Friday, August 4, 2023

50 Years Ago: The Passing of a Labour Leader (2010)

The 50 Years Ago column from the August 2010 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is not our purpose here to attempt an analysis of the career of Aneurin Bevan, but only to put one or two aspects of his progress from being a working class rebel against the tyranny and sordidness of capitalism to his occupancy of high office in the post-war Labour Government (…).

Throughout the years after he had begun to make a name in the Labour Party he was torn between the desire to be a rebel espousing certain ideals and the necessity of working out concessions to meet the needs of practical politics. Nobody can suppose that Bevan was happy about finding himself supporting war, supporting re-armament and making his belated decision to press for the retention of the H-bomb as a bargaining counter in the Labour Party’s plan to work for all-round disarmament.

But was he ever clear about what was happening and why it happened? Did he ever realise that his dilemma is one that necessarily faces all who take on the task of governing a capitalist country in a capitalist world? With or without seeing it clearly he, like the other leaders of the Labour Government, had come down on the side of  the belief that as a present practical policy a Labour Government must face the workers as an administration trying to keep the British economy functioning and must face the world as guardian of British interests which necessarily meant in both spheres of action accepting and working within the framework of the capitalist social system. That he did so with some reluctance and occasional rebellious withdrawals show his resentment of the dilemma, but he never succeeded in resolving the problem. He would have argued, no doubt, that there was no alternative, and here we as Socialists insist that there was, and is, the alternative of leaving the running of capitalism to those who believe in it and of devoting efforts to building up an international Socialist working class with the consciously-held aim of putting Socialism in the place of capitalist society.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, August 1960)

The Dean and the Chop Sticks (1952)

From the August 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

If we charitably concede that Dr. Hewlett Johnson, Dean of Canterbury, is, as he claims, a devout and peace-loving Christian, filled with loving-kindness for all humanity, anxious to promote happiness and to avoid violence and war, it is only possible to do so on the assumption that he is capable of self-deception and mental blindness to the point of absurdity. This assumption is, however, an easy one, for the Dean’s public utterances over a long period have shown him to be naive almost beyond belief, highly susceptible to flattery, with an unparalleled capacity to be misinformed on the economic and political questions he studies and writes about and a pathetic readiness to believe the most incredible stories without, or against, evidence when once his emotional interest has been aroused. At one time he espoused the currency mumbo-jumbo of the credit creationists, at another he was backing the idea of a communist Britain, with the present monarch at the helm, and as member of the Editorial Board of the communist Daily Worker he was able to square his Christian doctrines with that journal’s barely veiled campaign of national hatred against Americans. He has long sought to reconcile the irreconcilable, by holding that Marxist materialism is compatible with Christian mysticism, though it must be said in excuse that he was in this matter merely a gullible dupe of two-faced communist propaganda. His principal published contribution to political confusion has, of course, been his Socialist Sixth of the World,” in which, against all evidence, including much that he provides in the book, he maintains that Russian State capitalism is its opposite. Socialism. He easily took in his stride the notion that dictatorship is democratic provided it happens in Russia. In recent times he has been active in trying to show why the Russian war preparations and glorification of the weapons of destruction are quite different from identical manifestations in other countries, and has achieved particular prominence by proclaiming his belief in the Russo-Chinese Governments’ propaganda about germ warfare in Korea and China.

Here let us clear the air by stating the obvious about the use of germ warfare. Governments at war—all governments —will use any weapon that they think will help them to gain the ascendancy over their opponents. The Dean would doubtless assent to this general proposition, but with the exception that he does not believe this of the Russian government and its allies because they say they are peace lovers. To which, of course, there is a brutally simple answer, For what purpose does the Dean think the Russian government makes atom bombs if not for the purpose of using them?

The Dean is equally naive about war propaganda. Words are a weapon of war, used to stimulate die home front and weaken the enemy. The truthfulness of the words is irrelevant except that some experts in war propaganda hold the view that propaganda that is built up on some truthful elements is more effective than total untruths.

Among recent efforts of the propagandists of Russia and her satellites have been the Colorado beetles said to have been dropped by American planes beyond the Iron Curtain to destroy the potato crop, the dropping of poisoned food in Albania, British poisoned cannon balls in the Crimean War of a century ago, and alleged dropping of lepers by British troops into' North Korea. Bv contrast, the Daily Worker's horror at the sending of “savage dogs” from Britain was a puny effort. The only story that has really justified its use is that of the germ-infected flies and fleas said to have been showered down on the Koreans and Chinese. The Dean believes this to be true mainly because it is vouched for by certain Christian bodies in China, and though he can, it seems, stomach all the horrors of war waged by “conventional ” weapons he cannot condone germs.

Since we know that all governments when at war will stop at no horror, the most pertinent point made by the Dean’s opponents is that researches into germ warfare by Western Powers have produced nothing likely to be at all effective. This—if true—would carry more weight than all the denials, and as it happens the Dean confirms this. He denies that the germs alleged to have been dropped have had any appreciable effect because a simple remedy has been evolved. He told a Press Conference on 8th July “how the little Chinese, when germs had been dropped, formed sanitary cordons in the fields and went about 'collecting the germs with chop sticks’ and popping them into bottles.” (Manchester Guardian, 9th July, 1952.)

So effective is this that, according to the Dean, “the direct effect of germ warfare will be a rapid lowering of the mortality rate with consequent rise in population.”

The logic of his conclusion is perhaps open to question since lowering the mortality rate due to germs can hardly increase the population, unless indeed the children also collect germ-laden insects native to the countryside as well as those dropped by planes; but the Dean’s belief is clear.

If, therefore, we are to believe the Dean his course is obvious. He should now open a campaign for the abolition of dangerous weapons like rifles, artillery, tanks, high explosive bombs, etc., etc., and get the governments to agree to fight wars only with germs. “ The germ, the whole germ and nothing but the germ.” Then, with our issue of chopsticks and bottles we shall all be safe and sound in a third world war and shall all live to bless the Dean of Canterbury.

One other aspect of the battle of the germ deserves notice. His fellow Christians in Britain have denounced his lack of patriotism and sorrowed over his absence of any critical faculty that would deter him from accepting statements on trust even from fellow Christians in China. But why should anyone expect a Dean, nurtured in the bosom of the Christian church, to be able dispassionately to weigh the evidence of what is alleged to have happened this year in the Far East? Are not all Christians taught to accept on faith astonishing stories of wonders and miracles supposed to have taken place in the Middle East nearly 2,000 years ago?
Edgar Hardcastle

How they choose the U. S. President (1952)

From the August 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Republican and Democratic Parties of the U.S.A. held their conventions in Chicago in July. The main purpose of these conventions is to adopt a party platform and to nominate a candidate for the Presidency and Vice-Presidency of the. U.S.A. The conventions then dissolve to be born again four years later.

Time, the weekly news-magazine published a guide to the American conventions. The introduction to the booklet said it contained the history, highlights and highjinks of past conventions, and the customs, procedures and rules governing the current conventions and that what the America citizen would see and hear on radio and television would often be an extension of the backroom bickering and manoeuvring that would take place behind the scenes.

It was estimated that between 50 and 60 million viewers would be able to see the conventions on television.

The convention setting is described as a uniquely American scene. So let’s have a look at it through the courtesy of Time magazine

A party convention, the Paris newspaper Le Matin explained gravely to its readers in 1948, is “a manifestation typically American, where politics, patriotism and the music hall mingle to create an atmosphere which at the same time becomes a country fair, a religious meeting, and a public reunion.”

Its streets hung with bunting, the rugs and the best furniture carefully removed from hotel lobbies, gaudy welcome signs plastered across the honky-tonks on South State Street, Chicago will have readied itself for the avalanche of delegates, bands, elephants, donkeys, straw hats and rumpled seer-suckers. Convention planning committees will be besieged with impossible requests. One delegate in 1948 asked for 20 cases of whisky, another for a room out of range of alcohol fumes.

At Philadelphia, in 1948 (where the previous convention was held), practised scavengers could go from one suite to another, pick up combs, cigarette holders, furniture polish, coffee, doughnuts, beer, cheese, crackers, gum, candy, soft drinks, nail files, noise- makers, bottles of deodorant, tickets for door prizes and enough literature to start a wastepaper business. In relation to the above it should be explained that campaign managers for the candidates usually set up their headquarters in a hotel. Minor candidates might have a single hotel suite, but the bigger, more prosperous headquarters might occupy a rambling network of reception centres, press rooms and strategic hideaways, with corps of press agents, pretty secretaries, and prettier models.

Much of the circus and party-time atmosphere is created by people with nothing better to do. Regarding the delegates, a large number come to the convention pledged to vote for certain candidates, but the pledges are not always as meaningful or as weighty as they sound. Some are firmly committed to their candidate by state primary laws or by party understanding, and will stick to their commitments as long as their man has a chance for the nomination. Some are pledged through the first ballot only; many others have only the thin moral commitment of a "beauty contest” primary. Some state delegations will vote solidly behind their leaders, others have more renegades than regulars.

Supporters of each candidate go after these waverers like a party machine in miniature. They watch opposing candidates carefully, send out trial balloons to test the direction of the convention winds. They plant rumours, send them filtering down through the hotel lobbies and out to the convention hall. Heads of state delegations still in the doubtful columns are courted like queens at a high-school prom. Leading candidates try to give an impression of invincibility: get on the bandwagon before it’s too late. The dark horses play the opposite tune: it’s too early to tell; hold tight and wait for the break.

Timing of individual campaigns is worked out in meticulous detail. The Dewey manager in 1948, for instance, announced the support of a few new states each day to build up the impression of a swelling tide of support, were able to override all opposition on the thifd ballot. A planted gallery at the 1940 Republican Convention, setting up its "We want Wilkie" chant, gave a push to the Wilkie bandwagon.

When the convention opens, the bickering that has been going on in the hotel rooms and lobbies moves to the floor of the convention hall. But first come the time-honoured preliminaries. At the opening of each session, the National Anthem is sung and prayers are offered. With sweeping impartiality the conventions are prayed over by clergymen of every religion and denomination that can be squeezed into the programme. At the 1940 Republican Convention, prayers were led by a Rabbi, a Lutheran pastor, a Christian Scientist, a Roman Catholic cardinal, an African Methodist Episcopal bishop, a Presbyterian minister, the chancellor of a Roman Catholic archdiocese, a Baptist minister, a Protestant Episcopal bishop, a Methodist Episcopal minister, and the chaplain of the Connecticut state senate.

A potential bombshell at the convention is the report of the Platform Committee—the final, polished result of argument and compromise that have been going on since long before the convention opened.

Much of the lobbying at the convention is done at open hearings before this committee. The committee listens tolerantly to most proposals, but is predisposed to a middle-of-the-road position wherever possible.

The platform may actually be written by two or three men in a back room, while the rest of the committee listens patiently to the people grinding their axes. Tactics differ, but the platform is designed to win, not alienate votes.

The end of each nominating speech becomes a signal for a wild demonstration. A parade begins to snake around the convention floor, picking up new delegations as it winds round the aisles. The candidate's band plays his campaign song and the air is filled with whistling, singing, shouting. The demonstrators try to convince everyone that a bandwagon is on its way. Wiser political heads scan the hall carefully to see which delegations have not joined the parade.

In recent years the tendency has been more towards theatricals than pure noise. During the Stassen demonstration at the last Republican gathering, a bevy of strong, young men carried on their shoulders a rowboat occupied by a shapely blonde in a satin sailor suit. The local florists presented a liberty bell made of flowers to President Truman in 1948. Inside were 48 pigeons. Most of them fluttered out into the hall, rafter-bound, some perching on electric fans and sending down a shower of tail feathers.

Floor demonstrations run on until the wind leaves their sails, and succeeding parades are diplomatically permitted to go on as long as their predecessors did. But nominating speeches are limited to about twenty minutes, seconding speeches to five.

The last-minute business begins in earnest. State leaders haggle for favours—the Vice-Presidency, Cabinet offices, pledges of support in state election contests, key jobs in the party itself. The convention city is abuzz with rumours of significant deals and trades.

The emphasis shifts from the unwieldy convention to the more flexible caucuses where party leaders meet —sometimes in hotel rooms, away from the hubbub and ballyhoo of the main arena. It is in such small meetings that class and sectional interests can be brought to bear effectively.

Then the tired delegates want to finish up and go home. But if they leave the convention wearily, they know they have been through an experience that is the fibre of American politics. The national convention provides a setting where smart men can gamble and manoeuvre . . . Time magazine’s guide also tells us that each year the bleating and bawling International Live Stock Exposition—“ The Supreme Court of live stock shows" is held in the same hall as this year’s convention.

We have of course emphasised the circus-like aspect of the American political conventions and given an idea of the trickery and manoeuvring that takes place. But when Time magazine published the booklet and sent it free to anyone in this country who wrote up for it, they presumably meant it as a general guide to the U.S.A. party conventions.

One can enjoy a good laugh. But are the conferences of the British Labour Party or Tory Party all that different? There may be less ballyhoo, and the circus atmosphere may be considerably reduced. However, one has doubts whether there is less trickery and manoeuvring. It would be difficult to claim that the British worker is any more class conscious or has a greater understanding, of the political parties than his American counterpart.
D. W. Lock

Notes by the Way: The Workers’ Share of the Product of Industry (1952)

The Notes by the Way Column from the August 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Workers’ Share of the Product of Industry

In the “ Times Review of Industry ” (April, 1952) Dr. L. Rostas examines the preliminary results of the 1948 Census of Production. One piece of information brought out by the Census of Production figures is the total value of the net output of workers in manufacturing, mining, building, etc., and the amount of wages and salaries paid.

The figures show that in 1948 the average net output per employee was £543. Wages represented 48.1 per cent, of that figure and salaries 11.8 per cent., so that wages and salaries together represented 59.9 per cent, of net output.

Dr. Rostas quotes for comparison the corresponding figures shown by the 1935 Census of Production, which was 60 per cent. While therefore the position in 1948 was almost identical with that in 1935 earlier figures showed that the workers' share had risen between 1906-7 and 1924. These figures were published in the Report of the Committee on Finance and Industry (1931, Page 312), and were 52 per cent. in 1906-7 and 55 per cent. in 1924.

The above figures relate to manufacturing industries, mining, building, etc., but do not include transport, finance, civil service, etc. The figures covering all workers are published each year in the Government booklet “ National Income and Expenditure.” For 1948 the division of the total national income (before deducting taxes on income) were: wages 45 per cent., salaries (largely clerks, shop assistants, etc.) 23 per cent., making a total of 68 per cent. In that year the pay of the armed forces represented 3 per cent., and Rent, Dividends and Interest 29 per cent.

The wages and salaries figure for 1951 is also 68 per cent, but in 1938 it was rather smaller, 61 per cent. The main reason why the later figures for wages and salaries have been higher than before the war is that owing to the fall of unemployment more workers have been receiving wages.

* * *

Increase of Output per Employee

Dr. Rostas also shows the increase of physical output per employee in the 13 years 1935 to 1948. Total output of manufacturing industry increased in the 13 years by about 32 per cent., but as the number of workers had increased by 25 per cent., the physical output per worker had increased by about 6 per cent. This is less than half of one per cent a year and is below the normal annual increase over long periods. Undoubtedly the rate of increase will have been somewhat larger in the years since 1948.

In the five years 1924 to 1929 it increased by 11.6 per cent., representing over 2 per cent. a year. (Report of Committee on Finance and Industry, 1931. Page 310.)

An elaborate inquiry by the economist Colin Clark covering the 80 years 1870 to 1950 shows that the product per worker increased by 76 per cent., or rather less than 1 per cent, a year. (Published in Review of Economic Progress, July-August, 1951, Brisbane. Australia.)

During the same period, 1870-1950. the amount produced per head of the population increased by a larger percentage than did the increase of output per worker. This was because a larger proportion of the population were employed in 1950 than in 1870. The amount produced per head of the population was a little over twice as much in 1950 as in 1870.

* * *

Innocents in Russia

Mr. Emrys Hughes, Labour M.P. for South Ayrshire, is best known for his near-pacifism and his constant efforts to get the world's governments to get together to avoid war. He recently visited Russia and published his observations in “ Forward." He has one advantage over many visitors to Russia that he speaks Russian and he claimed that nothing was done to prevent him from entering into conversation with people he met.

Nevertheless he does on one issue betray a certain amount of simplicity. Writing in “Forward” (3rd May, 1952) he claims that “the Communist Dictatorship not only survives but is generally accepted," and that “there is a stable government to which there is no discernible or organised opposition.”

Now Mr. Hughes knows that it is illegal in Russia to attempt to form any political party other than the Communist Party and that all journals and news reports are censored. If he were in Russia and tried to form a party like the one of which he is a member, or tried to make his customary pacifist speeches, or tried to publish a journal like “Forward," of which he was formerly editor, or tried to run as a Labour Party candidate, he would be breaking the law and would incur speedy and drastic penalties. Knowing all this he nevertheless can say that there is in Russia no discernible or organised opposition!

It may be correct that there is little opposition and that what underground opposition does exist is not organised, but when Mr. Hughes says that the opposition is not discernible he is being a little naive. Does he really expect anti-Communists in Russia to disclose themselves? If he had visited Germany under Hitler he would have found the same absence of individuals anxious to become “discerned” and consequently jailed.

Or to come nearer home, if Mr. Hughes had six months ago visited the anti-trade union establishments of Mr. Thomson of Dundee he would have failed to discern on that dictatorial individual's premises even the smallest sign of “ discernible and organised opposition.”

It is, of course, very difficult to tell what opposition exists under any dictatorship and perhaps later events may show that Mr. Hughes was as much misled about Russia in 1952 as was the British Ambassador in Russia in 1917 who was quite unaware until it broke out into open revolt that there was widespread opposition to the Czarist regime.

* * *

How to Muzzle the Press

In Russia the Government openly exercises a censorship on what news comes into the country and on the reports sent out by foreign journalists, and, of course, on what is printed in the Russian Press. Also there is the widespread Russian jamming of foreign broadcasts.

When challenged on the subject Mr. Stalin used the defence that whenever the censorship had been lifted the statements made about the members of the Russian Government by foreign reporters were such that the Russian people became "very indignant," and the censorship had to be re-introduced (Soviet Weekly, 15th May, 1947.) It is a very curious excuse in face of the way in which much of the Russian Government's own internal propaganda is designed to stir up popular indignation against foreigners.

However, a crude censorship is not the only way of preventing publication. It will be recalled how for months the events leading up to the abdication of Edward Vm (the Duke of Windsor) were kept out of the British Press though widely discussed in other countries. More recently we have seen how a request to the British Press not to publish an indiscreet statement made by Lord Alexander at a dinner at the Canada Club was generally observed. Here the reason given was that “security” was involved though in fact a very similar statement had been made by him shortly before and had been published. The Evening Standard (4/7/52) published a letter by Mr. Beverley Baxter saying that as the request not to publish was made by Lord Alexander on grounds of “security" the editors of the morning newspapers were right to accede to the request. The editor of the Evening Standard took the opposite line. He wrote:
"No question of security was involved. The editors were therefore wrong to accept a request for suppression on security grounds.”

A Denunciation of Nationalism

The  Indian, M. N. Roy, who was at one time prominent in the Communist International, but later broke away and took a line of his own, recently wrote for the Manchester Guardian (21/6/52) an article “Asian Nationalism. Its Roots in Race Hatred."

In it he puts the case that the Asiatic nationalist movements are not just movements to secure independence from the foreign governments that kept them in colonial subjection, for even after achieving independence they continue to preach the same anti-foreign doctrines as before. He quotes Mr. Nehru, Prime Minister of India, and advocate of Indian nationalism, as having admitted that he does not know what nationalism is:
“What exactly is nationalism? I do not know, and it is extremely difficult to define. In the case of a country under foreign domination it is easy to define what nationalism is. It is anti-foreign power. But in a free country it is something positive. Even so, I think that a large element of it is negative or anti-, and so sometimes we find that nationalism, which is a healthy force, becomes—maybe after liberation—unhealthy, retrogressive, reactionary, or expansive."
Yet though Mr. Nehru could not define nationalism he went on to declare that it “warms the heart of every Asian" and that “any other force that may seek to function must define itself in terms of this nationalism.” Mr. Roy says this is nonsense and that what Mr. Nehru's explanation really means is that nationalism is “race hatred kept alive artificially.”
“ Asia nationalism is an unmixed evil. It has not got the saving grace of a cultural and idealist origin as in the case of earlier European nationalism."
Although Mr. Roy notices that between the wars European nationalism developed into fascism, and quotes the statement of the late Lord Acton that nationality sacrifices everything “to the imperative necessity of making the nation the mould and measure of the State,” he does not appreciate the simple fact that nationalism has been and is everywhere the form in which each capitalist group tries to carve out a place for itself in the world of warring capitalist states. If he did he would not be at all surprised that the politicians who have used nationalism to gain independence from a colonial power need it just as much afterwards in order to persuade the workers to go on fighting capitalism’s battles.

If it is an illusion to think that nations can be friendly in a capitalist world provided that they are all “independent,” it is equally an illusion on the part of Mr. Roy to think that the Powers, great and small, could dispense with nationalism.

At least one thing Mr. Roy has correctly summed up. Discussing the disappointing results of national independence from the worker’s point of view, he says that when India and other countries achieved independence, “absolutely nothing changed except the personnel of the State machinery.”

On one thing we can put Mr. Roy right He says of the “reforming Liberals and the revolutionary Left in the Western countries” that disregarding the bitter experience and irony of history which had shown them nationalist movements starting with men like Mazzini and ending with regimes like Mussolini’s, they “vied with each other in patronising colonial nationalism.” Whatever the Liberals and Labourites did, the S.P.G.B. certainly did not fell into this error but always condemned nationalist propaganda whether at home or abroad, in Europe or in Asia.
Edgar Hardcastle

Blogger's Note:
The piece on M. N. Roy and the perniciousness of nationalism was previously posted on the blog as a standalone article in September 2011. I'm not sure what happened there. Maybe I copied it from the SPGB website, not knowing that it was part of a larger Notes by the Way column. No worries.

Letter: The Socialist Attitude to Trade Unions (1952)

Letter to the Editors from the August 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard
A correspondent sends us the following letter of criticism:

Dear Sir,

In dealing with the question of “Trade Unionism” in the July issue of the S.S., you state that the S.P.G.B. supports T.U. action, whilst pointing out that such action can only be defensive in character.

I take it that you are opposed to reformist activity on the ground that reforms cannot achieve Socialism.

There seems to be something faulty in your reasoning here.

If your support of Trade Unionism is for the reason you give, why not support reformist activity for precisely the same reason? On the other hand your statement implies that you would oppose T.U. action if such action were offensive in character. This is of course absurd.

Again, are not Trade Unions reformist? If so, why not oppose them as you apparently oppose reformist action?

It seems that you have placed yourself in an impossible position. Is there a way out of the dilemma?

Or could it be that T.U.s are after all not reformist bodies? And that your support of them is upon grounds other than those stated by you. If so I would like to know what these grounds are.
Yours sincerely,
D. Smith.

The statement to which the above letter refers was on page 110 of the July issue:—
“We support trade union activity that is genuinely in the interest of the working class. But we recognise that such action can only be defensive. It is only organisation on the political field that will enable the class system to be abolished."
We support the efforts of the workers through trade union organisation to defend and improve their wages and conditions of work. If they did not struggle they would be worse off. As Marx phrased it in “Value, Price and Profit,” if the workers abandon the struggle “they would be degraded to one level mass of broken wretches past salvation. . . . By cowardly giving way in their every-day conflict with capital, they would certainly disqualify themselves for the initiating of any large movement.”

But trade union action is action against the effects of the capitalist system. It cannot achieve the abolition of Capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. Trade unions have to take the workers as they are and most of them are not socialists and therefore are not in favour of establishing Socialism.

The establishment of Socialism requires political action, but not just any political action. Political organisation to secure reform of Capitalism can no more achieve Socialism than can strikes for higher wages.

What is required is political organisation and action by socialists, to gain control of the machinery of government for the purpose of introducing Socialism.

Some reforms of Capitalism may be of limited use to the working class or sections of the working class, though most reforms are not, but organisations that advocate reforming Capitalism are of no use whatever for the task of establishing Socialism. Such organisations can only maintain themselves by encouraging the delusion that the basic evils of Capitalism can be reformed, out of existence. Such an organisation must attract reformists and seek the support and votes of reformists, and when its support among the non-socialist electorate becomes big enough it has to take on the task of forming a government and carrying on Capitalism and waging its wars.

Organisation and propaganda for Socialism can only be carried on by a party whose members are socialists. If a party aiming at Socialism were to diverge from that aim by advocating reforms it would likewise attract non-socialists. It would be submerged by them and the socialist message would be lost.

That is why the Socialist Party does not advocate reforms, and why it tells the working class that trade union struggles against the employers are useful, but the creation of reformist political organisations which just serve to perpetuate Capitalism is useless.
Editorial Committee.

Human Problems (1952)

From the August 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

When discussing the problems of the present social order (or rather disorder) we usually concentrate on those whose cause is most easily traced to the property basis of society, problems such as malnutrition, disease, bad housing. But there are other perhaps more subtle but none the less widely-felt sources of human misery. They are the “human” problems, in the sense that they appear to have little or no connection with material things.

Tell a man he needs a new suit or a better meal or a larger home and he will readily agree with you. But tell him he needs to be appreciated by others outside his family circle, to feel a sense of belonging to the community, and he may well reply with something like “I don’t worry about what other people think—I can look after myself all right.” The world of Capitalism is a hard one, and (as the “successful” gentry never tire of repeating) jt has no time for weaklings or fainthearts. Yet it is an undeniable fact that the vast majority of people are treated as mere cogs in the system that, in Marx's words, has resolved personal worth into exchange value. In spite of attempts to make it appear otherwise, the market place is still essentially impersonal.

Now the worker’s energies bought by the capitalist are not something abstract—they are part of a human being who is deeply influenced by the process of which he is part. Small wonder that someone who answers an advert, for “skilled hands” is easily led to believe he is valued by society at large, as by his employer, only for the skill he possesses. Not unnaturally he tries to come to terms with his environment to fit into society as it appears to him, and in doing so his thoughts tend to be moulded into the pattern that ensures the continuation of the existing state of affairs.

The nature of the system, then, has its effects on the natures of the individuals who support it, actively or passively. It is based on exploitation, on the survival of the slickest, and on the doctrine that some men are naturally inferior to others. Therefore it is not surprising that these concepts are reflected in people’s outlook on all aspects of life. Although it is unquestionably offensive to human dignity and self-esteem to feel oneself exploited by others, it is perhaps some compensation to believe that that’s the way of the world. Some have been lucky, some haven’t, some have “got what it takes,” others have only themselves to blame for their failure to make good—these are very comforting views for the privileged minority. But what is the price paid for thinking in this way by those who cannot hide from themselves the fact that they have got hold of the dirty end of the stick and are never likely to be able to leave go?

To the extent that the great majority of people desire approval and appreciation by others they also try to avoid being hurt by the absence of these things. They do this by building up a sort of self-defensive armour which protects them to some extent from the insults and injuries inflicted on them by strangers or even by “friends.” This is how Hortense Powdermaker, the anthropologist, describes the calculating Hollywood outlook, the capitalist mentality par excellence:—
“To the casual observer all relations seem to be on a remarkably personal level. But this is merely a sugar-coating for a deep impersonality. This impersonality comes out in two important ways. People are property in no uncertain terms, usually valuable property, and everyone has his price. Underlying the endearing terms of every conversation are the questions: 'What can I get from him? ’. . . 'What does he want from me?' . . . ‘ Will I need him in the future, if not now? ’Human relationships are regarded as basically manipulative and are lacking in all dignity."
By and large the attitude of present society towards its members is not calculated to restore the feeling of adequacy and personal worth that is lost by those who fail to “make the grade.” The greatest tragedy is that the cult of success is worshipped not only by those on top but by those underneath too. Intense individualism, the desire to stake one’s claim to recognition in the same way as to property, overlays the social feeling in man. As Barrows Dunham sums up capitalist morality, “The bricks which are to build my happiness I take from the wreckage which was yours.”

The effect that all this has upon the individual is to set up the same sort of conflict within himself as exists in society as a whole. The bankruptcies in the business world have their counterparts in the degradation of men, who are often led by their unfortunate experiences to believe that they are incapable of making a success of even the simplest relationship or job. Being thrown out of a job not only means greater poverty for people but it also shatters their confidence in the stability of their world. Far from being the natural state of affairs that its defenders claim it is, Capitalism goes so much against the grain of humanity that some doctors now believe that most physical illness has its root cause in forms of neurosis resulting from suppressed desires, anxiety and worry.

Many of the readers' letters and advice bureaux that have become such regular features in the mass- circulation newspapers and magazines are concerned with human interest problems. The frequency with which a few basic types of question arise—on frustration, boredom, loneliness, marriage failures—is too great to justify dismissing them as individual or personal affairs. The writers only mirror the thoughts, feelings, desires and ambitions of a large section of the community. One thing stands out clearly—there is a great difference between the good intentions or social feeling of most people towards those they come in contact with and their attitude to the wider problems of humanity as a whole.

But this difference is becoming less and less and at the same time the receptivity of socialist ideas is increasing. The case for Socialism amounts to saying that social affairs ought to be planned and intended in the same way that man's control over nature has been planned and intended. Society ought to be pursuing a purpose that is broadly human, not narrowly individual and class-based. The development of Capitalism as a world system is fast breaking down old barriers of prejudice and parochial thinking that have divided mankind against itself. People are more and more questioning the glib explanation of war as being due to the Eastern (or Western) mentality, or of business success being due to the inborn superiority of all capitalists. Man's knowledge of himself is at last beginning to accelerate, and soon it will convince him that he can be an agent in making the world he wants instead of a patient suffering the one he has got.

Production solely for use will not only solve material problems but will also give a fresh outlook on life to those whose horizon has been limited by subservience to private property and all that goes with it. The changing of the economic base of society will mean the changing of the human relationships that arise from it. No longer will people suffer an environment that often convinces them that every man's hand is against them, and no longer will the superficial differences between man and man overshadow the common interests that unite the whole of humanity.
Stan Parker

"The Only War We Want" (1952)

From the August 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

The editor of the Glasgow Forward (June 14th, 1952), in a front-page article with the above title stated that forty human beings are born every minute, condemned, if they reach adult life, to face, with two-thirds of their fellow men, “an existence oppressed by poverty, racked by disease and blinded by ignorance.”
" Yet,” continued Mr. Morgan Thomson. “ in a privileged corner of the earth’s surface like Britain, we find socialists worried over the question, ’Where do we go from here? ’ We have removed in our own small community the most glaring inequalities between man and man, and we feel sometimes that we have removed the very conditions which gave Socialism its drive. What next?  
’’Surely the answer is to make the British people aware that the next round in the battle against poverty has to be fought internationally, that there are privileged and under-privileged nations, and that the socialist principles which have made a more just society in Britain should now be applied to wipe out the inequalities between the white and the coloured races of the world.” 
Other members of the Labour Party don't agree with Mr. Thomson about conditions in Britain. Mr. S. Silverman, M.P. for Nelson and Colne, said, at the Labour Party Conference of 1950, “ There are hundreds of thousands of workers whose wages make a bitter mockery of our claim that we are providing fair shares.” (Daily Herald, 4/10/50.) And Mr. J. Griffiths, Colonial Secretary in the last Labour Government, also said at the same conference, M the ownership of wealth has by no means been adequately shared out. Far too much of the nation's wealth is owned by too few people.” (Daily Herald, 4/10/50.)

Dr. Campion, in his book "Public and Private Property,” showed that in 1946-7 one per cent of the population owned fifty per cent, of the wealth. (The Economist, 24/2/51.)

In another of the “privileged nations,” the United States, a Senate sub-committee set up to investigate the problems of lower income families found that about 10 million families had incomes insufficient to provide an adequate diet (Glasgow Forward, 6/10/51.)

Some members of the Labour Party even claim that the extreme poverty in individually backward countries may be the cause of war. In fact, the Labour Party entitled the chapter dealing with their plans for the development of these areas in “Facts and Figures for Socialists, 1951,” "Peace through Plenty.” It seems to be forgotten that the major wars of the past were fought between the industrially advanced countries7

The Labour Party, in their policy for the development of backward areas, the “World Plan for Mutual Aid,” express the interests of the British capitalist class. British capitalists depend on the Commonwealth and the colonies for markets for their goods and as sources for raw materials, therefore, must strive for friendly relations with these and other rising capitalist countries where the vital sea and air links which connect Britain with her markets are situated.

But the good will of some sections of the British capitalist class doesn't stretch to investing their money in these countries. They fear that elements in the native community, imbued with nationalist ideas, may gain power, and confiscate their investments, without giving them adequate compensation.

And the Labour Party, by comparing working-class conditions in the advanced capitalist countries With conditions in the more backward, draws attention away from the position of the workers in the "privileged nations,” what they receive in relation to what they produce, the way they live and the way they could live if their present productive capacity was used to the full.

These plans, consisting of loans and technical aid to backward areas, which the Labour Party want coordinated into a world plan for mutual aid, just mean developing Capitalism in those countries, reproducing the conditions which exist in the more advanced capitalist countries. No doubt the development of Capitalism in these under-developed areas will get rid of quite a lot of the disease, and much of the ignorance. Modern Capitalism requires a working class reasonably healthy and with some education.

Owing to the traditional standard of living in the backward countries working class requirements are very low. Again the British Labour movement gives support to working-class organisations in these countries that are struggling to improve conditions not because it is in the interest of the working class to do so, but claim that in these countries the capitalist class can compete successfully with the British capitalist class because of the low wages of these native workers.

Investing money in the form of loans to these less developed countries, means using it to employ workers at a wage sufficient to buy what it takes to keep them, and at most this would mean a wage and social services just enough to provide the necessary education and state of health called for by modern capitalist production. What the workers produce over and above what they receive enables the investors to live in the greatest comfort and also to carry on the productive process which keeps them in their privileged position based upon the exploitation of the working class.

There are no privileged nations and unprivileged nations as far as the working class are concerned just a privileged class, the capitalist class, who own the means of living, and an exploited class, the working class, which can only gain access to the means of living by selling their capacity to work. The Labour Party’s "World Plan for Mutual Aid" would not alter this basic condition but would perpetuate it.

The task facing the socialist is, nationally, to build up an organisation with the object of abolishing capitalism, and establishing socialism, and, internationally, to spread socialist knowledge to the workers in the more backward countries which would induce them not to waste their energies supporting rising nationalist movements, miscalled “Socialist" or “Communist,” but would compel them to expend these energies setting up a Socialist Party which could collaborate with its companion parties throughout the world in bringing to an end the system which gives rise to their problems.
Jim Thorburn

Those war books! (1952)

From the August 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

If one studies the large illustrated histories of the first and second World Wars, it becomes obvious that there are many differences in the propaganda, ideas and methods of the various capitalist governments. These changes in putting out their “War Propaganda" probably took origin in the fact that the working class had in the meantime learnt a thing or two.

If we refer to the well known “ Illustrated ” of the First World War (the Great War as it was called), edited by H. W. Wilson, who incidentally also edited “Japan Fights for Freedom,” and “ Following the Flag to Pretoria,” the recognised histories of the Russo-Japanese and Boer Wars respectively, we find that flag waving was a dominant factor, with God, King, and Country closely wrapped up with the flags. Apparently these things made a far greater impression on the people than during the Second World War, for in Sir John Hammerton’s "History of the Second World War", this flag waving type of propaganda is given little scope, and God scarcely gets a mention. Even the Germans thought fit to drop their famous motto of the First War “ Gott mit uns ” after the Almighty had so badly let them down in the first round.

The German propaganda differed little in the two wars so far as flag waving intensity was concerned, while the Russian propaganda stuff merely had to replace the "Divine Little Father” by Infallible Uncle Joe!

The dominant idea in these history books of the First War, was that the Kaiser was ambitious, and at a later stage that he was mad. Many photos of him had the caption that he was looking obviously old and tired and suffering from war strain. Such words occurred early in 1915. The awkward point which the ruling class had to skirt around was that our own Royalty were German in origin and close blood relations with the Kaiser, who incidentally was born in Buckingham Palace and narrowly missed becoming King of England. This ticklish point did not arise in the Second War and it was easy to get at Hitler because he was, like so many members of the working class, once a corporal. Indeed such propaganda was slung at Napoleon by the bucketful. But don’t worry there is plenty of time for the ruling class to discover one day that Stalin was once a bank robber, not to mention the murderer of the "Old Guard.”

In the first World War Books, great play was made on the “devilish zeppelin raids,” for deliberately dropping bombs on women and children—an innovation in those days, whilst in the Second War, raids on civilians and towns, although met with by an outcry at first (Rotterdam, Coventry, etc.), were soon taken as a matter of course, and dealt with by “If you bomb our towns, we will bomb yours.” This principle followed along the lines of Baldwin when he declared (about 1935), that there was no defence against the bombing aeroplane, so the only thing to do was to bomb as many of the enemy’s towns as he did of yours. In other words, to concentrate on attack and destruction at all costs, and to justify your actions afterwards.

When both wars were over we learnt through these semi-official books the experiences of different countries in getting men to fight, and how nearly each side came to open revolt. In the spring of 1918 there were big revolts among the French troops during the critical German offensive, and British troops had to take over to check what would have an immediate disaster to the allies. In the second war Rumanian troops under German leadership were thrust mercilessly against the Russians with such enormous losses, causing sporadic revolts, that their use had to be discontinued because the Nazis had to devote so much time to driving them on that it was not worth it. It was the Rumanians who put down Soviet Hungary under Bela Kun, and Czech armies who marched right across Russia and had to be helped out by allied forces in Vladivostock.

The horrors of gas warfare were made the object of great play in the First War books, but in those of the Second, received only a casual mention in comparison. True in this case preparation beforehand did what was required.

One obvious difference in die two wars was due to the introduction of the Radio. Each nation poured out its stuff in as many languages as it could. The B.B.C. was in some respects well up to all the tricks, and not only encouraged listening to German stations, but actually on one occasion at least, re-broadcast one of Hitler's speeches while it was going on, doubtlessly without his permission. True, very few could understand a word of it, except the thousands of refugees, but it probably had its intended influence on the “democratic propaganda” on which the B.B.C. prided itself.

The Germans were confronted with many difficulties in the radio direction and had told so many lies about events abroad that they had to make it a punishable offence if foreign broadcasts were listened to. But the B.B.C. were well in advance of this by a special station “Atlantic” that broadcast news and views along with gramophone records and "letters from home," to German soldiers at the fronts. The news bulletins were such that they showed that a few more German planes were lost and a few more prisoners captured than Allied, while the pretence to be a German station was kept up very successfully.
The Russfcui rulers were even more scared than were those of the Germans, and went so far as to call in all the radio sets (Kravchencko “I chose Freedom”) thereby permitting only the massive state and factory sets for workers to listen to their beloved leaders.

The B.B.Cs. motto, “When nations can speak to one another there will be no wars," seems to have fallen into disuse. Perhaps it is because there are other causes of war than those arising from being unable to speak to one another.

Those cruder methods of working up hatred such as the “ Corpse factory," Babies being stuck on the end of bayonets" “Women with their breasts cut off,” “ Crucified Canadians,” or even the “ Angel of Mons ” all of First War origin, made no appearance in the Second War, although similar things are alleged to have been put out on the German side in both wars. In the Second war no Russians were seen arriving in England with snow on their boots. Bolsheviks and Commu-Nazis became over night heroes and before the last shots of the Second War were fired, the Soviet heroes became once again Bolsheviks and Commu-Nazis, Red Fascists, and with the same ruthless dictatorship regime with all its spying, secret police and rigid propaganda as that formerly existing in Germany. In other words we had an ally whose political system consisted of those very evils which Chamberlain told us we were fighting against.

Do the workers notice all these things, or some of them ? Naturally it doesn’t all stick, if it did our mission would be largely fulfilled. The fact that the ruling class was compelled to modify its propaganda to the extent in which it did in the Second War, is sufficient indication that they are not too sure of themselves and of how the workers are going to take it all. In the event of another world war they will have an even more difficult task to deal with, that of having to live down two world wars, and finding fresh excuses for why they can't get their system to work harmoniously.
Horace Jarvis.

Labourism—A New Statement of Expedients (1952)

Pamphlet Review from the August 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard

A small number of Labour Party members who call themselves “Socialist Union" (formed in 1951), have recently written a booklet called Socialism —A New Statement of Principles (Lincolns-Prager, 3s.) It has been reviewed, both favourably and otherwise, in various newspapers and journals, all of which seem to accept the ideas it contains as being the last word in “socialist" thought. This illusion is fostered by the fact that distinction is made in the booklet between the “labour" and “socialist" movements, with the implication that its authors belong to the latter which is supposed to be part of the former. A duality of apparently wanting to run with the hare of discontent with Capitalism and hunt with the hounds of political office is central to the theme of a work which is calculated to please in some way everybody except socialists. We cannot deal here with all the fallacies and false ideas it puts forward, but we can pick out a few that may serve to illustrate our case against Labourism as a whole.

In the introduction the reader is told, in a rather confiding way, that “despite our successes—or perhaps because of them—we are conscious that the society we hoped to build still eludes us. The easy confidence of the past is gone and our way forward is beset with uncertainty." The question may reasonably be asked: if the society they hoped to build still eludes them, in what have their “successes” consisted? The Socialist Union, by way of trying to meet this point, refer to “an unjustified belittling of the genuine achievements of the Labour Government,” but also recognise that “the effect [of its experience of power since 1945] has not been disillusionment, but confusion and uncertainty of mind" This is the old line of complaint that the followers don't realise how much better off their leaders have made them, but what is most remarkable is the mention of disillusionment; this is a term not of outward attack but of inward reproach, and even the attempt to show that it is really something else indicates that its presence in the Labour ranks is tacitly acknowledged.

The booklet’s admissions about the results of nationalisation can be construed as a belated confirmation of the S.P.G.B's. attitude towards it
"the mere act of nationalisation does not automatically change industrial and social relations in the direction we desire. It is a step—in certain industries a necessary step—but no more. Many of the benefits which were expected naturally to flow are not attained unless further action is taken."
We are accustomed to being told that nationalisation is only a step, but we still want to know what working class interests are involved that make it a necessary one in certain industries and, by implication, an unnecessary one in others. Although they do not say so, it is obvious that the S.U. believe that Labour nationalisation is “in the direction we desire ” but that Conservative nationalisation is not. It all depends on whom the “we" refers to. We are intrigued by the nature of the further action that must be taken before more benefits will flow. If the future benefits are to be of the same order as past ones then this is a very good argument against including nationalisation in further action.

There are numerous examples scattered throughout the booklet of the S.U. tail criticising the Labour Government dog. Thus “the formula of common ownership at least offered one clear line of policy. Abandon it in practice and, unless there is the clearest recognition of our deeper purposes, there may be no line at all, only a tinkering with the present social organisation.” One may wonder why the offer of such a clear line of policy was not taken up, especially since the use of the past tense suggests common ownership as a policy is for some reason no longer an offer. But the second sentence gives the due—”Abandon it in practice . . . tinkering with the present social organisation.” The intervening words are mere padding as far as socialists are concerned.

The S.U. is not averse to a little advertising, presumably for the benefit of capitalists, of the Labour Party’s handling of the workers. “Their wages, even when they are not successful in raising them much above subsistence level, are supplemented by the benefits of the welfare state. This further strengthens their position and their independence.'’ Such remarks add insult to injury when directed, for example, to the unemployed in textile and other industries. If Labourism “strengthens” the workers’ position like this then employers of labour have every cause to support it, and even to encourage more “strengthening"— it would be a cheap price to pay for the docility of the wage-slaves.

The chapter headed "Ethical Foundations” has a great deal to say about exploitation, human dignity and equality, but the conclusions arrived at are so innocuous and banal that Conservatives and Liberals would be pleased to endorse them. Indeed, George Murray, writing in the Daily Mail expected “ that at any moment I might see in this Socialist publication the Churchillian slogan: Set The People Free.” Strangely enough, the booklet also manages to include a number of sentiments that those who are really working for Socialism would not disagree with. The spirit of brotherhood and fellowship feature largely, but the effect is completely spoiled, and any real meaning abstracted from them, by remarks such as “few are so great as to feel a unity with mankind even beyond their nation's borders ” and “even socialists are unready to project the ideal of equality on to a world-wide scale.”

We in the S.P.G.B. have never claimed that there is anything particularly great in our feeling a unity with all mankind. If it were not for the propaganda of misleaders concerned with preserving Capitalism (welfare state notwithstanding), many more people would be better disposed towards their fellows abroad. The S.U. shows now false its claim to being socialist is by imagining that the people who are to build Socialism can do anything other than co-operate with those who hold similar views in all countries.

Results of Reformism
“Just because we have not always recognised that socialist programmes may vary in time and place, and even in name, the belief took root that there is somewhere, even if only in our imaginations, a ‘ socialist ’ system with its own unique set of institutions.”
“. . . there is no accepted institutional blueprint called socialism.”
Thus has the wheel of Labour reformism turned full circle. Starting out with the idea of gradually reforming Capitalism bit by bit until the change to common ownership would be accomplished, it compromised, collaborated, and cashed in on every grievance to attain political power. Anything was Socialism, and now. after six years of office has brought inevitable disillusionment to its followers, nothing is Socialism. What a bitter pill to swallow this must be for those in the Labour movement who tirelessly worked, as they thought, to abolish Capitalism. Now they are told that it was all an illusion, that the idea for which they made sacrifices was meaningless.

Some of them may remember telling the S.P.G.B. that they had to do “something now” and not just talk about Socialism. It would be easy to taunt, to describe, as some do, as “pathetic” their attempts to salvage what they can from the wreck of a false theory. However we do not believe that this would help them to understand just why Socialism has to be built by people whose actions are always in line with their object. We are not, of course, concerned with those who are in the Labour movement only for what they can personally get out of it—the New Statement of Principles is no doubt just “tactics” to them. But we believe there are many people who, if they read this booklet carefully and think over what it means, will be more inclined to join with the only Socialist Party for the only object that is really worthwhile.

We scarcely need add that the columns of the Socialist Standard are open to anyone who wishes to challenge our views, or to seek enlightenment on any of the other points that we have been unable to deal with here.
Stan Parker

SPGB Outdoor Meetings (1952)

Party News from the August 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard