Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Letter: The Key to History (1959)

Letter to the Editors from the November 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Sir,

E.W., in his reply to my letter, assumes that I have no evidence for claiming that Marx believed that history was governed by laws which operate independent of the will of man; but his assumption, I don't think, is based on a proper understanding of Marxism, for when we turn to the Author's Prefaces in Capital we find this written: “Marx treats the social movement as a process of natural history, governed by laws not only independent of human will, consciousness and intelligence, but rather, on the contrary, determining that will, consciousness and intelligence ” On page 789 of the same book, that is (the Moore and Aveling translation Capital) there is written: “The Capitalist mode of appropriation, the result of the Capitalist mode of production, produces Capitalist private property. This is the first negation of individual private property, as founded on the labour of the proprietor. But Capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of nature, its own negation.” Here we have Marx dealing with impersonal forces which operate independent of the wills of the Capitalists, that is, the laws inherent in Capitalist production which, according to Marx, are not willed by men.

It is true that Marx did not view history as something apart from men, but nevertheless he did not believe that men created the laws of history and directed the social movement according to their wills; for according to Marx it is impersonal forces working outside of will, consciousness and intelligence that force men to play a certain role in history. [It is true that ends are not always realized merely because men will them, but nevertheless, the motivation towards their realisation could not exist independent of their wills.] E.W. says that it is only when conditions are fulfilled can the will to exploit become effective, but he seems to forget here that these conditions for exploitation are willed by men. Capitalism no more came into existence independent of the will of men than Feudalism went out independent of their wills. E.W. talks about objective conditions, but does not state what these objective conditions are. The objective conditions of Capitalist production are created by the subjective content and can therefore only be understood and motivated through subjectivity.

However, there is nothing wrong m speaking about objective conditions relating to Capitalist production as long as this is understood. The objective conditions of industry do not come out of the blue, they are created by men. E.W. would have us believe that objective conditions arise out of unwilled activities. This is true of climate, etc., but not of things created by men.

E.W. says that the absence of certain conditions made Socialism impossible 500 years ago, and that the presence of certain objective conditions make it possible today, but he seems to forget that the presence of certain objective conditions today make world destruction more of a possibility than the establishment of Socialism, and in that respect these objective conditions, which we have today for the realisation of Socialism, are worse than the objective conditions of 500 years ago; for, although it may not have been possible to realise Socialism at that time, it was at least impossible for them to realise the possibility of world destruction. However, seeing that E.W. believes that there is a key to history, he will no doubt believe that all the destructive objective conditions of today will, in the end, bring men nearer to the realisation of Socialism. But then again, this view is not founded on fact, but only belief which is opposed to facts as they stand today.
R. Smith

If Mr. Smith believes that history is the outcome of the projection of the wills of individuals, how explain the fact that men’s historical activities have developed along definite lines, expressed in particular and class relations—Slavery—Feudalism—Capitalism? Mr. Smith himself offers neither evidence nor explanation for his views. Social classes are not created by the wills of individuals, they are the outcome of prior economic development. The way wealth is organised and distributed between classes—the social relation of production—is dependent on a given stage of social development. The fact that at different times, men have found themselves, slave owner or slave, feudal lord or serf, employer or employee, expresses a definite historic mode of production, independent of the wills of those who participate in it and regardless of their good or bad intent. Different men are born in different social situations, hence unwilled by them. It is the degree of ’economic development corresponding to a given social situation which provides the objective possibilities for individuals having common economic aims, i.e., class aims, to further their interests. The material basis for existence and its degree of economic development in which men find themselves are the indispensable conditions for the continuance and furtherance of their productive activities. The material basis for mens existence is not, as Mr. Smith imagines, the creation of men’s subjective processes i.e., their personal wishes, wills or desires; Individuals did not will themselves to become feudal lords no more than serfs willed serfdom. Nor did the bourgeois who for centuries were weaker than the feudal lords suddenly vanquish Feudalism by merely willing it out of existence.

Mr. Smith offers two quotes from Capital, neither of which gives support to his assertion that Marx held history to be an impersonal process. is method of quoting leaves much to be desired. The first quote —"which treats of social movements, governed by laws independent of human will or consciousness ” are not Marx words, but those of a reviewer of Capital, describing what he believed to be Marx's historical method. Nevertheless, it is a fact that laws which are expressions (often approximate) of objective regularities discoverable in events do not depend on our will or consciousness or the law of gravity, etc., although by understanding them, they can be used in practical life. Again, the law of value which regulates present exchange relations is not dependent on the will or consciousness of the Capitalist. It is true the Capitalist via exploitation wills to expand his capital. If he did not attempt to do both these things he would cease to be a Capitalist. Thus the Capitalist “will” moves within the bounds of iron compulsions.

In Mr. Smith's second quote, Marx is pointing out that small scattered private property is transformed into large-scale Capitalist property and this in turn would be transformed into common property as inexorably as a law of nature. Marx showed that the economic development which dissolved Feudalism and with it petty private production inevitably led to Capitalism. No historian has been able to show that there could have been any major social alternative to Capitalism. Yet so far as men being puppets of an impersonal economic process, it was this economic development, culminating in Capitalism, which gave rise to an unparalled scope and intensity for men's activities, although it was class activities for class ends.

Again, Capitalism produces the will for Socialism and the economic conditions for making it effective, just as Capitalism alone makes it possible to devastate the world with the hydrogen bomb. That is why Socialism and the hydrogen bomb were impossible 500 years ago. As Mr. Smith unwittingly admits this was because the objective conditions were different then. Socialism is the only alternative to Capitalism and it is this path which the working class must take if they are to achieve their class emancipation. Such is the nature of historic inevitability.

How little this second quote of Mr. Smith's has to do with fatalism is seen by the fact that the quote is lifted from a whole passage in which Marx makes human effort and moral indignation indispensable features of the social revolution.

Marx not only said men make history he exemplified it in his own actions. Again, his works Class Struggles and 18th Brumaire are brilliant illustrations of his dictum. What Mr. Smith should have done was to show through Marx's voluminous works where he even once said, “ men do not make history.” But this Mr. Smith cannot do.
Ted Wilmott

How Not To Get Socialism. (1930)

From the February 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Way of the Communists. 
The “Daily News,” on January 16th, reported Dr. Brown, President of the Baptist Union, as having said that the Baptists last year lost 4,450 church members and 11,000 Sunday School scholars; in ten years, he added, they would at that rate be “as dead as the dodo.”

This is bad news for the Baptists, and we believe it will also be bad news for the Communist Party. For it appears that when they were hard at work preaching the “United Front,” Baptist ministers as well as the Labour Party were to be brought within the fold. Those who think that there must be a limit to the silliness even of the Communists are asked to read the following. It is a letter printed on the front page of the “Workers’ Weekly,” on December 7th, 1923, at a time when a general election was in progress. It is headed, “Helping Ramsay Mac.,” and is signed by J. Stokes, of Portabbot:—
“There is a straight fight in the constituency between Byass, the Capitalist candidate (Unionist), and Ramsay MacDonald. Ramsay MacDonald has all the way to go ; if he gets there, that will be all.

We had a meeting here on November 19th with Ramsay MacDonald, who had three Baptist Ministers on the platform. It was a jolly meeting, and I was most pleased to hear these fellows speaking. We Communists here are doing our best to help Ramsay MacDonald to beat the Capitalist candidate.”
Deeds, not words.
The same issue of the “Workers’ Life” contains many other delightful sidelights on Communist activities. There is, for example, an illustration of what is meant by that favourite slogan of the Communist Party : “Now is the time for action.”

“Comrade Mowatt” writes from Barrow to say that the local Communist Party were working hard to get Mr. J, Bromley returned to Parliament as Labour M.P., and he adds, “all our illusions and theoretical deductions have been hung out on the clothes line to dry.”

We never regarded their “theoretical deductions” as other than unsound, but such candid admission from themselves as to the usefulness of their theories is refreshing.

Having abandoned their theories the Communists were then free to get down to action. Mr. J. McHendrick, of Rutherglen, obligingly tells us what kind of action.
“It was arranged that the addressing of envelopes should be done by team work, and anyone who saw this work being done would have to admit that the Communist Party is a working party.”
And to think that the Soviet Government borrows money at high rates of interest from Russian capitalists and then spends part of it paying British Communists to “help Ramsay Mac.” at elections and address envelopes for Labour Party candidates !

The Mass Party.
The justification given by the Communists for supporting MacDonald, whom they described as a “faithful servant of capital,” was that this was the way to build up a “mass Communist Party.”

In the “Communist Review” (October, 1929) the Tyneside District Party Committee publishes a statement on the condition of the Communist Party as a whole.

This is what they say :—
“After ten years of strenuous effort, the Communist Party of Great Britain finds itself with a financial membership which cannot be placed at a higher figure than 2,500, It is doubtful if even this number of financial members would be found to exist were a careful examination made . . . our Party has never been so weak in membership or influence.”
The significance of this admission will be appreciated when it is remembered that the C.P.G.B. claimed to start with about 10,000 members and that, in addition to thousands of members who joined individually, it claimed to have won over in 1921 5,000 members of the l.L.P. en bloc.

It must indeed be disappointing to spend 10 years helping the Capitalist candidates against the Capitalist candidates, and addressing envelopes in Labour Party committee rooms and then find your membership smaller by three-quarters than when you began.

The stock Communist argument against using the vote as the means of gaining political control for the establishment of Socialism, is that the vote is a “Capitalist instrument,” so that instead of using the vote for that purpose they hasten to use it to “help Ramsay Mac.” administer Capitalism. The vote is a means of attaining power, and as such is neither Capitalist nor Socialist, but it is indeed useless to the workers under Communist guidance.

The Communist Street Fighters.
We have often remarked on the danger to the working-class of the Communist policy of street-fighting, that is, the pitting of practically unarmed men against the colossal weapons of modern warfare in the hands of trained soldiers.

At the Congress of the Communist Party of Great Britain, held at Leeds at the end of November, 1929, fresh evidence was given of the dangerously reactionary nature of Communist methods.

A special correspondent of the “Manchester Guardian” reports a speech in which Mr. H. Pollitt, the prominent Communist and member of the Communist Party Executive, said : —
“Only through social revolution, only through armed insurrection, can the workers gain power.” —(“Manchester Guardian,” 2nd Dec..)
In the “Workers’ Life” (6th December) is a report of a speech delivered at the Congress by Mr. W. Gallacher, another prominent Communist, and also a member of the Central Committee. In it he said :—
“They had talked of a Revolutionary Workers’ Government, but did they realise what was implied ? Would the organisation of the workers for the revolutionary government be a legal one ? The task of fighting for a revolutionary government would be a task of bringing the workers out on to the streets against the armed forces of Capitalism.”
Having assisted their friend “Ramsay Mac.” into office and placed his Government in control of the armed forces, the Communists now talk of leading the workers into the streets against those same armed forces !

This sort of lunacy they call “tactics.”

Last May Day in Berlin we had an example of this street fighting. Large numbers of young Communists “armed” with a few revolvers and one dummy machine-gun suffered heavy casualties at the hands of a fully-equipped, semi-military, police force.

Recently the same suicidal policy has been tried out again, also in Germany. On this occasion a number of Communists were killed and many were more or less seriously wounded by the police, who were armed with revolvers, machine-guns and armoured cars. (See “Manchester Guardian” and “Daily Express,” 16th January.)

The Communists, according to the accounts in the two newspapers referred to above, were “armed” with a few revolvers, plus “bricks,” “stones,” “planks” and “knuckle-dusters” !

We have only one comment to make. Whenever Pollitt and Gallacher intend throwing stones at a machine-gun or hitting a tank with knuckle-dusters we hope they will let us know so that we can be there to see.

Enter the Proletarian Peashooters.
We are now unreliably informed of new developments in the Communist Party. According to this report that Party is now discussing a question which divided the military experts several hundreds of years ago. The question is that concerning the relative merits of the Crossbow and the Long bow. The old controversy was finally settled by the perfecting of firearms, it being found that both crossbowmen and long-bowmen were as good as dead against the gun.

The present dispute among the “street-fighters” is, however, in danger of being side-tracked by yet another school of thought which has on its side two unanswerable arguments. One is that it is possible for workers to die heroically and perfectly uselessly up against armed forces without going to the trouble of having either longbows or cross-bows, dummy machine guns or knuckle-dusters; and the second is that the cheap and homely pea-shooter, while entirely useless, is a weapon which, unlike the vote, has not been besmirched by being used by the Capitalists, Hence the rumoured formation of an entirely new corps of “Proletarian Peashooters.” Pollitt and Gallacher are to be in command of the new force, ably supported by three unemployed Baptist chaplains.
P. S.

A Look Round. (1930)

From the February 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Party and War.

An idea which is widely held, although quite baseless, is that the Labour Party is an anti-war party. Many people have already forgotten that the Labour Party officially supported the war in 1914, engaged in recruiting, was represented in the Asquith Coalition Government by Mr. Arthur Henderson, Mr. Barnes, and Mr. Roberts, and in the Lloyd George Coalition by Mr. Henderson (member of the War Cabinet), Mr. John Hodge (Minister of Labour), and Mr. Barnes (Minister of Pensions). (See 1919 Labour Year Book, pages xii and xiv.)

It was Mr. Arthur Henderson who distinguished himself by urging the deport­tion of strikers from the Clyde, including Mr. David Kirkwood, now a Labour M.P.

It is, however, often argued that the Labour Party has learned by experience, and would not repeat the “mistake” of 1914. It is therefore worth while taking particular note of the actions and declarations of Mr. Arthur Henderson, Secretary of the Labour Party, and now Foreign Secretary in the Labour Government. In 1914 Mr. Henderson supported war. Has he admitted his error, or changed his attitude? Let Mr. Henderson speak for himself.

At the 1925 Labour Party Annual Conference, Mr. Henderson spoke on behalf of the Executive Committee in opposition to a resolution asking for disarmament. At that time the French Government’s occupation of the Ruhr was still fresh in mind, and in certain circles, including the British Labour Party, feeling against France was running high. This is what Mr. Henderson said :—
“If France continued in the frame of mind she was now in, had they to overlook the possibilities of defence? They could not afford to ignore this question of defence.”—(See Conference Report. Page 232.)
Then, in 1929, Mr. Henderson was challenged about his war-time activities, and replied in a statement to the “Daily Herald” (January 10th, 1929). In that statement Mr. Henderson said “he was not in the least ashamed of his war record, and was willing that it should be investigated by any committee appointed by the Labour Party.”

Of course, Mr. Henderson was willing to have his war-time activities investigated by the Labour Parly. How could his fellow jingoes find him guilty without condemning their own anti-working class activities?

It will be noticed that Mr. Henderson retracts nothing and apologises for nothing. In 1914 it was Germany; in 1925 it was France; who will it be next time Mr. Henderson wants the working class to go to war in defence of British Capitalism?

* * *

Are the men worse than the women?

Mr. Henderson is ably supported by Miss Susan Lawrence, M.P., who is Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of. Health. Speaking at Friends’ House, Euston Road, on January 14th, on “Women and Peace,” Miss Lawrence said :—
“I think we must face the fact that under certain circumstances war is inevitable. I would go so far as to say that there are certain conditions which are worse than war … It is a horrible fact that there is no great nation in the world that has attained its freedom except by war.”—(“Manchester Guardian,” 15th Jan.)
Unfortunately, Miss Lawrence did not let out two intriguing secrets. She omitted to say what were the conditions worse than war, and she forgot to say which was the nation in which the working class had attained their freedom. As she went on to say that the “memories of how we attained our freedom are proud memories,” we are forced to conclude that the “we” who have attained freedom arc not the working class at all. May we ask Miss Lawrence and the I.L.P., of which we understand she is a member, why we of the working class should go to war to maintain the freedom of the Capitalist class?

* * *

Unhappy Mr Maxton.

Mr. James Maxton, Chairman of the I.L.P., has just been severely snubbed by the Scottish group of his party. At a delegate conference a resolution endorsing his recent attitude towards the Labour Government was rejected by 103 votes to 94, although the national executive supports him. In the course of his speech to the delegates, Mr. Maxton complained bitterly that the army of revolt which he thought he was leading, suddenly vanished into thin air. “You had shoved me up against the guns, and when I looked round there was nobody there.” (Reported in “Manchester Guardian,” 13th and 14th January.)

Truly an unfortunate position to be in, but one which sooner or later always overtakes those who trade in bluff. Mr Maxton’s army of revolt is composed of I.L.P. members of Parliament who owe their seats to Labour votes and Labour support. How can they then seriously oppose the Labour Party? And is Mr. Maxton himself an inspiring figure to lead revolts? He has yet to live down even among his own supporters the ghastly fiasco of the “Cook and Maxton” campaign. At the outset of that little firework display Mr. Maxton was neatly cornered on this very question of revolts.

He spoke to a crowded audience in St. Andrew’s Hall, Glasgow, on Sunday, July 7th, 1928. (Reported in “Forward” on July 14th.) He was asked the following question :—
“You have denounced Ramsay MacDonald. Are you prepared to advocate the expulsion of MacDonald from the Labour Party?”
Here was a chance for Maxton to show a bold and logical front. But this was his reply :—
“He was not prepared to advocate the expulsion of MacDonald. He did not believe in expelling anybody. He believed in having both Lefts and Rights in the Party where they could fight things out and let the Centre get on with the work. If people got expelled from the Party they got further away from the Party, and he believed in keeping them under control.”
Here you have the bold, bad office boy who puts his fingers to his nose behind the boss’s back, but “does not believe in sacking the boss because he wants to keep him under control.”

It has been truly said of Mr, Maxton that he is “one of those people who mean well, but …”

* * *

“We Band of Brothers.”

Mr. Maxton’s idea of letting “Lefts” and “Rights” fight while the “Centre” gets on with the work, brings to mind another hoary old argument used by the I.L.P. against the Socialist Party, “Why not,” they say, “let us all get together in the Labour Party and be one great, happy-band of brothers all united for Socialism?”

The answer is that only Socialists can be united for Socialism, and the Labour Party and I.L.P. are neither Socialist nor united. Mr. Maxton and the majority of the National Administrative Council of the I.L.P. are at daggers drawn with the minority and with the Scottish Group. Mr. Johnston, Mr. Wheatley, Mr. Dollan and others are carrying on a heated and abusive quarrel in the columns of “Forward,” and the Editor of the “New Leader” boasts that he is holding the balance evenly between the two sides. Mrs. Mary Hamilton, an I.L.P. member of Parliament, writes in the “New Leader” (6th December) saying that the I.L.P. is not a class party, and Mr. David Kirkwood, another I.L.P. member of Parliament, replies (13th December) that it is a class party or ought to be if it isn’t. A “branch secretary” of the I.L.P. writes as follows (“New Leader,” 27th December) :—
“Once more a position has arisen in which the I.L.P. seems hopelessly lacking in unity. Speaking as a branch official who has served the Party as boy and man for 30 years, I say quite frankly that the situation cannot long continue. It is quite impossible to maintain any semblance of work locally whilst I.L.P.’ers in Parliament continue to talk from opposite positions.”
“Branch secretary” is quite wrong in one respect. The I.L.P. from its birth has always had its members “talking from opposite positions,” and have we not just quoted Mr. Maxton’s statement that that is what he likes? That is a situation which will continue as long as workers can be found lacking Socialist knowledge, and consequently prepared to go on entrusting their thinking to leaders.

But we must confess that the horrible chaos existing inside the I.L.P. is hardly the kind of thing we want to be mixed up in. That is not what we call “unity for Socialism.”
Edgar Hardcastle

Shall We Praise the Lord? (1930)

From the February 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

Who has not heard the above expression of religious devotion or first-class humbug? One is reminded of it, on a perusal of the “Star” for January 13th. It seems that there had been a suicide, and almost as usual, the suicide had been a member of the working-class, for he lived not in Mayfair or Belgravia but Walworth, In saying good-bye to his parents in a note left behind, he specially refers to the cause of his action ; he was out of work. Apparently he contemplated the difficulties of the struggle to live and decided that he had had enough. But in case you also read the report and arrived at the same conclusion as the writer, let me hasten to add that the brains of Capitalism as typified by the local coroner, thought otherwise. The mother “said that her son had been temporarily discharged from his work as motor driver because his car was being overhauled. He had a stretch of six months before, and it played on his mind. He was a very sensitive boy.” The Coroner replied : “It is a shocking thing for a lad of 20 to commit suicide. Did you give him any religious instruction?”

“No, Sir.”

The Coroner : “You are his mother and responsible for it. Why did you not give him religious instruction?”

The mother remained silent and this gave our worthy the opportunity to pile on the agony. “There you are, you see. This is the result.” The result, you will observe, not of unemployment, oh dear no, but of the failure of his mother to give him religious instruction ! One can, of course, imagine that had he received this instruction he would have resigned himself to “that position in life to which it had pleased God to call him.” Although, given elementary education, our departed fellow-worker must have had his share of religion from 5 years to 14 years of age, if things haven’t altered since the present writer was maleducated by the L.C.C. It further traspired that our ex-wage-slave had double pneumonia at the time of his decease, in an acute stage, from which it may be supposed that he went to work with it ; such is the struggle to live. He was to be taken back as soon as the car had been overhauled, so said a representative of the firm that had employed him.

A verdict was recorded of suicide while of unsound mind, the real cause being inflammation of both lungs causing depression. Then our worthy coroner returned to the subject of religion.

If, however, we call the cause unemploymment plus the physical state of deceased, we arrive at a verdict of death due to the Capitalist system of society.

Speaking of mentality, one is tempted to at least wonder at the state of the mentality of the official who could add to the agony of a woman who fairly obviously had had, by the loss of her son, more than enough. And if he thinks that any great number of young workers, when they get the sack, nowadays sing “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow,” he is unaware of the attitude of young workers to-day.
J. B.

The Results of Rationalisation. (1930)

From the February 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

Karl Marx, in the opening statement of his chapter on “Machinery and Modern Industry” (Capital, Vol. I), quotes John Stuart Mill as follows :—”It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being.”

Marx’s retort in a footnote, apart from his scientific analysis of this aspect of Capitalism, is :—
“Mill should have said, ‘Of any human being not fed by other’s labour,’ for without doubt machinery has greatly increased the number of well-to-do idlers.”
Capitalist apologists are never tired of telling us to-day of the blessings and comforts that Capitalism has bestowed—but on whom?

Part of the work of Marx and Engels was devoted to showing that the main object of the introduction and use of machinery was to increase profits. Long before Capitalism it was possible for human labour power to produce more from nature’s materials in a given time than was required to maintain the producers during that time. This gave rise to the surplus wealth upon which all forms of slavery have been founded. These slave societies have varied according to the particular form under which the wealth was produced and appropriated (chattel slavery, serfdom and wage slavery). The latter form is the one with which we are at present concerned; it is one in which the means of production (land, machinery, railways, etc.} take the form of investments of Capital, owned by the Capitalist class. They are the section in society owning property in the means of life, and that possession enables them to buy the labour power of the large remaining propertyless section, the working class. This labour power, the workers’ only asset, when set in motion, produces, as in other slave systems, “a greater value” than it receives in return as wages. With the aid of power, machinery, science, etc., this greater or surplus value has been extended to proportions once undreamed of. The buyers of labour power, the Capitalists, are not concerned with production as such, their concern is primarily with the effective exploitation of the working class for profit.

This term, Capital, is unknown when applied to wealth prior to the present system. Problems that confront the Capitalist class to-day are not those which confronted other ruling-classes. Production cannot proceed uninterrupted unless markets can be found for the products, and, while these products are useless to the Capitalist personally, they contain the surplus or unpaid labour of his workers. The power to produce wealth grows by leaps and bounds, but the power of the workers to consume is limited to the fractional value of their output received as wages.

In this fact lies the secret of the epidemic of over-production, and, finally, of trade depression and stagnation which necessitates restricted output in most of the important industries to-day. Says Marx :—
“The consuming power of the labourers is handicapped partly by the laws of wages, and partly by the fact that it can be exerted only so long as the labourer can be employed at a profit for the Capitalist class. The last cause, of all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses as compared to the tendency of Capitalist production to develop the productive forces in such a way that only the absolute power of consumption of the entire Society would be their limit.”—(“Capital.” Vol. III. Page 508.)
A favourite method, and one that used to be considered safe in refuting Marx’s teaching regarding the relative worsening of the workers’ conditions, was to look wise and repeat, “Look at America.” Now the Economic League and the I.L.P. will have to construct fresh apologetics with which to defend themselves and with which to meet Socialist arguments. From the very country where we were told that mass output and high wages had banished poverty we now learn from the “Daily News” (14/1/30) in bold headlines that there are “Millions of workers scrapped by machines.” Apparently not even the so-called high wages, nor the prodigal dissipation of wealth by thousands of millionaires, has prevented Capitalism taking the course predicted by Marx. The “Daily News” New York Correspondent says in the same issue :—
“Unemployment in fact, despite the greatest prosperity boom in history, has become as in Great Britain with 1,500,000 workless—the greatest of all national problems.”
This correspondent estimates the unemployed figures at about four millions, but confesses these figures are “merely shots in the dark.”

Previous reports from Capitalist sources (see Socialist Standard, October, 1928) would appear to make it a reasonable assumption that they actually underestimate. The causes of this huge displacement of workers are now, strangely, claimed to be the very things that were previously hailed as the means of American prosperity. They are declared to be “Improvement in machinery; the invention of labour-saving devices; the extension of cheap electric power; the process described in Great Britain under the name of Rationalisation.” The latter is interesting news, especially as the day previous to this report Mr. Ben Tillett was reported in the “Daily Herald” as saying:
“Our textile magnates appear to be either too poor or too inept to realise the virtues of scientific rationalising of industry and the scrapping of all obsolete plants and processes for the greater efficiency which modern methods and equipment arc capable of providing” (“Daily Herald,” 13/1/30).
Practically the whole programme of “Labour and the Nation” aims at the same schemes of Rationalisation, or more efficient organisation of Capitalist production for profit. Without spending time and space on details of argument, any thinking and reasoning reader can see that if America is evidence, then it is not production that is at fault there or here. This fact also rules out such freakish reforms as Birth Control, Family Allowances, or a so-called Living Wage, as relief remedies within a system that reduces its producers to poverty and raises its parasites to millionaires. With a naive innocence that reeks of Nonconformist cant, the same “Daily News” Editorial, commenting on the American situation, says :—
“It is a kind of nonsense to say that a process which makes the world richer must inevitably make thousands of individuals poorer.”
Really ! is it ? Have they never heard of Henry George’s “Progress and Poverty,” Chiozza Money’s “Riches and Poverty,” Chas. Booth’s “Darkest England,” or the statements of Capitalist Prime Ministers like Gladstone, Campbell Bannerman, and Lloyd George? The Capitalist class cannot conceive of any other form of ownership of society’s means of life than the private property basis of modern society. To them, abolition of the present form of wealth, ownership, Capital, means abolition of the means of production themselves.

The “Daily News” unable to explain away the glaring contradictions of Capitalism, increasing poverty, side by side with increasing wealth, refuses to reason and takes refuge in the statement that “it is a kind of nonsense,” They even have to abandon the stock argument that these inconveniences are temporary, for their report says :
“The theory that the workers thrown out of one occupation can find employment in others is not sustained by observation . . . for the first time in history there are indications that this compensatory process may have come to an end and that the trend of modern invention may be to make less work for idle hands instead of more.”
Free-born Britons—note ! Even in the same issue of the paper that considers the co-existent condition of poverty and superabundance, “A kind of nonsense ” we read of 2,000,000 Chinese who have died of famine aggravated by the fuel and transport shortage. Millions of willing and able producers withdrawn from production, transport and transporters who could circle the earth with once undreamt-of rapidity, millions of unemployed willing to produce wealth and yet—famine and poverty. What stark madness ! Such is Capitalism ! No reform that could be introduced will prevent the present system from proceeding according to the laws of its own development. The effects of these laws we have briefly outlined. From the workers’ point of view Capitalism renders all reform futile to solve the main poverty problem. Their conditions worsen faster than the reforms can be introduced and take effect.

The very advocacy of Reform presupposes the continuance of the present system whether those reforms are presented as the sugar-coated pills of the I.L.P. or the frothy catch-phrases of the so-called Communist. It is the Capitalist system itself that enslaves the Worker. The remedy is the removal of the cause and no “meantime” patchwork can do that. Only a Socialist Working-Class will ever be able to undertake the removal of Capitalism and the establishment of common ownership of the means of life. Such ownership will place the powers and the results of production at the disposal of the whole of society; consequently leisure and comfort could be available for all if the Workers had the Knowledge and the desire to bring the change. Until then, through political ignorance, they will continue to keep in existence the present system.
W. E. MacHaffie

Answer to Correspondent. Bank Loans and Deposits. (1930)

Letter to the Editors from the February 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

London, N.4.

To the Editor of the Socialist Standard


As an old reader of the “S.S.” may I be permitted to express disappointment at your treatment of Mr. Edwin Wright’s contribution on the Gold Standard?

One feels that the point he raised requires greater consideration than it received at your hand.

His case is, as I understand it, that the actual deposits of cash received by banks is a negligible quantity relative to the total deposits as shown by their balance sheets, and that consequently we have to look for the bank’s main source of revenue, not from a profit made as a result of the margin between deposit-rate and bank-rate, but from the fact that they are in a position to loan considerable sums in excess of the actual deposits upon which interest is paid.

It is true a bank does other work besides the granting of loans and overdrafts. The buying and selling of investments, discounting bills, etc., play a part in a bank’s activities, and consequently the statement made by Mr. Walter Leaf, and quoted by you, is not an indictment the theorem, “Every bank loan creates a deposit” ; it merely points to a possibility, under certain conditions, of bank deposits and loans, and advances to vary inversely.

That the main proposition, however, as advanced by your correspondent, and so generally accepted in the Socialist and Labour movement, should have been rejected and subjected to scorn by you, is beyond comprehension.
Yours faithfully,
William Nicholls.

Mr. Nicholls intervenes in order to explain what another correspondent meant when he wrote, “Every bank loan creates a deposit.” Two things are possible : either Mr. Wright meant what he wrote or he meant something which he did not write, We, having no other evidence of Mr. Wright’s meaning than his letter, took it for granted that he meant what he wrote and replied accordingly. (See January “S.S.”) We quoted the reply given by the late Mr. Walter Leaf to the same proposition. It is, of course, possible that the person to whom Mr. Walter Leaf was replying also did not mean what he said but something else, but evidently Mr. Leaf felt about that just as we do.

Mr. Nicholls tells us that Mr. Walter Leaf’s reply “is not an indictment of the theorem ‘Every bank loan creates a deposit’ ; it merely points to a possibility, nder certain conditions, of bank deposits, and loans, and advances to vary inversely.” May we remind Mr. Nieholls that the proposition put forward by Mr. Wright was not the proposition that “some bank loans, possibly, under certain conditions, create a deposit,” but that “every bank loan creates a deposit.” Mr. Walter Leaf gave a definite illustration of a £29 million increase of loans and advances being accompanied by a £25 million decrease in deposits. That meets the proposition put forward by Mr. Wright it does not meet some other proposition which Mr. Nicholls says Mr. Wright meant to put forward. It was not intended to.

Now for Mr. Nicholls’ own trouble. He thinks that Mr. Wright meant to say that
“The actual deposits of cash received by banks is a negligible quantity relative to the total deposits shown . . . and that they (the banks) are in a position to loan considerable sums in excess of the actual deposits on which interest is paid.”
The first part of the statement is not in dispute. The second part, even if it were true, has no direct bearing on the first part, although in Mr. Nicholls’ letter they are joined by the word “consequently.” In the first part he refers to “cash,” while in the second part he refers to “actual deposits on which interest is paid,” but these are not the same thing, the latter being a much larger sum than the former.

We notice that Mr. Nicholls only tells us what he thinks the banks “are in a position” to do. He does not commit himself to telling us that they do it. If he meant (but forgot to state) that they do in fact “loan considerable sums in excess of the actual deposits on which interest is paid,” we shall be pleased to see his evidence for that assertion.

Mr. Nicholls wants us to accept his unsupported assertion without any evidence whatever, except another assertion (itself untrue) that in the “Labour and Socialist Movement” (by which we presume he means the Labour Party and its affiliated bodies) this view is “generally accepted.” Even if the Labour Party were agreed on this question instead of being divided as on most questions, it is indeed a novel doctrine that the Socialist Party ought to accept Mr. Nicholls’ errors because those errors have been endorsed by a number of non-Socialist organisations. We cannot even promise Mr. Nicholls not to disagree with them again, though this may cause him still more surprise.

Knowing the usual fate of people who intervene in other people’s quarrels, we are now expecting to hear from Mr. Wright that his letter meant what it said, or at any rate, not what Mr. Nicholls says it was intended to mean, and that Mr. Nicholls’ letter is itself in need of inspired interpretation.
Editorial Committee.

SPGB Meetings. (1930)

Party News from the February 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

Aspects of the "Woman Question." (Part 6) (1930)

From the January 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

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

Nearly all the accepted mental differences between men and women are the result of upbringing. It is woman’s environment, particularly in childhood, that is the cause of the feeling of inferiority where it exists. From their earliest years they are acquainted with the fact that women occupy an inferior position, and take it for granted that this is proper. Even before they can possibly understand the meaning of sex they are required to believe that little girls are not so clever or original as little boys, and cannot by any means emulate them. And this brings us to the so-called sex inequality.

In a biological sense men and women are equal, and one is the complement of the other. Is not every human being that is born, whether male or female, but the outcome of the union of a man and a woman? And if we know anything at all about heredity, does it not teach us that on the average a child will receive one-half of its total heritage from its parents? There is a difference between them, both physiological and psychological, brought about in a perfectly natural way by Nature’s imposition of the division of labour. But there is nothing mystical about these differences between the sexes. Each type is specialised for its own task—that of producing and caring for the two kinds of sexual cells. It is quite probable that the only real mental differences between men and women are the instincts directly concerned with sexual intercourse and the care of children. In the female mind there is as a rule a natural tinge of conservatism; she is more reserved, more emotional, and possesses more caution in the matter of taking risks. She has a quieter disposition and is less vigorous than the male, who, by contrast, is far more powerful, both in body physique and sex impulse. To the biologist there is, of course, no suggestion of inferiority or superiority in the use of these terms. They merely express the specialisation which accompanies sex in all types of animal. The possession of the uterus, and the carrying of the young for so long a period powerfully modifies the activities and habits of the female and is the biological foundation of a great deal of our human social custom and behaviour. Reproduction and sex lie at the very foundation of marriage, home, and the family, and it is inevitable that these aspects should profoundly colour the whole human society, both as to its ideals and its structure. Though it might be true to say that woman’s proper sphere is the home, we have seen that out of economic necessity woman has been driven out of the home into the workshop, with its consequent reaction on the wage status of man. When men and women recognise that their battle is one and the same we shall be much nearer to a realization of that co-operative commonwealth that all enlightened people are desirous of bringing into being.

Now, in conclusion, I have tried to show, in a somewhat rapid fashion, how the present position of woman has come about. This, as will have been apparent, cannot be understood without reference to the contemporary position of man. Under the existing system of society, women, like men, are considered to be legitimate objects of exploitation. They are employed only because they produce a profit for a less wage than a man, and because they are useful as an offset against the demands of men workers. This is not to raise an objection to the employment of women under any circumstances. Women—any more than men—ought not to be expected to lead a humdrum existence, in the home or anywhere else. There is plenty of scope for the useful employment of women—employment that could be made profitable to herself and of lasting value to the community. There are such avenues as the Arts, the Sciences, the Public Health Service, and, above all, in the field of Education, for, after all, who is better qualified to teach the young than the sex equipped for the function of motherhood ?

But this will not happen until men and women bind themselves in a world-wide brotherhood, conscious of their class interests, to the end that they shall conquer political power, abolish all class privilege, make exploitation but a memory, to finally usher in a system of society wherein men and women shall enjoy to the full the fruits of their labour and be assured of the reality of that which is now hardly more than a dream—a full, free, and joyous existence.
Tom Sala


SPGB Meetings. (1930)

Party News from the January 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blogger's Note:
There was a report of the Stratford meeting - organised by the West Ham branch of the SPGB - in the February 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard.

“Labour” Fails, Why Not Try Socialism? (1929)

From the December 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

Had the Labour Government been prepared with schemes dealing effectively with unemployment they could not have set the stage and billed Mr. Thomas’ performance with greater assurance than they did for the drab fiasco that resulted.

All parties criticise his schemes for their inadequacy. His own party were not the least dissatisfied and critical. The “New Leader” pretended to see in his refusal to call himself a Socialist the real cause of his failure. That journal said (8th November) :
“The fault is not his entirely. Upon the Cabinet itself rests a very considerable measure of responsibility. Where, for instance, is the National Economic Committee of which such a great feature was made in “Labour and the Nation”? Where is the Employment and Development Board which was to take a lead in scientifically developing the National estate? Where are there signs of the harnessing to the State of the great Civil Servants who had such invaluable experience of mobilising the nation’s resources during the war?

But provided all this is remedied, Mr. Thomas must still fail unless he tackles the problem far more fundamentally than there is any indication of his doing at present.”
Because unemployment is fundamentally necessary to capitalism it must of necessity be dealt with fundamentally. Because it is the working-class that suffers from unemployment, only that class can deal with it fundamentally.

Because Mr. Thomas has no mandate from the workers to interfere with the basis of capitalism he can only attempt to palliate the evil. What is the difference between him and his friends of the “New Leader“? Merely a difference in the kind and the number of reforms.

Mr. Thomas, in order to pose as the friend of the unemployed, provides work for some of them out of the arrears of his predecessors in office. A system of fast and heavy motor traffic has been allowed to grow up on roads totally unsuited for it. The ever-mounting total of casualties has already forced Governments to act, but in a sluggish and inadequate fashion. Mr. Thomas has made a virtue of necessity; more than half the work he is so ingeniously (?) providing would have been done years ago but that capitalists and capitalist governments lack foresight and directive ability—the very qualities they boast of possessing.

“Mr. Thomas,” says the “New Leader,” “during the next few months may put some 50,000 people into employment— but at the same time rationalisation is putting others out of employment with increasing rapidity. Poor Mr. Thomas is like a man pouring water into a pail without a bottom.”

This is putting it mildly. Labour-saving machinery, new methods and rationalisation are all utilised in Mr. Thomas’ schemes, as well as the world over. Their effect is such that all the reforms conceived by the I.L.P., plus the good will of the capitalists—if that were possible—could not prevent unemployment increasing. What of other reforms? A Minimum Wage ! Capitalists will always pay that and no more without compulsion. Increase the Dole ! Then it is still a dole and must remain inadequate. Children’s Allowances ! On top of present wages ? Not at all likely while capitalists pay wages. These and many other reforms advocated by the I.L.P. have been exposed in the columns of the Socialist Standard.

Careful examination by the workers would prove their worthlessness. Those who advocate them do so with the ultimate object of doing what Mr. Thomas is doing : pouring water into a pail with no bottom, for a Minister’s salary and a place in the limelight.

The “Daily News” (14/11/29), commenting on Mr. Thomas’ failure, says :
“What the vast mass of the electors are thinking about all the time, however they may vote and however they may pray, is how they are to get work, how they are to keep it, or how they are to bear the burdens, which in one form or another the existence of a vast army of unemployed people imposes upon them.”
What is the natural deduction? That the vast mass of the workers are deeply concerned in a solution of unemployment. Not merely in some temporary expedient that will tide them over a winter, or bring the figures back to pre-war level. The need of the capitalist class is a normal army of unemployed, to drive their wage-slaves in the mad race for markets through the cheapening of commodities. The need of the workers is release from the nightmare of unemployment and assurance of the necessaries of life.

Capitalism in its competitive struggle shortens the labour-time required to produce all commodities; with the twin results of increasing unemployment and perpetual surfeiting of markets.

But unemployment is only one of the evils of modern society. Alongside it is a shortage, throughout the working-class, of all those things necessary to human well-being : houses, clothes, pure food, time and opportunities for recreation and enjoyment, etc.

This is the greatest contradiction in the history of human society. The vast mass of the people are in perpetual anxiety about their necessaries of life, or actually deprived of them. Yet millions all over the world are forced to remain idle and unprovided for when their labour, applied to the nature-given materials, could more than supply all needs.

It is no wonder that Mr. Thomas has failed. No one man, no government can remove, or even permanently remedy, unemployment. The problem is an indication of the underlying poverty and insecurity of the whole working-class. All are affected. The call for a conference of parties can only result in more water being poured into a pail without a bottom.

As all are affected, all must interest themselves. The need is great. It is for a working-class movement, intelligent, organized, and consciously directed towards controlling governmental powers, that the means of life may be owned by the people and controlled by them. Only by this means can unemployment be removed and only by the work ing class can it be achieved.
F. Foan

The Delusions of a Critic. (1929)

From the December 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

An individual of any standing cannot with impunity set out a criticism of a subject such as Physics, Biology, or Chemistry, without the necessary qualifications for the task. Among the defenders of Capitalism this same disqualification does not appear to matter, providing the subject to be criticised is Socialism. In the “Nineteenth Century and After,” a 3s. publication, a Lieut.-Col. Stewart Murray writes in two monthly issues (August and September) upon what he terms “Socialism.” If we are to accept his own statements as evidence he is little acquainted with the subject he sets out to criticise.

 As a sort of apologetic preliminary we are told that:—”Capitalism, or private enterprise, or self interest, or whatever name we please to give the system or right of private property, has done, and is still doing, wonders for Labour.” It has enabled Labour to “live and multiply,” and whilst so doing, “to improve its standard of life.” It has enabled “manual labourers” to obtain an ever-increasing share of the ever-increasing value of production, “and to become Capitalists themselves in vast and ever-increasing numbers.” So says this defender of Capitalism. Truly the Capitalist is a Capitalist solely for the benefit of the Worker—and yet, despite this philanthropic sacrifice, we read on the following page that :— “The truth is that Labour is discontented to-day . . . because human nature is such that man is never satisfied.”

How sad to reflect! Labour dissatisfied with its slums, adulterated scraps and offal, overwork and enforced idleness, misery galore—ungrateful Labour! The Capitalist Class, being of course of a different nature, are perfectly contented with things. Why shouldn’t they be? Next we learn that it has been to most people a “great surprise” that 8,000,000 electors have “voted Socialist.” You must be careful not to jump to conclusions, because, on the next line, we read that:—”not one in a hundred of them, and probably not one in ten, properly understood what they were voting for, or could have even rightly defined Socialism if they were asked.”

In order to explain what Socialism is, “properly understood,” our critic, who claims to have carried on for 30 years discussions with “Socialists of all sorts and of all camps,”—then defines it. It is, he says, “the nationalisation of all the means of production, exchange, and distribution.” According to this definition Capitalist industry is Socialism if it is State or Government controlled as it was until recently by a Labour Administration in Australia, or as it is here in the Post Office and the Municipalities.

Having thus assumed that State Capitalism is Socialism, and that those who voted for the State Capitalist programme of the Labour Party are Socialists, we are prepared for what our critic wants to pass off as Socialism. How many, he says, “would have voted Socialist if they had properly realised it?” Let Lt.-Colonel Stewart Murray make his horrifying revelation thus :
“Ask a Socialist to describe in detail the working of a real complete Socialistic State, and you will find that he will very soon land himself in the most hopelessly insurmountable difficulties. No one can tell you, for example, if Socialism in power should or will allow wages of ability or not, or only equal remuneration for all work ; nor how Socialism is going to nationalise ‘all the means of production, exchange, and distribution’; nor how it is to avoid the conscription of labour and telling everybody off not to do the work they wish to do, but to whatever sort of work the State orders them to do ; or how it is to avoid the greatest and most hopeless tyranny ever seen in the world as in Russia.”
It is a reasonable assumption that our critic knows as much, and no more, about Russia, than he gives evidence of knowing about Socialism. He doesn’t even know that in Russia, where he says “Socialism has had absolutely free scope,” the bulk of the population are peasants, whilst the industrial workers work for wages as in this country. Wages are the price of labour-power, whether that labour-power is employed by the Capitalist State or by a private employer. The Working Class are compelled to sell that labour-power, their only possession, to a non-producing class who own society’s means of life, and who consequently can retain much of the product of the workers’ labour. Socialism means the abolition of classes, wage payers, wage receivers, nations, states and tyrannies. It means, in short, a system of society in which the commonly-owned and commonly-controlled means of social living would make such things absurd and unnecessary. A statement of Stalin’s makes it clear that these things, classes, wages, exploitation, do exist in Russia. He says in his book “Leninism” :
“When Lenin analysed the nature of State Capitalism, he was thinking mainly of concessions. Well, then, let us consider these concessions, and consider whether two classes are represented in the work of production. Yes, certainly, two classes are represented here ; the class of the Capitalists, the concessionaires, who are exploiters, and who for the time being own the means of production, and the class of the proletarians, who are exploited by the concessionaries. Here, obviously, we have nothing to do with Socialism.” (“Leninism,” page 388.)
To make his criticism appear intellectually deep and, above all, destructive of Marx’s teachings, Stewart Murray pretends to a wide knowledge of what he terms the views of various groups in the Labour Party. So different are these views, he says :—” that it is difficult to find any important points on which they agree, except a common allegiance to Karl Marx’s antiquitated exposition of Socialism,”

Poor old Marx—strange why so many should be trying to-day to show that his exposition of Socialism is antiquated. This brainy defender of Capitalism marshals a number of what he seems to think are brand new objections. These he declares Marx overlooked. They include “Racial differences” ; “Psychological attributes”; “Inequalities, mental and physical, of men at birth”; heredity; evolution ; and production and distribution. Surely a formidable lot—but only to those unacquainted with the writings of Marx. Possibly one paragraph in an early work of Marx and Engels (The Communist Manifesto) summarises the whole lot.

There Marx says :—
“Does it require deep intuition to comprehend that man’s ideas, views and conceptions, in one word, man’s consciousness, changes with every change in the conditions of his material existence, in his social relations and in his social life?”
Did racial differences prevent Japan from becoming a Capitalist country with a Western culture and a constitution developed on lines similar to that adopted by all Capitalist countries in their course of development? Does not the development of India and China show like tendencies? Regarding national differences, even the Capitalist League of Nations does not consider these of any importance where their own problems are concerned. Mental and physical inequalities at birth, we are told, “produce economic inequalities.” If this were so, then we should expect to find the present economic classes at every stage in society. Any student of the subject could tell our critic that the greatest part of the time of man’s existence upon the earth has been lived in communities in which classes and private property were unknown. Biologically a Capitalist is born the same as a Worker.

Says Marx :—
“One thing, however, is clear : nature does not produce on the one side owners of money or commodities, and on the other men possessing nothing but their own labour power. The relation has no natural basis, neither is its social basis one that is common to all historical periods. It is clearly the result of a past historical development, the product. of many economical revolutions, of the extinction of a whole series of older forms of social production.” (“Capital,” pp. 147, 148.)
To-day any child or imbecile could be the recipient of Rent, Interest, or Profit, providing he or she owned the legal right to the particular form of property. The less said about the reward meted out to superior mental attainments under Capitalism the better. Compare the rewards of a Rothschild and a Schubert, General Booth and Karl Marx, Crompton and Carnegie. Which wins through to-day, money grabbing mediocrity, or painstaking, scientific enquiry and efforts that will benefit posterity?

Says this would-be critic:—”The Marxian hypothesis, even in its most evolutionary forms, demands a change in human nature for any possibility of success. But the elements of human nature do not change.” When we reach the opposite page we are told that the conditions of one age are fallacious if used dogmatically as data for those of another.

“The Marxists forget this when they cite as authoritative the economic theory or speculation formulated by Marx in the middle of last century, since which period, so many and so great changes have occurred.” This reminds us of the old-time song, ” ‘E dunno where ‘e are.”

Let us, in conclusion, again quote Marx, and note how his masterly summary meets practically every objection raised :—
“No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society. Therefore, mankind always takes up only such problems as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.” (Critique of Political Economy, pages 11-13.)
Let the Capitalist apologists proclaim the death of Socialism from the turrets of their cowards’ castles. When the Workers in any numbers become acquainted with Socialist principles efforts to rebut scientific Socialist teachings will be impotent.
W. E. MacHaffie

Editorial: Russia: A Dangerous Delusion (1929)

Editorial from the December 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

When in 1921 the Bolsheviks introduced their ”New Economic Policy,” they stated plainly what they were doing and why they had no alternative. Their early hopes of the immediate establishment of socialism in the advanced capitalist countries had been shown to be illusory, and it was necessary for Russia to develop on capitalist lines. The Bolsheviks consciously adopted the policy described by the late Leonid Krassin as “nationalisation,” or ”state capitalism.” (See report of lecture by Krassin reproduced in “Labour Monthly,” January 16th, 1922.)

They saw that Russian industry could be developed on no other basis than a capitalist basis, and in respect of a large area of industry and transport they preferred state capitalism to private capitalism.

The Socialist Party does not support nationalisation or state capitalism in this country, because that policy is contrary to working-class interests, and is not in this country a step towards Socialism. Russian conditions are different. Russia was, and is, very backward industrially, and the problems there are not those which face the workers in the more advanced countries. We have therefore no criticism to offer of the general policy of hastening capitalist development in Russia. No other policy is practicable. What criticisms we offer relate to methods of applying that policy and to the policy of suppression.

We do, however, strongly protest against the attempts to misrepresent Russia as being run on socialist lines. It is untrue, and such misrepresentation makes more difficult the work of preaching Socialism. Russia presents, and will continue to present, in spite of any good intentions of its rulers, the conflicts and evils normal to the capitalist system. Nothing but harm to the Socialist movement can come from propaganda which misrepresents the very real achievements of the Bolsheviks by calling them the building up of Socialism. Socialism—the common ownership of the means of production and distribution—is not to be found in Russia any more than in Great Britain or the U.S.A.

Sometimes this misleading propaganda is the work of persons who have never troubled to understand what capitalism is. Calling themselves Communists, they merely apply to Russia the confusing propaganda used by the Labour Party in this country. They support State capitalism and call it Socialism because they know no better and really believe that the change from private capitalism to State control of capitalist industry represents a fundamental change. Others who associate themselves with this confusion do know better and are guilty of deliberate falsehood.

We find Scott Nearing, a prominent American Communist, writing in the “New Masses” (October), about Russia, and saying : “Profiteering has been largely eliminated. Exploitation has been wiped out.”

It will be noticed that Scott Nearing uses the loose and undefined term “profiteering” instead of “profit making,” and implies that the “profiteering” which has not yet been eliminated is not “exploitation.” We say that such misleading statements from Scott Nearing can only result from a deliberate intention to deceive.

The “Trade Union Bulletin” (August-September, 1929) issued by the U.S.S.R. Central Council of Trade Unions, Labour Palace, Solianka 12, Moscow, describes the plans for large State farms under the title “Socialistic Reconstruction of Rural Economy.” In fact this is simply an application of State capitalism to Russian agriculture.

The “Sunday Worker” on September 15th made the deliberately false statement that “All the products of (Russian) industry go to the workers and peasants,” and asked, “What do they want parasites for?”

When it was pointed out to the editor that the State industries are largely financed by means of loans and that the receivers of interest are “parasites,” the editor replied with the evasive and untrue statements, which follow :—
“The loans which are being raised to finance the Five-Year Plan are largely subscribed by Russian workers and peasants. These, using their own money to build their own Socialist state, can hardly be parasites—unless they are to be regarded as parasites upon themselves. There are also non-working-class investors, who would be glad to live on the interest from these loans, and become parasites. But the laws of the Soviet Union prevent that. These people cannot acquire land or any of the means of production which would enable them to exploit workers. They are not allowed to be parasites.” (Sunday Worker, Sept. 22nd.)
Such arguments from a so-called Socialist paper are pitiful. To suggest that Russians calling themselves ”workers and peasants” cannot be “parasites on themselves,” is equivalent to saying that there cannot be parasites in England because persons calling themselves “English” cannot be parasites on themselves. The simple truth is that a minority of persons in England have large investments and draw incomes from them; the majority do not possess such investments. So also in Russia, a wealthy minority having relatively large incomes from various sources, from salaries, from legal and illegal trading, from farming, and from investments, are able to accumulate capital for further use in legitimate and illegitimate business, or for investment in State loans. They draw property incomes from these investments and are “parasites.”

To say that those who receive incomes from investment in Russia cannot “become parasites” (they are that already) because they are prevented from acquiring land or other means of production, is like saying that those English capitalists who invest in Government loans and live on the proceeds without buying land or other means of production are not “parasites,” but that their fellow investors who derive similar property incomes from investment in farming or other productive concerns, are “parasites.”

Inequality of incomes and of property in Russia is great and growing, although less than in this country. According to figures from official Russian sources given in his book, “Three Months in Russia,” by W. J. Brown, M.P., the pay in the Russian Civil Service rises, according to grade, from less than £5 a month up to £45 a month (see pages 113 & 114). Mr. Brown, it may be remarked, is more than sympathetic to the Bolsheviks, and is in fact highly gratified because the inequality of pay in Russia is less than elsewhere.

A correspondent of the “Manchester Guardian” (Oct. 21st) states that the pay of engineering experts is as high as £1,750, £2,500 and even £3,500 a year. The average wage of manual workers, on the other hand, is 73 roubles a month, or less than £90 a year. (See “Ministry of Labour Gazette,” October, for figures from Russian official sources.)

According to the Soviet Union Year Book, 1929, out of a population of 140 millions, the number of persons with deposits in the Savings Banks on October 1st, 1928, was only 3,825,900, the average deposit being 82 roubles (see page 449). (A rouble is worth about 2s.)

The loans being issued at high rates of interest in connection with the Five Year Economic Plan are comparable in amount and in kind with the annual investments of capital in the rest of the capitalist countries.

The Russian State Debt stands now at about 2,100 million roubles (about £210 million). Interest ranges up to as much as 12 per cent. on some of the issues. It is planned to increase the debt under the Five Year Economic Plan by borrowing another 6,000 million roubles (£600 million) in five years (see Bank for Russian Trade Review, June, 1929). Other fields of capital investment are the co-operatives and the concession companies. The profits on the concessions are extraordinarily high.

The existence of a class of large investors is clearly shown by the relative amounts of State lottery loans and non-lottery loans. On page 406 of the “Soviet Union Year Book,” it is stated that “Soviet State loans that are intended to be placed among small investors are lottery loans, since these are more attractive to the small subscribers.”

On pages 408 and 409 are details of the various loans. It will be seen that the total of non-lottery issues is more than four times as great as the lottery loans— i.e., the small investors’ loans.

From these particulars it will be seen that Russia is making encouraging progress along the road of capitalist industry. It is impossible for Russia yet to progress on any other basis than capitalism.

But Communists who pretend that it is socialism are deliberately or unknowingly propagating a falsehood and hindering the work for socialism.

A Soviet Apologia. (1929)

Book Review from the December 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

An Outline of Political Economy.” I. Lapidus and K. Ostrovityanov. (Martin Lawrence, 12/6. 546 pages.)

The above volume reminds one very forcibly of the curate’s egg. Roughly, half of it is occupied with a summary review of Marx’s conclusions concerning Capitalist society generally, and this is done, on the whole, simply, accurately and clearly. The main aim of the book, however, is obviously not the popularisation of Marxism, but the vindication of the claim of the Bolshevik rulers of Russia to be Marxists.

In their introduction the authors state that, “Together with the laws governing the productive relations of Capitalist economy, we shall also study the laws of Soviet economy.”

“The peculiar feature of Soviet economy lies in the fact that it is in transition from Capitalism to Socialism.” (p. 4.) The attempt to prove this claim takes the form of chapters interspersed among those presenting the Marxian analysis.

For example, after three chapters dealing with value and surplus value, Marx does a rapid fade-out and the limelight is focussed on Lenin, who in 1918 specified the various economic elements in Russia as follows :—
  1. Patriarchal, i.e., largely self-sufficing, peasant economy.
  2. Petty commodity production (this includes the majority of those peasants who sell grain).
  3. Capitalist production.
  4. Elements of State Capitalism.
  5. Elements of Socialism, (p. 92.)
By State Capitalism Lenin appears to have meant undertakings which were bound to the State by some agreement (such as concessions, leases, trading commissions, etc.) as distinct from undertakings actually run by the State itself.

These latter he classed as “Socialist,” and gave as his reasons that “the State is the workers, the leading section of the workers, the advance guard—it is ourselves.” (p. 93.)

Somewhat reminiscent of the French kings, “The State? that is me !” This statement of Lenin’s is the only evidence which the authors offer throughout their volume to support the claim that the workers of Russia are supplanting Capitalism by Socialism. This claim, however, has been repeatedly exploded in these columns, most recently in the issues of August and September, 1929.

Once grant their claim and the rest is easy. Surplus-value becomes surplus-product, since the former phrase implies exploitation which cannot be admitted to exist in State industry ! Wage-slavery likewise is “non-existent” in the State workshops, although the workers therein are paid wages ! Curiously enough these workers “also strive first and foremost to obtain as high a wage as possible.” They fail to recognise “the radical difference” between Soviet production and the usual forms of Capitalism. “This explains the existence o] standards of output and piece-work payment in Soviet State industry.” (p. 132.) (Italics the authors’.)

Apparently the workers in Russia have taken possession of the industries there without knowing it.

In spite of their “Marxism,” the authors are not above trotting out the stale Capitalist argument about the necessity for the workers “producing more.” Thus (on p. 127) we are told that :—
“Granted an unchanging productivity of labour, the higher the wage the greater will be the expenditure for each commodity turned out by the worker, and the dearer will be the cost of that commodity; and thus the worker himself will have to pay more when purchasing it (thus neutralising the rise in wages).”
The I.L.P. could not beat this !

The authors make no attempt to deny “the facts that the Soviet workers live in greater poverty and on no higher a standard than the workers of the foremost Capitalist countries, and the workers in the State enterprises sometimes live under worse conditions than the workers in private enterprises.” (p. 100.)

They do claim, however, that as the workers’ productivity rises so does their share of the produce. But their own figures hardly bear out the claim. According to the table shown on page 135 wages rose only 60 per cent. in the two years, 1923-1925 while productivity rose nearly 90 per cent. !

On page 210 we have another glaring example of the authors’ fondness for verbal conjuring tricks.
“That part of the surplus product created by the workers in State industry which is appropriated by the merchant capitalist is transformed into surplus-value. Thus exploitation can penetrate partially into Soviet State industry through the channel of private trade.”
Thus if the State sells its goods through a merchant the workers are exploited, but not otherwise ! Much play is made with the fact that the State builds schools, organises defence, supervises health, etc., oblivious of the fact that Tory, Liberal and Labour Governments do the same thing here.

On the subject of State finance very little is said, but the following paragraph (p. 264) illustrates which class really owns the State industries :—
“As to the rate of interest, it is quite high in the U.S.S.R. The rate of interest is higher still on the clandestine exchange. The high rate of interest in the U.S.S.R. is due to the insufficiency of capital, in which there is such a stringency owing to the very rapid growth of Socialist (!) construction.”
In other words, Russia has a special brand of ultra-revolutionary “Socialism” which is financed by the Capitalist class and is, of course, State Capitalism.

Figures are given showing the rapid recovery of State industry to the low pre-war level which had been lost.

In spite of the overwhelming importance of agriculture we are told (p. 504) that “The productive potentialities of individual peasant agriculture have not yet been exhausted.” Rykov declared (“The Present Situation,” 1928) that the State organisation of peasant co-operatives “is now the most important task of the party.” Yet (p. 529) we learn, “the collective and Government farms put together now produce a total of a little over 2 per cent. of farm products and supply 7 per cent. of the farm products on the market. Their relative strength, as compared with the millions of small farmers, is negligible.”

The transition is evidently not from Capitalism to Socialism, but to the former from semi-feudal forms of land tenure. The much-vaunted State planning schemes are but the emergency measures thrust upon the urban population by agrarian upheaval and the industrial collapse brought about by the strain of modern warfare upon a backward nation.

The transition from Capitalism to Socialism can only commence when and where the productive forces have outstripped capitalist ownership. They have not done that yet in Russia.

In conclusion, it may be noted that the “Sunday Worker” review (October 13th) passes over entirely the points in the above volume of interest to the Socialist worker.

Its chief complaint is that the authors ignore the principal bugbear of the British petty-bourgeois—”the money monopoly” —and uncritical praise is meted out to its “dialectical method.” When the Bolsheviks try to explain away what is obvious (namely, the exploitation of the workers in Russia) they make much play with the “dialectics,” but like Hegel they stand it on its head. They appear to imagine that things can be changed by changing their names. For the last twenty or thirty years we have fought a similar tendency in this country, namely, Fabianism, according to which the Post Office and the tramways are “ours” ! Now the Communists are carrying on the same tradition of confusion under new names.
Eric Boden