Thursday, March 17, 2022

Socialism v. The Labour Party. (1926)

Editorial from the November 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard
It is equally inexplicable that Mr. Keynes should suppose that the British Labour Party …. includes (or has in its quarter of a century of existence, ever included) anything, either in politics or in economics, that can honestly be called Marxian Socialism. (Sidney Webb, “Economic Journal,” September, 1926.)

If a Parliamentary Labour Party is not to be trusted to handle Parliament and to advance Socialism, for goodness’ sake do not elect it to begin with. (J. R. MacDonald, “Daily Herald,” October 9.)
The second of the two quotations at the head of this column was addressed by Mr. MacDonald to certain sections of the Labour Party which sought to induce the Party Conference to pass resolutions which would have had the effect of tying the hands of the party’s parliamentary leaders. Mr. MacDonald candidly denounced some of these resolutions as “political jerry-building of a high order” (for instance, the minimum wage and family allowance proposals of the I.L.P.), but whereas we accept the logic of Mr. MacDonald’s challenge, his various critics inside the Labour Party fear to do so. We frankly do not believe that the Labour Party can be trusted to advance Socialism, and honesty to ourselves and to the view we hold, compels us to oppose the policy of helping to “elect it to begin with.”

This is not because of personal antipathy towards Mr. MacDonald or a belief that he and his colleagues are less trustworthy than other people. For certain purposes the Labour Party may be an efficient instrument, but such a party with such a programme does not and cannot advance Socialism. In order that our position may be made plain, let us apply a test which was applied by Mr. H. N. Brailsford (originator of the proposals described by Mr. MacDonald as jerry-building) in the “New Leader,” of which he has just ceased to be the Editor. That test is the recognition of the class struggle. Is the Labour Party based on a recognition of the existence of such a struggle in the capitalist system? Mr. Brailsford says that it is, and consequently that it is a Socialist Party. (“New Leader,” October 15th.)

The class struggle is defined by Mr. Brailsford in these words :—
“The broad distinction is between those who live upon rent, profit or interest, and those who live by rendering service useful to the community.”
The aim of the Socialist is to replace a society divided into property-owners and non-property-owners, by a system of society in which the only claim to the enjoyment of wealth produced, will be the rendering of service by all who are fit to do so. This involves the suppression of all incomes derived from the ownership of property; but does the Labour Party propose that suppression? If not, then Mr. Brailsford is wrong. If not, the Labour Party is not a Socialist Party, and cannot be trusted to advance Socialism.

At its annual conference, the Labour Party made many decisions which plainly disgusted its so-called left wing (or wings). It is, however, not necessary to criticise these decisions separately. They all arise because of the deliberate omission from the Labour Party’s programme of a recognition of the class struggle. The capitalist class does, at present, own and control the means of producing wealth, and will not, without compulsion, yield its legal right to live by the ownership of property. Rather than face this fact, rather than admit that the class struggle exists and can be abolished from society only by the victory of the working-class majority, the Labour Party proclaims its belief in the possibility of achieving Socialism without destroying the property rights of the capitalist class. It believes that it has found a solution to the ancient problem of making omelettes without breaking eggs. It will have “Socialism” without “confiscation.”

Mr. MacDonald, discussing the question of land-ownership (reported in “Daily Herald,” October 14th) defined his position thus :—
“If he could not get a thing done without compensation, and could get it done with compensation … he would do it. No moral issue was involved; it was simply a business proposition.”
This was greeted with applause, and no one troubled to ask whether the “thing done” would be Socialism. All of the Labour Party’s nationalisation proposals involve the payment of compensation in the shape of interest-bearing bonds to the former owners. Now, apart from the futility of trying to introduce Socialism piecemeal, industry by industry, what will be the position when the Labour Party has finished nationalising all the essential services? The capitalist class will still be property-owners —their property being Government Bonds instead of company shares, etc. They will still live by owning, and without rendering service. To return to Mr. Brailsford’s words, instead of extinguishing “Rent, profit and interest,” the Labour Party will at immense trouble have completed the great transformation of turning “Rent and profit” into “Interest.”

The working-class will still be engaged in producing wealth for the benefit of the capitalist class. Socialism will not be in existence, and no important working-class problem will have been solved.

The alternative advocated by us, is to propagate Socialism and organise the working-class in a Socialist Party on a clear-cut Socialist programme. This does not mean, as Mr. Bowen suggested, “Bloody revolution.” (“Herald,” October 14th). The working-class are the great majority. When they become Socialist they will endeavour to obtain possession of the machinery of Government in the usual “constitutional” way. The Socialist Party not having been guilty, as was the Labour Party, of helping to carry on the recent “bloody war,” is less likely than that Party to adopt irresponsible courses leading to bloodshed and disorder.

Materialism and Art. by George Plechanoff (Part 2) (1926)

From the November 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Concluded from last month.)

Another example. Some writers have expressed the thought that in the appearance of man that seems ugly which reminds him of the features of lower animals. This is right in applying it to civilised people, though even here are many exceptions : a lion’s head to none of us seems ugly. Nevertheless, despite such exceptions, we can assert that civilised man, conscious that he is an incomparably higher being in comparison with the creatures of the forest, is afraid to resemble them and even tries to exaggerate his unlikeness. [14] But in applying this to primitive man we find a large and sweeping contrast. It is known that primitive men often pull out their own incisor teeth, in order to resemble ruminant animals; others file them sharply in order to resemble ferocious animals; some plait their hair so that it resembles the appearance of a horn. Often this tendency to imitate animals is connected with some religious faith of primitive man. But this does not in the least change the matter. Had primitive man looked upon the lower animals as we do, then there would have been no place for animals in religious performances. [15] Primitive man, then, looks upon them differently. Why? Because he stands on a different step of culture. That means if in one case a man tries to resemble animals and in another he is trying not to, then the different attitudes depend upon the conditions of his culture, i.e., again upon the social conditions above mentioned. Besides, we can express ourselves much more clearly if we say it depends upon the degree of development of his productive forces, upon his means of production. And so as not to be blamed for exaggeration and unilaterality of vision, we shall cite some quotations from the learned German traveller, Von-den-Steinen :
We will only then understand those people—says he about the Brazilian Indians—when we begin to view them as the products of a hunting state of existence. The most important parts of their existence are bound up with the life of animals, and from this experience their outlook and, correspondingly, their artistic motives have been formed. It is possible to say that their wonderfully rich art has originated entirely in their hunting life.
Chernyshevski wrote in his dissertation, “The Aesthetic Relations of Art to Reality” :
In plants we like the freshness of colour and the splendour and richness of form, which reveal a life full of energy and strength. The withering plant is not good, nor is a plant with little life juice good.
Chernyshevski’s dissertation is extremely interesting and singular in setting oppositions to questions of aesthetics according to the general principles of Feuerbach’s materialism. But history has always been a weak place for this kind of materialism, as is well seen from the above-quoted lines. “We like plants.” But who are the “we”? The tastes of people are extremely changeable, as Chernyshevski many times indicated in his book. It is known that primitive tribes—such as Bushmen and Australians—never ornament themselves with flowers, though they live in a country redolent with their presence. It is said that Tasmen were an exception, but it is impossible to verify the truth of this : the Tasmen have all died. At any rate it is quite well known that in the ornaments of primitive hunting people who had taken their motives from animals, plants are entirely absent. Contemporary science can explain this in no other way than upon the plane of productive forces. “Motives of ornaments, taken by hunting tribes from nature, consist exclusively of animal and human form,” says Ernest Grosse. They choose only phenomena which have for them a practical interest. The picking of plants, which, of course, to the primitive hunter is an occupation of a lower kind, is relegated to the woman and he himself takes no interest in it whatsoever. This explains why in the art of ornamentation no sign of vegetative motive is richly developed among any civilised people. In reality the passing over from animal ornaments to vegetative presents a symbol of great progress in the history of culture : “the transition from the hunting state to the agricultural.” [16]

Primitive art so clearly reflects in itself the conditions of productive forces, that now in doubtful moments the state of those forces is judged by art. Thus the Bushmen very willingly and with comparative ease draw people and animals. In the places inhabited by them some grottoes represent very picturesque galleries. But they never draw plants. In only one known exception of the rule : in representing a hiding huntsman in a bush, the crude drawing of the bush shows how unusual this subject was for the primitive painter. On this ground some ethnologists conclude that even if the Bushmen ever had a culture of a higher standard than now, which talking an general is impossible, then they most certainly have never known agriculture.

If all this is correct, then we can formulate the conclusion made by us above from the words of Darwin : the psychological nature of the primitive huntsman creates his aesthetic tastes and conceptions, and the state of productive forces, his hunting state, determines that only these and no other tastes and conceptions are formed. This conclusion, throwing a bright light upon the art of hunting tribes, is also another argument for the validity of the materialist conception of history.

Among civilised people the technique of production more rarely shows direct influence upon art. This fact, to the superficial observer a contradiction to the materialist conception of history, in reality, when considered in the profound manner of a sociologist, gives it brilliant support.

14  Lotze. Geschichte der .Aesthctiken, Munchen, 1868. IS. 568.)
15 Compare J. G. Frazer. “Totemism,” 1898, {P. 39), and Schweinfurth, ” In the Heart of Africa.” (P. 381.)
16 The Beginning of Art. (P. 149.)

Translated for “Modern Quarterly” by Bessie Peretz.

The “Daily Herald”—and Truth. (1926)

From the November 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

The “Daily Herald” of August 30th last contained an editorial in reply to a letter from a railwayman, which is published on the same date under the heading, “Tell us the Truth.” Here is the letter, with certain irrelevancies deleted :—
“. . . I know that the miners’ cause is a just one and wants fighting for, but for goodness’ sake, why are we kept in the dark about the calling off of the General Strike? We railwaymen are looked down upon as Scabs by a large majority of miners. I was at a large meeting at Dewsbury last Sunday, and the speakers were frequently interrupted by the miners calling Mr. Thomas and Mr. Bromley _____, and blaming them for the extension of the present lock-out. Now, in my opinion, the leaders are keeping something back from the workers, and the “Daily Herald” being the workers’ paper, why cannot you let us know what is behind it all? …. The railwaymen are blamed for handling coal. Now how can we help it? … Cannot we be informed as to the whole of the facts concerning the calling off of the General Strike, and the true reason for calling it off ?”
Now let us appraise the “points” contained in the railwayman’s letter ; they may be summarised as follows :—

(1) He feels acutely the invidious position into which he and his fellow workers have been forced by the abrupt termination of the strike ; (2) He considers the reasons already advanced for calling off the strike to be spurious ones; (3) He suspects that the leaders in whom he has reposed his trust are “keeping something back” ; and (4) he appeals to the “workers’ paper “to inform himself and his fellow-workers of ” the whole of the facts concerning the calling-off of the “General” strike, and the true reason for calling it off.”

Doubtless to the surprise of the railwayman, and in the face of all precedent, the “Herald” actually deigns to “deal with” the letter in a leading article, which is headed “Nothing but the Truth.” Letters of criticism from the Socialist Party or Manifestoes from the Miners’ Federation will, of course, continue to receive the attention of the waste-paper basket, but as we can very well believe, the letter in question is “typical of many that have reached us,” and hence the leading article.

“Nothing but the Truth.” Here then, we shall find the long-looked-for facts, honestly stated, free from omissions and interpolations! Now we shall learn why thousands of workers of all callings were abandoned by their “leaders,” and the compensating advantages to the workers in leaving the million miners to struggle and starve alone! We shall find no attempts to divert attention from the sole point at issue! No mis-statements; no evasions; no adroit twisting and equivocation ! Clear, blunt, and candid exposition of the facts ! Here, at last, we will find the truth and nothing but the truth, shall we not? WE SHALL NOT !

In the opening paragraph of the article, the “Herald” indicates its dislike for methods of abuse:—
At the Minority Movement Conference on Saturday, a great deal was said about the calling off of the General Strike, and the “traitorous” conduct of Trade Union leaders. This is the stock-in-trade of Communists. As we know from published documents, abuse and detraction of those who hold official positions in the Labour Movement have been commanded from Moscow as a means of breaking that movement up. 
Here we find once again the “Communists” (so soon, too, after the advocacy by the “Herald” of the “United Front” !) playing the part of a bogey, a part which has been assigned in succession “to Chartists, Atheists, Radicals, Fenians, and Anarchists.” The word Moscow, it would appear, has now become the “stock-in-trade” of political charlatans, and to possess a potency only equalled by the “mystic” word “Abracadabra,” which was so essential to the mediaeval “sorcerers” who preyed upon the credulous aristocracy. The paragraph is obviously intended to divert attention from the weakness of the case put forward.

If the object of the passage quoted is not to distract attention from a weak case, the only other inference we are able to draw is that a “Communist” must never be believed because he is a “Communist,” and not because he can be proved to be in the wrong.

The article continues :—
Unfortunately, such tactics, transparent and discreditable as they are, have an effect upon simple minds. Anything that is constantly repeated gets a lodging in numberless minds. . . . Our comrade wants to know what is the dark and gruesome mystery surrounding the General Council’s action. Why don’t the “Daily Herald,” he asks pathetically, tell its readers the truth? 
In the excerpt below, which follows immediately after the last paragraph quoted, the “Herald” comes tardily to the point at issue :—
The ”Daily Herald’ has done that all through. The truth is simple. No mystery ! Nothing gruesome or sinister ! The General Council ended the Strike because they believed that the Samuel Memorandum offered the best chance of settling the coal dispute which the miners were likely to get; and events are now proving that the Council were right.” (Their italics.)
What these “events” are the “Herald” does not enlighten us, and our imagination is unequal to the task of conjuring up what is meant. Perhaps the passing of the Eight Hours Act or the repudiation of the Samuel Memorandum by the Government are the “events” alluded to? Or is the Government’s backing of the coalowners in their desire for district settlements the culminating proof of the tightness of the action taken by the General Council ? We would like so much to be informed of these “events” which prove that the miners are in a better position through the withdrawal of the backing of the other unions. But perhaps the transcendental sagacity of the General Council is beyond the ken of ordinary minds! We note that the General Council ended the strike because they “believed” the Samuel Memorandum “offered,” etc. Blessed are they that believe! Verily the General Council must have mistaken this Samuel for his biblical namesake, whom we are told was “called of God,” for he appears to have been a god-send to the Council in their anxiety to find a pretext for ending the strike. Indeed, despite the fact that neither the Government nor the coalowners had accepted the Samuel Memorandum (and both have since repudiated it) and also in spite of Samuel’s own declaration that he was acting entirely on his own initiative and without authority from the Government, the “Herald” would have its readers to infer (if we take the statements in this article in conjunction with others previously made by the General Council) that the General Council “believed” that the Samuel Memorandum “offered” the best chance to honour their repeated promises,
to stand firmly and unitedly against any attempt to degrade further the standards of life in the coalfields.” (General Council Industrial Committee, Feb. 26.)
On April 14th, the T.U.C. Negotiating Committee re-affirmed their declaration of February 26th :—
This Committee reiterates its previous declaration to render the miners the fullest support in resisting the degradation of the standard of life, and to obtain an equitable settlement of the case with regard to wages, hours, and national agreements.
And again on May 1st, the “Daily Herald” informs us :—
A firm declaration was presented to the Premier by a joint Sub-Committee reiterating the original declaration that there must be no reduction of wages, no lengthening of hours, and insisting on a National Agreement with a national minimum percentage.
Further, in the “British Worker” of May 11th, Mr. A. Pugh declares that :—
From the moment the mineowners issued lockout notices to their workpeople the question at issue, so far as the General Council was concerned, was the withdrawal of those notices as a condition preliminary to the conduct of negotiations. From that we have never receded.
Such firmness and unity. Such eagerness to “believe” in the good faith of capitalist emissaries—such reluctance to vindicate their own ! The “Herald” says “the truth is simple,” but from our experience of its component parts we are unable to classify the General Council with the truth in relation to simplicity.

In the portion of the article which follows, the “Herald” endorses the validity of its claim to be the Paper with the Punch (especially for the workers !) :—
If the miners’ representatives had agreed to accept that Memorandum as a basis for negotiations, work could have been resumed three-and-a-half months ago, and no mineworker would have got less than 50s. a week. The only men who would have had to sacrifice anything would have been those who were most highly paid. This, as Mr. Bromley explained to the locomotive men, seemed a reasonable settlement.
O Truth, how many falsehoods are broadcast in thy name! In our September issue, we published particulars from pay-tickets, promiscuously selected, of a South Wales coal-hewer, and the amounts received weekly demonstrate clearly that even before the lock-out the highest paid grade of miner was not guaranteed a wage even approximating to 50s. a week. Mr. A. J. Cook, the Miners’ Secretary, in the course of a cutting reply to the same leading article we are analysing, also riddles the 50s. myth :—
All we were ever offered was that wages should not be reduced to less than 7s. 6d. a day, and all wages below that were still to remain the same. No weekly guarantee has ever been given at all. (“Daily Herald,” August 31.)
For reasons easily comprehended, the “Herald” has kept a wise silence with regard to criticism of its erroneous statement. In the passage “work could have been resumed three-and-a-half months ago,” the “Herald” unwittingly discloses that the anxiety of the General Council was not so much to secure the withdrawal of the lock-out notices (one of the declared objects of the strike) as to induce or coerce the miners to accept a compromise which would further reduce their appalling standard of existence. Additional confirmation of the “firmness,” and “determination” of the General Council to fulfil their pledges to the miners may be noted in the remarks of their Parliamentary spokesman and Privy Councillor Mr. J. H. Thomas, who appealed to capitalist M.P.’s “to avert what I believe to be the greatest calamity for this country.” (Hansard, May 3rd.) If an early resumption of work by the miners was the sole desire of the General Council, we are at a loss to understand how the continuance of support from the unions involved in the strike could have prolonged the miners’ struggle more than it has been by leaving them in isolation. But the “Herald” has a logic of its own ! We might also inform the “Herald” that the miners could have resumed work more than three-and-a-half months ago, nay, they need not have been locked out at all, had they agreed to any terms of employment that might be offered by the mine-owners ! After all, it is not the miners who determine when and how they shall work, and the “Herald” seems to overlook the fact that such trivial matters are the prerogative of the employing class, who will only relinquish those rights when they are wrested from them by a class-conscious working-class, politically organised to achieve emancipation.

The final quotation from the article follows on directly from the previous extract.
When it (the “offer”) was finally rejected by the Miners’ representatives, the General Council felt that it would be “futile” to ask the Unions to continue their sacrifice for another day. . . . That is the reason why the Strike was called off. There is no other. The truth is plain to everyone who looks for it. We have restated it here in response to our railway comrade’s appeal, and because it is necessary to point out once more that the Minority Movement’s attack is not honest criticism offered in the interest of the Labour Movement, but deliberate venom intended to help on the destruction of that Movement, and the substitution of Communism for it.
So we see now that when the offer that was not made was rejected by the miners, the General Council felt (not thought) that it would be futile to ask the unions to continue their “sacrifice” for another day. They therefore most benevolently decided upon the sacrifice of thousands of members of the constituent unions, and complacently provided the conditions for a future massacre of the remainder when the deserted miners are finally pulverised. The further reference to the Minority Movement does not assist the case advanced by the “Herald.” As we have persistently stated it is not possible for the Minority Movement or any other freakish body to introduce Communism merely by changing the leadership of the General Council.

We have dealt with this leading article of the “Daily Herald” at some length only as a specimen of the fustian that is passed off by that journal as being : “From the workers’ point of view.” As a medium for disseminating news, the “Herald” is behind its Capitalist competitors; as an exponent of Socialist ideas, it is worthless and of more value to the Capitalists in bemusing and mis-teaching the workers than many other journals which do not claim to speak wholly on behalf of the working-class. Until a larger number of the workers understand and desire Socialism, a daily paper devoted to the propaganda of Socialist principles remains a project for the future. In the meantime, the Socialist Standard will continue to advance the object of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, which seeks to organise all workers who desire to replace the present system of capitalism by a system based upon the possession and administration by the whole community of the means necessary to produce and apportion wealth to the full needs of all.
W. J.

Two questions about value. (1926)

From the November 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have been asked to answer two questions relating to value.

The first question is : “Has land a value?”

The problem is easily solved when once the nature of value is grasped. Broadly speaking, value is embodied human labour-power under particular conditions; that is, human labour-power, or human energy, expended in the production of useful articles for sale. Whether such labour-power is expended at the beginning of the process of production, or at the end, makes no difference to the point in question. That which has not had any human labour-power expended upon it, cannot, under any conditions, have value.

Land, in the sense of virgin soil, natural meadows, ore-bearing soil, or the like, has no value whatever. Land that has been prepared for a productive process, that is, land that has been ploughed, manured, or otherwise worked upon for a productive purpose has, under the given conditions, a value, and this value is preserved in the product wheat, oats, corn, or whatever else the product may be.

The second question is : “Do wage-workers in the distributive processes produce value?”

Here, again, the question admits of an affirmative and a negative answer, according to what is meant by the “distributive processes.”

If by the “distributive processes” the questioner means the transport of an article from its source of production to a spot where consumption requires it, the wage-workers in the transportation industries add value in such distribution. If, however, “distributive processes” means merely the transport of articles to a place where it will be more profitable to the capitalist to dispose of them, then value may not be added by the wage-workers in question.

Perhaps a little enlargement upon the question may make the matter clearer.

An article has no usefulness except in its consumption, and in order that it may be consumed, it may have to be transported. For instance, wheat gathered and sacked in the centre of America has no usefulness to hungry people in London until it has been transported there. Assuming there is no other wheat available nearer than the centre of America, then the labour expended in transporting it to London adds value to the wheat. In other words, necessary labour adds value to products, whether in the actual productive process or in transportation.

It is easy to see that the wheat must be collected and transported to the particular spot in which it is housed, an extension of this process is the transportation to the consumer—providing, of course, the above conditions as to its social necessity are observed. In these circumstances the transportation is an extension of the productive process.
Gilmac.

Answers to correspondents. (1926)

From the November 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

W. Gregor (S. Wales) :—
Herbert Spencer’s declaration that Socialism was inevitable, was made in a letter to M. G. Devenay, of Paris, a few weeks before Spencer’s death. We will try and give you chapter and verse for this later.

J. Cameron (Glasgow) :—
Your question : Are Socialists Atheists ? is fully answered in our pamphlet “Socialism and Religion,” price 2d.

So this is Socialism ! (1926)

From the November 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

No ! gentle reader ! This is not the latest revue or cinema film; but merely the exclamation wrung from the writer by the perusal of a six-page leaflet by C. Roden Buxton (published by the I.L.P.) which professes to answer the question, “What is Socialism?”

Even in the space of six pages, one would anticipate a clear and definite answer to this question; but any reader of this pamphlet could be pardoned for rising with a sense of confusion on the points at issue.

After referring to various evils (chief of which he appears to regard as the power of trusts to keep up prices) the author says, “Why do these evils exist?” and answers “Because the means of production are owned and controlled by a few people—a minority of the nation.” He then explains that the majority are at the mercy of this minority and forfeit the greater portion of the fruits of their labour to them as a consequence. “With modern machinery and organisation, labour can produce far more than it receives for its own maintenance.” So far so good ! Apart from a slight looseness in the use of the term “labour,” nothing could be clearer. But then we are told what “Socialism” is !
“Ownership and control ought to be in the hands of all. It could be exercised in different ways, sometimes by the Central Government, sometimes by the town or other councils, sometimes by some independent body acting on behalf of the public. The workers would always have a voice in running their industry ….The consumers would also be represented on the controlling bodies.”
So that the intelligent reader, endeavouring to get a clear idea of Socialism, gathers the impression that, although all will own and control, they will still be divided into workers (i.e., producers) and consumers!

Just how the consumer will escape the necessity of working we are not told directly though, by reading on between the lines, we may gain an inkling.

“Everybody,” we are next informed, “thinks that some things should be owned and controlled by the public. Socialists think that a great many more things should be so taken over—that is all ! ”

So that the only difference between the I.L.P. and its opponents is evidently one of degree, not of principle. There is, in other words, no fundamental issue at stake between them.

“Are certain industries ripe for transfer to the ‘public’ or are they not?” That is all it amounts to !

Who or what is this mysterious public which cannot be identified either with the workers or the present owners of the means of production? We are not told; yet again reading between the lines, we may hazard a guess, with a fair chance of accuracy. But perpend !

“Does this mean the abolition of private property?” No ! answers the author. “Furniture, clothes, books, etc., will still remain in private hands.”

How the workers will breathe again with relief to think that they will not have the bailiffs coming in to distrain for the rent; that no policeman is likely to apprehend them for public indecency owing to lack of wearing apparel, and that they will be saved the journey to the public library when they want the latest by Ethel Dell.
“So far from abolishing private property, Socialism will make private property possible for the first time for the great mass of the people.”
Truly, the author is smart ! As though anyone would care how much anyone else had so long as he or she could enjoy all they required. What is the exact sense of the application of the term “private” to articles the use of which is not likely to be challenged? Obviously, none !

The term private property can obviously only apply to a state of things where some own and others do not! But this is typical I.L.P, mutton-headedness.

“Moreover,” we are told, “small owners must and will be given compensation. Since n sudden or violent change in our social order is not contemplated, the general principle of compensation is recognised by the leaders of Labour. A fair equivalent will be given to those whose property is taken over.”

Here we have the gist of the matter. Now we understand the future distinction between producers and consumers. We now know who the public are !

It is clear that the workers possess no means wherewith to compensate anyone. Only the capitalists themselves have the power to give each other fair equivalents for property taken over. “Socialism,” therefore, according to the author and the I.L.P., of which he is the spokesman, is nothing more than a book-keeping transaction, like the Capital Levy !

Receiving interest on Government bonds instead of on company shares, the capitalist “public” will be able to go on consuming in comfort the wealth so obligingly produced by those lower orders, the workers.

There will be no sudden or violent change ; oh ! dear no ! What is more, the interests of that important and respectable body of citizens, the backbone of the nation (I mean, of course, the small owners) will be adequately safeguarded.

That, we are told, is “necessary in order to satisfy the sense of justice of the average man.” Left to the normal course of capitalist evolution, the small owner is doomed to extinction.

The “Socialism” of the I.L.P. has been specially designed to preserve his existence. No wonder the I.L.P. is religious. “Rescue the perishing !” is a fitting war-cry for such an organisation.

After this, the reader will not be surprised to learn that British “Socialism,” which, above all, is not revolutionary, has obtained strong support from leading Christian Ministers. The abolition of competition among the capitalist class—in other words, capitalist solidarity—what could be more touching, more consistent with the mawkish sentiment which characterises the Liberal, Evangelical, “middle-class” followers of the Nazarene.

Significantly enough, the author concludes with a word to “our Liberal friends.”

“Here,” he says, “is a quotation which, in my opinion, deserves their most careful consideration. ‘Last century it was the Liberals who advocated the adoption by the community of very important services which did not fare well in private hands — postal service, educational service, water service, road-way service, and the like. The new ‘Socialists’ wish to make further application of the principle’.” (Mr. W. S. Anderton, a Liberal, writing in the “Manchester Guardian.”)

Need we say more to justify our attitude of opposition to the I.L.P? Can it fairly and reasonably be described as anything else but a gang of political job-hunters out to catch votes by truckling to traditional prejudice, outworn superstitions, and, above all, petty capitalist interests?

Fellow-workers, we charge you twice as much as the I.L.P. for our answer to the question dealt with ; but we give you forty-eight pages of information concerning the position of your class. We are not concerned with the economic salvation of the shopkeeper and other minor parasites. It is the emancipation of the body of the host, i.e., the working-class, which solicits our attention. We invite you also to give it yours’.
Eric Boden

Secret diplomacy. (1926)

From the November 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Much has been written since the war of the iniquity of “secret diplomacy.” The Labour Party says that the abolition of secrecy and the introduction of some publicity into the international relations of capitalist states would prevent war. This is an absurd belief. Capitalism is itself the cause of war, and the capitalist class, placed in power by non-Socialist workers, will go to war when necessity demands, without worrying overmuch whether their previous intentions and actions are secret or are known to everyone. Unfortunately, the workers who are politically so imbued with capitalist ideas that they place the capitalist class in power, are also unable to see the fallacy of the argument that war must, on occasion be supported by them in order to defend “their” country. The workers know and accept war and preparations for war. The Labour Party in war-time and peace time, in office and out, votes regularly each year for the maintenance of the armed forces of the capitalist state, and openly speaks of the need for defending the “country’s interests” which are the cause of and the excuse for war. There is, therefore, no reason for believing that the Labour Party intends to depart from ordinary capitalist practice. In any future war, as in the last, the Labour Party will not betray the interests of the British capitalist class.

We find, moreover, that the Labour Party’s belief in the merits of publicity is as shadowy as its opposition to war. Neither the leaders nor the rank-and-file really believe that the workers are capable of managing their own affairs. They still are as firmly convinced as the older parties of the need for “experts” to settle so-called delicate questions behind closed doors. It is, therefore, not exceptional or surprising that this attitude should be carried over into the realm of diplomacy.

The Trades Union Congress and the Labour Party have a “Joint International Department. ” A “Sub-Committee on Foreign Services,” presented in February, 1925, a “Private and Confidential” Memorandum (No. 333 B.), dealing with “The Foreign Office and Labour Governments.” It deals not with foreign policy, but with practical procedure, and contains the following interesting remarks on a definite programme which was being drawn up to govern the relations between the Foreign Office and any future Labour Government.
“It was further agreed at a meeting on February 12th, that this programme should be divided into two—the one strictly private programme, to be adopted by the Executive and applied by the Labour Foreign Secretary on taking office; the other the public proposals that should be made part of the general party programme by discussion and adoption at party conferences. This should be given a popular appeal and as much publicity as possible.” (Italics ours.)
Now the interesting point is not the proposals themselves, but the manner of selecting them. The members of the party are not to be consulted. They are to popularise the public proposals, seek votes for them, and are kept in ignorance of the private programme for which only the Executive are responsible. We need not seek for motives. It is sufficient to recognise that the men who do this are not themselves convinced of the necessity for democracy, and the party whose structure and membership permit such procedure is not a democratic organisation. Can anyone doubt that the same men apply the same methods to the rest of the nebulous and forever shifting programme of the Labour Party ?
J.

Are Marx’s teachings sound? (1926)

From the November 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nararkad, the King of the Cape York blacks, has had his eyes opened. Mr. Jack McLaren, the Australian author, conveyed a message from him to King George recently and received a reply stating how interested King George was in his message. Mr. McLaren, who has lived with the dusky monarch and his naked subjects for some years, states that until a short time ago King Narakad was under the impression he was the only king in the world, and was greatly surprised to learn of the existence of others. Which is quite understandable. So long as the world ended where he thought it did King Nararkad undoubtedly was the only king in the world. A case can be made out for anything by leaving out enough objections. Which brings us quite naturally to Mr. Ellis Barker.

He is a member of what is known as the Foam School. He cannot mention the word Socialist without foaming at the mouth. There are a number of them writing in the stunt Press, and their method is monotonously similar. A few trite statements spat out with venom and vindictiveness, together with some airy sweeping assertions and tiny isolated scraps of alleged evidence. For instance, Mr, Ellis Barker, having selected that organ of light and leading, the Daily Mail, as his vehicle, proposed in their issue of August 6th to show “How Capitalism has Raised the Worker.” First sentence :—
“Socialism is based on mendacity.”
Next sentence :—
“Karl Marx set down as a ‘law’ such rubbish as that under the ‘Iron Law of Wages,’ wages always tend to sink to the lowest level’ of mere animal subsistence, and that, owing to the ‘Law of Increasing Misery,’ the capitalists were bound to become ever richer and the workers ever poorer.”
Notice the style ! Words like “mendacity” and “rubbish” do solitary duty as arguments. “Karl Marx set down,” we are told, but we are not told where he set down. Just by way of contrast—and correction—this is what Karl Marx actually did say on wages (Value, price and profit) :
“The general tendency of capitalist production is not to raise, but to sink, the average standard of wages.”
That carefully-worded statement will be recognised as true. You will notice nothing about “mere animal subsistence” in it.

As a matter of fact, in the same little work Karl Marx gave reasons why the reduction of wages to mere animal subsistence was an improbability. He showed also how wages could be actually raised and yet leave the workers worse off.

Now let us take a cursory glance at Great Britain at the moment when it is being: told how Capitalism has raised the worker. There are a million and a half workers registered as unemployed. A million and a half ! Think of it! Over a million miners are being remorselessly smashed into accepting a wage which may not represent “mere animal subsistence,” but is indistinguishable from it. Some 45,000 railwaymen and 80,000 transport workers are still stranded where their leaders led them, whilst 300,000 of them are only partially employed. The Lancashire cotton mills are closed two weeks in three, affecting goodness knows how many operatives and dependants. Mere animal subsistence perhaps is less than one week’s wages in three, but how much less? About a million agricultural workers endeavour to support life on a wage under two pounds per week. And so we could go on. Generally speaking, with all these millions statistically accounted for as either unemployed, under-employed or poorly paid, one would not exaggerate by describing the condition of the working class as miserable. With the statistical abstract before him, Mr. Barker thinks otherwise. The figures that apparently appeal more to his fertile fancy are those relating to imported pork, beef, bacon and ham. He finds these imports have nearly doubled in the 14 years, 1910-24. Imported cheese, butter, eggs and fish also show millions of hundredweights increases, and he infers this implies increasing opulence of the working-class. We need not insist that no mention is made of any “home-grown” statistics, or of any increase in the population. We would not accuse Mr. Barker of being an economist. He is far too acute for that. His method is the more convincing one of personal observation. He says :—
“Now the British masses are far better fed and better dressed than they were before the war, and they spend vastly more on amusements of every kind.”
And, yet, as he scornfully says :—
“Spouters at street corners still talk about the ever-increasing misery of then wage-slaves, addressing well-dressed crowds of male workers smoking cigarettes, and women workers wearing silk blouses and silk stockings.”
Is not this the right note? What is the use of shouting : “Workers of the world, unite,” to males smoking cigarettes? Or of volleying forth : “You have nothing to lose but your chains,” to women workers in silk blouses? Or, finally, of tempestuously roaring: “You have a world to win,” to girls in silk stockings? Of course, it’s ridiculous. This increasing opulence on the part of the workers is our greatest difficulty. It has even invaded our own ranks. Members of the Socialist Party have been detected furtively drawing at a cigarette, and many of our lady members are suspected of concealing their nether limbs in silk stockings. It has not yet been deemed necessary to definitely charge these—you cannot call them crimes—discrepancies between democratic profession and plutocratic performance, against our members, but doubtless, now it is seen how damaging they can be to the cause of Socialism, voluntary sacrifice will willingly be made.

Mr. Ellis Barker sees in cigarettes and silk stockings evidence of how Capitalism has raised the worker. Assuming he is serious, perhaps he is seeing what he wants to see. You can make almost any case you like by presenting facts in a certain way.

For instance, Mr. Plunkett Greene the other night, in his wireless lecture, said the Jew’s harp was the one instrument he could play better than Kreisler. So if you judge by the increased consumption of imported pork, bacon and cheese, or the prevalence of silk stockings and cigarettes, that Capitalism is the best of all possible systems for the worker, we suggest that the average worker will not feel enthusiastically grateful. He will feel there is more to be said on the matter. He will, perhaps, wonder why, in order that he should enjoy the blessings of cigarettes, foreign pork, and silk stockings (for his wife, say), he should have to spend so much of his life in hunting for a master, and when found, why his master should so persistently press for a wage that will render their purchase an extravagance. He will wonder why his attempts to get a wage that will allow him to smoke two packets of cigarettes instead of one, or of eating English beef, instead of embalmed Argentine, are so strenuously resisted by those who bestow the blessings of Capitalism upon him. Is it enough to tell the miserable that their misery was greater fourteen years ago; to tell the wretched that they are better dressed than they used to be; to tell the slave that his chains are of better metal than formerly? This may be the philosophy of Capitalism, that of comparative misery, but is there much comfort in it? We think that if Mr. Ellis Barker would take the trouble to explain to an audience of miners, or potters, or shipbuilders, or cotton operatives, how much better off we are all getting, he would find the present time most appropriate. Several new brands of cigarettes have recently taken the air, and Woolworths are getting in new supplies of their opulent silk stockings. It is easy to ascribe mendacity to people one does not like, but opacity, or even loquacity, is no better substitute. Try reading, and thinking, in equal proportions.
W. T. Hopley

Has British trade a future? (1926)

From the November 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

A month or two back Chiozza Money wrote a series of articles for the “Daily Chronicle” on the “World Race for Trade.” On May 21st, he describes a visit paid to Sheffield where he inspected Cammell Laird’s works. He found that the efficiency of these works was equal to anything he had seen in America, and yet there is any amount of plant idle, in some instances the works were only working at half capacity.

In dealing with this question of idle plant, he makes the following observations :
It all comes to one word—Markets. There are the Dominions and India, but they are markets not reserved to us. Moreover, in 1926, the world is out of joint. We have to wait for better times. That those better times will come we may rest assured. The world must, sooner or later, need a much greater supply of iron and steel than it now calls for. The efficiency of Sheffield will not always go unrewarded. 
Now it is all very well to “rest assured,” but it is much better to know a little of the possibilities of the assurance being well-founded.

In a further article on June 7th, he says :
Foreign competition is increasing and will increase. The expanding markets for which we may legitimately hope will demand less of crudely manufactured and more of artistic productions. Intense and growing foreign competition will make it necessary for British exporters to increase their efforts, and for British manufacturers to adopt every good economic device.
He then goes on to urge that trade unions should welcome the adoption of the best-known machinery and improvements in methods of work. He tacks on to this the well-worn recommendation for a friendly co-operation in economic endeavour between employers and workers.

He makes three main points : (1) that a world-wide expansion in trade is coming shortly; (2) that if English manufacturers reduce their costs of production they will get a large share in it; (3) that an increase in trade makes it possible for the workers to claim a larger share of the product.

We will take a few quotations from different sources that have a general bearing on the questions raised.

As Chiozza Money has concerned himself very much with America, the following quotation from the “Christian Science Monitor” is very apt. We quote it at length, as the points raised are so interesting.
Absorption of surplus production presents one of the outstanding difficulties of the American manufacturer according to Alvin K. Dodd, of the Department of Domestic Distribution, Chamber of Commerce of the United States, speaking at the thirteenth annual convention of the Society of Industrial Engineers here [Philadelphia].

The former necessity of meeting the existing demand has been succeeded by the question of making a demand for the over-supply, he said. Growth in population, he continued, is only about 16 per cent. above that of 1913, and, if we accept 30 per cent. as the increase in facilities, for manufacture, a capacity exists seriously in excess of what might he called the normal demand on pre-war rate of production.

The result of this is seen, he declared, in exaggerated forms of competition, extraordinary displays in advertising, extraordinary costs, unusual growth in methods of distribution, and. finally, the latest expedient, instalment selling which is not appeased by anything less than the payment of next year’s income for this year’s product.
With the situation of America as stated above, unable to get rid of a large excess of production, and itching to find fresh outlets for her goods, the race for the satisfaction of the possible expanding market ingoing to be keen.

Let us take another quotation.

Walter T. Layton, Editor of the “Economist,” makes a contribution to the discussion in the “Manchester Guardian,” of April 20th last, from which we take the following extract :—
In these circumstances are we most likely to find the much-needed expansion of our foreign trade in the markets of Europe or of the Empire? It must be admitted that the prospect of attaining free trade within the Empire or of making it self-sufficient is not very promising. India, which is much the largest of the Imperial markets, is evidently determined to maintain some measure of protection against British manufactures. Canada, whatever may happen in the political field, is destined to come increasingly within the economic sphere of influence of the United States—a significant sign of which is the fact that Canadian enterprise is no longer financed mainly from London, but from New York. Even Australia is determined to foster her iron and steel, textile and other industries and to keep out British goods as fast as she can replace them at home. The ties of Empire are very real and lasting ones, but no one can look at the map of the world and truthfully say that the British Empire is a natural economic unit or that Great Britain. can find a complete outlet for her economic activities in the Empire.
According to the above, and the source should be authoritative, the Empire does not hold out much hope to the English manufacturer in the event of a general expansion of trade.

Let us go farther afield. Let us probe into the condition of the Eastern lands of mystery and hope, and see what prospects for the European manufacturer exist there.

Japan has learnt much from the West, and turned her knowledge to good account. The “Osaka Mainichi,” June 30th, 1926, has an article on Japan’s growth in prosperity from which we take the following information :—

In 1887, eighty-four per cent. of the foreign trade of Japan was handled by foreign merchants. Of the imports, eighty-five per cent. was handled by foreign firms. During 1894-5, the native firms commenced to increase in activity, and by 1900 they handled thirty-five per cent. of the exports and thirty-nine per cent, of the imports. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 was a great impetus for an enormous expansion of the foreign trade of Japan, and the increasing influence of Japanese traders. But the Great War of 1914-18 was the real opportunity of the Japanese merchants.
Taking advantage of the world demand for silk and cotton piece goods, more than 10 Japanese firms went to the extent of establishing their branches in Wall Street and Madison Square, where almost prohibitively high rents were demanded, and conducted their business, paying high cable rates. The activities of the Japanese merchants then alarmed the Americans, who may be generally classified as amateurs in foreign trade.
The Japanese view of the American foreign traders is worth noting. “Amateurs” ! !

Of late years there has been an enormous development in trustification. The slowing down of European manufacture for foreign markets and for ordinary products in the home markets gave Japan her chance. There was an enormous expansion in Japanese manufacture and trade, and a wild scramble among the producers. Small firms grew rapidly and joined with large corporations.

The post-war panic and the following years of depression caught many of the Japanese corporations in the swirl. Some were driven into bankruptcy along with many private firms. Later, when things were on the mend again, the tremendous earthquake gave them a further set-back. Since the earthquake, things have steadily improved, and Japan is turning greedy eyes abroad for an outlet for her surplus population and surplus goods. At the present date the bulk of Japanese foreign trade is handled by native merchants. The trust companies have greatly developed, and are preparing a stronger attack upon the markets outside of Japan.

The Japanese have learnt other things, besides manufacturing and trading, from the West. They have learnt how to cover commercial aspirations with a halo of sanctity, as witness the following quotation from the Editorial in the paper mentioned above :
We repeat here that the object of overseas expansion of a nation is to open up the natural resources of the undeveloped lands, and to spread the civilisation in uncivilised regions. Any country which contravenes this common principles of humanity should at this opportunity realise the fundamental mistake of shutting the doors of the country to foreigners.
Japan’s neighbour, China, could say a lot on the first part of the quotation, while the last part is a knock at Russia, for “In Asia, there is a vast undeveloped territory of fertile soil in Russian Siberia” !

The harbour facilities of Japan have been greatly improved lately, and the number of ports open to foreign trade increased up to forty-one, of which by far the most important are Yokohama, Kobe and Osaka.

The way the Japanese set about capturing foreign trade is German in its thoroughness. The following quotation will illustrate how they do it :—
The Foreign Office has decided to send Mr. Vakichiro Suma, one of the administrative officials belonging to the Office, to East Africa by either the Asama or the Yakumo of the Japanese Training Squadron, which is to cruise along the East African coast via Turkey, Malta, Marseilles, Barcelona, and Cape of Good Hope, for the first time.
Gilmac.

(To be concluded next month.)