Saturday, November 11, 2023

“Something Worse Than War” (1944)

From the November 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard
“From 1939 to 1942 the deaths from tuberculosis in Great Britain were greater in number than the total killed in the first four years of the war (United Kingdom Forces).”

“During 1942 the deaths from tuberculosis were three times as many as for factory, mining and road accidents combined.”
This very revealing information we quote from the July 1944 issue of the Monthly Journal of the A.E.U. The accompanying figures were as follows :—

Thus we see the damage to human life that has been wrought by this silent killer in the years that our senses have been deafened by the din of war. But however disturbing these statistics may be, they do not give the complete picture. The evidence that 123.000 and more people succumbed to this disease from 1939 to 1942 makes it quite clear that there are many more living sufferers from the disease. Of this we can be certain, since a large number of people are living and working in similar conditions. The medical men emphatically declare that tuberculosis is an acquired, not an inherited disease. We accept their conclusion, but would add that while it may not be possible to inherit tuberculosis by birth, we note the inheritance of the living and working conditions in which tuberculosis is acquired. From the standpoint of biology, tuberculosis does not “run in families,” but by fact of the economic circumstances of the mass of wage slaves, the disease does run very largely in one big family—that of the working class.

As quoted earlier, the Monthly Journal of the A.E.U. compares the deaths from tuberculosis in 1942 with the figures of fatal accidents from factories, mines and roads for the same year. In spite of the ratio of three to one, we say without hesitation that tuberculosis is no accident! At this point it is interesting to take cognisance of a paragraph dealing with this matter from “The Household Physician” J. M’Gregor-Robertson, revised by David M’Kail, Vol. I., p. 212 (Gresham Pub. Co.) :—
“If all consumptive patients were to expectorate only into special utensils regularly disinfected, and were segregated when helpless and most infectious; if bovine tuberculosis were stamped out or if only sterilised milk were used, and all tuberculous meat and pork were destroyed; if authorities were to insist on a good standard of housing, air space, general hygiene, and to secure the abolition of back lands, ill-lit and ill-ventilated tenements, workshops, and factories, this disease and many others might soon become as extinct as the dodo.”
It is not necessary to point out that the problems of housing, air space, hygiene, back lands and unhealthy tenements, workshops and factories are problems with which the working class are faced. These are our inheritance.

The master class will see to it that not too many wage slaves fall to tuberculosis, otherwise their own profits will be jeopardised. Apparently a mere hundred thousand is not too many. In the political field, therefore, the Socialist Party asks workers to view the state of affairs with determination—determination to abolish a mode of living in which the only consideration for human welfare is that workers shall be able to produce a profit for their masters. And in its place to establish a system of society wherein will obtain equal relationship between every man and woman, and accordingly, the absence of a class whose privileged position demands the exploitation of a working class. For out of such exploitation emanates the poverty, insecurity, squalor and disease of which tuberculosis is but one example.
F. T. Burvill.

What should Women do to be Free? (1944)

From the November 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

Looking through an old copy of the Socialist Standard, the writer came across a series of articles based on lectures on that seemingly eternal subject, “The Women’s Question.” Like unemployment, it is always with us, and will remain so until the inception of Socialism.

Woman cannot expect emancipation, any more than can her fellow-worker, man, under the existing system, capitalism. The amount enjoyed now by the male is merely a question of degree, conditioned mainly by his class position ; if of the working class, he is at liberty to sell his labour power or to starve.

Morgan, in his great work “Ancient Society,” shows clearly that the subjugation of woman did not come about to any great extent until the importance of private property was realised. Woman then became part of it; she was as important as flocks and herds, because she was reproductive, and she had no more freedom. Companionship and affection between the male and female had not yet been realised, and could not enter into the contract. The husband punished infidelity with severity, whilst reserving for himself the right of promiscuity. A section of women became courtesans, thus filling the needs of man for enjoyment outside his own home. These were found in the early civilisations of Rome and Greece, where the married women had no rights or freedom. Man then became the head of the family, over which he exercised power of life or death; property descended through the male line instead of the female, as heretofore, and the female lost all right of expressing herself and putting her point of view as she had been accustomed to so doing in the savage tribes. Her place became the home, whilst the man developed for himself a life outside it and generally had some voice in public affairs. Thus began the possibility of the charge so often still levelled against woman, that her mind can only appreciate trivialities. Small wonder, she was for so long debarred from all else, and the education available for her brothers was denied her.

Time, coupled with the progress of capitalism, has modified her position somewhat. To the capitalist she has appeared in the guise of a worker who will accept less wages than the male. Her centuries of subjugation were exploited to their fullest extent during the Industrial Revolution. Marx, in “Capital” (Vol. I.), gives a telling quotation from Lord Ashley’s speech on the 10-hours Bill. “Mr. E., a manufacturer, informed me that he employed females exclusively at his power looms . . . gives a decided preference to married females, especially those who have families at home dependent on them for support; they are attentive, docile, more so than unmarried females, and are compelled to use their utmost exertions to procure the necessaries of life. Thus are the virtues, the peculiar virtues of the female character, to be perverted to her injury; thus all that is most dutiful and tender in her nature is made a means of her bondage and suffering.” (Page 100, Glaisher edition.)

During the present war the calling up of men for the armed forces, and the subsequent conscription of women for industry, has once again given the capitalist a golden opportunity for getting more surplus value from his workers. Army pay has been so low, has borne so little relation to the needs of life, that women with small children have been compelled to go into the factory. That it has been the design of the representatives of the capitalist class, the Government, is evident by their provision of war-time nurseries. They are learning how better to enslave their workers from their co-belligerent Russia, who provides factory creches for war workers’ babies, so getting their cheap labour without damaging the next generation of wage slaves. Britain has hitherto been too crude in her methods to make such provision. Mothers have gone out to work and left their children under little or no supervision, which has been one of the causes of infant mortality and disease.

Woman has awakened sufficiently at this time to strive for “equal pay for equal work,” but not enough to demand the abolition of the wages system. She, like her male fellow worker, does not realise the theft that is being perpetrated upon her when she becomes employed. Such slogans tend to increase any antagonism that may exist between the sexes, instead of uniting them against the common enemy, the master class. The possibility of further antagonism may be manifested after this war, when men return from the Army to find, as after the last world war, that the women ensconced in their seats are unwilling to get down, and it will doubtless be exploited by Governments when unemployment once again becomes rife—as indeed it must, despite all “reconstruction schemes.”

An organisation called “Women for Westminster” has recently been born. It has a self-explanatory name and object. What a waste of time and energy such an organisation causes, and what future disillusionment must there be among its adherents ! Supposing they were to have a measure of success according to their aims, and get a predominance of women in the House of Commons. They would find that women, merely as women, can run capitalism no better than can the Labour or Tory Parties.

The Suffragettes have been appalled by the lack of enthusiasm for the vote, following their desperate efforts to gain it. Their lack of knowledge of the make-up of society is the reason for their indignation. Despite the constant propaganda of the press, screen and radio, woman as well as man is sceptical, often unconsciously so, regarding electioneering programmes, which cater for all tastes. Speaking generally, members of the working class are apathetic and not politically conscious. Many, unfortunately, are led away by reform parties, by idolaters of Russia, or by mushroom growths such as Commonwealth.

Many of the reforms regarding women have been implemented since Mary Woolstonecraft wrote her book “The Rights of Women.” These may, in the main, be attributed to the rise of capitalism, which has made it necessary for woman to take her place as part of the industrial army. In countries such as Turkey, for example, where after years of seclusion woman has removed her veil and gone out to work in the factory, it does not merely indicate that opinion there is becoming more liberal, but that the forces of industrial capital are at work looking out for cheap labour. The benefits woman has received in the field of education have been essential for her to take her place in the professional groups, and whilst giving her some individual freedom, have exchanged her quiet home life for that of a competitive existence.

Many women intent on emancipation have sublimated their natural instincts. This is undoubtedly possible for the possessor of an interesting and absorbing job, but as most work has been reduced to routine by the division of labour, characteristic of capitalist organisations, little permanent satisfaction is obtained thereby. With the present knowledge of birth control, the modern working woman denies herself the pleasure of children rather than bring them into a world, for them, of abject poverty. Frustration is thus found on all sides; denied an interesting and creative job, denied the rightful expression of her normal instincts, woman becomes, like the male worker, another machine for productivity and exploitation by the capitalist.

Whilst capitalism lasts, women will remain, like men, in a subject position, no matter how far progress is made towards equality with men. The interests of women are therefore identical with men in struggling for the overthrow of the present system, as it is only under Socialism that both will find real emancipation.
W. P.

A Change in the Catholic Attitude to Russia? (1944)

From the November 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Times (September 16th, 1944) prints a report from a special correspondent in Rome on an expected Papal pronouncement dealing with the relationship of the Catholic Church with Russia. Here are two extracts from the correspondent’s article : —
“There is reason to believe that the Pope is preparing to make a fresh pronouncement on the subject of Communism. Such a step seems highly probable in view of the decisive role which Soviet Russia is assuming in world affairs.”

“At the present time the Catholic Church’s two stock guides on the attitude to be adopted towards Communism are Pius XI’s two famous encyclicals, Quadragesimo anno, issued in 1931, which denounces its atheistic basis, and Divini redemptoris (1937), which attacks its propagation of the class war.

“The reconciliation of the Soviet Government with the Orthodox Church deprives the former pronouncement of some of its point, while recent declarations of Communist leaders such as Togliatti, who was for years vice-secretary of the Comintern, that Communism envisages neither the destruction of the middle class nor of private property, are bound to leave some doubt in Catholic minds. The fact that a political group could be formed in Italy under the name of the Catholic Communists shows clearly how much new directives are needed.

“It is possible that the Pope may not go to the length of indicting a new encyclical in answer to these questions, but he may issue instructions in a simpler form, explaining how far collaboration is permissible between Roman Catholics and Communists in practical matters, and where it must cease.”

"Irish Freedom" Declines our Advertisements (1944)

From the November 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard

Although the journal “Irish Freedom” solicits paid advertisements and had agreed to insert a notice of our July issue, the Editor, Mr. Pat Dooley, later wrote saying that his Editorial Board had decided it was unable to insert it. Could it be that they did not approve the Socialist comment on the Irish General Election?

SPGB Meetings (1944)

Party News from the November 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard