Monday, April 25, 2022

Growing Unity of the Lab.-Cons. (1951)

From the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

Listening to the Labour and Tory parties trying to explain the points of difference in their respective policies reminds one of that popular ditty of a few years back, “You say ‘neether' and I say ‘nighther.' " There is no basic idea now held by one of these parties which is not held by the other, though each may express it in different words. Whether or not this tendency, which is almost daily becoming more marked, is viewed by either as a sign of the correctness of its policy, it should certainly be of the greatest interest to those who imagine that any fundamental change would result with the advent of a Tory government.

Generally Labour politicians are inclined to adopt a rather smug attitude towards the inability of the Tories to advocate any radical change When referring to any of their doubtful achievements, such as the now legendary “free" teeth and specs, they chide their opponents for being unwilling to oppose them openly, at least to a degree greater than the Labour Government has since been forced to do so. They offer their supporters, in consolation for the hardships that Capitalism inevitably imposes on the working class, the comforting thought that anyway the Tories could do no better.

Under the title “Labour and Tories Draw Closer," Maurice Cranston writes:—
“The Tories talk of more freedom, but they have no real intention of denationalising what has once been nationalised. As for planning, the Tories have now accepted the principle of putting Britain on a war economy, and nobody pretends this could be done without planning.

"The important point is that a change of government will hardly make the slightest difference in British policy at home or abroad. The Opposition accepts the principle of the Welfare State, just as the Government accepts the principle of rearmament and collective security against Communism. There would be inflation under the Tories, but there is inflation now."
(Labour's Northern Voice,” June, 1951.)
Nationalisation, planning, Welfare State, rearmament, inflation—there is no real difference of policy on any of these issues, and the list could be added to. To complete this picture of two greyish parties, each eager to show its whiteness in comparison with the blackness of the other, we may turn to the comments of the newspapers supporting the Conservative point of view. For instance, the Daily Mail affects to be mildly shocked at the signs of political opportunism it detects in the Labour Party’s policy on nationalisation.
“ In January, 1951, Mr. Herbert Morrison said there must be 'national ownership and development of basic resources, with freedom of private enterprise in nonmonopoly industries.'

But in January, 1950, he had been hot for the national ownership of sugar, cement, insurance, and meat distribution. Only when he found the country was against these measures did he drop them. Wonderful, is it not, how the noble ideal of Socialism can be altered to suit the prevailing electoral winds? ”
(Daily Mail, 4.7.1951.)
Wonderful indeed, if it were Socialism that could be so altered. The truth is that the Labour Party, in common with all other parties undertaking to run Capitalism, alters its programme of reforms according to what is most likely to retain support, irrespective of past policies. What more damning indictment could be made against any Labour M.P. than to show that he is acquiescing in the very measures to which his party has long been traditionally, if only nominally opposed?
“He dislikes Defence, but is forced to provide it. He hates Imperialism, but is compelled to embrace it. He is against Free Enterprise, but he has been made to support it And he will vote for all, the things he detests in order to keep his job.”
(Daily Mail, 4.7.1951.) 
Just in case it may be thought that the so-called Left Wing of the Labour Party is less committed to present policies than its main body, then Aneurin Bevan's pamphlet, "One Way Only," should dispel this illusion. The Evening News takes Mr. Bevan to task on his attitude to the present policy of rearmament.
“Mr. Bevan, after fulminating against this rearmament, talks of a 'degree of rearmament necessary to deter the Russians from military adventures.’ When do we reach that degree, Mr. Bevan? Don’t look now, but it appears to us at this point that it is a rearmaments race you are actually advocating.”
(Evening News, 10.7.1951.)
No doubt Mr. Bevan would not agree that he is advocating a rearmaments race. Nevertheless whether he does so or not it is bound to occur, as a result of the capitalist system he supports, caused by rivalries between single or groups of nations over world markets, trade routes, mineral deposits, etc. A bullet in the head from one who “ didn’t mean to do it ” is no less fatal than one from a deliberate killer.

The best way of detecting the microscopic differences between Labour and Tory policies is to have them magnified in a discussion between a representative of each. Such a discussion was recently broadcast on the B.B.C. Third Programme under the title “Is Socialism Losing Its Appeal?” which would have been more accurately titled “Is the Labour Party's 1945 Programme Losing Its Appeal? "

Mr. J. Enoch Powell, M.P. (Cons.), remarked in this discussion that Labour Party propaganda, being essentially optimistic, invites disappointment when it led to Labour Government He claimed that a supposedly revolutionary party, on achieving political power, was required to produce the revolution, or to find excuses for not doing so. Mr. Donald Chapman, Secretary of the Fabian Society, sought to show that British “Socialism” (i.e., the Labour Party) was more practical than the Continental variety, and accepted much of the Liberal traditions in receiving suggestions from the opposition. Socialism, he went on, had something to contribute to the steady development of the British Way of Life; it had put forward a severely practical programme needed to correct the excesses of an earlier period. Mr. Powell preferred to say that Socialism had to cease to be Socialism in order to retain public appeal, which sounds good but means nothing. He asserted that the Conservative Party had accepted much of Socialism, but later claimed that Toryism was not a whit socialist. Both debaters supported the idea of Social Services, but Mr. Chapman saw a difference in the spirit which made them sponsored, not grudgingly accepted. The argument, if it could properly be called such, wandered on along these lines, ana the remark by Mr. Powell, “You talk of State, I talk of Nation,” was typical of the depth of the whole dispute.

What are the lessons to be learned from this growing unity of policy of the two main contestants for political power in this country? One is that any party that advocates reforms can command a big following by promising to solve the problems that Capitalism engenders, just so long as it is not called upon to form the government. Another is that at a time when it is a toss-up which party will win the next election each must offer the electorate all that is popular in the rival programme plus a little extra in order to tip the balance.

But the most important lesson for members of the working class is that if they want to express their dissatisfaction with the past results of Capitalism they are wasting their time voting for any party offering to make a better job of it in future. They must understand that it is Capitalism that determines the policies of the governments that undertake to run it, and not the other way round. In the light of this knowledge they will then organise with us for the establishment of Socialism, which alone can make a reality the dreams of a better life that Capitalism has made potentially possible, but can never actualize.
Stan Parker

The New Zealand docks dispute (1951)

From the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

For five months since the 17th of February, 1951, New Zealand was in the throes of one of the longest and bitterest Trade Union struggles in its history. The struggle commenced with the lock-out of the Waterside Workers (Dockers) and the imposing of the “Waterfront Strike Emergency Regulations” and their amendments, 1951.

The miners, the Wellington freezing workers, the New Zealand Federated Seamen’s Union struck as a protest against the Emergency Regulations. The miners, freezing workers and the federated seamen had no wage dispute and they ignored the advice of their Union National Officers to remain at work.

On February 8th the employers of waterfront labour offered 4½d. an hour wage rise following the Arbitration Court award of a 15 per cent increase. On February 10th watersiders at Wellington and at New Plymouth ceased working overtime as a protest against the employers’ offer. The workers claimed that 4½d an hour was only 9 per cent increase in a forty-hour week and that their ability to work overtime had been included when the wage rise was computed. The employers argued that the rise offered was exactly in line with the 15 per cent Arbitration Court award.

The employers began dismissing men on the 15th of February for refusing to work overtime. Workers alleged that they had been locked out and stated that they were willing to work the forty-hour week. Employers replied that refusal to work overtime was a breach of the agreement.

On February 19th the Government issued an ultimatum calling on the watersiders to resume normal work including overtime and to place their wage claim before the Waterfront Authority, failing that, the Waterfront Commission would be suspended. The same day, the waterside workers saw displayed on the engagement boards a notice to the effect that if they were not prepared to work overtime they were not to lift their discs (sign on for work). Meetings of watersiders at all ports on that day rejected the Government ultimatum.

The workers claimed that the position was an “open lock-out by the employers” and a “calculated attack” on Trade Unionism and the forty-hour week. The Prime Minister of New Zealand declared a state of emergency on February 22nd.

The Government issued sweeping emergency regulations on February 23rd, giving power to suspend all awards, use members of the armed forces on the waterfront, extend the powers of the police, deal with any person who incited or aided the continuance of the dispute, place all union funds in the hands of the receiver, etc. A Waterfront Strike Notice was issued ordering all watersiders back to work on Monday, February 26th, or to suffer a “declared strike” under the regulations.

On that Monday, meetings of watersiders in all ports rejected this ultimatum. The following day the Government ordered servicemen on to the waterfront at Wellington and Auckland, and the New Zealand coast seamen walked off all ships being worked by servicemen. Some Wellington Harbour Board employees were suspended for refusing to assist the servicemen, and meetings of seamen, drivers and others were held everywhere.

The Trade Union Congress called on the Government to resign. The Federation of Labour affiliations recommended the calling of a compulsory conference between the disputing parties. Over a thousand workers employed on hydro-electric plants at Waikato ceased work. All Waikato underground mines and some West coast mines were idle. The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants instructed all branches not to handle any material on the waterfront that was normally handled by the watersiders. Freezing workers at Ngahauranga, the Gear Meat Workers at Petone and at several other centres stopped work. The Golden Bay Cement Works closed down.

The Government de-registered the New Zealand Waterside Workers’ Union on February 28th, and the Parliamentary Labour Party called on the Government to arrange a compulsory conference between the parties.

On March 1st receivers moved into the Waterside Workers’ Union offices throughout the country. Bank accounts amounting to £20,000 were taken over. The Federation of Labour announced that it had done “everything that it could be expected to do within reason”, the Union could only blame itself for its position.

On March 5th all mines in the Greymouth district had come to a standstill. The Wellington Drivers’ Union took a ballot and decided not to work with the troops at the waterfront.

By April 10th the Government had used everything in the bag to force the watersiders back to work. Emergency Regulations, all the Anti-Trade Union legislation brought down by the Labour Government with a few embellishments by the present Nationalist Government. It was made an offence to discuss the Emergency Regulations at any meeting, even the leader of the opposition was refused permission to do so. But the watersiders, the miners, the freezing workers and the seamen stood firm.

On two occasions members of the Watersiders’ Union were sent cards to sign if they wished to return to work under the new conditions and as members of new Unions that had been registered, but very few took advantage of the offer. The majority showed remarkable determination to preserve their Union and to support their elected representatives. The Government refused to negotiate on any grounds that would enable the old Union to return on a National basis or to negotiate with any deputation that included the old Union’s president and secretary, H. Barnes and T. Hill. If the workers had been prepared to sacrifice these two, a settlement might have been brought about. These two men were branded as the trouble makers and the old Communist bogey was thrashed until it became a joke. It was a Communist plan, cried the Government, and the watersiders were dupes. Seventy-five per cent of the members of the old Union were ex-servicemen from the 1914-18 and 1939-45 wars and it is ironical that these men, who supposedly went away to destroy the Nazi monster in the last war, should return to face another one with similar earmarks as soon as they demanded a little more of the wealth that the working class produces, in order to maintain their already miserable living standard, or a little of the “new order” that they were promised whilst they were fighting their masters’ enemies. They have the new order, but it is worse than the old one. Socialists have maintained through both wars that the common enemy of the workers in every land is Capitalism and not their fellow workers of a different nationality.

Throughout the struggle the Parliamentary Labour Party in New Zealand sat on the fence, and the Labour politicians were subtle as usual.. At first they made no complaint against the Emergency Regulations or anti-Trade-Union regulations which their own party had used when it was the Government. Mr. Nash, the leader of the Opposition, said at a meeting in Hamilton that “he was in favour of applying regulations in any easy and not in a rigorous way as long as this did not tend to prolong the strike”, and that the Labour Party “would have had no hesitation in using its powers to ensure that essential supplies were delivered to hospitals and homes”. He said that he did not like to see freedom of speech curtailed or officials given the right to open private correspondence. Neither could he agree to the clause in the regulation which made it an offence to give food to assist watersiders’ wives and children. (Evening Post, Wellington, 30.3.1951.)

The Labour politicians claimed that they were neither for nor against the locked-out and striking Unions, but with the unflagging determination of these Unions to continue the struggle, the Labour men took the opportunity to get in and reap the spoils of the workers’ fight. The Import Supply Bill was debated in the House of Representatives, 26.6.1951, and the Labour Party politicians used the chance to debate the industrial situation generally. They expressed concern at the state of the country, urged a settlement of the strife and, with an eye to the future, they put in a good case for themselves.

The Government speaker, in reply, quoted from a pamphlet entitled “Statements concerning recent disputes affecting waterfront work” issued by the Minister of Labour in the past Labour Government. Therein the cause of the waterfront disputes was attributed to the attitude of “Barnes and Hill” on the various waterfront Commissions, and to the machinations of the Communists. This dispute gives the Labour Party a good weapon with which to fight the next election. It will be able to adopt the attitude of “we told you so” and to blame the Nationalist Government for all the workers’ problems.

The Federation of Labour played a vile part in the dispute, giving the Nationalist Government every aid to crush the watersiders and their allies. Even the Labour Party had to snub them. Thus is demonstrated the futility of compulsory unionism to the workers.

When the National Government brought in its Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Act, there was in it a threat to compulsory unionism. The officials of the Federation of Labour immediately dashed to the rescue and convinced Mr. Holland of the value of compulsory unionism, pointing out that “the Federation has yet to find any sections of the employers who object to its continuance” (Southern Cross, 3.11.1950). Without compulsory unionism the officials would lose their mainstay and the power they wield. They have now proved its value to the Government. Lack of knowledge and apathy of the members is of great assistance to these leaders of the Federation, as it is to all leaders.

The promise of support from the railwaymen seems to have been lost in transit and the strikers have rather a poor opinion of their brothers on the railways who failed to comply with the resolve “not to handle any material on the waterfront normally handled by watersiders”.

The Government precipitated this struggle at a bad time for the employing class in New Zealand. It was at the height of the exporting season, thereby costing them an immense sum. The determination of the men, the active part played by the young members who were getting their first taste of such a struggle, and the support of wives who went out to work to help their menfolk continue the fight, are deserving of the applause of workers everywhere.

On July 11th the seamen, cooks and stewards who had been on strike in sympathy with the watersiders, returned to work and the National Council of the Waterside Workers’ Union recommended branches in all ports to return to work. The New Zealand Government is to seek an early dissolution of Parliament to test public opinion on its handling of the dispute. The leader of the opposition has charged the Government with fascism, dictatorship, opening mails, tapping telephones, suppression of free speech and freedom of assembly and other actions foreign to democratic government. This is denied by the Prime Minister (Manchester Guardian, 12.7.1951).

The outstanding lesson to be learned from this working-class struggle in New Zealand is that working conditions bitterly fought for and won through struggle on the industrial battlefield over the years can be wiped out, comparatively speaking, in a few minutes by those who control the political machinery. The political weapon is the dominant one and whilst it remains in the hands of the capitalist class no amount of struggle will free the workers from the yoke of capital. The same determined and heroic effort as our New Zealand fellow workers have recently waged, if directed towards gaining control of the political machine with a view to ending the wages system would solve all their economic problems. If only they would raise the cry, “Abolish the wages system” instead of making a modest demand for a tiny wage increase, then they would be heading towards a system free from lock-outs, strikes, poverty, atomic wars, ill housing, dictatorship, over-work and the host of other evils which beset them.

(This account of the recent New Zealand struggle has been compiled from information and material supplied by Comrade R. Everson of the Socialist Party of New Zealand.)
Overseas Secretary, SPGB

"Some are more equal than others" (1951)

From the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard
"Some are more equal than others"
("Animal Farm," by George Orwell)
The country is in trouble again. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that the Government has decided to freeze dividends for the next three years, the duration of the Rearmament programme. Imports are to be limited, Prices controlled and Capital issues discouraged. Dividends are increasing too much and too quickly, says Mr. Gaitskell (about 10 per cent.); and are to be limited to the average of the last two years, or 5 per cent., whichever is greater.

Mr. Gaitskell does not exaggerate when he says that dividends have increased. Almost without exception, the Chairmen of the great companies, Dunlop, I.C.I., Aircraft Companies, Department Stores have congratulated the shareholders on an extremely successful year, and thanked the staff for their achievements.

Labour politicians profess that by this legislation limiting the amount of dividend payable they are limiting profits, and seeing “fair play” between the workers and the employers.

The General Council of the T.U.C. has made it a demand upon the Government, to ensure that if workers have “frozen” wages, capitalists should get “frozen” profits.

The first thing which Mr. Gaitskell has shown is that Labour Government is very good indeed for capitalist shareholders. They are drawing so much profit that steps are to be taken to limit it temporarily.
Many workers see in this a step in their interests. They are not clear that the wealthy investor loses absolutely nothing by this step. His shares still belong to him exclusively, their value eventually will probably increase because the sums which might have been paid in excess of the restricted amount for the next three years will automatically pass to reserve; to be ploughed back to make the company more wealthy. The capitalist is merely being compelled by law to be prudent.

In addition the Labour leaders claim that they are heavily taxing the capitalists to pay for social services and keep down the prices of necessities on which workers spend wages.

It is impossible to help the working class by taxing capitalists. Taxation, with the exception of Death Duties, is levied on income, and according to the economists it is an unsound principle of taxation to invade the taxpayer's actual property.

All monies levied by taxes are used to support the efficient running of capitalist production. Sound taxation requires large prosperous incomes for wealthy people to ensure a regular flow of satisfactory tax.

A moment's elementary arithmetic will show how absurd is the idea of the General Council of the T.U.C. that freezing wages in the same degree as dividends is of value to Trades Unionists.

Let us take a typical capitalist with an investment of £100,000. Mr. Gaitskell says he has been drawing 10 per cent. last year. That is, for every £100 worth of shares he draws £10 dividend. There are 1,000 (one thousand) £100's in £100,000, that is, £10,000 dividend. Income tax can reduce it by half—leaving £5,000. That is practically £100 a week. He may now be compelled to accept half of this for three years, £50 a week, the other £50 or more in excess of 5 per cent., is to remain in the company or be invested in Government funds.

How can this possibly be compared to a worker who found last year that, due to the Government's devaluation of the pound, and the shortages caused by war stockpiling, his £5 was worth, in real value, far less.

He then started frantically demanding that his Trade Union table a wage increase demand. In some cases, he took the serious step off unofficial strike action which usually, in the favourable conditions, produced the desired result in the shape of a 10 per cent. increase, with a homily on the necessity of tight belts, because of the country’s difficulties.

The fallacy consists in treating workers and capitalists as equals. In the one case, the working class is already at the border-line of the minimum of existence.

An increase of prices of workers' goods to, say, 40 per cent., means a corresponding reduction in wages, 28/6d. reduction in £5.

A limitation of dividends for the capitalist means drawing £50 a week less for the time being, but he starts with £100 a week and has at his disposal £100,000 worth of property, or shares which he can still spend as he pleases. It compares to putting a motor-car and a donkey-cart on the starting line, and "limiting" both equally by making them carry the same weight. The motor-car has fourteen horse-power, the cart one donkey.

In addition to this, the investor does not even have to drive his own car, this is done for him by the efficient staff of his factories. He has complete leisure, and no responsibility.

The worker still believes that it is to his interest that the Government of “his” country should be prosperous. He believes, though he cannot explain it, that its foreign trade benefits him. He shudders at the thought of being broke or down.

The confusion in many workers’ minds, especially Trade Unionists, has been increased by the Financial Policy of the Labour Party—its so-called “Socialist Finance." “Socialist Finance" is a complicated series of nonsense entitled Nationalisation of the Bank of England, Currency Management, Control of Bank Credit, Stable Price Level, Planned Development, the Capital Issues Committee, etc. Even delegates to the Labour Party Conference, before the war, protested that not one nor all of these financial reforms has the slightest connection with Socialism.

No member of the present administration has written about the “Control of Investment" and “Capital Issues Control" more trenchantly than Mr. John Strachey, who called Mr. Gaitskell (in his “Plan for Power”) “a capitalist economist" in 1939. He wrote:
“Some observers have identified Capitalism with free competition and Socialism with Governmental intervention in economic life . . . no matter on whose behalf it is undertaken. They suppose that because . . . the individual German capitalist employer or group of employers united in a joint stock company cannot now sell their product at whatever price they like, hire labour at a wage higher than the current one . . . refuse to re-invest the rent, interest and profit which they have made, or invest it in directions which would hamper the rearmament programme, they have been brought under a more or less socialistic regime. Such profound errors spring from equally profound misapprehensions. The essential basic characteristic of Capitalism is not competition, but the ownership of the means of production by a small class, so that the mass of the population must live by selling their ability to that class."
(John Strachey, “A Plan for Power,” p. 277.)
Finally, the testimony of a non-party economist regarding Labour Party financial reform should prove enlightening:
"The policies of the Labour and Social Democratic parties are largely influenced by monetary expansionist views.

"The essence of these views, which are sometimes described as socialist economic policy, is that they are not really socialist at all, since they do not involve the abolition of private property and capitalist enterprise.

". . . The real difficulty about these proposals (socialisation of banking, economic planning, controlled investment).... is that their ultimate scope is not clear.

"They do not appear to involve the abolition of private property and they must therefore be taken as proposals which are to be carried out within the framework of our economic system. They are, in principle, not different from the schemes which are at the moment being undertaken in the United States. And in their technique they are very similar to the system of control which was applied in all belligerent countries during the war. As such they suffer from a fundamental inconsistency. . . . So long as freedom of choice is allowed, so long as a free exchange exists, private property and a medium of exchange, as we know it, are essential.

“A really radical change in the monetary management such as is proposed is only possible if money ceases to be the economic instrument we know, because free exchange and private property are no longer possible. The fate of all past experiments at elaborate control has been the same, they cannot be confined to a particular sphere; they lead to a progressive restriction of the market until they finally come up against the fundamental institutions of private property and individual freedom.

"Liberal economic theory recognises this; so also does Marxism. Marxism considers money as the instrument of the market, the means by which individual labour is transformed into socially necessary labour. Where private property and production for the market exist, such an instrument is an essential corollary of it. It is only through it that the separation of consumption and production, or of individual labour and socially necessary labour can be overcome.

“Socialism, by abolishing private property, also abolishes the need for such an instrument. In the ultimate communist society of which Marx spoke, all labour would be directly socially-necessary labour, since private property and class distinction would have been abolished. There would be collective ownership of the means of production and this would have led to so great an increase of the available wealth that distribution would be on the basis of 'from everyone according to his ability, to everyone according to his needs.' ”
("About Money,” by Dr. Erich Roll.)

Who Led the Railwaymen Up the Garden? (1951)

From the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

The railwaymen are sore about Nationalisation. They are saying that it has not done them any good. Some even say that conditions are worse than they would be if the railway companies were still in control. Our authority for this is the Editor of the “Railway Review,” the journal of the National Union of Railwaymen. In an editorial (27.7.1951) he contributes an article entitled “Let’s Get It Straight! ” We give below some extracts from it:
“Before the nationalisation of transport the workers anticipated certain favourable changes which they thought would be wrought almost immediately after the celebrations for nationalisation came to an end. After three and a-half years it seems to the man on the job that no favourable changes have taken place. Improvements in wages, working conditions and a relative responsibility in the running of the industry have just not materialised. On some counts there is a feeling that there has been a deterioration in standards instead of an improvement.

“Nationalised transport is being operated on capitalist patterns, with capitalist forms of accountancy, with capitalist conceptions of industrial organisation. Any changes which have been introduced could well have been made by the private owners of transport undertakings. In fact it is true to say, whether we like it or not, that a number of private enterprise firms provide better wages and conditions than those obtaining generally in nationalised transport.”
The extracts quoted above clearly establish that the railwaymen feel that nationalisation has been a swindle. They expected great things and three and a half years’ experience have been sufficient to prove the expectation baseless. The Editor of the “Railway Review” does not think them wrong; he agrees with their view and sets himself the task of discovering how the Nationalisation Act and the organisation it set up should be altered in order to make things better. He writes;
“We do not think that better wages and conditions and a real share in the running of the industry are objectives which can be expected from the present structure of nationalisation. That is not in the Act. The changes we desire, then, must be placed in the Act.”
His principal suggestion is that the railway workers “must be given the legal right to better wages and conditions and a share in management,” and that as this is barred by the obligation to make sufficient profit to pay the fixed rates of compensation to the railway shareholders, then the Government should cut down “this extravagant treatment of the former transport owners.”

As socialists we have quite a number of things to say about this. First of all what has the Editor of the “Railway Review” to say about his own responsibility and that of the officials of the National Union of Railwaymen? The railwaymen did not just happen to think that transport nationalisation might be a good thing for them; for years they were persuaded by their officials that nationalisation was the remedy they needed. And they were led to think by the same officials that the Act of 1947 was deserving of support. What excuse have these officials for coming along three and a half years later and saying that the clauses of the Act are at fault? Didn’t they read the Act when it was being discussed in Parliament? Didn’t they know what it contained and what it aimed to do?

As a matter of probability they doubtless did read it, but their approach was the same sloppy, muddle- headed one that has characterised the Labour Party’s nationalisation propaganda for forty years. They read it but had not sufficient grasp of the problem to realise what nationalisation is, or how it works and for whose benefit. Ignorant both of the workings of Capitalism and of the principles of Socialism they could not see that nationalisation is State Capitalism, its aim being to provide transport for capitalist industry and commerce as cheap and efficient as possible, and that it differs from private Capitalism mainly in the fact that management is centralised and the capitalist investors receive their return in the form of Government-guaranteed interest on State bonds instead of in the form of dividends on shares. Yet they had ample information under their noses if they had known how to assimilate it. They could have studied the State Capitalist Post Office, or the State railways in a dozen countries in the world, including the Australian State railways with their history of embittered strikes and lock-outs under Labour Governments.

But now, instead of coming forward frankly admitting that nationalisation is bound to be a fraud for the workers and that they were at fault ever to have peddled the nostrum of nationalisation, we see the “Railway Review’s” Editor as one of the railwaymen’s “leaders,” persuading them to waste still more years trying to solve their problems by tinkering about with the Act—as if the Government which introduced the Act as part of the business of administering Capitalism would or could alter it into something non-capitalist and useful to the working class. And Test anyone should fall into the equally crude error of supposing that a Communist Government would or could do anything better, let us emphasise that in capitalist Russia where, incidentally, the Government bond-holders receive a much larger return than the taxed 3 per cent, paid to holders of British Government Transport Stock, the State railways arc required by law to make a profit, and there are all the familiar problems of fat salaries for the top officials and the operation of the services on capitalist commercial lines.

In raising the question of the amount of compensation paid year by year to former railway shareholders in accordance with the Nationalisation Act, the Editor of the “Railway Review” is equally open to criticism. Did he not know this at the time the railway workers were being told to celebrate the passing of the Act? Did he never realise that the whole idea of compensation by Government securities, as proclaimed by the Labour Party, was to get rid of dividends which depended on the amount of profit the railway companies were making year by year, and to replace them by a fixed payment which would go on indefinitely? If a railway company made no profit the shareholders would go without their dividends, and for many years certain classes of railway shares did in fact receive no dividends at all. But now, under nationalisation, the ex-shareholders (even including those who were getting no dividends) do not have to worry. Generally speaking they receive less than they would have got in a year of high railway profits, but they still receive their compensation even if the nationalised railways make no profit at all. The Government meets the payment and requires British Transport (as provided in the Act) to make good the deficit in later years.

If it mattered to the railway workers how much compensation is paid (and the Editor imagines that it does) why did he and the Union officials not have the elementary foresight to see that if they had delayed nationalisation until the railways were hit, as they were bound to be, by the revival of road transport, railway profits and share values would have fallen and the Government would then have secured nationalisation at about half the price they actually paid through nationalising in 1947?

In fact, however, it does not make any real difference to the railway workers as can be seen by looking at the treatment of the workers in a nationalised industry that habitually makes high profits. For nearly forty years the Post Office has made a big surplus, rising during the recent war to nearly £40 millions a year. Is the Editor so simple as to imagine that the P.M.G. under Labour Government ceases to resist Post Office workers’ claims for an adequate wage because the profit is big? It is true that British Transport uses the fact that the industry did not make enough profit to pay the ex-shareholders as an excuse for resisting wage claims, but it would resist them anyway. When the P.M.G. resists Post Office wage claims one of the arguments he uses is that their pay is not below the pay of railway workers, and former P.M.G.’s did just the same before the railways were nationalised.

While we are on the question of the failure of the railway union officials to show foresight one wonders why they did not at least put up a fight at the time of nationalisation to secure that railway workers were made civil servants and made entitled to non-contributory pensions like other civil servants.

When the S.P.G.B. was formed in 1904 one of its earliest warnings to railwaymen and other workers was to beware of the delusion that nationalisation is Socialism or can solve working-class problems. The warning was not heeded and the penalty has been the waste of precious years campaigning for something worthless. Now the union officials, instead of at long last recognising the truth of the S.P.G.B. claim that only Socialism can emancipate the working class, are launching another campaign, this time to try to amend the Act that was the product of the first campaign. What the railwaymen should do is to stop being led up the garden. They should think for themselves—about Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Passing Comments: Mutual Admiration Society (1951)

The Passing Comments Column from the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mutual Admiration Society

There was a warming scene in the House of Commons the other day when two capitalists, one on each side of the house, gave their views on one of the chief problems confronting both parties nowadays —how to get the arms drive going satisfactorily. Mr. Strauss, Minister of Supply, whose family fortunes are derived from metal-trading, said that "his department is working vigorously. It has recruited a number of industrialists, it has placed 51,000 contracts with industry, and he is confident that this year’s programme will be achieved.” (Daily Express, 24.7.1951.) And he graciously gave what William Barkley calls “an unusual tribute across the table for his services” to Col. Sir Ralph Glyn, the Tory member for Abingdon, who was the chairman of a select committee which has made a number of recommendations to the Government on the question of the switch of industries to rearmament. Sir Ralph holds down four jobs altogether—he is an M.P., he is a director of J. Samuel White & Co., Ltd., and of the British Match Corporation, and he is chairman of the Skefko Ball Bearing Co., Ltd. And he gallantly replied by praising “trade union leaders for their efforts at harmony in industry.” He also said that "this heavy rearmament programme must inevitably depress British standards of living for some years. This gave opportunities to mischief-makers who were what used to be called traitors.” So they are all comrades together, Tory capitalists, "labour” capitalists, trade union leaders; the only cads are the mischief- makers who object to having their standards of living depressed.

* * *

Enterprise and Vitality

Mr. Strauss had found time to sing the praises of some more of his fellow-capitalists four days before. Opening a new Austin plant, he said (Daily Herald, 20.7.1951): "This plant will make a great contribution to Britain's industrial resources. It is typical of the enterprise, imagination and vitality of the Austin company. Those responsible deserve our gratitude.” In return, Mr. Lord, Chairman of the Austin Company, drew attention to the difficulties the Government had to face, and said: “Some people seem to think that a change of government will put everything right, but it won't make bad workmen work any more, or get us more coal and steel, or deal with Communism as we know it in this country.” And it is certainly true that whether the Labour Party or the Conservative Party is administering Capitalism the problems they have to face will be much the same; one of the chief flies in the ointment will always be those workers who are too idle to bring a really sizeable profit in to their employers.

* * *

More and More

Mr. Lord is reported as having gone on to say: “We must all work together and realise that the days of more and more for less and less are over.” Come, come, Mr. Lord. Haven't you seen the latest figures for dividend increases? We admit that it would not be strictly true to say that now a shareholder is doing less and less to earn his dividends since one cannot do less than nothing, and the shareholder was already doing that. But the other part—”more and more”— certainly applies, since higher dividends have been reported all the year, culminating in an 18 per cent. increase in June. Now, of course, a schema of partial restriction—on dividends, not on profits—has been introduced to keep the trade unions quiet, and some of the extra dividends the shareholders hoped for will have to be salted away in companies' reserves for the three years during which the scheme will be in operation. But whereas the workers, persuaded of the benevolent intentions of the Government by this latest plan, will be expected to forego wage increases altogether, the dividend increases will not be foregone, merely postponed till the end of the scheme.

A confidence trick, in fact, of the highest order.

* * *

Vicious Circle

One of the main excuses brought forward by the heads of each state for rearming is that some other country has rearmed, and "we nave to do it as well to defend ourselves.” Thus Russia keeps large armies in being in order to defend herself against the threat presented by the fact that America has stocks of atomic bombs and numerous overseas bases. And America and Britain have to rearm to defend themselves against the large Russian armies (a Daly Herald headline on July 28th was “Why we must arm—Stalin has. five and a half million armed men”). The Daily Graphic, however, goes one better. Not only do we have to rearm because our future enemies are arming; we also have to rearm because our allies are arming. Commenting on President Truman's report to Congress that in twelve months twenty per cent. of America’s total industrial production will be devoted to “defence,” the Graphic says (24.7.1951): “America is bearing—and bearing willingly—the main burden. It is shameful for anyone in Britain to suggest that we should not do our share.”

Stripped of verbiage, the argument runs like this: The Russian workers have let themselves be deluded into accepting a lower standard of living so that the Russian state can have bigger armed forces; the American workers have let themselves be deluded into accepting a lower standard of living in order that the American state can have bigger armed forces; therefore we in Britain must also “do our share”!

* * *

Pax Vobiscum

At the opening of General Eisenhower's new headquarters near Versailles, the General is reported to have said that “it was the first time in history an allied headquarters had been set up in peacetime to preserve peace and not to encourage war” (Continental Daily Mail, 24.7.1951). “We strive to lift from the hearts of men the fear of the cell block of the slave-camp. We strive to establish Pax Atlantica under which all men may push forward to new heights to new levels of achievement”

If the General really wants to preserve peace, he chose an unfortunate comparison. For “Pax Romana,” although its literal translation is “the Roman peace,” had nothing to do with the preservation of peace. Pax Romana is the name given to a time when there were still wars. Why then was it called "pax”? Because whatever wars there were—against foreigners outside the Empire, against rebels within it—were won by the Roman rulers. It was the same with that other period of history to which the name “pax” is sometimes applied—the period 1815—1914, which some historians have called “Pax Britannica.” This didn’t mean that there were no wars in this period—it simply meant that whatever wars there were, within or without the British Empire, were won by the British rulers.

But perhaps that is the kind of thing the General had in mind.

* * *

Food and Famine

Here are some quotations from a missionary magazine (“The Kingdom Overseas,” July, 1951) taken from reports on the Mysore and Trichmopoly areas of India.
“We have seen little children crying for food, seen them snatch the food from each other’s hands, watched them eat with relish the husks of oil-cake from the oil mills, and search the fields for herbs and roots to eat.” 

“The shadows of death and the pale ghost of hunger have been present in countless homes. But many have had no homes—in which to live or die. These of our people were wandering from the west, eastward or to the hills; but in that search for work and food only some were successful.” 
“All of us in this Trichinopoly Diocese, and especially those on the western side, will remember 1950, above all, as a year when famine, the worst in living memory, stalked our countryside.”
1950? The News Chronicle (24.11.1950) had something to tell us about 1950. "A year’s supply of potatoes for twelve million people—26,700,000 bushels— has been destroyed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this year, because it could not sell them abroad.” Let us not, however, put down our Western and democratic way of life as a complete failure. Some of us have enough food—enough of it for all purposes. If you are wealthy enough there is a shop in the Champs Elysees, in Paris, which will bathe your dog for you—in milk (Sunday Express, 15.7.1951). And from the same paper (1.7.1951) we learn that the beauty experts in New York have thought up a new facial to take the wrinkles out of rich women’s faces. Its ingredients? Eggs, milk and strawberries.

* * *

Sleight of Tongue

When we see an expert at work in any field it is difficult to withhold our admiration. Let us therefore give his due mead of praise to Mr. Churchill, who surely can have few peers in the work of improving on the facts for purposes of propaganda.

On July 14th, Mr. Horner, the national secretary of the Mineworkers’ Union, said in a speech at Morpeth that "if a Tory government is returned, it is certain that there will be a national strike of the miners, following the measures which such a Tory government propose to take to deal with the mining situation.” If the experience of the inter-war years counts for anything at all, this statement is so self-obvious as to border on being a truism. If a Tory government is returned, it is likely that ultimately the miners will be driven to resist mining measures by going on strike. Up to the present, indeed, one of the most valuable services performed by the Labour Government for the capitalist class has been to keep the strikes and disruption in this most important of industries down to a far lower level than after the first world war.

* * *


Now Horner’s statement is a clear warning about the certainty of industrial disturbances in the coalmines under a Tory government Mr. Churchill, however, calls this warning "threats” and "shameful menaces.” More: he multiplies the scope of the warning by more than ten. He says (Sunday Express, 22.7.1951): “But now the Communist Horner has stepped outside the sphere of industrial disputes, and threatens the whole british democracy with a national strike to bring the country down if they dare express their opinion and wishes at the polls.” This is a masterstroke. By leaving three words out of the original phrase, “a national strike of the miners,” he extends the "threat” which he alleges has been uttered from one concerning fewer than 700,000 miners to one concerning more than ten times that number of organised workers.

A man of such abilities should be capable of retaining his place indefinitely at the head of the Conservative Party.

* * *

Free from Financial Worries

The Daily Express (20.7.1951) is calling for some wage increases. The subjects of its concern are the High Court judges, who only get £5,000 a year. When their salary was fixed, it says, it was “considered big enough to keep them free from financial worries which might impede their judgment.” Now, it seems, it no longer is.

No doubt it’s a good thing for judges to be free from financial worries. If this is the only criterion, however, what about, say, railway signalmen? An error in a judge’s judgment might mean a man being convicted wrongly; an error in a signalman’s judgment might mean dozens of people killed in a train smash. No doubt a judge can work better when free of financial worries; but isn't that true of all workers? The trouble is that there is only one way in which we can free all workers from financial worry; the establishment of Socialism. But that wouldn’t interest the Daily Express.

* * *

Help for the Democrats

From the Continental Daily Mail (24.7.1951): “Mr. Richard Casey, Australian External Affairs Minister, said to-day that 'solidarity among the democratic nations is necessary to cope with Communism’s onslaught.’” Mr. Casey was speaking in Indonesia, and he said that "Australia had offered any possible neighbourly assistance in technical, educational and other fields." Some more neighbourly assistance now reaching this particularly democratic nation from Hitler’s old finance minister, Dr. Schacht, who has been specially invited out by the Indonesian Government. It is not so long since our reformists were rejoicing over the replacement in Indonesia of a Dutch ruling class by a native one. But it seems that the Indonesian capitalists are also running up against problems, and they show no mote fastidiousness about the quarters from which they receive help than do their brother-capitalists elsewhere.

* * *

Simply and Informally

“Princess Elizabeth wants to travel ‘as simply and informally as possible’ when she sails for Canada with the Duke of Edinburgh on September 25th in the C.P.R. liner ‘Empress of France.’ Shipping officials have been told that this is her wish." (Sunday Express, 29.7.1951.) So there is going to be no fuss at all. Well, hardly any.

The royal apartments on board are to be four inter-communicating state-rooms “on the sun-trap port side of ‘A’ deck.” “Upper Pullman berths in the cabins are to be stripped out. New fitted carpets will be laid. Special bulkheads will be erected across a companion way to ensure greater privacy. One of the cabins will be converted into a private lounge-dining room.”

It looks as if the royal couple are going to have almost as ascetic a time on board as they do at home.
Alwyn Edgar

The Harbinger of War (1951)

From the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

Peace talk is the harbinger of war: the louder the talk the nearer the war. When governments are protesting their peaceful intentions and pacifists are loud in their denunciation of war, one can be sure that a war is in the offing.

Between the wars of the present century a collection of peace organisations sprouted up, flourished, spread and propagated until the outbreak of the next war withered them up and they shrivelled to insignificance. Again, today, we are confronted with a batch of them. There are peace committees, peace councils, peace unions, peace societies, peace conferences and all the conglomeration of organisations that go to make up the “peace movement”.

The attitude of the majority of peace organisations is that war is wicked, that it is immoral, a crime against society. This approach to the problem of war is largely emotional, and, because it is rooted in emotion, the “peace movement” is doomed to futility. It attracts the sentimental and not the understanding opponents of war.

The very same sentiment that will urge a man to support a peace organisation will drive him to support a war. The prospect of war with its slaughter and suffering is, undoubtedly, vile and revolting. It is understandable that any human being should brand it as immoral and seek to oppose it. But a prospective enemy is always portrayed as a vile and vicious beast, revolting atrocity tales are circulated and he is proclaimed the enemy of all decency, morality and of civilisation in general. Whether the foe be called a Boer, a Hun, a Fascist or a Communist, he is caricatured as a destroyer of all that genuine peace-loving people hold dear. The sentimentalists turn their attention from the horrors of war to the new horror that is presented. The emotional seeker after peace is asked, “What would you do if a German, or a Korean or a Russian were to rape your sister or to murder your mother?” and immediately he becomes an equally emotional war-time flag-wagger. The same arguments that he previously used against war he can now use against the prospective enemy. So the peace organisations fade.

Prior to the 1939-45 war a group of pacifists, some of whom were members of the Society of Friends, published a booklet entitled “The Roots of War”. In this booklet they quoted from “Conscription and Conscience” by J.W. Graham:
“At the outbreak of the Great War 90 per cent of the peace movement disappeared like snow before the summer sun and 32 per cent of the available young men in the Society of Friends joined up.”
That referred to the 1914-18 war. The position did not change before the last one. During 1935 millions of people signed a Peace Ballot. Four years later most of them had forgotten all about it or would have justified their support of the impending war with similar arguments to those that they had previously used in favour of peace.

The pacifist solution to the problem of war is to urge everyone to resist war service and conscious support of war efforts. The argument is, if everyone refused to participate in war there could be no war. True. But one could as readily say that if everyone refused to be unemployed there could be no unemployment. The logic is sound, but the premise is false. A widespread refusal to participate in war will not, and cannot spring from the sloshy soil of emotionalism. It must have its roots in an understanding of the cause of war, the purposes for which wars are fought and a recognition of worldwide class interests, irrespective of nationality, language, colour, sex or any other sectional division. When the majority of workers realise that they have a common interest with those whom they are sent to kill and that the real enemy is the social class that sends them to do the killing, then there is prospect of an end to war. Until then, mere sentiment will no more stop future wars than it has staved them off in the past. Sentiment is the hotbed from which grows patriotism, racial prejudice, hatred of foreigners and national bigotry, all of which can be suitably fertilised by propaganda, religious teaching, martial music, etc.

Practically all of the peace organisations make great play of declaiming against instruments of mass slaughter such as the atom bomb. They seldom direct any opposition to killing by bayonetting or rifle sniping. The individual methods of killing are selective and are usually confined to the soldiers in the front line of battle, but the instruments of mass destruction are not selective, they do not discriminate between the soldier and the civilian, male and female, the old and the young, god worshipper and atheist, Liberal and Labourite, or, what is more important, between worker and capitalist. Radioactivity is no respecter of persons.

If the opposition is to killing, why direct it at one particular instrument of destruction even though it may be the most spectacular. Is death less objectionable when due to disembowelling by a bayonet than when it is caused by disintegration by Gamma rays? Such specialised opposition to the instruments of mass destruction suggests a desire to escape the consequences of modern war rather than a desire to eliminate the evil of war itself. It suggests a fear rather than an indignation.

All such opposition to mass killing, atom bombs, as well as to war propaganda and armament manufacture, is opposition to the effects of war and not to war itself. The peace organisations, admirable as their intentions may be, are useless for the purpose of preventing war. War is a product of social conditions and those conditions must be examined for its cause before it can be eradicated. Socialism alone has the solution that can end war for all time.

There is another approach to the war problem that would be humorous were it not that so many workers are deluded by it. There are those who claim that by the superior might of an associated group of nations, would-be aggressors can be scared away from war. This is the line taken by the majority of governments today. Armaments are piled up by blocs of states in order to intimidate other blocs and thus crowd the world with snarling fighters who are all afraid to start anything for fear of getting a licking. The whole argument is, of course, sheer nonsense. The League of Nations was based on this idea, just as is U.N.O. today. The League of Nations could not intimidate Italy when it invaded Abyssinia, nor could it prevent the last world war. The existence of U.N.O. did not prevent the war in Korea nor will it prevent the greater war that is looming ahead. Atlantic Pacts, the grouping of Western powers, Russia and Oriental alliances are all of the same order. The increased military might that results from an alliance between a number of states is heralded as a force for peace. Bunkum! It is just so much increased strength when the war starts. The smallest and weakest of nations are driven to war by the force of capitalist competition, even against mightier competitors. Military strength may defer but cannot prevent the ultimate use of military force to settle international conflicts.

This “peace by force” argument goes hand in hand with the well propagated idea that it is always the other fellow who is the villain. No government ever admits that it is the aggressor. Each capitalist state protests that it is pining for peace but that others will not leave it alone. Various opponents arise with martian expression to disturb the peace. Once it was the French, then the Germans and the Turks, now the Russians. In each of those countries the aggressor is some other nation. Britain claimed that Hitler was warlike and started the last war, Russia attacked Finland to safeguard itself against aggression, Hitler and Mussolini wanted peace but warmongering Britain was aggressive. “Please sir, it wasn’t me, it was that other boy.” So they hoodwink the emotional pacifists and wean them away from their peace organisations into an all-out war effort.

The Communist-inspired peace conferences, likewise, have nothing to offer. The acrobatics of the Communist Party during the last war are still fresh in our memory. Always the policy is in line with the foreign alliances of the Russian Government. If Russia and Britain are allies, the Communists are patriotic enthusiasts. If Russia is in the opposite camp, it is a war of capitalist imperialism against the workers of the East, and the Communists are anti-war. Any protestations of peace coming from the Communist Party indicate the requirements of the Russian Foreign Office. The indication now is that Russia is not yet prepared to face a war. But the fighting pacifist speeches at the peace conference attract a lot of well-intentioned but sentimental pacifist workers.

High profits and low wages indicate that the workers are producing a lot of wealth that does not come back to them in their weekly wage packets. It is in the scramble to acquire profit that capitalist groups come into conflict with one another. Certain necessities to modern civilisation such as petroleum and rubber are only to be obtained from particular parts of the world. Their production and sale offers great profit. National capitalist groups jostle for control of these areas. They argue, they enter into diplomatic relations, they place their case before U.N.O. and they build armaments against the day when they must fight for survival. If one group gives up the struggle even for a short while it is swamped by its rivals. Constant alertness is vital and a preparedness to resort to arms when the national economic life is being strangled which, for the capitalist, means when his profits are being diverted into someone else’s pocket.

There is no working-class interest to be served in any capitalist war. They are not worth the shedding of working-class blood. But the workers must not be pacific. There is a war to fight, a war against those who would maintain the existing system of production for profit. The class war. That calls for a very determined and fighting working class, not a sentimental pacifist one. The question of morals or the evil of war does not enter into it. Where there is a conflict of interest there must be a readiness to fight. If we object to fighting then we must remove the conflicting interests. If we remove the capitalist class we shall have solved the problem of all wars, international as well as class. But we shall not remove the capitalist class with sentiment and talk about morality.
W. Waters

Letter to a Sympathiser (1951)

From the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard


This is by way of being a recruiting letter. Recruiting is in the fashion these days, despite the fact that the war to defeat the aggressive nations and make the world “Safe for Democracy,” etc., etc., ended only six years ago. Everywhere one goes there are highly coloured posters illustrating the luxurious life one can lead in the Armed Forces (incidentally one proof that the Labour Government has to administer Capitalism pretty much the same way as any other political party whose policy is based on reform and maintenance of this “Production for Profit” system under which all— repeat, all—“civilised” countries operate).

However, we feel no shame or guilt in inviting you to join the Socialist Party of Great Britain. It is no boast when we say that it is the only political party in this country worthy of working-class support; the only party whose sole object is the overthrow of this fantastic system whereby the majority of human beings —the working class—produce the wealth of the world for the small minority—the capitalists—who own it. You are a worker, so we need hardly tell you that the share you are allowed to have in this wealth just about keeps you living from week to week and capable of producing the goods you cannot possess.

You have listened to our speakers many times and have read the literature we print, so you know that the system we wish to see established, Socialism, under which all human beings will own in common, and have free access to, the world’s wealth, cannot be brought about by tinkering with or patching up by means of reform, the system existing now. For this reason, you do not give your support to the Labour, Tory, Liberal or Communist parties, or any other political organisation—you have seen through their promises of better conditions if only you put them in power. Yet you are not with us in the S.P.G.B. . . . It may be because you feel despondent and think the task of establishing Socialism an almost impossible one in the face of the powerful propaganda pumped into the working class by all the means capitalists have at their disposal—radio, newspapers, politicians and so on. But look at the problem in this way—modern Capitalism requires a trained working class to run it, it is no longer a matter of using brute force against Nature in order to produce wealth. Trained people cannot be kept wholly in the dark about world events, therefore the owning class have to “spill the beans” to you and your fellow workers, in half-truths at least. Join with us in laying bare to members of our class the facts behind the news, so that they too can analyse it and draw their own conclusions and not those ready-made for them. All the propaganda will then be useless and the world will move forward to Socialism at a greatly increased rate. You see, it all depends on you! Our organisation is small, but it is based on principles sound and irrefutable, which in the forty-seven years of the Party’s existence, have never had to give way to expediency.

If we have your help and that of our many other sympathisers, we will grow, and your despondency will vanish. Just now you may have an indefinable and deep sense of dissatisfaction; life is just drudgery and purposeless, merely a matter of existing from day to day, even if you are one of those “lucky” workers producing beautiful and useful things—unlike the millions who are engaged in many utterly worthless tasks peculiar to Capitalism and its monetary and profit system. There are many outlets in the S.P.G.B. which will help to counteract this. There is the satisfaction to be gained by helping with our many outdoor meetings, pushing up the sales of our pamphlets and the Socialist Standard, or writing articles for the latter. There are worthwhile discussions and lectures at branch meetings. By no means least, there is the comradeship one feels in being engaged with others in working for a sane system of society.

When can we expect your membership application form?
S. G.

Echo of a Great Fight (1951)

From the September 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

Take a ringside seat as two contestants enter the political arena. On the right “Battling” Lady Tweedsmuir, Conservative M.P. On the left “Champ” Alice Bacon, M.P., and Chairman of the Labour Party. (Party Political Broadcasts, and repeated in “The Listener,” 28th June and 5th July.) The winner of the contest hopes that her party will qualify for the support of the electorate in the next General Election.

Up in the centre of the ring Lady Tweedsmuir struck the first blows at “the Government’s hesitation and drift in foreign policy. It is not their fault if other nations covet all we have ” (italics ours), “ but it is our Government’s fault if we appear so weak in foreign eyes that we tempt them to threaten. us.” The Government’s record of rearmament has been “too little, too late. . . . The Russian armies outnumbered the Allies in Europe by nine to one . . . There is so much to do, so little time while a powerful and ruthless nation strives to conquer the world.” (These words have a familiar ring; we heard them in 1914 and 1939.)

Alice Bacon counter-attacked with lavish praise for the morale of present-day Britain and the Labour Government’s achievements in social services and care of school children. She poured scorn on Lady Tweedsmuir’s “weird picture of a Britain dismembered and upside down,” and questioned whether she gets “quite the same angle on life from the windows of her Highland castle at Braemar as she (Alice Bacon) gets from the windows of a miner’s cottage in Yorkshire.”

Lady Tweedsmuir returned to the attack and reminded us that most of the “good measures in the field of social services” were drawn up during the war by the Coalition Government with its large Conservative majority, but the Labour Government had “completely undermined the whole idea with their bad management anti wild extravagancies in all directions.” This was followed by a short jab that we already have the “highest taxation in the free world.”

Alice Bacon temporarily floored her opponent with the fact that the heavy taxes fall on people with more than £40 a week. She denied the Government’s “wild extravagance" and said “The money is spent on you and your family.” (That’s us, Chums!)

Lady T. then weighed in with a flurry of tried and trusty body blows, “devaluation, meat muddle, fuel crisis, eggs in Gambia (do you know that at one time there were more officials than chickens?), sale of jet aircraft to Russia, serious muddle over raw materials, and the fearful failure on housing.”

Alice Bacon, now on the defensive, said that planning was necessary although Tories always “shudder” when the word is mentioned. “The Tory policy of unrestricted free enterprise, everybody for himself, leads merely to scramble and chaos.” She further “explained” the rising prices as due to high costs of raw materials from abroad, rising world population, 200,000,000 more mouths to feed and clothe than before file war, Korea, and hoarding of stocks. She firmly upheld the Government’s policy of bulk buying and subsidies; also their attitude to India and the Gold Coast, saying, “This is a Labour century, the century of the ordinary folk, not the century of Tory imperialists.”

Lady T. came back with a plea for free enterprise and burst forth with a literary gem that should go down to posterity. “The Conservative party has always maintained that the first need in domestic affairs is to have honest money. After all, money is only worth what it will buy.” We also heard that the Tories have “plainly stated their resolve to strive their utmost” to build 100,000 more houses per year than the Labour Government’s target. They don’t claim to “ know all the answers,” and given power their “task won’t be 'easy,” but they have “done it before, after 1931, when the last Labour Government left a trail of financial ruin and 2,750,000 unemployed.” Lady Tweedsmuir’s parting words were rather high-flown. “Life can still be a high adventure if only we are given the chance. I ask you then, when the moment comes, to adventure on with us in faith and resolution to match the spirit of our times.” (The “high adventure” is somewhat ambiguous and the word “high” a singularly unfortunate choice—it smells.)

Alice Bacon’s closing round stressed the opposition by Tories to increased profits tax. She said that rearmament is bound to affect our standard of living, but “it is our contribution to help to maintain the peace of the world. You won’t find us bullying or blustering ourselves into a war in the old imperialist way; but patience must not be mistaken for weakness. . . . In these critical times when it is very easy for a small spark to start the atom war, it is very important to continue to have statesmen at the helm who are patient and calm, sensible and responsible, and who bring to the conference table proved qualities of democratic leadership. With Clement Attlee and his team you can be sure of that.”

These party political broadcasts always follow the same depressing monotonous lines, the worn-out so- called “arguments” hashed and re-hashed, a wordy distracting smoke screen for the workers.

In an emergency—at home or abroad—these two parties will sink their differences, such as they are, and smoothly co-operate to keep the palsied and tottering system of Capitalism on its feet.

Do you desire to “high adventure” with the Tories or to be “led” by Mr. Attlee? Wake up, workers! Don’t be “led” anywhere, get going under your own steam and work for the obvious and only way— Socialism.
F. M. Robins