Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Potash and Palestine: Dead Sea Fruit. (1929)

From the October 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

The fighting between Arabs and Jews, which broke out in Palestine in the middle of August with heavy loss of life and the usual stories of “atrocities” on both sides, has drawn renewed attention to the Zionist Movement and to the whole question of racial and religious strife in the modern world.

The Zionist Movement was founded by a Jewish journalist, Theodor Herzl, who in 1895 was sent to Paris by a Vienna newspaper to report on the famous Dreyfus case. In his pamphlet, “The Jewish State,” he argued that the relationship between Jews and non-Jews would never cease to be a problem until an independent Jewish national state had been set up, preferably in Palestine. His scheme was received at first with hostility or indifference, but from 1897, when the inaugural congress was held, the movement grew continually stronger and wealthier, being helped considerably by the gifts of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. There seemed to be little prospect of settlement on a large scale in Palestine, then part of the Turkish Empire, until the British Government, on the capture of Jerusalem, issued a declaration in 1917 committing themselves to the idea of establishing a Jewish national home in that country. Since 1919 the Jewish population has increased from 57,000 to 162,000, but they still represent a small minority in comparison with the 650,000 Arabs. The Christians number about 75,000.

It has been too readily assumed that the conflict is wholly or mainly due to racial of religious differences, a view which has been seemingly supported by the fact that the actual incident which precipitated the outburst was connected with the “Wailing Wall,” a spot sacred to the adherents of the Jewish religion but the property of Moslems. It is not necessary to look far below the surface to see that this kind of explanation is inadequate. The differences exist, but while they add bitterness to the dispute they are not the underlying cause of it. For a thousand years until after the war Arabs and Jews lived side-by-side in Palestine without ill-will. The Jews in Baghdad have issued a manifesto condemning Zionism and associating the local Jews with the protests of the Moslems. (See report in Times, 31st, August.) Many Jews in Palestine are indifferent to the Jewish religion. It is interesting to notice, also, that whereas British and American Christians in Jerusalem helped to defend the Jews against the Arabs, the native Christians sided with the Moslems. The Arab Christians are reported to have expressed the opinion not long after the British Government’s Zionist Declaration that they would prefer to be back under the Turks. (See Morning Post, September 13th.) Moreover, many Jews in Europe and America and elsewhere are still in complete hostility to the objects and principles of the Zionist Movement.

The British Prime Minister has stated his view that the conflict is not one of race or religion, but merely the outburst of disorderly persons—an explanation which again fails to explain. Then the Communists inform us, in a resolution passed at the last Congress of the League against Imperialism (one of the numerous aliases of the Communist International), that Zionism is one of the “instruments of Imperialism” for the “oppression of the Arab peoples.” (See Sunday Worker, September 1st.) They call on the British and Jewish workers “to stand side by side with the fight of the Arabs for independence.” (Sunday Worker, September 8th.)

Let us now consider the chief interested parties and what exactly their interests in Palestine and Zionism are. And, first of all, let us consider the position of the British Government.

The story is that Mr. Lloyd George was led to support Zionism out of gratitude to Dr. Weizmann, who in addition to being the head of the Zionist organisation was the chemist who made good Britain’s shortage of explosives during the war. But it is well to remember certain other facts. One is that Palestine occupies a commanding position in relation to the protection of the Suez Canal route to India and beyond. It is an essential link in the Imperial Airway to India, and there is talk of an oil pipeline from Persia to the Palestine coast. Haifa has been described as the finest naval harbour on the Mediterranean, and the only harbour except Malta in which the British fleet could anchor for its protection. In the House of Commons, on April 30th of this year (see Hansard of that date). Mr. Amery, Colonial Secretary, said that Haifa will become “one of the main ports of the Middle East.” In short, it is obvious that the British ruling class have some very powerful “Reasons of State” for remaining in Palestine, whether their proteges, the Zionists, are in trouble with the Arabs or not.

Next, let us consider the Zionist movement. On July 28th of this year the 16th Congress of the Zionists opened at Zurich, and resulted in some very important changes in the constitution of the governing body. Hitherto the “Jewish Agency,” the body which has officially represented the Jewish settlement in Palestine, has been entirely composed of Zionists. The 16th Congress marked the success of Dr. Weizmann’s plan to create an “extended Agency” representing Jewish circles quite outside and indifferent to the old Zionist movement. The correspondent of the New Statesman (August 31st) says that the old movement was democratic in organisation and “represented chiefly the lower Jewish middle-class, which in Eastern Europe was even poorer than the proletariat.” The new Agency is frankly non-democratic and “represents on the whole higher Jewish finance and big business …. the practical, hard-boiled American business man.” At its first meeting on the 11th August there were present, among others, Sir Herbert Samuel and Lord Melchett (Mond). (See Industrial and Labour Information, Geneva, September 16th.) We may observe in passing that the correspondent of the New Statesman says that many of these hard-boiled business men are interested very much in the philanthropic side of the venture, and Mr. Amery, too, thought that the American interest was “no doubt largely sentimental.” (Hansard, April 30th.) But, then, there are other things also. Lord Melchett and his business associates have interests in Palestine in connection with water power concessions for the production of electricity, but what is, at hast potentially, of most importance to them, as chemical producers, is the concession for the extraction of potash and other valuable salts from the Dead Sea. At present a German cartel practically monopolises potash and its allied chemicals, and it is hoped by the Anglo-American interests who take this philanthropic interest in Palestine that the Dead Sea may make them independent of the German producers. Colonel Howard-Bury, M.P., has said (see Hansard, 30th November, 1927) that the potash deposits alone are estimated to be worth £14,000 million at current prices ; although it is true that Mr. Amery (Hansard, 12th March, 1928) would not commit himself to this figure, and Sir Herbert Samuel has estimated it at a mere £800 million. Mr. Amery, has, however, stated that the Dead Sea is estimated to contain 2,000 million metric tons of potassium chloride and 980 million metric tons of magnesium chloride, and the financial interest behind the concessionaires believe that it can be profitably extracted. (Hansard, 12th March.) In the light of this information those words “philanthropic” and “sentimental” make us smile.

It is true that big business men, especially the hard-boiled ones, are notoriously sentimental, and they can afford to be philanthropic; but we too could afford to be philanthropic and sentimental if we were in their shoes, more especially if there was a chance that the philanthropic sprat might hook a Dead Sea mackerel worth £800 million.

In face of this it is not surprising that Mr. Felix M. Warburg, the American Chairman of the new Jewish Agency, should be very angry with the British authorities for having allowed his fellow Jews to organise provocative demonstrations at the Wailing Wall, and thus disturb the “prosperity” of Palestine. (See Times, 6th September.) Riots are bad for business as well as being a source of grief for the hard-boiled but tender-hearted captains of industry.

And what of the Arabs, on whose behalf the simple Communists want British and Jewish workers to fight for independence? Arab workers have been incited against Jewish immigrant landowners, but forget that Arab property owners sold them the land. The Mufti, in an interview with the Palestine High Commissioner on September 6th (see Daily Telegraph, September 7th), demanded :
“on behalf of the Arab community equal economic rights with the Jews, the abrogation of Jewish monopolies for hydro-electric and other concessions, and the regranting of all concessions by and through a Federal Government on the basis of open competition.”
Translated into actual facts, this means that the wealthy Arabs resent seeing all the loot pocketed by their Jewish rivals. Many of these Arabs made vast sums of money out of land speculations owing to the rise in prices following the increased demand for land on the part of the Jews. But what is the value to the propertyless Arab worker of the “right” to tender in “open competition” for Dead Sea concessions? It is worth precisely the same as the British worker’s “right” to become a shareholder in Melchett’s Chemical Combine, or the existing concession companies—nothing whatever. The whole struggle is one between rival Jewish, Arab, American and British capitalists for the valuable privilege of exploiting Jew and Arab, Christian and Atheist, and any other kind of worker. Jewish as well as Arab working-class organisations are suppressed in the employers’ interest. Religion and race, national independence and patriotism, are now, from the worker’s point of view, just so many ruling-class devices useful for the purpose, among others, of stirring up hatred when and where they may want it. Arabs and Jews in Palestine and Iraq have no more interest at stake in the independence of the states in which, and by which, their exploitation is carried on, than had British and German workers in 1914. Socialism alone is worth struggling for. That is the message of the Socialist to all the working-class dupes of the closely-allied superstitions of religious, racial and patriotic rivalries. Jewish workers and Arab workers both suffer, but not because they are Jew or Arab, or because they happen both to be in Palestine, but because they are workers and therefore exploited by those who own and control their means of life. The Jewish workers cannot solve their problems by transferring their misery from New York or Berlin to Jerusalem. The world will be fit for Jewish workers and Arab workers to live in when, and only when, the working-class, as a whole, have gained political control for the establishment of Socialism.
Edgar Hardcastle

Aspects of the “Woman Question.” (Part 4) (1929)

From the October 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Based on Notes of a series of lectures on “The Sexes in Evolution.”)

We are told there is a sex antagonism. Any morning we can open the pages of the stunt press and find articles calling attention to the intensity of the sex war. In the old days of the Women’s Suffrage agitation the success of the movement depended upon women’s adherence to, and recognition of, this sex war. As a matter of fact there is no sex antagonism and hasn’t been for thousands of years. How many books have been written explaining the sex problem ? Yet—there isn’t a sex problem. There is a problem, but it is a social problem. And that problem is the problem of getting a decent living. Hunger and Love are the two dominating factors of life. They are the basic biological principles which underlie every form of living activity and every institution. The satisfaction of these two primal necessities is the first concern of all living things. But since we—different from most other animals—are obliged to cooperate with each other in order to obtain the food we require, the question becomes a social one. Further, since we find that the means of getting a living are in the possession of another class, the social question becomes a social problem, and, by the very nature of the existing structure of society, a political one as well. Incidentally, we know quite well that a problem is a problem no longer when its solution is known. We know the solution as readers of this journal will be well aware. For present purposes, however, we speak of the “social problem.”

The so-called Women’s Movement, so far as it has gone, has been a movement for the advancement of certain reforms within the framework of the present social system. It would be true to say that even if all their claims for equal political and social rights were achieved it would not mean the emancipation of women, or anything near it. Only those women would benefit who belong to the privileged, or propertied class in society—those with sufficient wealth to possess a political “pull.” The majority of women, like the majority of men, belong to the wage-earning class, and this class cannot benefit so long as the tools of production —and not only the tools of production but the product as well—remain the property of another class.

To those who see the effects only and do not trouble to trace causes, the women’s struggle appears to be a struggle of sex against sex, and this idea is carefully worked upon. This mistake was made by the leaders themselves in the early feminist movement. They accepted the suggestion that woman was inferior to man, and in thousands of homes—especially those of working folk—it went without question.

That women are in a condition of subjection goes without saying. But they are not in subjection to the men. Individuals certainly may be, but not as a class. Men are in subjection—slaves to a system, and because the men are in subjection the women necessarily are in subjection, too. Morgan, in his valuable book, ”Ancient Society,” has shown that human society has an essentially economic basis. He has shown that the evolution of human society has progressed in accordance with the development of the means of production, and the methods of their ownership. Here we have the secret of the origin of all forms of social slavery, the subjection of women among the rest. Without the introduction of economic inequality, sex inequality could never have spread throughout the civilised world as it has done.

In the days of the adult suffrage agitation it was maintained that the acquisition of complete enfranchisement would mean sex equality. How true this claim was has now a chance of being shown. But right here it can be said that to make this claim is to lose sight of the true function of politics. Woman’s subjection did not arise from political disabilities—in fact these disabilities themselves arose from woman’s subjection— and, as already stated, this subjection has its roots deep down in economic inequality. Politics are the result of economic conditions, and in all its variety political action has gone upon the lines of economic interests. The enfranchisement of every man and every woman, now that it is practically universal, will certainly extend the possibilities of political action, but cannot of itself remove or alter the economic conditions under which people suffer. That is, so long as the majority of men and women remain un-conscious of their class position in society. So that universal suffrage, to be of value, depends upon the use to which it is put. Granting the vote to every man and woman does not in the least jeopardise the position of the exploiting class at the present stage of working-class political education. We need only ask : who possessed the greatest social power—the woman employer who hadn’t a vote, or the enfranchised wage-worker she exploited?
Tom Sala

Letter: Currency Reform and Socialism. (1929)

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

E. Wright (Denmark Park) writes further on the subject of Money Reform. In an earlier letter (see August “S.S.”) this correspondent told us that we ought to take up the question because money reform would enable us “to do wonders in starting State-owned industries.” We replied that our correspondent had omitted to explain what advantage to the working-class State-ownership would bring, and what it has to do with Socialism. In the further letter our correspondent says, “State-owned industries might lead to Socialism.” We deny that there is any “might” about it. State-ownership is not Socialism and does not lead to Socialism. It still remains for our correspondent to give his reasons for believing that State capitalism would benefit the workers or lead to Socialism.
Editorial Committee

Letter: Socialism and Reforms. (1929)

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

We print below a letter from a correspondent, together with our reply to his questions :—
Workers’ Esperanto Club, 
High Holborn, London, 
August 21st, 1929.

To the Editor, Socialist Standard.

Dear Sir,

Is the S.P.G.B. absolutely opposed to reforms under any conditions whatsoever?

For instance, in the cotton lock-out, the employers demanded a reduction in wages of 5/- to 6/- a week. What would the S.P.G.B. have advised the cotton workers to do? Should they have accepted the wage reduction without any demur or hesitation, because to struggle for 5/-or 6/- a week would have been struggling to maintain their wage position, or should they have refused, and having done so, should they have organised themselves by appointing lock-out committees, etc., for the struggle? Similarly, if in any other industry, a section of the working class were threatened with the same thing, what should they have done? Also, supposing the workers in any given industry are able by means of a strike, or threat of a strike, to obtain an increase in wages or shortening of hours, should they do so, since they would be fighting for a reform ?

Does the attitude of the S.P.G.B. mean that the workers should wait until they are all fully conscious of the need for Socialism, neglecting in the meantime to struggle to maintain their position with regard to wages and hours, in so far as sections of the working class are continually having attacks made upon them by the capitalist class with respect to wages and hours?

Hoping you will see your way clear to explaining your attitude with regard to these questions.
Yours, etc.,
H. C.

Our correspondent’s whole difficulty arises out of his mistake in thinking that a struggle against a wage reduction is the same thing as a policy of working for the political or social reform of capitalism.

We point out first that the working class are poor and a subject class because the capitalist class have political power and own and control the machinery of production and distribution. The cause of working class poverty is not the existence of certain defects in the political machinery by which capitalism is administered. Therefore, no political reform (proportional representation, for example), and no social reform (old-age pensions, children’s allowances, etc.), and no accumulation of such reforms will remedy the problem. If the whole of the reforms advocated by all the reform parties, from Conservative to Communist, were put on the Statute Book, the working class would still be a subject class and still poor. Therefore, the Socialist Party advocates Socialism, and seeks to organise the working class on a socialist basis.

We point out, further, that the only method of achieving socialism is for a socialist working class to gain political control. Anyone who urges the working class to put political power into the hands of persons and parties seeking election on a non-socialist programme, and therefore unable, even if willing, to use their power for any other purpose than the administration of capitalism, is acting directly contrary to the interests of the working class. All the reform parties have in this way acted contrary to working class interests, including the Communists, with their nationalisation projects and appeals to the workers to vote for MacDonald and other Labour candidates.

The development of capitalist industry constantly produces new social problems for the workers and aggravates old ones, and in the interests of the capitalists themselves these evils, which are merely the effects of capitalism, have to be palliated by various reform measures. The capitalists have to pass these reforms for two main reasons : loss of efficiency and loss of political support. If allowed to work unchecked, capitalism would produce such worsening in the conditions of the workers that they would, on the one hand, lose efficiency as profit-producers, and would perhaps, so the capitalist thinks, on the other hand, show their discontent with intolerable conditions by interesting themselves in Socialism or by riot and revolt which, though suicidal for the workers, would be troublesome and costly for the employing class. Incidentally, common sense suggests that the development of a strong socialist movement would cause the capitalist to fall over each other in their anxiety to make concessions in order to persuade the workers that socialism is unnecessary and capitalism not so bad after all. In short, the Socialist Party opposes the parties which preach reform because there is no way of achieving socialism except through the making of socialists and their organisation into a political party which will gain political power for the purpose ot introducing socialism.

The question of wage reductions is different in important respects. Reform parties, elected by non-socialist votes to administer capitalism, are blocking the way to socialism. Therefore we point this out and oppose them. But trade unions, the economic organisations of the workers, are chiefly concerned with the defence of the workers in their direct relations with the employers. They can, when market conditions are favourable, bring a certain organised pressure to bear on the employers to resist a decrease or secure an increase in wages. This is a definite, if limited, gain to the workers concerned.

Therefore, we support the cotton workers or any other workers in their efforts in this direction, at the same time drawing their attention to the limits which capitalism imposes on all such activities. We point out in particular that every increase in wages or reduction in hours or curtailment of output gives the employers an added inducement to introduce more labour-saving machinery, thus in creasing the number of unemployed and the consequent competition for jobs. We point out also that the workers should always keep the control of policy in their own hands and not give power to their leaders to negotiate in secret and settle on their own terms. But emphasising once more that no action of this kind, however well organised, can solve the real working class problem of abolishing capitalism, and, further, that the employing class always have it in their power to starve striking or locked-out workers into submission if they deem it worth while to do so.
Editorial Committee.