Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Editorial: Catholic Social Principles at Work (1942)

Editorial from the September 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Catholic Church claims that it has a special interest in the welfare of the workers and that its social doctrines are superior to those of other bodies, religious and political. It seems reasonable, if this is indeed true and if the doctrines are both practicable and intended to be applied, to expect that the predominantly Catholic countries would be better places for the workers to live in than other countries. The actual condition of affairs in these countries does not support the view that there is any superiority. Portugal may be taken as an illustration The regime there is described by the Statesman’s Year-Book as a “Dictatorship on a corporate basis,” and it is further stated that “the predominant faith is the Roman Catholic”. There is a Legislative Assembly elected by direct vote of the electors, but, on a convenient plan known in a number of totalitarian countries, “in practice the candidates are exclusively those put forward by the Government party” (“Whitaker’s Almanack,” 1942, p. 923). The Government is solely responsible to the President and not to the Assembly. There is also a “Corporate Chamber,” consisting of representatives of local authorities, industrial, commercial bodies and corporations of employers and employed, which is allowed to pass opinion on all bills introduced in the Legislature.

This corporative state is viewed with approval in Catholic circles as the following statement in the “Catholic Herald,” in a comment on the Irish Trades Union Congress, will show : —
“The Trades Union Congress, meeting in Sligo, discussed, but did not adopt, nor yet reject, a resolution submitted by the Belfast representatives, “pledging irreconcilable opposition to Fascism.” A Dublin delegate (not a Catholic) said that there was “a school of moderate Fascism of the Portugal variety which had gained some credence among certain sections”—meaning, perhaps, among nearly all Catholics, since Portugal’s example is admired by clergy and laity alike, though we do not consider it Fascism. (“Catholic Herald,” July 31st, 1942.)
From the ordinary standpoint of capitalist finance the Portuguese State is in a flourishing condition. The Lisbon correspondent of the “Economist” (July 25th, 1942), reporting the very successful loan just raised by the Government, amounting to £3 million, says : —
“Never in the long history of Portugal has the country been so thoroughly solvent. . . . No one can say just how post-war conditions for finance and trade will open when peace does come, but that Portugal will be in an exceptionally favourable situation, created largely by its own financial and commercial integrity, is reasonably certain.”
Now let us see how the workers fare at the hands of Prime Minister Dr. Salazar and at the hands of the capitalists in this corporative State. Recently the workers’ “syndicates” conferred with Dr. Salazar in order to ask for redress of their many grievances. They had drawn attention
“To increasing hardship, the lack of social justice, and the sabotage of the corporative doctrine. They asserted that most employers’ associations had no notion of their duty, but worked for their own selfish interests.” (“Times,” July 25th, 1942.)
The “Times” Lisbon correspondent goes on as follows : —
“Among 4,000,000 workers, it was said, only a few thousands were included in collective contracts or schemes for the relief of the aged and infirm—a state of affairs largely due to the inability of the employers to recognise their responsibilities. Some concerns were making huge profits, which did not help the commonwealth. The cost of living had risen by 44 per cent, without an equivalent rise in salaries.”
It will be noticed that the workers’ complaints are of just the same kind as in other parts of the capitalist world. How then did Dr. Salazar deal with the complaints? The “Times” correspondent tells us: —
“Dr. Salazar, in reply, disclosed that the Portuguese Government intended, first, to attempt to develop the corporative conscience; second, to organise a revision of salaries; third, to permit of increased working hours to compensate for an increase in wages in cases where that could not be done by better industrial organisation; and, fourth, to organise family allowances, although on a small scale to start with. He admitted that most wages were low, but said that to raise them would also increase the cost of production.

He emphasised the benefits of Portuguese economic organisation—internal, social, and economic development and public tranquility. Wages had increased on the whole except during the last few years, when the economic policy had been to oppose further rises pending the new organisation at present under discussion. The weaknesses of present position, he pointed out, were largely due to selfishness which was common to the employer and employee, and it was here that the State must exercise control. People must bear the burden and effect of the war, and the only solution at present was to work more to gain more.”
It is not necessary to comment at length on this cynical reception of their demands. The workers are already suffering from a long existing rise in the cost of living are told they must wait, pending the development of the corporative conscience. They are told that they and the employers are alike selfish; but it will not be overlooked that the concerns “making huge Profits.” whether “selfish” or not, did not have to wait, even when the workers get their promised rise, some at least of them will have to work longer hours for it.

It will also be noticed that the capitalist is never at a loss for an excuse for refusing workers’ demands. If Portugal were at war the excuse would be the war and the need to make sacrifices for it. As Portugal is not at war then the excuse is still the same, and when world peace arrives the excuse will doubtless be the need to make sacrifices for peace, or for armaments for some possible future war, or to capture foreign markets.

Corporative Portugal, admired by Catholic clergy and laity, demonstrates once again that the more capitalism is changed the more it is the same thing, wherever and under whatever religion it operates.

“Austerity” at the Kremlin (1942)

From the September 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The Kremlin banquet was a grand affair, with all the Council of Defence, the Party political bureau (which virtually decides Russian policy) leading commissars, the British and American Ambassadors and their staffs, and a large number of Russian, British and American marshals, generals and colonels present. There were 25 speeches, most of them informal, and innumerable toasts. M. Stalin, who was in fine form, proposed several toasts, including one to President Roosevelt, and cracked many jokes. Twenty-six courses were served. Mountains of vegetables and fruits crowded the tables.”—(“Daily Telegraph,” August 8th, 1942—our emphasis.)

On Labour Leadership (1942)

From the September 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

“I am not a Labour leader. I do not want you to follow me or anyone else. If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of the capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into this promised land if I could, because if I could lead you in someone else could lead you out. I would be ashamed to admit that I had risen from the ranks. When I rise, it will be with the ranks, not from them.”—Eugene V. Debs (quoted in “Forward,” July 25th, 1942).

Troubles of the Post-War World (1942)

From the September 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

Now that World War the Big has already been going three years politicians are working hard on the “after-the-war” racket.

We know from the evidence of experts in industrial fatigue that the rate of the workers’ output cannot be raised above a certain level determined by the machinery at their disposal. According to Mr. Bevin this has been reached now in Great Britain.
“The great test now was not between British and German man-power, but between British and German managerial ability.” (Bevin, House of Commons, May 31st.)
The Economist considers that Russia has reached the peak of productive capacity.

It is held by some that German production is already declining. Though it should be added that statements about the internal condition of Germany frequently evoke scepticism.

Nevertheless, it would seem that a certain war-work weariness is due to set in, which inevitably produces a corresponding listlessness in regard to actual alleged “aims” of the war themselves.

Therefore, the Labour Party Conference, the T.U.C., the Co-operative Party and the various Trades Unions have all concerned themselves with “two issues. . . in the forefront … in all the conferences. One, the demand for the more vigorous prosecution of the war, the other . . . the conditions which must follow the victory of the forces of democracy.” (Transport Union Record, June, 1942.)

Probably the most typical and oracular was the Conference of the Labour Party.
“Two problems dominated Conference—the war effort and the problems of the peace that will follow. It was clear that the delegates were united in desiring a greater drive to win the war but they attached no less importance to the work of reconstruction, and they thought still more could be done to prepare for the peace now.” (Transport Record, June.)
And so, after the usual resolutions nationalising coal mining and transport now (to the consternation of the Labour Leaders, it looks as though the former is actually going to be partially applied), Mr. Harold Laski moved a resolution “asking for the socialisation of the country’s basic industries and services, after the war.” It affirmed that “there must be no return to an unplanned competitive system after the war.” And after all, perhaps some not very critical workers may be forgiven their pathetic faith in Labour Leaders when they read : “The organising of the world order which will make available to the people the goods they have produced is not impossible. It has long been the aim of the Trade Union movement. To-day the Atlantic Charter … to which the Soviet Union is now a party, and recent speeches of men of Cabinet rank, including Ernest Bevin, encourage us to believe that at last it has been brought within reach of achievement.” (Transport Record, June.)

At the risk of incurring some antagonism from those misled workers we have to state bluntly that the Atlantic Charter will do no such thing. Indeed, before the end of the World-War-the-Big is even in sight, there is documentary evidence giving proof in practice of what Socialists were stating theoretically before the Atlantic Charter was drafted.

Capital as an economic system causes antagonism between capitalists, to-day organised in colossal trusts. These conflicts of economic interest often lead to war. The Atlantic Charter is a document pledging the signatories not to exercise “undue discrimination” against each other in tariff barriers and customs duties. The result of this may be in practice that the weaker Allies are to throw their countries open to markets for the exports of the stronger, the final conquering of the world market by the U.S.A., and the collapse of the foreign trade monopoly in the Soviet Union, so highly prized by Lenin.

Already, as pointed out by Mr. Hobson, the News-Chronicle’s expert, these ideas clash directly with the Ottawa agreements, as the National Union of Manufacturers point out, while already industrial capitalists (e.g., Mr. R. Stokes, the “Labour” M.P., in his managing director’s address to the forty-sixth annual general meeting of Ransomes & Rapier, Ltd.) are protesting that “unless the Lease-Lend arrangements were fairly worked we would end the war with the whole of our export trade in the iron and steel industry gone . . . surely it was never intended that they should refrain from shipping any machinery abroad to any market, unless the Americans specifically stated they did not want that market.” So the most cunning capitalists find themselves beaten by the capitalist system, and the Atlantic Charter, so far from eliminating capitalism, and “organising a new world order,” may exacerbate it and “organise” a new world war.

So far as Mr. Bevin is concerned as a guarantee of a new world order after the war, he can best speak for himself.

Replying to Debate on the Essential Works Order, he claimed support for these orders on the ground that those hitherto casually employed had a guaranteed week. It cannot be denied that this is a great improvement in the lives of many dockers, building workers, etc., but like many such innovations it has been introduced because the war has created temporary insatiable demand.

Even so, some thick-headed employers are still. against it.

Says Mr. Bevin : “One of the greatest things that would smooth the working of the war would be for industry to come forward now and agree whole-heartedly to accept the basic principle of the Essential Work Order not only for the war—but for after the war.”

Two points emerge from this. First, the “working of the war” is apparently NOT smooth. Secondly, Mr. Bevin would regard it as a great achievement after the victory, if employers would pay regular weekly wages to casual workers.

Not the Atlantic Charter, not Mr. Bevin, but Socialist workers equipped with Socialist knowledge will bring the real new order—Socialism.
H. Y.

Clippings (1942)

From the September 1942 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reward for Clean Living

“In Peterhead Prison, the cost of keeping a prisoner for a week is £1 9s. 5d. Why should the Government scruple to give some similar sum to those who are not prisoners, but have lived clean lives and have toiled for the community all their days ?”—(Rev. James Barr in an interview in the “Daily Express.”)

The Tribulations of the Communists

“The Communist Party is expelling members who do not buy war bonds and stamps. An Oregon Communist was the first to go under this ruling’.”—(“New York Nation,” reproduced in “Forward,” August 8th, 1942.)