Sunday, October 9, 2022

Russia Was Never Socialist. (1929)

Book Reviews from the August 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

An Illustrated History of the Russian Revolution” (Vol. II). Publisher: Martin Lawrence, 15s. “Preparing for Revolt,” Lenin, 5s. (Modern Books, Ltd). “Lessons of October,” Trotsky. 3s. (Labour Publishing Co.).

The first volume of the “Illustrated History” was noticed in these columns in June, 1928. The second volume carries the story from July, 1917, to the introduction of the New Economic Policy.

Lenin’s book consists of a series of letters and articles written between August and October, 1917 ; several appear in the “Illus­trated History.

Trotsky’s short work was published in 1925. It was written in view of the defeat of Communist strategy in Bulgaria and Germany, and suggests the necessity of “Bolshevising” the Communist International, which, being interpreted, means, “Let’s have better leaders !”; a fairly familiar phrase in this country.

Trotsky claims a considerable amount of credit (as a leader of the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee) for the success of the insurrection of October, 1917, and eulo­gises Lenin (“who was not in Petrograd,” p. 61), only in order to discredit Kamenev, Zinoviev and others.

He repeatedly emphasises the dependence of “the whole course of the revolution,” (p. 67), upon “the broken and discontented peasant army of many millions”; yet he tells us on p. 26, “a democratic coalition of workers, peasants and soldiers could not be other than weak, and could not actually attain to power,” hence the necessity for the Bolshevik dictatorship.

An interesting sidelight on this claim is obtained from the “Illustrated History,” (p. 302). “The victory of October is attributed by the Bolshevik Party to the fact that from the very first months of the revolution they rejected not only the Mensheviks’ compro­mises with the Capitalists, but also the idea of a ‘workers’ Government,’ which would have isolated them from the peasants and would have left them to the mercy of the Capitalists.”

Lenin chose the slogan, “All power to the Soviets !” The peasants, and not the workers, were in a majority in the Soviets (if the soldiers are reckoned among the peas­ants). This choice, as Lenin said, “pro­tected” the Bolsheviks from “jumping over the peasant revolution.”

Here is proof positive of the utter stu­pidity of the claim that the revolution in Russia was Socialist, or that the working-class hold power. According to the Bolshe­viks themselves, neither separately nor in alliance with the peasants is such a thing conceivable. The much-vaunted dictator­ship of the proletariat is nothing more than a hollow euphemism for opportunist office-holding by the Bolshevik Party.

Let us turn to Lenin, There is a considerable amount of repetition in his book which might well be boiled down to the two articles entitled “The Approaching Crisis” and “Will the Bolsheviks maintain power?”

In the former he deals with his proposed economic measures.

Here are the chief of these measures :—
  1. The nationalisation of the banks.
  2. The nationalisation of the trusts (sugar, petroleum, coal and metal monopolies).
  3. The suppression of business secrecy.
  4. The obligation for all industrialists, merchants and employers to group themselves into trusts.
  5. Enforcement of the organisation of the population in consumers, societies under the control of the State.
Speaking of the first proposal, he says, 

“The ownership of the capital with which the banks operate is certified by printed slips called shares, bonds, etc. Not one of these slips is suppressed or altered by the nation­alisation of the banks …. whosoever has fifteen millions, keeps his fifteen millions.” (pp. 107-109).

“Nationalisation would have immense advantages, not so much for the workers (who rarely do business at a bank) as for the mass of peasants and small industrialists” (p. 111).

“From the military point of view it would bring immense advantages, and would in­ crease the military strength of Russia” (P. 112).

Speaking of trust nationalisation, 

“It is necessary to appeal directly to the initiative of the workers and offer them a definite percentage of profits on condition that they exercise complete control and increase production ” (p. 119). And again, “What we have to do, I repeat, is not establish Socialism in a day, but expose the theft of public money,” p. 124 (italics Lenin’s).

“The vital matter is not the confiscation of Capitalist property, but universal, all-embracing workers’ control over the Capitalists and their possible supporters” (p. 192).

How did these proposals work out in prac­tice? In the industrial establishments, as on the land, the closing days of the Provisional Government in 1917, witnessed the growth of anarchy, economic disorder.

“The workers, even before October and during; October, began to occupy the factories unsystematically” (p. 533, “Illustrated History”), therefore,

“The Soviet Power saw itself faced with difficult problems of organisation . . . Not merely was there no idea of the immediate introduction of Socialism, but it was also not held necessary to nationalise the whole of industry.

The Soviet Power adopted the plan of the introduction of a special form of State Capitalism in which the majority of the factories and workshops still remain the private property of the Capitalists, are not yet nationalised.

These factories are joined together in trusts under the control of the proletarian State (from above) and the organs of workers control (from below). This was a programme for the collaboration of the proletarian State and the Capitalists, for the leading; and reconstruction of industry” (p. 526-7).

The years of intervention and civil war, 1918-21, forced the Soviet Power to go much further in the direction of the regulation of private property relations than it had in­ tended” (p. 527).

Yet even so we learn on p. 549 that “up to the year 1921 it is not possible to speak of a Socialist system of production.” As for the so-called “workers’ control,” that went the way of the Constituent Assembly and several other items promised by the in­surrectionists, and even “decreed” — on paper.

“During the second half of 1918, the nationalisation en masse of factories began in the towns . . . The direct leadership of industries by State organs took the place of control of production by the workers.”

During the period of “war Communism,” “Famine and confusion tortured the working population to the limits of endurance” (p. 527). Between July, 1918, and the be­ginning of 1920, something like half-a-million workers (a third of those engaged in large-scale industry) went to work on the land largely owing to the fall in real wages (p. 550).

There “the October revolution had not merely deprived the landlords of their land and given it to the peasants it had also in­tensified the internal conflicts among the various classes of peasantry” (p. 551).

No sooner had “March, 1920, brought final victory to the Red Flag” (p. 543) however, than the peasant ranks closed in opposition to the very “State which had led the struggle against the rebels who were fight­ing to regain the property of the landlords” (p. 553).

"War Communism had forbidden trade, but a new form of secret trading arose. Conditions in these secret trade markets were uncommonly favourable for the peasants” (p. 553).

In the early part of 1921 strikes broke out for increased rations and the restora­tion of trade.

“Discussion disclosed the antagonism within the ruling party, revived the united forces of the other parties, and weakened the influence of the party over the workers at the most critical moment” (p. 551).

Then occurred the Kronstadt rebellion. “Its economic demands were completely met by the N.E.P.,” which Lenin definitely described as a retreat. (Speech at the Ple­num of Moscow Soviet, November 19th, 1922.) Writing in September, 1917, Lenin had declared that “Russia is a country dominated by the petty bourgeoisie. The vast majority of the population belong to this class” (“Preparing for Revolt,” p. 67).

Five years later conditions bore eloquent testimony to the facts that “it is impossible to introduce machinery on a large scale into agriculture in Russia,” and that “no insurrection will create Socialism if the economic conditions do not permit of the establishment of it” (“Preparing for Revolt,“ pp. 152-3).

With the substitution of taxation of the peasantry for compulsory grain deliveries, agricultural production and trade resumed their normal course. The State industries expanded and the number of workers en­gaged in large-scale industry generally increased by over a million in five years (“Illustrated History,” p. 560).

This very great increase, etc., was still, however, insufficient to absorb all the unemployed streaming in from the land. The number of registered unemployed rose to 1,310,000 on December 31st, 1926 (p. 561).

Thus a third of the workers are on the dole.

The reason is not far to seek. “Agricul­ture is not only employing a much larger amount of machinery than before the war, but, as time goes on, more complicated machinery also, as, for example, tractors. In 1914, the total number of tractors in Russia was 187, while in the U.S.S.R. in 1926 there were 23,000 tractors in use” (p. 562).

Yet even this development leaves Russia fundamentally peasant. It is not one, nor two, but several tens of millions who require industrialising on modern lines before they are likely to be fit material for Socialism.

It is owing to “the low stage of develop­ment of Russia’s productive forces and the incompleteness of her economic and techni­cal organisation” that the colossal strain of the World War precipitated Tsarism and the last relics of feudalism into the abyss. The State machine had to be reorganised, not in order to abolish an imperfectly devel­oped Capitalism, but in order to clear the way for its development. As in the French Revolution, so in Russia, the interests of individuals who had amassed great wealth in any form under the old regime had to be sacrificed to the interests of the property-owning class generally.

This is all the so-called “Socialism” of Russia amounts to. The chief victims were the landed aristocrats, who were the most active section of the counter revolutionaries. Split up into half-a-dozen political groups, the rest of the property-owning class were unable to come to a permanently workable agreement.

With an army in revolt and economic col­lapse in sight, power passed into the hands of the only party with sufficient organisation and understanding to face the task of peace and reconstruction. That this party con­tained a considerable working-class element and possessed also a marked degree of Soci­alist knowledge, is an encouraging symptom of working-class ability and the spread of revolutionary ideas.

All this, however, does not blind us to the fact that the Bolshevik power rests on the control of a conscript peasant army and that political expression of the class antago­nisms (which are denied legal form outside the Party) find vent within the Party. The Bolsheviks silenced the Social Revolutionary Party, but carried out their agrarian pro­gramme.

In like manner a “Labour” Government, in this country administers Liberal reforms. The foreign policy of the Bolsheviks which was announced with such a flourish has likewise proved but a variant of the old Tsarist policy of intrigue. Instead of assist­ing in the education of the international working-class it has financed confusion and the propaganda of criminally futile policies of insurrection, long ago obsolete in West­ern Europe.

The working-class in this and other countries must capture power, but this will not be accomplished by the influence of magic slogans. When the workers are ready to establish the co-operative commonwealth, they must at least be ready to vote for it.
Eric Boden

A Look Round. (1929)

From the August 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Army of To-Day.

When we point out to so-called Communists and others that as a prelude to emancipation a Socialist working class must control the political machine in order to give them control of the armed forces of the State, we anticipate certain stereotyped objections. These we have met again and again in these columns. So far, no evidence has been produced to show that our policy understood by a majority of workers would not enable them to deal with any eventuality that might arise in the future. One of the stock objections raised is that the Army and Navy is officered by members of the capitalist class, and will therefore refuse to take instructions and orders from a Socialist-controlled Parliament. Apart from the fact that those who get control also get control of the finances upon which the whole Army must depend, the bulk of the Army and Navy officers are today not members of the capitalist class. By the time also that a considerable Socialist opinion has developed among the working class, it is reasonable to assume that soldiers drawn as they are from working-class homes will be more or less permeated with Socialist opinions.

The Capitalists of today are a numerically small class, and are compelled to have their Army, Navy and Air Force officers trained in the same way that they have to train their managers, organisers and specialists. Just as the latter have grown more numerous than their masters’ requirements, so is the Army officer landed in a similar plight. When, for various reasons the master class no longer require the services of their “gentleman” officers, they become the most helpless section of the numbers who go to swell the growing army of the unemployed. Let the Communists note well the following :—
“At Clements Inn alone over 2,000 ex-Officers are registered as unemployed, and these are only a part of those who, apart from work, need food and clothing. Ex-Officers there are with University honours, who are compelled to perform menial tasks in lodging houses in order to earn money for food. In a similar plight are men from all the leading Universities, men from Eton, men from Sandhurst, members of the Institute of Civil Engineers. (Letter to the “Daily Telegraph,” 9/7/29, from W. E. Southgate”, Capt., ex-Officer Unemployment Committee.)

Our Rich Friends.
“Socialism does not mean confiscation. Labour protests against the misleading suggestions of its opponents that it attacks private property and preaches class war.” (Mr. Arthur Henderson, at Blackburn, “Daily Chronicle,” 27/5/29.)
We have always claimed, and proved, that Socialism necessarily involves the conversion of capitalist private property into the commonly owned property or means of life of the whole of society. Such a revolution we also claim would remove the antagonism in society which arises out of the capitalist ownership of the workers’ means of living and their consequent enslavement. That antagonism of interest is the class struggle, eventually manifesting itself as a struggle for emancipation. Mr. Bernard Baron, a wealthy capitalist, apparently understands this, and sees that only Socialists will ever struggle for emancipation.

He knows that the Labour Party cannot be a Socialist Party without Socialist supporters, and that in their own words they are a “bulwark against revolution.” Other capitalists who support or join the Labour Party know likewise, and that the political ignorance which such a party reflects will also preserve the system which enables them to filch nine-tenths of Labour’s product. Need we be surprised, then, when we read that “Mr. Bernard Baron forwarded to Mr. Arthur Henderson a cheque for £5,000 for the Socialist (!) Party funds? Mr. Baron contributed a similar amount at the General Election of 1924” (“Daily Herald,” 10.5.29.). We also are entitled to protest against the “misleading suggestion” that the Labour Party is, or ever was, a Socialist Party.

Either or Either.

Sir Herbert Samuel is one of those brainy Liberal gentlemen who, like the rest of his lawyer-like tribe, can prove black is white as occasion arises. People who don’t handle the truth carefully, should, as the maxim reminds us, cultivate retentive memories, otherwise “bright young people” may discover that these gentlemen are nothing but political charlatans. After the following we need not wonder either, how it is that Liberal lawyers like Sir W. Jowitt can go to bed Liberal and wake up “Labour.” No wonder Ramsay wrote “I have often wondered what there was of any substance which really divided us.” (“Times,” June 8, ’29.) Says Sir Herbert number one: “In the Labour Party’s manifesto Socialism was relegated to the background. For the most part it was a Liberal programme which Mr. MacDonald and his colleagues advocated” (“Times,” May 2, ’29). Says Sir Herbert number two : “The Labour Party declares itself to be definitely Socialist. The speeches of its leading members, the resolutions passed by its conferences, have made this clear beyond the possibility of doubt.” (Article in “Answers,” May 25, ’29.) Without doubt Sir Herbert Samuel would also find no more difficulty in turning a political somersault than Sir W. Jowitt.

The Right to be Lazy.

According to the “Daily Chronicle,” (10.7.29), there are 1,142.400 out of work, an increase of 24,593 on the previous week. The total on July 1 comprised 889,000 men, 28,300 boys, 199,500 women and 25,500 girls. In the same paper, same date, same column, we also read under the sub-heading of “Society Acrobats” that:
“The diverse activities of well-known people have been keeping the photographers exceptionally busy, according to this week’s issue of that bright review ‘The Sketch.’ Half the social world appears to have skipped over to Le Touquet for the golf tournament of Buck’s Club, while the other half was either at the Peterborough Foxhound Show or the extraordinary circus held in a West-End mansion. Polo and a water party at Roehampton claimed many notable people, some of whom are seen doing complicated ‘physical jerks’ on Major Paget’s lawn to time set by gramophone ” (Ibid).
We are not kill-joys, nor are we much concerned with these antics about which the tripe journalists write so much trash. What we do object to is the humdrum existence we, like the rest of the workers, have to submit to because they do not understand the ease and comfort possible for all if the present means of wealth production were commonly owned and utilized for that purpose. If the pleasures of these idlers appear somewhat inane and trumpery, it is mainly because they are only the pleasures of a pampered few which in the present system is based upon the slavish and joyless existence of the many. An intelligent race of men and women would require more elevating enjoyment than baby parties, freak dinners or society circuses. When the working class begin to realise that the ushering in of a system free from stupid social absurdities and contradictions depends entirely on their own efforts, the end of this capitalist pandemonium will be well in sight.

Catholic Truth.

In these days when everything in the political world is dubbed Socialism, those desirous of obtaining knowledge should ever be critical even of those claiming to be Socialists. One would hardly expect the late Prime Minister to air Socialist views, yet in a leading article in the "Daily Mail” (June 10, ’29) we are seriously informed that:—
“Mr. Baldwin has contributed as much to the growth of Socialism as Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, for he is a Semi-Socialist. His speeches and his pronouncements have frequently been indistinguishable from those of avowed Socialists.”
Of course, this is only eye-wash for the working class. Our masters and their agents know that the Socialism that they dread is that which is in line with the teaching of Karl Marx, a Socialism founded on Science. It is because of our masters’ need to know the real enemy, and not the bogey used to frighten the workers, that we sometimes get the truth in strange places as follows :—
“It is of little purpose to point out that the Socialist condemned (by the Pope) is Marxism, and not Fabianism or its analogues in various countries.” (Catholic Encyclopaedia, Vol. 14, p. 67.)

Something Now.

The futility of the policy of waiting for “Somebody to do something” is illustrated in the following. In the House of Commons it appears there is a catering department the staff of which receives the following enormous wages : Waiters, 31/6 (with food), barmaids (after 10 years’ service), 29/-; cash desk attendants, 24/-; kitchen hands, 20/- per week. Remembering that we have in office a Labour Party for whom eight million people voted, it is instructive to note that, in answer to a question in Parliament, a Mr. Compton, Labour member and Chairman of the Kitchen Committee, stated that : “An immediate revision of wages could not be entertained” (“Daily Chronicle,” 18.7.29.). After all it might set a bad example to cotton operatives, railwaymen, and others to concede wages to these people on a level with the cost of the keep of paupers and convicts (sic). Perhaps we shall be told that the Labour Party is not yet in power.

Pills for Earthquakes.
“The workman who owns his own house and has saved enough to assure himself at least of bread and butter for his family is one of the rocks against which the doctrines of revolution will always foam in vain.” (“Evening News,” 13/7/29.)
Although apparently this thrifty individual becomes a householder, he still remains a workman. Only a very small percentage of the millions of the workers own their own houses. If house ownership could form rocks against revolution, we wonder why our masters don’t rush to pay wages that might enable the majority to buy a shelter. Let us suppose, only suppose, mind you, that they did. Would not the wicked revolutionary creep in with his insidious economics and point out that, with an all-round removal of the cursed rent item, a lowered cost of living would mean lowered wages? He would ! True, numbers have to save, scrape, and mortgage in order to buy a house; they could not get one in any other way to-day, but it requires more than a house or a Post Office Savings account to secure the worker against the insecurity of modern times. None but a fortunate few manage to save even sufficient to provide for an emergency or old age, and irony of ironies, millions who have toiled their lives through piling up wealth for others pay a few coppers insurance per week to save them from the stigma of a pauper’s grave.
W. E. MacHaffie

Aspects of the “Woman Question.” (Part 2) (1929)

From the August 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Based on Notes of a Series of Lectures on “The Sexes in Evolution.”)

The status of woman in primitive society is examined. There are divergent opinions among the anthropologists themselves re­garding this feature of social development. Some assert that a matriarchal stage last­ing a long time was passed through by most primitive civilisations—a stage in which women were dominant. Others be­lieve that if such a state did exist it was probably of short duration. They claim that though evidence unearthed in Egypt, Mesopotamia and elsewhere indicates that a high degree of civilisation existed as far back as 20,000 years ago, there is very little to show that women occupied a truly dominant position.

The only way to arrive at an answer to these questions is to study the lower cul­tures that can be observed to-day, or have been observed and recorded within “histori­cal” times. Where there is history there is, of course, continuity from prehistory, and it is the task of the anthropologist to trace this continuity as far back as possible.

Briffault, in his monumental work, “The Mothers,” concludes that women occupied a relatively high position. In his opinion, the primal human group is not the family (in the modern sense), but a larger group which he calls “motherhood.” The assertion, he says, that “the family is the foundation of society” is belied by all the facts, anthropological and biological. He bases his claim for a belief in the relatively high position of woman on the fact that they could not have forced themselves up from an original subjection to the position they are assumed to have occupied. To some extent he appears to have followed Bachofen, though Bachofen could hardly have been conversant with the theory of the development of the human species from pre-existing orders. Support is lent to Briffault’s contention of the existence of a matriarchal group by researches which have revealed that early economic relations were based on productiveness, and not on property, and that women were the chief producers. Out of woman’s early activities, based on the maternal instinct which conserves the highest interests of her offspring, was established the principle which afterwards governed human groups—the principle of cohesion and sympathy—a factor which made organisation possible and progress attainable.

At one period she was elevated to the ideal of the mother goddess. As a divinity she was set apart what time the male was busy reacting to the herd instinct, and incidentally diverting the line of social development. At another period she is degraded to the position of a chattel, actually below that of cattle as regards her value. In early Greece women sank so low that they were treated as mere agencies of reproduction. In Biblical times both Moses and St. Paul were hostile to women, and the same hatred was displayed by both Tertullian and Origen, early Fathers of the Christian Church.

We then pass on to a consideration of her position within historical times, where the evidence is more reliable and easier to interpret. Under Feudalism the position of women improved somewhat, and in the Renaissance we find their lot still better, comparatively. But with the growth of wealth in the later Middle Ages their position changed from that of the cult of the saint to that of a mere colourless female character compelled to servitude. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution changed conditions forced them from this servitude to that of another kind—production in the home, with child labour as one of its deadly features, until, with the rise of modern capitalism, we arrive at conditions as we find them to-day.
Tom Sala

Letter: Old Age Pensions in U.S.A. (Letter from a reader in America.) (1929)

Letter to the Editors from the August 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard


In recent years it has become a quite common occurrence for the various Capitalist newspapers in England and elsewhere to point to the U.S.A. as an example of unparalleled prosperity. A land in which the workers are enjoying a “Golden Age of Labour.” Where automobiles are owned by each and every worker who cares to own one. (Until he omits to pay the next instalment.) And where, in short, the problems that afflict the workers and the rest of the Capitalist world do not exist.

Those of us who are compelled to sell our labour power in the U.S.A., and who are interested in working-class conditions, can only smile and wish that the conditions of the working-class as set forth in the foreign press were real, instead of existing as the “suppressed desires” of so many journalists with whom the wish is “father to the thought.”

This kind of Capitalist propaganda is not limited to envious foreigners, for here in the U.S.A. the gospel of prosperity is preached far and wide.

The question of importance is : Do the American workers enjoy prosperity? In order to answer this question, I will quote from an article appearing in the “New York World” (Sunday, June 2nd, 1929). The article deals with the growing need for old-age pensions in the U.S.A. The author is Mr. Herbert H. Lehman, Lieut.-Governor of the State of New York. He is a leading member of the Democratic Party, and we are informed by his interviewer that Mr. Lehman has close contacts with industry and banking.

To begin with, the gentleman informs us that:—
“The prosperity of every country depends on the well-being of its workers. Although the United States is enjoying a period of great prosperity there are two major labour problems, already the cause of wide discontent, that will become more acute as production speed increases : the dearth of employment for able-bodied men between 45 and 65, who cannot meet the speed demands of industry ; and the condition of the dependent aged who have nothing to look forward to but the poorhouse.”
As further proof that this is not a future tendency, but an existing fact, our writer continues with :—
“As production speed increases and labour-saving devices multiply, fewer and fewer jobs will survive that do not require the speed of youth. In addition to the decreasing value of the middle-aged man in speed work, the spread of group insurance increases the discrimination against him because he is a more expensive risk than the young man. The age employment limit, now set between 45 and 50 by many industries, seems likely to be pushed even lower. In the meantime medical science is steadily increasing the span of life. Between the machine that takes his job and the achievements of science that make him live longer, the worker is caught between two millstones.”
The writer is not in favour of the poor-house, partly because he dislikes the stigma of charity, but mainly because he is one of the few members of the Capitalist class who realises the costliness of building and supporting poorhouses. In fact we are told that :—
“I am convinced that even if the poorhouse system of New York State could be enlarged adequately to meet the needs of our aged dependants, the cost would be considerably larger than that of an assistance system which would allow the old people to live in their own homes.”
As an alternative to poorhouses he suggests pensions for the aged.

This suggestion so far does not meet with the approval of the rest of the Capitalist class. Their arguments in opposing this measure range from its being “Socialistic” to the danger of its being responsible for the “loss of incentive” on the part of the workers when given such aid. But our writer is not at a loss for answers to all of these criticisms. To the first criticism his reply is :—
“Some of the opponents of old age pensions have been shouting about “Socialistic policies.” The pensioning of the aged is no more Socialistic than the care of the sick and the insane.”
Thus the demands of the English Labour Party find favour in the ranks of the American Capitalist Class. And as for the menace to working-class incentive we are informed by the writer that:—
“Certain critics of old age assistance, argue that such a policy would withdraw all incentive to save and would tend to pauperise the labouring classes. This contention scarcely carries conviction when we remember that the maximum pension thus far considered is $1 a day in case the worker had no other income. This would be sufficient to supply only the barest necessities of Life. No one would deliberately choose such a state of poverty.”
No ! No one would. The amount of choice the American worker has in staving off the inevitable of poverty and destitution can easily be imagined when we are informed by the same gentleman that :—
“I cannot see how the average worker can be expected to support his family and save enough money to take care of unemployed old age, regardless o£ apparently high current wages. The margin of earnings over the minimum cost of respectable living is too small.”
Just what he means by “respectable living” he does not inform us. Although our author is a business man, he is not altogether “hard-boiled.” In fact, it is because he is a business man and knows something regarding the workings of the Capitalist system that he lets slip his journalistic crocodile’s tear.
“All of us know personally cases of industrious small shop owners who raised large families and were useful citizens ; but when they became too old to work found themselves without resources and faced what seemed to them the disgrace of ending their days in the poorhouse.”
And between sniffs of sympathy we are left to wonder if their usefulness is to be found in their raising “large families.” The worst is yet to come, for—
“Shoemakers, butchers, grocery storekeepers and bakers—they eke out a living but not enough to insure the future. In the next decade their plight will be worse than ever because many of them are exhausting the savings of a lifetime in a vain fight against the encroachments of chain stores.“
So this is an example “of prosperity in America.”

The obvious and only conclusion one can draw is that the workers of the U.S.A., like the workers the whole world over, are faced with the self-same problems; the problems of poverty and destitution. These problems have a solution, and the solution lies in the abolition of the present social system that produces such conditions, and in its place the establishment of a system of society wherein the wealth of society shall be enjoyed by all in common.
I am,
Yours fraternally,
Sidney Felperin

Blogger's Note:
Sid Felperin was a longstanding member of the SPGB's companion organisation in the USA.

Correspondence: Currency Reform and Socialism. (1929)

Letter to the Editors from the August 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

E. Wright (Denmark Park), tells us that we ought not to ignore money reform because, we would be able, by means of it, to “do wonders in starting State-owned industries.” Our correspondent omits, however, to explain what advantage to the working class State-ownership is, or what it has to do with Socialism. Our aim is Socialism not State capitalism.
Editorial Committee.

Letter: The New Translation of Capital (1929)

Letter to the Editors from the August 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

A letter from the translator.

To the Editor of the Socialist Standard.

Dear Comrade,

 We want to thank Comrade Fitzgerald for a very useful list of misprints (see the opening article in your March issue). He complains of our translating geistig as “spiritual,” when Moore and Aveling’s translation (revised by Engels) has “intellectual.” There is a German word, intellektuell, and we think if Marx had meant what the English mean by “intellectual,” he would have used that word. He was referring to wants which belong to the sphere of feeling as well as to that of the intellect, and, therefore, used the more comprehensive term, geistig. But this word is often difficult to translate, and we agree that possibly “spiritual” may convey an un-Marxian impression, so in the reprint now being called for we are changing the word to “mental.” The misprints mentioned, and some others, are likewise being corrected.

As to the question whether the new translation is an improvement on the old, it is not for the translators to offer an opinion of their own. They were commissioned to make a new translation by publishers who thought that the old translation did not do justice to the book. They were instructed to use the fourth German edition as their text, the last one revised by Engels; and certainly no disrespect to Engels’ memory was intended or implied by holding that he could not be considered a final arbiter upon questions of English terminology and style.

As to what reviewers think of the new translation, Comrade Fitzgerald is in good company in doubting whether it is an improvement. The “Times” holds the same view, and is surprised that a new translation has been made. Comrade Ryazanoff, the learned chief of the Marx-Engels’ Institute in Moscow, takes the translators severely to task in a letter to the “Labour Monthly.” But with these notable exceptions, the new translation has been greeted with an almost universal chorus of approval. We quote a few voices at random :—
“A new translation . . . the work of such experienced translators … is to be welcomed. . . . Mr. and Mrs. Paul have done their work extremely well.”—”Nation and Athenaeum.

“The work is exceedingly well done, and those who may have previously found Marx unreadable will do well to try again with this competent and well-written translation in their hands.”— “Friend.”

“This new translation … is much superior to the only other one this reviewer knows. . . It can be read without risk of mental collapse.”—”Bulletin” (Sydney, N.S.W.).

“Anyone who has ever wrestled with Marx knows how terribly bad and unreadable the old translation of Das Kapital was. In the skilful hands of Dr. and Mrs. Paul, Marx reads like a different man. . . Something of the real quality of his own style appears in the translation.”—”New Statesman.”

“The Moore and Aveling edition is so inelegantly rendered that,” etc., . . “The present rendering is so superlatively good that,” etc., …”The present smooth and delightful translation will introduce Marx to a wider circle of English readers than he has ever had in the past.”— “Cherwell.

“Those well-known translators, Eden and Cedar Paul, have added to their long list of personal triumphs a work for which posterity will have good cause to thank them.”—”Yorkshire Observer.”

“This excellent translation . . . will be doubly welcome . . . more readable than any previously published in this country.” —”Bookman.”
And so on ; and so on ; and so on.

“Bourgeois opinion,” we seem to hear the critics murmur—Comrades Fitzgerald and Ryazanoff, anyhow, though probably not the “Thunderer” of Printing House Square.

Yes, bourgeois opinion. But it is not a case of a Labour leader being praised for kow-towing to the Prince of Wales, and there are times when the old adage holds good, fas est ab hoste doceri—it is expedient to learn even from an enemy.
Yours fraternally,
Eden and Cedar Paul. 

SPGB News. (1929)

Party News from the August 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blogger's Note:
Interesting to note that the newsagents listed are in some of the poorest districts in 1920s London.

Knowledge. (1929)

From the August 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following Books can be obtained from Head Office :—

Anarchism and Socialism. Plechanoff. 3/6, paper 1/2

Civil War in France. Marx 2/9.

Conditions of the Working Class in England in 1844. Engels. 5/-

Critique of Political Economy. Marx. 6/6.

18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. Marx. 3/6.

Evolution of Property. Lafargue. 3/6, limp 1/6.

Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. Engels. 3/6.

Poverty of Philosophy. Marx. 6/6.

Revolution and Counter-Revolution. Marx. 3/6 limp 1/6.

Social and Philosophical Studies. Lafargue. 3/6.

Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. Engels. 3/6, limp 1/6.

Postage extra.

Capitalism and War. (1929)

From the August 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

When man’s control over nature was considerably less than at present, there was always the fear of thousands being laid low by famine and disease. The productive capacity and means of transport existing today have obviated the danger of famine; shortage in one part of the world being counterbalanced by abundance in other parts. And hygienic and medical knowledge enables man to check contagious disease in its early stages.

There remains, however, a fear which oppresses millions of people at the present time; the fear of war. The mechanical and chemical means of slaughter in existence today are so vast and terrifying that scarcely anyone can view the prospect of war between powerful nations without feelings of horror. In short it is not the natural elements that inspire the greatest fear, but man-made instruments of destruction.

The horror engendered by the contemplation of this danger gives rise to organisations with the abolition of war as their object.

So much has been written of late on the subject of peace and disarmament, and so much of it by people whose business it is, not to lay bare the actual causes of war, but rather to hide them ; and so much of it by well-meaning people who do not understand the causes, that it may be useful for the benefit of new readers to clarify the matter.

The first wars were fought between nomadic peoples in search of the means of subsistence, and as there did not exist any class division within the communities, the war was fought in the interest of the whole group, the spoils being enjoyed by all. With the rise of classes—which could not take place until it was possible for the producers to produce a surplus above their own needs —and the division of society into ruling and subject classes, wars were then waged in the interests of the rulers, and from that time onward have always been in the interests of the particular ruling class.

It is necessary to note that from the beginning wars had an economic cause, for it is the purpose of this article to show that all wars are at bottom the outcome of conflicting economic interests. A superficial knowledge of history, such as is imbibed at school, would lead one to think wars in the past have been due to bad rulers instead of good, or to the wickedness of foreigners, or maybe to religious differences ; that the last war was caused by the ambitions of the Kaiser, or by his habit of wearing his moustache at an angle of 45 degrees.

The crusades, in particular, are often alleged to have been fought because the Holy Land had fallen into the hands of the infidel Turk, the fact that they barred the trade routes to the East (the major cause) not being considered worthy of mention.

Under capitalism, production is carried on for profit, which profit is not realised by the capitalist until the articles are sold. As they cannot all be sold profitably inside the country of production, the surplus must be sold abroad.

When the capitalist nations came in contact with peoples in backward countries who did not welcome them as traders, they resorted to force of arms and forced their way into these countries. Obviously, this process has limits, and the big capitalist powers were bound to come into conflict over the division of the coveted areas.

When all the avenues of trickery, double-dealing, or “diplomacy,” have failed to bring about a satisfactory division, one side or the other plays its trump card—armed force—and the workers are called on to lay down their lives in the interests of their respective masters.

Modern capitalist powers stand little chance of waging war successfully without the support of practically the whole population ; for, apart from the huge armies engaged in the actual fighting, the arms and munitions have to be produced and transported, and the troops fed and clothed; smooth working is therefore essential.

This necessary support is forthcoming only because the workers do not realise their slave position, but believe they have interests in common with the capitalists ; this belief being assiduously fostered by the whole of the press and the professional politicians.

A typical instance may be given. Mr. Tillett, as chairman of the T.U.C., gave his views, along with prominent capitalists, in the Daily Herald of December 27, 1928, on the prospects of trade during 1929 :—
“If Britain is to recover her industrial prosperity and her lost markets, there must be courage, initiative and competence equal to the past.

Labour has its contribution to make and will respond, if invited. Trade Unionists as well as employers must move with the times in organisation and equipment, and catch the new spirit. I have no fear that the organised working-class movement, or its leaders will fail when the test comes.”
The Herald, of course, in its leading article comments favourably on Tillett’s views. Industrial prosperity could only be “recovered” by those who had formerly enjoyed it, and as the lot of the workers under capitalism has always been poverty, only the employers stand to recover anything, and it is precisely out of the struggle for markets, whether lost or newly discovered, that wars arise. Those who maintain that the workers have mutual interests with the employers in this struggle for markets should therefore maintain that it is to the workers’ benefit to engage in the wars arising therefrom, and such individuals, although they are fervent supporters of peace during peacetime, often become equally fervent recruiting agents in wartime, or, as Tillett puts it, they “move with the times.”

The Socialist attitude on this subject is clear and definite. Those who do not own the country cannot have it taken from them, and even a complete victory by one capitalist power over another, resulting in the complete subjugation of the vanquished state, would not benefit the workers of the victorious country, and would only mean a change of masters for the workers in the defeated country. The conditions of the workers in victorious Britain are—broadly speaking—similar to those obtaining in defeated Germany, whilst the capitalists of the allied countries have benefited at the expense of their fellow thieves in Germany.

When war broke out in 1914 other so-called working class parties were thrown off their balance and either supported the war or were divided on the subject. The Socialist Party alone pointed out the truth concerning the issues at stake and affirmed the unity of interests of the workers throughout the world and their antagonism of interests with the capitalists throughout the world.

There is a type of propaganda against war which is perfectly sincere but is the outcome of emotion rather than knowledge. This takes the form of drawing attention to the horrors of war, and such books as the recently published “All Quiet on the Western Front ” are regarded as excellent anti-war propaganda.

One can readily agree that modern war is a ghastly, horrifying, inglorious destruction of human life, but the mere realisation of this is not sufficient to prevent the workers from supporting war if they think they have an interest in doing so. Many went into the last war fully realising its horrible nature but not its sordid origin. Those who are swayed in one direction by emotion can be swayed in another direction if the emotional pressure brought to bear is sufficiently strong; and we know the power of the press to sway such people.

Then there are those who believe that it is the competition in armaments which is responsible for war, but a little thought should show them that this competition is itself an effect of a cause, and must continue so long as the cause remains.

The fact is that capitalism requires an armed force at its disposal for two reasons : to use against rival powers, and to use against the working class if they attempt to lay their hands on their masters’ property. The proposals of the Russian Government, therefore, for complete disarmament were fatuous nonsense equivalent to proposing to the capitalist powers that they commit suicide. All governments rely ultimately on armed might, the Soviet Government included.

The present writer recently heard a worker, unable to meet other criticisms, say “Well, at any rate, it must be admitted that the Labour Party is a peace party.” The idea behind such a statement is that wars are caused by the particular statesmen forming the government. This is entirely erroneous. No matter how much disposed towards peace a government may be, when the conditions are ripe for war the government is forced to take action in accordance with the interests of the ruling class, whether that government is labelled Conservative, Liberal, or Labour. So that even granting the Labour Party to be more in favour of settling international disputes by arbitration, it does not alter the fact that war is as likely to occur with “Labour” in the seats of power as it is with the Conservatives or Liberals there. In fact, if the Labour Party have the confidence of the workers to a greater extent than the other two parties it would be more convenient to the capitalist class to have a Labour Government to pave the way should war become inevitable from a capitalist standpoint.

Even if it were possible to abolish war within capitalism, capitalism would still remain, and it is the mission of the Socialist Party not to fight against particular features of the system, but against the system itself.

In conclusion, therefore, let us urge you not to waste your time with futile anti-war movements, but to join with us in working for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism, confident that with the ending of the system will end the danger of war resulting therefrom.
J. Lockwood