conservatives.”
Bear in mind for the present that Lloyd George was the leading light in the Coalition that justified the contention of the Labour Party that there was no fundamental difference between Liberal and Conservative. And of “disgusted genuine Liberals” Mr. Snowden says, “Many of these have gone over to the Labour Party, which they recognised has now become the inheritor of what was best in the Liberalism of the past.”

From the time of Bright, the bitter opponent of the “Factory Acts,” to Lord Featherstone Asquith, of conscription fame, and the Jingo Lloyd George, who led the workers, strictly in the figurative sense, through fields of waving bayonets, the history of the Liberal Party is one of direct opposition to working class interest. What was best in their bloody record Snowden does not say. However, the vile traditions of that Party does not disgrace the “inheritor.”

After pointing out, “That there is a large amount of Liberal opinion and sentiment in the country, which is disorganised,” this “Honourable Gentleman” asserts that “If any man can revive the fortunes of the Liberal Party, it is Mr. Lloyd George.”

For what purpose should Lloyd George organise the Liberals he has not already “disgusted” ?

Snowden answers :
“Mr. Lloyd George knows that neither his magnetism nor his programme can ever revive the Liberal Party to the extent of giving the Party enough Members in Parliament to form a Government. He will have to depend upon the support of another party to carry out that programme.”

“Co-operation with the Conservatives for such an object is out of the question. A Labour Government is the only possible alternative to the continuation in office of the Conservative Party. There is nothing in Mr. Lloyd George’s programme which is in opposition to the Labour programme on these subjects.”

“His only hope of achieving his land and coal and power scheme lies in helping a Labour Government to get back to office, and in co-operating with them in the House of Commons. There is no sacrifice of independence in co-operating for a common purpose.”
That there is no sacrifice of independence is agreed, the guinea pig can’t sacrifice its tail. There is also no loss of dignity in this cringing appeal to Lloyd George for support. Fortunately for Philip Snowden Labour Leaders are not troubled with such a thing as dignity. Although occasionally they attempt to stand on it, but with results equal to that obtained by the spectator who stands on a cigarette paper to improve his view.

Anxious that it should be clearly understood there is no difference between the Liberal and Labour Party Snowden again refers to Lloyd George, who, he says :—
“Will carry the vast bulk of the Liberals with him on a programme which as an immediately practical programme for the next reform Government is little different from the Labour programme.”
The first point in Snowden’s article is that there is no distinction between Liberal and Conservative. And the second point, that there is no difference in the Liberal and Labour Party. And so the question arises, what difference is there between the Labour and Conservative Party? And the answer, as Snowden shows, possibly without knowing it, is that this difference, like their independence, has no existence outside the imagination of the misguided followers of these Political Sharpers.

A comparison between statements of Lord Birkenhead and Philip Snowden will further emphasize this fact. The Daily News, June 23rd, reports the former as follows :—
”I would never give way to a claim that an industry which is not on an economic basis is entitled to a subsidy when there are many members of the community working longer hours for a less remuneration.”
And in the same issue, the Daily News reports Mr. Snowden, who speaking at a luncheon given by the American Chamber of Commerce at the Hotel Cecil, says :
“The Trade Union idea in the past and to a very great extent to-day—has been one of antagonism to the employers.”
And so this antagonism is merely an idea and not the antagonism that is responsible for the existence of Trade Unions.

Having simplified matters by converting the class struggle into an idea, Snowden proceeds to comfort his “select” audience with soothing advice.
“We have got to change that,” he says, “and we have got to get the workman to realise that they are partners in industry, and that the depression of industry hits them probably more than it hits the employers. And we have got to realise that any progressive expansion of industry will accrue proportionately to their benefit.”
What a lot of difficult things Mr. Snowden has got to do. To end the antagonism between worker and employer would bring him up against the cause of that antagonism, that is the private ownership in the means of life, and to interfere in this direction would not be going the right way to persuade the Liberals to boot him back into office. To convince the worker hit by a depression, in the form of the sack, that he is a partner in the business will be a troublesome task, and the more so when he is hungry and can’t even get a snack at the Hotel Cecil. And when the “progressive expansion of industry,” with the introduction of improved machinery, etc., puts him outside the factory and a lever in the hands of the employer to lower the wages of those inside, the benefits of this ‘expansion will want a lot of explaining.

“I would like to see, therefore,” concludes Snowden, “The Trade Union policy changed in this respect, that the Trade Unions would not be merely concerned, regardless of the conditions of industry, in getting the highest possible wage they can screw out of industry, but rather helping to make industry thoroughly efficient so that the means will be there out of which the highest wages can be paid.”

No doubt his audience echoed the desire to see such an ideal condition for employers. But apart from the empty drivel, there is the same lying implication in Snowden’s remarks as there is in that of Birkenhead’s, viz., that the workers are poor, not because they are robbed, but because they do not produce sufficient wealth.

That the workers support an idle class in luxury, and that swarms of political and industrial vermin, non-producers, grow fat from the pickings that are the price of treachery, is sufficient answer to these insects that slander the workers.

But with an understanding of their class interest, the workers will be proof against the “magnetism” of the Lloyd George type and the pleading of the Snowden breed.

Knowing that their trouble is the lack of the wealth which they alone produce, and the only remedy, that they as a class shall own the tools and material used in its production, and as a result own the product, the workers will set themselves the task to overthrow the present owners—the capitalist class—by taking from them the only power they possess to maintain their position, that is the control of the armed forces, secured by persuading the workers to elect capitalist representatives into political office.

Armed with this knowledge the toilers will pass by the Labour dope in spite of the many attractions from the great Liberal showman, whose “Magnetism” draws gold better than iron. They will ignore the Communist Clown, who claims to perform wonders with an imitation red-hot poker. By united action the workers will secure political control and use the power it gives them to alter the foundation of society from private to common ownership of the things needed in the production and distribution of wealth.
E. L.

Henry Ford or Karl Marx? (1926)

From the August 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the Sunday Observer (11.7.26) Mr. J. L. Garvin wrote an article headed “Ford or Marx.” The inspiration for the article was Norman. Angell’s book, “Must Britain Travel the Moscow Road,” which professes to be a reply to Trotsky’s book, “Where Britain is going.

Times out of number we have balanced accounts with the Russians, and incurred much odium by pointing out that Bolshevism was not Socialism, and that Bolshevik policy was entirely opposed to the principle set forth by Marx. But it pleases the opponents of the workers to confuse the two positions in order the better to resist the spread of Socialism.

For this purpose any stick is good enough. Mr. Garvin brings forward the once execrable, but now quite respectable, Bernard Shaw, and even the ghost of the honest and delightful old dreamer William Morris.

A single article is not sufficient to deal fully with the collection of false suggestions put forward by Mr. Garvin, so I will confine myself to a brief examination of one or two of his leading points.

The first point to clear up is the confusion between Bolshevik policy and the principles laid down by Marx.

Briefly the Bolshevik policy was as follows :—

The conversion of Russian industry from a culture that was overwhelmingly a backward peasant culture into a communistic culture at one bound, without the intervention of capitalist methods of organisation. The capture of power was to be accomplished by a small minority who were to lead the backward masses. Parliament was taboo and armed street risings the method of procedure. The providing of suitable “slogans” with which to play upon the emotions of the ignorant majority was an important part of the policy. The final futility of the Bolshevik programme has been amply proved by subsequent Russian history. The peasants were too backward to grasp the meaning of communism, and to get out of their own insular way of looking at things. A small group of quarrelling partners rule Russia at present, but are compelled to rule in accordance with the needs and wishes of the vast mass of the population—the backward peasants. It is the peasant that, in the main, determines Bolshevik policy to-day, and will do so for a long time to come.

What was Marx’s views on the above methods? In the preface to Capital he states in unequivocal language :
“One nation can and should learn from others. And even when a society has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement. … it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments, the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development. But it can shorten and lessen the birth-pangs.” (“Capital,” Vol. 4, p. xix.)
Marx’s collaborator, and “other self,” Engels, stated, in the last thing he wrote, the introduction to “The Class Struggles in France,” that:—
“The time is past for resolutions carried through by small minorities at the head of unconscious masses. When it gets to be a matter of the complete transformation of the social organisation, the masses themselves must participate, must understand what is at stake, and why they are to act. That much the history of the last fifty years has taught us. But so that the masses may understand what is to be done, long and persistent work is required, and it is this work that we are now performing with results that drive our enemies to despair.”
The Bolsheviks took the leap, and have landed in a quagmire.

The above quotations on Marx’s point of view are sufficient to dissociate it from Bolshevism.

The next point we come to is Mr. Garvin’s statement that:—
“Mr. Shaw could do more than any man in Europe to destroy the antiquated Marxist superstition which hinders or paralyses the progress of labour on this side of the Atlantic.”
Mr. Garvin gives us no information about this “superstition,” nor does he point out how it hinders. This is a convenient method of arguing, as it knocks the object down without the trouble of hitting it.

Farther on he says :—
”Marx egregiously over-estimated the importance of manual labour by itself. The single person with the original idea is more important economically than the thousands of workers whose employment never would have existed if he had not created it. When Henry Ford in 1914 had the idea of a minimum wage of a pound a day for his workers with profit-sharing on a large scale—terms improved since then—he knocked the bottom out of abstract Marxism deduced front studies in the British Museum.”
The opening sentence is false; the second is a joke. Marx examined the way in which the wealth of capitalism (commodities) was produced and analysed the part played by capitalist and worker. Up to the present no one has been able to show any essential fault in this analysis, although hundreds of professors of political economy have attempted the task. In the course of his analysis Marx showed the respective places of the so-called “manual” and “mental” workers and demonstrated that each was a member of the working class, and had identical interests as opposed to the interests of capital. It has been a common charge against Marx that he ignored the so-called “intellectual” worker. The charge has been levelled by the professional intellectuals, who feel their importance acutely, and would like to think that they are in a class apart, and distinct, from the “common working man” and the wealthy idler. Many years ago Paul Lafargue, in his brilliant essay entitled “The Intellectuals,” reduced their dignity to the level of carrots and potatoes.

Mr. Garvin, however, makes a variation, and puts Henry Ford among the band of economic giants. The argument is a joke.

Taking it at its face value Henry Ford introduced more economical methods of production. The result of improvement in methods is the production of a given quantity of goods with the employment of less workers, and the more rapid satisfaction of the demand for goods. Carried out on a sufficiently extensive scale this means that relatively fewer and fewer workers are required to meet the international demand for goods, an increase in the number of workers seeking jobs ‘that have ceased to exist. The final El Dorado is a small number of workers enjoying high wages and producing all the world requires to meet its needs, and a vast number of workers without employment or the means to purchase goods so lavishly produced ! Not long ago Mr. Ford himself experienced the effect of his methods. So rapidly had motor cars been produced by his system that the market was glutted and he had to close down his works ! A curious way of providing employment !

Another aspect of the question is given by the following quotation from the American Appeal, June 5th, 1926 :—
“Labour’s share of the automobile dollar is shrinking under large-scale mass production, as revealed in the United States census of manufactures for 1925. These figures show that last year only 32.4 per cent. of the value created in the industry went to wages, compared with 40 per cent. in 1923 and 38.6 per cent. in 1919. In 1899, the first year in which automobile production appears in the census, the workers received 44.8 per cent. of the value they created.

“In 1925, according to the figures, automobile manufacturers received $3,371,855,805 for their output, an increase of $208,257,931 over 1923. Deducting the cost of materials leaves the actual value created by manufacture at $1,168,868,466, an increase of $153,003,944 over 1923. In 1925, however, those who actually produced the motor vehicles received only $379,284,935, a decrease of $27,445,343 from 1923. While employer receipts increased 15 per cent. in 2 years, labour’s receipts for operating the industry decreased nearly 7 per cent.” (“American Appeal,” 5/6/1926.)
The above figures show clearly the object and result of the Ford method—more profit for the employers and less return to the workers for the energy they use up.

Mr. Garvin concludes his article with the statement that:—
“Karl Marx, the mid-Victorian Calvin of economics, is as dead as a dodo. That practical, original, Henry Ford—as the epoch-making symbol of high wages and profit-sharing—is the real spirit of the morning.”
In the land in which Henry Ford is a financial king the Federal Trade Commission reports that:—
“One per cent. of the population of the United States owns 59 per cent. of the wealth.

“Thirteen per cent. of the population own 90 per cent. of the wealth.

“Eighty-seven per cent. of the population own 10 per cent. of the wealth.” (“Labour,” June 5th, 1926.)
So much for the land of high wages and profit sharing !

Finally the following quotation may help to dispel any delusion as to who benefits by the prosperity of Ford industries :—
“Last year’s profits of the Ford Motor Company, which started business in 1903 with a capital of $28,000, amounted to $145,000,000, approximately $23,000,000, according to reports filed by the company yesterday.

“Only three persons, Mr. Ford, his wife, and his son, own the stock of the company. On the basis of the published figures it is estimated that every vehicle manufactured by the Ford works brings in a profit of 44.90 dollars (£9), to the shareholders.” (“Daily News,” 9th May, 1926.)
If Marx is “antiquated,” and “is dead as the dodo,” why all the excitement? We have been reading for years that he was “dead,” but he seems to be a pretty lively corpse, and a pretty awkward one.

The facts are he ruthlessly exposed the groundwork of capitalism, and correctly foreshadowed the general methods of its future development. The main propositions he laid down are as true, but more obvious, to-day, as when he wrote. The worker is poor because he is robbed of the product of his mental and manual labours. He is kept in a subject condition by a class that lives like a leech on his back. The means of subjection are the public coercive powers that are centred in Parliament. By preaching “brotherly love” between capitalist and workman the emissaries of the masters seek to disarm the worker’s growing suspicions and induce him to send to Parliament representatives whose object is either to conserve the power of capital or to mislead and make futile any real attempts of the workers to remove wage-slavery.

When Mr. Garvin and Mr. Ford are as dead as a dodo the people of future generations will be celebrating the memory of one of the greatest thinkers of all times— Karl Marx.