Tuesday, December 5, 2023

50 Years Ago: The Rise of Hitler (2003)

The 50 Years Ago column from the December 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the late nineteen-thirties German Capitalism was labouring under an intense expansionist pressure. Its industry, ever virile, had largely recovered from the reverses of the 1914-18 war, and was casting about itself for colonial sources of raw materials, and markets upon which it could sell the products pouring from the factories. The eyes of the German capitalists were upon the industrial strength of the Saar, upon the oil of the Balkans and the Middle East, and upon the African Colonies of which they had been deprived in 1919. At every turn Germany stood thwarted by Great Britain, France and Russia. And all the time the pressure from the great industries, gathering their strength day by day. The situation was explosive and it threw up an explosive character. Adolf Hitler, with his brainstorms, his Gestapo and his concentration camps, was a peculiarly approximate expression of German capitalism and so was supremely suited to play the role of the Bad Man of Europe: the pens of Fleet Street ran warm in the depicting of this newest bedtime threat. But Hitler was only the expression of the desperate ambitions of the German capitalists; and Chamberlain and Daladier – his opposite numbers in Great Britain and France – were representative of the fears and determinations of the ruling classes in their countries. The 1939 war arose from Germany’s struggle for a place in the European economic sun, opposed by the need of her opponents to keep her in the shade.

It is worthwhile noting the appeal which Hitler made to the German working class in order to arouse them to the acceptance of an inevitable war. He spoke of oppressed minorities of German nationals in the Sudetenland. He demanded the return of Germany’s lost territories in Eastern Europe. He sketched the plight of the inhabitants of East Prussia, cut off by the Polish Corridor from overland communication with the rest of Germany. The phrase “the right of self-determination” flew thick in the air. It was effective matter and the German workers accepted it. They went willingly to a war in which Hitler himself lost his life. But did the ambitions which Hitler voiced die with him? We shall see.

(From article entitled “The Truth About Bogey Men” by “Ivan”, Socialist Standard, December 1953)

Mike Wayne's Marxism and Media Studies (2003)

Book Review from the December 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marxism and Media Studies. By Mike Wayne. Pluto Press.

The big media are owned by big companies, so naturally enough they present a pro-capitalist view of the world. You might think there wasn’t much more to say about the media, but in this book Mike Wayne says quite a bit more. Be warned, though, that it is intended as a university textbook, and this is presumably what makes it so full of jargon (reification, ideologeme, for instance). The second half, in particular, is strong on jargon but remarkably weak on insight.

Wayne begins by wrestling with the question of whether “cultural workers” (writers, actors, etc.) are working class or not. He accepts that they produce commodities that realise surplus value, and notes that scriptwriters on Coronation Street had to increase their productivity when the soap changed to three episodes a week (as the actors had to as well). He has a point that actors and musicians who are established faces/voices cannot be simply replaced with other wage workers, but draws from this the odd conclusion that “intellectuals” are somehow located between capital and labour. The fact is that, leaving aside a small number of very highly-paid performers, those who work in the media are dependent on selling their ability to work and so count as wage workers. Even film directors can get sacked if they step out of line.

So-called public service broadcasting (the BBC, for instance) is often seen as motivated by considerations other than profit. But Wayne remarks on the political context in which such organisations were set up: the 1920s and 30s were a time of increased state intervention in the economy, and “public” broadcasting arose in line with such developments, designed to serve the overall interests of the capitalist class. The overtly commercial media, of course, are run on straightforward capitalist lines. The amount of advertising on TV has increased, to a permitted average of eight minutes per hour (next time you watch ER, check how much advertising the show’s 60 minutes contains).

Media conglomerates such as Disney are almost a law unto themselves, and their companies repeatedly plug films made by other Disney subsidiaries. Disney’s boss Michael Eisner and the ubiquitous Rupert Murdoch lobbied for China to be allowed into the World Trade Organisation, as both have their eyes on the potentially enormous Chinese market. But many governments regard their country’s media as a special case, not to be open to overseas takeovers and so needing “protection”. US capitalists, in particular, have been pressing for the WTO to enforce “liberalisation” of European media, so that they can be sold to the highest bidder. For instance, when the Kirch media group in Germany collapsed in 2002, Murdoch was prevented from acquiring a controlling interest.

Wayne presents an analysis of Big Brother in terms of the base-superstructure model. But we’ll refrain from quoting any of the more pretentious formulations in this, on the grounds that it would be too easy a target.
Paul Bennett

Alison Assiter's Revisiting Universalism (2003)

Book Review from the December 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Revisiting Universalism. By Alison Assiter. Palgrave Macmillan. 2003.

This is a book that re-asserts that there are universal values applicable to all human beings. It is directed against the “post-modernists”, “multi-culturalists” and some feminists, who assert that, on the contrary, there are no universally shared values by which to judge conduct, that any group’s view is as good as any other’s and ought to be respected as such (i.e. not criticised), or, as one wit has put it, “cannibalism is a matter of taste”.

Assiter starts from a materialist position. What all humans share in common, she says, is the basic need for a minimum level of food, clothes and shelter as essential to their physical health:
“(i) All human beings have needs which must be satisfied, if they are to act in any way at all;
(ii) These needs therefore ought to be satisfied, and this is a universally valid ‘ought’”.
Therefore “each one of us has an equal right to have our basic needs satisfied”. At the abstract level at which the argument is being conducted, Socialists can go along with this. But then Assiter extends this by adding that it means that every human being therefore has a “moral obligation” to do what they can to ensure that every other human being has their basic needs met.

This would make the case for socialism (as one among possible actions to try to ensure that every human has their needs met, the only effective one in fact) a moral case whereas we have always argued that socialism is based on interest, class interest to be more precise. It is in the material interest of the working class to have their needs met; these cannot be properly met under capitalism; therefore it is in the interest of the workers to abolish capitalism. So, when we approach our fellow workers, we don’t say “You should be a socialist because you have a moral duty to ensure that the basic needs of all your fellow humans are met”. What we say is: “You should be a socialist because only socialism can assure that your basic needs are met”.

In any event, to say that every human has this moral duty towards all other humans is pointless since ineffective. It would mean that the capitalist class has some moral obligation towards the working class. Tell them that and they’ll laugh in your face. And why should we assume any moral duty to the capitalist class, who exploit us? Not that workers are likely to respond to appeals to a supposed “moral duty”; they will establish socialism out of material self-interest, individual and collective. Socialism is a class issue not a moral issue.

To tell the truth, this book will have little relevance outside the academic world, indeed outside university philosophy departments. Academics are wage-slaves like the rest of us and one of their conditions of employment is “publish or perish”. As a result publishers’ lists are clogged up with books written just for this purpose. Something marginally different about this book is that we get a mention (even if our address is wrongly given).

Assiter, a leading feminist intellectual who was once a Socialist Party member, quotes Slavoj Zizek as writing that
“when the ‘left’ makes its demands ‘for full employment’ ‘retain the welfare state’ ‘full rights for immigrants’ . . . it is bombarding the capitalist state with demands it cannot fulfil. The left, he writes, is ‘playing a game of hysterical provocation, of addressing the Master with a demand it will be impossible for him to meet’”.
And contrasts this with the approach of
“the British SPGB, a political party that has operated in the UK, and elsewhere, since 1904. Members of the SPGB reject Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky as ‘impure’ versions of Marx, and believe that they must argue the socialist case in as many venues as possible, in order to convince a majority of the working class of the veracity of their case. They adopt the strategy of believing that rationality will prevail and that once people see and understand the logic of their case, just like the believer in decision procedure, then those people will convert to their cause and there will be no more capitalism, no more wars and no more wage slavery”.
A bit over-simplified in that we are not trying to “convert” people to our “case” as such, but to convince our fellow workers that it is in their material interest to establish socialism. But perhaps we shouldn’t look a gift-horse in the mouth.
Adam Buick

Michael Lebowitz's Beyond Capital (2003)

Book Review from the December 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Beyond Capital. By Michael Lebowitz, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.)

Karl Marx originally planned to write six books under the project title “Economics”, but only the first book Capital was ever written. The other books in the planned series were: Landed Property, Wage Labour, State, International Trade, World Market. Because Marx never got beyond the first, claims Lebowitz, the theory is somewhat one-sided. Capital analyses in particular the laws of motion of capital and a detailed consideration of the other side of the social relationship, wage-labour, was to be left to the third book in the series. The resulting description of capitalism in Capital can be interpreted in a mechanical and determinist way, with capital having a “logic” of its own from which the class struggle of the workers is absent. Would anyone be so foolish as to read Capital that way? Well, yes, it’s surprisingly common. For instance, G.A. Cohen has built an academic career largely out of popularising a functionalist account of Marx’s theory in which, among other things, we learn that “high technology was not only necessary but also sufficient for socialism” (Karl Marx’s Theory of History: A Defence, 1978, p.206). For Lebowitz, on the other hand, the subject of Capital is capital and it explores that relation from the perspective of capital. However, an adequate understanding of capitalism as a whole requires us to recognise it as a totality, as a class struggle between capital and wage-labour.

From the point of view of capital, the value of labour-power (the worker’s ability to work which is sold for a wage or salary) is determined by the necessaries of life. This can imply that the process of establishing wage levels and the value of labour-power is more or less automatic, with the direction of causation going from the necessaries of life to the value of labour-power to wage levels. On the other hand, although Marx never wrote the planned book on wage-labour, he did a lecture that is written up as the pamphlet Value, Price and Profit. Here Marx explains that wage levels will vary with “the respective power of the combatants” and in the long run this will determine the value of labour-power and the necessaries of life. From the point of view of wage-labour then, wage levels and the value of labour-power depends on the balance of class forces, on what workers can actually get from their employers.

Of course socialists take the side of workers in the class struggle. However, the problem of a possible one-sided interpretation in Capital was first recognised by Maximilien Rubel, and he concluded that because of the “fragmentary state” of Marx’s “Economics” project, in particular the intended book on wage labour which remained unwritten, we do not have a rounded analysis of capitalism (Rubel on Marx: Five Essays, 1981). Lebowitz suggests that it is possible to get that rounded analysis scattered throughout Marx’s work and by including the class struggle in the analysis. So, for example, a rise in tax borne by workers should not be assumed to be automatically passed on to employers in the form of higher money wages. From the (one-sided) viewpoint of capital, workers are variable capital and, from this perspective, it may be thought that, because of the “law” of motion of capital, wages will rise in due course. But once the class struggle—pressure from the capitalist as well as the workers’ side—is factored in, this issue can only be answered empirically, depending on “the respective power of the combatants.”
Lew Higgins

Blogger's Note:
G. A. Cohen's Karl Marx’s Theory of History was reviewed in the August 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard.

Letter: Richard Dawkins replies . . . (2003)

Letter to the Editors from the December 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors,

Thank you for sending me this review, which I was glad to see. I’m not sure what sort of feedback you want, since it is presumably too late to correct minor errors such as the title of Darwin’s book. It is The Origin of Species (Origin of the Species is a common solecism). Darwin’s ‘Devil’s Chaplain’ letter was written in 1856, three years too early to be ‘commenting on’ his book, but it presumably is fair to say he was commenting on thoughts that were then in his head and were later to find expression in his book. I am curious why the mention of the Rationalist Press Association is followed by ‘and‘ it is safe to say he is no socialist ‘though‘ he did come out against the war. Does this mean the RPA has a right-wing pro-war reputation, I hadn’t realised. By the way, I think I did more than just ‘come out’ against the war. I have published more articles like this one - Dead Link - than I can easily track down.
Richard Dawkins (by email)

Thank you for pointing out the errors. You are reading too much into that “and”. We don’t think that the RPA is “rightwing” and “pro-war”, but simply that it isn’t socialist. We don’t think you claim to be a socialist either, do you?—Editors.

Blogger's Note:
Sadly, the link for the Guardian comment piece that Dawkins mentions in his letter is dead.  It's possible that he was referring to this Guardian comment piece from the 22nd March, 2003 . . . we'll never know.

This Month's Quotation: George Bernard Shaw (1936)

The Front Page quote from the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard
"The most fundamental question today is the one we never mention. The extirpation of the legalised idlers who live by robbing the poor."
G. B. Shaw.

The Coming Triumph of Socialism (1936)

From the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is commonly said nowadays that the Socialist movement is in the doldrums, making no headway, and without prospect of doing so. And, indeed, this view has much to support it. What with apathy among many workers who formerly sympathised with the Labour movements—which they thought to be Socialist—and very active hostility among others who now give allegiance to the Fascist Governments, the outlook may be thought to be black indeed. Can it be said in face of these facts that the Socialist movement has any future, except to fight a forlorn defensive action against the encroaching dictatorships?

Yet on closer examination, a very positive and important cause for confidence is found to exist, even if it appears in a curious disguise, that of a misrepresentation of Socialism. For while everywhere the defenders of capitalism proclaim the death of Socialism, they are all compelled in one way or another to pay it lip-service, because of the workers' constantly increasing discontent with capitalism. Never before, not even during and after the War,
were there so many millions of workers actively dissatisfied with the consequences of the existing system of society. Never before was discontent so deep and bitter. The effect of this on politics has been that there are no longer any politicians or parties which can hope to remain popular if they declare themselves unashamedly in favour of capitalism. Look where you will, in Europe, in the Dominions, in the United States of America, all of the capitalist parties have had to disguise themselves so that they can escape the unpopularity which attaches to the name capitalism. Roosevelt has to represent himself as an opponent of the banks and big business, has to seek allies among the Trade Unions and Labour groups, and has to put forward a programme containing reforms which the workers believe to be Socialist. The British ruling class long ago had to cover themselves with a camouflage of Labour leaders (the MacDonald group) and will no doubt be seeking before long to secure other Labour leaders to continue serving this purpose now that MacDonald’s star has waned. In France capitalism had to seek new life under cover of a “ Popular Front," led by a so-called Socialist Party. In Germany Hitler has to call his movement “ National Socialist," and promises that Germany shall become Socialist throughout. Sir Oswald Mosley now has to add these two words to the name of his own organisation, because without them he cannot hope to attract essential working-class support.

Most instructive of all are the shrewd manoeuvres of Mussolini. This ex-Syndicalist, terrorist, defender of the assassination of kings, has never forgotten the need to keep a working-class backing, and. to toy with pseudo-Socialist phrases.

At present he is engaged in explaining away the poverty and unemployment that exist in Italy, and is worried because large numbers of Italian workers believe that life in Russia is preferable to life in Fascist Italy. What does Mussolini do in these circumstances? Externally he tells the world that he supports Hitler’s crusade against Russian Communism; internally, he tells the Italian workers not to be attracted by Russia, because Russia is not Communist, but capitalist. In a Speech reported in the Times (November 2nd, 1936) Mussolini said that the Russian system
is to-day but State super-capitalism carried to its most ferocious expression.
They are, then, all in the same difficulty. They are all seeking to defend capitalism and to resist the only possible alternative, Socialism, but none of them dares to say so. In order to defend capitalism they are all obliged to depict it as a form of Socialism. In order to work up hostility to rival powers they all have to stress the fact that the rival stands for capitalism.

Here lies the sure proof of the coming triumph of Socialism. Men’s minds are looking away from capitalism and towards what they believe constitutes Socialism. Much can happen to delay the worker’s understanding of genuine Socialism, but nothing can now stop it.

The kind of thing that delays the progress we desire does not come only from the Fascists, as a recent action of the Communists will show. A manifesto published by the Communist Party of Italy in an official organ of the Communist International actually proclaims the need for a United Front between Socialists, Communists and Fascists.

The manifesto was published in International Press Correspondence of August 22nd, 1936, and contains the following among other passages: —
Let us reach out our hands to each other, children of the Italian nation. Fascists and Communists, Catholics and Socialists, people of all opinions, and let us march side by side to enforce the right of existence of the citizens of a civilised country, as ours is. We have the same ambition—to make Italy strong, free and happy. Every trade union, every workers’ organisation, every association must become the centre of our new-found unity, of our will to destroy the power of the small group of capitalist parasites who are starving and oppressing us.
The concrete proposal in the Manifesto is that the various Fascist and anti-Fascist groups should unite on the basis of the 1919 Fascist programme, which contained a number of proposed reforms of capitalism. Doubtless the scheme is promoted by Moscow in an endeavour to weaken the Italian Government, and a similar scheme is now being advocated by the German Communists. But whatever the motive behind it, such a policy is opposed to the interest of the working class and of Socialism. Seeing that the defenders of capitalism can only succeed by pretending that they stand for the workers and for Socialism, the one thing needed above all others is a concentrated effort to show the workers that the claim is false, and that an unbridgeable gulf exists between Socialism on the one side, and all kinds of reforms of capitalism on the other. Instead of which the Communists, by their action, are causing the workers to believe that it is possible for Socialists and Fascists to combine and work together.

As against all confusion and betrayals, the Socialist Party stands for independence and for clear-cut Socialist principles.
Edgar Hardcastle

Here and There: The King and the Slums (1936)

The Here and There column from the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

The King and the Slums

The publicity given to the decline in unemployment and to increasing prosperity (measured in the capitalist mind chiefly by Stock Exchange prices) is somewhat offset by the conditions in the depressed areas, at the moment in the spot-light.

Dudley Barker, in the Evening Standard (November 16th, 1936), quotes an instance of a typical town in the coal-mining and steel area in South Wales which has 60.6 per cent. of its industrial insurable population unemployed. He instances a case, again typical, of a miner who, when employed, is 6s. a week better off than when unemployed. Similar examples could be given of towns in the coal and steel districts in Durham, Northumberland and Scotland. They have been referred to and described by nearly all the capitalist newspapers. The results of the chronic depression in these industries are appalling. Wide areas are derelict, bearing all the aspects of intense poverty, drabness and malnutrition. The Daily Herald (November 6th, 1936) reported a case of a shipbuilding worker who had not worked at his trade for 16 years. Innumerable cases have been reported of men in their twenties and some nearing their thirties who have never worked. Edward VIII, after his recent visit to the depressed areas in South Wales, said, “ Something will be done.” The extent to which ”something will be done,” we prophesy, will not touch the fringe of the problem. Can anything the King suggests bring obsolete industries back to life? If so, what will happen to those industries which have grown up and have rendered the older industries obsolete? Can he alter capitalism and the conditions of the world market to prevent certain industries being kept out of it by competition? Would he, for example, close down Indian cotton mills in order to put Lancashire back into the Indian market? If anything could be done to revive capitalist industry in the depressed areas and bring back employment to the workers there, the capitalists, who are able, and have more knowledge about the needs and requirements of their system than Edward VIII, would do it. To them it would mean profit.

There is one aspect of the question to which misguided reformers might devote some attention. Reynolds's (November 8th, 1936) says coal royalties in 1935 amounted to £4,806,139. The share of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for Durham alone amounted to £313,580. There is now a suggestion that the Government buy-out royalty owners at a sum mentioned in the region of £100,000,000. There are 4,000 royalty owners of whom a minority own the major share of royalties. “ Something will be done.” Will the King show his detachment of class interest and recommend as generous treatment for the unwanted scrap of the depressed areas ? He won’t—he can’t! We live in a capitalist world and not in the pages of the fairy tales about good princes and kings who can work miracles. The sooner that workers in the depressed areas realise it the nearer they will be to the real solution of their damnable and unnecessary poverty.

* * *

Damaged Goods

The Observer (November 8th, 1936) comments on a speech by Sir Kingsley Wood, in which he dealt with the Government’s policy on malnutrition and the depressed areas in relation to physical fitness and recruiting. The Observer says:—
Physical fitness is being kept studiously in the foreground of policy, but it could not be gathered from Sir Kingsley Wood’s speech on Friday that the Government are yet beyond the consultation stage. He did, however, allude to the need of “moral leadership"—which is but too obvious. Young men living on the dole who will not even accept an invitation to keep themselves fit at the public expense have need of being recalled to their better selves by means which it should be for a National Government to discover and define.
Pity the capitalist! Faced with the problem even in “prosperous” times, of millions of workers unemployed, he is compelled to provide a meagre dole. Faced with the problem of needing soldiers, fit and strong, to kill or to be killed, in a future war which many capitalists regard as inevitable, the capitalist finds the main source from which soldiers are drawn (the unemployed) to be composed of men rendered unfit by chronic poverty. The Daily Telegraph's military correspondent on the 30th October, gave the figures of men rejected for the army in 1935 as 31,000 out of 68,000, or 47 per cent. The correspondent also pointed out that experiments are being made on some of the “rejects” at Aldershot. These are given a special diet under the supervision of a medical officer. “It is believed,” says the correspondent, ‘‘that eventually they will pass the required standard. This, however, is an expensive way of getting recruits.” The probability is that men whose health has been ruined by years of under-nourishment will defy all attempts to make them fit—despite the special diet. But what obviously concerns the Government more deeply is the fact that fewer workers are presenting themselves for recruitment. Hence the Observer's pointer that the Government should “discover and define ” means of recalling “young men living on the dole” to ‘‘their better selves.” They may have some difficulty in persuading workers who face a mean, drab and poverty-stricken existence every day of their lives that they possess anything worth fighting for. We hope so.

* * *

A Hornet s Nest for the Labour Party

The Daily Telegraph (November 17th, 1936) deals with a speech made by Sir Stafford Cripps, in which he made the statement (amazing for a Labour leader) that he
did not believe it would be a bad thing for the British working class if Germany defeated us. It would be a disaster to the profit-makers and the capitalists, but not necessarily for the working class. (Italics ours.)
Sir Stafford Cripps’ statement is the direct opposite of Labour Party policy, and within a few days of his making it Labour leaders were busy repudiating him: Dr. Hugh Dalton did so with “indignation and astonishment,” which he said be shared with the '‘leading personalities” in the Labour Party (Daily Telegraph, November 11th, 1936). From the point of view of Labour Party opportunism Sir Stafford Cripps is often indiscreet and not always sound. In this case, by accident, or perhaps because he has been reading our literature, he came very near stating an aspect of the Socialist case on war. If such a view were the official policy of the Labour Party (leadership being what it is,, and followers what they are), there is no doubt that the British capitalist class would be seriously impeded—if not actually prevented—from conducting a war. No Government dare go to war if the organised workers were opposed to it. Such are the responsibilities of leadership. Naturally, then, Sir Stafford’s speech got under the skin of the Labour Party opportunists and the capitalist journalists alike. The Daily Telegraph referred to it in a venomous editorial, in which Sir Stafford Cripps was misrepresented as being pro-Nazi. Mr. Thomas Johnston, M.P., in Forward (November 21st, 1936), was almost as bad. He showed how fortunate it is for the Labour Party that Germany happens to be ruled by a dictatorship, giving them the excuse, if war breaks out between England and Germany, of supporting it in the interest of “democracy.” Mr. Johnston, in the event of an English defeat by Germany, saw England as one vast concentration camp under the domination of the Nazis.
“Sir Stafford Cripps is an able man : selfless and sincere, but this kind of talk is a joy to his capitalist enemies . . ." he said.
Is it? Let Mr. Johnston persuade Labour leaders to make similar speeches. Rather than joy, we would hazard that there would be “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth " among the capitalists.

As Labour leaders go, Sir Stafford is almost unique in.his attitude to war. It will be interesting to see for how long he can maintain his independence of official policy before being brought to heel or dropped entirely from the Labour Party. The Labour Party has meagre scope for people whose “selfless and sincere" independence of thought causes embarrassment to its bureaucratic leadership and spoils its vote-catching.

* * *

Why Socialists Reject Leadership

In a letter to the Daily Herald (November 4th, 1936) a reader says: —
Mr. Shinwell, Mr. Richardson and “Organiser” should come with me into the workshop and hear the adjectives used whenever the Labour Party or Trade Union leaders provide the subject of conversation.

They would learn that we in the workshop are sick and tired of the maudlin sentimentality and rhetoric of our leaders, and that we should like to hear a little less about Germans, Italians. Abyssinians, Spaniards, Russians and others, and would like to hear a lot more about what must be done for the English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh, Indians and others in the Empire whom it is likely we can assist.

Making a fuss about a day’s holiday with pay to celebrate the Coronation is not leadership.
Leadership is a difficult business, full of trials and pitfalls. Workers who believe in it and want to be led, expect results, and promises to be fulfilled. When results do not materialise they forsake the leaders. That they cannot do otherwise is the outcome of the belief in leadership. Perhaps there is some connection in workers being "sick and tired of the maudlin sentimentality and rhetoric" of Labour leaders and the Labour Party's net loss of 57 seats in the recent Borough elections in England and Wales.

* * *

The State, a Bishop, and Jesus

Addressing his Diocesan Conference on the question of the Christian attitude towards the use of armed force, the Archbishop of Canterbury said : "The use of force by the State was the ministry of God for the protection of the people" (Manchester Guardian, October 13th, 1936). The intention of the speech was to give the Church's approval to war. It was made in direct response to a speech by Mr. Duff Cooper, the Minister of War, demanding that the leaders of the Church repudiate the pacifist doctrines of certain prominent partisans. The modern State controls such fiendish methods of armaments that their use by large Powers, according to much reputable opinion, would mean wholesale destruction and perhaps a “ reversion to barbarism." However, according to the good bishop, the use of armed force by the State is the “ministry of God " and, forsooth, "for the protection of the people." It is curious how, when the Christian religion fulfils its traditional task of adjusting its teaching to the needs of the ruling class, the modern conception of the abstract Christian God becomes more like the personal and intimate God of primitive tribal times. In this case the bishop's God is identified with the State, and the armed forces are his ministry. The bishop should now enlighten the poor sceptics, who, unlike him, have not seen “the light." If the “use of force by the State is the ministry of God," what grounds had he for reproaching the Italian State for grabbing Abyssinia by armed force—or the German State for its repressive measures against the German Protestant Church—or the Russian State for its "anti-God" campaign? Surely, “God moves in a mysterious way " ?

The bishop's attitude is just typical Christian cant. The chief function of the State is the maintenance of class society. The function of the Church is to adapt Christian teaching to the needs of the ruling class. This it does loyally. And why not? Quite recently the Government's Tithe Act compensated the Church for its loss of tithe ownership to the extent of approximately £52,000,000. In return for tithe the Church now holds Government stock bearing 3 per cent. interest. Quite an inducement, surely, to trim the teachings of the out-of-work carpenter, Jesus, to the needs of capitalist millionaires.

The bishop's quotation of the Church's thirty-seventh article in support of his interpretation, brings to mind Marx's scathing reference: “ The English Established Church will more readily pardon an attack on 38 of its 39 articles than on l/39th of its income."

* * *

Violence and the Agent Provocateur

A letter from a "George Barker, Stepney," published in the New Leader (November 6th, 1936) illustrates the danger of violent tactics in political agitation. Mr. Barker complained that during the recent demonstration against Fascism in East London, ". . . a man in the crowd yelled that the police were coming and urged everyone to throw stones, bottles and anything handy to them . . . and the most striking thing to me was the sudden disappearance of the person invoking the crowd to start the rough stuff." The person in question was, in the opinion of Mr. Barker, an agent, there only to provoke the demonstrators to use violence against the police. He also stated that he had seen it happen at other demonstrations.

The writer of the letter sees the danger of the agent provocateur. What he does not see is that agents provocateurs can only provoke the workers to fight the police who have been nurtured by the Communists and I.L.P.ers into the belief that they can achieve their ends by violent methods.

* * *

A Fabian in Russia

Mr. Sidney Webb (Lord Passfield) lecturing to Fabians at Friends House, made some interesting comments about Russia. As Mr. Webb has almost the authority of a Russian Government representative on matters concerning the internal affairs of Russia, what he has to say is of some interest. He pointed but that
More than half the adult population of Russia were working for themselves, fifty or sixty millions of them in partnership. There were probably fifty to sixty thousand managements, all of a public character, from village councils upwards, and including newspapers and theatres employing workers with wages. It was therefore ridiculous to say that the State was the only employer.—(Manchester Guardian.,October 30th, 1936.)
In view of the enormous statistics emanating from Russian sources, which are likely to give the impression that Russia is one vast factory, Mr. Webb’s statement is interesting.

* * *

Popular Front Progress

The following is taken from the Daily Telegraph (November 6th, 1936), and is from its Paris correspondent: —
M. Daladier, the Defence Minister, is determined to check Communist and Socialist propaganda among French troops. 
M. Gitton, a Communist Deputy, complained that, while certain “Fascist” newspapers were permitted in the barracks, the Communist 'Humanit√©' was banned.

In reply, M. Daladier said: “The Communist Party has formed 'cells' in the Army, which are sometimes known as such and at other times called 'committees of Republican defence.' I have decided to dissolve all these cells."

“I consider very dangerous," he said, “the section in which the 'Humanit√©' publishes letters from soldiers insulting their officers. The repercussions on the morale of the troops can be deplorable. I note that the 'Populaire’ has for some time been imitating the ‘Humanit√©'. "
The “Populaire” is M. Blum’s organ.

M. Daladier and M. Blum are both in the Popular Front. M. Blum is Premier. 
Harry Waite

Editorial: Atrocities in Spain (1936)

Editorial from the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

The rebellion in Spain has taken on more and more the character of wholesale warfare, with all the ingenuities of cruelty which modern science and industry have made possible. Day and night the civilian population of Madrid has been subjected to artillery bombardment and the almost indiscriminate scattering of explosive and incendiary bombs. The deaths and casualties have run into thousands, while the number rendered homeless is estimated at far over 100,000. All of this has been done by the rebel generals on the plea—a common one with the higher ranks of the military profession, who, for some obscure reason, are still associated with notions of bravery—that it is simply their job to smash the Government and its civilian supporters. Behind the rebel generals, and running less personal risk even than they, is the Catholic Church, which lent its support to the rebellion, and the forces of monied and landed property which fear the workers and peasants, whether in Spain or outside, more than anything else.

Among those sympathetic to the rebels in this country may be included the Times and Daily Telegraph. It is for that reason worth while placing on record what they reluctantly admit about the conduct of their friends in Spain. The Times, in a review of the Report published by the rebels on the atrocities committed by Government supporters, says: —
. . . the fratricidal strife in Spain has been peculiarly envenomed by recourse to the taking of hostages and by ruthless reprisals, and there is, unhappily, reason to suppose that General Franco’s opponents could level against the forces under his command counter-charges equally valid though probably less numerous.—(Times, October 28th, 1936.)
Earlier the Times, in an editorial, said : —
. . . there can be little doubt that the insurgents arc conducting the war with a cold-blooded ruthlessness as revolting as any of the cruelties perpetrated by the supporters of the Government.—(Times. October 10th, 1936.)
The Times and Daily Telegraph have both had something to say about the wanton slaughter from the air of civilians in Madrid.

The Daily Telegraph says that
. . . the ruthless bombardment of Madrid by General Franco’s forces is shocking his friends as well as his enemies . . . .—(Daily Telegraph, November 19th, 1936.)
While the Times' own correspondent in Madrid sent the following report on November 18th: —
Although shrapnel takes a constant toll, air-raids cause most damage, and it is estimated that 50 tons of bombs have fallen on Madrid in 10 days. The damage to historical buildings is impossible to give in detail here, but the worst loss so far has been the Palacio de Liria, seat of the Duke of Alba, which was hit by an incendiary bomb yesterday evening. The palace contents are second only in artistic value to the collections of the National Palace. The fire burned all night—a terrifying torch symbolising the destructive agency of the civil war. It is believed that some of the principal treasures were removed several months ago, including a painting by Titian, armour, tapestry (the gift of Louis XIV), and part of the archives. The chief groom, Letheridge, his family, and the Duke’s dog are refugees in the British Embassy.

Not content with destruction by day, which may to some extent be directed against military objectives, the insurgents come at night, bombing round the conflagrations already existing, and throwing flares which water cannot extinguish.—(Times, November 19th, 1936)
So much for the forces of “culture,” “civilisation ” and “ religion,” which deliberately and for motives of class interest plunged Spain into this civil war.

Before leaving the subject there is the question of the employment of Moorish troops. We do not share the view that brutalities carried out by human beings with black or yellow skins are any worse than those carried out by white men, and in any event, the responsibility rests with the white-skinned high command, which gives the orders. Moreover, as has been pointed out by Franco’s friends, black troops were used by the Allied Governments in the War, and by France in the occupation of the German Rhineland.

It is, however, one of the ironies of history that the Moors, now being employed to crush the Spanish Government, are the same Moors who only a few years ago were praised to the skies by the British Labour Party when they were fighting to resist French and Spanish occupation of Morocco.

In order to bolster up its mistaken notion that national independence is something the workers should fight for, the Labour Party then idealised the Moors. Now it can find nothing good in them.

Letter: A Socialist Policy for Local Government Electors (1936)

Letter to the Editors from the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

A reader of the Socialist Standard, Mr. T. Grenfell, of Bath, has asked us to say what we think of the programme on which he contested the Municipal Elections in 1934. It is, he says, his desire to appeal to the electors on the issue of Socialism and his election address was intended to be of a Socialist character.

The address is rather too long for the space at our disposal; we will, therefore, deal with some of its contents only. Before doing so it may be useful to state over again what part the capture of the local councils plays in the achievement of Socialism. First of all, Socialism cannot be achieved by a minority of Socialists trying to impose it on a majority of non-Socialists or anti-Socialists. The experience of Russia and of every Labour Government proves that the S.P.G.B. was correct when, 32 years ago, it laid down that elementary principle. It is necessary to have a majority of Socialists politically organised, and not in one country only but internationally. Next it is necessary for the Socialist majority to have control of the machinery of Government, including the armed forces. While the machinery of local Government is less vital than the machinery of central Government, control of it is of course of importance, even though the powers of the local councils are ultimately derived from the centre and can be modified in whatever way those who control Parliament desire. (In other countries the control of the central authorities over the local authorities is sometimes more direct, sometimes much less directly effective than in Great Britain.)

It will be obvious from the above that Socialists cannot have one set of principles for parliamentary elections and another set for local elections. The solution of the whole problem of the working class lies in the achievement of Socialism and it is essential, therefore, that the workers at all times and places should be told that their problems cannot be solved inside capitalism, either by the administrative action of local authorities under the powers granted to them by Parliament, or by Parliamentary legislation of a social reform character.

In the light of this let us look at some of Mr. Grenfell’s promises to electors.

First we notice that several things he undertakes to support cannot be settled locally because the power to control them is retained by the central Government. For example, he says that he stands for the “abolition of the Means Test,” and opposes “any interference with the rights of free speech and freedom of association of the workers.”

Actually no local council can decide these things.

No council can abolish the Means Test in defiance of Parliament's decision that it shall not be abolished. Nor can any local council prevent the operation of the Trade Union Acts which fetter the workers’ “freedom of association.” Mr. Grenfell is therefore giving the workers of Bath a wrong idea of the nature and powers of local councils.

More important, however, than this is that Mr. Grenfell nowhere points out that the workers' problems cannot be solved without the abolition of capitalism. Thus he fails to fulfil the prime duty of a Socialist. Instead, in effect, he fosters the illusions of social reformers. Whatever the reason for this may be, the consequence is that Mr. Grenfell’s poll of one-third of the total votes cast, must have been the votes of men and women who still believe in reformed capitalism and do not agree with the Socialist position. Mr. Grenfell, therefore, has behind him a reformist vote, not a Socialist vote, and reformist votes are useless for Socialism.

Still another defect is the acceptance of unsound economics. Mr. Grenfell demands that houses be provided “at rentals not exceeding 10 per cent, of the workers’ weekly wage.” This assumes that wages are determined in some way or other without relation to rents and other costs of living. It assumes that if rents are reduced wages will remain unchanged and the workers will benefit. This is a fallacy. The general levels of wages correspond, broadly, to the costs of living, and if rents or food prices fall wages fall also. It has often been pointed out in these columns that official enquiries showed that Viennese workers gained nothing from the almost entire abolition of rents in the years after the War. Wages fell correspondingly, and the gainers were the employers, who thus indirectly plundered the landlords.

There are other defects in the election address, but the above will show that it does not satisfy what is required of a Socialist election address.
Editorial Committee.

Letter: The Workers and the Empire (1936)

Letter to the Editors from the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent (H. W. H., Glasgow) writes asking us if we will deal with a point raised in Forward (Glasgow, October 5th, 1935) by Mr. J. P. M. Millar, General Secretary of the National Council of Labour Colleges. Arising out of an article by Sir Norman Angell, entitled, " Are Colonies Worth Having?” Mr. Millar wrote a letter containing the following:—
He (Norman Angell) argues that he answers Italy’s jealousy about Britain’s Colonial Empire by saying—in so many words — “ Yes, but it doesn’t materially help us to deal with our economic problems, for we’ve 2,000,000 unemployed.” He doesn’t realise that it is largely thanks to the profits and opportunities arising from our present and past Colonial Empires that the British unemployed have almost as high a standard of life as many millions of employed in Germany and Italy.
Our correspondent adds: —
Now I do not know if Mr. Miller’s reasoning is correct, but if it is does it not show that the British workers’ standard of life is to a great extent dependent upon the maintenance of the British Empire against foreign invaders, and that without it their standard of living would decrease? I am not suggesting, of course, that, even if true, this would provide them with a moral right to oppress Colonial peoples, but the question is of interest from a purely economic point of view.

There are several separate issues raised in this letter, and it is necessary to take them separately: —

First, we may say that Mr. Millar’s facts do not impress us. Mr. Millar makes the claim that the British unemployed have almost as high a standard of life as many millions of employed in Germany and Italy. He might have added with equal truth that the British unemployed have almost as high a standard of life as many millions of employed in Great Britain, in France, in Portugal, and in Holland—all of them countries with large colonial empires. Apart from a generally low standard of living in Portugal, there are in all countries masses of workers living on or about a bare subsistence level.

He might recall that spokesmen for German Nazism have recently been boasting that widespread destitution, such as exists in our "depressed areas ” is unknown in Germany.

Also Mr. Millar might have added that the countries with a higher standard of life than this country include the Scandinavian countries, the U.S.A., and the British Dominions—all of them countries with little or no overseas Empire.

We reject the implication contained in Mr. Millar’s argument that wages depend on the wealth of the capitalist class. Abundant experience shows workers desperately poor, in spite of the riotous wealth of their employers — some Indian workers and their millionaire employers are a case in point; while, on the other hand, under favourable conditions workers have been able to maintain their standard of living in spite of the falling profits of their employers.

Therefore, it is not safe to assume that greater wealth for Italian capitalists (due to profitable colonial plunder) would lead to a higher standard of living for Italian workers; nor that the loss of parts of the British Empire would reduce the British workers' standard of living. In both cases many factors, including factors of a world character, would have to be taken into account.

To take an actual example, we deny that the acquisition of Boer lands after the Boer War and the mandated territories after the Great War has improved the position of the British workers, or worsened the position of any of the workers concerned.

What is true, of course, is that the loss of colonies may (although this is not necessarily true of all cases) cause a disturbance of capitalist trading relationship, which results in aggravating unemployment while re-adjustment is going on. For example, if Great Britain lost her colonial empire and the new owners prohibited the import of British goods, the trades affected—having been built up on this market—would suffer loss of sales and increased unemployment. In time the situation would adjust itself so far as capitalism ever does, with the acquisition of new markets elsewhere, or with the development of some new or expanded industry.

One other fact which has bearing on this question is that it has yet to be proved that colonies do add to the wealth of the “country" which controls them. That they are profitable for groups of capitalists who are directly interested is admitted, but the capitalist class as a whole has to meet the cost of capturing and keeping them. There is considerable evidence to show that many colonies cost the whole capitalist class more than they are worth. They are retained because the capitalists immediately concerned are sufficiently influential to see that they are retained.

Mr. Grover Black, in two books, “A Place in the Sun" and “The Balance Sheets of Imperialism" (Columbia University Press; published by Milford, 10s. 6d. and 14s.), argues with a wealth of facts and figures that colonies do not “pay," except to the minority directly concerned. The cost of capturing and keeping them far outweighs all the profit derived from them.

Finally, even if it were granted that the loss of the Empire would cause a temporary or even a permanent lowered standard of life for the British workers under capitalism, that does not constitute an argument for the limitless sacrifice of workers’ lives, necessitated by wars to defend the Empire. Would Mr. Millar say that it is worth while sacrificing a million British workers’ lives (as in the Great War) in order to defend the Empire, and sacrificing millions of German and Italian workers' lives in order to wrest it from the British capitalists, and hand it over to Italian and German capitalists?

The case against working class support for wars is not touched by Mr. Millar’s superficial argument.
Editorial Committee.

Answers to Correspondents (1936)

From the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

L. McMillan (Lindfield).—Thanks for the suggestions. We agree, and will bear them in mind.
Editorial Committee

E. A. James (Somerset).—You will notice to start with that the Socialist's opposition to Reformism, i.e., to the policy of building up an organisation on the basis of a reform programme, does not rest upon the contention that every reform is necessarily harmful or useless, but on the contention that reformist organisations cannot achieve Socialism. On the contrary, they confuse the workers and create apathy and despair.

The S.P.G.B., accordingly, is not prepared to propagate reforms or seek support on them.

The women’s suffrage agitation was inspired and directed by propertied women seeking changes in the law which would improve their position as members of the propertied class. They were not interested in freeing either men or women workers from wage-slavery. On the contrary, they were, in the main, opposed to Socialism. It may also be pointed out that even before women received the vote the great majority of the voters were members of the working class, so that the electoral system did not stand in the way of emancipation.

The laws which prevent the employment of young children have, of course, had good effect, but like all reforms they touch only the fringe of the problem. In spite of all the existing legislation relating in various ways to children, not even the most enthusiastic reformist would claim that the position of working-class children is satisfactory. Malnutrition, bad housing, poor clothing, grotesquely inadequate education, premature employment, long hours, etc., are only a few of the problems which will never be solved under capitalism.
Editorial Committee.

E. J. T. (Coventry).—Thanks for cuttings. Unfortunately, no date or name of paper.
Editorial Committee.

P. P. M. (S.W.1).—Reply held over owing to pressure on space.
Editorial Committee.

T. H. Mahoney.—Your criticisms are based on the wrong assumption that the Labourites are or have been Socialists. This is not correct, and we are not prepared to discuss their conduct on the assumption that they are Socialists. It is not correct that "Socialism had 2,000 years start” of Fascism. Socialism could only arise out of modern capitalism. You are quite wrong also in stating that the. German Social Democratic Party was Socialist. Although some of its leaders paid lip-service to Marxism, the membership was non-Socialist, as the S.P.G.B. was pointing out long before 1914.
Editorial Committee.

New Premises Fund (1936)

Party News from the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

Final Appeal
A total of £300 is urgently required before close of Fund at the end of the year. Many readers of The Socialist Standard have doubtless "put off” from time to time their response. Delay no longer; realise what decent accommodation would mean for the S.P.G.B. and for Socialism. Visit present Head Office, and see how overworked officials and other voluntary workers carry on under almost impossible conditions.

Give NOW; give generously; it is your privilege. Let "duty” and privilege coincide, and send your donations to the Treasurer.

Will all those who remit money to the S.P.G.B. please take care that Cheques, Money and Postal Orders should be crossed and made payable to the Socialist Party of Great Britain.

SPGB Meetings (1936)

Party News from the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blogger's Note:
'Raj Hansa' was the pseudonym of Ayana Deva Angadi. More details about 'Raj Hansa' are available at the following link.

Glasgow (1936)

Party News from the December 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Glasgow Branch is endeavouring to increase the effectiveness of its work and propaganda by obtaining suitable premises for the Branch meetings. All members and sympathisers in Glasgow are urged to attend the Branch and give their utmost support to its activities.

Communications should be sent to the Secretary, R. MacNamara, 5, Stevenson Street, Glasgow. The Branch meets every Tuesday at 7.30 p.m., at the MacLean Memorial Hall, Salt Market.

November's "Done & Dusted"

Not as late as last month . . . there is that, I guess

Cue cut and paste . . . 

What is now a regular feature on the blog . . . okay, you've already read this bit before so I'll scrub the rest of this paragraph. (Note to self: come up with some new schtick for next month's "Done & Dusted".)

Here's a list of the Socialist Standards that were completed on the blog in the month of November 2023. Slowly but surely the digitization of the Standard is *cough* nearing completion. If I was to hazard a guess, I'd say it will be finished by the end of 2024  2029. Famous last words, and all that. 

They are broken up into separate decades for the hard of hearing.

November's "Done & Dusted"

I need to set aside some time for posting some more Standards from the Edwardian era on the blog. Not sure why I'm hanging back. Maybe there's only so many poison pen letters to John Burns and Will Thorne that I can take in a six-month period. 

Will I smash through 2000 posts for 2023? It's looking unlikely at this point. Maybe I'll stumble across a batch of ProPlus in a local pharmacy and go on a four-day blogging frenzy. Stranger things have happened.