Saturday, August 12, 2023

Prison in "Socialist" England (1969)

From issue number 1 (1969) of The Western Socialist

Among the various reform movements in the countries of the so-called free world, there is one which is devoted to improving the lot of prisoners. It is, by its very nature, doomed to be a Cinderella among reforms. After all, only a small minority of people are liable to be in gaol and so most people don't tend to get too worked up about the matter. “If they don't like prison conditions, let them go straight” is the view of the average “free” worker when taxed with the matter. Still more important, no doubt. is the sad fact that there are not enough people in gaol at any one time to make them into a sizeable vote for politicians to woo with promises of better things to come. In England, for example, the various parties vie with one another from time to time in wooing tenants and sometimes bring in legislation which may well make life difficult for landlords whose votes are naturally less important than those of tenants. (It is a well-known feature of capitalism that from time to time, the interests of one group of capitalists will be sacrificed for the common good of the capitalists as a whole). But in most countries, prisoners, besides being few in numbers, do not even have a vote to sell.

The press cries out 
Every so often, however, the papers have a splash about the degrading hardships of prison conditions. There has recently been not so much an amelioration of conditions as a distinct worsening largely due to the tightening of security in many prisons owing to the increasing number of escapes. This feature has itself been caused partly by the increasingly technical organization of crime which can sometimes engineer spectacular escapes and partly because of the desperate need to escape felt by prisoners who are the victims of savage thirty-year sentences now handed out by the courts for crimes like espionage, or the “Great Train Robbery,” where capitalist society felt the need to avenge itself on workers who aped their betters by stealing a couple of million pounds in one go.

When the papers are in this mood it is natural that publicity will be given to the few prisoners who are able to express articulately their opinions of the conditions they endured whilst serving their sentences. Equally naturally, such educated prisoners are readily found in the ranks of those convicted of political crimes. (It would, perhaps, be a little misleading to use the term “political prisoners” as this conjures up the image of people like Sinyavsky and Daniel in Russia, serving savage terms and being treated with rigorous harshness, not for defying the law of the land but merely for daring to exercise so-called constitutional rights.) So that one readily expected a paper like the liberal “Guardian” to feature letters from ex-convicts of this ilk when the subject was in fashion a few months ago. And it is perhaps worth studying some features of two letters which were prominently featured in that paper.

Don't say "hypocrite" in Church 
The writers were Nicolas Walter and George Clark, both of them well-known members of Protest Movements, a side of reformism that has become prominent in many countries in recent years. Walter's imprisonment is worth a mention in itself as the conviction in his case was a particularly nasty business. He attended a church service where the lesson (on the subject of peace) was read by Harold Wilson, the pseudo-socialist Prime Minister and George Brown, at that time his deputy. Being concerned at their government's continued support of the American war effort in Vietnam, they felt that it was rather hypocritical of these gentlemen to preach peace in church on the eve of a Labour Party conference. And in England, the mother-country of free speech, Walter and his friends were convicted and sentenced merely for calling hypocrites by their proper names, in church. Even Labour leaders could not have secured convictions if they had been called such names in the street. (Nor could they have sued for damages in a civil court because Walter would have no difficulty in convincing a jury that “hypocrite" was a true description. And truth is a good defence to slander In law.) But it seems there is some ancient law regarding sacrilege which is almost never used; and this was good enough for Labour leaders to get their revenge. It is doubtful if avowed capitalist leaders, like the Conservatives, would have dared to proceed on such lines.

The letters themselves follow the usual pattern that one knows so well. All reformers have no difficulty in showing the evils of their pet aversion. Walter himself, a well-known Campaigner for Nuclear Disarmament, would have no difficulty in telling a tale of horror about Hiroshima any more than here about prison life. But in the letter from Clark there was a passage which would be of particular interest to socialists. “Since working in Notting Hill (a slummy area of London), I am struck by the similarity of conditions which exist . . . People are living in rooms scarcely larger than a cell in the Scrubs. The general atmosphere is one of all-pervasive horror . . ."

The Prison of Capitalism 
So here is one prisoner who has spotted that, for many workers, the harsh conditions of ordinary working class life, even in a great modern capital city like London (so much for the theory now so fashionable that the harshness of poverty belongs only to the so-called under-developed countries), are but a reflection of life in prison. Needless to say, there is nothing new or surprising in all this. It would indeed be surprising were things other than they are under capitalism. Where the mass of humanity is regarded as primarily raw material for producing profits for a small minority, it follows naturally that their living conditions should be less than pleasant in the great prison which capitalism makes of the world.

Unfortunately, the conclusion that Clark comes to as a result of his experience is rather less than convincing. He appeals to the Home Secretary Mr. Callaghan (in whose sphere prison administration lies) to consider: “What kind of life are they going to return to?" Can anyone really imagine that the very man who was recently, as Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time of devaluation, one of the foremost managers of the interests of the British capitalist class and who had the whole population following the monthly trade returns, balance of payments, gold stock etc. with as avid interest as football pools (the workers' key to the gates of paradise), could such an obviously fraudulent socialist possibly do anything to alter the conditions of life which are part and parcel of the present system of society? One has merely to ask the question for the very notion to seem ludicrous. And it is sad to see an articulate, feeling member of the working class seemingly getting near to the heart of the matter and then waffling away into such hopelessly unrealistic attempts at solution. And to think that we socialists are the ones who are often called unrealistic or utopian. Could anything be more utopian than to hope for sweetness and light among the animals whilst leaving the jungle intact? And how ironically futile to appeal to the humanitarianism of these “socialist" managers of capitalism to alleviate conditions in prisons when it is precisely under their rule that the conditions have been made so much worse.

Contrary to the opinions of some misguided critics, we socialists are as pleased as the next man when reforms are instituted which achieve some amelioration in the conditions of capitalism. It makes us a little happier if we hear that the powers that be are less brutal in their treatment of prisoners, for example. But the pathetic attitude of people like Clark who fondly imagine that it is possible, while retaining the degrading social set-up which he himself sees produces conditions for “free” workers that are little better than those endured by prisoners, to achieve anything but the merest superficial advantage (usually illusory, invariably transitory and liable to be swept away by the next government or even the same one), this attitude sometimes makes even a case-hardened socialist scratch his head and wonder if it is possible for people to see the simple, glaring truth: which is that a society whose whole ethos is the production of profit out of the sweat and degradation of most human beings, can never be reformed into a human society. Humanity is imprisoned by capitalism. When that prison is broken down, then, and only then, will the prisons within the prison themselves disappear.
L. E. Weidberg, 

Obituary: Fred Neale (1973)

Obituary from issue number 5 (1973) of The Western Socialist

It Is with sadness that we record the passing of another old stalwart.

Fred Neale, for some twenty years a member of the World Socialist Party in Los Angeles and Seattle and previously a member of the Socialist Party of Canada in Winnipeg and Vancouver, has been forced out of the struggle after a lengthy and painful illness.

Fred became a member of the Winnipeg Local shortly after the first world war and never lost interest in the work of spreading Socialism. During the interval between the decline of the old S. P. of C. in the 1920s and its reorganization at the beginning of the 1930s he was a one-man distributor of Socialist literature and for part of this time his name and address appeared regularly in the Socialist Standard as a source of copies and subscriptions to that journal.

Fred was active in the Party's reorganization and its adoption of the Socialist Party of Great Britain's Declaration of Principles and became its first Local and Dominion Executive Committee Secretary, offices he held for several years. Through this period he was also a regular soap boxer.

During the second world war he lived for a time in Vancouver and was active there in the Party’s work. Later he moved to the United States and became a member of the Los Angeles Local of the W.S.P.. sending regular donations to The Western Socialist and helping in its circulation

To his family in Winnipeg and Seattle, our deepest sympathy. His kind are rare.
Jim Milne

From the WSPUS Radio Series: Labor Day (1973)

From issue number 5 (1973) of The Western Socialist

Labor Day is the occasion when capitalist America honors its wage slaves, those who produce all of the wealth in return for the price of the commodities they need to exist and work and raise families to continue the process. Traditionally, labor unions throughout the country organize parades for labor's holiday thus advertising via their placards, even though unwittingly, the slave status of their members and their particular masters' product. There is some sort of satisfaction, it seems, in the knowledge that one is exploited by rubber capitalists or clothing capitalists or auto capitalists.

The myth of a common interest between the workers and the capitalists is furthered on this day and labor unions vie with the owners of industry in flaunting their patriotism to the nation, the chief pillar of a society based upon the subjugation and exploitation of labor. This is particularly galling to socialists on Labor Day, because this holiday was originally established by the capitalists, with complete approval of labor's hierarchy, as an alternative or antidote to May Day and the revolutionary aspects which once symbolized the first of May were carefully excluded from this first Monday in September. And the fact that May Day has become the property of totalitarian nations of state capitalism makes it all the more galling.

The philosophy behind Labor Day, then, is not at all in tune with the object and principles of the scientific socialist movement. Socialists are dedicated to the establishment of a society in which a common interest among all of mankind will finally become possible. This could only mean the abolition of both working class and capitalist class because the very division into economic classes indicates irreconcilable conflicts of interest among the population. As long as some members of society own the means and instruments by which all must live and the rest of the population must work for them at wages or salaries, a common interest is not possible. Any labor holiday which does not base its philosophy on this truth is a sham and a delusion and labor's very own organizations, the labor unions, are actively contributing toward this sham and delusion.

But Labor Day is not devoid of significance for the membership of the World Socialist Party of the U. S. For many years we have held our national conference on the weekend of Labor Day. usually in Boston which is the site of our national headquarters. on occasion in other cities such as New York and Detroit. Once again we meet in Boston to review our accomplishments of the past year — whatever —, to plan for the year ahead, and to enjoy the opportunity for socialists from widely scattered areas to get together. And what exactly have we accomplished in the year since we last met? In terms of the job that remains to be done, little. The deep confusion that throttles society is apparently as rife as ever. And to add to the confusion there are the government scandals which pit capitalists against one another and provide a deeper smokescreen to hide from the working class the only real need, the need to end the wages, prices, profits system itself. The worst scandal is the continuing existence of world capitalism at this late date.

But we certainly have accomplished something worthwhile in the last year. We have kept the scientific socialist movement alive and this, we feel, is no slight achievement. For confusion even in the ranks of militant and rebellious workers remains. The unfortunate equating of socialism with state capitalism is at least as widespread as ever. The World Socialist Party and its companion Socialist Parties in other countries remain the only dispensers of scientific socialist knowledge in the world at the present time. We continue to insist that the only way out of the mess that envelops society today, that spreads poverty and war throughout the entire planet, is the immediate establishment of world socialism. But this does not imply working for governments rather than for private capitalists. This can only mean the abolition of the wages system, itself, including governments; and their conversion into administrations over the affairs of man rather than over man. This is our message for Labor Day and for every other day to come.

Despatch from Singapore (1973)

From issue number 4 (1973) of The Western Socialist

Edit. Comm. note:
The new little nation of Singapore has been (and will continue to be) more and more in the international news. A former member of our Companion Party in Great Britain has been living in Singapore for the last four years.  The Western Socialist takes pleasure in presenting to its readers the following despatch which has much of interest for those who would [like to] know what goes on in that sparkling city-state (as it is often designated) of 2.5 millions.
"In Singapore, we are trying to modernise and industrialise ourselves by stimulating men's natural desire for material gratification . . ."
This statement by a government minister expresses with typical bluntness. the no-nonsense pragmatism of which the ruling People’s Action Party are so proud. Singapore, small by any standards, is experiencing capitalist development at a hectic pace and the socialist, with his historical perspective, can find a very close duplication of British capitalist development.

For the greater part of its 150-year history, Singapore has been a colonial outpost. With few natural resources its revenue has been derived from trading, carried out with a largely immigrant work force, mostly Chinese and Indian. Since 1965 the stress has been on manufacturing Industries.

Poorly paid work force 
As in all capitalist states the chief concern of the government Is to expand industrially. With a large, poorly paid work force the pickings are profitable and capital from a host of countries is avidly solicited by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and is just as avidly forthcoming. mostly through multinational companies. At home, the PAP theoretician, Rajaratnam, justifies the exploitation — “Let them come to exploit us now with superprofit on their part" — with an aplomb that indicates the degree of political apathy of a working class as yet little aware of its powers either as a value-producing or a revolutionary force.

The appallingly low wages are a result both of the lack of trade union action and the surplus labour force. The government’s self righteous declaration of intention to absorb this surplus with labour-intensive industries has suffered a reversal, owing partly to the importation of ready made machine processes and the need for fewer skilled as against many unskilled workers. As in mid-19th Century Britain, capital-intensive industry is developing, with the stress on greater worker productivity. Henceforth it is to be expected that trade union struggle will centre increasingly around the problem of machine made redundancies.

One-third of the population is housed on gigantic estates. At Jurong, one of the largest industrial complexes in Southeast Asia outside Japan has been constructed, and also a number of council estates of high-rise flats, including one incredible jungle housing 130,000 persons. These flats, one unit of which is completed every 14 minutes, are inferior to those in Britain, but the social amenities are vastly better.

New image needed
One of the most pressing problems faced by the PAP government is the creation of a national ideology. This must grow, not as in Britain, from centuries of history strengthened by tradition and education, but from the dire, immediate need for a viable work-force owing allegiance to none but the new republic of 1965. Chinese, Indians. Malays — all are being enjoined to dissociate themselves from their cultural background and develop loyalty to the state only. The once derided figure of the colonialist Raffles now has an honoured place in the mythology as the founder of Singapore, a combination of St. George and King Arthur! The government has stated that he has been rehabilitated, as, being a European, no racial jealousies are likely to arise among the work-force. It has justified its multi-racial policy in hard-headed economic terms. Preference and prejudice on a racial basis is seen as being likely to misuse the full range of workers’ talents. The role of the mass media in this process is blatant and naive in the extreme and is the cause for some embarassment to the more sophisticated Singaporeans concerned for their national image.

Weak dissent
The political situation is ambiguous. Opposition parties can legally start up, although members of the Barisan Socialist and others with Communist Party sympathies are arrested and held without trial. It is declared PAP policy to imprison them until they recant, relent and make abject confession, whereupon they are rehabilitated in the ex-political detainees Association’s shoe factory set up by the government in order to more effectively supervise them.

Most people take the ’practical’ approach. “As an efficient business unit it works so leave the government alone” — an attitude that is encouraged by the PAP. Nevertheless, political discontent exists, but most of this simply consists of claims to be able to run Singapore capitalism more smoothly than the government.

These attempts to forge, in hothouse fashion, a nation with a loyal working class out of disparate cultural elements have resulted in problems in many aspects of social life.

On the industrial field strikes have been few — but the penalties are great. A go-slow by a group of port workers in protest against provisions of the Employment Act limiting overtime working brought vicious reaction. Dismissal, deprivation of citizenship and deportation were threatened by Lew Kuan Yew. This was in sharp contrast to his recent plea to employers to give a little of the extra profits made by the increased exploitation of the workers back to them. The legislation on overtime was itself a recognition of the unemployment problem, which in some fields is very high and likely to increase with the British rundown.

Virtues & suicides 
Calls for the practice of the puritan virtues of self-denial, thrift and hard work for the workers contrast with the tawdry opulence of the many new skyscraper tourist hotels and penetrate every walk of life. Schoolchildren, their paramilitary training and flag ceremonies over for the day. face a heavy homework schedule. The increase in student neuroses and drug addiction is attributed by a senior psychiatrist to the stress of modern living. Lee warns continually against "permissiveness” and drugs and warns "Bring in alien fads at your peril.” Over half of Singapore’s population is under 20, and the student population is high. Education represents a large investment in the human raw material needed for the new industrial society and the government is concerned about the economic wastage due to drug addiction. Caught between the pressures of a highly competitive educational system and the fear of losing one's acceptability (which permits of higher education) through political or cultural nonconformity, student suicides have increased. Among the young, the expression “taking a flyer” has found a sombre significance in the city’s high rise jungles; in recent months cases have occurred of mothers jumping with children in their arms. With suicide running as seventh highest cause of death throughout the age groups, Rajaratnam can say of the Singaporean with pride:
"His diseases today are those of a civilized and progressive society . . . from heart disease and a variety of neuroses. He can leave this planet in style and his choice of exits is wide.”
Perhaps. But not as wide as the gulf separating the workers' conditions from those of the Singapore capitalists and their office-boys in government.

Poverty & prostitution
The uprooting of communities for rehousing has led to much social unrest and in many cases a worsening of poverty. Inability to meet newly increased rents has resulted in many tenants quitting their flats. Particularly for the ex-village Malays this poverty has been compounded by their inability to supplement their income and diet from poultry and backyard produce. With the GNP growth of around 15%, malnutrition in Singapore is still very high. About 20% of child hospital attendees are suffering from this aspect of poverty. Increased organized prostitution in the industrial estates has drawn from one police official a condemnation of the factory girls for lowering the image of Singapore’s womanhood. Some of these same girls earn a total daily wage that would just about buy a small beer in one of the new hotels.

Government employees, even more than those of private capitalists, suffer insulting restrictions on their freedom. The maximum length of hair permitted for civil servants is gazetted (with diagrams!) and their instructions manual forbids them to speak disparagingly of the government. They were even forbidden to read on government premises the English-language newspaper, “The Herald,” before it was banned.

For all this, Singapore is an interesting and exciting city. Many traditions, languages, racial types and religions form a colourful cross-cultural complex in what must be one of the cleanest of cities, with the friendliest of people, who show, when they are not worked upon by external and internal divisive interests, how tolerantly human beings with different cultures can live together.

To watch the Singapore working class being created and then subjected to a continuous barrage of propaganda by a government intent on developing a world of capitalist values is a frightful experience for those who know something about such values. But the rapid industrialization within a newly created national ideology has obliged the government to justify its actions in a blend of plausible political theory, practical expediency and pure apologetics. In some areas such as the University, where a certain political sophistication is claimed, government policy, particularly its undemocratic actions, is severely criticised.

Prospects for Socialists
Whether diverse political opinions lie below the surface of this society, we have no way of knowing yet, but in his four years in Singapore, this writer has been struck forcibly by one thing. Unlike Britain, the workers of Singapore are not plagued by a 150-year history of reformist agitation. Apart from those who view things natlonalistlcally. and want to do the government’s job of running capitalism for them, and those who, often more for cultural reasons than political. lean towards China, discussions on socialism are fairly straightforward and generally sympathetically received. Rarely does one hear a counter-argument about “transitional demands” or reforms leading to socialism. The effects of capitalism as it impacts upon a newly formed society, and the de-humanising effects upon the working class, are perfectly plain to the workers in Singapore, unsure though they may be at present about its precise cause or solution. Short shrift would be given to those self-elected leaders of the revolution so often found in Britain, who have such a low opinion of the workers that they urge them to embrace capitalist institutions in order to demonstrate that they won’t work.

Lack of what passes for political sophistication may well be a factor In keeping the issue clear, and might well lead to readier acceptance of socialism as the only alternative to what they are forced to suffer, in spite of the retarding effects of still strong religions. Already a group of workers has expressed interest and enthusiasm for the Party’s case. Literature is being circulated under the most trying circumstances, and they have requested permission to print extracts from our publications. It may be too soon to call them socialists; perhaps they never will be. But the Party may, even so, find a lesson to be learned here.
Bill Robertson

From the WSPUS Radio Series: Nixon & Brezhnev - bosom buddies (1973)

From issue number 4 (1973) of The Western Socialist

There used to be a joke during the last days of World War II about a discussion between an American and a Russian soldier on the relative merits of their respective countries. The GI bragged that because the U.S. is a democracy he could walk right up to President Truman and say: "Mr. Truman. you are an SOB," and get away with it. The Russian responded: "That’s nothing. I can walk right up to Chairman Stalin and say: Comrade Stalin, President Truman is an SOB and I could get away with it."

Well, times have changed and the joke would be completely irrelevant now. For if an American soldier today could walk up to President Nixon and call him an SOB there would be little doubt of the outcome. Nor could a Russian soldier accost Mr. Brezhnev in these times with the message that Mr. Nixon is an SOB without dire consequences to him. For, strange as it seems, Mr. Nixon appears to be admired in Soviet Russia now almost to the extent he is denounced, even reviled in the United States. It would almost seem, from outward appearances gained at the time of the recent Brezhnev visit to these shores that the Kremlin boss could very well run an American style election and win at least a seat in the U. S. Senate while there would be little doubt that Mr. Nixon, were it not for the language barrier, could easily become an important wheel In the Politbureau in Moscow. He is certainly cut from that mold.

But there is a lesson to be learned in all of this. Aside from the obvious fact that the U. S. has a type of bourgeois political democracy that is unique in the world, where scandals of the proportion of Watergate can be brought into the open, the culprits tried in the Press and on TV before they are ever tried in court, there is little difference between the U. S. and Soviet Russia. Putting aside the contradictions and the hypocrisies of the Nixons and the Brezhnevs and getting down to brass tacks why did Mr. Nixon go to Moscow and why did Mr. Brezhnev come here? The answer has been emblazoned in the press and over the air waves with no attempt to hide the truth. Trade agreements, business deals and whatever else might be required to accomplish this aim. The private and corporate owners of American industry stand to make huge profits as do the bureaucrats of state capitalist Russia who function as capitalists even if they may not be so categorized, legally. In any event, neither the workers of America nor the vast bulk of the Russian population have anything to gain from the ‘‘Summit” talks and trade agreements. Their function remains to produce all of the wealth of their respective lands in return for the cash with which to purchase the commodities they need to survive as workers.

So it is certainly not a case of Moscow and Washington laying aside sharp differences in philosophy and ideology for the good of humanity. It is merely a recognition that there is really more in common between American capitalists (and their political wheeler-dealers) and Soviet bureaucrats than there is between these “better" folk and the working population of their respective countries. That the name of the game is profits and that American capitalists and Russian bureaucrats have much to gain by sharing the profits wrung from the hides of their respective working classes.

If our words could penetrate the walls of Soviet censorship our message to our fellow workers in the USSR would be: do what you can to bring an end to the system of state capitalism that keeps you in grinding wage slavery, that masquerades under the name of socialism. Join with us in our attempt to build a genuine socialist movement throughout the world. Our goal is not the widening of trade but the abolition of trade and all the other features of capitalism.

If We Are To Survive . . . (1973)

From issue number 4 (1973) of The Western Socialist
We have received numerous requests to reprint this noteworthy out-of-print WSP pamphlet in the Western Socialist.
If ever there was a term whose constant use is rivalled only by an equally constant misuse, that term is Human Nature. Rich man, poor man, beggar man, and politician—all consider themselves qualified, if not expert, to discuss the whys and wherefores of human behaviour. And yet, in spite of its widespread popularity, no other subject, no other field of study is beset by so much ignorance and superstition.

In no other endeavour does man make less progress than in the study of himself and his activity. He has given his life to fathom the mystery of things from murders to the movements of the constellations. With the utmost in perseverance he has solved many of the unknown in physics, chemistry and other sciences. He has solved many of the phenomena relating to his own physical structure. But when it comes to the thinking and behaviour of a human being, he is content to get nowhere fast. In fact, it appears that he enjoys standing still.

The quest for knowledge in any field has always run a gauntlet of persecution against tradition and superstation. However, in what is commonly referred to as the exact or physical branches of science, proofs have become so obvious that the opposition has been forced to retreat. In the study of sociology and human behaviour, organised superstition has yet to be defeated. The inner-man, his “soul,” his responses are considered something intangible and under the influence of a supernatural power. His actions are looked upon as a product of his own independent and free will. The argument is frequently proposed that human nature cannot be analysed and tabulated in a laboratory as are other subjects of study.

It is a current conception and a constant charge that man’s inhumanity to man, his innate qualities of selfishness and greed are the core of all social ills from poverty to wars, from thefts to depressions. The pious are devout in their claim that man’s difficulties are due to his lack of faith and his ungodliness. The intellectuals are equally consistent in maintaining that the masses are not only incapable but also unwilling to lead a better life. The “practical” men insist that a rigid and authoritative leadership is necessary to control the ignorance and stupidity of the mob.

Of "Human Nature"
In almost all social codes and doctrines human nature has become the universal scapegoat, the object of contempt of men everywhere. But instead of natural resentment and righteous indignation arising as a result of this, we seem to take delight in the wickedness and frailties of human nature. Indeed, we boast of it as a hopeless affliction. The more optimistic and humanitarian of our fellow men insist that, although a better world is possible, human behaviour must necessarily be improved before that glorious status can be achieved.

"Human Nature" actually represents the last entrenchment of the anti-socialist. Being no longer able to justify or explain the basic contradictions of capitalism, such as poverty in the midst of plenty, overproduction and war and being unable or unwilling to recognise the bankruptcy of present day society, the defenders of the status quo must invariably become apologetic. What better basis for their position than man’s inhumanity to man ? For, looking narrowly at the world about us, what is more glaring than the abundant evidences of selfishness, greed, persecution and cruelty ?

But here is where the socialist is at a tremendous advantage over the most erudite of capitalist theoreticians. Not only is the Marxist a materialist, that is, not only does he look for a material and physical explanation of all phenomena, but he is also a dialectician. In other words, he does not look at people or society, or at anything for that matter, with a static or stationary viewpoint. Rather, because he is scientific, he conducts his investigation with a view to the processes and developments which all things undergo. Nothing in our environment is static. All things from mice to men are in a constant process of flux and change.

Men are not born with patterns of behaviour. They do not inherit vices or virtues. These qualities are a gift from their environment. Ideas, beliefs, characteristics do not originate in the germ plasma. The new-born babe possesses no knack for mechanics and shares no views on world affairs. He is completely ignorant and indifferent to the state of the nation. He is neither Jew nor Christian, Moslem nor Atheist. He is merely a human being equipped with brain, nervous system, sense organs, digestive tract, and a lusty pair of lungs. Above all—he is open-minded.

Once he is subjected to the influences of his environment, he begins to acquire habits, notions, prejudices, and opinions. He is limited by the scope of his experiences. His training in school and church, his home and associations, his reading, his daily adventures are all contributing factors poured into the mould from which a particular personality will be produced. Like all living organism he will be motivated by the basic impulses of the preservation of himself and his species. The manner and means he will employ in this struggle for existence will be determined by the customs and institutions of society.

A glimpse at man's past
Those who wish to impose on human behaviour a pattern of constancy are completely ignorant of man’s history. . For the hundreds of thousands of years of primitive tribal society men lived in small but cooperative communities. All things were owned in common. There were no rich and no poor. Women and the aged or infirm were allotted the tasks close to the community, the making of clothes and the preparing of meals. The young and sturdy among the males were devoted to the hunt and the procurement of food. The wisdom of the elders (of both sexes) found their expression in the tribal councils. Privileged classes were non-existent. In times of plenty, all prospered; in times of famine, all suffered. The prizes of the chase were divided according to the needs of the tribesmen. Even to-day, among eskimos who have been able to resist the white man’s bible and whisky, “mine” and “thine” are words foreign to their language.

Without the existence of private property there was no stealing, for who would steal from himself. Crimes against the tribe usually resulted in ostracism, a punishment worse than death to the gregarious tribesmen. Murders by individuals were, according to historians, rare occurrence and almost invariably involved the obtaining of a mate. Of course, human offerings and religious sacrifices are not to be denied. But they were part of the mores and customs of the tribes. Certainly they are no more reproachful than the commercial offerings of the twentieth century. On rare occasions wars were waged when hunting grounds and fertile valleys essential to the tribe’s well-being were involved. But withal, within each primitive tribal entity was a democratic, harmonious communal life that puts to shame the much-vaunted societies of civilisation.

It does not follow, however, that primitive man was imbued with finer qualities than the humans of later years. Nor is the reader to deduce the inference that we should return to tribal life. But the history of primitive people is indisputable proof that man is capable of living a peaceful and harmonious life.

Man’s social nature is no supernatural or mysterious virtue. In order to live men have had to come together and associate in all types and sizes of communities. A child must of necessity be in the company of parents and adults to survive the early stages of living. In the same way people cannot live alone, isolated from their fellow men. Primitive man was in a constant struggle against wind, rain, storm, fire, and wild animals. In order to successfully combat nature he was forced to come together with his fellow beings. In unity there is strength. In strength there is safety and to the tribesman the survival of the individual was part of the safety and well-being of the tribe.

With the advent of private property, came more permanent dwelling-places, and interchange of products, the domination of tribe by tribe, and the growth of privileged and ruling classes. Whereas formerly man’s struggle for existence represented a unified battle against the elements, the fight for survival now took the form of man against man, class against class, state against state. No longer did man live a harmonious and cooperative life. The road to prosperity was now littered with the weaker and less fortunate over whom the successful had to step.

A society is the sum total of human relationships. The basis of all societies is economics, or the way in which men make their living. From this base there arises the superstructure of society. the ideas, morals, codes, and institutions. Change the way men are organised to make their living and you change the way in which they react to one another. It is this and this alone that explains man’s transition through the stages of primitive tribal society to feudalism and chattel slavery to the various developments of our present system. The ever-accelerating advance of new discoveries and inventions have wrought consequent changes in men’s relationships.

A glance at the present
If we want to understand the disheartening human behaviour of the present-day, we must seek for an explanation, not in psychological stereotypes, but in the organisation of society. We live in a commodity system. Goods are not produced primarily to satisfy the needs of people, but to be sold on the market for profit. The means of production are all concentrated in the hands of a very few who live by virtue of their ownership. On the other hand we have the overwhelming majority of the world whose only means of livelihood is the selling of their energies, physical and mental, to those who own and control the machinery of wealth production. The few live well; the many dwell precariously close to a subsistence level.

It is a competitive world in which success is measured in dollars and cents. The scrupulous, the good-natured, those who will not rise at the expense of other, are forgotten men and women who will never bleed the blue of the upper class. It is an economy in which greed and selfishness are the prerequisites of a secure and prosperous life. Consequently, in order to live, man is compelled to develop these characteristics and to strive for personal achievement whatever the cost to his fellowmen.

In such a world it is not practical to be unselfish and co-operative. What benefits one class hurts the other it is each for himself and the devil take the hindmost. The contradictions of capitalist society with its wasteful competition are not limited to individuals and classes within a country. In the quest for markets and trade routes on the part of national capitalist interests, the competitions of peace invariably give way to the conflicts of war, and the world finds itself again embroiled in a slaughter of unparalleled proportions.

Yet, in spite of all the greed and deceit, in spite of the brutality and ruthlessness of capitalist society, man is still a social being, and is quick to rally to the aid of his fellow men. It is not uncommon for men to sacrifice their own lives for the well-being of others. In every catastrophe there are always spontaneous efforts to help and assist the stricken and the unfortunate.

What of the future?
It is not the creation of a more virtuous man that is needed, not an improvement in human behaviour, but the establishment of a social system that will be conducive to an expression of man’s social nature. A society in which existence will be based on the pursuit of progressive and co-operative endeavours. Not only is man capable of living a better life, but the time is now ripe for its establishment. For the first time in history the world is capable of providing an abundance of wealth, more than enough to satisfy the needs of every individual. Modern science has contributed the knowledge and machinery necessary to transpose the biblical promises of milk and honey into twentieth-century reality.

There is only one obstacle standing in the way of a new day and that is the set of ideas that exist in the minds of men. From early childhood our thoughts and conceptions have been trained and nurtured along set patterns. In school and church we are imbued with set notions and prejudices. By the time we have passed adolescence we have a whole host of definite impressions and stereotyped convictions which we are wont to discard. Most of what we know of the world that lies outside our own direct experience is made up more of cursory impressions than of facts, more of myth than reality. Outside of the individual’s limited environment, his contacts with the world are for the most part second, third, or fourth hand. This limitation also holds true for men in high political offices, who rarely are acquainted with the problems and events over which they exercise authority.

It is undeniable that only a few of us have attained any degree of objectivity in our observations. The great majority of us mortals harbour a large repertoire of prejudices and faulty impressions. But the mistaken concepts, hackneyed ideas and ill-advised standards which we flatter to call our reason is a direct reflection of our environment. For example, if we believe in the nonsense that all Jews are shrewd and grabbing, we are reflecting what our training has taught us to believe.

It is particularly difficult in times such as the present, when we are bombarded from every source by propaganda and distortions, to think clearly and accurately regarding the social forces that have engulfed us. In fact, it is difficult to think at all. But the very conditions that make a clear picture difficult makes clear thinking all the more vital.

To the casual observer who has matured beyond the slogans and shibboleths that are intoxicating our senses, it appears inconceivable that any sort of decent life can emerge from the present horror and degradation. It is a world gone mad. One hopes that it will not require many more years of privation, confusion and even maiming and killing one another in the interests of their masters. And we need not be wary of the man’s ability to adjust himself to a new and better world. Socialism has become more than a dream for the future. It has become the prime need of today. Expediency demands a socialist world—if we are to survive.
Eric Hanson

From the WSPUS Radio Series: The Boycott (1973)

From issue number 3 (1973) of The Western Socialist

Are you a supporter of the boycott as a means of fighting high prices? The first big meat boycott of 1973 certainly received a lot of attention by the mass media and produced certain results although it did not succeed in bringing prices down to any really noticeable extent. The red meat industry was certainly affected during the boycott week — all but paralyzed with approximately 75,000 butchers, across the country, being thrown out of work. Part of the losses to the retail owners must have been overcome, to be sure, by the mad rush before the boycott week by more affluent shoppers to cram their freezers. But the net results to the working class, generally, are negligible and until workers can force their employers to pay wage increases they must continue to suffer a cut in their real pay.

For let's face it. The wage and salaried workers are also selling a commodity, labor-power. And just as the farmers can and do argue that the costs of the grain, anchovy meal and soya beans they need to produce cattle and hogs have risen; so should the workers insist that the items they need to produce and reproduce their labor-power — the food, clothing, shelter, etc. — are more expensive. Just as the farmers and owners, generally, must include in their costs the expense of replacing plant, raw materials. etc., so must the workers provide for children who will ultimately replace them as producers and sellers of labor-power. And this is the most important commodity of all because without it nothing can be produced and the owning class would be helpless. So the response of workers to rising prices should be an immediate demand for higher wages rather than joining an organized movement to bring down prices.

In fact, the attempt to bring prices down can only be — in the long run — counter-productive to the interests of labor. Even though the struggle for higher wages does not generally result in the workers getting a larger share of the pie this is still the heart and core of the class struggle on the economic front. In the final analysis it is this struggle that makes workers class conscious and — we maintain —eventually aware of the need for the abolition of the wages system itself. The goal of consumer movements, on the other hand, is a coping with capitalism by fostering the illusion that present wages and salaries can be made adequate if costs of the commodities that are needed by workers can be lowered. Were it possible, in fact, to lower prices generally. the employers would be quick to respond by forcing lower, rather [than] agreeing to higher wages. And since governments of any type and labor union hierarchies, as well, are essentially tools of a continuing capitalism, working people could expect no help and little sympathy from either.

The immediate reaction, then, of workers to the skyrocketing prices should be a defiance (to the extent this is possible), of the Government’s restricted guidelines for wage increases and a demand for higher increases. There should also be a rejection of the George Meany-type ultimatums to Government of a roll-back of prices or a demand for more pay. Socialists say: let’s not worry about their commodities, let us take care of the price of our own.

But all of this sort of struggle, essential as it is, leads nowhere. Like a dog chasing its tail. Capitalist propaganda would have us believe that higher wages automatically brings still higher prices. If there was ever a time that this proposition was proved to be upside down it is now.

The factors that are bringing about fast-climbing prices have certainly nothing to do with wages, are — in fact — a world-wide phenomenon in countries of relative low wage levels as well as in America where high wages are supposed to be responsible for the loss of markets by U. S. capitalism. The only sensible answer remains. as Marx phrased it more than a century ago: Instead of the conservative motto, a fair day's work for a fair day’s pay, the labor unions should inscribe on their banners, Abolition of the Wages System.

From the WSPUS Radio Series: Modified Capitalism (1973)

From issue number 3 (1973) of The Western Socialist

If one were to pick the one most misunderstood word in the language — in any language — today it would be a good gamble to select the word “socialism." It is really interesting, in fact, to contemplate the large number of Americans even who believe they understand what socialism is all about and who will actually admit to accepting it as a superior way of life to what we now have. Interesting because it seems that most of these supposed supporters, like most of those who think they understand the subject but who oppose it, really have something in mind that has no relationship to socialism.

There are, to be sure, a number of variations in the meaning attached to the word. A great many will name the Soviet Union as an example of socialism in action. Others prefer Red China. Still others, the more democratically inclined, go for the Scandinavian countries or Britain whenever the Labour Party happens to be in control of the government. It is amazing how many Americans were convinced in the elections of 1972 that George McGovern presented a socialist program and either supported him or opposed him because of it.

But when one gets down to bedrock there is nothing very much different from one another in any of these varieties of what is widely believed to be socialism. They all have one common denominator: most of the population must work for wages or salaries in order to live while a minority live more than comfortably without the need of socially useful labor. Even where all industry is owned or controlled by the Government there is a class of bond holders and high officials who reap huge benefits from the sweat and toll of the working people.

Right of Access 
Those who have listened to our radio messages and read our literature are aware of a different meaning entirely for the word “socialism." The World Socialist Party does not advocate a system of modified capitalism. We agree with the founders of scientific socialism in the proposition that socialism means the right of access by all mankind to all the wealth that is in and on the earth. This can only signify the end to national sovereignties, even to the sham socialist nations that are spread around the earth and which, like the so-called free enterprise countries, suppress most of their populations and keep millions of their working people in perpetual poverty and insecurity, not to mention turning their populations on the working people of other countries in bloody warfare.

What do we mean by right of access to all wealth? Think a moment. The capitalist class of the West and the bureaucratic parasites of state capitalist nations such as Russia and China enjoy free access, today, because of their ownership and control of the wealth producing facilities. In a world socialist society all mankind will have free access to all wealth because the mines, mills, workshops, land and everything that is needed for producing and distributing wealth will be the common possession of all mankind. Goods and services will be produced only to satisfy human needs and not at all for profit. It will be a world where one gives according to one’s abilities and receives according to one's needs.

You can do something about bringing into being such a world society. You don’t have to continue supporting political parties that advocate one form or another of the wages system. You can help us build such a party into a force that, once having gotten off the ground will swell in size like a snowball rolling down a hill in ski country. The only trick is to get it started and that is really no trick. If you feel concerned enough about this proposal to learn more we urge you to contact us by mail or by the phone number given on this program. Don’t you agree it is time for a meaningful change?

Aaron Smith . . . In Memoriam (1973)

Obituary from issue number 3 (1973) of The Western Socialist

Once again it is our sad duty to report the death of a comrade. Aaron H. Smith of Los Angeles, a dedicated member of the World Socialist Movement, if ever there was one, passed away in April of 1973 after a lengthy illness.

"Smitty" first Joined the World Socialist Party in New York City in the Thirties and was a member of the N. Y Local until he settled in Los Angeles in the Mid-Forties. In L. A. he served for a number of years as local secretary and contact member in the directory of The Western Socialist. He was one of those socialists who will be long remembered by his comrades both for his socialist understanding and his wit. He had travelled a bit on the World Socialist trail, having made the scene in Canada. Britain and in Vienna as well as at least two visits to Party Conferences in Boston in his later years.

I first met "Smitty’’ in New York City in 1939 when I was but a fledgling socialist. He was one of the comrades who reinforced my own understanding. He was particularly fond of the taxation question and adept at explaining that it is a capitalist, not a working class problem. Old timers of Boston Local still remember and talk of a lecture he gave on the subject at one of their forums in the Thirties. He broke up his audience as he demolished the theory — prevalent then. too. with radicals — that the poverty-stricken working class pays taxes.

"Smitty" was an upholsterer by trade and when he settled in L. A. he earned his living refurbishing and restoring office chairs, bar stools, etc. He became, as he termed it. a "tacks expert.” I can still see him in my "mind’s eye” (I had settled in L. A. a few years before he arrived) a mouthful of tacks and an upholsterer’s hammer in his hand, plying his trade and joking about his "tacks" expertise.

But it would take much more than a necessarily brief obit to do Justice to Comrade Aaron Smith. All we can do here is bid him a sad farewell in the Journal of his Party.
— A Boston comrade

No Conspiracy . . . (1973)

From issue number 3 (1973) of The Western Socialist
Atlantic Monthly prints our letter to editor (March, 1973)

In “Laud" (January Atlantic), David Black describes the World Socialist Party as ". . . a pure Marxist conspiracy so innocent that they were not banned from agitating on Boston Common during World War II.”

Not so. There is a World Socialist Party, with headquarters in Boston. Furthermore, we certainly did “agitate" on Boston Common for many years prior to, during, and subsequent to World War II. We were, in fact, the only avowedly socialist political party in the United States with all-out opposition to all belligerents in World War II, a statement we can document.

David Black does us an injustice by labeling us a “conspiracy." We have always proclaimed our aim: complete abolition of the wages, prices, profits system and the immediate establishment of world socialism — and this object has always been emblazoned on all of our official literature, including our Journal The Western Socialist. Our position is based upon political action and we advocate as the means to our end the ballot and all other democratic procedures. We have always rejected the advocacy of violence or of any action based upon minority, "vanguard" organization.

Furthermore, we were not included on the Attorney General's list of subversive organizations during and following World War II, not because of any supposed “Innocence" on our part, but because we could not possibly be identified as friendly to any foreign power.

There was, nevertheless, an attempt made to ban us and other groups from free speech on Boston Common during World War II. The attempt fizzled and resulted in a Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that no authority had the right to issue permits to speak on the Common, simply because such right existed (and still exists) at all times providing there is no incitement to riot.
Harry Morrison
National Secretary

Another milestone . . . and in prime time color (1973)

WSPUS News from issue number 3 (1973) of The Western Socialist

Television channel 44 (UHF. Boston) is presenting a one-half hour show exclusively on the World Socialist Party and featuring four members. It will be colorcast on Tuesday. June 12. 1973, at 8:30 p m. on the regular Catch 44“ program.

Letter to The Western Socialist (1973)

From issue number 2 (1973) of The Western Socialist

Dear Sir:

I received and thank you for your letter, and the copies of “The Western Socialist." You wrote in the letter. “ . . . we insist that the image De Leonism holds of the nature of a socialist society is not consistent with revolutionary Marxism."

In the program, “Stravinsky Remembered," on WGBH-TV on Feb. 26, when someone accused the distinguished composer, the late Igor Stravinsky, of changing his mind on an important matter, Stravinsky replied that he had not changed his mind, but that he had gained additional knowledge. Thus, it was with De Leonlst and pre-De Leonist Marxism; and, thus, the Socialist Labor Party can call itself Marxist as well as De Leonist.

In your "The Western Socialist," No. 4 — 1967, article, “The Socialist Labor Party & Religion.“ you quarrel with the views of the SLP in regard to religion. If I should want to learn the facts about plumbing, I would speak to a plumber; if I desire to learn the facts about Socialism, I consult a true Socialist; and if I wish to learn about religion. I similarly would consult a clergyman. Karl Marx is not a proper person to consult about religion. He was an expert in regard to economics, true; but he had little if any Insight into the true meaning of religion, as he was not a devout believer in any religion. As did many German Jews of the time. Marx's family, for reasons of expediency alone, had renounced its Jewish religious heritage, and had ostensibly adopted Christianity. Therefore, Marx was neither devout nor warmly devoted as a Jew or as a Christian; and, therefore, he cannot well be considered an authority in regard to the nature and meaning of religion. Marx’s words on economics bear truth and authority; his words on religion are merely his unfounded personal opinion.

The World Socialist Party Declaration of Principles, number six, states, in part: "The working class must organize consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government." When you advocate "conquest of the powers of government." without utilizing the country’s electoral process of the ballot, you become unjustifiable, and thus conspiratorial, subversive, and beyond the law. This is not true of the Socialist Labor Party.

As for your organizing “consciously." you will agree that the workers are mere wage slaves; and. thus, they are subject to the crippling and emasculating evil effects of the slavery. Aristotle wrote: “The slave has no deliberative faculty at all; the woman has, but it is without authority; and the child has, but it is immature . . slaves stand even more in need of admonition than children." ("Politics:' Bk. I: Ch. 13.)

I believe this to be the chief obstacle to the success of the Socialist Movement of today. This does not mean that the Socialist Movement cannot succeed, but that it must grow through its assimilation of additional and more fundamental knowledge.

The French philosopher and author, Jean Jacques Rousseau, wrote: "Our country cannot well subsist without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.”

Finally, Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, stated: "A man that seeks truth and loves it must be reckoned precious to any human society.”

I remain,
Sincerely yours,
Louis Frankel 

The copies of The Western Socialist to which our correspondent alludes had articles dealing with the Socialist Labor Party in which the following points, among others, were demonstrated:

(1) The SLP picture of socialism in operation, viz an "industrial union government,” is not in harmony with the goal of scientific socialism.

(2) The SLP attitude on Religion. i.e., that it is a "private matter” is inconsistent with an understanding of the Marxist Materialist Conception of History.

Mr. Frankel chose to ignore the other points and to answer the first with a quotation from Igor Stravinsky, the second with that old saw about the cobbler sticking to his last, and bolster his overall weak case with citations from the writings of others that are strictly in the category of non sequitors.

(1) To begin with, the gaining of additional knowledge and its application is fine providing such knowledge is not in conflict with one's original intentions. The aim of world socialism (and socialism on a national level is a bad dream) is the abolition of class society and the ending of the nation state. The goal of DeLeonlsm is the changing of governments, congresses and parliaments from geographical to an industrial union orientation. Not that the SLP is altogether consistent or sound on that policy, either, as their long drawn confusion over the nature of the Soviet economy and sympathy with it bear witness. [1] World Socialism must bring with it the change of government. itself, into an administration over the affairs of man, rather than over man, himself. And such a society could only bring with it a condition in which the very need of unions - of any sort — would be inconceivable

(2) The Marxist Joseph Dietzgen, in the Preface to his The Positive Outcome of Philosophy had an apropos answer to this gem of wisdom, to wit:
“If any one should feel justified in telling me: 'Shoemaker, stick to your last!’ I would reply to him with Karl Marx: 'Your non plus ultra professional wisdom became enormously foolish from the moment when the watchmaker Watt invented the steam engine, the barber Arkwright, the loom, the jeweller Fulton, the steamship.' “
But to believe that one must be a clergyman to understand the origins and purposes of Religion is truly to have the faith "of a little child” which is what, the clergy is wont to tell us, is needed to accept the Scriptures. We do not know whether or not Mr. Frankel is actually a member of the Socialist Labor Party but we must note that his faith in the word of "God” as relayed by the various clergy is not inconsistent with membership in that organization and it speaks volumes for the "scientific” attitude of the American DeLeonists.

And now Mr. Frankel leaves the area of defense and goes on the attack! He notes that our Principle No. 6 calls for conscious and political conquest of the powers of government, suggests that we do not call for the utilization of the "electoral process of the ballot.” and charges us with being “conspiratorial.” Alas. The superficiality of his study of socialism, generally, is only matched by the lack of attention he gave our journals in particular. We have never advocated any other means to our end but the ballot (although we never support non- or anti-socialist candidates or measures). In fact, one of our Party Rules states emphatically that one who advocates violence in the struggle for socialism cannot be a member of the World Socialist Party.

Nor does he help his case against us by quoting Aristotle. For Aristotle lived in a different era, an era in which slaves were not a potentially revolutionary class, a class that could have an interest in a higher society. It is a different story with the slaves of capitalism, the wage slaves. They are the "grave diggers" of capitalism and of class society in toto. Chattel Slave society, under which Aristotle lived, was a dead end social system that was by no means universal at the time and which created no revolutionary class. But just as Feudalism created the instrument of its own overthrow—the bourgeoisie—so has Capitalism created its own revolutionary class, the modem proletariat, or working class. Mr. Frankel’s problem is that he has his eras mixed. In fact, he might find it profitable to spend more time on the socialist classics than he seems to spend with classical and bourgeois philosophers.
Harry Morrison

[1] See the Western Socialist, No. 6—1962.

Communist Party of U.S.A. (1973)

From issue number 1 (1973) of The Western Socialist

Gus Hall's Objective: Reorganize Exploitation 
Gus Hall, Secretary of the Communist Party of the United States of America, and the Party’s 1972 Presidential candidate, claims the CP-U.S.A. is again surging to the fore following the trying times it experienced in the 50s under the now repudiated Smith Act. So reports newspaper columnist Philip Nobile who interviewed Mr. Hall (Utica Observer - Dispatch, Oct. 22. 1972).

Mr. Hall credits the alleged surge of new blood in the Party to the fact that the hysteria of the McCarthy period has disappeared and that people choose to have their curiosity about communism satisfied by declared Communists rather than by anti-Communists.

Dues-paying membership is, according to Mr. Hall, someplace between 15 and 16 thousand. Mr. Hall, however, contends there are approximately 100,000 Communists who. for reasons of fear (social, economic, etc.) cannot openly declare themselves as such. The total Communist vote in the coming Presidential election should in large measure confirm or refute this claim since one’s vote is cast in secrecy and there need be no fear of recrimination.

One of the questions put to Secretary Hall by Mr. Nobile was this:
Q. — Have you stopped advocating the violent overthrow of the American Government? 
A. — We never did. We are, and have always been, for the overthrow of the capitalist system. We want to take the country' out of the hands of the big monopoly corporations. Socialism, therefore, is our aim. Naturally, there would be some fundamental changes in the existing government under socialism.
Note that Mr. Hall speaks here of "socialism” rather than "communism." There is a separation of the two. This cleavage is a Leninistic invention, with an unintentional assist from Marx. In the Critique of the Gotha Program Marx speaks of two phases of communism — “lower” and “higher” — though he does not fix them terminologically as “socialism” and "communism.” And in the same source he writes that “between capitalist and communist society” there is a "transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” Now according to Lenin, the period between the transformation of capitalism into communism is called "socialism.”

In 1917 Lenin proposed that the Bolsheviks call themselves the Communist Party. And in support of this proposal he broached the idea that socialism differed from communism. It was the “lower” and “higher” phases of communism and the ”dictatorshlp of the proletariat” which Lenin made central in his The State and Revolution and to which his followers have ever since adhered.

This skilled piece of surgery, this dichotomy of socialism/communism by Lenin perplexed most of all who called themselves Marxists. For they, like Marx and Engels, conceived “socialism” and "communism” as one and the same, used the terms interchangeably. They were correct in doing so.

Keeping in mind the comparatively backward economic conditions at the time of Marx, he reasoned that the transition period from capitalist to socialist society would require the existence of a political state, with the state being utilized solely in the interest of the working class during the transition and existing for only a brief span of time. There would come then that degree of socialism wherein the state no longer existed and distribution of wealth would follow the principle of work performed. Following this phase, there would come into being “higher” socialism wherein all would have free access to the goods produced. No matter how you cut the cake, It is still socialism/communism notwithstanding the stage or phase.

Reading the Critique of the Gotha Program, one easily gets the impression that Marx distinguished between "lower” and “higher” communism in terms of the ruling principle of distribution — with the “lower” phase, as mentioned above, ascribed to work performed, and the “higher” phase acrlbed to needs: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs ” But in the same source Marx, anticipating that he might be misunderstood, expressly cautions that it is “a mistake to make a fuss about so-called distribution and put the principal stress on it” and that “any distribution whatever of the means of consumption is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves.”

To Marx socialism encompassed far, far more than the economical improvement of the working class. His criticism of capitalism was not merely centered around the injustice of the distribution of wealth but also entailed the transformation of man under capitalism into a “crippled monstrosity.” In his German Ideology it is pointed out that the aim of socialism is that of developing the total, universal man; that is, the elevation of man above his present crippling specialization.

Marx scoffs at higher wages and hence unmistakably scoffs at the wage system in general. He writes in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts (translated by T. B. Bottomore):
“An enforced increase in wages . . . would be nothing more than a better remuneration of slaves. and would not restore. either to the worker or to the work, their human significance and worth.

"Even the equality of incomes which Proudhon demands would only change the relation of the present day worker to his work into a relation of all men to work. Society would then be conceived as an abstract capitalist."
The use of the phrase "dictatorship of the proletariat” by Marx was an ill chosen one even in the passing sense he used it and despite its connotative difference as compared to today. But as all know who have studied the writings of Marx, he was a stalwart believer in democracy and personal liberty and most certainly did not mean by this phrase an excuse for the suspension of human rights during the so-called transition or at any other time such as the “Communists” and their followers around the world would have it.

It is Mr Hall’s conviction that a basic difference exists between government by monopoly corporations and government by an elite of the Communist Party, supposedly acting in the interests of the workers through the medium of the State. Mr Hall misses the whole point; to wit, the transformation of meaningless, alienated labor into free, productive labor. Weighing the difference between exploitation by monopoly corporations and exploitation by the State, with the hierarchy of the Communist Party holding the reins, is but a game for statisticians to play. Actually, the crux of the issue is not who or what exploits you or to what degree, but the very existence of exploitation itself.

On the heels of the above question put to Mr. Hall, this one followed:
Q. — But do you countenance violence?

A. — Yes. We have said right along we will seek the least violent path. But there should be no illusions about this question. History and life has taught us that it is an exceptional case where a change in class rule can be totally peaceful. Our Party will take part in violent struggles when the time comes.
And so it is admitted that Mr Hall’s Party countenances violence, though along “the least violent path.” Apparently ever on-going history and life has not taught Mr. Hall that working class violence in a highly industrialized stage of human life is passé, is a suicidal ticket for the rank and file participants. Mr. Hall seems to have subscribed to a postulate which may have been correct under certain conditions but which under changed conditions no longer exists.

Whereas the Communist Party sets Itself up as the vanguard, as the leaders. of the working class and condones violence, albeit along the least violent path, the World Socialist Party attuned to historical reality holds that there can be no socialism without socialists; that the working class cannot be led into socialism, that working class emancipation can only be achieved through conscious (knowing what socialism truly is and hence not leaving the thinking and decision-making to a small, self-appointed elite) and political (securing control of the seat of power, the State, via democratic means and thereupon abolishing it) organizational endeavor. With the vast majority of the workers, which would include all those presently engaged in suppressive endeavors, cognizant of the basic meaning of socialism and actively engaged In promoting it, who would there be to vent violence upon? At the most there might be a handful of reactionaries who would simply be obliviated by the march of events.

Before closing, let us touch briefly on one more question and answer:
Q. — Would American Communism Jail "subversive" writers as Russian Communism does? (Note with dismay and commiseration with the exorcised spirit of Karl Marx that we have "American." "Russian." "Chinese," "Yugoslav." "Cuban," "Italian." etc., communism.)

A. — I don't think so. I have publicly stated here and in the Soviet Union that I would handle these writers differently. Instead of making a criminal case out of it, I would suggest we publish these books and then arrange for competent reviewers to expose them on television in the presence of the author.
We can conclude from Mr. Hall’s answer that he would have extrajudicial trials for writers and other who proved offensive to the ideas of "American Communism.” Isn’t this frightening to contemplate Suppose the author refused to concede the errors of his ways and declined contriteness, what then? Why, off to an insane asylum for corrective treatment or worse. Under international socialism/communism as advocated by the WSP, one may write and have published whatever he damn well pleases without one iota of fear of any authoritative recrimination. Socialism as expounded by Marx is free of authoritative coercion, is completely foreign to government over people. The people, armed with socialist knowledge, will not need "competent reviewers” to instruct them as to what is or is not worthy of their consideration.

Obituary: Sam Orner (1973)

Obituary from issue number 6 (1973) of The Western Socialist

Our comrade Sam Orner died on Sunday, September 2, at the Englewood (NJ.) Hospital as the Conference sessions of the World Socialist Party of the U.S. were being held In Boston. He was 79 years of age.

Since his youth Sam was active In the working class movements having belonged to such groups as the old Socialist Party of America, circa World War I and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). In 1934 he was deeply involved in the New York taxi strike and was, in fact, the prototype of the character "Lefty" In the Clifford Odets play dealing with that strike, "Waiting for Lefty.”

It is his measure as a socialist, however, that the World Socialist Party and The Western Socialist wishes to take, for to us the struggle for a sane system of society is the most important activity one can ever be engaged in. And Sam certainly measures tall in the Socialist Movement. He left his mark especially for his contemporaries but also for posterity in the articles he contributed to The Western Socialist and, occasionally, to The Socialist Standard (SPBG). He was one who had something to say and those who have had the experience of hearing him on indoor or outdoor platforms, expounding the case for socialism in his Brooklynese accent, will long remember him, in fact, will never forget him. It should be noted that comrades in Canada. Great Britain and Australia—as well as many throughout the UJS.A. have had the experience of knowing him and of hearing him in action.

Sam was, it should be mentioned, a highly controversial and emotional type, a hard antagonist in argument. But he was, above all, concerned for the Movement and gave generously, over the years, in both time and money for the advancement of its ideas. On numerous occasions he drove the long miles between his summer camp in the Catskill Mountains of New York to New York City in order to attend Party meetings or to service stores with socialist literature. A great many members, from near and far, have enjoyed his outgoing hospitality — along with Ida’s, his wife and constant companion — both at Roscoe in the mountains and at their permanent home in Tenafly, New Jersey. Along with his other accomplishments, Sam was a raconteur of anecdotes, a skilled fisherman and an experienced flapjack flipper as those who partook of his specialty breakfasts can attest. He will be missed.
A Boston Comrade