Sunday, June 12, 2022

The New Year—A New World? (1942)

From the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Another year is being added to the history of human existence and travail. As is usual, many will look to the corning year with a new hope, forgetting, if only for a moment, the trials and worries of the old—the fountain of human zest is truly inexhaustible. Dominating the thoughts and schemes of all is the war; a war that has inevitably swept its flaming way across the whole world, destroying black, brown, yellow and white alike in its fiery grasp. Thus another link is forged between the workers of the world, for capitalism bestows upon them all, “without distinction of race or sex,” the privilege of perishing on its behalf.

Total war, with its horrible outrages upon civilians, including children, as distinct from the armies engaged in combat, is not the hellish invention of a few individuals; it is the logical expression of present-day capitalism in military conflicts. ”War,” said Clausewitz, “is a continuation of politics by other means.” And politics, we would add, are a continuation of economic conflict by other means.

Preliminaries having been disposed of, the five great Powers enter the scene of conflict in order to contend in the final stages of the struggle for world-domination. The United States, Britain and Russia, the Grand Alliance, versus the challenging axis, Germany and Japan.

The position of the U.S.S.R. is particularly interesting. Having been promised “that they would not pull the chestnuts out of the fire for anybody” (Stalin’s speech to the Soviets in March, 1939), the Russian people have yet had to bear the full weight of attack from Germany. As a consequence, Russia has taken her place with the Western democracies, disproving once and for all the Communist fairy tale of a capitalist world in arms against “the one Socialist country,”

It is to be expected that this alliance, already close as shown by repeated conferences between Stalin and leading spokesmen of the British ruling class such as Lord Beaverbrook and Mr. Eden, will be knit even firmer by the exigencies of the war and continue after the conclusion of hostilities.

As a result of the unparalleled battles across the vast spaces of Russian territory, the German armies appear to have sustained their first serious setback of this war. The Fuehrer, claiming infallibility, has taken over supreme command from his military chiefs, and signs are not wanting that this egomaniac is planning fresh assaults and more graveyards for his “beloved soldiers.”

We cannot tell how much longer the German masses will be content with their role of dumb or willing instruments for wealthy and ambitious cliques but a day of reckoning seems not far distant. Perhaps the military caste of junkers who have provided the real motive-force for German military adventures will not get off so lightly as they did in 1918. Then they found a convenient “front,” the Social-Democratic Party, which it repaid by helping to crush when military rehabilitation was nearing success. May the fate of the once powerful German Labour Party be a warning and a lesson for the future.

Whilst Nazi speeches are betraying uneasiness, having descended down the scale from the bombast of victory to pleas and threats, the lords of the British Empire have almost recovered their normal level of self-assurance. Confidently they tell their loyal subjects behind the benches and the guns to be ready to take the offensive in 1943. Alluring prospects! Further evidence of our capitalists’ measure of working-class intelligence can be obtained. They do not find it necessary even to explain how they are able to spend more than £12 million a day on the war alone when only ten short years ago this very same ruling class declared they would be bankrupt unless they took the margarine off the bread of the unemployed to the amount of a mere £5 million a year.

This sorry tale of working-class deception could be continued ad nauseum. Its success can only be explained by the workers’ misunderstanding of social problems; it provides a crushing answer to those who sneer at our insistence on education in Socialist principles.

On the other side of the world—in the Pacific Ocean—total war has descended with murderous suddenness on a number of islands which, with their natural beauty, fertility, and sub-tropical climate, must have provided their people with idyllic conditions of life before the appearance of capitalism. Unfortunately for the present inhabitants, their neighbourhood is the source of much of the oil and rubber that feeds the capitalist wheels of war and peace. Japan, with its modern industry and feudal politics, has chosen the proverbial “gambler’s throw” in an endeavour to seize these vital depositories and with them an empire in the East. Yet even in politically backward Japan working-class ideas have already made their appearance, and the Japanese proletariat may yet surprise their masters before very long. A political structure which refuses to be modified according to the needs of a more advanced economy, that factor plus a war-weary proletariat has often spelled trouble for a ruling class in the past.

Indeed, when we look at the world in the pages of the press or through the other avenues, all of them controlled by groups of capitalists, we only see little more than the comings and goings of the “Great Ones,” the statesmen and the generals, the industrial magnates and other so-called “personages.” But behind these ceremonials, these speeches trumpeted through the ether to the four corners of the earth, behind the head-lines of the day, there looms a shadow—the working-class of the world with its own problems. These problems the grandiose strategy of war does not touch. True, at present this shadow is not very big—-no bigger, perhaps, than a man’s fist, as the saying goes. But then a working-class can be troublesome at times. That is why, during odd moments between labouring on schemes for new and more gigantic battles, there are being concocted in the cabinet-rooms and chancellories of our rulers new and magic potions—not, however, to be administered until after the job of war is done and victory gained.

The finest ingredients only are being used. There is a “charter” containing “freedom” and “social justice”; competing with it is a “new world order” and even an “asiatic co-prosperity sphere.”

So far there are no signs anywhere of the working-class being dazzled by these verbal rays of “sunshine in the future.”

On the contrary, whilst workers are generally in support of their rulers at conflict, their reactions to these promises of a better world after the war are largely negative. They fight more out of a feeling that they would be worse off should they be defeated than the belief that victory will bring a “quasi utopia.” At the present time the workers are not given much to speculation about the future. The personal problems which the war has brought into every working-class home are intense. Like the shadows they are, shadows of a dark age, they cloud the worker’s mind; only the immediate issues are his concern.

But that mood will pass. When it does, he will ask of himself, of his fellow worker: “Must this go on, this world of wars, of poverty and worry? Is it not possible for humanity to find a different plan for living, one that would give us security and peace?”

Then may it be that Socialism will take its rightful place in the consciousness of the workers.
Sid Rubin

The S.L.P. and Formation of the Communist Party, 1920 (1942)

From the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard 

In our October issue we dealt with a complaint by the Socialist, organ of the Socialist Labour Party, that we had published an incorrect statement to the effect that the Communist Party was formed in 1920 by the “fusion” of several organisations, including the S.L.P. The Socialist, in its issue of November, replied to our statement of October.

We will deal with the various points one by one.

First there is our original statement that the S.L.P. and other organisations were fused into the Communist Party in 1920. That statement was made in good faith by the writer of the article, and passed in good faith by the Editorial Committee. That it came to be published could justify a charge of negligence, but the Socialist, instead of making only that charge and giving their version of the facts, wrote an abusive article imputing that the statement was a deliberate falsehood:—”The facts could have been easily verified, and there is no excuse for the falsehood unless it be that he lied deliberately with intent to deceive his readers, and thereby create a false belief regarding the S.L.P. His assertion has not even the shadow of fact behind it.”

This imputation of deliberate falsehood is one for which the Socialist has and can have no kind of evidence, and in their November statement they so far forgot their complaint that we knew the facts and falsified them deliberately, that they offer instead the explanation that our statement was made “without knowing the facts.” As we do not wish to copy the Socialist’s methods of controversy, we do not ask for an apology, though it would certainly seem to be called for.

Since, however, the Socialist is evidently under the impression that we are attempting to justify the original statement, we state that it was wrong, and offer our apologies for publishing it.

As the original statement is agreed to be incorrect, we come to the next point, What were the true facts? In our October issue we drew attention to two published statements, one by a Communist to the effect that “the main part of the S.L.P.” was fused into the Communist Party, and another by Mr. G. D. H. Cole that “most of its more active members . . . passed over to the Communist Party in 1920.”

On the plea of first things first the Socialist, in its rejoinder, declines to deal now with this aspect except to argue that it is necessary to distinguish between the whole and the part (which is true) and that to say that the “main part of the S.L.P.” went into the Communist Party is “in flat contradiction” with the statement that the S.L.P. went in. The Socialist having declined except in its own good time to say what is its version of the facts that matter must be left there for the present.

One other statement made by the Socialist does, however, require comment. In their September statement they say: —
“Never in the whole of its history has the S.L.P. fused, united, federated nor anything of the sort with any party whatsoever.”
Readers who are not familiar with the history of the S.L.P. may be led by those words, “nor anything of the sort,” into assuming that the S.L.P. has not been prepared to associate with other parties towards which it from time to time declared its hostility. This is not the case. One instance of its willingness to do so may be found in the Socialist of December, 1918. Under the heading “The Crisis: A Call to Labour,” the Socialist prominently displayed a manifesto calling on the British workers to take action against the Defence of the Realm Acts, against the intervention of Allied troops in Russia, against the blockade of Germany, etc. It ended with an appeal to British workers to rouse themselves and join hands with their fellow workers in other lands and “march through the gates of freedom now opened wide.” This manifesto is expressly stated to have been “issued jointly by the Executives of the Independent Labour Party, the British Socialist Party and the Socialist Labour Party.”

It was the British Socialist Party which was mainly instrumental in forming the Communist Party.

While, therefore, the Socialist is entitled to object to statements that the S.L.P. fused with the B.S.P., the knowledge that it was prepared to issue joint manifestos with the B.S.P. does suggest that the display of indignation is excessive.
Editorial Committee.

Prophecies on the Outcome of the War (1942)

From the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

To call forth a display of dialectical acrobatics among certain sections of the “Left” it is only necessary to ask the question: “Is this an Imperialist war?” The replies would arouse memories of youthful hours of immature speculation spent pondering such propositions as : “No straight line is so straight that in certain circumstances it could not be considered crooked. . . . No circle—in certain circumstances, an oval,” and etc. Supporters of the war, particularly those apologists whose political activities have been “anti-Imperialist,” would qualify their answers with something like this: “Well, it is not merely … or only … or solely an Imperialist war.” Aside from the Communist Party, which has long since ceased to deny that it stands for the interests of the Russian Government, there are few among the “Leftists” who would deny categorically that this IS an Imperialist war—whatever else might be involved, whether they support or oppose it.

The facts are inescapable. What does “an Imperialist war” mean if not that the outcome determines which group of powers will possess the world’s most fruitful imperial possessions? The chief concern of the British and American capitalists in the Far East is the defence of Imperial interests. The loss of strategic positions and the loss of political influence and control of key trading centres would destroy or considerably restrict the freedom to trade in the markets of the teeming millions in China, Asia and India. The chief concern of the British, American and Dutch capitalist class is to maintain and defend its existing privileges: the chief concern of the German, Italian and Japanese capitalist class is to wrest these privileges from them for themselves. Upon the outcome rests the power to derive profit and exploit the workers to the advantage of one group or to the disadvantage of the other. That is the simple position. This war basically is an Imperialist war. That much would be agreed, though not without qualifications, by many political opposites who support the war. But that does not dispose of the difficulties of those who seek logical grounds for their support. Indeed if support or opposition to the war were governed merely by the fact of its being demonstrably capitalist or Imperialist then there would be considerably less intellectual dyspepsia and acrimonious dispute in “Left” political circles.

F. A. Ridley and C. A. Smith in a Huddle
Take, for example, the controversy in the October issue of Left, between F. A. Ridley and C. A. Smith, both members of the I.L.P., which claims (1) that it is opposed to the war, and (2) that it is Imperialist. The controversy is narrowed to the question, “Is this solely an Imperialist war?” which Ridley affirms and Smith opposes. Ridley outlines the half century struggle between German and British capitalism and argues effectively that the present war is a culmination of that struggle. He allows for no other interpretation of his case than that there is no ground for support for war. To this point the issue is clear. From this point he becomes somewhat bogged by the Russian issue; “Socialists are justified,” says Ridley, “in advocating the (qualified) support of the Soviet Union.” Ridley defends this line because of “the undoubted possibilities of revolution and revolutionary war which the fall of Hitler . . . discloses.” Ridley’s approval of “(qualified) defence of the Soviet Union” logically should lead him to support the war. Russia is not fighting an independent war but as an ally of Imperialist Powers. On this point Smith has an easy task and scathingly replies to it. Perhaps Ridley’s attitude here is a concession to the I.L.P., whose policy, as far as it can be understood, is “opposition to the war,” and “defence of the Soviet Union.” But that is no excuse for Ridley.

C. A. Smith, in taking the negative on the question, “Is this solely an Imperialist war?” excels Ridley in the opposite direction. He argues that when “one side is engaged in a purely defensive struggle for freedom—such a struggle, other things being equal, has always been regarded by Socialists as progressive.” He quotes, and endorses, George Padmore’s statement in September Left that “China is fighting a progressive war of national liberation.” Further, he says: “. . . But what matters in politics is not motives but consequences [Smith’s italics], and while the attempt to clamp Nazism on the whole of Europe is reactionary, the endeavour to prevent the extension of Nazism to areas enjoying any [our italics] measure of political democracy, civil liberty, cultural freedom and national independence is politically progressive—even when waged by Imperialist powers.” “If there is nothing progressive about any phase of this war, then there is nothing in it for Socialists to support.”

It would not be unfair to Smith to say that he supports the war on the ground that it is “progressive.” The difficulty is to imagine any war in which Smith could not support one side or the other.

The Issue for Socialists
It is necessary to discount Smith’s statement that Socialists regard war as progressive when “one side is engaged in a purely defensive struggle for freedom.” It cannot be doubted that Mr. Smith so regards this war as do others in the Party of which he is a member and outside of it.

The first and fundamental fact about this war which has to be recognised is that it arises against the background of private ownership in the means of living and the world capitalist competitive struggle which flows from it. Without private ownership (and the only alternative is Socialism) it would not have arisen. It is, therefore, first, a capitalist war; not because of the “motives” of the ruling groups engaged in it, but because the objective world in which we live is a capitalist and competitive world. It is also an imperialist war because the object of the capitalist groups engaged in it is the defence of politically protected foreign capital investments (Imperial interests). Capitalism and Imperialism go together, and though conceivably wars could arise in the modern world which were not Imperialist the likelihood is small. The Spanish Civil War is an example where the struggle would not have arisen at all, or if it had, would have been of short duration, but for the Imperialist ambitions of the powers outside Spain who intervened.

This war is both capitalist and Imperialist.

It is certain that the British and American capitalists would not have engaged in it had it merely meant a threat of the extension of Nazism without the threat to their Imperialist interests. Whilst for Ridley the outcome of the “(qualified) defence of the Soviet Union” holds the possibility of the downfall of both Hitler and Stalin, and for Smith support for the war holds the (only?) possibility of the retention of political democracy and freedom and culture against the spread of Nazism, events might prove both to be wrong, and from their point of view the horrible sacrifice in life and devastation would have been in vain. A really terrifying prospect. Is it not possible that the reaction against Hitler in Germany and against Stalin in Russia might not hold the possibilities of the kind of “revolution” that Ridley anticipates? And even if the things Smith wants to see retained are retained, is it so certain that this alone will guarantee the world against years of bitter and exaggerated nationalisms among the world’s workers which are likely to arise out of years of fighting. Hitler, after all, managed to persuade German workers twenty years after the last war that their problems were due to the defeat of Germany in the first world war. Would anyone have anticipated that twenty years ago? Would Smith? Whatever the outcome of this war it cannot be guaranteed that the “consequences” will be “progressive” for the world working-class movement. Incidentally it was Smith who supported the Abyssinians against Italy. Whilst Socialists supported neither, there were many who, accepting “progressive” standards for judging the issue, argued, like Bernard Shaw, that the defeat, even by Fascist Italy, of those who composed the slave-owning ruling class of Abyssinia was “progressive.” To the Socialist the issue, of course, did not affect working class interests.

In the world to-day, neither Socialists nor even those who masquerade under the title, control events. They are remote from the time when they can. The fact has to be faced that events might produce setbacks, real or apparent, despite their will or desire. Whilst the workers are in the main not ready for Socialism this is unavoidable. It is in line with the logic of things. There is, however, no proof to be adduced that Socialism is necessarily delayed by such setbacks, or that the reactions to them would not be followed by such neutralising factors as circumstances which would favour’a corresponding acceleration in the spread of Socialist ideas.

The time has not yet come when Socialists can consciously plan to overcome events. In the meantime, however, we reject any evils which the world offers as choice. The Socialist does not have to choose which is the less of the evils. In a world where the majority are dispossessed of the means of living and where the minority who own quarrel between themselves over possessions which should belong to society, working-class independence should remain among the first and fundamental of Socialist principles.
Harry Waite

Editorial: Who Are Responsible for Defence Weaknesses? (1942)

Editorial from the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

In war as in peace the blind greed of capitalists persist even to the extent of endangering the continued existence of their sources of gain. We are prompted to make the statement by a report from a Special Correspondent which appeared in the Sunday Express for January 4th. This correspondent, writing from Sydney, Australia, reports an interview he had with Senator Foll on Malayan defences, and this is what the Senator told him: —
“The British War Office sadly neglected the Malayan defences. The civil and defence authorities told me this frankly and most decidedly during my visit to Malaya last August.

I was so alarmed at the information that I reported it to Mr. Menzies and other Cabinet Ministers on my return to Australia.

Mr. Menzies told me that he had repeatedly demanded stronger Malayan defences while he was in England.

From the time of Munich, Australia’s military strategy has been based on the likelihood of an attack by Japan. We were alarmed at the slight preparation provided against this in Malaya and Singapore. That was the main reason for Sir Earle Page’s visit to London via Singapore.

I think, frankly, that people holding large interests in Malaya were themselves principally responsible. They were engrossed in the big profits the war was bringing them and they resented even trivial taxation for the defence of their holdings.”
The last paragraph is the illuminating one. Government officials and military strategists are freely blamed for weaknesses and failures in Malaya and elsewhere, but how much of this blame should really rest on the shoulders of seekers after profit who were the power behind the various governments or whose actions thwarted the policies of those governments? Why, for instance, was Germany able to become strong again after 1918 and able to embark on a policy of conquest? One reason was because Germany became a profitable field for investors and these investors were prepared to risk a good deal rather than have their profitable investments disturbed.

It is customary to blame Balfour and Macdonald for failing to keep up to date in rearmament during the period preceding the present war, but the major responsibility rests with the wealthy interests who found the high cost of re-arming cut into their profits. Profits were their main objects, and so they made hay while the sun shone, hoping to wriggle out of trouble somehow later on. A fair example of the intelligence or blind lust of the capitalists as a class.

Another instance of the blind and unprincipled lust bred by a system under which goods are produced for the sole purpose of making a profit for capitalist investors is provided by the black market that figures so largely in the news these days, and the numerous cases where people are prepared to jeopardise the successful prosecution of the war (their war) in order to make profit out of it. The following quotations are only two examples that illustrate the point: —
“Barham and Marriage, Ltd., of Leadenhall Street, E.C., grocerer, were fined £10 with 10 guineas costs at Kensington to-day for selling milk powder substitute grossly deficient in fat proteins and milk sugar at their shop at Church Street, Kensington.

Mr. Barry Evans, prosecuting, said the powder when analysed was shown to be essentially flour and salt and was in no sense a composition resembling milk powder.

The substitute was sold at 3s. a lb., but could be produced at 2½d. a lb.

Dr. James Fenton, medical officer of health of Kensington, said that if infants were fed on the powder they would suffer from anaemia and a lowered resistance to infection.

If a mother fed her child on the powder believing she was giving the infant a complete food, the child would starve under her eyes.

Mr. R. Seaton, defending, said the firm was supplied with a powder called “Milkona” by the manufacturers, with a warranty at 2s. 3d. a pound.

They innocently purchased it for retail to the public. They were not unscrupulous and not a breath of complaint had hitherto been made against them.—( Evening Standard,” 31st October, 1941.)

Pal Food Products, Ldt., of South Audley Street, London, W.I, were fined £10 and five guineas costs at Stratford to-day for selling a mixture called Pal-lem with a misleading label.

It was stated that the mixture was described on the label as containing vitamin C, and as the perfect substitute for fresh lemons.

Dr. Hammance, public analyst, said the bottle, which was bought for 1s. 3d., could have been manufactured for ¾d. There was no vitamin C in the contents, nor was there any citric acid, the only acid being tartaric”.—(“Evening Standard,” December 31st, 1941.)
These facts are simply further support for our contention that capitalism, owing to its private property basis and profit-making object, is incapable of solving the major problems with which it is afflicted. These problems can only be solved when the profit motive is obliterated by the introduction of Socialism.

Editorial: Science and the Future (1942)

Editorial from the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the wireless a few nights ago three men were discussing the probable future of man. They were men prominent in their professions, and at least one was a scientist, and we would, therefore, have been justified in expecting to hear something fundamental on the subject—but we didn’t !

The scientist made the interesting statement that the reason why science had made less progress in the investigation of purely human questions as against the tremendous progress in engineering and the like was because scientists, like other men, had to earn a living, and consequently, had to give most of their attention to subjects that promised them a living.

The statement is interesting because, coming from a scientist, it is authentic and illustrates how completely the wages system dominates the work of science. We are often told that science was stultified in days gone by owing to the power of religion and how free it is to-day. But there are evidently serious limits to this freedom.

For a quarter of an hour these three people discussed whether men would grow more intelligent in the next five hundred years or fall back into barbarism. They believed man would progress but they were not certain. One of them anticipated that machines would be perfected to a point where they practically operated themselves, thus leaving man free for creative work such as—gardening !

The assumption evidently being that handling machines was unpleasant work whilst such things as gardening were not.

The fact is that they all missed the fundamental aspect of the question. To those who work for wages gardening is just as irksome as handling a machine. When working a machine is like gardening for a hobby its unpleasant side will have departed. The proof of this is the fact that model engineers are immersed in the joy of their work and nearly every boy is a born engineer and loves playing about with machines.

Machine work, like other occupations, is only distasteful because of the conditions under which that work is carried on—capitalist conditions. Under Socialism all will take pleasure in the work they do, including the handling of machinery, because it will be joyful work and not grinding, painful labour for a wage that does little more than provide an existence.

Letter: Bolshevism and Socialism (1942)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have received a letter from a correspondent, Mr. F. Parker (Islington) about the social system in Russia. He asks in what way the aim of the Socialist Party differs from the Bolshevist system now functioning in Russia, and says that in Russia millionaires have been eliminated, there is no employing class, and, in short, “Russia has carried out Lenin’s programme by Marx and Engels.” He says that all are benefiting in “good wages,” and justifies the Bolshevist system of paying higher wages to some than to others.

Our reply is that the various features referred to do not constitute Socialism. In Russia goods are not produced solely for use (as they will be under Socialism), but are produced for sale, at a profit. While it is true that there is not an obvious employing class, the wages system is the prevailing system. When our correspondent claims that Bolshevism is the application by Lenin of Marxism, he forgets that Marx did not aim at improving wages but at abolishing the wages system. He wrote, for example:
“Instead of the conservative motto, ‘A fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work,’ they (the workers) ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wages system.’ ”
Moreover, Lenin, before the Bolshevik seizure of power, and in its early days, far from justifying inequality of pay as between one grade of workers and another, admitted that it was only a regrettable and retrogade step forced on the Bolsheviks by necessity.
Editorial Committee.

Letter: Can there be Two Socialist Parties in One Country ? (1942)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have received the following enquiry : —
“Clause 7 of your Declaration of Principles seems to imply that in any given national state there can only be one political party representative of the real interest of the working class. If this is so, what are the social, political, economic or technical reasons in justification thereof? I can only think of the technical one—viz., that owing to the facility of communications—railways, postal facilities, and advertising—it is inconceivable that two or more groups should be formed simultaneously to operate an identical policy, but is this sufficient grounds for the general statement—i.e., why, on logical grounds, must this be so ?—Enquirer.”
We think that “Enquirer,” through overlooking one obvious but important factor, has created a difficulty where none exists. If we ourselves put a question, this factor will become apparent. Our question is this: “Granted that workers in different parts of one country (and, indeed, workers in different parts of the world) come to the same point of understanding the nature of capitalism and the means of achieving Socialism, what can there be to keep them apart and in separate organisations? ”

The answer is and must be that workers with a common aim and agreed about the necessity of organising to achieve Socialism will naturally want to unite their efforts, and will do so unless something prevents them. Distance and difficulties of communication may make it convenient to have separate organisations in different areas, but cannot be a reason for having two organisations with the same object working separately in the same area. Also capitalist laws may make it necessary or at least advisable and convenient to have separate organisations for different countries, but here again the members will naturally wish as far as possible that the separate organisations shall keep in touch and work together, as illustrated by ourselves and our companion parties abroad.
Editorial Committee.

Letter: Socialists and Reforms (1942)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard
A correspondent (S. E. K., Braughing, Herts.) writes asking the following question: —
Editorial Committee, S.P.G.B.

Dear Sirs, 

I do not quite understand your viewpoint on the reform question, but if a member of the S.P.G.B. were elected to Parliament would he oppose or support a measure or bill in favour of Family Allowances ?

A reply in “The Socialist Standard” would help many readers, as I get different answers from different supporters of your party.

Yours faithfully, 
S. E. Keyte.

There are several aspects of the question of Reform and Reformism. The first is that the S.P.G.B. is opposed to the policy of putting forward a programme of reforms in addition to the objective of Socialism. It has sometimes been argued that a Socialist Party can usefully have a programme of reforms or immediate demands, consisting of measures to improve the workers’ conditions under capitalism. The objections to this are many. One is that such a programme inevitably attracts the support of people interested in the reforms but not interested in Socialism. This leads, as experience has shown in the past, to the Socialist objective being pushed into the background, and to the Socialist membership being swamped by the reformist element. A second objection is that the party which adopts such a policy finds itself advocating reforms which are part of the programme of openly capitalist parties—which causes confusion in the minds of the workers and leads to a demand by the reformist element of the would-be Socialist Party that it should co-operate with capitalist parties in order to put the reforms into operation.

A further objection is that no matter what reforms are introduced capitalism will still remain. It will frequently nullify the temporary improvement brought about by each reform and at the same time produce other evils which in their turn demand still more reforms. The only solution of the workers’ problem is the introduction of Socialism, and this can be brought about only when a majority have been won over to an understanding of Socialism and have organised to achieve it. All the time and effort spent on reforms is time and effort lost to the propagation of Socialism.

As regards the question of voting for individual measures in Parliament it is not denied that certain measures may, at least temporarily, alleviate the hardship of some group of workers. In such a case, if the effect of the proposal was clearly beneficial, Socialist M.P.s would be instructed by the Party to vote for it while pointing out its limitations. They would, of course, in no case invite support or elections on such grounds.

It should, however, be observed that most of the proposals put forward are not beneficial at all. It can be said, for example, that the past Acts of Parliamenl extending the franchise were useful to the Socialist movement, as also Acts providing and extending education. These cases are fairly clear but a proposal to introduce family allowances would in effect merely have the result of redistributing wages as between workers with young children and workers without.
Editorial Committee.

Letter: Cheap Imports, Monetary Reform and Socialism (1942)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have received a further letter from the Duke of Bedford in reply to the observations published in our November issue.
November 25th, 1941.


I do not quite know why you assumed that my letter which you published in your November issue was an attempt to solve the contradictions of Capitalism. I was not dealing with either Socialism or Capitalism or the conflict between the two, but was calling attention to certain important facts relating to foreign trade and the relation of income to employment in a labour-destroying age.

When I spoke of the “true” purpose of industry, I meant the correct purpose under a sensible system. We are both agreed, though perhaps for somewhat different reasons, that the existing system is not sensible.
I agree that a “close association of work with the right to receive an income” is at present a characteristic of the working class, but seeing that the working class is an extremely important and numerous class, it stands to reason that any financial arrangement which does, or does not, provide them with adequate incomes is a matter which should receive the attention of any practical social reformer. As I have already pointed out, I was not in my letter “defending” Capitalism, but you are surely contradicting yourself when you first attack me for advocating a reform of the monetary system, which you refer to contemptuously as “currency juggling,” and then go on to say that if the reform I advocated were adopted, it would wreck the wages system through which the propertied classes were able to live on the backs of the wealth producers.

It is perfectly true that monetary reform such as I advocate would strengthen immensely the power of the weekly-wage earner to insist on receiving fair conditions of work and an adequate income. Speaking, however, from a very extensive experience of work for monetary reform and the controversy to which it gives rise, I do not find that the ordinary Capitalist opposes it because of the independence which he fears it would give to the weekly-wage earner. I do not say that this attitude of mind never exists, but it is decidedly rare and it is usually confined to the financier, or the controller of some great monopoly. The ordinary Capitalist, once he can be induced to give any serious thought to the matter at all, rid himself of the complex that he cannot understand finance, and see that he is not being invited to support inflation, usually rather welcomes a proposal which, as he sees it, will give him a better market for his goods, and at the same time, enable him to avoid trouble with labour disputes by making it possible for him to pay good wages to his workpeople. Rightly or wrongly he does not anticipate that workers will immediately go on to demand the control of the whole industry and equal shares in its profits.
Yours very truly,

The essential difference between the Socialist attitude and that of our correspondent is shown in his statement: “I was not dealing with either Socialism or Capitalism, or the conflict between the two, but was calling attention to certain important facts relating to foreign trade and the relation of income to employment in a labour-destroying age.” Our correspondent’s proposals were that “cheap imports” should be allowed and that “new money” should be “created” and given to the unemployed. What he overlooks is that these are proposals to accept capitalism while modifying it in what he regards as a practical and beneficial way. They are not and cannot be proposals which will have any meaning under Socialism. Socialism is essentially international. Goods will be produced where it is convenient to produce them and transported elsewhere to be consumed, but there cannot be any question of sale, barter, etc. These are capitalist conceptions and cannot be Socialist ones. Indeed, our correspondent in his first letter (November Socialist Standard) writes saying that under his conception of a “rational system” “the foreigner is able to send us a large quantity of goods in return for a comparatively small quantity of our own.” What is this but the existing capitalist cut-throat system? How is it any more rational?

Regarding monetary reform, since under Socialism there can be no need for any monetary system, monetary reforms can only be reforms of capitalism.

Without going into the question of inflation except to say that we do not accept our correspondent’s view, it is necessary to point out another fundamental divergence of attitude. We said that if the penalty of semi-starvation were to be removed, the workers would be in a position to wreck the wages system. Our correspondent’s reply is that his proposal would enable the wage-earner “to insist on receiving fair conditions of work and an adequate income,” but that there is little evidence that the ordinary capitalist opposes this, though the financier or monopolist may do so. It all turns, of course, on the word “fair.” Our correspondent regards it as “fair” that the propertied class should continue to receive incomes derived from their ownership, though presumably he is prepared to see these incomes reduced.

The Socialist case is that the only rational system for the future of the human race is one based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution which necessarily involves the elimination of all property incomes, whether in the form of rent, interest or profit. On this issue all sections of the propertied class have a common attitude—one of opposition.
Editorial Committee.

A Vile Game (1942)

From the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

J. M. Robertson, in his useful “History of Free Thought” remarks (p. 191): “Plato proposes that his ideal rulers frame new myths which shall edify the young: in his Utopia it is part of the business of the legislator to choose the right fictions.” The famous City State, with its big commercial fleet, its slave-worked mines, its pro-Persian Quislings, its mouthing “democrats,” was a striking forecast of the fully developed Capitalist State to-day. No wonder Plato is so dear to the heart of the baleful crowd of the Dean Inges and their kind.
Augustus Snellgrove

Speakers for Trade Union Meetings (1942)

From the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reproduction of Articles from the “S.S.”
Trade Union and other journals desiring to reprint articles appearing in the Socialist Standard are invited to do so provided that acknow­ledgement of the source is made.

Speakers for Trade Union Meetings
Branches of Trade Unions wanting to hear a statement of the S.P.G.B. case are invited to apply to the General Secretary, S.P.G.B., 33, Gloucester Place, W.1.

From “The Socialist Standard” : December, 1904 (1942)

From the January 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Better far to have a party, however small, with common principles and a common end, than a party, however large, which is bound by no tie save party interest. We, therefore, who differ from these other parties [Fabian Society, I.L.P. and S.D.F.] in essential principles—inasmuch as we accept the principle of the class struggle while they do not—cannot consent to unite our forces with theirs. It would weaken both parties—and the weakening would he more disastrous to the uncompromising section than to the revisionist. . . . We are all for unity, but it is for a unity firmly established on a common aim, and a common method. Any other unity is but a delusion.”

(2) Charity and Socialism
“Charity, whether organised or unorganised, exists because some folk have more than they need and others need more than they have. In a country where labour applied to natural objects can produce more than sufficient for everybody, such a state is unnecessary as well as unjust. In the Socialist Society, where industry is organised for the benefit of all, where all perform their share of the necessary labour and where all enjoy without stint the results of the organ­ised effort of the whole community, neither want nor charity need to exist. But the perpetuation of the capitalist system and not the establishment of the Socialist Society is the object of the charity-mongers.”