Tuesday, September 27, 2022

August's "Done & Dusted"

A bit late this month's. Problem's with an aging laptop, and all that jazz, means that it's been a slow month on the blog all round.

Cue cut and paste . . . 

A new feature on the blog . . . and like all new features on the blog, one that I should have put in place about 10 years ago. (It's the same with the Pages that I'm slowly introducing to the top of the blog's homepage).

It's perfectly simple. Here's a list of the Socialist Standards that were completed on the blog in the month of August 2022. Slowly but surely the digitization of the Standard is *cough* nearing completion. If I'd hazard a guess, I'd say it will be finished by the end of 2024. Famous last words, and all that. 

They are broken up into separate decades for the hard of hearing.

August's 2022's "Done & Dusted":

The Labour machine in Conference. (1928)

From the November 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

The 1928 Labour Party Conference met in Birmingham during the first week of October. The chief work before the delegates was the consideration of the “Programme of Legislation and Administrative Action for a Labour Government,” which had been drafted by the National Executive on the instruction of the 1927 Conference. The draft programme has already been dealt with in these columns. It contains a large number of social, administrative and industrial reforms, the application of which will, in the view of the Labour Party, solve the pressing problems of modern society. It is impossible in a few sentences to summarise the large number of proposals, but it may be said that they continue and extend the policy of past and present Liberal and Tory Governments, in providing legislative safeguards against excessive hours of work, dangerous and unhealthy factory conditions, and propose better provision for those who are prevented from securing employment through illness, old age, trade depression, and so forth. A reduction in the inequalities of income is promised by means of taxes and death duties, and peace is to be secured through the League of Nations. The industry of this country is to be placed in a condition of prosperity primarily through a reorganisation on the lines of State ownership : It is this latter point which is regarded by Labour supporters as marking off the Labour Programme from all others. By it the Labour Party stands or falls.

As this programme of reforms embodies the opinions of the bulk of the members of the Labour Party, its acceptance was to be expected, and as the great bulk of the workers, in and out of the Trade Unions, are not in favour of Socialism, it follows as a matter of course that the programme acceptable to them contains no reference to Socialism. The essential features of Capitalism are : one, the ownership of the means of wealth production by a propertied class which lives by owning; two, the sale of their labour-power by the property-less majority for salaries or wages; and three, the production of goods for sale.

The Labour Party does not propose now or hereafter, constitutionally or unconstitutionally, gradually or suddenly, to abolish these essential features of the Capitalist economic system. Under “Nationalisation,” mineowners, railway owners, bank shareholders and others who now live on property incomes, will still live on property incomes. Their respective industries will be subject to State control, and the State will guarantee to them their privilege of living on the interest from State bonds at the expense of the wealth producers. The working-class will be what the postal workers are already, the wage-slaves of the Capitalist State. And so far from abolishing production for sale, the Labour Party believes that their policy will enable this country to sell more cheaply in face of foreign competition.

We reject that programme and the assumptions underlying it. We say that only with the advent of Socialism will the poverty and insecurity of the workers and their unemployment be brought to an end.

The risk of war will be removed only with the removal of the commercial rivalries of Capitalism. The Labour Programme will fail, not because of the personal merits or demerits of its leaders, but because it is wholly a programme of reforms of Capitalism.

A number of “left-wing” delegates criticised the programme as being “Liberal.” Mr. Clynes, speaking for the Executive took up the challenge. He said (“Daily Herald,” 4th October) :—
“Mr. Wheatley had said that any Liberal would accept most of the programme. Would the Liberals accept such proposals as the public ownership of mines, transport, power, and land? ”
The answer is, yes, they would.

The Liberal “Yellow Book” (p. 229), proposes the nationalisation of agricultural land, and the public ownership of electricity production (p. 82). The Liberals stand for the retention of the public ownership of the Post Office, the telegraphs and telephones. Capitalist governments in different parts of the world have nationalised mines (Germany), railways (France), and shipping (U.S.A. and Australia). The Labour Party’s scheme of public ownership is simply State Capitalism, and as such does not differentiate them from the Liberals. The Liberal “Manchester Guardian,” in an editorial, defined the position of the Liberal Party and the slight difference between its position and that of the Labour Party. For the Liberals “the case for nationalisation must be discussed on its merits as applied to any particular industry,” whereas for the Labour Party “it is stated as a general principle applicable to all industries.” (October 9th, 1928.)

To this we would add that the Socialist Party does not advocate nationalisation at all.

But although there were several delegates who declared the Labour Party Programme to be simply a collection of Liberal reforms, none of the critics is prepared to advocate Socialism in opposition to the Liberalism of the Labour Party. All of them come to heel when faced with the threat of disciplinary action. Thus W. J. Brown, of the Civil Service Clerical Association, said (“Daily Herald,” October 4th):—
“If the whole of the programme were put into effect …. it would not be Socialism, but a system of State-subsidised Capitalism.”
But Mr. Brown is a Labour Candidate and will fight the next election as he has fought past elections, on the Labour Party programme.

Mr. Wheatley, whose criticism is referred to above, said a few days later :—
“Neither Mr. Maxton, nor he himself, nor any of their friends had the slightest intention of leaving the Labour Party or of splitting the Labour Party” (“Manchester Guardian,” Oct. 16).
It is a Liberal Party, but Mr. Wheatley and Mr. Maxton are going to remain in it !

The I.L.P. suggested a number of additional Capitalist reforms (family allowances, banks nationalisation, etc.) and failed to get them carried. Having failed in open conference, it adopts the face-saving plea that they may be wangled into the actual election programme. The I.L.P. itself did not suggest that the Labour Party substitute a Socialist programme for its own and is not contemplating leaving the Labour Party. It allows a prominent member of the I.L.P. (H. N. Brailsford) to advocate a Liberal-Labour coalition on the ground that “we of the I.L.P. have failed in our efforts to induce the Labour Party to adopt our programme.” (“New Leader,” October 12th).

There would, after all, appear to be no reason why Messrs. Wheatley, Maxton, Cook & Co. should strain at a Liberal coalition after swallowing the Labour Party’s Liberal programme.

And the reason for the failure of these “Left Wing” Labour M.P.s to act on their words is simple enough. It is candidly stated by Mr. Alfred Salter, Labour M.P. and member of the I.L.P., in a letter to the “New Leader” (October 12th). He says :—
“There is not a single constituency in the country where there is a majority of convinced Socialist electors. We have plenty of districts, such as Bermondsey, where there is an overwhelming Labour majority, but it is a sheer delusion to think that the greater number of these people understand what we mean by Socialism. They neither understand it nor want it.”
Here we have the rock on which all the reformist parties from Labour to Communist are wrecked. It is this plain brutal fact which nullifies all the fine words of the left wingers and makes all their protests impotent. All of these professed “Socialist” M.P.s (including Dr. Salter) are in the House of Commons under false pretences. None of them—Maxton, Brown, Saklatvala, Wheatley, or any other M.P,— has been elected by Socialists’ votes on a Socialist programme. None of them could be so elected now, because there is no constituency in which the majority of voters are Socialist. They can criticise the Labour programme, but they dare not defy the Labour Party machine in the constituencies. Hence the long list of reforms which is the stock-in-trade of the candidates of the I.L.P., the Communist Party, etc.

The Socialist Party alone has seen that there must be Socialists before there can be Socialism, and acts on it.
Edgar Hardcastle

The battleground of the class struggle. (1928)

From the November 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism can only be realised by the success of the working class in its struggle against the owning class. The Socialist movement is built upon the facts of this class struggle. It is useful and necessary therefore to learn what the class struggle really is and the field in which it is carried on.

Labour Party and Capitalist opponents either viciously deny the class struggle or allege that we Socialists make the struggle ourselves by appealing to class hatred and stirring up discontent which should be left to slumber.

Added to these types of opponents we have had those who claimed to be Socialists, but who argue that there is no real class struggle of the workers apart from the Socialists who wage it.

Classes arise in the historical march of economic evolution. They result from property divisions caused by economic change. The fact that society is made up of owners of various kinds of property and those who practically have no property, naturally leads each section to take action to protect its interests. Owners of wealth inevitably seek to hold on to their possessions and to add to them.

The great body known as the working’ class, own no wealth as a class, and are compelled to take action to protect their interests as a working and dispossessed group of men and women. The interests of the workers every day is to live as well as they can while employed by the owning class. Naturally the interests of workers and owners clash, because the owners employ the workers to get a profit or surplus out of the work done, and the smaller the proportion given to workers as wages, the more there is left for profits.

Is then the struggle between workers and employers over wages and working conditions the class struggle? Is that the struggle which carries hope of victory for the workers? Is that struggle for better wages and shorter hours, etc., the real fight? Is the workshop, the factory, the mine or strike headquarters, the real final and chief battleground of the class struggle ?

The workers under the present system must seek masters and obtain the best terms for the sale of their working powers. The whole working life of the working class means that they are engaged in the class struggle, a struggle to uphold the interests of their class in the daily conflict with employers.

It does not depend upon the workers’ state of mind, ignorance or alertness. The struggle is bound to exist whether it is recognised or not. The existence of a body of the population with no means of living but that of working for the group of owners —that fact alone denotes a class struggle. The workers cannot take action to seek work and wages without displaying the conflict of interests between them and employers, and the inevitable struggle that is involved in it.

The continual struggle about hours and wages seems to some to be petty and in¬effectual, and they therefore deny that these daily struggles of trade unionists and other workers are a part of the class struggle. But these never-ceasing battles over details of wages and hours are the actual result of the conflict of interests, and are inseparable from the struggle of the working class to live as wage-slaves in a society which allows them no other way of living as a class.

The field of industry is therefore a battleground of the class struggle, but it is not the only one. Around the question of “the job,” and job conditions, the workers are always compelled to struggle, and always will be while there is a working class dependent upon employers for existence. The changes in hours and wages always taking place never destroy the power of the employers over the workers. Through all the variations of hours and wages, there is but, on the average, a subsistence wage for the worker, with a rapid exhaustion of his physical powers. The economic battleground of the class struggle is limited to a guerrilla warfare, with no chance of a victory for the working class.

On the industrial field the power of the workers to fight the employers is small to-day. The workers have practically no savings, and cannot stop work for long. To withhold their labour-power from the employers is in most cases to simply postpone their surrender.

The workers cannot stop the use of modern wages-saving machinery or speeding-up methods, and neither can they prevent amalgamations and trusts dispensing with large numbers of workers required in competitive trading.

Craft and industrial differences have helped to keep alive a narrow, sectional or trade outlook among the workers, and the industrial field with its job rivalries, does not easily promote a class outlook.

It takes much time for the various branches of workers to realise that the competition and conflict among themselves is itself a result of the position of the working class. The workers do not quickly grasp the fact that they are driven to compete with each other because the economic system of to-day reduces each worker to a seller of merchandise (labour-power) in a market where there are less buyers than sellers.

The limitations of the economic struggle are greater than ever to-day, because the employers are closely organised, and the real control in most industries is in the hands of large combines who dominate the situation. Almost every step in industrial development throws the scale heavily against the workers, who in spite of the long strikes and lock-outs are eventually defeated.

On the industrial field, too, there is the sinister and powerful factor which plays so much havoc with the workers’ efforts to fight for better conditions. That factor is the labour leader—Liberal, Labour, Communist, matters not—who, for the sake of his job or to earn the goodwill of the employers—side-tracks the struggles of the worker into blind alleys and to trust in the employers.

The employing class maintain their supremacy in the struggle because they have control of powers which enable them to defeat the workers. That power is political. How are the great strikes of our time smashed? Not because the employers rely upon economic means, but because they make use of the law and the armed forces at the disposal of the political rulers. Every Emergency Powers Act, Trades Disputes Act, and Prosecution of Strikers, shows where the real power lies.

Beyond the mere victory in a strike, the employers have the wider and permanent victory of being still in control and possession of the means of production, etc., and that is why they so carefully and strenuously seek to retain control of the political machine.

The real success in the class struggle by the workers can only be secured if they are able to obtain control of the machinery by which the employers at present dominate. That is, if the class struggle is to be waged victoriously by the workers they must win political power, and thus get the machinery in their hands to put an end to Capitalist ownership.

The economic battlefield of the class-struggle is one therefore where the workers are bound to continually struggle within Capitalism for a bare existence.

The political battlefield of the class struggle is the only battlefield where the workers can finally win and abolish the struggle altogether by abolishing classes and Capitalism altogether.

Necessary though it is that the workers should struggle on the economic field, the most important battleground of the class struggle is on the political field. But they must become conscious of their class interests—they must fight for Socialism.
Adolph Kohn

SPGB Meetings. (1928)

Party News from the November 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

Letter: Socialist Definitions: A Rejoinder. (1928)

Letter to the Editors from the November 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard


In your answer to my objection to the use of the word “services,” you adduce two equally inane arguments. First, you ask me, “By what reasoning does he reach this conclusion?” namely, that services are things done. My reply is: not by abstract reasoning, but by the simpler process of reference to several authoritative dictionaries. In the main, the dictionaries define services as things, duties, etc., performed, done, effected, the verb always being in the past tense.

Now, Capitalists do not buy anything done from the workers, but their power to do things. This is as true now, in spite of the fact that wages in their money form are not paid in advance, as it was when Marx pointed it out. In simple language the masters say, “You can work a few hours for yourselves if, and only if, you will work more hours for us.” Secondly, you say that “the word ‘service’… will have a meaning depending upon its context and tense.” Apart from the fact that “service” is a noun, and therefore has no tense, your admission destroys your own case, since any textbook of logic will inform you that the desideratum of a definition is that, by giving a precise and fixed meaning to every name capable of having such a meaning assigned to it, so that we may know exactly what attributes it connotes and what objects it denotes, it be unambiguous. It is by the use of such sloppy, equivocal words as “service” that you build definitions with which bourgeois economists mislead our class. Your definitions 1 and 2 quoted in my previous letter use the word “service,” which you admit varies in meaning. Your definitions are therefore loose, equivocal, anti-Marxian.

Your answer to my fourth objection savours of intellectual dishonesty. You said, “Wealth is the product of human activities applied to Nature-given material.” I protested that sweat fulfils the conditions of your statement, and in consequence your definition is anti-Communist because it is only half true. That it is produced by labour on natural material is not a sufficient mark of wealth.

Test it with a syllogism :—

The product of human activities on Nature-given material is wealth.

Sweat is a product of human activities on Nature-given material.

Therefore sweat is wealth.

Oh, well-endowed workers !

Similarly, waste, factory-smoke is wealth, which is absurd. You cannot claim a fallacy on the grounds of my putting your definitions backwards because a good definition is affirmative, unconditional and universal, hence cannot suffer by direct conversion. Manifestly your definition is incomplete. It should run, “Some products of human activities on Nature-given materials are wealth, namely, the useful products.”

I therefore added “useful” to your sentence and turned it into a definition of wealth, thereby correcting an unfortunate blunder of Mr. Fitzgerald’s. Marx always stressed the necessity for use-value as a basis of wealth. You remarked, in addition, that my word “useful” begs the question. What question?

Finally, you had recourse to an interesting bit of bourgeois chicanery, known as argumentum ad ignorantiam, i.e., you think you prove your definition by showing the impossibility of proving the negative. Conjuring tricks ! You ask me : “If wealth is not the product of man’s activities applied to Nature-given materials, what is it?” I never denied it. My point is that your vague statement is not a definition until you accept the modification “useful product” or something equivalent in meaning.

Your masters love slipshod definitions ; it becomes so easy to trip them. An egg is the product of evolution. True enough, but so is an elephant. Half-true statements can put the Socialists in the same category as rat-fleas on the ground that they carry trouble about with them.

If sweat is not wealth, why not?

Your final stab about the difference between “Communist” and “Socialist” is merely silly. You evidently believe that Communism is the policy of the Communist Party of Great Britain, who are as anti-Communist as your definitions were anti-Socialist. Either Mr. Fitzgerald is getting into that doddering stage where incisiveness of argument disappears or else he is afraid of admitting his mistakes. A quicker man than Maxton would have slaughtered his definitions without accepting them.
Yours for Socialism,
J. Woltz.

Answer to Woltz.
In our previous reply to Mr. Woltz we gave an illustration of the use of the word “service” —”offered their services”— to show how in a certain context the word meant power to perform given actions. Another instance is when a firm “dispenses with the services” of a number of workers. Mr. Woltz carefully ignored our point and refers to “authoritative dictionaries” to support his view. Wisely, however, he does not mention any particular authority, but prefers to indulge in general terms.

The greatest “authoritative dictionary” in the English language is the “Oxford English Dictionary,” and if one consults that work they will find no less than 38 different meanings given to the word “service” ! In addition, shades and qualifications are given to many of them. These meanings vary both in time and place. Mr. Woltz’s “authorities” have let him down badly.

Moreover, when he says “the verb always being in the past tense” he is just indulging in a piece of bounce. In certain instances the verb is given in the future tense in the work referred to above, as when defining feudal service as a duty which a tenant is “to render” to his lord.

Mr. Woltz is hardly happier with the term wealth. He stated that the definition given in the report of the debate was “self-evidently only half true.” We asked him to tell us what wealth was, if not the product of the application of human energy to Nature-given material ? He now says he never denied it, and then goes on to deny it again by calling it a vague statement.

We said his own definition merely added a word that begged the question. Mr. Woltz now asks “what question?” The question: “Useful to whom or what?” Let us take the word Mr. Woltz thinks so wonderful and crushing—sweat.

In his former letter he said sweat is not wealth because it has no use. A little elementary knowledge of physiology would have saved Mr. Woltz from this absurd blunder. Sweat is necessary for the preservation of health; so much so that in a certain stage of fever its presence or absence will mean life or death to the patient. Moreover, as is well known, many people will pay to be placed under conditions that will induce sweat, as in a Turkish bath. Sweat therefore is not only useful, but necessary to life, and according to Mr. Woltz’s own definition, is wealth.

Mr. Woltz’s claim that a good definition is “unconditional” is metaphysical nonsense. There is nothing “unconditional” in existence, but probably this is a sample of “Communist” logic. In conclusion, we may state that we are not concerned whether the communism of Mr. Woltz is that of the Communist Party of Great Britain or some particular brand of his own. Our definitions and propaganda are Socialist, and not Communist of any type.
Editorial Committee