Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Socialists & Capitalist Hospitals. (1905)

From the April 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why “capitalist” hospitals? the non-Socialist will ask. Because the diseases and injuries there treated are caused, almost entirely by the unhealthy conditions of life of the workers, imposed upon them by the capitalist system, or negligence of the employers to provide accident preventing appliances. Because, also, as consistent Socialists have always pointed out, the patients, mostly of the working-class, are used to experiment on for the benefit of the propertied class.

“The hospitals, it should be remembered, are the training schools of the medical profession,” wrote London’s Lord Mayor in 1899, “and for that reason deserve grateful recognition and adequate support.” The treatment meted out to the “subjects” is detailed by a medical practitioner in the Grand Magazine in the course of which he declares that although medical students must learn their business, patients also have rights—but the poorer class of these, especially women, are treated as if they were destitute of human feeling. He asserts that in every hospital recognised by the Medical Council as a place of instruction for students the treatment of the patients is entirely subordinated to the instruction of those students and that it may be said with perfect truth that the girls and young women who attend the public hospitals gain the possible healing of their bodies at the expense of mortal injury to their souls. What, he asks, must be the moral effect on a modest girl who goes to a hospital complaining of some trivial ailment, and is stripped naked to the waist, and subjected to the salacious scrutiny of some dozens of youths who lay hands on her and maul her about to their hearts’ content? It is immaterial whether she complains of or has anything the matter with her chest or not. She, in common with her sisters in misfortune, is utilised as “material” for the instruction of students. At one time he saw 14 young women of ages from 12 to 25, all standing stripped in this manner. One girl, aged 18, told him she had been attending the hospital nearly every fortnight for over three years. Imagine how much modesty would he left in her after exhibiting herself in this fashion for years to many hundreds of students. There was not the slightest hope of cure or improvement, so that this girl was regularly exposed in this manner merely because she was an “interesting case.” Eighteen months ago he was the unwilling witness of an even greater atrocity. A woman was dying of malignant disease of the stomach, and the physician under whose “care” she was was delivering a clinical lecture, taking the unhappy woman as his text. In the course of his remarks he mentioned various ways of ascertaining the extent of the stomach, amongst them the method of inflating it with gas, and then by percussion mapping out its boundaries. A student inquired precisely how it was done, and the physician said he would show him. The patient was thereupon given a solution of bicarbonate of soda, and this dose was immediately followed by one of tartaric acid. The effect on the poor woman was pitiful, as one can readily understand, for the stomach was instantly distended enormously, which would have been extremely painful had it been healthy; how much more so when eaten out with cancer? She was hours recovering from the effect of this unnecessary experiment, and she died the next day. Is it fair, or just, or even reasonable that, in addition to the pain and worry of her disease, a young woman should be compelled to sacrifice her modesty by stripping herself to the gaze and handling of dozens of men? No medical man would dream of treating a private patient in such an unseemly manner. Why, then, should advantage be taken of the poverty of less fortunate women ?

Of course, there is nothing new in all this. Such practices have assisted Socialists in their opposition to attempts to persuade the workers to contribute to hospital funds, or to take part in friendly society, trades union and other like parades, and street collections. Moreover, the voting of subsidies by public bodies has, until recently been strenuously resisted. We know that this attitude is unpopular, because the workers have been bamboozled into believing that the hospitals exist for their benefit, but it is none the less the correct one for the Socialist, who sees in the failure of the capitalist-class to support them, an opportunity for the people to provide, own and control such places in the interest of and for the benefit of all.

In view of recent developments, it would be too much to expect S.D.F. members and other “labour” representatives to support such a vote-spoiling, “inopportune” attitude. On the contrary, they must “use every means” to get and keep seats. We seldom hear of the anti-hospital Sunday demonstrations we knew in the old days. We do occasionally hear of so-called Socialist councillors and other elected persons appearing at dinners organised for the purpose of raising funds for hospitals and learning to use the tooth-pick with the best of them. But it is left to an S.D.F. councillor of West Ham to propose an express speed down-hill policy in this connection by placing the following resolution upon the agenda for a recent meeting of Council. “Councillor Mayday will move: 'That the Council do approach the trustees of the West Ham hospital for the purpose of entering into an arrangement by which upon payment by the Council to the trustees of the annual sum of £1,000 the latter will, from time to time, receive into the hospital such number of sick inhabitants as may be nominated by the Council.'” As we have seen no report of its being discussed or voted upon we presume it has not been reached and stands postponed. Meanwhile the West Ham branch of The Socialist Party of Great Britain have sent a letter of protest to the Council, setting forth their reasons, and we trust their action will prevent public funds being voted to private institutions where the bodies of the working-class are utilized as experimental objects for the benefit of the rich.

Property and Crime. (1905)

From the April 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard
"Nearly our whole criminal code is made up of what may be called property crimes. The jails and penitentiaries of the world are filled to overflowing with men and women who have been charged with committing crimes against property. But where is the property that has been the subject of these dire assaults ? No matter where you turn your eyes in the world, the whole property is in the hands of a chosen few, and the so-called owners of all this wealth—created by the labour of man and the bounty of nature—these so-called owners have committed no crime against property. The statement of the fact is sufficient to show the inequality of the whole system under which the fruits of the earth are kept in the possession of the few.

As a consequence of his desire for life and the means that make it certain and pleasant, man has ever turned his attention to the conquest of nature, reducing vegetable and animal life to his control. But his conquest does not end here. Ever has man enslaved his fellow : he has sought to make his own career upon earth pleasanter and more certain by compelling others to toil for him. In its more primitive stages slavery was enforced by the ownership of the man. In its later and more refined stages it is carried on by the ownership of the things from which man must live. The rulers no longer have the right to buy and sell the man, to send him here and there to suit their will. They simply have the power to dictate the terms upon which he can stand upon the earth. With the mines, the forests, the oil, the harbors, the railroads, and the really valuable productive land in the rulers’ hands, the dominance and power of man over his fellows is absolute and complete.

The rulers make penal codes for the regulation and control of the earth and all the property thereon. Not only do they make these rules for their brief, haughty lives, but they provide that it may pass from hand to hand for ever. The generations now living, or rather those that are dead and gone, fixed the status of unborn millions, and decreed that they shall have no place to live except upon such term as may be dictated by those who then controlled the earth. To retain all the means of life in the hands of the few and compel the many to do service to support these few requires the machinery of the state. It is for this that penal laws are made.

The criminal statutes forbid extortion and swindling, and yet the largest part of business is extortion, and much of the balance is swindling. Real extortion is taking for any service more than it is fairly worth by means of agencies created by the extorter to despoil his victim and this is the business of the business world. . . The law forbids swindling, at least in certain ways, and yet a large part of business consists in making the public believe that they are getting more value for what they give than the tradesman can possibly afford. . . . All our merchants and tradesmen frantically call out their lies in every form, that they may sell their wares for a larger price than they are really worth. And yet to all of this the criminal code has no word to say. The man who can buy the space of a great paper to tell the wondrous qualities of the wares he has to sell is not the sort of man to come within the meshes of the penal code.

Remove dire poverty, as could easily be done with a tithe of what is now spent on force : let organised society meet the individual, not with force, but with helpfulness and love, and the inducement to commit crime could not exist. Let society be the friend not the tyrant, the brother not the jailor, and the feeling will be repaid a thousandfold".

Rural Poverty. (1905)

From the April 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recently published transactions of the Sociological Society in a volume of “Sociological Papers” (Macmillan, 10s. 6d.) contain an interesting addition to the investigations of Booth and Rowntree which should prove useful to the Socialist propagandist. An investigation into the conditions of “Life in an English Agricultural Village,” by Mr. Harold H. Mann, discloses a condition of life among the rural proletariat that is sufficient of itself to condemn the proposals of certain superficial reformers to solve the unemployed problem by sending the unemployed “back to the land.” The 30.1 per cent. of the population of London on or below the “poverty line ” ; the 29.8 per cent. of the population of York at or below the standard of “physical efficiency” ; and the 34.3 per cent. of the population of this typical English agricultural village of Ridgmount in Bedford in a state of “primary poverty,” present a problem that surely merits the attention of everybody, and particularly requires the consideration of the working-class who have to do all the suffering as well as all the work.

The village is a purely agricultural one, and is chosen as being most typical of the surrounding country, and almost all the population are engaged in agricultural pursuits. The Duke of Bedford is the greatest landowner house-owner, and employer in the district. Mr. Mann finds after a careful consideration of the prices of commodities in the village, that the minimum required to maintain an average family of husband, wife and three children, is 18s 4d. per week. “‘Primary Poverty’ is here taken to be that poverty caused by an insufficiency of earnings, even when most economically applied, to provide for physical efficiency. ‘Secondary Poverty’ is here taken to be that due to an uneconomical application of earnings.” Having found the minimum necessary and investigated the actual income of each family in the population, the author submits in a table the results he is driven to, as follows : —
Total population                           407
Total Working-Class Population   390
Total Families                                   127
Total Working-Class families           104

                                                                    Pr.ct. of total Pr.ct. of working-class.
Families in Primary Poverty           40        31.5                    38.5
Population in Primary Poverty 160        34.3                    41.0 
“The conclusion to which we come from a consideration of the figures, after every allowance has been made for subsidiary sources of income, is that no less than 34.3 per cent, of the population of a typical agricultural village in Bedfordshire do not obtain the necessary amount of money to enable them to remain in physical health. This percentage rises to 41.0 when the working-class alone is considered.”
Following this comes another table showing the proportion living within 2s. and 6s. of the minimum, which I will repeat, as follows :—
                                                           Pr. ct. of Wage Earners Pr. ct. of Total Population
Persons below Primary Poverty Line 160               41.0                     34.3
Less than 2s. per wk above line         213               54.6                     45.6
Less than 6s. per wk above line         284               72.8                     60.8
When this 6s. is added to the minimum it is only 24s. 4d. per week for a man, his wife, and three children, and 72.8 per cent, of the workers are below that standard of living.

Following that statement comes an investigation into the causes of Primary poverty under six different heads, and the results are submitted in a comprehensive table, as follows :– –

A detailed consideration is then given of specimen cases under each of the above heads, and if a bald statement of the normal condition is not sufficient, I will quote a few detail cases. Under head No. 2 is a case of “an old couple, the man deaf and quite incapable. The woman works at lace-making and cannot earn much more than about 2d. per day.” The rest of the small income is due to parish relief.

The author explains the absence of unemployment at that period of the year at which the investigation took place : “If these figures had been obtained a month or two earlier (than October, 1903) they would probably have shown a considerable number out of work.”

Another case merits particular notice. “A spinster makes her living entirely by lace-making, and works 10 or 12 hours per day for an income of about 3s. 6d. per week. The guardians refuse poor relief as she is a middle-aged woman ; but heavy work is impossible to her and as her sight is failing it is not likely she will be able to keep up the present close work long.”

The total deficiency works out as follows : —
                                 Secs 1-2  Sec. 4   Secs 5-6 Total
Under 16                       14     13  56           83
16-25                         1       4    7           12
25-55                         7       6   23           36
Over 55 23 4 2 29
Secondary Poverty is necessarily more limited here than in the towns, and the following are the statistics :—
Persons in Secondary Poverty                     33
Families in Secondary Poverty                     10
Percentage of Working Class Population    9.0
Percentage of Total Population                    7.1
No. of Individuals per Family                            3.3
Of the ten families in Secondary poverty, five are given as due to “the drink habit and its associated vices” ; three to bad management at home, which bad management is given as “sometimes through the overwork of the head of the household in getting a living” ; in one case to uncertainty of work; and the remaining one to the wage-earner not working regularly. The total poverty, both Primary and Secondary, is summed up as follows :—

The wage earners not in poverty are classified as follows :—
Total numbers of persons            197
Total number of families                      54
Average size of families                   3.71
Average family earnings       23s. 7½d.
Average rent                             1s. 6½d.
Per cent. of population                   42.1
The author warns you not to forget that every penny earned by every member of the household is here counted, and cases of adult sons earning full money and living at home help to bring the average up. The next table shows that the number of young wage earners living with their parents and helping to swell the family income is an important factor, and their influence in keeping the family above the poverty line can be seen as follows :—
                  Primary Poverty pr.ct.   Secondary Poverty pr.ct.    Not in Poverty pr.ct.
Under 16         51.9                                   30.3                          26.0
16-25                 7.5                                   15.2                          14.2
25-55                22.5                                   39.4                                35.5                        
Over 55                18.1                                   15.2                          23.4
showing that the relative position of the family with regard to the poverty line is largely influenced by the age of the children. So powerful, indeed is this factor of the help supplied by children’s wages, that without it “a vast proportion” of those at present over the line would be below it. Out of the 54 families of the workers over the poverty line only 40 would be above it if only the head of the family were earning wages, i.e., 25.9 per cent, of this group are dependent on the supplementary wage earners.

The trading and upper classes, we are told, are well over the poverty stage. Certainly we must expect that under Capitalism, the non-producers should be rich, and that the wealth-producer, the worker, should be poor !

The average weekly wage for the labourer, according to Mr. Mann’s investigations, is 13s. 7½d., and including extras from allotments, &c., is 14s. 4d. : while if foremen and others are included who earn considerably more than the labourers, the average only rises, including extras, to 14s. 11d., a sum considerably lower than that obtained by Mr. Wilson Fox for the Agricultural Commission.

He concludes with two caustic paragraphs, which I will quote in full:—
“Taking the actual figures obtained, it appears clear that a man earning the average rate of wages and the head of a household, must descend below the Primary poverty line so soon as he has two children, unless he is able to supplement his income by an allotment, by fattening and breeding pigs, or by other means. It is also clear that he will remain below the poverty line until the eldest child leaves school and begins to earn money, and that, even if he has no more than two children, his only chance to save will be in his later life when his children are grown up and are earning money, or have left home. This is the most favourable case : if there are more children the period of poverty is longer, and the chance of saving less. In any case, during life it is a continual round of poverty. During childhood, poverty conditions are almost inevitable. As a boy grows up there are a few years intermission till, as a young man, he has two children; then poverty again till these children grow up ; and finally, at best, a penurious old age, barely lifted above the poverty line.

“I do not wish to draw conclusions in the present paper, but one thing I must say. The cry of ‘back to the land’ has a curious commentary in the results I have obtained. As at present existing, the standard of life on the land is lower than in the cities, the chances of success are less and of poverty are greater, life is less interesting, and the likelihood of the workhouse as the place of residence in old age the greater. It is evident that the cry against the depopulation of the country and the concentration of population in the towns must remain little more than a parrot cry until something is done to raise the standard of life and hence the standard of wages in our purely agricultural districts —to increase the chances of success in life, to make life more interesting, and to bring about a more attractive old age than at present, when, under existing conditions, the workhouse is apt to loom too large on the horizon of the agricultural labourer.”
I must remind the reader that this condition obtains now, when the power of wealth-production is greater than ever before, and that the conditions depicted affect that class that alone produces the wealth and makes the land fruitful. So long as the land and capital remain in the hands of a separate class, whose interests are thereby antagonised to the interests of the wage-worker ; so long as the workers are forced to compete for a wage, the tendency will naturally be for that wage to fall to the lowest subsistence level. Wages, as wages, cannot be raised by any artificial means as the author appears to suggest, and the only remedy for the poverty problem in the country, as in the town, is the restoration of the worker to the land and to the tools necessary to wealth-production, and this will necessitate the abolition of the class-ownership of the means of living and the opening up of a new era for humanity by the establishment of the Socialist Republic.
Dick Kent

Answers to Correspondents. (1905)

From the April 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

G. S. (Paddington). —It is apparent that your acquaintance with the Clarion has improved neither your Socialism nor your manners. By the regular reading of the Socialist Standard the former may in time develops; but for the latter there is no medicine in the pharmacopoeia of political economy.

Dr. E. (Vienna). —Your communication is having attention.

B.S.I. (Brussels). —Manifesto of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation received.

A. H. (Walthamstow). — Many thanks for extracts and election address. After all, Bailey, in running as a Labour candidate is only doing that which very many members of the S.D.F. do although their votes are claimed in Justice as S.D.F. votes. Recent elections in Hammersmith, Fulham, &c. are instances.

C. R. (Soham).—We are always pleased to receive intelligent comment as to our proceedings. Extract is being used, with thanks. With regard to Alderman Phillips’ letter it seems to us that a good churchman, of whatever denomination, must place his church first, and we are as much opposed to the Labour movement being captured for the greater glory of the church as to the decoy-duck business of the labour “leader.” Religious organisations are inherently pro-capitalist, and are therefore opposed to what we consider to be the interests of the working-class. We claim that Socialism without adjectives is sufficient, and only when the Socialist Republic is established will a good life be possible. Conduct is determined by economic conditions, not by theological beliefs.

Watford Branch Report. Labour Misleaders and the Local Elections. (1905)

Party News from the April 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since our last report two or three more labour organisations have been born, while some of the old ones have died or lapsed into moribundity. At any rate we never hear of them. Altogether we have now not more than a dozen bodies (mainly composed of very much the same people) all convinced that something really ought to be done for the working man but none very clear as to what should be done. Thus we had the organ of one body crying out upon the local Council that could not find anything better than a few hours in the gravel pits for the unemployed, and gravely suggesting that the Council ought to set them to work putting sand on frosty roads! (It is only fair to add that we have had at least 3 days upon which the roads were in a bad condition through frost).

Thus again the I.L.P. after threatening public meetings which are never held takes its courage in both hands and suddenly rushes into public life with a revolutionary proposal to obliterate the betting news in the public reading room. After which, flushed with the success of their maiden effort, they hold a public meeting upon the unemployed problem—this being the thing at the moment—and secure the services of an estimable and reverend lecturer, who admitted that he did not know much about the unemployed, or that he was expected to speak upon the unemployed, and who confined himself to relating his experiences among the poor dear fellows in the Belgium Labour Colonies or Penitentiaries—who have such a splendid time of it (according to the reverend gentleman) with their reading-rooms, smoking rooms, and other luxurious conveniences that the authorities have to dig a deep and wide trench all round the colony to prevent them running away !

And now the Trades Council are contesting the Urban Council elections and working-class support is asked for because the other candidates have no programmes worth talking about. A few short months since the Trades Council were running their candidates with no programme at all, and only adopted the present attenuated apology for a programme because their hands were forced by those who now form the Watford Branch of The Socialist Party of Great Britain. And these are the good and earnest but ill-informed and misguided folk who believe that they are remedying the evils under which the workers suffer ! And they seem to think that in a multiplication of societies is much wisdom. Instead of which of course it is a potent cause of working-class confusion.

How can the workers understand unless the issues are kept clear ? And how can the issues be kept clear when half a score of organisations persist in poking their petty programmes between the eyes of the workers and the real cause of the workers’ condition. What the workers of this town want in common with the workers of every other town, is a plain statement of the position as it affects them and clear reasons why nothing but Socialism will suffice. And there is no organisation in this district other than the Watford Branch of The Socialist Party of Great Britain presenting this plain statement and these clear reasons. All the others are engaged in deluding the workers into the belief that something less than Socialism will avail.

And so we ask that those whom this paper reaches in Watford before the elections take place shall refuse support not only to the capitalist candidates of the Tradesmens’ Association, but also to the Labour candidates of the Trades Council. The former cannot help the workers and don’t propose to. The latter, with their programme (!), are equally impotent. There is nothing for the workers of Watford to do in this or any other election other than to organise their forces for the capture of the Urban Council and all other political machinery, not with the object of securing a few absolutely inadequate and entirely useless reforms, but with the object or using their power to the best advantage by concentrating directly upon the only change that will affect them, viz., the transfer of the means of life from out the hands of those who at present control them (the capitalist class) into the hands and the control of the whole people. Join the Watford Branch !

The Freedom of Slavery. (1905)

From the April 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The following is from the “Daily Mirror.” It snows how even the capitalist Press will speak the truth sometimes :—
“Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs receive our air, that moment they are free

So wrote the poet Cowper, and his lines summed up the feeling which Englishmen had about slavery in the days when the agitation for its abolition was going on.

"Even now the very talk of slavery arouses indignation. Yet what humbug it is! How many of us have thought out for ourselves the question whether it would not be better for thousands of people in Britain to-day to be slaves rather than free men ?

"What is the ‘freedom’ of the man who depends upon his labour and cannot find employment ? He is ‘free’ to tramp about all day looking for work; ‘free’ to see others warm and well-fed while he shivers and gnaws a crust; ‘free’ to grow weaker and weaker as cold and hunger tell upon his frame; ‘free’ to sink down beaten, ‘free’ to starve slowly, ‘free’ to die.

"Slaves, at any rate, are looked after; fed and clothed sufficiently ; given a roof over their heads. In the old slavery days it was as rare to find a man who neglected or ill-treated his human possessions as it is nowadays to come across cruel or careless owners of horses and cattle.

"Britons regard slavery with horror, but at the same time many of them treat their free workpeople far worse than they would treat slaves. If a slave dies it is a loss to his owner. If a ‘free’ worker dies there are dozens of others eager for his job. His death makes no difference to an employer at all.

"A man in the depths of despair, starving, shoeless, shattered by the misery he had gone through, wrote to us for help. At the end of his letter was a sentence which arrested our attention. Even slavery, he said, would be infinitely preferable to such a life as his.

"We have bought this man in order to show to what depths it is possible to sink in this ‘free’ country of ours, where the name of slavery is abhorred, but where enormous numbers of ‘free’ men and women fall into a state compared to which slavery would be a pleasant and easy condition of life.”
The man (whose name and address was published) was told by the “Daily Mirror” to show himself.
“A short man came, a man with a face that had once been full of intelligence and keenness, but which was now pulled out of its proper shape by misery. A man who walked with a heart-broken walk—with a walk that walks hopeless creatures to self-destruction. A hopeless man.

" ‘I am the man who wants to be a slave,’ he said.

"The bitterness of his tone was that terrible bitterness that is an amalgam of despair and nonchalance.

" ‘But are you worth buying ? What is your price ?’ he was asked.

"His square chin thrust itself out and for a moment looked like the sturdy, independent chin nature had meant it to be.

" ‘I will sell myself for £10,’ he said, ‘and victuals and shelter.’

" ‘But you are not worth £10 ; at least, why should you be worth £10 ? What can you do ?’

" ‘I don’t know anything,’ was the miserable answer.
" ‘Will you sell yourself for £2 ? ‘

" ‘Yes.’

" ‘That was how we got our slave.
Two pounds ! Less than the price of a horse. Less than the price of an ass. Is the Socialist so very wrong when he asserts that hundreds of thousands of the working-class of free England would be better off, materially, in a state of chattel slavery ? Under such a condition they would at least have food and clothing and shelter, where to-day they have little of either, and can be bought as an act of charity for two pounds!

And yet the transaction of the “Daily Mirror” is not exceptional. Quite the contrary. Every member of the working-class sells himself or, which is the same thing, his power to labour, every time he can find an employer to buy him. He sells himself, generally speaking for just the amount that will keep him in working condition and enable him to reproduce his kind. He sells himself for his keep without even receiving, as in the case of the man purchased by the “Daily Mirror,” a bonus of £2. Indeed, he can sometimes be found offering a bonus of £2 to anyone who will give him information that will enable him to sell himself !

That he receives wages wherewith to buy the things necessary to the maintenance of life does not alter the fact of the sale ; does not alter the fact that he is the property, the slave, of the man who buys him.

And yet because, when he is fortunate enough to find a buyer for his labour power (himself), he receives a sum that enables him to buy what he likes within the limits of that sum, he thinks himself free— a delusion most sedulously fostered by the parsons and politicians and apologists for the present system.

He is free because he can choose how he shall spend his pitiable earnings — whether in scrag-of-mutton or corned beef ! Free because he can leave one master when he likes, although to get another—for a master he must have under present conditions if he is to live— is a task he may find it no easy matter to compass as the “Daily Mirror” slave seems to have discovered to his sorrow. Freedom ! Was ever such a travesty on words ?

Little as it was expected the “Daily Mirror” has spoken sober truth as to the advantages of chattel slavery over present-day “freedom,” for the worker’s freedom has brought him nothing but a more precarious dependency. But when this Harmsworth journal says it has bought a man and implies thereby that such a transaction is unusual, it is simply blurring the indisputable fact that every worker sells himself ; that every employer buys a slave.

When the working-class have accepted that truth, and have accepted the further truth which The Socialist Party of Great Britain exists to propagate, viz., that their condition with all its concomitant misery is directly due to the fact that the workers are separated from the means by which they live —have no control over the land and the machinery by which wealth is produced from the land and distributed, because these means are held and controlled by the employing or capitalist-class, they will be ready to appreciate the force of the contention of the Socialist Party that in the substitution of common ownership and control of the means of life for the present individual ownership, and in that alteration alone lies the remedy, a remedy that can be applied when the workers have appreciated, but not until then
G. J. Hodson

SPGB Meetings and Events. (1905)

Party News from the April 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism and Violence. (1930)

From the April 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

An interesting question has been put to in by a reader; a question we have dealt with repeatedly during the past 25 years. He says, quite correctly, that we ”advocate getting to power by means of the vote and condemn the use of physical forced”. He asks what are our grounds for condemn the use of force : “Is it because you believe it to be morally wrong, or do you condemn it because you realise it to be futile ?”

Let us first deal with the question of morals. Any reader of the Socialist Standard who stops to compare our articles with those in the propaganda papers of other organizations must have been struck by the complete absence of articles based upon the accepted moral principles of present capitalist society. That absence is not accidental but deliberate and follows naturally from our Socialist view of economics and politics. Our approach to the problems of life is a scientific one based so far as is possible upon observed facts and verifiable general statements. We know what we want; we want something which is practicable and possible; and our methods are determined by the aim we have in view and the material watch is available for getting there. We have no need ourselves to gloss over our aims and actions with a “moral” justification based upon our opponent’s beliefs and prejudices. We are satisfied that nothing is to be gained in the long run by trying to get support for Socialism by appealing to the moral sentiments of people who do not understand and accept Socialism.

To get Socialism the working class must gain power, that is the control of the machinery of government. Our correspondent will perhaps be surprised to learn that we do not condemn the use of force. On the contrary we seek control of the machinery of government which (in the words of our Declaration of Principles) includes “the argued forces of the nation.” It is because the control of the armed forces of the nation is so important that we wish to control them. The vote is the method of attaining control of the machinery of government in the developed capitalist countries. The policy of bringing the unarmed workers out on to the streets against the armed forces controlled by the capitalist state is not condemned by us as a less effective method of gaining political control; we condemn it because it is not a method of gaining political control at all. It is just dangerous silliness (except when it is deliberately engineered by the ruling powers themselves).

Suppose the capitalists abolished the vote
Then our correspondent puts a further question. He asks if it has never occurred to us that the capitalists might one day abolish the vote.

In reply we must point out that the possibility of such action is a further reason for following the policy laid down by the Socialist Party. When the Socialists have shown, by means of the vote, that they are within short reach of becoming the majority, the abolition of the vote by the capitalists would do infinite harm, not to us, but to them.

For the “Constitutionalists” and “Democrats,” as the capitalist parties always boast of being, to destroy those two strong planks in their propaganda platform, would enormously weaken their hold on the allegiance of those workers still not convinced of the soundness of the Socialist case. A party which abandoned the claim to represent the majority would be committing political suicide. The capitalists (including the self-styled dictators, Mussolini and the rest) tenaciously cling to the forms of democracy and constitutionalism because (apart from other reasons) they realise their propaganda value, even if our correspondent does not. It would be absurd for the working class to weaken their own position by adopting unconstitutional methods when those methods brought no gain whatever.

But the more important point has been missed by our correspondent. He has not asked himself what would happen next after the abolition of the vote. He has not realised that the capitalist class have to do something else besides govern the working class—they have to administer the capitalist system. The workings of capitalist trade and finance, the production and distribution of wealth, the elaborate machinery for educating the workers and for adjusting the thousand and one social frictions incidental to capitalism, all of this complex, enormous, and growing machinery, has necessitated the system of representative government. No other means has yet been devised which will give the stability which is indispensable to the smooth running of capitalism. Our correspondent writes of “dictatorship” replacing the vote, as if it were a simple operation bringing no consequences of importance. So far is this from being true that none of the “dictators” in various European countries have been able to do any such thing. Rather they have extended the number of voters.

It has also to be remembered that capitalists are human beings, most of them more interested in living than in dying heroically for the sake of a theory. A few of the hotheads may prefer to wreck society, including themselves, rather than give way to the Socialist majority; but will their own capitalist friends back them up? Most capitalists will prefer to accept Socialism’ rather than stand by a minority who might wish to attempt the task of running capitalism without representative machinery, and against the organised majority. They might think it fine to fight (and starve) in the last ditch in defence of capitalism, but more pleasant, if less heroic, to go on living. Further, our correspondent must have overlooked the fact that by that time the armed forces—drawn from working class homes—would be mainly sympathetic to the Socialist viewpoint. Given the abandonment of democratic methods by the Government of the day after the Socialist Party had at an election received a majority of the votes, the armed forces would no longer be a dependable instrument for the capitalist minority, and would, in fact, help, not hinder, the majority in their endeavours to secure control of the machinery of Government. But that eventuality—the armed forces helping the Socialist working class to gain control—is quite different from the Communist Party policy of a minority fighting the armed forces.

The situation under those hypothetical conditions is widely different from the situation now. Socialists are now in a small minority ; the ruling class is backed by the majority, including the majority of the workers; the capitalist state is in full control of disciplined armed forces, and the members of these forces are not yet affected by Socialist ideas.

Physical force against the armed forces is lunacy. Those who advocate it never tell us how they propose to get arms and equipment, tanks, battle planes, cruisers, poison gas plant, etc., and how they are going to train their forces to use such things. They do not tell us because, when faced with those questions, they know that there is no answer.

In conclusion, let us put the whole matter in proper perspective by pointing out that the really important and difficult problem is not the problem of action after the working class have been won over to Socialism, but the present problem of winning them over. Even if there were an alternative method of gaining control of the political machinery, it would be useless for the purpose of running society on a Socialist basis if the working class did not want and understand Socialism.
Editorial Committee.

The Decay of Religion. (1930)

From the April 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

With institutions there are degrees, even of deadness. Religion, for instance, may be deader than we think. The following extract from the religious notes in the Daily News of March 5th is quite illuminating : —
“Unholy Scramble.”

“An Anglican clergyman has described to me what he alleges to be the ‘unholy scramble’ that goes on behind the scenes for clerical appointments in the patronage of the Crown. He states that every possible string is pulled, not of course by the clergyman himself, but by his friends (with his knowledge). No avenue of approach is refused and a political caucus could not behave with greater skill and discrimination. While the friends of one man are at work he knows full well that several other clergymen are being pushed forward in a similar manner. Everyone concerned hates the system. But, as my informant says : ‘What can be done to improve it and place such patronage upon a more dignified basis?'”
This we might usefully follow with the following extract from Robert Graves’ “Good-bye to All That.”
“It was said that not one soldier in a hundred was inspired by religious feeling of even the crudest kind. 
For the regimental chaplains as a body we had no respect. If the regimental chaplains had shown one-tenth the courage, endurance and other human qualities that the regimental doctors showed, we agreed the B.E.F. might well have started a religious revival. But they had not. The fact is that they were under orders not to get mixed up with the fighting, to stay behind with the transport, and not to risk their lives. No soldier could have any respect for a chaplain who obeyed these orders, and yet there was not in our experience, one chaplain in fifty who was not glad to obey them. Occasionally on a quiet day, in a quiet section, the chaplain would make a daring afternoon visit to the support line, and distribute a few cigarettes, and that was all. But he was always in evidence back in rest-billets. Sometimes the colonel would summon him to come up with the rations and bury the day’s dead, and he would arrive, speak his lines and hastily retire.”
There you have two pictures of the value of superstition as a guide to living. There is a “holy scramble” for jobs in the world of witch-doctors when what is called peace is the order of things. When war presents the opportunity of a quick acquaintance with the joys of heaven, the self-appointed guides show a strange reluctance to leave the solid earth. Whether Robert Graves knew Prof. J. B. S. Haldane or not is not known to the writer, but it is remarkable how similar are their observations.

In an essay called “Mercy” in his “Possible Worlds,” Prof. Haldane says:
“I should be the last to suggest that the late war was a good thing, but there is no doubt it furnished a rough test of character. It will therefore be interesting to analyse the conduct of ministers of religion during its course.”
He proceeds, in the course of the essay, to do so. The following are fair extracts :
“A large number of the younger clergy became army chaplains. In this way they at once obtained the very satisfactory status of commissioned officers. With other officers that status was on the whole a fair return for the very grave dangers which they ran. The army chaplains generally ran the irreducible minimum of risk. Most of them kept well behind the line. In my war experience I never saw a chaplain display courage.”
Another extract.
“It may be contended that I was unfortunate in my acquaintance among army chaplains, and biassed in my interpretation of their conduct. It is therefore important to examine the behaviour of the clergy as a body. When conscription was introduced in Britain the clergy of all denominations showed a unanimity without parallel since the Reformation. Conscription was not for them, and so great was clerical influence among the governing-classes that their exemption was taken as a matter of course. Now from a Christian point of view, it is perhaps arguable that ministers of religion should not fight. But there is absolutely no reason why the self-styled disciples of Jesus should not, as privates of the R.A.M.C., have tended the sick and wounded under conditions of moderate discomfort if relatively little danger.”
The final extract.
“Priests have always used their power to evade the moral obligations of the ordinary man ; and threatened him with fire here or hereafter, or with social or economic penalties if he referred to the fact. What is new in the situation is that the public is beginning to recognise the moral and intellectual inferiority of the clergy. Their income is diminishing, and it is not likely to increase. For whereas the clergy of sixty years and over are on the whole men of fair intelligence, those of to-day are being recruited from the dregs of the universities, whilst many have no higher education at all. Under these circumstances they are hardly likely to tap fresh sources of revenue.”
So there you are. Knowledge and correct action will kill capitalism ; religion will flicker out.
W. T. Hopley

Our Circulation. (1930)

Party News from the April 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

How you can help to enlarge it
We want to get new readers and we know that we can look to our regular subscribers to do all they can to help. There must be many thousands of workers, who, if they were introduced to the Socialist Standard, would be as pleased to read as we would be pleased to add them to our list of subscribers. It is all a question of bringing our paper and our party to the notice of men and women who will be interested, and that is above all a matter for the present readers. Is there not at least one man or woman among your circle of friends and acquaintances who might be glad to read what the Socialist Party has to say about current events and Socialist principles? Why not send us the name at address and 6d. in stamps for a copy to be forwarded for three months? Why not pass on your own copy when you have read it or, better still, place an order for two copies and use the additional one for the purpose of gaining a new regular reader?

If you have opportunities for discussing Socialism at your Trade Union Branch meeting, or if you attend the meetings of other Parties, write to this office and ask for some specimen copies of the Socialist Standard for free distribution.

If you happen to live where there is no branch of the S.P.G.B., you can, as other isolated sympathisers have done in the past, make the Socialist Standard the means of slowly but steadily bringing in new readers, who will in time become members and help you to form that branch which you want to see established.

Let us have the name and address of the secretary of any local trade union or political party branch to which you think it might be worth while for us to send specimens of our literature.

Do all of these things, and if you have further ideas on developing our circulation write and tell us about them.

Wanted : A New Reader
Do you know a likely friend who does not read the Socialist Standard.

Send us his name and address and a Postal Order for 6d., and we will forward a copy for 3 months.

Death of a Comrade. (1930)

Obituary from the April 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

We regret to have to announce the death on March 10th, of W. Steele, for 19 years a member of Tottenham Branch.