Monday, July 4, 2022

SPGB Propaganda Meetings (1932)

Party News from the July 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists and the Press (1957)

From the July 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

We live in what is claimed to be a “free country," where there is "free expression of opinion," but this must not be taken literally. It does not mean that anyone can say or write just what he likes. The Official Secrets Act and the libel laws cut off considerable areas of expression, into which you trespass at your peril. Much greater restriction arises because we live in a money world, in which capacity to make views known depends largely on what you can afford to pay. If your resources run into hundreds of thousands or millions of pounds, you can publish the Daily Worker, Daily Herald, Daily Express, etc.: if not you may have to be content with a monthly journal. But what about the possibility of the “free” expression of varied points of view in the columns of those and other journals with the big circulations? This again is a very narrowly circumscribed possibility when it is a question of securing publicity for a minority and not popular point of view, such as that of the S.P.G.B. When daily newspapers misreport matters of concern to us, or when they refuse to publish our letters or advertisements, there is no remedy—and this notwithstanding the existence of the Press Council, which is supposed to keep an eye on the conduct of the Press.

Another approach to the Press Council
In 1956 we approached the General Council of the Press about an incorrect statement (one of many in the Beaverbrook newspapers) that occurred in the Evening Standard, followed by editorial refusal to correct it (The matter in question was the practice of the Evening Standard of describing Labour Party conferences as conferences of "The Socialist Party of Great Britain.")

The Press Council declined to interfere, on the ground that readers would not be misled. (See Socialist Standard January and March, 1956.)

In May of this year we wrote again to the Press Council about the refusal of the Daily Telegraph to publish an advertisement of the Socialist Standard, the only reason given being that there is no refusal to publish our advertisements on principle, each advertisement being dealt with on its merits.

The Press Council replied on 29th May, 1957:—
“ Dear Sir,

"I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of May 27. The question of whether a particular advertisement will be published rests entirely with the Editor, whose decision is absolutely final. It may help you to quote the statement which appears on this subject in The Times every day. It reads

" 'All orders for advertising in The Times are accepted on the express terms— (a) that they are subject to cancellation at the discretion of the Editor,' etc., etc.
"Yours faithfully,
“(Sgd.) Alan Pitt Robins, C.B.E."
Of course, we don't feel at all helped. Either the Press Council approves of newspapers refusing advertisements or it disapproves, and it doesn't add anything to be told that The Times does it as well as the Daily Telegraph.

The Royal Commission on the Press
The Press Council arose out of recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Press (1947-1949). In the report of that body the question of refusing advertisements was dealt with; though we confess we cannot be certain what exactly the Royal Commission was trying to say. The relevant passages in the Report (paragraphs 529 and 530) are as follows:—
"We consider it entirely wrong for a newspaper to boycott a particular advertiser arbitrarily and for personal reasons."

“We have received evidence that some newspapers refuse all advertisements of a particular class. This is a different matter. We consider that a newspaper has a right to refuse advertisements of any kind which is contrary to its standards or may be objectionable to its readers. This right, however, should not be exercised arbitrarily."
This statement may have the appearance of being both clear and reasonable. It is the last sentence that makes the meaning unclear. The Royal Commission appears to be saying that it would be quite right for the Daily Telegraph to refuse all advertisements from the S.P.G.B., because the S.P.G.B. is objectionable to the readers of the Telegraph, but wrong for the Daily Telegraph to decide, arbitrarily and without giving a reason, to publish some and exclude others: but that is what the Telegraph does.

By curious coincidence we received from the News-Chronicle an almost directly opposite point of view. Having written to them about a misstatement in someone else's advertisement, a member of the S.P.G.B. received a reply to the effect that of course the News-Chronicle could not possibly interfere with statements made in advertisements.

The freedom to express Socialist ideas
The fact is that the possibility of making Socialist ideas known to the population is very narrowly restricted in this country. Newspapers and periodicals almost never give space to the Socialist viewpoint, and letters are comparatively rarely published. With paid advertisements we have somewhat better results, though refusals (sometimes masquerading under “no space available") are frequent. As the Royal Commission on the Press was supposed to be concerned with "free expression of opinion and the accurate presentation of news," they might have been expected to face the issue squarely: instead they sidestepped it by the insertion of the qualifying word "important,” (Report, page 676), and considered whether “ the Press as a whole gives an opportunity for all important points of view to be effectively presented."

Is the expression of Socialist ideas important? Certainly it isn't with the Tory, Liberal, Labour and other giants of the newspaper and periodical Press.

Not that the Royal Commission found everything to be satisfactory—far from it, and they half-understood the reason. "The failure of the Press to keep pace with the requirements of society is attributable largely to die plain fact that an industry that lives by the sale of its products must give the public what the public will buy. A newspaper cannot, therefore, raise its standard far above that of its public, and may anticipate profit from lowering its standard in order to gain an advantage over a competitor." (Paragraph 680.)

Nationalisation no remedy
We say that the Royal Commission only half understood the nature of the problem. This is amply proved by the fact that they took for granted that publication can only be for the purpose of selling and making a profit—they never considered the possibility that the only way of securing "freedom of expression" is through Socialism, when the question of sale and profit would not arise.

And they are not the only ones who do not understand. A delegate at the recent conference of the Electrical Trades Union, speaking on the Press, said:—
"An end must be put to its reports of sadism, sensationalism and pornography. We shall nationalise this monopoly so that its views shall be that of the working masses for Socialism ."—{Daily Worker, 7th June, 1957.)
It is difficult to imagine anything more contrary to every experience. We are asked to believe that nationalisation would change the Press into a vehicle for enabling the workers to express Socialist ideas. Let us look at a few facts. Where the Press has passed under direct Governmental control, as in Russia, it is not only impossible to publish a journal putting Socialist ideas for a Socialist organisation, but it is legally forbidden for a Socialist political organisation to exist at all. Secondly, the broadcasting service in this country has been nationalised for 30 years after a five year life of the original British Broadcasting Company. Do we find the nationalised B.B.C. putting over Socialist propaganda? It is in fact even worse than the capitalist Press. For a quarter of a century the S.P.G.B. has tried to get the Socialist case put on the radio, but with never a single success. Not that the B.B.C. says it will on principle not let the S.P.G.B. broadcast—nothing so crude —but each time application is made the application is refused.

One of our adverts, refused by the Daily Telegraph mentioned that the S.P.G.B. is barred from the air by the B.B.C. Those who are silly enough to think that there is some essential difference between the “private enterprise” capitalist Telegraph and the State capitalist B.B.C. may wonder why the former didn’t jump at the chance of chiding the latter for its opposition to “freedom of expression.” Instead they showed their true affinity by behaving in the same way, suppressing the Socialist case.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Good Abbé (1957)

Abbé Pierre (1955)
From the July 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

It was recently announced from Paris that the Abbé Pierre, ". . . known among his followers as ‘The Apostle of the Homeless’ ” has joined forces with the former Brazilian president of United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation, Senhor Jose de Castro, to create a "world organisation to fight hunger.”

The announcement added that the organisation would be financed by funds accruing from an international prize awarded to Senhor de Castro some years ago, and from lecture tours to be undertaken by the Abbé Pierre.

We are further informed that the good Abbé has already founded an “international institute for research and action against world poverty,” and a "World Abbé Pierre Foundation ” to finance it!

We might well wonder what kind of world it would be if we had not the impoverished, the homeless and the other victims of our social disorder to provide rungs on the ladder of fame and/or salvation to the pious reformers who, like the poor under capitalism, are always with us.

Worthy motives of muddled Reformers
But let us not ascribe such unworthy motives to the noble Abbé and those of his kind. Let us assume that they are sincere people, with a constant care for the miseries that beset millions in our unfortunate world. Well might they be shocked, indeed, for capitalism presents us with much that is shocking, even today, after generations of reformers.

As workers, ever close to the miseries which shock our reformers, and Socialists, knowing fun well the reason for such miseries, we must be forgiven if we wonder at the unworldly simplicity of all Abbé Pierres.

Even the poor man himself has been forced to confess that only "miserable results” have been so far achieved in the fight against misery.

Pity the poor reformers! Ephemeral things, they come and go, tampering with the effects of a cause unknown to them; administering social aspirin to a society afflicted by a social cancer. Good people? Of course they are! But in their dealing with the problems that confront the mass of the people they are, to put it charitably, naive.

We cannot believe that any reformer setting himself the task of eliminating poverty, could be so stupid as to seriously hope that they will achieve that end. Rather, we should imagine, do they hope to alleviate small pockets of the misery that so shocks them.

In order to protect themselves from “impostors” it is usual for the charity-giving reformers to make extensive enquiries regarding the depth of social degradation into winch the objects of their charity have fallen. It is bad enough to live in a world so organised socially that it is incapable of providing you—often, even if you are the most docile of wage-slaves—with work. To be denied by society the food, shelter and clothing necessary in order to live, is bad enough; but to suffer the piety, platitudes and preaching of most of the charity mongers and reformers heaps insult on injury.

The pious Abbé is going to spend funds on “research” and “action” against world poverty. We can only hope that such recklessness will not prevail in his broader charitable work, for all the research necessary on the origins of world poverty, and the required pattern of action for its eradication, have long since been known to Socialists. A very little research by the Abbé into Socialist writings will undoubtedly yield the cause of the misery against which he militates. Further persistence will reward him with the solution to such misery.

Poverty, unemployment, bad housing, crime, and the host of other evil social phenomena that continually haunt us all have their groups of “good-doers” spending time, money and effort vainly trying to stem the flood of misery, or effect reforms, but these evils remain, strong, virile weeds in the fecund soil of capitalism.

Cause and effects
Capitalism is the basic social cause of all these evils; that which the Abbé Pierres of this world struggle against is but the effects. They fight shadows, the Socialist prefers to get to grips with substance. As Socialists we know that there is only one truly effective “reform," and that is Socialism.

Capitalism, with its private ownership of the machinery of wealth production, forces on the mass of people a condition of slavery, wage-slavery. All the things necessary to the sustenance of human life become commodities, their use value only incidental to their exchange value. Even our physical energies—our labour power—has a commodity character which, since we are propertyless, we are obliged to sell to the owners of the factories, mills, land, etc., in order to get the wherewith to buy the things we need.

It is a staggering thought that even the humble loaf of bread—the “staff of life" to the masses—is not produced, under our present social system, primarily for the purpose of being eaten. If you have money you can buy all the bread you want, and there is no law to prevent you burning it should you so desire. On the other hand, if you are without money and starving you will go without bread—or beg at the table of an Abbé Pierre! ,

Order of Priority
Capitalism provides us with hungry millions, surely a reason for unrelenting work, and at the same time with armies of unemployed; capitalism gives us our slums for there is little profit in providing homes for the slaves of the system; capitalism, with its need to protect its foreign investments, gives us wars and their attendant evils.

Even if it were feasible to attack the problems of capitalism singly for the purpose of piecemeal reform, which, of course, it is not, it would be an odious task indeed, placing them in their evil perspective. While you fight slums, war creeps nearer, while you organise peace pledges, slums go unattended, while you are re-habilitating the refugee his compatriots are creating refugees, and so on.

There are no short cuts to Socialism and certainly trying to patch up a bankrupt social system is not progressing. If all those people who are genuinely desirous of putting an end to the evils they see around them actively joined with the Socialist movement, they would put an end to their objection that Socialism is a long way off. Had there been no Labour and Communist parties holding out political carrots to the working-class and no reformers using energy uselessly, then the pious charity mongers would long, since have been compelled to find other means of getting to Heaven and the world might well stand on the threshold of Socialism.

Until that time arrives, I suppose we who know better will see many Abbé Pierres trying to perform the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
Richard Montague

How well is the "Welfare State"? (1957)

From the July 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Continued from the June Socialist Standard).

Health in the Welfare State
Those who sing the praises of the European Welfare States and of the land of the highest wages and greatest prosperity—the U.S. A.—seem to be quite unaware of or to deliberately ignore the ugly, cruel, stupid and tragic features which the model states in both hemispheres have in common. In the totalitarian countries behind the Iron Curtain where Press and platform do not often dwell on the ugly side of things at their end, and where, therefore, information and statistical data on social affairs are not so easily accessible, ignorance may be excusable, but this cannot be said of the peoples of countries where books and Press supply the damning facts and figures with critical comment.

The 1955 report of the largest Austrian Health Service, with close on one million insured persons, provides perhaps the clearest picture of the state of health of the people. In that year the service had to deal with half a million cases of illness. Three million sickness certificates had to be issued.

Prescriptions totalled 8,700,000, which works out at 10 per person per year. In each 1,000 insured persons 193 insured persons or members of the family were treated in hospital. 375,000 bills for spectacles, foot supports, artificial limbs, bandages and other accessories had to be paid, 9 million days of illness were registered, and 3 million days in hospitals. There were 672,000 cases of dental treatment.

These are the records of only ONE, though the largest, Health Insurance Fund to which other sick clubs and the private practitioners have to be added. The city’s many hospitals and clinics are woefully short of beds and are invariably overcrowded. So are the institutions for the mentally sick. The number of inmates in the Vienna mental institutions and lunatic asylums has trebled since 1950. In that year the largest institution took in 735 persons and in 1955 the number rose to 1192. Even if it is true that alcoholism has a lot to do with it, it must be pointed out that frustration and the hard and nerve-racking conditions under which the mass of people have to live and work are in very large measure responsible for people taking to drink and driving them mad.

In a budget debate it was disclosed that in Austria no less than 4,200 million schillings were spent on alcohol, which is half a milliard more than the year before, and two milliards on tobacco. In Germany the situation is even worse, with nearly 50 per cent more on both items. How hopeless the problem is for the reformer or the apostle of anti-alcoholism is clear from the fact that prohibition, or even curtailment of the production of beer, wine and Schnapps would involve the loss of 348 million schillings for the government's tax collectors, not to speak of the serious effect on employment. An increase of alcoholism is noticeable in almost the whole world. Sweden has had to take drastic steps to restrict the rapidly increasing consumption of alcoholic drinks. A report says that since the abolition of rationing in 1915, offences and crimes have frightfully increased. If the number of unfortunates who have been and are being driven mad by the iron heel behind the iron curtain, is probably incalculable, the number of persons in mental institutions in the “free world” countries is no secret—it is, for example, 750,000 in the U.S.A.

This chapter is not intended to deal with such deeds (perpetuated by governments) as training young people in the use of instruments of mass murder and destruction. Whatever can be said about war in the jungle and in the wild and woolly past of the human race it is now and has been for a century already—a crime. True, it is so regarded not only by Socialists, but unless you are consistent in your condemnation and earnestly concerned with the all-important question of the real cause of the dastardly deed and prepared to work, as Socialists do, towards the elimination of that cause, the mere expression of your moral or sentimental indignation remain ineffectual and futile. Thus, with all their professions of peace and desire for disarmament, the welfare states and the totalitarian regimes continue the status quo, with all its contradictions and imbecilities—poverty and misery in die midst of ever-increasing accumulation of wealth and possibilities of enjoyment of life for everybody—in other words: with Demon Capital in the saddle. Whilst chewing platitudes about peace, freedom, sovereignty and social justice, the Labour Government of the United Kingdom brought in the atom-bomb, and in another welfare state—Austria—it is the very leaders of the “Socialist Party of Austria” who are the chief promoters of a new army. And in order to imbue the young recruits with the necessary fighting spirt, welfare statesmen and writers continue as in pre-welfare days, to give to historical events the bias required by the national (read capitalist) interests. So important is the fostering of that spirit to the powers that be that if for example, there was no “Südtirol question," both Rome and Vienna would have to invent one.

Our purpose in this chapter was, however, to deal with the crimes committed not by order or at the behest of governments, but by individuals driven to desperation and anti-social acts by an anti-social and insane system of society. It is to show that in the welfare state most of the evils inseparable from the money system flourish as abundantly as ever before. Burglaries, robberies with violence, theft and larceny, shocking murders and assaults, cruelties to children, etc., are on the order of the day. In January the leading article in a Vienna newspaper wrote: “With great alarm the public learns that the number of murders and general crimes with violence have for weeks again sharply increased. The excitement about the brutal assault on a postman last Saturday has hardly abated when news comes of a new far more terrible crime. In their tumble-down barracks an old couple was found battered to death and robbed of what little savings they possessed. A youth of 17 was afterwards arrested for the murder." The same paper reported the murder of a 25-year-old wife by her husband. Two boys of 17 and 18 raped and murdered a girl of 15 on her way home. A one-arm invalid killed his wife and six children with an axe. Another man murdered his wife and four children. Six boys stole within a short time 31 autos. “Christmas is the time"—another paper wrote—“in which the number of suicides and attempted suicides is far above the average. Among the many “tireds-of-life" this Christmas was the 40-year-old A. H., who gassed herself and her two children."

It is interesting that within a few days of one paper boasting that Austria was a land without gangsters, there occurred no fewer than three bank robberies in classical gangster style, with autos and the rest (two in the country and one in Vienna), in one of which two young robbers perished. And so one could go on ad infinitum, every day bringing new reports of crime and tragedies. Rarely are they reported in the foreign press, since every country has more than enough locally to fill their own regular columns of police and court reports.

In these unholy and unblessed orgies of crime, cruelty and fraud which, by the way, give employment to whole armies of policemen, gendarmes, prison guards, and wardens and executioners, lawyers and judges, reporters and printers and photographers, detectives and special transporters, in addition to experts in safety devices, safe-makers, etc., etc., the annual number of convictions of all kinds over recent years is invariably just over 100,000 in this country, 20 per cent. of which are for criminal killing and assault; the rest are for fraud, embezzlement, blackmail, insurance swindles and other “scandals."

With the Socialist's preference for quoting his enemies confirming the truth of his statements and criticism, here is what the Austrian Sozialminister Proksch said at a conference of the “Aktion Jugend am Werk” (7/11/1956): It is the tragic fate of the young about to start a profession, to be faced with unsettled problems. The advisory committee tries to help them in making a decision, but what good is this to them when there are no suitable openings and nobody wants them. It is hypocrisy to accuse youth of being spoiled and depraved when nothing is being done for their professional education. What is to become of a youth who has to wait months and sometimes longer for a chance of an apprenticeship? One must not be surprised if young people eventually become criminals." Remarkable, is it not? that this same Sozialminister should only a few months earlier have declared: “The Welfare State brings welfare to everybody, and with it assures well-being to every citizen”

If it will console British readers that things are said to be worse in America, here is what Sir Basil Henriques, former chairman of East London Juvenile Court, said after he had spent 51 days in the U.SA discussing juvenile delinquency in 20 cities and 14 States: "Every court where I sat I heard cases which were more serious than any I have heard in my 33 years on the bench.” On the television, he said: “I saw nothing but murder, divorce and prison scenes.” And if you should happen to get hold of a book “Never Come Morning," by Nelson Algren, you may come to the conclusion that really Sir Basil could hardly have exaggerated.

Accidents at work
The number of accidents at work is rising from year to year. From 1953 with 129,449 accidents, with 422 killed, it rose to 162,500, with 670 killed, in 1956. They do not only bring physical pain for the worker and mental depression (fear of losing his job) of the injured, but also distress to wives and children left behind after the death of their breadwinner. Almost unnoticed in the sensational revolt in Hungary and the Suez conflict, there occurred (in October 1956) the terrible tragedy when a bridge under construction and serving in the building of a dam at the Ottenstein power stations collapsed burying 10 workers under huge blocks of concrete. The accident, coming after the previous year's catastrophe at the Kapron dam, added its tragic quota to the already great number of widows and to the 25 orphans left behind after the previous disaster. Twelve more children were orphaned on 19th and 20th March when their parents lost their lives in a cycling accident near Salzburg.

So is the tragedy of accidents aggravated under capitalism by an individual having to provide for a number of others (wife, children, old folks) who are, through the breadwinner's death, deprived of the wherewithal to live. Under Socialism, when no individual will be dependent on another individual for his means of sustenance, but when every man, woman and child will be the responsibility of the whole community, any unfortunate accident to an individual will then not involve such tragic consequences to others. (This aspect will be dealt with more fully later in this series of articles.) 
Rudolf Frank

Letter: Hegel and Marx (1957)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

To the Editorial Committee.

In a letter to the June Socialist Standard a correspondent who signs himself "History Sixth” puts forward the view that "Marx's philosophy is not more materialistic than Hegel's, and his theory of history not more materialistic than any attempt to account for the historical process by the means of empirical science." He concludes from this that Marxism is logically compatible with metaphysical or religious beliefs.

Because of another opinion he offers; i.e., it is a mistake to call Marx's theory the materialist conception of history, his remarks, quoted above, are ambiguously confusing. Surely to be consistent with such a view he should say not that Marx's philosophy is not more materialistic than Hegel's, but that it is not less metaphysical than Hegel's. Again, when he says Mare's theory of history is not more materialistic than the means of empirical science, we are given no clue as to what he means by the term materialistic as used in the context.

The view that Marx’s philosophy is no more materialistic than Hegel's has been put by G. D. H. Cole and others, but I would suggest to "History Sixth” that such a view shows a complete misunderstanding of both Marx and Hegel, and it was certainly not a view shared by Marx himself. Thus, in the second preface to Vol. I of Capital Marx says: “ My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but its direct opposite.” He adds: "Hegel transforms the life-process of the human brain under the name of the idea into an independent subject.” He concludes: “With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind and translated into forms of thought.”

Even on the question of philosophy, Marx and Hegel never spoke the same language. For Hegel the subject matter of philosophy was to discover a prime mover or first principle in the cosmic process. This first principle was a self-creating self-activating thought process; i.e., God, which proceeded on a higher spiral plane to achieve absolute self-consciousness. Thus, for Hegel, nature, ideas, and that includes the means of empirical science, were but aspects of an underlying and essentially religious reality. Hegel viewed philosophy then as a means of finding out what had happened in terms of a teleological necessity and to show that what has happened could only be what must happen. Men were then but the instruments of a dialectic process. The task of philosophy was not to change the world but to understand its appointed end. Hegel denied that his philosophy afforded any clues as to how the world could be changed. He said: "Philosophy comes too late to teach the world what it should be . . . The owl of Minerva begins its flight when the shades of twilight have already fallen.” Hegel's philosophy by its very nature excluded any empirical directive principle as to how the world should be changed.

Marx's views were utterly opposed to such conceptions. He said: "Philosophers have only interpreted the world, our job is to change it.” Indeed, Man's philosophy was not a philosophy in the accepted sense as was Hegel's. Marx was not interested in trying to discover ultimate truth. For him truths were always historical and relative. Metaphysical idealists and religionists hold and must hold that thought is creative. On the other hand, Marx, in line with his own theory, said thought was selective and the manner and scope of its selection was moulded by the material conditions of life. Metaphysical and theological concepts can then have no place in the Marxist scheme.

If Marx had a philosophy it could be best described in his own words as critical materialism as opposed to mechanistic materialism. He believed with Feurbach that critical materialism would mean the end of metaphysics and religion. Again, Marx regarded materialism as the only valid expression of scientific method. Thus, in a footnote on Page 368, Vol I of Capital, he refers to a particular method as the only materialistic and, therefore, the only scientific method.

Marx took the world that is man and his relations with nature as they are. Marx then embraced a thoroughgoing naturalism as opposed to the super-naturalism of Hegel and other religious thinkers. He believed that facts are not more real than they are found to be, and do not express some deeper underlying truth. It was because Marx collected his facts and organised the knowledge gained from them on the presupposition that he was dealing with a material world, that his theory can be empirically demonstrated. Because Hegel began with metaphysical as opposed to materialistic assumptions he could offer no empirical guide as to the course of history. He could only assure us that a cosmic self-consciousness would come to pass, but how it would do so he is silent. Even in a brief and sketchy analysis of Marx and Hegel, it can be shown that in outlook and method they were worlds apart

On the question of religion itself, Marx denied that there was some religious essence in man. Religion itself is a product of social life and it only arises when society has reached a certain stage of development in the division of labour. Like all other forms of culture, it can be critically analysed in a specific social situation, and like all other forms of activity it can be shown to change under the impact of changing conditions. While religion had historic justification in the productive rituals of the past, it serves no useful social purpose today.

Marx also denied that man was endowed with a natural religious sentiment, any more than he is naturally endowed with any other aspect of culture. A religious sense is not the outcome of a timeless abstraction, but the product of social consciousness and bound up with a certain stage of social development. To suppose then that any element of supernaturalism could find a place in Marxism is to invalidate the most basic assumptions of historical materialism. For that reason a belief in supernaturalism is incompatible with Marxism. I trust that these remarks might stimulate History Sixth into a reassessment of Marxism.
Ted Wilmott

Editorial: The Proposition They Will Not Consider (1957)

Editorial from the July 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Over a century ago the famous pamphlet, “The Communist Manifesto," was published, beginning with the words: “A spectre is haunting Europe —the spectre of Communism." It went on to describe the terror that the Communist movement inspired among the rulers of Austria, France, Germany, Russia, etc.

Almost any journalist picking up that pamphlet today would be likely to write about the way these words apply to the world in 1957—but he would be entirely wrong! It is not history repeating itself, but a word being distorted into an opposite meaning.

In 1847 when Marx and Engels wrote about the governments and the ruling class being afraid of Communism, they meant by Communism a movement springing from the workers, having for its aim the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of Socialism. And they meant by Socialism what the S.P.G.B. means today, a system of society in which all people would co-operate in producing articles and services freely for the benefit of all.

It is true that for many years now the governments of half the world, and, above all, the American Government, have been scared by the spectre of Russia and that they call it the spectre of "Communism": which just goes to show how the politicians can hypnotise themselves with words.

Communist Party the enemy of Communism
The Russian Government is controlled by the Russian Communist Party, but the Russian social system is not Communism (or Socialism), and the Russian Government is no more interested in achieving such a social system than is General Eisenhower or General Franco. If the Russian Government were interested in spreading Communism in the world, it would, of course, show its interest by starting at home and introducing Communism into Russia; but this would mean abolishing the very comfortable privileged position occupied in Russian state capitalism by governmental and managerial circles of the population. Why should they seek to destroy the capitalism that gives them power and privilege and wealth?

Why not be friends with the Russian Government?
Are we saying then that the American Government’s fears of, and hostility towards, the Russian Government is based on pure illusion? By no means. American and Russian capitalism have just the same kinds of reasons for mutual hostility and fear as British and American capitalism had in relation to Germany in 1914 and 1939.

Back in the 19th century West European governments feared the Russian dictatorship under the Czars because Russia’s ruling class had ambitions to expand into the Middle East and the Mediterranean and into India and the Far East; in all of which regions they clashed with the similar expansionist ambitions of other Powers. Exactly the same rivalries exist today, the main difference being that nowadays the Western politicians say (and seemingly many individuals actually believe) that their clash with Russia has to do with "Communism." What it has to do with is the economic rivalry that capitalism gives rise to between the separate capitalist Powers, of which Russia is now in the top rank, surpassed in power only by America.

If Communism (or Socialism) in the sense of the Communist Manifesto were the issue dividing the world today, the Russian Government would be lined up with the ruling class of America, Britain, Japan, India, etc., to crush it

They never consider Socialism
The Western politicians and Press will give thousands of words and acres of space to the Western case against the Russian bloc and give less but quite a lot of space to those who defend the Russian point of view or argue in favour of seeking compromise with it. But they never on any account give space to considering the case for Socialism (or Communism) in the sense in which the pioneers of Socialism used it and meant it

But, after all, why should they? Why should the Press take the trouble to answer the Socialist case since nobody (except the S.P.G.B. and its companion parties) ever puts it? When do Gaitskell or Bevan or Bulganin ever put the case for Socialism? Probably all three would (privately) feel embarrassed at trying to prove that society can look to a hopeful future inside capitalism, with its production for sale and profit, the wages system, the continuance of property incomes, investment, competition for markets, etc. But when do they ever say in public that Socialism necessarily means abolishing that capitalist social system?

And as they don’t ever say it, the capitalist Press falls into line and happily ignores the case for Socialism.

Labour Party comforters of Capitalism
Mr. George Schwartz, in the Sunday Times (9/6/57), picked on the latest Labour Party pension plan as an example of this. He pointed out that the capitalist Press gave much and sympathetic notice to the plan.
“Cos why? Because it is in essence a straightforward exercise in capitalist reasoning based almost wholly on capitalistic methods of calculation and reckoning. Bless you, I have met stockbrokers who couldn’t spell the word dialectic, who have read it with interest and understanding.

". . . There is no talk about the annihilating that disreputable trio, rent, interest and profits. There is no nonsense about egalitarianism. On the contrary, the main thesis and principle is that the more you put in the more you take out. In short, chums, it is a stem lecture on the virtues of capitalist attitudes and behaviour."
And the H-Bomb Controversy
It is a far cry from the Labour Party’s new scheme for contributory old age pensions to the rights and wrongs of the H-bomb (though there is a certain relationship: if “the bomb must fall,” it doesn't seem to matter what pension you might otherwise have been going to get!) In this field, too, the Press will consider every aspect except the Socialist point of view. The Manchester Guardian in a frank editorial (3/6/57) tried to face up to the implications of the Bishop of Manchester’s demand that the British Government should renounce the H-bomb—whatever the consequences. The editor of the Guardian thought that the chances of such an example being followed by general disarmament could be put at about one in ten. the far higher probability would, he thought, be the more or less speedy Russian overrunning of Western Europe and Britain. To the advocates of giving up the H-bomb he put the question:

"Are they prepared to face the agony of living under  a Communist system?” Recoiling from this himself, he prefers to rely on the deterrent value of having the bomb.
"The deterrent theory is that on the contrary their use by either side has become less likely. Six big bombs, as has been said before, would be enough to destroy central government in the Soviet empire."
It is not our purpose here to follow the Guardian into these muddy depths, but to put a question and a challenge. The challenge is to the Guardian to give its evidence for its utterly fantastic statement that the Russian Government behaves as it does because its objective “is a Communist world.”

Where does the Guardian so hide itself from the facts of capitalist life that it cannot see that the Russian Government behaves like any other expanding Capitalist Power because it is an expanding capitalist Power?

Our question is to ask the Guardian why, when it is actually trying to be frank and objective, it can only see the choice between capitalism with the H-bomb and capitalism without the H-bomb: why does the Guardian steadfastly turn away from even considering that perhaps after all there really is a case for destroying war at its source in the capitalist foundations of the social system on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Which means considering the case for Socialism, and that the Guardian cannot bring itself to do.

Socialism, Capitalism and "H" Bombs (1957)

From the July 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

In these enlightened days of aspirin civilisation, the reading and listening population of the world are being calmly informed of their own possible extinction either through actual “H” and “A” bomb warfare or as the result of the “peace time” testing of these instruments for “freedom.” We read in the Daily Express, May 2nd, 1957, that the New York Times thinks “that Britain, like the United States and the Soviet Union, can make and stop hydrogen bombs should be a source of pride for Britons.” 

With the hot-house development of techniques and weapons during the last world bloodbath for profits and the frantic race for supremacy which has gone on ever since, in making, testing and stock-piling “H” and "A" bombs the public has had information made easily available to it in daily newspapers, radio, etc., at every stage of the process. Apart from the scientific “secrets” which the others are not supposed to know about, over a period of more than ten years everything about “H” and “A" bombs has been told. Although efforts have been made in some quarters to play down the effects, nobody could say they have been kept in the dark. It is a charge which certainly could not be levelled at the various National ruling classes, that they have suddenly let the workers in on "H” and “A” bombs being produced, like a bolt out of the blue. Maps have been published in national dailies showing the area of devastation. Information about blast, heat, radiation and now strontium 90 has been sent out through all the mass propaganda channels. Millions have watched “H” and “A” bomb explosions, in cinemas and on television. Hiroshima and Nagasaki still bear living evidence. To make it perfectly clear that these things are not toys the experts have likened the explosions to many millions of tons of T.N.T. It has often been stated, by way of example, that all the bombing raids round the clock on Hamburg, Tokio, etc., would be dwarfed in a flash. Yet after more than ten years of this blood-chilling information there is no stir on the part of the vast majority of potential victims. The question which forces itself on our attention, is—why? Why, with all the peace movements, bomb-banning demonstrations, and petitions, do the majority of workers take no apparent interest in something which might exterminate untold millions of them? What is there fundamentally wrong with all these movements that their mass appeals fail to strike home on something so seemingly simple.

In our unravelling of the above questions we hope workers will see that this is an urgent appeal for action, but of a different and more rewarding kind.

Some of the arguments of the anti-"H” bomb movements begin with the plausibly-sounding statement that “war is the most urgent of problems, so it must be solved first. You cannot work for Socialism if you are dead.” Next comes “the "H" bomb is the most deadly of war weapons, so first our activity must be turned to getting rid of that." Some of these people, namely, those in the so-called Communist Party, have a remarkable capacity for believing that only those “H” and "A” bombs not possessed by Russia are harmful.

One of the effects of this approach to the war problem is that it helps to produce an attitude of mind where, because of the sheer dread of "H” and "A” bombs, war, if only they are banned, could be so heavenly. It is obvious from the start that movements which seek to ban this or that particular weapon are resigned to the continuation of wars; in fact, such activity could truly be described as "getting procedure laid down.” Is war really more acceptable to the working-class if “H” and “A” bombs are not used ?

We claim that the S.P.G.B. and its companion parties have the only real case against war. This must be thought about by workers not as a cheap bit of "pushing the party,” but as a serious statement, which, we think, all the evidence upholds.

When workers hear or read the appeals to ban the bomb, their reaction is one which has already been strongly conditioned.. Conditioned by the fact that, whatever country they live in, they are taught to think as nationalists. Conditioned by the patriotism of "loyalty to the country.” Nationally they see their rulers' interests and their own as one. They are British, American, Russian, and so on. To nationalistic people, leaders (political and religious) flags, armed forces and weapons of all kinds are quite necessary in the interests of the "country.” Seeing no difference between themselves and the boss, they argue "if we don't make it, they will,” " it's no use this country disarming if the others don't,” forgetting that the misguided patriots in the other countries argue in exactly the same way, i.e., not as workers, but as Germans, Americans, Africans, Russians, and so on. Because of their nationalism they all make the same mistake, the mistake the boss teaches them to make, that is, to speak of “we” and “our country.” The all-important fact is, of course, that workers do not possess any country, and the convenient little "we” makes them identify their interests with those who do. To nationalists the world is not divided up into a world-wide working class and a worldwide capitalist class with mutually antagonistic interests; it is divided into “ us” and the “foreigners.”

What could be more telling of the futility of the "peace” movements and the bomb-banners than the fact that they appeal to nationalism and claim to be the real patriots. Thus they directly help to foster the very outlook without which war would be impossible.

It becomes clear that while the majority of workers in each country feel allegiance to its rulers, and through them to the capitalist class which lives on their backs, these Governments, politicians and parsons will be able to prepare the workers for war, make and test "H” bombs or do any thing else on the ground of "national interest.” There must then, be something more than just not wanting the bomb. There must be understanding by the majority of a really workable alternative. It is precisely this which is lacking among the peace screamers, all of whom accept capitalism (consciously or otherwise), but seek to avoid its normal consequences. The alternative for anyone who has thought about what they have just read is implied in what has already been said, that is, a world without nationalism, commerce and conflicting trading interests. A world no longer divided either into nations or classes of rulers and ruled, but a world community, the whole planet being run to satisfy the needs of its population and no longer for profits. With the industrial and natural resources bring held in common by all, mankind would co-operate to produce and freely distribute the things they need. Because the very basis for international conflicts will have gone, wars cannot arise. From that it follows as a matter of course that there will be no bombs to ban, society will not be making them nor any other instrument of destruction. Armed forces will not exist under Socialism because their function will have gone when capitalism goes.

This is about the time when in arguing our ease by word of mouth, our opponents say, “yes, it is a nice dream but how and when will it come about?” The answer to this has been given by the S.P.G.B. since its inception. It will come about when you (the opponents) cease to think that solutions to working class problems can be found within capitalism. Never mind about calling Socialism a dream; until you accept it and help others to do so, you are stuck with the nightmare of capitalism.

When a majority of the world’s workers (all suffering the same problems under the same system) have come to the conclusion, after making the tour of the blind alleys, that Socialism is necessary, the "how” will be fairly easy. They will no longer vote for and support the parties of capitalism. Labour, Liberal, Conservative and so-called Communists, etc.; they will use their votes to send Socialist delegates forward in each country for the object of stripping the capitalist class of the thing which makes them a capitalist class, that is, ownership (State or private) of land, factories, mines, machinery and railways, etc. With this done and the means of production in the hands of the community and democratically controlled, society will begin anew.
Harry Baldwin