Monday, August 7, 2023

The City (1938)

A Short Story from the August 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

He was very proud of his city. As one of its honoured citizens he had an “ open sesame " to most of its places of interest and he had invited me to spend a few days in examining its treasures. There it lay, bathed in sunshine, on a beautiful morning in early summer. Magnificent. Glorious. Wonderful was the view it presented on both banks of a famous river. Our first visit was to the Cathedral for, as he said, “ It was most fitting that we pay our respects to the House of God before we went further afield to the houses of man."

Presently we emerged from a long avenue of delightful trees which were already showing well in their new dress and, Oh! what a poem in stone confronted us with the sunshine lighting up its delicate traceries.

It would take a facile pen and a ready writer to describe its many charms and the marvel of its fashioning. Even its gargoyles were pleasant to look upon, whilst the entrance and its towers were extractors of cries of sheer delight. We entered, and as the light fell softly through the stained-glass windows on the eastern side one felt a delicious calm and restfulness in the joy of it.

Here was a masterpiece of Art which put to shame the crudities of Nature. A pile of splendour raised to an Idea. “ What say you of it?" cried he with rapture. “ Exquisite,” said I, “ but lead on."

From the House of God to the palace of the reigning monarch was but a few moments' journey, and my friend having secured permission to enter passed with me into the splendidly laid-out grounds, and later into various parts of the palace itself.

The whole ensemble of palace and its environs were gorgeous in the extreme. Acres upon acres of grassy and well-kept lawns.

Flowers rich in colour and delicate in perfume. Plants and vegetables fit to adorn a king’s table and apartments grew in profusion in their allotted beds. Thousands of rooms filled with works of art from the world over. The artistry and intelligence of thousands of human beings resulting in the production of articles to gladden the eye and staggering in their multiplicity and range. What stupendous efforts had been made to build and maintain this wonder palace. A king and queen lived there.

What an auspicious opening to a round of sight-seeing. There was just a promise that one might have a surfeit of good things from the city’s store before one had finished. The princely houses. The ducal mansions. The luxurious abodes of the financiers. The delightful villas of the merchants. The enormous and stately hotels. The towering stores and shopping centres, displaying costly dresses and brilliant gems, were there in enormous number. Of other institutions and buildings which claimed our attention there were many, all of which paid eloquent tribute to the people of the city in their desire to make it the greatest of its kind and a standing challenge to the world.

There were libraries, replete with books and manuscripts, which were a pleasure to its citizens and a source of deep learning to scholars from the rest of the world. Art galleries from which in serried rows spoke the masterpieces of the centuries. Museums which told on their shelves and in their cases the history of the earth and the gambols of the dinosaurs. Zoological gardens which were stocked with animals from every clime, showing their natural habits in conditions as near as possible to the country of their birth. Wooded parks and extensive open spaces in plenty, and sweet gardens were there without stint. Educational facilities were many and eagerly sought after.

Three whole days had been occupied in visiting these places of interest and charm, and what ecstacy one had felt in the doing of it. My friend beamed with pride as he saw my marked appreciation of it all. "What do you think of it ? Does it not exceed your wildest dreams?” he enquired elatedly. “ It does,” I replied, “ but have you shown me all of your city?” “Well! Yes! All that is really of importance,” he said rather hastily. “ Then suppose we spend a day or two in exploring the unimportant," I answered.

Accordingly, on the following morning we set out on a visit to No-matter-land, and this is what rolled before our eyes.

Slummy sites which made one feel sick at the mere passing. Mean streets, filthy hovels, awful abodes, smoke, stench, grime and grit. Miserable-looking brick boxes with a few small compartments, more or less weatherproof, which were called homes and which were fearfully overcrowded. Here and there buildings which aimed at a more respectable status, but which bore without and within them signs of a fierce struggle against poverty and penury. Cheap musical instruments and tawdry furniture. Rubbishy pictures and trashy books, common ornaments, tinsel and glass. Cheap cotton cloth, shoddy dresses. Silks which had never known a worm. Grubby food. Fly-blown meat. Dust and disease-germ-covered eatables of every description attracted your attention as they were exposed in the shops for sale.

Miles and miles of these streets in which underfed and ill-clad boys and girls, dirty arid muck-covered, disported themselves. Graceless women in evident despair, disgust or distress, their pale faces and attenuated forms showing dearly the long one-sided fight against illness, child-bearing and domestic economy.

Men whose heavy labours had sapped their last ounce of energy and intellectual appetite sought escape from the tedium of their lot in many diverse and unedifying ways.

Hospitals and charitable institutions working to limit endeavouring to give adequate amelioration and convenience to humans whose whole existence was united to the demon pain.

Prisons, workhouses, mental homes and semi-State-aided philanthropies all busy administering to the needs of a vast community living perpetually in economic distress. My friend was dumb as we passed through these places, and he was relieved when the journey was over.

I had not forgotten the fashioning of the House of God, nor the aesthetic splendours of the Palace, nor the hundred and one pleasing things which had been our first delight.

Turning to him, I said: “ Who are the people who spend their lives amid all this squalor and poverty?"

Lowering his head to hide his pain-stricken face he answered: “ These people, my friend, are they who have built the House for God, the Palace for the King, and filled The City with its treasures."
B. F. L.

East Ham Parliamentary Area (1938)

Party News from the August 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blogger's Note:
In the late 1930s, it was the intention of the East Ham branch of the SPGB to contest the East Ham North parliamentary constituency at the forthcoming General Election and, as evidenced above, serious and systematic activity was undertaken to target the area with socialist propaganda. Frank Grainger was selected as a  Party candidate - only to be replaced later by Clifford Groves when he dropped out of Party activity - and a General Election would have been held in 1940 at the latest. However, war intervened and the next General Election did not take place until 1945, by which time the SPGB had switched their attentions to Paddington North in West London, where Clifford Groves had the honour of being the first SPGB parliamentary candidate.

The SPGB did eventually contest the East Ham South parliamentary constituency when Harry Young was the  party's candidate at the 1950 General Election.

General Open Air Propaganda, August. (1938)

Party News from the August 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

More on Harry Morrison . . .

As mentioned in the previous post Harry Morrison ('Harmo') was the principal writer of the WSPUS radio show scripts that made up the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist. 

As he is currently in my thoughts, I thought I'd repost an obituary for Harry Morrison that originally appeared on the old World Socialist Party of the United States website. It appears that when the current World Socialist Party of United States website was relaunched or revamped a few years back, many articles and reviews from the old website weren't transferred over. That, sadly, includes this obituary for Comrade Morrison. I only happen to have a copy of the obituary because I posted it on my personal blog at the time.

There is a shorter obituary for him that appeared in the July 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard which can be read here, but I'm sure readers of the blog will appreciate this longer obituary that goes into greater detail on his background, and on his contribution to both the WSPUS and to the wider World Socialist Movement. 

I'll have to see if I can get a copy of his books, in order that I can scan them in and upload them onto the internet.

Harry Morrison (1912 - 2004)

Born in 1912, Harry Morrison became convinced of the case for socialism as a young man, having been influenced by an older brother who had heard the case for socialism in Toronto, Ontario. Morrison first visited Boston around 1937 but soon traveled west to California.

He returned to Boston in 1939 where he met his future wife Sally Kligman at the Boston Local Headquarters. The couple married in the fall of 1939 and lived in Boston for a couple of years. In 1941 they moved to Los Angeles and made contact with the comrades there. They had a daughter, Anita, in 1942. The family moved back to Boston in 1947, and both Harry and Sally were active members of Boston Local from then on.

Morrison wrote voluminously for the organization, sometimes anonymously but usually under the pen name 'Harmo.' He was a very frequent contributor to The Western Socialist, and, as a member of the WS's Editorial Committee, he also edited many articles submitted by others. He had a real gift for articulating the socialist analysis.

He enjoyed debating, and was a frequent member of the WSP group who engaged in debates with various local university debaters. He was a fine outdoor speaker as well. He was a soap box orator on Boston Common during the 1940s and 50s, and even after the WSP stopped soap boxing as an organization, Morrison continued to speak less formally to small groups along the paths near the Tremont Street side of the Common; he continued this into the 1960s, putting the case for socialism tirelessly and articulately.

For about 10 years during the 1960s and 70s, the WSP had a radio program on WCRB Boston. Morrison was among the comrades who wrote scripts for this program, He also was one of the on air readers. When the Party decided, in 1974, to publish a pamphlet in commemoration of the 300th consecutive issue of The Western Socialist, thirty or so of Morrison's radio essays became The Perspective for World Socialism -- a pamphlet which is still being distributed today. Also during this period he was a guest on another AM radio show hosted by the late Haywood Vincent and on the Adam Burak show on an FM station as well.

Morrison served for many years on the NAC, as well as on the Editorial Committee. It would be hard to overestimate his contribution to the socialist movement.

Harry Morrison developed heart problems when he was in late middle age, and, at the suggestion of his doctor, 'retired' from active work in the WSP. After this, he used his time to write three books, The Socialism of Bernard Shaw (published by McFarland & Co. in 1989 and which we still distribute), and two others for which he was unable to find a publisher, one about Jack London and the other about the Soviet Union. Sally Morrison died in 1987. Harry continued to live in his apartment but no longer participated in Party activities during this period, concentrating, instead, on research for his books and on enjoying his family which now included two grandchildren. He would always accept an invitation to a social gathering, however, and liked to visit with comrades visiting the area, most recently with SPGB Comrades Vic Vanni and Tony McNeil who spent some time in Boston in 2002.

After another heart attack in December of 2002 Cde Morrison moved to a nursing home. A socialist to the end, he gave several talks on Marxism to his fellow residents, which Cdes Fenton and Elbert as well as members of Morrison's family also attended. His death on May 13, 2004 is a great loss to the World Socialist Movement.

He will be long remembered and sorely missed.

The Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist

That's the the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist now published in its entirety on the blog. An excellent issue and, for something originally published in 1974, it really hasn't dated as much as I thought it might have when I originally started scanning it in. I also have a higher opinion of Harry Morrison as a writer after reading it. I'd previously thought he was a bit too dry a writer for my tastes. I was wrong.

Hopefully this issue will eventually find its way onto the World Socialist Movement website or the World Socialist Party of the United States website but, for now, here's a list of the contents of the issue with added links.

    1. The Magic Checkbook
    2. Canned profits
    3. Incentive and initiative
    4. In the meantime
    5. The Labors of Sisyphos
    6. You must like it
    7. Who needs enemies?
    8. The Mathematics of Race
    9. Smashing Capitalism
    10. Religion
    11. The Gall of Charity
    12. What class are you?
    13. How to spot a phoney socialist
    14. International Socialism
    15. What’s a revolutionary?
    16. Brains and money
    17. Does peace justify violence?
    18. Dedication to wasted effort
    19. The supermarket
    20. Why “World” Socialists?
    21. America’s “Radical” Presidents
    22. Women’s Liberation
    23. Are we “Commies”?
    24. Urban renewal
    25. Are we Utopians?
    26. The Provocateur
    27. Impeach Capitalism
    28. Shelley
    29. Christmas
    30. Human Nature and Behavior
    31. Words, handle with care
    32. A World Without Money
    33. Is food produced to eat?
    34. Togetherness
    35. To market, to market
    36. The profits of addiction
    37. Who’s on welfare?
    38. The blind spot

    Supplement: The object and declaration of principles (1974)

    From the Special 300th issue of The Western Socialist
    Included in every copy of The Western Socialist and, indeed on most literature published by the Companion Parties of Socialism is our Object and our Declaration of Principles. It is our studied conviction that, in its entirety, the statement is a scientific generalization of the goal we are organized to attain; the basic reasons why such a goal is of the greatest urgency; and how a socialist working class should go about the business of bringing the goal to fruition. It is an inter-related statement and no single Clause is intended to be analysed in a vacuum removed from the entire statement. With this constantly in mind, let us spell out what we mean, the image we draw, in our Object and Declaration of Principles

    The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the Interest of society as a whole.
    A system of society alludes to the sum total of human relationships and is meant to distinguish us from those who seek to organize cooperative colonies, islands within a sea of capitalism. Socialism, as we understand it, is not a colony, not a kibbutz. but a system of society in the sense that capitalism, feudalism, and chattel slavery must all be characterized as systems of society.

    The term common ownership should not be confused with such phenomena as state ownership, or "public” ownership, terms used under capitalism to designate a more direct ownership of certain industries by the capitalist class as a whole. Common ownership implies the absence of ownership and we specify that this common ownership is to apply to the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth. We do not speak here of one’s personal belongings as some not too discerning opponents of our case delight in inferring. Democratic control should speak for itself but the point must be made, nevertheless, that In a society wherein the means and instruments of wealth production and distribution are commonly owned it is difficult to conceive of control other than democratic.

    That society, as at present constituted, is based upon the ownership of the means of living (i.e., land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labor alone wealth is produced.
    In the bulk of the world today, it is self evident that a tiny minority of the population owns the means and instruments of wealth production and distribution, either directly or through ownership in stocks and bonds. Even the sidewalks and public buildings are actually owned by those few members of the population who own the bulk of municipal and government bonds. In the case of sidewalks, and in the Instance of access to public buildings, etc., by the general population, it would be impossible to restrict usage to those who pay a fee. The working class, the slaves of modern times, must not be hampered in their comings and goings as were chattel slaves and serfs in former times. Nevertheless, the majority of the population today remain slaves, chained to a class, rather than to an individual. The lack of ownership of the means and instruments of wealth production and distribution compels the working class to work for those who do own.

    The process in those countries that designate themselves Communist or Socialist is not significantly different. A minority of the population, through ownership of government bonds or in some cases by extra - legal means, owns and controls the means by which all must live, compelling the majority to seek employment at wages or salaries.

    The point is also made that the working class is the one class essential to production and distribution. This point will reappear.

    That, in society, therefore, there it an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle between those who possess but do not produce, and those who produce but do not possess.
    Explicit In this Clause are facts of life that are hotly denied by all defenders of capitalism. Not alone the fact that strikes and lockouts are but manifestations of a struggle between economic classes, but also the fact that the capitalist class is non-essential to production, is parasitical; and, finally, the fact that the working class does not participate in ownership despite the fact it is responsible for all of production.

    Yet despite the rationalizations of the Labor Union brass; despite the Henry Fords and other capitalists who draw huge salaries as "essential management"; In spite of the diffusion of stock, even among sections of the working class, the statement is correct. Labor Unions, although essentially working class organizations, must operate within the framework of the wages system; must cooperate and compromise with the managers of Capital; must support the lie of a common interest between employers and workers. It is useless to cry "traitor” and "sell-out" at Labor leaders. It is the nature of capitalism that they operate as they do.

    On the other hand, capitalists who act as managers do so out of individual desire, not because they are necessary. The Institutions of higher learning have long ago instituted departments for the development of managerial brains and the capitalists who prefer to go to the office could hire their replacements with little difficulty. The entire capitalist class could settle on the Moon with no detrimental effects to their industries.

    Nor does the possession of stocks to the extent enjoyed by average working people place them in the capitalist class. This is a delusion . . let them attempt to live on the Interest of their shares!

    That this antagonism can b« abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.
    The majority may still quarrel with our assumption that the working class will eventually take such action. They can hardly quarrel with the point that class antagonisms cannot exist where economic classes do not exist. As for the instrument which will enable the whole people to exercise democratic control of the common property of society, such instrument already exists. Intrinsically, there is nothing wrong with institutions where representatives assemble to parley (parliaments, congresses, diets, or even so-called soviets). What is wrong about them today, is that such congresses are controlled by the capitalist class. Remove class society and the assemblies will function in the interest of the whole people. Socialists are not state "smashers!" Socialists advocate transforming the state from a government of rule over people by a master class into an administration of things in the interest of all mankind.

    That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind, without distinction of race or sex.
    Capitalism has narrowed the class struggle to the point at which there are left but two contending classes. It is obvious that once the working class has taken political control from the capitalists there remains no class beneath it to exploit. The very act of stripping the capitalists from control of the state brings with it the end of class society and the resultant emancipation of all mankind.

    Scientific socialists do not subscribe to the myth of “race.” The fact that the word 'race" exists does not prove that a non-verbal entity corresponding to the word exists. There are only human beings and they are a single species. There are ethnic and other arbitrary divisions; but there are no races. We of the World Socialist Party use the term “race,” as we do in our Declaration of Principles, in a classificatory sense.

    That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.
    There is no minority section of the population, no educated leadership, no vanguard composed of professional revolutionaries from the ranks of the intelligentsia (as Lenin and the Bolsheviks have advocated in this century), that can lead the working class to socialism. Social revolutions are made by those whose immediate interest it is to abolish existing relationships. The concept of leadership (or “correct” leadership) then, is not only unnecessary to a revolutionary working class but harmful to its interests. Leaders, in fact, can never lead masses where they do not want to go. They must advocate policies and action favorable to the followers, which makes of the leaders, followers themselves. When the working class understands and desires socialism it will appoint and elect representatives, not leaders, to do its bidding.

    That as the machinery of governments, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government. In order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and overthrow of plutocratic privilege.
    There is a type of radical thought that turns this proposition on its head. Anarchists, syndicalists, industrial unionists of IWW and also of DeLeonist sort, contend that capitalist power resides basically in industry rather than in control of the state. One is either admonished to ignore the state entirely while advocating general strikes, individual acts of terror, armed insurrection; or one advocates the organization of “socialist” industrial unions which would “back up” a socialist majority at the polls.

    The problem here would be that the capitalists (in their vying sections) must be playing some sort of a game — an expensive game, indeed — with their political campaigns. Either that, or they are misled into believing that control of the state brings with it a control over Industry. And oddly, it is not due to lack of evidence in contemporary American history as to the function of the political state. There are many examples of orders from a state governor, or orders from the President of the United States, for the mobilization and use of National Guards, or U.S. Army units, or even of the conversion of the first into the second to thwart a recalcitrant state governor.

    Yet, despite the palpable truth that armed forces, from city police to U.S. servicemen, move only at the command of those in control of the political seats of power, the confrontations by angry, self-styled revolutionists go on.

    But how. then, should the working class organize to end capitalism? Naturally it must be on the political front but it must certainly be more than merely politically. And that is why our proposition has before the word "politically” the term “consciously.” This is the key. The working class must not leave the thinking to “wise” leaders, political messiahs, etc. They must know what they are doing. Once in control of the seats of power a victorious socialist working class can immediately declare the end of class ownership and immediately convert the government over people into an administration over things. The capitalist class will cease to exist as a class category and without control of a state will be in no position to do anything important about it excepting to retire gracefully, or otherwise.

    That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.
    The proposition points to the fact that political parties exist as the expression not alone of class interests but also of the interests of different sections of the capitalist class. It will have been noticed how eagerly capitalists will enlist the aid of workers, even the more militant type of radical workers, when their particular interests are involved. Capitalists who have their investments in retail merchandising, for example, will unite with leftists in a struggle against high rents. There are, after all, only so many dollars of wages and salaries to go around and why should the landlords get more of it? Landlords, on the other hand, are quick to sympathise with a resistance against high prices in supernarkets, department stores, etc. And each section within the capitalist class tries always to shift the burden of taxation onto the shoulders of the other sections, and goes all out to convince the workers that this is their fight, too.

    There cannot be more than one socialist party in one country because there is but one reason for the existence of a socialist party: to get rid of capitalism and right away. It follows then that the socialist party “must be hostile to every other party."

    Should another party appear on the scene with the same views as the World Socialist Party, steps would be taken for consolidation. We are not in competition with others for the establishment of a classless society.

    THE COMPANION PARTIES OF SOCIALISM, therefore, enter the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labor or avowedly capitalist, and call upon all members of the working class of those countries to support these principles to the end that a termination may be brought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labor, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.
    There are different ways of “waging war.” Socialists wage war by building an arsenal of socialist information and using this arsenal to the fullest extent of their capabilities to counter the propaganda of the capitalist class. But this “war" must be directed not only against the avowedly capitalist political parties such as Republicans and Democrats, Progressive and Independent, or any other designation that may be adopted by those who advocate their particular theories of how capitalism should be operated. Our "war” is also directed against those organisations who falsely style themselves socialist or communist and who, at the same time, seek votes through the advocacy of reforms within capitalism or violence by unarmed workers against those who control the arms of the state.

    We ask the support of the working class for the immediate abolition of the wages system and the immediate institution of world socialism and for no other reason.


    Those who read this article with care will notice on several occasions there are re-iterations of points made previously. This was not done inadvertently. The entire statement is designed, as we have said above, to tie together. We would disagree, then, that one can accept some points and reject others. The statement stands, in its entirety, on sturdy feet and on solid ground.