Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Letter: Identity parade (2004)

Letter to the Editors from the September 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism or Your Money Back (2004)

Party News from the September 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

To mark the centenary of both the Socialist Party of Great Britain (June) and the Socialist Standard (September) we have brought out a 300-page book, Socialism Or Your Money Back, made up of articles from the Socialist Standard from 1904 to this year.

The seventy articles provide a running commentary from a socialist perspective on the key events of the last hundred years as they happened. The two world wars, the Russian Revolution, the General Strike and the rise of Hitler are covered, as well as the civil war in Spain, Hiroshima, the politics of pop, democracy and the silicon chip, and much else. 

The book will not just be of interest to socialists but also to those wanting to study the political, economic and social history of the twentieth century.

The price is £9.95. Copies can be ordered (add £2.00 for postage and packing) from: 52 Clapham High St, London SW4 7UN (cheques payable to 'The Socialist Party of Great Britain").

Are We Prisoners of Our Genes? (2004)

Party News from the September 2004 issue of the Socialist Standard

A new pamphlet in book form (50 pages) refuting the arguments of the biological and genetic determinists that a socialist society could not work “because it’s against human nature”. Shows how recent advances in the science of genetics have confirmed that humans are “genetically programmed” to be able to adopt a wide range of learned behaviours; that behavioural versatility and flexibility is a key feature of human biological nature; and that humans could therefore live in a peaceful, non-hierarchical, co-operative society of common ownership and democratic control.

Price £4 or, by post, £4.75. Six copies by post £19. Cheques should be made payable to “The Socialist Party of Great Britain” and sent to: 52 Clapham High Street, London SW4 7UN.

The Real Issue in Czechoslovakia (1938)

From the September 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

All sorts of people who ought to be able to remember the way in which fine slogans in the last War were used to cover secret imperialist aims have walked into the same trap again. This time it is Czechoslovakia, the argument being that the way, and the only way, to help democracy is to prevent the Germans in Czechoslovakia from carrying out the desire of the majority of them to come under German rule. Those who hold this view about democracy are prepared to go to war if necessary in order to preserve Czechoslovakia. It is, therefore, interesting to see that the special correspondent of the Manchester Guardian, who wrote up the whole question on August 20th, frankly admits that democracy is not the issue at all.

He shows how the capitalists of Germany are interested in the economic and the military penetration of South-Eastern Europe (the second as a means to the first), and how various countries are likely to act in the event of war, then he adds: —
. . . The true character of the struggle that is going on even now (though as yet without arms) is fully understood in the Balkan countries. It is not a struggle for democracy, but for national independence, an independence imperilled by German “peaceful penetration” and in danger of being destroyed altogether if Germany takes up arms against Czechoslovakia. If Czechoslovakia disappears there will, in time, be no genuinely independent countries left in Eastern or South-Eastern Europe.
It should be noticed that this statement appeared in the Manchester Guardian, which backs the policy of supporting Czechoslovakia against Germany at all costs. Mr. H. N. Brailsford, who takes the same line as the “Guardian," admitted in Reynolds Illustrated News (August 21st, 1938) that what we are witnessing is a clash between two imperialisms, the German trying to dominate Europe, and the French trying to prevent it.
The real issue is whether Hitler shall overthrow or the French retain this barrier that closes the road to the corn and oil of the Lower Danube. As always, since the Entente Cordiale of 1903, two armed Imperialisms are struggling for strategic posts.
Another factor which seriously occupies the minds of the French and British rulers is the possibility of Germany and Russia coming together again. As the Manchester Guardian correspondent says: —
Like the Franco-Soviet Pact, the alliance between Moscow and Prague is chiefly intended to counteract the chances of an alliance between Moscow and Berlin. (Manchester Guardian, August 20th, 1938.)
The Manchester Guardian and Mr. H. N. Brailsford are saying no more than the truth when they admit that democracy is not the issue dividing the rival imperialisms.

The argument, therefore that the British workers should be prepared to go to war for democracy, as represented by Czechoslovakia, needs to be amended to give due recognition to the fact that the British and French and German ruling class are not at all interested in democracy, but in world power as a means of safeguarding profits.

Still the advocates of war on behalf of Czechoslovakia, have a further argument. They say that, no matter what the motives of the ruling class may be, democracy will incidentally be preserved if we resist Germany. The answer to that is that it flies in the face of all experience. Another European war would be the signal instantly for the suppression of democracy in all the war making countries without the least likelihood that the end of the war would see democracy restored even to its present state. The last war was to make the world “safe for democracy." Instead it made the world safe for Mussolini, Hitler and all the other dictators, and in this country it paved the way for the 1927 Trade Union Act, which whittled away the powers of the Unions. '

It can be readily admitted that there is an evil side to the incorporation of independent small countries into large empires, as this invariably involves attempts to suppress local culture, language and customs, with consequent embitterment, but is it worth losing millions of lives to prevent this? If it were then we would be committed to the doctrine that war is worth while to secure the break-up of the British Empire (as the Communists used to argue), and the next step would be the policy of getting the assistance of rival empires in order to do this.

The Socialist answer to all such arguments is that the lesser evils cannot be remedied except by victory in the struggle for Socialism, and this victory is not helped but hindered by war. Our task is to go on preaching Socialism (which includes internationalism), and organising the workers of the world for the achievement of their emancipation. Only then will real democracy be gained, and local culture and language be safeguarded against persecution.
Edgar Hardcastle

Notes by the Way: “Forward’s” Views on War and Socialism (1938)

The Notes by the Way Column from the September 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Forward’s” Views on War and Socialism

In its issue of August 6th, the Scottish Labour weekly, Forward, reproduced from the July issue of The Socialist Standard our reply to a correspondent who wanted to know what the workers should do if Hitler and Mussolini attacked Great Britain. Nothing to complain of in that, and we are only too pleased to help any of our foggy-minded contemporaries with a little clear thinking. But though the point of view put in our statement is very nearly the same as that held on this question by some of the people responsible for Forward, the Editor of the latter thought fit to accompany the statement with some irrelevant comment of his own, intended to discredit the S.P.G.B.; the usual jibes about our small membership—as if that has anything to do with the soundness of our position. The most charitable explanation is that one person decided to reproduce our statement because he agreed with it, and some other person could not resist the temptation to add a little spiteful paragraph in the good cause of inducing the readers not to examine the statement on it merits. Then person number one appears to have had his turn again at the end of the column, where the bouquet was handed out to us that some of the passages in the statement showed that serious thought had been given to them, and that they might have been written by Mr. George Bernard Shaw. It may seem ungenerous to refuse a bouquet, but since when has that clever but often very muddle-headed gentleman been an authority on Socialism? That is the trouble with the writers for Forward. They know how to produce an attractive and well-informed journal, but they ought to give up sitting at the feet of Mr. Shaw and others of his kind and do some solid thinking for themselves, about Socialism.

Mr. Shaw and Mr. MacDonald

Mr. G. B. Shaw has recently been accused of favouring dictatorship. He replied in Reynolds Illustrated News that he had been misunderstood. His object, he says, is to make democracy effective. As evidence of the inadequacy of British democratic institutions he pointed out that it was democracy which made possible the career of the late J. R. MacDonald.

Quite a telling point if it were not for the fact that, throughout MacDonald’s career, one of the very clever gentlemen who told the workers to go on putting their trust in MacDonald was Mr. G. B. Shaw. Now if Mr. Shaw had listened to the S.P.G.B. from its formation, 34 years ago, and had used his powers to give publicity to our warnings against MacDonald (and against the whole idea of leadership), the workers would have had a better chance of escaping the disasters that fell on them through following the MacDonald policy. So before Mr. Shaw sets up as a teacher of others he should explain how he came to be so consistently wrong on this issue.

The Basis of International Politics. Profit Not Sentiment

While prejudice and patriotic feeling will sometimes blind the capitalists to their own interests, such factors will not, in the long run, stand up against the pull of profit. In this the capitalist sets an example that the workers would do well to follow. Instead, we find many of the workers still ready to believe their rulers when the latter pretend to be guided by noble sentiments of religion or patriotism. Just now the German, Italian and Japanese rulers are supposed to be sworn to common action against what they call “ Bolshevism," a claim that will not stand a moment’s examination. It was Mussolini who, from the first, entered into the closest and most friendly relations with the Russian Government.

A pact of friendship is still nominally in force, and until quite recently, if not at the present moment, Russia supplied oil to Italy (used to bomb the the Abyssinians) and had warships built in Italian naval yards. In the ten years from 1918 onwards, Germany and Russia were for most of the time in the closest possible relationships in their joint resistance to pressure from France and Britain, and there is not the least doubt that Russia secretly assisted in German re-armament. After Hitler come to power the German-Russian treaty was renewed “in order to further the collaboration between the two countries in the interests of peace." (These are the words used in the “ U.S.S.R. Handbook," page 94, published by Victor Gollancz, Ltd., 1936.) During Hitler’s five years of power he has done nothing to interfere with trade relationships with the home of the Bolshevism he pretends to hate so much.

The Japanese Government claims to be saving China from Bolshevism by getting rid of Chiang Kai-Shek's Government, ignoring the fact that the latter for years campaigned to destroy the same alleged Bolshevist elements.

One recent example of the relative importance to the capitalist of sentiment and profit is given by Mexico. The Mexican Government, hard-pressed for money, decided to expropriate the foreign oil companies, and offered what they regard as very inadequate compensation. Here, surely, was one of those wicked Bolshevist actions which would horrify Hitler! But Germany needs oil, and the Government saw the opportunity of getting it cheaply. So while Britain, the U.S.A. and Holland denounce the Mexican Government as robbers, Field-Marshall Goering, for the German Government, pats the Mexican robbers on the back. The following report is taken from the Daily Telegraph (July 23rd, 1938):
An article in the “Four-Year Plan,” the official organ of Field-Marshal Goering, Commissioner for the Plan, defends the Mexican Government’s action in seizing British and United States oil concessions.

The article explains that the Mexican Government, although popular in character, cannot be termed “Bolshevik,” and represents “a peasant and middle-class policy.” Foreign capital in Mexico, it adds, had clearly abused its powerful position.

These opinions are of interest in view of recent purchases of Mexican oil made by the German Government through the medium of an American agent. 
When the Spanish Popular Front Government, broadly similar to that in Mexico, tried to enforce its social reform programme. Hitler and Mussolini, being interested in controlling Spanish mineral wealth and in using Spain to strengthen their naval and military position, found that they were “Bolshevists,” and used that as screen for waging war against them, yet only a few years ago Italy was backing the same “Bolshevists” in Catalonia in their opposition to the Madrid Government.

There is only one safe rule to be followed by the working-class in their effort to understand capitalist politics, whether at home or on the international field. If capitalist governments proclaim their adherence to some noble-sounding ideal or principal, disbelieve them. Seek, instead, for the real motive, one related directly or indirectly to capitalist wealth and capitalist power.

There are Birds at the Bottom of Adolf's Garden

The ways of advertisement are manifold, but there is no essential difference between the publisher who sells literary tripe by the appeal of the highly coloured “blurb” on the cover, the patent medicine vendor who shows pictures of the imaginary patient “ before ” and “after,” and the politician who kisses the babies of potential voters. In each case the advertisement has little or nothing to do with the merits of the article. The extreme case is the military adventurer who covers up his bloodthirsty actions with press puffs and pictures of his passionate love for the little children, or the birds, the beasts and the flowers. Hitler's speciality is birds. The aged military man, Sir Ian Hamilton, recently visited Hitler in his home (and was given a tooth-brush! isn’t that wonderful!). This is what he told the Sunday Express (August 7th, 1938): —
He has a bird sanctuary there.' There are eight thousand nests in it, and they are not nests, as some might think, for eagles, vultures and owls. They are for nightingales and other nice birds that do not prey on their kind.
Perhaps Hitler does not keep vultures because they might give him prickings of conscience. But why didn’t he have some bats for Hamilton’s belfry ?

Senegalese Troops Used Against French Strikers

The old principle of “Divide and Rule” is used as much by the democratic governments as by the dictatorships. While the French Popular Front Government protests against Hitler’s policy of setting the non-Jewish workers against the Jewish, it has no objection to using Senegalese troops against white workers. At Marseilles, on August 21st, Senegalese troops and French navy men were used to unload ships and thus help the employers against the dockers who were on strike (Daily Herald, August 22nd, 1938). Not that the use of black troops is any worse than the use of white naval ratings, but governments know that it is appreciably more difficult to get locally recruited soldiers and sailors to act against their fellow-workers. Men brought from a distant province or another continent — unless they fully appreciate the common interest of the workers against the capitalist class — are more easily induced to act against the workers.

The Prime Minister, M. Daladier, who was responsible for this, also, according to the Daily Herald (August 22nd), gave a broadcast address the same night, in which he made “an amazing attack on the 40-hour week, leading achievement of the French Popular Front to which he belongs."

“The 40-hour week," he said, "must be made more elastic. As long as the international situation remains as delicate as it is, it must be possible to work more than 40 hours and up to 48 hours a week in concerns working for national defence." 

He admitted that the 40-hour law already permits longer hours to be worked, but he “wants the extra hours to be worked not at prohibitive overtime rates, as they must to-day, but with increases which should not go beyond 10 per cent." 

How long the international situation will remain “as delicate as it is" he did not say, nor did he round-off his speech by announcing that Cabinet Ministers had decided to reduce their own pay to the level of a workman’s wages. In war and peace, Cabinet Ministers habitually prefer to preach sacrifice to others rather than set an example themselves.

Why Some Workers Like Prison

A retired judge, Sir Holman Gregory, is writing articles on crime for the Sunday Dispatch. In the issue dated August 21st, 1938, he admits that some workers commit crimes because their lives when at “liberty ” are worse than in prison: —
Their lives when free are so drab and cheerless that a few months’ imprisonment with regular food, under the care of a medical officer, is a relief.

Mussolini Grabs the Money of the Jews

There was a time when Mussolini used to scoff at Hitler’s anti-Semitism, and he scored a neat hit at his young German imitator by pointing out that the Nazi gospel of the superiority of the Nordics was an idea invented by the Jews in the form of the “Chosen Race.” Why, then, has Mussolini suddenly decided to go in for a milder form of Jew-baiting himself? The reason is to be found in the financial difficulties of the Italian Government. Seeing how Hitler plundered the wealthy Jews in Germany arid Austria, Mussolini is doing likewise. The Rome correspondent of the Daily Telegraph (August 6th, 1938) writes as follows: —
Most of the Jews in the country are well-to-do. A small minority is extremely rich. Their influence in banking, insurance, public works contracts, the law. medicine, and retail trades is avowedly out of all proportion to their numbers.

Those with most to lose fear that some form of capital tax may be levied on their possessions. There is no question of exporting capital, because this has been prohibited to all Italians for several years.
It has also been pointed out that the attack on the Jews in Italy will help Mussolini in his propaganda campaign as protector of the Arabs and the Mohammedans generally.

A correspondent in The Times (August 2nd, 1938) recalls that as recently as 1932 Mussolini was telling Emil Ludwig that "there are no pure races left; not even the Jews have kept their blood unmingled. . . . Race! It is a feeling, not a reality. . . ."
National pride has no need of the delirium of race. Anti-Semitism does not exist in Italy.

Are the Jews a Race

It is useful to have Professor Griffith Taylor at the British Association confirming the absurdity of Nazi race theories. He is Professor of Geography in the University of Toronto and spoke on the way the social sciences are being challenged by “the forces of reaction."

About the Nazis and the Jews he said (The Times, August 19th, 1938):—
We are surely all agreed that the term Aryan can only be applied to speech; and that Nordic indicates a “breed ” and can only be applied to race. But few folk realise that the term “Jew” should only be used in connection with religion. We need a new term to express a group linked by purely cultural characters such as language or religion. For such groups I have been extending the use of the word “cult." For instance, in Canada we have in reality no French race, since Frenchmen may belong to one of three distinct races, but only a French cult, linked by common language and religion. So also we should learn to speak of a Jewish cult, since this large group is linked closely by religion and to a lesser degree by language. The Jews, like the Germans, are of two different races. If they come from Poland they belong to the Alpine race; if from Spain they are of Mediterranean race, like all the original Jews of Palestine:

The logical linguistic divisions in Europe, Professor Taylor showed with the aid of diagrams, were undoubtedly Aryan and Altaic. The race divisions were Nordic, Alpine, and Mediterranean. The German nation, he said, was half Nordic and half Alpine. The Jew belonged to a “cult,” but the dominant Jews in Europe, including about three-quarters of the whole body, were broad-headed Alpines like the rest of the mid-European peoples.

The most logical explanation was that the Polish Jews were the result of the widespread conversions carried on by the Jews in Eastern Europe. A year or two ago the German authorities were specifically excluding the German Jews as of “non-Aryan” race. Racially, of course, they were Alpines like the South Germans, and their language was best called Judeo-German. (The Times, August 19th, 1988.)
Edgar Hardcastle

Introduction to Socialism (1938)

From the September 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

The object of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is stated on all the Party’s publications. It is a clearly defined object with no “ ifs ” or “ buts,” an object that determines and directs the activities of those who pursue it. It is not camouflaged by vague phrases, neither is it lost sight of amongst a number of objectives. It does not come up for amendment at the Party’s conferences; it stands as the one and only goal of Socialist organisation—with no side issues.

There are many of our fellow-workers, with a political interest which is seldom roused except at election times, who consider that our object is involved and difficult of comprehension, and that Socialism is far too complicated a proposition for them to understand. When we examine the elaborate schemes and detailed reforms which some other political parties, often calling themselves Socialist, offer as solutions to working-class problems, we are bound to claim that our object is the essence of simplicity.

As it appears in this issue of The Socialist Standard, and on our other literature, our object is stated as briefly as possible. In condensing it to a statement of 34 words we have had to use words and phrases which, in their political meaning, do not come within the vocabularies of some of our fellow workers. The propagandists of other political parties use these words and similar phrases in such a loose manner that their meaning is confused and misunderstood. The phrases “system of society” and “common ownership” are interpreted differently by different people, and the word "wealth” is frequently misunderstood as meaning just “money."

So, we will take the different phrases of our object and, as simply as we are able, we will analyse them in order to show their exact meaning and how really straightforward and simple our object actually is.

Assuming that the word ” establishment ’’ needs no defining, we will start with “ system of society.”

A society is not merely an aggregate of individuals, not just a collection of human beings. Such an aggregate or collection may constitute a crowd but not a society. It is necessary that there shall be some connecting link between the individuals, some relationship based upon something that is common to them all, before a society is constituted.

Human society in its early stages, when humans were but little different from the animals from which they had evolved, arose from the common need to combat the forces of nature and, to acquire food. It was a society of the simplest kind with a relationship between individuals arising from that common need. The need gives rise to the society, the manner in which the need is satisfied determines the nature of the relationships and these in turn determine the form of the social organisation. In primitive society the need was satisfied by the individuals each subscribing to the common fund, both in the matter of acquiring food and shelter and in defending the society from external forces. The relationships were simple ones, as was the social organisation.

Man differs from other animals by being a maker and user of tools. In the words of Faraday, “Man is a tool-using and tool-making animal.” As the tools that man makes and uses become improved and more complicated so human society develops from the simple to the more complex. With improvements in tools comes the division and subdivision of labour and the ownership of the tools by a section of the community, thus giving rise to the domination of man by man—slavery. At that stage the simple relationship of the common contributor to the common need gives place to the new relationship of slave and slave-owner, a relationship between men who, although members of one society, have conflicting interests.

To-day we have capitalism. The relations existing are manifold. The tools, now called machines, which, together with the land, the source of raw materials, we term the “means and instruments of production,” are still owned by a section of the community, the capitalist class. This ownership forms the basis out of which, arise the relationships of present-day capitalist society. Master and servant, employer and employed, debtor and creditor, buyer and seller, borrower and lender, robber and robbed, are a few to illustrate our meaning. Here lies the definition of our phrase, ”System of society.” The total of these relationships constitutes that system of society.

The object of the S.P.G.B. then, is to set up a society wherein there will prevail a certain set of relationships, different from the existing ones because the basis from which they arise will be different. What this new basis will be is stated in the latter part of the Party’s object—”based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth.” In a future issue we will deal with other phrases, such as “Common ownership” and "Democratic control.”

The understanding of our object is necessary in order to interpret our attitude towards other political parties and to current world events. With the growth of that understanding amongst the workers the day of the achievement of our object draws near.
W. E. Waters

Should We Fight for Democracy? (1938)

From the September 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

How often have we had to deal with the accusation that we do not change our policy to suit the needs of the moment? There has always been some burning topic, some pressing problem, which our opponents have told us demands immediate attention and for which we should abandon our insistence on Socialist propaganda for the time being.

The abolition of the House of Lords, unemployed agitation, the abolition of the Means Test, all have had their turn and have faded out to give place to fresh “immediate problems." Surely, the fact that these “ immediate problems" still remain unsolved should have convinced our opponents that we state the truth when we say that only Socialism can provide the solution to the strife and trouble of the world to-day ?

Experience seems to be a slow teacher, for, so far from having learnt, our opponents seem to have forgotten even those elementary lessons which capitalism taught with so much brutality and severity during the slaughter years of 1914-1918.

1914—and To-Day
The slogans which lured millions of British, French, and other workers on the Allies' side, to their doom, were: “Save poor little Belgium," “Smash Kaiserism," “ Make the world safe for democracy."

On the opposite side men were marching to the motto: “Destroy Russian barbarism," "Down with Perfidious Albion!" etc. To-day, when the reverberations of these slogans and the sound of the guns which gave them practical effect have hardly ceased, we are told that once again democracy is in danger and some political parties assure us it may be necessary to defend what they are pleased to call “our liberties" with our lives.

“ Aggression ” or “Defence" 
One of the main arguments advanced to-day is that the world is divided into two sets of countries, one composed of those nations who are quite satisfied with what they possess and harbour no designs of “aggression," and the others, the “have-nots," the dissatisfied, who aim to steal territories wherever they can.

Quite apart from the fact that this theory ignores completely the means whereby some nations became "haves" and others “ have nots," there is, from the Socialist point of view, a more fundamental error. It lies in the assumption that nations are homogeneous communities composed of people who all have a share in the country of their birth and habitation. This, of course, is not true. Countries and their resources, whether big or small, with or without colonial possessions, do not belong to the people as a whole; they are the property of a small section, a wealthy minority. The bulk of the people in all countries are without property in the real sense of the word, and they depend upon the wealthy class to give them work or doles in order to live. This simple, elementary fact would appear to be unknown to all excepting Socialists, and consequently left out of account in all their speculations. Once accept the Socialist analysis of the capitalist world and its division into property-owners and property-less, the phrases “aggression” and “defence” can have a meaning only to those who own property. For it is clear, then, that the loss or gain of territory cannot affect those people who do not own it.

What, then, is left in the argument of the recruiting agents—and, remember, their ranks now include even those erstwhile rabid opponents of British Imperialism, the Communists—that in countries like Britain and France, a freedom of expression is allowed, the rights of people to express their political opinions by means of speech and vote, and that this freedom would be at stake were this country, for instance, involved in a war with Germany, a country where democracy has been crushed, free speech abolished, and voting has become a farce.

Do Socialists Value Democracy
It is necessary here to define our attitude towards the differences that exist between the “ Democracies ” and the Fascist countries, differences we have never denied but to which we have always applied a Socialist perspective. This Party knows the value of free speech. It appreciates fully the advantages and utility of the vote. In principle and practice we have always shown our appreciation of these “rights,” won, let it be understood, only as a consequence of working-class struggle against a ruling class that approaches these questions, not from the point of view of an abstract principle of human rights, but mainly on the grounds of expediency.

In the past we have consistently defended free speech and the vote against people many of whom pose to-day as the foremost champions of democracy. But we deny that the interests of democracy anywhere can be defended or promoted by a war; in fact, we deny that the question of democracy can ever be the real issue over which a war will be fought.

Why Wars are Fought
As we have explained, the divisions of the world’s population is into those who own it and those who merely exist on it, by permission of the owners; an explanation that cuts rights across national boundaries. When it is further understood that political power, the power that controls the armed forces, is in the hands of the owning class or those who represent their interests, the issue becomes crystal clear.

For it is obvious that a class which in every country cares nothing for the people whom it exploits, and keeps them in poverty-stricken oppression, will only use its armed forces, upon which it lavishes so much wealth, when its interests (i.e., property) are threatened. Until then, capitalist politicians may declare their abhorrence of the methods used in “ less civilised ” countries, but the capitalists they represent will continue to deal indiscriminately with the objects of their horror.

So the United States has sent Germany thousands of tons of aerial bombs, Russia has supplied Germany with ferro-manganese, an indispensable war material, and France sends thousands of tons of iron ore to Germany.

The latter, by way of returning the compliment, presumably, in turn, has supplied China with considerable quantities of arms.

In Capitalist Peace or War, Profit is Paramount
Many people seriously believe that if Britain were defeated by Germany in a war, Hitler would impose Fascism on this country, presumably by a military occupation. They show little understanding of how Fascist movements came into existence, nor of the mass-backing necessary to help them to power. Political oppression cannot be imposed upon a people against their will; and military occupation, even if it were practical or intended, which is very doubtful, could not have the effect of making Britain a Fascist country. On the other hand, those who argue that Germany's defeat would result in the downfall of Hitler cannot be certain that his downfall would not be followed eventually by another dictatorship. Remember the downfall of the Kaiser!

One thing is certain. The moment war breaks out democracy will be abolished in all countries participating, and we would, in effect, be defending one Dictatorship against another.

Limitations of Capitalist Democracy
The above only shows the fallacy of treating the advantages of free speech and the vote as an end in themselves, instead of understanding the position of the workers under capitalism and using the weapons of democracy for the purpose of overthrowing the class and system which make a mockery of the words “ Freedom ” and “ Democracy.” Of what value is free speech if we do not utilise it to make workers conscious of their interests—what benefit the vote if the workers are content to use it only to vote one capitalist government out and another in? That way is certain to discredit the democratic method, to disillusion workers who expect their problems solved under capitalism. For poverty cannot be talked away by “ Capitalist Democracy "—it can only be removed by Socialism.
Sid Rubin

Notes of the Month: Why Austrian Workers Support the Nazis (1938)

The Notes of the Month column from the September 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Why Austrian Workers Support the Nazis

H. N. Brailsford, writing in Reynolds, in August 7th, 1938, on the campaign of anti-Semitism in Austria, shows how the expropriation of wealthy Jews of £96,000,000, by the Nazi Government, has given the anti-Semite campaign the appearance of being anti-capitalist in the eyes of the workers. He says: “A big section of the Austrian working-class, watching this attack on the middle-class of Vienna, has come to believe that National Socialism really is a fort of Socialism.” The S.P.G.B. has consistently opposed the stupid notion that State ownership of the means of production is Socialism or in any way even remotely connected with it. But the Labour parties in this and other countries have just as consistently upheld the idea. How then can the workers be blamed for believing that the so-called National Socialism of the Nazis is a “form of Socialism” when they see the possessions of wealthy capitalists, who happen to be Jews, taken over by the State. The taking over of capitalist undertakings appears to be in accordance with what the workers have been taught to believe is Socialism. Believing that, it is not surprising that workers are not very distressed when the capitalists are Jewish. Not only are they not distressed, but, according to Brailsford, “all down the Danube the news of these doings has run, and in the great excitement the Nazi movement grows in Hungary, while the Slovak-Autonomist Party turns openly Fascist.”

He goes on: “Brutal stupidity wins its way because a part of the Austrian workers had not begun to grasp what Socialism means. Yet for education that able party did more than any other in Europe.”

Mr. Brailsford and the Labour Party might do well to ponder the significance of the events in Germany and Austria.

Wherefore Anti-Semitism

“They tell me, by the way, that Musso’s threat to the Jews in Italy—they number between 50,000 and 60,000—is an artful way of getting round his pledge to Neville that he will stop his propaganda in the Near East.

“This anti-Semitism would please the rebel Arabs even better.” (Hannen Swaffer, Daily Herald).

The British Government’s interests are served by Palestine being a home for the Jews. If the Italian Government acquired it they would be in a similar position. Meanwhile the conflict between British and Italian interests expresses itself in Italian anti-Semitism, supporting the Socialist contention that material interests are the basis of sentiment and ideas.

Popular Frontism

George Padmore, author of ”Africa and the Next War,” has some very pointed comments on the “Popular Front” idea in an article in Forward, August 13th, 1938. He shows that Popular Front governments administer capitalism in just the same way as other governments. In Pondicherry, for example, the agents of the Popular Front Government in France shot 150 workers who attempted to stage a stay-in strike when they heard that the Paris workers had taken possession of the factories.

George Padmore shows how far Popular Front governments serve the interests of Democracy: —
“The Spanish Popular Front, looking for aid from France, and clinging to its Moroccan territory, refused the request to grant certain democratic and civil rights to the Moorish delegations which visited Caballero long before the Civil War broke out. Senor Vicens, the noted Spanish educator and adviser to the Republican Government on colonial problems, revealed the impotence of the Popular Front to assist the colonial peoples' progress towards self-determination.

Interviewed in March, 1938, by a representative of the American Negro Journal, Opportunity, he stated: 'The Republic would have granted autonomy to Morocco readily, long ago, except that France would not permit it. France was fearful of the effect on her adjoining African colonies. As soon as Morocco had become an independent state, the French colonies would have demanded their liberation and independence France was not ready to grant them this, and we were bound to France by a spirit of co-operation."
French capitalist interests dare not grant democratic rights to the Moorish colonies, and could not approve of the Spanish Government doing so. Popular Front governments would break up when any element in them tried to use them to grant concessions which undermined capitalist interests. It's a hard world for idealists, but the class conflicts in capitalist society cannot be abolished by Popular Fronts; they must serve capitalist interests or go.

Casualties in The War that is Always With Us

Arising out of a statement on conditions in the mining industry by the Secretary of State for Mines in the House of Commons (July 25th), the following facts came to light: —
In 1937, 869 persons engaged on underground work were killed as compared with 790 in 1936; and the figures for the first six months of 1938 were still increasing. While 471 fatal accidents had occurred up till July 16th, in 1937, the figure for the same period in 1938 was no less than 635.
In one pit it was found that: —
The men, who work naked, lose, on an average, 11 lbs. every time they go down.

In the Pendleton Pits, where conditions were even more severe, as much as 18½ lbs. in weight were lost per day.
And the not less pointed fact was revealed that “more lives were lost from explosions in Britain than in any other country.”
Harry Waite

This Month's Quotation: Oscar Wilde (1938)

The Front Page quote from the September 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard
"A man who does not think for himself  does not think at all. "

Parliamentary Fund (1938)

Party News from the September 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

SPGB Meetings (1938)

Party News from the September 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

Is The Materialist Conception Of History Sufficient? (1905)

From the November 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard
Interesting Letters on an Interesting Subject 
[The following correspondence has passed between two members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. The subject matter is of such importance—an understanding of what is implied by the term “the materialist conception of history” being indispensable to anything like an adequate appreciation of the Socialist position—and our comrade Watts has presented his case so admirably, that we have readily undertaken to give the letters the wider publicity of these columns.—Editorial. Committee.”]
Dear Comrade,— So far as I understand it, I agree with the Materialist Conception of History, but recently I have been studying the reports of the Sociological Society, which magnify the problem of the unification of the Social sciences until it appears almost insoluble ; and I have had my faith shaken in the sufficiency of the Materialist Conception because these learned people have made the question appear so great that the Materialist Conception appears too simple. I will, therefore, explain the difficulty according to the disciples of the Sociological Society.

They appear to agree that society is an organism of a complicated type, and that these complications are made intelligible only through their relations being truly comprehended. They view the sociological field as at present being separated into many particular fields, each in the hands of specialist investigators, and they claim that the sociologist (through the Sociological Society) is the scientist whose duty it is to co-ordinate the social specialisms and generalise from the investigations of the social They consider that the specialist investigators should work with the idea of the ultimate unity of their investigations, an idea that they claim it is one of the duties of the Sociological Society to foster. They deprecate the interpretation of the highly complex social phenomena in the terms of any one specialism; and this, it seems to me, is the point that particularly touches us.

On every hand we see men working with a view to the application of their particular remedy for various social evils. Do we not come under the same ban ? Do we not offer a sort of Morrison’s Pill for the earthquake? Socialism, at the last and ultimate analysis, is an economic proposition, a fundamental one, I grant, but still purely economic. Now the economic relations of men in society are not the only ones. We say : true, but all other relations grow out of the economic ones, and this, as I understand it, is the basis of the Materialist Conception of History. The point, then, is to demonstrate that the all important, the dominating factor in society, is its economic conditions.

There are a considerable number of people sometimes designated cranks, who desire to regenerate society through the application of their particular Morrison’s Pill. According to your alleged philosophic radical, all that is required is political perfection—the carrying of in political revolutionary reforms (I use the Hibernianism advisedly). According to the temperance fanatic, all that is required is the entire removal of the “drink evil,” root and branch. The ethical reformer seeks to emphasise the moral factor in social relations and through that means to establish the millenium. The orthodox man seeks that everybody should believe that certain impossible things once happened, and through that belief, somehow, I know not how, the millenium is coming. And so on. Every reformer of whatever colour or creed, has some Morrison’s Pill to give Society, to cure it of all its evils at one blow. But again I ask, does not the Socialist fall into the same category ? He says that ethical, moral, religious ; artistic, asthetical; political and intellectual relations are fundamentally determined by the economic relations, and he seeks to alter those economic relations so that following from such revolutionary change should come the change (and. of course, improvement) in the ethical, moral, religious: artistic, aesthetical; political, intellectual, and all other relations.

Now the difficulty seems to be, even granting all that we claim for the dominance of economic conditions, how far can man’s intellect get ahead of his economic and other conditions, and frame ideas and ideals to work to and for ? If man’s ideas were rigidly determined by his economic environment, the Socialist would be impossible, and indeed, the social conservative would be impossible, too, because in the same environment we find most divergent minds.

The whole problem that I am trying to formulate would seem to be the old one of “free-will” and “determinism.” And the only explanation of the divergences can be the individual temperament, call it what you will. So that the position seems to resolve itself into the effects of the action of the environment (in which must be included every influence which the human mind comes into contact with from first to last) on the individual personality, the “ego.” The great difficulty would seem to be, therefore, the true recognition of the forces that go to make up that ego through hereditary channels. Is our knowledge of the action of heredity sufficient for the formulation of a philosophy that should comprehend all the influence that go to make men, in all their strange variations of temperament ?

In conclusion, therefore, I would ask, is the Materialist Conception sufficient for the explanation of all the complex phenomena of modern Society ?
Fraternally yours,

P.S.—of course, you must not suppose that I am such a heretic on the Socialist philosophy as I appear from the above. I have exaggerated my own difficulties in order, not only to make the matter more controversial, but to, so far as possible, get the other side discussed.


Dear Comrade,—I have read your letter on the the Materialist Conception of History, and as I hold firmly to that conception as a guiding principle (having entirely convinced myself of its truth), I shall be glad to discuss the matter.

Before doing so, however, I will ask you to carefully peruse the following somewhat lengthy but exceedingly important quotation from Marx’s “Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” which gives an explanation of the Materialist Conception of History, as it is necessary to define our terms before using them as signs in our discussion.

This extract is from the preface to Marx’s “Critique of Political Economy.” Published (in Germany) 1857.

“The first work which I undertook for the purpose of solving the doubts which perplexed me was a critical re-examination of Hegel’s; ‘Philosophy of Law.’ The introduction to this work appeared in the German French Year Books of 1844. My investigations ended in the conviction that legal relations and forms of government cannot be explained either by themselves or by the so-called development of the human mind, but, on the contrary, have their roots in the conditions of men’s existence, whose totality Hegel, following the French and English writers of the eighteenth century, summed up under the name of civil society ; and that the anatomy of civil society must be sought in political economy, to which study I next gave my attention.

“The general result at which I arrived and which, once obtained, served as a guide for my subsequent studies, can be briefly formulated as follows:

“In making their livelihood together men enter into certain necessary, involuntary relations with each other.

“These industrial relations arise out of their respective conditions and occupations and correspond to whatever stage society has reached in the development of its material productive forces.

“Different stages of industry produce different relations.

“The totality of these industrial relations constitutes the economic structure and basis of society.

“Upon this basis the legal and political superstructure is built.

“There are certain forms of social consciousness or so-called public opinion which correspond to this basis.

“The method prevailing in any society of producing the material livelihood determines the social, political and intellectual life of men in general.

“It is not primarily men’s consciousness which determines their mode of life; on the contrary it is their social life which determines their consciousness.

“When the material productive forces of society have advanced to a certain stage of their development they come into opposition with the old conditions of production, or, to use a legal expression, with the old property relations under which these forces have hitherto been exerted.

“Instead of serving longer as institutions for the development of the productive sources of society, these antiquated property relations now become hindrances. Then begins an epoch of social revolution.

“With the change of the economic basis the whole vast superstructure undergoes, sooner or later, a revolution.

“In considering such revolutions we must always distinguish clearly between the change in the industrial methods of social production on the one hand ; this change takes place unconsciously, strictly according to the laws of natural science, and might properly be called an evolution.

“And, on the other hand, the change in the legal, political, religions, artistical or philosophical, in short, ideological, institutions; with reference to these men fight out this battle as a revolution conscious of their opposing interests. This conflict takes the form of a class struggle.

“As little as we judge an individual by what he thinks he is, just as little can we judge such revolutionary epoch by its own consciousness.

“We must rather explain this consciousness out of the antagonisms of men’s industrial occupations, out of the conflict existing between the productive capacity of social industry and the legal institutions under which this industry is carried on.

“A society, no matter what its form may be, is never broken up until all the productive powers are developed for which it is adapted.

New and higher social institutions are never established until the material conditions of life to support them, have been prepared in the lap of the old society itself. Therefore, mankind never sets for itself any tasks, except those for which it has received proper training and which it is able to perform.

“If we examine closely, it will always be found that the conflict never arises except where the material conditions of its solution are already at hand, or at least are in the the process of growth.

“We may in wide outlines characterise the Asiatic, the antique, the feudal and the modern capitalistic methods of production as a series of progressive epochs in the evolution of economic society.

“The industrial relations arising out of the capitalistic method of production constitute the last of the antagonistic forms of social production ; antagonistic not in the sense of antagonism between individuals, but of antagonism growing out of the circumstances in which men must live who take part in social production.

“But the productive forces which are developed in the lap of capitalistic society create at the same time the material conditions needed for the abolition of this antagonism. The capitalist form of society, therefore, will bring to a close this cycle of the history of human society, as it has existed under the various forms of exploitation.”

And now to proceed with my own contribution to the discussion.

All history, indeed all intellectual life, can be explained only from the accompanying and preceding material conditions, since any other theory than this postulates an uncaused thing, which is contrary to all experience, and is therefore unscientific and untenable. Intellectual life is but the reflex of material conditions. That intellectual life has a secondary reflex action upon material conditions in no way changes the fact that material conditions form the base, origin, and material of all intellectual life.

Now, in the Materialist Conception of History we are given the dominant factor in the determination of all history ; that is, the method in which wealth is produced and exchanged. Obviously, in order that there may be human history two things are essential; firstly, men, and secondly, food and shelter for them. How much, where and how food and shelter can be obtained, determines, firstly, man’s existence, secondly, where he shall live, and thirdly, how he shall live. Therefore the Materialist Conception of History is without doubt the determining and basic factor in all history ; indeed, broadly interpreted, all material conditions are comprised in it.

Just as we speak of the “Law of Evolution” so we may speak of the Materialist Conception as the “Law of History.” As in one case we can explain existing organic forms by the “Law of Evolution,” so in the other case can we explain existing social forms only by the materialist ”Law of History.” In organic, as in social, evolution, there are many minor matters that, with our present defective knowledge we cannot yet explain. Nevertheless, it would be absurd and unscientific to abandon the law which has been proved right in so many instances the moment we come upon obscure or complicated detail whose connection with the fundamental law is not at once seen.

Both in biology and in sociology, inability to see the working of fundamental principles or laws is usually the result of insufficient knowledge, narrowness of the field of view, and a priori notions. This is especially true of the modern social specialist. Lost in a forest of detail he lacks the breadth of view that is necessary to an understanding of general principles. We do not now magnify the accidentals of zoology to the extent that the old naturalists did, who thereby got fanciful and conflicting classifications; but, probably aided by the fact that we see the detail of animal life from a distance, and so get a truer perspective than in sociology, we have grasped the basic principles of organic evolution in the food supply and the conditions of the struggle to obtain it. No science is so subjective as sociology, for here we meet the “furies of private interests ;” and hampered as are the majority of specialists by preconceived ideas and class prejudice, small wonder is there that even the most honest of them arrive at such inane conclusions. They fail to distinguish between essentials and accidentals, and detail assumes greater importance than principles or laws in consequence. “They cannot see the wood for the trees.” Specialisation is, of course, essential, but. the co-ordination of the social sciences can only he the work of one who takes a thorough but even view of all.

To realise the full force of the Materialist Concept a broad knowledge of history, economics, and natural science is absolutely essential, and history is the most important. Such broad surveys of history as are given in even elementary primers like Jenk’s History of Politics and Fyffe’s History of Greece, or in such works as Thorold Rogers’ Six Centuries of Work and Wages and Buckle’s Introduction to the History of Civilisation, throw into relief the general principles of history and afford a granitic foundation to the Materialist Conception.

It is too great a task to attempt any historical survey here ; but it is most clear; to take the example that immediately affects us; that the tremendous transformation in this country during the last three centuries of the conditions of things and the social life arising therefrom, is directly traceable to the wonderful change which has taken place in the methods of producing and distributing wealth. A new class has been created and forced to power. The face of the country has been changed from agricultural to manufacturing. Huge towns have arisen where once were cornfields. The change from individual to social production has revolutionised social relationships. Where once men worked singly for home consumption they now work in huge armies for others, disciplined and commanded. Where once was handicraft is now giant machine production. All this has been brought about by the gradual change in the methods of producing and distributing the wealth of the country ; due to the greater economy of co-operative over individual production, and to the greater economy of machine over hand labour. Modern social life is explicable only upon this basis : the line of least resistance in wealth production impelling men into entirely new social relationships.

It will be seen how curious is the idea that the scientific Socialist, by indicating economic conditions as the basis of all social relationships, has only a Morrison’s Pill a la Carlyle to offer of no greater efficiency than is usual with such nostrums. The cure-all pill idea implies idealism. It implies that men can, out of their own souls, evolve a scheme of things and force it on society without that scheme being of necessity the outcome of present conditions and in harmony with the natural trend of things. Socialism of the scientific type is, of course, not this by any means. The various reformers with their nostrums are rather like the quacks who profess to cure virulent fevers by means of prayers, charms and incantations, or at least, like the pseudo scientific quacks who prescribe drugs to counteract only the symptoms and effects of diseases, leaving the causes untouched. The Socialist is rather like the true scientist who goes to causes in material conditions, and sees that effective drainage is laid down, cleanliness maintained, and correct food given.

The question often occurs : how is it that in identical environment some are Socialists and some are conservatives, if economic conditions determine, in the last resort, the views of men ? The matter of this “identical environment” can be illustrated by a simple analogy. Suppose a hundred soft clay balls were put in a bag and sat on, these balls would all be in an identical environment, like men in any class in society subjected to economic pressure, so what would happen ? Some balls would be squared, some slightly flattened, and some utterly squashed, as determined by their position in this so-called identical environment. In society different classes have different environment. In a given class some would be slightly modified conservatives, and some revolutionary: as pressure increases so all would become entirely altered. All, then, would be affected, but slightly unequally, since no two balls, or two persons, could possibly be in exactly the same environment. So in society men picture the future from what they see and feel in the present. Some by hereditary fitness and actual environment would more easily and clearly comprehend the needs of the present and the tendency of things; others in conditions less violently affected would find it more difficult to see clearly, or would from the materials to their hands or inherited weakness, form false pictures which would lure them in wrong directions.

So far from economics being but one specialisation of no greater import than a host of other artificial divisions or specialisms, economics is, then, the fundamental, the essential specialism. It is the trunk upon which all the various branches depend, or rather, to be more accurate, it is the anatomy of social life. The truth of this proposition is amply demonstrated at the bar of social history, even with the knowledge at present, available ; just as the truth of the law of evolution is shown at the bar of the more developed natural sciences. The conclusions of all natural science, indeed, render no other interpretation of history logically tenable except the Materialist Conception of History.
F. C. Watts.

[A further instalment of this correspondence will appear in the next issue.]