Thursday, October 26, 2023

Editorial: No change. (1906)

Editorial from the January 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

At last ! After paltering with the destinies of an imperial race for more years than the Liberal party care to remember, Mr. Balfour has resigned and the great Unionist Party has gone out of office. At last ! After fretting in the shades of opposition for a decade, Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman has assumed control of the reins of Government and the Great Liberal Party has gone into office. The most capable, the most industrious, the most earnest, the most successful Government of modern times (vide the Tory Press) and the most disgraceful, the most useless, the most fraudulent, the most shameless Government in the history of mankind (vide the Liberal Press) has decided to take a well-earned rest from its laborious endeavours (Tory Press), or has been forced by the pressure of a disgusted public opinion to vacate its position (Liberal Press), and an impossible government of mutually warring elements that cannot by any chance conduct the affairs or in any adequate way discharge the responsibilities of the English people (Tory Press), or a Government representative of the brains of the Empire, a sound and workmanlike Government that can unhesitatingly claim to voice the aspirations of every section of the nation (Liberal Press) has taken its place. The people of England may have which view they like for their ha’penny, and doubtless by far the majority of the people of England will have and unfortunately share, one or the other of them. We would it were otherwise. It would be otherwise if we could get the intelligent ear of the people of England—or the working class of England, for we are concerned with no other section. We would have the working class understand that, as a matter of fact, despite all the emphatic assurances of the Capitalist Press to the contrary, there is no real change in the Government. It is the same Government representing the same interests, aiming at the same object, actuated by the same motive. True it is a Liberal Government to-day, whereas yesterday it was a Tory Government. But that is only a change of label. It has a Bannerman at its head, vice a Balfour, a Burns at the Local Government Board, vice a second Balfour. But that is only a change of name. True also the change of name and label may involve a slight change of method. It has doubtless become necessary to make a concession to a slowly awakening working class opinion and a departure from the more usual course in the selection of a man for ministerial position who, to the slow-moving working class mind, would be regarded as a champion of working class interest, has been made. But this “Labour” representative has been carefully selected. By years of faithful service which the dirtiest of work has not affected he has demonstrated his trustworthiness and devotion to the interests of his employers. A change of names, of labels, of methods—that is all. The interest represented is still capitalist interest. The object still the retention of the means of life in the bands of the capitalist class, still the subjugation and exploitation of the working class. In no single material respect has the Government changed.

Editorial: Burns, P.C., M.P., L.G.B.., L.C.C. (1906)

Editorial from the January 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

In regard to the appointment of Burns to the Local Government Board, we have just a few words to say, A considerable bulk of nonsense has been spoken and written on the subject by those who claim to represent Labour, mostly to the effect that it is desirable to suspend judgment on the man until he has had a chance to show what he is prepared to do. Now these Labour representatives must know quite as well as we know, why Burns has been selected for the position and the conditions of the appointment. He is selected because be is a “safe” man, because he has acted jackal to the Liberal Party for years, and because he has rarely, if ever, during the course of his Parliamentary career, raised his voice in championship of the interest of the class from which he sprang, but has, on the contrary, always been at the disposal of his capitalist friends to defend any act, even acts of palpable atrocity, committed by them. His association with that cold-blooded mediocrity, Asquith, in the murder of the Featherstone miners, and his plea for the use in such cases of the deadliest bullets obtainable, placed him for ever without the pale so far as we are concerned. But notwithstanding his record, his proletarian origin has given him a standing with the ignorant working class which the entire capitalist press has endeavoured, successfully, it must be admitted, to strengthen. To reward him with a well remunerated post was therefore to secure a large measure of working class support which the pressure of adverse economic conditions and the inability of capitalist governments to touch even the fringe of the trouble were tending to alienate. These are the reasons for Burns’ elevation. The conditions are that he shall do what may with safety be done to ensure the continued support of the working class to the Liberal Party. There is no question about this at all. Everyone who understands the working class position understands that this is the only condition upon which a capitalist government would consent to the inclusion of an ex-working man in their counsels. Knowing this we do not require to wait for what Burns may do. We know what he will do and why he will do it—just as the Tory St. James Gazette knew when, in commenting upon his appointment, they asserted that he could be relied upon to deal with the “whining wastrelism” known as the unemployed.

Answers to Correspondents. (1906)

From the January 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

T.W:—The statement, like many another in the journal mentioned, is incorrect. No reference to Mr. Hyndman as “Uncle Harry” has ever been made in the Socialist Standard. Notwithstanding which we shall doubtless have it frequently brought up in evidence against us as an exhibition of bad taste. However—

W.L.D. (Leyton).—Certainly. Every contribution receives careful consideration.

Battersea Social. (1906)

Party News from the January 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

In this, the alleged festive season, it is pleasant to find that some people enjoy themselves. Truly, on Dec. 10th, with a fog so thick without that it might have been a blind man’s holiday, it was surprising to find Sydney Hall. Battersea, teaming with such a joyous gathering.

The occasion was a tea and social arranged between the West and South West London branches of the S.P.G.B. The Battersea, Paddington, Tooting, Fulham and Peckham branches were well represented. Clerkenwell was also represented, and contributed materially (or should it be immaterially?) to the amusement of the evening.

But I am anticipating.

After the tea had been hidden from view, Comrade Leigh of Paddington was prevailed upon to take the chair, and an excellent and varied programme was gone through. It would be invidious to praise particularly, because where all were excellent none could be more, and, (let me confess it) I have forgotten many of their names.

Suffice to say, the Social was a great success, and all were of opinion that this, the first joint Social, should not be the last; for such a pleasant relaxation from the stern uphill fight against Capitalism, cannot fail to bear fruit in better knowledge of each other, in closer comradeship and increased enthusiasm for the cause we have at heart.

The fun still ran high, when the stalwarts from the outlying branches carved their way through a dense London particular to the railway station in time for the last train home, to snatch a few hours sleep before commencing another week of drudgery, brightened, however, by memories of that evening, and by hope for the time when all shall be better than well.
Bolus o’ the Ditch.

Party Notes. (1906)

Party News from the January 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Executive Committee have dissolved all Sub-Committees and will in future meet at the Head Olfice every Tuesday at 7 p.m.

o o o

It has also been decided to abolish all Special Funds or rather to consolidate them into one General Fund.

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This does not mean that the Party can do without the money hitherto raised by means of these special funds. On the contrary it can do with very much more, so that its sphere of activity may be considerably widened.

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At the same time, it must be clearly understood that a member is only required by rule to pay twopence per week to the Party. But there are some who can afford more and these need only to be reminded that cheques and Postal Orders should be made payable to A. J. M. Gray.

o o o

The Delegate Meeting will be held at the Communist Club, 107, Charlotte Street on Saturday, the 27th. inst. at 3 p.m., and a Party Reunion will take place at the same Club on Friday, the 26th inst.

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Members should apply to their Branch Secretary for their new cards without delay.

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Although the E.C. will not in future meet on Saturdays, the Socialist Standard will still be published on the first Saturday in each month and the Head Office will be kept open every Saturday until 4 p.m.

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Branches so desiring can have their supplies of the Party Organ sent by carrier direct from the printers on the Friday preceding date of publication.

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Comrade R. A. V. Morris has resigned his membership of the S.D.F. and the Secretaryship of both the Bexley and District Socialist Society and the Dartford Division Joint Unemployed Committee in order to become a member of our Party. He is endeavouring to form a Branch and will be glad to hear from readers in the district. His address is “Oxshott,” Warren Road, Bexley Heath.

o o o

Comrade Rogers of Southend is very actively engaged in exposing the contradictory tactics of the local confusionists. On December 17th, after one Thomas Doody had spoken for the S.D.F., our comrade asked a number of questions bearing upon the difference between the preaching and the practice of that body, and why prominent members of the S.D.F. supported the defenders of capitalism. Mr. Doody, unable to satisfactorily reply, relied upon the usual side-tracking dodge, and thundered forth charges against this Party and its members. Now, if all Mr. Doody’s charges could be substantiated, if all his statements concerning us were true, the soundness or otherwise of the tactics of the S.D.F. would not be affected in the least. And when a public speaker, professing to have an open platform, to invite and to welcome criticism and opposition, ignores the criticism, shirks the questions, and makes wild charges against persons who are not there to speak for themselves, the public can easily see that his case must be a very bad one indeed.

o o o

Friend Doody declared that the members of the S.P.G.B., “instead of staying in the S.D.F. and trying to pull it straight, left and formed a new party.” We thank Mr. Doody for the public admission that the S.D.F. is crooked and requires to be pulled straight. He is apparently unaware that most of those who came out and formed the new party in June, 1904 had been for years trying to pull the S.D.F. straight and that they only came out when they recognised that “Vested Interests” were too strong for them; in other words, that the extent to which the Twentieth Century Press Ltd., the proprietors of “Justice,” the official organ of the S.D.F., was dependent upon Trade Union officials for orders and capital and upon individual capitalist politicians for financial assistance rendered it impossible for the S.D.F. to go straight.

o o o

If Mr. Doody will refer to the letter sent to the S.D.F. Executive in June, 1901, signed by some of the oldest and best known members of the S.D.F., asking for permission to form a Central West Ham branch, because those who signed it refused to associate themselves with the compromising policy then being pursued by the branches and members in West Ham, he will be compelled to admit that even at that time efforts were being made to “pull the S.D.F. Straight.”

o o o

The S.D.F. Executive, well knowing the extent to which the movement had been compromised in West Ham. gave permission for the branch to be formed.

o o o

That those who signed the letter had accurately judged the position is testified by a long communication from J. J. Terrett, who was a member of the S.D.F., which appeared in the “South Essex Mail” for December 16th last. He says :
“Most Socialists and Trade Unionists will, as they are pleased to phrase it, ‘vote for the least of two evils,’ viz., the Liberal as something better than the Tory. This has been our consistent attitude for nine years in all contests at Stratford, municipal, poor law, or national.” The italics are ours.
o o o

We did our best, then, to pull the S.D.F. straight, but without success. On April 23rd, 1904, a meeting of London members of the S.D.F. was held at Shoreditch Town Hall to discuss the resolutions passed at the Easter Conference. At that meeting Mr. J. F. Green, a comparatively new member of the S.D.F., who, because he was a middle-class man and acquainted with large numbers of middle-class reformers, was made a member of the S.D.F. Executive and appointed to the Treasurership almost immediately he joined the body, told us if we could not agree with the policy of the S.D.F. we ought to clear out. We cleared out.

o o o

Yes, we of the working-class, who had stood up at the street corner in defence of the revolutionary principles which the S.D.F. once promulgated, at a time when it was dangerous, physically and socially, to do so, we who had performed, in the interest of the working-class to which we belong, our full share of the hard graft which fell, and will continue to fall, to the lot of the revolutionist, were told to clear out by a middle-class man, pushed to the head of an alleged working-class organisation, if we did not agree with what he and his middle-class confreres considered was the proper policy to be pursued.

o o o

In June, 1904, we formed The Socialist Party of Great Britain. If you desire to follow the record of our work, send a postal order for 3s. to our Head Office, and you will receive post free a bound copy of volume 1 of the Socialist Standard.

o o o

Amongst other wild statements, Mr. Doody declared that Comrade Lehane was the editor of this journal. What that had to do with the policy of the S.D.F. cannot be seen. But the statement is not true. Lehaue has never edited the paper.

o o o

Mr. Doody also made certain statements concerning J. Fitzgerald, but as he also offered to meet our comrade in public debate and his challenge was immediately accepted on our behalf by Comrade Rogers, these need not be dealt with here. Arrangements will be made for the debate as soon as possible, and will be duly announced.

o o o

Ask your Branch Secretary for the Party Emblem. Twopence, or post free from Head Office for three stamps.

Readers are requested to forward copies of Election Literature, particularly that issued by S.D.F., I.L.P., and L.R.C. candidates, to the Head Office,

SPGB Meetings. (1906)

Party News from the January 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Wolfenden Report: Committee frank but clueless (1957)

From the October 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

“In my realms,” Queen Victoria is reputed to have said, “there are no such women.” If the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee become law, that happy state may be restored: not the one in which no prostitutes exist, but the realm wherein old ladies may assume that the unseen is the unreal.

The main findings of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution are by now too well known to need recounting. Briefly, they urge easier laws on homosexuality and harder ones on prostitution—that is, on street soliciting, the only offence with which prostitutes may be charged. There is no gesture towards ending or reducing prostitution; the Committee’s aim is simply to brush the dirt under the carpet—to remove what the Manchester Guardian called "the scandalous spectacle now commonly presented by some streets in London and other big cities.”

There can hardly be much objection to that, as far as it goes. The parade of streetwalkers is a sordid sight. How far does it go, however? Is anyone really going to feel better or more satisfied through knowing that they are on the ’phone and not the kerb, or because the invitation to five minutes of commercial, loveless love, is made indoors instead of in doorways?

That is not to imply that the Wolfenden Committee has been hypocritical. On the contrary it has done the only thing possible for it and, incidentally, accepted what some reformers will not see: that, in a social framework such as ours, prostitution cannot be done away with. “The law by itself cannot do so,” says the Report. The alternative, therefore, was to regulate the prostitutes and try at least to see that their activities were addressed to whom they might concern.

Why cannot prostitution be stopped? The Report speaks of a need first for education and a changed moral sense among the community. The fact is, however, that there is almost nobody who would not like to see prostitution disappear and is not aware of the squalidness of everything and everybody connected with it; no words, for example, convey deeper contempt than “ponce” and “pimp.” Moreover, it is overlooked that the toleration of prostitution owes a good deal to moralists who have condoned it as a kind of safety-valve for the family institution. Lecky, in his History of European Morals, wrote:—
“That unhappy being whose very name is a shame to speak, who is scorned and insulted as the vilest of her sex, and doomed for the most part to disease and abject wretchedness and an early death . . .  is ultimately the most efficient guardian of virtue. But for her the unchallenged purity of countless happy homes would be polluted . . . On that degraded and ignoble form are concentrated the passions that might have filled the world with shame.”
To look for the causes of prostitution via such questions as: "Why do women take to it?" is fatuous. The Wolfenden Report does state categorically, however, that “economic factors” enter into it scarcely at all nowadays. In a limited sense of “economic,” meaning that girls do not now go on the streets as the alternative to destitution, this can be taken as true. Beyond that, it means very little. Many prostitutes, like the one who spoke on television, do it just for money—not out of distress, but because they want the things money buys. And this is no perversity, but our society's commonest ideal. Sir Miles Thomas said vehemently in a television programme a little time ago that anyone who did things for any other reason was insane (did he tell that to his workers, one wonders; or to Sir John Wolfenden?)

The real causes of prostitution are the economic and social conditions in which it lives and flourishes. It is, in fact, a product of the monogamous marriage system within the framework of buying-and-selling societies; its proverbial oldness is simply the long history of those societies. The ancient civilizations, which were highly commercial ones and had strong marriage traditions involving usually the subjugation of women, all had a great deal of prostitution. The Middle Ages had it, though the extent is uncertain. The earlier, pre-industrial Revolution stages of capitalism had more than ever of it, just as they had more than ever of begging, squalor and crime. And almost any of Queen Victoria's subjects could have put her right: Lecky, or Charles Mayhew, or W. T. Stead who, to show what was going on, bought a girl of thirteen from her parents for £5—the understanding being that she was to enter a brothel.

Because prostitution has gone on so long, many people think it must be human nature. Well, it may become an enforced need, but it certainly isn’t human nature to buy and sell that. In the primitive places and communities where you would expect human nature to be rampant, prostitution is unknown (at any rate until the traders and colonists arrive). Indeed, sex is a matter in which human nature needs only half a chance to assert itself in good and satisfying relationships between men and women, and one of the terrible things about capitalism is the number of people to whom even that half-chance is denied.

Of course, prostitution can be abolished. Do away with property-based, sale-and-profit society, and you do away also with the ubiquitous trading, bargaining and hawking which condition or take the place of all human relationships. Set down a no-property, common-ownership basis, and social relationships then express only human beings' needs—of which prostitution is not one. The Wolfenden Committee confesses impotence: reformers have foiled with this as they foil with almost everything. Attitudes-to prostitution have varied from ferocity to sentimentality, and today's “social problem” approach, but prostitution remains. You cannot, after all, remove the ugly rash without cleansing the patient's system.

The Committee's other concern, homosexuality, has had the lion's share of the press and broadcast discussion. In spite of all the arguing, the proposal that homosexual behaviour between consenting adults should cease to be a crime is not new or sensational. Edward Carpenter was stating their case, with the support of medical experts, over forty years ago; so was J. A. Symonds. Various bodies for penal and moral reform (including the Catholic and Anglican Churches) have supported the proposal. Indeed, if it becomes law it will simply bring English law into line with that of France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Holland and Belgium.

The real, age-old taboo on homosexuality is rooted in its antithesis to the family institution. Thus, it was punishable by death in the Old Testament tribes, because it threatened the birth-rate; thus though the Catholic Church wants it removed from the list of crimes, it remains “the sin crying to heaven for vengeance ” in the Catholic Catechism. Its exact appraisal by society at large has always been related to the state of the family; here and there in history—in Greece, in Rome, in the Persia of the Arabian Nights—the circumstances have allowed toleration and even some degree of approval. Possibly the outcry against Oscar Wilde derived a good deal from the fact that most people, in the days of the platoon-sized family, were only too well bound to normal sexuality.

There is no reason for not being gratified that a small group of people may be released from the fear of vindictive legal penalties on their behaviour; equally, no reason for passing over the fact that another group now stands faced with harsher penalties. What remains, after three years' investigation and deliberation by the Wolfenden Committee, is that the Sunday papers will not be deprived of anything in material for their perennial Exposures of Vice. Perhaps it is unfair to mention only the Sunday papers, however: in his boyhood this writer heard preachers chill their audiences by speaking of the dens of vice that existed “ in this very town; here, around us . . ." Not for some years did be realize—and his curiosity abate that the working-class district in which he lived, in the days of mass unemployment, would not have kept a single prostitute for a single week.

Such problems as these are inseparable from the civilization in which we live. The prostitute and her customer, the homosexual with his secret, the ponce, the blackmailer, and the pervert are not outside but part of that civilization. With them stand the class division, the moral values, the family structure, the education, the "living standards,” the entire social fabric which we know. Take a look, gentle reader, and ask: Is it worth it?
Robert Barltrop

Letter: How to get Socialism (1957)

Letter to the Editors from the October 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

How to get Socialism

To the Editors of the Socialist Standard.

Sirs,—I like much your invitation of letters from readers. I desire to accept it because I am profoundly dissatisfied with your reply to Sidney Warr, whose address I should like to have seen given by you. Anonymous letters ought to be discouraged.

Mr. Warr will probably have to be content with your “ reply,” will, in fact, be expected to be. He laid himself wide open to a knock-out by his use of that beloved-of- politicians' word, "Reformism.” What Sidney Warr really meant was Evolution. If he had said Evolution, how would you have answered? I hope to find out by using the term myself. How do you get what you term " Socialism ” otherwise than by Evolution?

Incidentally, I object most strongly to your continuous abuse of the word principles. Principles have nothing to do with machinery. Principles are human and concern and govern human conduct. Look at the inhumanness of your reiterated “ownership.” Ownership and morals cannot co-exist. To change society human values must annihilate material valuations. Where is your evidence that you recognise that what is wrong with society is its morals? Where is your recognition of the one and only commandment, Thou shalt not be selfish?
Yours sincerely,
David MacConnell. 
Beech House, Castle Street, 
Bakewell, Derbyshire.

Our correspondent objects to anonymous letters: Mr. Warr’s letter on Reformism and Strikes (see September issue) was not anonymous, but we do not publish addresses unless we know that correspondents wish it

We are interested to learn from Mr. MacConnell that Mr. Warr’s letter about reformism was not the letter Mr. Warr really meant to write. According to Mr. MacConnell “what Sidney Warr really meant was Evolution.” (Perhaps we shall now hear from Mr. Warr telling us what Mr. MacConnell‘s letter means.)

We are now asked: “How do you get what you term ’Socialism' otherwise than by Evolution?” As the establishment of Socialism (as distinct from retaining capitalism with “reforms”) involves changing the property basis of society, it can be achieved only through a Socialist majority gaining control of the machinery of government for that purpose. Our correspondent is referred to our Declaration of Principles on another page.

We are not told how “evolution” is supposed to do the job, and incidentally this shows that Mr. MacConnell’s belief that he is Mr. Warr’s interpreter is quite wrong, for Mr. Warr did not put the case that Socialism could be achieved by reforms (or evolution).

Mr. MacConnell is angry about our alleged abuse of the word principles, but gives no example, so we do not know what he has in mind.

He says that “ownership and morals cannot co-exist," which is, of course, absurd. Capitalist morality co-exists with capitalist ownership. And apparently Mr. MacConnell does not really believe what he says, for he wants the morals of present-day society to be changed. Capitalist society cannot have its morality changed if it has none.

We give no evidence that we recognise that what is wrong with society is its morals, because the statement is meaningless. It is like saying that what is wrong with war is the violent way it is conducted.

Our correspondent lays down his one and only commandment: "Thou shaft not be selfish," but does not notice that in a class society it is two-edged. Does it mean that the exploiting class should show their unselfishness by giving up the exploitation of the working class? Or does it mean (as in the view of the exploiting class) that the workers should give up struggling against being exploited?
Editorial Committee

Letters: Religion and Socialism (1957)

Letters to the Editors from the October 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

(Views put in letters in the correspondence column do not necessarily represent the Party's attitude).

Religion and Socialism.

If the existence of religion is not enough proof for God's existence, does Mr. Jarvis hope to find any more powerful evidence than this? If so, I would like to hear it. Mr. Jarvis's own proposition, that religion could not exist without a belief in God proves this right up to the hilt. For the logic of this proposition could only mean that a belief in God determines the existence of God and religion, for without this belief neither God nor religion would exist. Now when Mr. Jarvis asked his religious opponent for further proof of God's existence, than his own boomerang proposition, I claimed he was talking in riddles. And now he asks me: “What's wrong with this?" I answer: “The logic of your own proposition." It is true that the belief in Socialism does not prove that Socialism exists, but who said it did? Socialist Parties could exist knowing full well that a Socialist society did not exist, but a God-religion could not exist while knowing full well that God did not exist. Therefore, from this it would be true to say that the Socialist believes in a society that does not exist, while the religious man, on the contrary (if belonging to the Christian or Islam religion), must believe in a God who does exist. Socialists believe that man must go through a purgatory of historical periods before he can finally reach his salvation, while the religious man believes that men could be saved in any historical period, if they carry out the will of God.
R. Smith.

It is a sheer waste of time to discuss religion, as there are so many facets to the subject. One man says that Jesus was a poor man and condemned the rich, but the churches seem to have made a good business out of it, especially in our own time, when it is investing its assets in stocks and shares on the Stock Exchange.

I would like to know what is the value of his religious experience to us. As far as I can ascertain it consists of a confusion of ideas, much of which is illusion and wish fulfilment. Millions of people have such delusions, he says, and that may well be the case.

Surely our task is not to concentrate on dispelling illusions, but in spreading a knowledge of Socialism, for light dispels darkness, and both ignorance and illusions will fade away when enlightenment is achieved. How many people now believe that the world was created four thousand years ago, or that it is flat, and down below there is hell and up in the sky, somewhere, there is a heaven. Very few now, so why worry about illusions. Spread Socialism.
I. Flower,

In his letter answering John Wyatt and R. Smith on “Socialism versus Religion," H. Jarvis makes a number "of telling points, but his reference to ". . . the pacifism of the New Testament" needs some elaboration.

True, Socialists are not pacifists; that is they do not “turn the other cheek" when the employer attempts a wage reduction, neither do they tell workers to "resist not evil." But Socialists are opposed to war and violence —all wars! But what of the alleged “pacifism" of the New Testament?

Much is made by Christian pacifists of the alleged sayings of Jesus concerning the love of enemies and the blessing of peacemakers, but little or nothing is said about those sayings attributed to Jesus which are the complete opposite of these sayings, such as:
"But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” (Luke XIX, 27.)

* * *
“ Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. (Matt, x, 34.)

* * *

“ Suppose ye that 1 come to give peace on earth? 1 tell you, Nay; but rather division.** (Luke XII, 51.)

* * *

“And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy." (Luke XXII, 36.)

* * *
And was there not war in heaven, when "Michael and his angels fought against the dragon." (Revelation, XII, 7). And have not the Christians been fighting each other, and supporting their masters' wars ever since?

So much for Christian pacifism!
Yours fraternally,

The Editor.

Dear Sir,—Being a subscriber to Socialist Standard, I must comment on articles in the June 1957 issue on pages 86-7.

I am a Catholic and have long been a believer in Socialism. I will remain both, despite Comrade Jarvis and others of his ilk who will confuse religious with economic and political problems.

Established Socialism would, I believe, constitute that Kingdom. He spoke of and showed us how to achieve. The lessons of His crucifixion and "popping back to life again" need not be gone into here.

To say He is admired as a “great man" is so much bull-dust. In the eyes of the world He was a weakling as a man. As St. Paul puts it: “The weakness of man is the strength of God." He condemned the "great man" idea as much as you. Such "great man" egotism as Comrade Jarvis showed in trying to make an enemy of a friendly Mr. Barr, was absent from His character. He was a friend to all and loved all, even His murderers. A lesson to be learned and an example to be followed by Socialists, Catholics, and all who hope for a better way of life.

The greatest, in my opinion, of the Holy Fathers, who, incidentally, was a father and never denied it, speaks of the ideal of owning all things in common and explains why it cannot be as yet. Namely, St. Augustine in “City of God.

Finally, please convey comradely greetings’ to Comrade Jarvis, who, despite his total ignorance of Christianity and its message, is no doubt a good and honest worker for the common cause of humanity, albeit in vain.
Yours sincerely,
C. W. Reilly.
N.S.W., Australia.

Dear Sir,—I don't know where your correspondent, Henry Myers, gets his information from, but the plain records of the Gospels state that Christ was hounded to death by the chief priests and scribes of that time. (Mark, 14-1). They paid Judas, a disciple of Christ, to betray him, and he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Being occupied by the Romans, the scribes and chief priests had to hand Christ over to the occupying power. But the Roman Governors, Herod and Pilate, both saw that they were dealing with an innocent man and attempted to free him. The people, however, whipped into a frenzy by the church authorities, declared that Christ was not the long expected Messiah, and clamoured for his death. Can any story be plainer?

As for Mr. Myers’ contention that Christ’s last words: “Why hast Thou forsaken me?” are blasphemous, is just plain silly—besides being in bad taste, as these were the words of a dying man.

By the way, if Mr. Myers will consult a dictionary (as well as the New Testament), he will find that the word “ambiguous” means having two meanings—not necessarily untruthful.
Yours truly,
Geoffrey Sharpe,

P.S.—May I add a word in favour of your correspondent, Mr. John Wyatt, who stated that the New Testament could be found to support a better economic system than our present one?

Other Letters.
Letters are in hand from C. Luff, Canada; R. L. Rhodes, Trowbridge; and D. Anderson, Glasgow.
Editorial Committee

Merdeka in Malaya (1957)

From the October 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

On August 31st Malaya attained Merdeka (independence), after over a century of British colonial rule. The day is a memorable one for the people there, who celebrated amid scenes of wild rejoicing and shouts of “Merdeka.” In the capital, on the stroke of midnight, the new Prime Minister told the people:
“A new star rises in the eastern sky—a star of freedom for yet another Asian people. This is the greatest moment in the life of the Malayan people, for a new nation is born —a nation that will stand forth free and independent." 
Incidentally, this little speech recalls our article in last December's issue of the Socialist Standard entitled Happenings in Hungary, where it was pointed out that the battle cry of “Freedom ” was used to rally support to a budding capitalist class trying to seize power in Hungary. The last sentence in that article will probably prove as relevant to Malaya as to Hungary: “In other countries whenever the new ruling group is firmly in the saddle of government they lose no time in turning on the workers.” 

Miss Nancy Simmons, a Colonial Office was also present She had been invited as a representative of the British working-class by the Malayan Prime Minister. This point illustrates the usual procedure of the rising ruling-class when taking over governmental power, of attempting to give their cause a working-class flavour.

What Malaya is worth
The transfer of power has taken place with the blessing and co-operation of the British Government, who had despatched the Duke of Gloucester there to represent the Crown, and, as part of the ceremony, hand over the instrument of transfer. A glance at recent events may indicate the reason for this support, which, at first sight, might seem against their interests.

Foreign investment (mostly British) in Malaya was nearly £100 million in 1937, chiefly invested in rubber plantations and tin mines. Imports into Malaya amounted to £484.5 million in 1956, of which U.K. was one of the largest suppliers.

But for several years past profits have been reduced by internal strife—Chinese "communists” attempting to gain power by force. The Chinese population is important, being as numerous as the Malays. These Chinese miners and agricultural workers find that developing capitalism is no panacea for their problems, and so they give their support to the Communist Party under the mistaken impression that their policy will radically alter society. This Party is influenced to an extent by the regime in China, to whom it looks for moral support. British interests in Malaya, seeing that there is a real threat to their investments, called in the British Army. Many members of the British working-class have already lost their limbs, their health and some their lives, fighting for their masters’ interests in the steaming jungles of Malaya.

Besides the antagonism that all this may arouse in Britain how much better to let the native rulers take over the thankless task of tying to make exploitation popular in Malaya. Merdeka in Malaya is the answer.

Trade Union Movement
The beginnings of a working-class (in the present-day meaning of the term) occurred with the rapid development of that country at the turn of the century when rubber and tin became useful to industry and the development of the steamship and the Suez Canal made bulk cargoes from the East a proposition for industrial Europe. Tamil workers were imported into Malaya from India to work on the rubber plantations. There are 400,000 such workers now employed. Chinese were imported for the tin mines. As an indication of the growing trade union movement, in 1947 696,036 days were lost in strikes on rubber plantations. In Singapore in 1945 173,000 workers came out in a general strike.

In the first elections held in 1955 the union of the various nationalistic political parties won 51 of the 52 seats. The only opposition seat was won by the Islamic party. Many of tbs workers in Malaya believed that their troubles were due to the country being ruled by foreigners and, therefore, they supported their native capitalist class. Presumably these workers will find out that a change of administrative personnel will not alter their class position.

Women and Merdeka
One feature in the capitalist development in Malaya is the lack of status of the Malay woman, despite her influence in favour of Merdeka. At the elections the newspapers expressed astonishment at the voters. Some of them had trudged miles carrying babies to get to the booths. By tradition, Malays are allowed to divorce their wives with only three months' sustenance as alimony, and it is estimated that 60 per cent of Malay marriages end in divorce. As a result of all this there is widespread prostitution. Very little other employment is open to women, and destitution is the only alternative.

One thing of which we can be confident is that a modem capitalist welfare state will not stand for the expense of directly keeping large numbers of unproductive discarded women and their children. For the women of Malaya capitalism will no doubt in due course bring them an up-to-date capitalist marriage system. It is a useful spur to productivity for a worker to be burdened with the worry of providing for a wife and family. But it will be economic causes, the need for a larger labour supply educated to some degree, that will change the way of life and their bondage for many of Malay women. The “independence” of their country will play but a little part. 

What are the prospects?
Malaya is a heaven for big business. The two chief industries, rubber and tin, require vast capital outlay for efficient exploitation. The price of labour is comparatively low, but the demand for these raw materials is tremendous and constantly expanding. What more can a capitalist wish for—low wages and an expanding market. Furthermore, the development plan for the period 1956-60 envisages a capital expenditure of over £1,000 million. Merdeka will, they hope, mean a rich harvest to the foreign capitalists (who own much of the wealth of Malaya) without the headache of repressing a working- class continually growing more aggressive.

The following tip (straight from the horse’s mouth) sums up the position for the capitalist in Malaya, and, incidentally, for the worker too. This is an advert by the Malayan Government in Eastern World (August 1957): “INVEST IN MALAYA, THE LAND OF GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY. BIGGEST RETURNS ON INVESTMENT, LOWEST TAX ON PROFITS. SECURITY ASSURED BY STABLE GOVERNMENT.” But riches at one end of the scale presupposes poverty at the other, and it will be poverty that will continue to be the lot of the workers in their promised land of Merdeka in Malaya.
Frank Offord

The Big Crocodiles of Fleet Street (1957)

From the October 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

As Socialists, we do, of course, expect the Capitalist Press on both sides of the Iron Curtain to be two- faced. The fact that the Press, along with the other media of mass head-fixing, has to present Capitalism to the workers in palatable form, makes hypocrisy unavoidable. Amongst the most glaring examples of recent hypocrisy is the dual attitude on strikes.

When a strike occurs in this country, the Capitalist Press, with the exception of the Daily Worker, is agreed that the time’s not right, the “country” can’t afford wage increases just now, arbitration is best, or the grievance is not a genuine one. The Red Bogey is often used amongst other cheap tricks to poison public opinion. “The Reds are stirring up trouble again—but for these Moscow agents, things would be all right." That's how the theme goes. The Daily Worker loves to play the role of workers’ champion and, to those with short memories, about its opposition to past strikes, it goes down well. Who would suspect that the Daily Worker might have a motive other than the successful organisation of workers for wages and conditions?

The ironic thing about Capitalism, however, is that it laughs at them all in the end. What happens when there is a strike behind the iron curtain? Wages and conditions are still the issues, but the Daily Worker and the rest of the Capitalist Press change over. The strikers suddenly become "heroic freedom fighters” to the pro-British Press, and to the pro-Russian they are “Fascist Agents." At first sight this may seem very bewildering, but really it is simply that policy is dictated not by workers’ interests on either side, but the nation of preference to those concerned. If they favour British Capitalism, strikes in Britain are bad, but strikes in Russian colonies are good. If they favour Russian Capitalism, the position is reversed. Perhaps the greatest ally the propaganda agents of the Capitalist class have is the short memories of most workers. The events in Hungary in the latter part of last year caused a momentary wave of excitement, but the so-called Communist Party, with its anti-working-class poison, is still here. If they shout “Down with the Tories" loud enough and often enough, they hope people will believe that there is actually someone blacker than they are, then Hungary and the general set-up in Russia can be conveniently forgotten.

How long the “plain sailing" between the Moscow earthquakes will last each time they do not know. They only have to print what Pravda says about Molotov and Malenkov and wait for the next lot. Recently there was the strike at Lodz in Poland (caused by some Fascist agents left over from Poznan no doubt).

The Daily Express (14/8/57) traced the trouble in Poland to “trying to build Socialism on a shoe string budget and keeping as far as possible from entanglements with Russia." It is doubtlessly true that Gomulka and the present gang at the top in Poland would rather not tangle with the military might behind the Russian ruling class, but surely the Express knows that Socialism is not involved. Budgets, shoe string or otherwise, are obviously part of the buying and selling basis of Capitalism. Workers are always poor whatever the State budget might be. They are poor because the places they work in are not theirs, and, working for wages, they only get back part of what they produce; the boss who pockets the rest always wants them to work harder for less. As much as the Press might try to ignore it, the class struggle between those who produce but do not possess and those who possess but do not produce is always with us, and the State running of industry alters nothing. State running of industry has nothing whatever to do with Socialism, which is a fundamentally different system. Socialism means the end of a class of wage earners, and a class of interest and profit and rent receivers. It means the end of buying and selling completely. Obviously under Socialism, where the means of production are held in common, the fruits of mankind’s co-operative labours will be freely available.

The Daily Express for the same date continued as follows: “But the Poles, a proud people, are tired of hunger. They are just as tired of high prices—of working for a week to buy a shirt, and two and a half months to earn the price of a suit.” Now there is a fine piece of rousing warm-heartedness for you, how different from what the Express was saying a couple of weeks before about the Midland Transport strikers. Perhaps under Polish Capitalism the “benefits” of hire purchase and “pay as you wear” have yet to make their appearance.

Now remember the point made at the beginning of this article, remember also the familiar excuses as to why workers here should not have wage increases, then read what the Daily Worker says about Lodz. Before we quote it, let us point out again, this time they don’t quote Pravda, but quote the Polish paper Trybuna Ludu. They have a Daily Worker reporter in Warsaw, and yet the report of just over two dozen lines was mostly quotes (15/8/57). (That’s one way of getting the line right). Having announced the end of the strike, they go on: Trybuna Ludu, reporting the return to work, said: “ 'The Lodz tram workers, recognising the unfairness of the strike action, resolved to return to work.' The Editorial added that the Lodz tram workers let themselves be influenced by irresponsible elements and had put forward unreal demands."

A Government communique on August 10th announced a wage increase for the tram workers which was “the limit of the possibilities of our economy.” The Polish trade union paper The Voice of Labour said that the rise asked for by the tram workers “is due to them as well as to other sections of the working class. But the Government is today unable to pay a wage increase such as all of us would like to have. Neither,” it added, “should the Government act in such a way as to cause inflation.”

Please don’t tell us you have heard it all before, we know you have, and while the wage slaves on both sides of the iron curtain see no alternative to Capitalism, we are sorry, but it will be more of the same. 
                                                                                                                               Harry Baldwin

Irish Odds and Ends (1957)

The Odds and Ends column from the October 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

Writing in the Dublin Evening Press (19/8/57), Fr. Robert Nash, S.J., says that somebody showed him a leaflet recommending Catholics to pray for the Communists; the idea being that each Catholic should “adopt” a special Communist in order to convert him to the faith. He continues: “Who he or she is will be known to God. For this precise person we are invited to pray much, to do penance, to commend him or her constantly to Our Lady”

Many prominent Communists, like Douglas Hyde, he continues, have found their way into the Church; but for those converted, millions are still “blinded and hardened, goaded to an insane hatred of God and His Church.” But, says Fr. Nash, “Suppose you entered into a pact with Our Lord to devote your life to the conversion of one of these? ”

Yes, suppose every Communist was converted to the Catholic Church. What good would that do for humanity? How would it, for example, solve the terrible poverty of thousands of Irish workers? As we see it, it would only mean that the Communists were exchanging one set of wrong ideas and attitudes for another lot— those of the Catholic Church, an organisation equally dictatorial intolerant and dogmatic as the Communist Party.

The solution to the problems facing working people, in Ireland as elsewhere in this life—the only one we Socialists know of—will not be solved by joining or putting faith in either the Communist Party or the Catholic Church. Neither warrants working-class support.

* * *

Nationalised Industries compete in England

Nationalised concerns, like private ones, are run to make a profit—and to make as large a one as possible, even if this means one State concern having to wage war on another. And this is now happening in England.

Under the heading: “Shock for the British Post Office,” an Irish Independent (20/8/57) editorial comments:—
"A novel revolt against the Post Office has broken out amongst the nationalised industries in Britain. Two of the regional electricity boards have decided that the cost, under the new increased postal rates, of sending out bills to customers would be so high that the bills will be delivered by the board’s own employees. The campaign is still in the experimental stage; but there is no doubt that it can effect substantial economies. The North Western Electricity Board will save £10,000 a year by having 250,000 quarterly bills delivered by the meter-readers. One can only guess at what the London Electricity Board, which has begun to deliver accounts by hand to 1,300,000 customers, will save.”
And later in the editorial the writer says:—
"Trade Unions will be quick to realise that their members (in Eire) would be the first to suffer if a campaign of the kind in Britain were to spread to this country."
For our part, we hope that English meter-readers in the British Electrical Trades Union will have something to say about this move by the Electricity Board to save money by making them more work.

It is about time that workers everywhere—in Britain, Ireland, Russia and elsewhere—realised that Nationalisation is no use to them, whether they work for the nationalised concerns or not.

* * *

Economic decline in Eire

According to the Irish Statistical Survey for 1956, issued by the Central Statistics Office on August 21, 1957, and published in The Irish Press, there was a decline in the national income last year. The drop was three per cent. on the 1955 figure.

The total national income in 1955 was £462 million—last year it was £449 million. Profits from agriculture, forestry and fishing fell by £11½ million in 1956; other domestic profits declined by £2½ million. Industry’s percentage of the national income, at 25.2 per cent., showed little change since 1954.

Personal expenditure on consumer goods and services dropped 3 per cent. on the 1955 figure. During the year the number of cattle on the farms dropped by 1.2 per cent.; poultry by 3.2 per cent.; sheep increased by 3 per cent., and pigs by 10.3 per cent But industrial production declined during the year by 4 per cent.—this decline in industrial production was most pronounced in construction and repair of vehicles, in distilling, boat building and repairing, furniture, sugar and mineral waters.

The Survey states that the total labour force was down by 13,000. The direct drop in the numbers working was 19,000, with an increase of 6,000 unemployed. The decline was made up of 10,000 in agriculture, 4,000 in the manufacturing industries, and 4,000 in construction. Compared with 1951 the total at work is down by 59,000. Of course, many of these workers are now abroad, in England and elsewhere; but the annual percentage unemployed was 7.7 last year compared to 6.8 per cent, in 1955.

From this statistical survey it can be seen that the Irish economy, which is predominantly agricultural, is a capitalist one, and is not in very good shape. Life for the Irish worker, whether he works in industry or on the land, is indeed an insecure one.

* * *

Sinn Fein policy is futile

Speaking against the internment and the “jailing of Irishmen” by the authorities at Curragh, Mr. Seamus South “appealed to the people to join Sinn Fein, which, he said, was a lawfully constituted organisation . . . Their aim was the re-unification of Ireland as a thirty-two county republic and the re-establishment of an All-Ireland 'Parliament. They had been accused of wanting to create a civil war, but they did not want that” (Mr. South was speaking at a Sinn Fein meeting at Listowel, and was reported in The Kerryman (24/8/57).

Whether Sinn Fein achieved their aim of re-uniting Ireland and re-establishing an All-Ireland Parliament, they would not solve the problems facing the Irish people—the problems of poverty and general insecurity.

The mass of the people suffer from these problems because they own little or no property in the means of life. They are either propertyless industrial or farm workers—when they are not unemployed—or their farms are too small to enable them to make sufficient money to live a comfortable life.*

Only when Irish workers and poverty-stricken small farmers unite together to make the land and the other means of life the common property of all, together with the workers of other lands, will they be able to solve their problems. Emigration is not the solution—only Socialism is!

* * *

* Sixty per cent, of the farms are under thirty acres; and the recent survey, carried out by the Central Statistics Office, showed that the income level on the majority of these farms was too low to create incentives for young folk to stay on the land.
This factor is the main cause of our rural exodus.” —The Sunday Press, 25/8/57. Emphasis theirs.
Peter E. Newell,
Co. Kerry, Eire.

Editorial: Hungary and self-determination (1957)

Editorial from the October 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

The member-states of the United Nations are pledged to uphold "the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples," but at the same time the U.N. Charter forbids intervention “in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State." So all that any government needs to do when flouting the first clause is to appeal to the second, by claiming that their action is a domestic matter, or that what they are doing is by invitation of the “legitimate” government. Thus, the British Government in Cyprus, the Indian Government in Kashmir, and the Russian Government in Hungary.

The charges against the Russian Government at U.N. Assembly in September 1957 were levelled to the accompaniment of much indignation and speechmaking, but the matter ended “with nothing more forceful that another appeal to the Soviet Union to withdraw her troops and relax the grip of her puppet regime.” (Manchester Guardian, 11th Sept., 1957). It was a foregone conclusion, for no government is at present willing to make war on Russia over Hungary, though the excuse will be stored away to be brought out again if occasion demands.

Louis Kossuth, 1848
It has all happened before, in 1848. Hungarian Liberals and Nationalists revolted to secure independence from Austria, and after initial successes, were crushed with the help of troops sent in by Russia. Then, as now, there was much talk about the so-called right of self-determination, and later on, when the Hungarian leader, Louis Kossuth, as a refugee, visited America, he was given a great welcome by, among others, the American lawyer who later became Republican President—Abraham Lincoln. In the early stages while fighting was still going on in Hungary, the following resolution was drafted by a small committee, with Lincoln as chairman, and passed at a meeting in Springfield, Illinois, on September 12,1849. (Reproduced from an article on Hungarian parallels between 1849 and 1957, in Saturday Review, New York, 16th Feb., 1957):
“That in their present glorious straggle for liberty, the Hungarians command our highest admiration and have our warmest sympathy: that they have our prayers for their speedy triumph and final success; that the government of the United States should acknowledge the independence of Hungary as a nation of free men at the very earliest moment consistent with our amicable relations with the government against which they are contending: that, in the opinion of this meeting, the immediate acknowledgment of the independence of Hungary by our government is due from American free men to their struggling brethren, to the general cause of republican liberty, and not violative of the just rights of any nation or people.”
The resolution, like the resolutions of U.N. assemblies today, was merely an expression of sympathy; the only positive action it asked for was the recognition of Hungary as an independent State, subject, however, to not offending Austria, “ the government against which" the Hungarians were rebelling.

A Lawyer’s Definition
In January 1852, when the fight was over and the Austrian Government was in control again, Kossuth toured America, and another meeting was held at Springfield, Illinois, addressed by Lincoln. The long resolution showed Lincoln’s thoroughness in his attempt to define in legally precise language what he called the right of national independence, the opening clause read: “That it is the right of any people, sufficiently numerous for national independence, to throw off, to revolutionize, their existing form of government, and to establish such other in its stead as they may choose.” This was the most forthright part of the resolution and, as we shall see, it was the part Lincoln was to throw overboard 10 years later.

In the other paragraphs of the resolution Lincoln declared that if such a movement for independence takes place, no other government has the right to intervene either to help or to hinder the struggle, and that the intervention of Russia in Hungary against Kossuth was, therefore, “ illegal and unwarrantable,” but as it had taken place, it would have been legitimate and meritorious for America or any other government to have resisted Russian intervention in Hungary. At this point the resolution cautiously lapsed into the non-committal:—
“ That whether we will, in fact, interfere in such a case, is purely a question of policy, to be decided when the exigencies arise.”
Circumstances alter cases
As often happens, the leader of the Opposition, when he gets into power, can hardly recognise the things he has been saying. In 1861 Abraham Lincoln became President and then refused to acknowledge the right of the Southern States to secede (notwithstanding clause one of his 1852 resolution on Hungary). He waged the bloodiest war of a 100 years to prevent secession. Lincoln did not pretend, as his admirers sometimes pretend, that the war was being fought to destroy slavery. He saw, however, that in the world as it really is admission of the right of any American State to go its own way would have reduced powerful united America to a disunited medley of small and weak States. This is true of the world today, and will remain true so long as capitalism is allowed to continue. Capitalist trade and the maintenance of private property demand central government with powerful military forces and defensible frontiers, and against this the so-called "natural right” and “international principle” of self-determination are merely fanciful; along with U.N. protests, they have no deterrent effect on the governments of the world. The nationalist movements organized to gain independence are not striving for any abstract principle, but for the power of a propertied class to operate capitalism within territory under their own control. High-flown talk about “principles of self-determination” may be an incidental aid in the struggle, but has no bearing on the conduct of affairs once independence has been won. There is, therefore, no real inconsistency in the action of one group achieving independence and then forcibly suppressing movement for independence on the part of another minority within the country. Britain, America, India. Pakistan, Ghana, Russia, and all the other national capitalist groups which pleach “self-determination” and flout it whenever important economic or strategic interests are involved, are all being true to the vital belief they have in common, belief in the necessities of capitalism.

50 Years Ago: Socialism or Reform ? (1957)

The 50 Years Ago column from the October 1957 issue of the Socialist Standard

(From the Socialist Standard, October 1907).

To put . . . a long list of “palliatives” before the workers not only excites derision and scatters the workers’ energies, but leaves the cause of evil unchecked, confines the workers’ attention to fruitless efforts at reform within the present system, serves capitalist interests and starves and hinders the only forward movement, thus postponing indefinitely both the removal of the cause and the healing of the wounds.

Any genuine reform that takes a bite out of capitalist interests (and no reform can be genuine that does not) can only be obtained in opposition to the capitalist class by the workers capturing political power. Thus, to obtain even reforms would require what is essentially a revolution. But the working class cannot be united upon a measure that can only doubtfully benefit a small number of them; while the number of evil effects of capitalism is so vast that scarcely any two workers can be united upon all the innumerable palliatives called for, and as to which are the most pressing.

By having their attention directed to effects only the efforts of the workers are made mutually antagonistic, and are scattered and nullified by being directed to all points of the compass upon the myriad effects of capitalism, instead of being focussed on the cause.

Finally, even regarding such inadequate and restricted measures of alleviation that may be possible within the capitalist system, and even supposing the ruling class could be induced to grant them, we direct attention to the following incontrovertible proposition: That the only effective way to induce the ruling class to attempt to palliate the evils of their system is to organise the workers for the overthrow of that system.

(Extracts from an article “Socialism and Reform").