Thursday, July 4, 2024

Not concise (2024)

Book Review from the July 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Historical-Critical Dictionary of Marxism. Editors: WF Haug, F Haug, P Jehle, W Kuttler. (Brill, 2024)

This is a selection of essays by a Berlin-based group of contributors, translated into English, in what the publishers claim is the Historical Materialism Book Series. It’s an open-access title freely distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence. The start of the Foreword gives some indication of where they are coming from:
‘The sudden downfall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc after 1989, an upheaval of cataclysmic proportions, left many of us in a state of shock, disbelief, grief, relief, doubt and hope. It forced us to take stock of what was irretrievably lost, and what could and should be saved’.
The result is this book. Its scope is impressively wide-ranging but pithy it ain’t. Anyone looking for concise dictionary definitions will be disappointed. Each of the 30 entries gives a detailed historical background but in crucial respects some are uncritical. Among the contributions you might not expect to find are entries on Cooking, Hackers, Hope and Intellectuals.

In the essay on Communism we are told that it is without classes, without state, without market and without contractual relations. However, the writer then poses the question:
‘Which form of trans-subjective relationship can determine such a society, without opening itself to the constitutive intersubjectivity of a new kind of social contract? Communism threatens to become an activist or operaist variant of an absolute knowledge in the sense of the Hegelian objective spirit.’
Whether the writer is being deliberately obscure or bullshitting is difficult to say, but this way of writing occurs frequently in this book. We are also told that socialism is a transitional society between capitalism and communism, where ‘social activity is still subject to the organisation by state planning’. Marx and Engels made no such distinction. Lenin did, though in the entry on Lenin’s Marxism this is not explained. Most of the contributors to this book refer to the former USSR as an example of ‘state-socialism’. There is no stand-alone entry on socialism.

The essay on Crisis Theories is probably the best of the book. It makes the point that Marx’s writings on this subject are ‘somewhat disjointed or even contradictory’. For three decades Marx wrote about underconsumption theories, overproduction theories, disproportionality theories, profit-squeeze theories, and over-accumulation theories which take the ‘law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall’ as their starting point. The author argues that cyclical capitalist crises only emerged in the 1820s. In 1844 Engels was to state that ‘periodically recurring’ crises were an inherent feature of capitalism. This point is important because some influential defenders of capitalism wrote before this time. For instance, Jean-Baptiste Say’s Trait√© d’√©conomie politique (A Treatise on Political Economy), published in 1803, declared that ‘the value we can buy is equal to the value we can produce’. This ‘law’ is usually interpreted as saying ‘supply creates its own demand’. Or, more precisely, that the normal state of an economy is equilibrium in which total demand equals total supply. This notion can still be found in some branches of capitalist economics where any imbalances are said to be ‘self-clearing’. This may have been the case when Say wrote but not when capitalist production became a competitive disequilibrium.

Lenin and Leninism are treated largely uncritically and the writings of Antonio Gramsci are given reverential handling. Most of the entries, to a greater or lesser extent, are guided by his thinking. For Gramsci, ‘organic intellectuals’ had a key role to play in social transformation. They would provide the cultural politics that would allow the working class to establish its hegemony. In Gramsci’s version of Leninism, capitalism is a system of privilege and oppression, but he said it is ‘the duty of the “leader” to explain the source of these privileges and this oppression’ to the working class. This is the way to socialism, so it is claimed. This cult of political leadership is a line of theory and practice which stretches back through the twentieth century from Gramsci to Lenin, to Kautsky and the Second International. Its failure wherever it is tried is a vindication of any basic understanding of Marxism: that the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself. There is no understanding of that anywhere in this book.
Lew Higgins

Party News: The Socialist Party's Summer School (2024)

Party News from the July 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard



Our understanding of the kind of society we’re living in is shaped by our circumstances: our home, our work, our finances, our communities. Recognising our own place in the economy, politics and history is part of developing a wider awareness of how capitalist society functions. Alongside an understanding of the mechanics of capitalism, political consciousness also involves our attitude towards it. Seeing through the ideologies which promote accepting our current social system requires us to question and judge what we experience. Realising that capitalism doesn’t benefit the vast majority of people naturally leads on to considering what alternative society could run for the benefit of everyone.

The Socialist Party’s weekend of talks and discussion explores what political consciousness is, how it arises and what we, as a class and as individuals, can do with it.
  • Keith Graham on Political Consciousness: What Can We Learn From Marx?
  • Brian Gardner on ‘They Are Many, We Are Few’: The Political Consciousness Of The Capitalist Class?
  • Paddy Shannon on Political Consciousness - Could GenZ Be Onto Something? 
  • Darren Poynton on Socialist Consciousness, Solidarity And Democratic Virtues
Our venue is the University of Worcester, St John's Campus, Henwick Grove, St John's, Worcester, WR2 6AJ.

Full residential cost (including accommodation and meals Friday evening to Sunday afternoon) is £150; the concessionary rate is £80.

Book online at worldsocialism.org/spgb/summer-school-2024/ or send a cheque (payable to the Socialist Party of Great Britain) with your contact details to Summer School, The Socialist Party, 52 Clapham High Street, London, SW4 7UN. Day visitors are welcome, but please e-mail for details in advance. 

Email enquiries to spgbschool@yahoo.co.uk.

Shoplift (2024)

From the July 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum, well not the forum but a supermarket store, owned by German capitalists. Sunday morning at ten and the place was busier than a Japanese commuter subway station during rush-hour.

This was an unfamiliar store. In familiar ones a yellow sticker on an item signifies that the commodity is near to, or almost past, its sell-by date, so a sharp money-saving eye is always on the lookout for such. Glimpsing such coloured things, they were not as they first appeared. Stickers on items in the various meats section turned out to be security tags. These were then found on many other different goods across the various aisles.

Socialists are generally law-abiding and tend to react as anyone would when their probity is called into question. After reciting the whole of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner the checkout was finally arrived at. Here something unexpected occurred. With the meagre commodities placed upon the conveyor belt the wage slave operating the till asked if the shopping bags could be checked to make sure that they were empty.

Non-plussedness caused temporary speechlessness. Light bulb time. They think there might be commodities in bags that had been appropriated without the gelt made toward the profits of the German capitalists. There’s a first time for everything and this was the first time this writer has ever been confronted with such a request.

Finally, the response was articulated. Yes, one did mind. Till person’s training kicked in as they began the spiel about how such intrusion was company policy and how much shoplifting cost the store annually. This programming of the wage slaves in such occupations means that refusals are a regular occurrence and some behavioural psychologists have worked out that an appeal of this nature would overcome any objections the customer might have. Think of the poor capitalist!

At this point words passionately overflowed regarding the iniquities of capitalism. This did not go down well. Totally misunderstanding at whom the diatribe was aimed the till person responded with ‘if you’re abusive I won’t serve you’!

The thought arose, it’s exploitative capitalism that abuses the vast majority in many different ways.

Some deluded individuals, when confronted with a situation which is an abuse of civil liberties, respond with, ‘I don’t mind, I’ve nothing to hide and neither should anyone mind if they haven’t done anything wrong’. This is an erroneous view in a surveillance society. An under-the-counter button was now being jabbed furiously.

Enter stage left the in-house security. The attitude of this member of the working class couldn’t have been more different. Unlike the cashier he behaved in a perfectly pleasant, reasonable manner. This offered an opportunity to explain the objections to having one’s bag searched.

If this tale was being retold on some confessional social media sites it would end with everyone queuing and listening, then finally bursting into cheering and applause. Followed no doubt by a mass rendition of the Internationale. One has to know when to cut one’s losses.

One glance at the faces of those in the queue behind was sufficient to show that it was time to graciously concede. Explaining that one did not want to keep anyone waiting any longer I said look into the bags if you want to. Just as graciously the security guard indicated that that would not be necessary. The bags were not examined. ‘Security’ was someone the narrator would have liked to have a long conversation with about socialism. Commodities run through till, paid for, exit narrator with mental note never to visit that particular supermarket again.

Socialists are generally very non-prejudiced men and women. Apart from in one case. Socialists are very prejudiced when it comes to capitalism. There are, of course, many people who dislike capitalism, but not all of those, even the ones who term themselves socialists, want to see its replacement by a class-free, wage-free, money-free, leader-free, nation-free society.

There’s none so blind as those who will not see. Knowing that a socialist society would provide free access to quality goods and services if only a majority of the working class understood and wanted it, makes transactions designed to further enrich capitalists hard to bear.

The reasons for shoplifting are varied: the economic necessity of doing so because particular commodities necessary for life are unaffordable or in order to profit by selling on the commodities more cheaply than are available in store. A previous shoplifting article in the Life and Times column of the Socialist Standard in October, points out that some may shoplift as an act of ‘disobedience to the authority of the private property system’. However, as that article explains, ‘it is not a particularly positive or constructive way to help do away with that system’.

Reflection upon that event by the narrator was one of sadness that the other customers and staff, in that location, were unaware that angst-ridden capitalism could be, as Life and Times correctly has it, replaced with a system ‘in which the stores of the world can be made freely available to them – and to everyone’.
Dave Coggan

Proper Gander: Temu’s temerity (2024)

The Proper Gander column from the July 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the market of online marketplaces, Amazon and eBay’s dominance has recently been challenged by young upstart Temu. Like its competitors, Temu offers a dizzyingly wide range of commodities such as clothing, household items and jewellery which can be delivered to your door in just a few clicks. Since its launch in September 2022, Temu has rapidly expanded to having half a billion users worldwide. A quarter of the British population has downloaded its app, encouraged by social media advertising and influencer recommendations.

Temu’s business model is to be a platform for thousands of other companies to sell their products direct from China to customers worldwide. It doesn’t have enormous depots like Amazon does, and therefore avoids associated costs, allowing it to charge less for its wares. Of course, this cheapness has come at a price. Complaints about the quality and safety of Temu’s products attracted the attention of Channel 4’s Dispatches, whose documentary aimed to tell The Truth About Temu. Predictably, the programme was too brief to give more than an outline of each problem, nor explain the wider context of how such companies fit with capitalism.

Reporter Ellie Flynn buys some items through Temu to check how they compare with the way they’re advertised. Some products come with false claims that they have been certified as safe by recognised organisations, and a baby walker harness purchased for £2.68 snaps within seconds when tested with a bag of sand. Flynn looks at news reports of people who have lived through tragedies after ordering items from Temu: a woman whose house burnt down due to a faulty Tablet and a girl who suffered burns from glue when applying fake fingernails. Flynn arranges for toxicology tests on some items she has bought, including a ‘gold’ necklace priced at £2.97 which is revealed to have twice the legal amount of lead and 27 times more cadmium than permitted. She also orders saw blades and BB guns without the website checking her age. Temu replies to these concerns with corporate-speak statements that it has withdrawn some products pending checks and that it maintains ‘rigorous quality controls’, although insufficient safeguards appear to be in place.

Hoping that low prices are enough of a distraction from risks isn’t the only approach used by Temu to manipulate us into buying. Its app is designed to entice us into spending more time, and therefore more money on the site. Flash sales, mini games, prizes and deals are jazzed up with colourful, cartoonish graphics. Emerging technology consultant Nina Jane Patel says that the app is ‘gamifying the shopping experience, but on steroids’. The aim is to make buying entertaining in a way closer to playing games and gambling than just swiping through a catalogue. Flynn arranges for her brain activity to be measured while using Temu’s app, and compares these results with what’s recorded while shopping from Amazon and playing a casino app. When using Temu, there were spikes of pleasure-related stimulation recorded, presumably when a particularly alluring bargain was found, a pattern with similarities to when the gambling app was being played.

This experiment shows how the capitalist system conditions our attitude to our possessions. In a society of scarcity and rationing through money, we’re likely to react with a buzz of satisfaction, even if it’s near-subliminal, when we acquire something, whether by shopping or gambling. Temu has exploited this learned response with lucrative results, but in a way which pushes at the boundaries of what’s considered acceptable practice, at least in the UK. Iain Duncan Smith, in his role as Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm has been investigating the implications of Temu being based on a gambling-like system, such as how this can lead to addictive behaviour.

In the documentary, Smith says that the personal data gathered when people buy through Temu has to be shared with the Chinese government under its National Security Law. This data would then be passed on to the state’s intelligence service to sift through for anything nefariously useful. Temu denies sending information to the Chinese government and says that its data policy is on its website, which Flynn can’t find.

How much notice will the Chinese state take of the UK’s regulations about the use of data? Similarly, the UK’s health and safety laws are difficult to enforce when products are coming in from overseas. While this demonstrates how national barriers add a layer of complications to how goods are distributed in capitalism, the issue isn’t only in China’s awkward relationship with Western countries. Although all the vendors selling through Temu are based in China, Temu itself isn’t wholly a Chinese business. Its parent company, PDD Holdings has its headquarters in South Korea and its ‘legal domicile’ is in Ireland. Despite any links to the Chinese state, Temu is not rooted in only one country, reminding us that its owners in the capitalist class sit above national borders.

And it’s the profit-hungry motives of the capitalist class which really drive Temu’s approach. Its products are sold as cheaply as possible to maximise the potential number of customers, lured in by marketing and held onto using gambling’s techniques. A profit margin can be maintained if costs are kept low by cutting corners during manufacturing and distribution. The quality or suitability of the end product isn’t an important consideration, nor is the waste of resources in shipping goods across continents, nor is the wellbeing of the staff involved. Temu represents some of the worst aspects of capitalist society, but this is what has made it a success, in capitalist terms: PDD Holdings is worth an estimated £170 billion to its owners and shareholders. To the rest of us, it’s an example of how capitalism turns what we need and want into shoddy commodities made to enrich the elite.
Mike Foster

Social beings (2024)

Book Review from the July 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Selfish Genes to Social Beings. A Cooperative History of Life. By Jonathan Silvertown. Oxford University Press, 2024, 236pp.

This is a remarkable book. It attempts to cover in a couple of hundred pages the whole 4 billion year history of life on earth – so obviously not just human life. Its author, a specialist in evolutionary ecology, does his best while not shirking necessary biological technicalities, to make it comprehensible to the everyday reader, to the non-specialist. Molecules, bacteria, cells, fungi and genes and their place in and contributions to the development and ongoing-ness of life are all investigated and explained both in their simplicity and their complexity. And it wears its expert knowledge lightly, interspersing it with jokes and other flashes of humour, largely via analogies from everyday human behaviour (eg, ‘insects are airliners for microbes, which travel in the gut, and just like an airliner, parts of the vessel are more hospitable to passengers than others’, or ‘Darwin forbid that I should suggest that nature is a con artist, but who can deny that she has a wicked sense of humour?’).

The book’s main point, the conclusion drawn from its painstaking and expert scientific analysis, is expressed in its sub-title (‘A Cooperative History of Life’) ie, the idea that life, all life, is and has only ever been possible through cooperation and teamwork between its various elements, and this also applies to human society and development. The author lays in its grave, if it was not there already, ‘the stereotype of nature red in tooth and claw’. In other words, he shows incontrovertibly that evolution is explained not by competition but by cooperation which, observed and analysed here, is ubiquitous in nature, not just in microbes and plants and animals but in humans too.

So, while largely about pre-human and non-human life, this study has important things to say about human life. It illustrates how central a role cooperation plays – and has always played – in human interaction and how this applies even in the most dire and challenging circumstances, for example wars and disasters. Underlying this is the fact that, most of the time, cooperation rather than selfishness or competition confers mutual benefit. Not of course that human beings are not capable of selfishness, going it alone or ruthless competition, and indeed it is that kind of behaviour – violence, brutality and the like – that tends to make the news. But the point made here is that cooperative behaviour is far more fundamental and deeply woven into our lives – and into all life – no matter how circumstances and the socio-economic system may militate against it. As the author puts it, ‘cooperation survives in spite of conflict’.

He is not of course alone in making arguments of this kind and is quick to acknowledge the slew of thinkers and writers who, over the last 20-30 years, have contributed to laying to rest the widely held secular version of original sin, ie, the notion of human beings as essentially wicked and Machiavellian and needing to be kept in check by a higher authority. As he puts it, ‘writers on this subject outbid each other in trying to describe just how cooperative we are, and there is little doubt that superlatives are justified’. Among the ’superlatives’ he quotes are ‘super-co-operators’ and ‘ultra-social species’, providing references to the works in which these appear in his notes and list of ‘further reading’. To emphasise this, he makes the point that ‘we are daily considerate towards people whom we have never seen before and may never see again’ and, if we are particularly annoyed when someone is inconsiderate, that is because ‘a norm has been broken’; thus ‘anti-social behaviour provides the exception that proves the existence of a pro-social rule.’ The other element he points to in typical human interaction is ‘having a good reputation’, seen as ‘important to attracting co-operators and acquiring the benefits, which is why we are so intensely interested in what others think of us’.

Despite his intense focus on cooperation and the natural human tendency to what he calls ‘community of interest’, the author is careful not to take up any explicit political position. It is, however, difficult not to sense that, if it were put to him, he would look favourably upon the idea of a system of voluntary cooperation in production and distribution and a wageless, moneyless society organised on the basis of from each according to ability to each according to need. After all, he does (somewhat improbably in the context) devote a short chapter of this book (‘A river of glowing light’) to the Russian anarchist and naturalist Peter Kropotkin and to his view that ‘justice for the masses could only come by abolishing the state altogether and replacing it by spontaneously organised cooperation’.
Howard Moss

Elections worldwide (2024)

From the July 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Elections are not just happening in the UK this year: around the world there have been national elections in South Africa, Bangladesh, Mexico, Taiwan, Indonesia and Pakistan already. The United States is due to have an election in November. There have even been elections in Russia and Iran and European Parliamentary elections. There may be more, but what is certain, is that a majority of the human species will vote in national-level elections at some point in this year.

This is something worth taking on board: particularly for ourselves as socialists who maintain that a worldwide revolution is possible. It becomes conceivable that in one particular year, socialist movements could win elections not just in a preponderance of states, but with a majority of the species on the planet.

This is the first time in recorded history that so many people will be engaged in this way, and the likelihood is that such occurrences will become more common. Yet, despite the spread of democracy, we still see the overall rule by a minority. The capitalist class holds sway both within and between states. The evidence is that democracy is a form of government that supports and promotes minority rule.

The first factor to take into account is the very division of the world into nation states. Many electrons have been sacrificed in recent stories about Georgia’s new Foreign Agents law (widely seen as a pro-Russian imposition to cut out western NGOs and other bodies). Yet, the UK has recently passed a similar law which makes it an offence to work as an agent of a foreign government. As it is worded, it’s not entirely inconceivable that were a part of the World Socialist Movement to win an election anywhere in the world, it could lead to our members being proscribed (as we would be acting as part of a single worldwide organisation).

On top of that is the process that can be most easily demonstrated in Russia and Iran. In both countries, great steps are taken to restrict who is able to stand, with candidates being vetted by an electoral commission. Whilst in the abstract, this could lead to protest votes being cast for smaller parties (since there are multiple candidates in the elections) the bombardment of propaganda is one-sided so people feel there is no point to voting against the incumbent (or, in many cases, will be persuaded that he is the best candidate).

In Iran, this results in very low turn-outs, down to 40 percent. In Russia, there are suggestions that the vote is inflated by outright ballot fraud and box stuffing (there are no independent observers in Russia, so it’s hard to say).

This process still happens in the ‘open’ democracies in some ways, where the barriers to standing are financial, time availability and co-ordination. Concentration of wealth gives the capitalist class minority the head start in being able to organise around winning elections.

Counting the ballots is a vulnerable point in electoral politics, hence why Donald Trump has been able to maintain his claims of voter fraud. This technique was pioneered in Kenyan Presidential elections, and works by filling the airwaves with claims of cheating, backed up by having enough energised supporters to mean the claims cannot be easily ignored. Clearly, this approach is backed up by clever psychological studies of group behaviour. All over the world, skilled professionals are paid precisely to game any election rules to try and support one faction over another.

Even where such blatant fixes aren’t in place, the whole structure of representative elections is actually stacked towards minority rule. In practice, parliaments and legislatures only ever have one vote: who is the government? Handing power to an individual executive in practice creates an elected monarch. The so-called division of power much vaunted by liberal doctrine simply frees up the executive branch to behave as it wants, with parliaments being oversight committees on the activity of the executive.

That is not to say they have no influence. Parliaments can threaten to obstruct the executive and rob it of authority. Indeed, this is a way in which minority politics operate, since it is in the interest of parliamentarians to form minority factions which threaten the overall majority, and quietly exact policies from the executive in return for their continued loyalty.

Likewise, the existence of the executive allows for a band of courtiers who jockey for position and patronage: they have privileged access to information (especially timings of announcements) and the ability to co-ordinate easily because their numbers are small and they are personally known to one another. They can offer each other jobs and opportunities to make contacts.

Here again, the inequality of wealth rears its head. The small number of courtiers can themselves be courted, and if not outright bribed, they can be made aware of the revolving door between politics and business: comfortable sinecures await those who prove sufficiently pliant to business interests. If they all move in the same circles, they form a common way of looking at the world which means they do what is needed without even having to be asked.

Informal networks and factionalising are almost inherent to human society and cannot be eliminated, but the more open and diffuse the decision structures are, the less these traits can have an effect on the outcomes of decisions. The fact that the billions who vote are in effect insulated from the day to day decisions by the election of intermediaries in parliament simply exacerbates the opportunities for scheming and domination.

Election and delegation of defined functions would continue to be an essential part of running a society based on common ownership, as would (indeed) some representative bodies. The abolition of concentrated private wealth and the active participation of the billions in ensuring that as many decisions are taken as closely as possible to the public gaze means that we can look to transforming the current means of deception and fraud into a means of liberation and effective administration for us all.
Pik Smeet

All change for the gravy train (2024)

From the July 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

The next prime minister on the gravy train arriving at the Westminster platform will have won a general election with bold promises of change. Welcome to more of the same shit, different day!

At the time of writing, we can’t say with total certainty what the outcome of the election will be. And unless you are someone who enjoys a flutter at the bookie’s in the hope of predicting the result of such an event correctly, the reality is that it will make little or no difference to your future as a member of the working class.

What with the two mainstream parties of Labour and the Tories alongside the likes of the Lib Dems, the Greens, or the more colourful characters such as Nigel Farage from Reform UK, or George Galloway of the Workers Party all offering ‘change,’ it is impossible to understand just how much society could realistically be reformed to include the content in each of their false speeches and empty rhetoric. Unless of course they had developed new magical powers. A potential claim that would probably surprise no one, had one of them dared to make it. Or perhaps that would be taking Artificial Intelligence a bit too far. Even by a professional politician’s standards. Frankly, in the absence of there being an SPGB candidate in your area, you may well as vote for the Monster Raving Loony Party. Or if you want to make a more meaningful statement, try writing ‘World Socialism’ across your ballot paper. It will be noted by the vote counters and tellers.

Should there be a new government on 5 July (aka executive committee of the capitalist class) one thing we can say for sure is that whichever leader appears victorious will no doubt be declaring what glorious days lie ahead as they take up residence at number 10 Downing Street.

Having just spent the last six weeks successfully convincing enough voters that they represent the party of change, much like characters from a Batman movie with Rishi Sunak playing the part of Joker and Keir Starmer playing the part of Riddler, it was barely possible to distinguish any degree of sincerity or integrity between them as they both tried to outfox each other with a combination of dubious facts and figures during those cringeworthy televised debates. How often have we heard before that they will be the solution of all that is wrong, before we are exposed to another five years of lies, deceit and excuses as to why they have failed to deliver on their false promises? And when the honeymoon period is finally over, it will not be long until they start blaming the previous administration for the mess they inherited when things inevitably start to go wrong, as they fail to fulfil the promises and commitments of their pre-election manifesto. Instead of being honest and accepting that the real problems we face in society lie in the economic priorities that underpin capitalism’s insatiable appetite for profit at the expense of real human needs.

In summary, no matter which party goes on to govern, so long as the status quo remains, the outcome will once again mean victory for the capitalist class and defeat for the working class. Only when the majority of workers across the world develop a true understanding and consciousness of the need for socialism will we be able to form the kind of society necessary to fulfil our individual and collective needs.
Paul Edwards

Our candidates in the July 2024 election (2024)

Party News from the July 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

FOLKESTONE AND HYTHE

Want real change? Vote for a new world

For the last 120 years the Socialist Party of Great Britain has been fighting for a new world. A world owned and democratically controlled by all the people on this planet instead of a tiny minority interested only in raking in profits at the expense of human happiness and the health of our fragile planet.

This new world will be a world without borders, with free access to the abundant wealth we will create by working together, A world where work is freely contributed according to our abilities and interests. Where communities self-organise without the need for leaders.

A world in which we will live in harmony with the planet, taking just what we need to live a good life. We will grow food locally and build houses and public buildings using the best materials and in sympathy with the natural environment. We will choose the most sustainable – not the most profitable – forms of generating power.

We believe recent advances in technology have made this new world possible to bring about as soon as enough people want and vote for it.

Contrast this vision of how we could live with the appalling reality we will be forced to live whichever ‘mainstream’ party is elected on July 4th.

A collapsing health and social security system; growing childhood poverty; construction of monstrous blocks of housing for the rich along the Folkestone seafront and harbour arm while most Folkestone residents live in increasingly unaffordable and dilapidated rented accommodation or struggle to afford a mortgage; profit-driven water companies pouring raw sewage into Folkestone and Hythe’s rivers and beaches. Add to this the daily tragedy of fellow humans risking life and limb to cross the Channel to escape the poverty and war directly caused by the global profit system carving out empires across Africa and the Middle East.

It does not matter which of the ‘main’ political parties you vote for – Conservative, Labour, Greens, Lib Dems and the rest. They all support the continuation of the profit system with all the deprivation, destruction and division it brings.

A vote for the Socialist Party is not a wasted vote. It is a positive choice rejecting the horrors of the profit system and embracing a new future for humanity free of poverty, war and environmental devastation.

If you agree VOTE SOCIALIST on Thursday 4th July


CLAPHAM AND BRIXTON HILL

VOTE SOCIALIST

The Socialist Party urges a truly democratic society in which people take all the decisions that shape their lives. This means a society without rich and poor, without owners and workers, without governments and governed, a society without leaders and led.

In such a society people would cooperate to use all the world’s natural and industrial resources in their own interests. They would free production from the artificial restraint of profit and establish a system of society in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation.

Socialist society would mean the end of buying, selling and exchange; an end to borders and frontiers; an end to organised violence and coercion, waste, want and war.

You can use your vote to show you want to overturn capitalism and end the problems it causes once and for all. When enough of us join together, determined to end inequality and deprivation, we can transform elections into a means of doing away with a society of minority rule in favour of a society of real democracy and social equality.

If you agree with the idea of a society of common and democratic ownership where no one is left behind and things are produced because they are needed, and not to make a profit for some capitalist corporation, and are prepared to join with us to achieve this then vote for the SOCIALIST PARTY candidate BILL MARTIN.

Promoted by the Socialist Party of Great Britain on behalf of Bill Martin, both of 52 Clapham High Street, SW4 7UN, and of Andy Thomas, of 74 Linden Crescent, CT19 5SB

Editorial: 1907. (1907)

Editorial from the January 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

Another year with all its opportunities gone. Another year with all its possibilities opening upon us. And—”a happy new year” comes lightly from the tongue in conventional salutation. “A happy new year”—and doubtless behind the greeting there is still some measure of real concern for the materialisation of the wish in the person addressed. “A happy new year”—why not ? Why should not happiness be in the constant experience of all? Why should not happiness be the normal condition of everybody? Why should it not be as natural for everybody to exult in the joys of living as it is for them to breathe—why is it not ?

Because—happiness is conditioned by the available supply of the necessities of life. Deny these to a man and he cannot be happy. And the barest of these necessities are unobtainable (upon capitalist authority unobtainable) by at least a third of the people of this, the most prosperous of nations, while the rest of its working population—the population that builds up the “national” prosperity—only just manage, with infinite labour and anxiety, to maintain themselves in a condition of working efficiency.

That is the reason why happiness is not the normal condition of the working population. That is why they have not been happy in the dead year. That is why they cannot be happy in the year just commenced. To wish them “a happy new year” which we know they will not get is therefore rather dreary humour and about as useful as wishing the moon were green cheese.
____________

The Might Have Beens.
And yet—it might have been otherwise had capitalist development been a few more years advanced. We might have given our new year’s greeting to our neighbour from out of a glad certainty that the happiness we wished was easy of attainment to every worker—had economic conditions ripened a little more rapidly. For between the working class of all countries and those things upon which their happiness depends the barrier is weak enough to-day to be broken through with ease and swiftness. All that is required to-day is an understanding by the working class of their own strength and the fragility of the opposition set against them no more than that. Economic development has reached a point when, for all practical purposes production, is being carried on by associated wage workers exclusively, with a minimum of waste. The capitalist has served his purpose in the concentration and organisation of industry, he is now merely the recipient of the wealth produced and is only able to maintain his position by virtue of his ownership and control of the machinery of production and distribution. The working class have but to understand that and determine upon the appropriation for themselves of the wealth, they produce themselves and their happy new year’s greeting to one another partakes no longer of the grotesque.
____________

The Work Before Us.
Well. The important thing seems to be to emphasise that single, simple fact. We can do no more. To pretend that we can would be to delude and confuse; just as it would be a confusion and a delusion to affirm that a happy new year is possible to the working class before they have eliminated the capitalist. As the organ of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, it has been our purpose to drum into the minds of our fellows of the working class the simple fact referred to. We claim that we have done that consistently, refusing to permit the introduction of any element calculated to weaken the effect of our insistence or confuse the object of it. We can do no more in the new year and we will do no less.

We start with the same enthusiasm that has carried us on from the commencement. We have no new resolutions to make, no new leaves to turn over. We have no delusions for ourselves or for others— and as the British wing of the International Socialist Army we shall continue to relentlessly fight all those, however they may label themselves, who attempt to delude or whose work has that effect. We know that we are right, that our methods are sound ; that our cause must triumph, and we are content.

Editorial: Sodom and Gomorrah and the Rand. (1907)

Editorial from the January 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

Great consternation in London town. Conformity shocked. Nonconformity staggered. The national conscience stirred. The Oriental vices of compounded Asiatics have, under conditions of celibacy, broken out, and who’d have thought it, cries Conformity; and just what we expected, answers Nonconformity ; and—something shall and must be done affirms the national conscience ; and—leave it to us says the government ; we will do everything that should be done, on our honour as a government we will.

Such agitation ! Yet this grossly abhorent form of sexual excitement is bound to manifest itself where men are herded together under penal conditions and excluded from the society of their women folk. And this was quite well known both to the Conservatives who now protest that “they never did and hadn’t the slightest idea,” as well as to the Liberals who knew all the time don’t-you-know— and issued licenses for 16,000 more Chinese to be imported into the same conditions.
____________

Lust and Luxury.
Nor is the vice peculiarly Asiatic, as the distinguished gentlemen who make our laws and fill our newspapers for us would have us believe. It is not the special affliction of the heathen Chinee. It is far more widely practiced among the decadent whites of Western civilisation than our pastors and masters are prepared to admit. It is not unknown even in the most exalted circles of good old England. It is a flourishing product of that low moral caste, the accompaniment of unbridled luxury, which continually seeks the gratification of its sensual lusts and finds it only in the grossest of sensations.

The Chinese under normal conditions are a singularly moral people in a rather more ample sense than that word is usually used and their deterioration generally commences with their association with the capitalist method of more “advanced” nations. The faculties which they possess in a remarkable degree of absorbing new influences and assimilating new ideas may have resulted in those of them who have had the misfortune to be translated into the atmosphere of modern commercialism, acquiring the evil practices of their new conditions. But an argument of that sort is very much a two-edged weapon. The evils must have existed to be absorbed.
____________

Morality and Profits.
But all this apart, the consequences as we say, were well known and they were deliberately burked because Rand capitalism demanded cheap labour in order that large profits might be scooped. The Tory Party have the credit of introducing Coolie labour into South Africa. The Liberal Party got in largely by their outcry against conditions of “slavery under the British Flag.” Swearing they would never consent to the degradation of “the national honour” they consented. Swearing a new oath that they had never said the conditions under which the Chinese were being imported were conditions of slavery,—that the use of that phrase was a terminological inexactitude—they maintained a continuity of policy and were directly party to the intensification of the evil to the extent of nearly a score of thousands additional licenses. And now that by an unlucky chance the murder is out they are endeavouring to shuffle out of their responsibility by pointing the finger of contumely at the Tories and saying, I told you so.
____________

Cant and Humbug.
All of which, however, is simply part of the Party game. The central fact is that powerful capitalist interests demanded cheap Coolie labour and capitalist governments, Liberal and Tory, satisfied the demand. Now that the moral fester has broken and spurted its purification abroad it may happen that pressure of the “national conscience” deftly played upon by other capitalist influences may effect some alteration. But whether such alteration will be any less hypocritical than the grotesquely farcical steps which the Liberal Government took to relieve any “heathen Chinee” of the obligations of his contract, is a moot point to be determined by the quality and quantity of the opposition aroused by the—at present—suppressed Bucknill Report. But whatever happens one thing is sure—facilities for obtaining the necessary supply of cheap labour, white, black or yellow, for capitalist purposes, will always be given by capitalist governments, and although it may be possible to suppress some of the more repulsive manifestations of the workings of the profit monger, it will not be possible while capitalism lasts to clear out the cesspool of iniquity which is the profit monger’s inevitable accompaniment. Only by the eradication of Capitalism itself and the substitution for it of that system of Society connoted by the term Socialism will that be possible. The disease is directly traceable to the impoverishment and enslavement of the many and the riotous luxury of the few made possible by the private ownership of the means of wealth production. For Asiatic vices so-called as well as all the other unsavory products of the present system, Socialism alone is the remedy.

A Look Round. (1907)

From the January 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

On January 1st all orthodox persons are supposed to make resolutions—which they devote the remaining days of the year to breaking. Reformers of all shades are amongst the orthodox, regarding the members of the S.P.G.B. as unorthodox, “visionary,” “outside the political pale,” etc. I would suggest that these folk take a resolution to ignore the things that do not matter, and to devote their energies to the only thing that does, viz., the class ownership of the means of wealth production, and the consequent enslavement and poverty of the wealth producers,

o o o

If the reformers could show any effective “reforms” as the result of their efforts ; if they could prove that any “reforms” they may have been instrumental in securing have made any real difference to the condition of the working class, one would be inclined to bear with them, but when there is abundant testimony to the failure of their efforts, to the waste of all the money they have spent, the time and energy they have devoted to the particular phases of the social problem which find favour in their eyes, one gets a little impatient. However, I will be calm and will only bid them take to heart the truth, as expounded in the following paragraph, extracted from the columns of that, most respectable organ, The Times, of Christmas Day, in its comments upon the reports by medical inspectors of the Local Government Boards.

o o o
“The stories told, it says, are monotonous, and, in most instances, the particulars are disgusting. . . Houses unfit for human habitation, rooms destitute of light and ventilation, overcrowding in rural cottages, contaminated water supplies, accumulations of every description of filth and refuse, a total absence of drainage, a reign of unbelievable dirt in milk-shops and slaughter-houses, and an inadequate supervision by officials who are frequently incompetent; such, in a general way, is the picture that is commonly presented.”

o o o

Reading an article from the pen of Mr. E. Belfort Bax in Wilshire’s Magazine, written from the National Liberal Club, England, a correspondent in America asks how the S.D.F. can square its assertion that the Liberal Party must be smashed with the fact that it allows its prominent members to belong to Liberal Clubs. We know it is usual to ask riddles at the festive season, but, owing to the ravages of the prevailing epidemic, we regret we are not up to finding the solution.

o o o

According to the Reader, one of the most prized possessions of Lord Tweedmouth is a half-crown. It is set in a frame, and underneath are the words, “Honestly earned.” We congratulate his Lordship upon being so candid as to admit that out of his large income he has only “honestly earned” one solitary half-crown in his life, and that was by accident.

o o o

Mr. Ben Cooper (Liberal) and Mr. Harry Quelch (S.D.F., and supporter of Liberal candidates) will represent the London Trades Council at the Labour Party Conference at Belfast this month.

o o o

Mr. Bell, M.P., addressing a meeting of the Derby Trades Council recently, said that he certainly had said “For God’s sake let us keep politics out of our unions,” and he was still of the same opinion. Later he declared that they had had more advantages for Labour during the past year from the Liberals than they had ever had or were likely to have from any Conservative government. His position was and always had been one of strict neutrality, but he invited them to give the Liberal Government credit.

o o o

If Mr. Bell believes in keeping politics out of the unions, why does he so continuously use union meetings to boom the Liberals and—Richard Bell, M.P. ?

o o o

In these days when wealthy and titled personages are entering the “Labour” movement, and, because of their wealth and their titles, being pushed to the front by the middle-class dominators of that movement; when “Labour ” “copy” is “good copy” in capitalist journals and magazines, the working class will need all their wits to prevent side-tracking. There is something to ponder over in the words put into the mouth of an Anarchist plotter in a story in the December Harper’s.

o o o
“Don’t you know yet that an idle and selfish class loves to see mischief being made, even if it is made at its own expense ? Its own life being all a matter of vestment and gesture, it is unable to realise the power and danger of real ache and of words that have no sham meaning. It is all fun and sentiment. It is sufficient, for instance, to point out the attitude of the old French aristocracy towards the philosophers whose words were preparing the Great Revolution. Even in England, where you have some common sense, a demagogue has only to shout loud enough and long enough to find some backing in the very class he is shouting at. You too like to see mischief being made. The demagogue gets the amateurs of emotion with him. Amateurism in this, that and the other thing is a delightfully easy way of killing time, and of feeding one’s own vanity—the silly vanity of being abreast with the ideas of the day after tomorrow. Just as good and otherwise harmless people will join you in ecstacies over your collection of old china, without having the slightest notion in what its marvellousness really consists.”

o o o

With the advent of these “aristocratic” and “millionaire” Socialists in increasing numbers, more strenuous efforts are made by their “fellow conspirators” to make Socialism appeal ever so respectable. “Hide the Red Flag” says one section; “Don’t hold meetings on Sundays,” says another; “Deny the Class War,” and so on. And here is Gaylord Wilshire, one of America’s “millionaire Socialists,” repeating the old twaddle that “The phrase ‘capital versus labour’ continually gives rise to the popular misconception that labour is against capital, or rather that the Socialist is against capital. Not at all. The Socialist is against the private ownership of capital, but certainly not against capital itself.”

o o o

The Socialist who understands the position is out for the abolition of capital. This was dealt with in our issues of April and August last.

o o o
“There are many Socialists who assert that ‘the armed nation,’ so called, should supplant the standing armies of capitalism, but the experience of Switzerland doesn’t bear out the theory. A recent meeting of Socialists in the Canton of Zurich was held to protest against the employment of troops in suppressing strikes. They claimed that in no country in Europe, Russia not excepted, were troops so constantly used to put down strikes and suppress picketing, and stated that ‘military outrages against peaceful strikers are becoming matters of daily occurrence.’ Switzerland’s military establishment is based on the ‘armed nation’ principle.” 
Wilshire’s Magazine.

o o o

In the Report of Mr. D. Cummings and his Executive of the Boiler Makers’ Union, on the failure of the Clyde Strike, and the defeat of the men, occur these words : “On account of our railway shares not being saleable without great loss, and the difficulty of disposing of the Preference shares of Armstrong, Whitworth, and Co., we were momentarily in financial difficulty, but our bankers advanced us temporarily a large sum of money at the current interest, and were prepared to advance us still more had the strike gone on.”

o o o

The capitalist Press are continually booming the “thrift” of the working class, as evidenced by their savings in trade unions, friendly societies, building societies and the like. But in a time of need, such as the strike under review, these savings are useless unless “at call.” As they are invariably invested in capitalist enterprises they are, not available when needed, except under the disadvantageous circumstances referred to in the Report. A combination of financiers could at any time, paralyze the trade unions, by dealing with their investments on the Stock Exchange in such a manner as to render them useless.

o o o

The capitalist cat has at least the proverbial number of lives, and is not going to be killed by a little Trade Dispute Act, despite the junketing of S.D.F., I.L.P., and Liberal-Labour men, who forgot their differences and ate, drank, and were merry together at the Shackleton Banquet last month.
J. Kay


Blogger's Note:
"There is something to ponder over in the words put into the mouth of an Anarchist plotter in a story in the December Harper’s . . . 

The passage quoted from Harper's magazine is from Joseph Conrad's short story, 'The Informer'. I'm guessing this short story was one of Conrad's dry runs for his more famous work, The Secret Agent.

The Real Roosevelt.(1907)

From the January 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

Seen Through American Eyes.
There is not a more pliant tool of the robber classes on earth to-day than Roosevelt. He has made a great splurge about the trusts, probably with their knowledge and consent. The trusts know that it is necessary to do something to fool the people again, and so the various fake laws have been enacted, not one of which will in any manner interfere with the robbing process. None of these laws will be of any benefit to labor or enable the toiler to get a job without begging for it. They are enacted for the sole purpose of fooling the people into the belief that Roosevelt is the friend of the workers.

Every outrage perpetrated upon the toilers since Roosevelt has been President, has had his hearty approval and the perpetrators have been rewarded by Roosevelt with office and emoluments. He looked on while 500 American citizens were dragged from their homes at night and deported from their State without the least shadow of law or authority, and their families left to starve. He has appointed to office some of the vilest criminals of the country, and made a man member of his Cabinet who confessed that he had violated the interstate law every day for ten years, he is the sworn enemy of union labor, having destroyed every vestige of unionism in the government service and has made the government printing office an open shop.

In the pretended “reform” laws passed by the late session of Congress at Roosevelt’s suggestion, every provision of the law will be for the benefit of the trusts, and will in no way help the people to ward off robbery and oppression. In the meat inspection law, the government pays enough every year to build the finest kind of sanitary packing houses to kill and pack all the meat of the country. This is a gracious gift of the people’s money of three millions per year to the Beef Trust, and yet some people actually believe that the law was enacted for the people.

The same is true with the rate bill. Every provision is for the further enrichment of the railways, and not a single provision that will in any way curb the greed of the Railway Trust or make charges reasonable. The clause giving the federal courts the right of review absolutely abrogates any benefit that otherwise might have accrued to the people. No shipper, unless he be a millionaire, could afford to institute proceedings to regulate rates, and then it would take a lifetime to carry the case through the various courts. The railways got all they wanted in the law, the right to review for their tools whose seats were bought for them upon the federal bench. Every man appointed to the federal bench in the past twenty years has been so appointed at the dictates of the corporations. These men are there to serve their masters, and the people need look for no relief from them.

A good specimen of these corporation tools is given in ex-Senator Quarles of Washington. This villain was repudiated by the overwhelming condemnation of the people of his own State, and, immediately after he is appointed by Roosevelt to the Circuit Court of the same State, there to have in his hands the lives, liberty and property of the same men and women who had set upon him the seal of their condemnation. And this is “Teddy, the Trust Buster.”

What a h—l of a defender the people have in the White House.

About the choicest claim, however, of Mr. Lewis, is that Roosevelt was boosted into the White House “against black-flag money.” For whom was the half-million of insurance money stolen from the widows and orphans of the great life insurance companies ? Every dollar of it spent for Roovevelt’s election. If he was not elected by “black-flag” money, then no President ever was.

The Interstate Commerce law formerly had imprisonment as one of the penalties of its violation. When evidence began to be produced of the flagrant violation of this law by the railways, at the head of whom was Paul Morton, a member of the Cabinet, Steve Elkins introduced a bill repealing the imprisonment clause. The bill passed both houses of Congress and ROOSEVELT SIGNED IT. Rebating is the most dastardly of crimes. It is the crime by which Rockefeller has made his millions, from the sweat and blood of the people, and Roosevelt deliberately conspired to repeal the only penalty fort this crime which the robbers care a fig for.
Deadwood Lantern

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Socialist Sonnet No. 156: Before Polling (2024)

From the Socialism or Your Money Back blog 

Before Polling

 By the day before polling, all speeches

Are spoken, the arguments won or lost,

Promises promised, fingers firmly crossed.

Meanwhile, common experience teaches,

Manifestos are just works of fiction,

No matter how detailed, or blessedly brief,

They require suspension of disbelief.

Everyone who has a predilection

To regard suffrage as a precious gem,

Might consider the parties and decline

To cast the pearl of their vote for the swine

Who have all consistently misled them.

Day after polling, as things are arranged,

Voters will find that very little’s changed.

 D. A.

At Random. (1907)

From the January 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

Justice (24/11/06) is bitterly disappointed with the “Labour” members. They have never, it says, “risen to the level of their opportunities.” “We have not had a single Socialist speech in the House since Parliament opened last February.” They (the “Labour” members) have “perfectly acquired the House of Commons manner . . . and have quite the air of statesmen and legislators. But that is not quite what they were elected for. If they have got hold of the idea that a Labour Party is to he a second-rate imitation of the Liberal or Tory Party, they have quite mistaken their mission.” And more of the same sort.

***

All very smart and all very nasty. If the Socialist Standard had said the same thing it would have been abusive and blackguardly. However, as Justice has introduced the matter, I hope I may not be thought too forward if I enquire as to Justice’s and the S.D.F.’s own particular member. I mean, of course, Will Thorne. What’s he doing? And if he isn’t now to be distinguished from the rest of the “Labour” members and the “Labour” members are not to be distinguished except by their awkwardness from the members who are not “Labour,” what’s the S.D.F. doing ?

***

There were times when the S.D.F. plumed itself upon the hold it kept upon members elected to public bodies. Why hasn’t it kept a hold on Will Thorne? Is it because it fears to estrange Will by criticism? Is it because it fears the loss of its only member? Is it because Thorne is not the S.D.F.’s member and therefore not amenable to S.D.F. influence ?

***
The reply I give is an affirmative to all the questions. The S.D.F. cannot afford to lose Thorne or Thorne’s influence. Thorne is not amenable to S.D.F. instruction although a member of the S.D.F. Thorne was elected as the L.R.C. candidate and is paid as such. The S.D.F.’s claim on Thorne is only persevered in because the S.D.F. only has Thorne’s M.P.-ship to swagger with. It makes an important thing of its very remote association with Thorne so as to make the most it can for itself out of Thorne’s electoral success. It’s pitiable but there it is.

***

And now it displays the fraudulent nature of its claim by showing that it has no claim on, and is without influence over, its own alleged member. It means just that ; or this – the S.D.F. has lost the last excuse for its existence. By which I mean to say that if S.D.F. members are so little educated upon the duties and responsibilities, the organisation and the discipline which the acceptance of Socialism involves that they do not insist upon their fellow members, into whatever public position they may go, following closely the line marked out by the Party as a whole, then there is no purpose in the organisation and it may as well be dead. If the Party has not insisted because it has no clearly defined line to follow, then again it may as well be dead in name as it is in fact.

***

John Burns, according to the German Press, has declared that he is not a State Socialist. I agree. Whatever else he’ is—and I could suggest quite a number of names that would fairly fit—he is not a Socialist, State or otherwise.

***

John has since stated that he has no recollection of saying anything of the sort, but he will not contradict the newspaper report because he never contradicts anything that is said about him. I disagree. John’s memory is statesmanlike—and short. He would contradict fast enough if it paid.

***

Preaching in Westminster Abbey recently, the Rev. A. Taylor, M.A., said that the elevation of womanhood in all lands was due to the teaching of the Bible ! Is this merely the ordinary ignorance of “culture” or has the pronouncement anything to do with the fact that the reverend gentleman is the Secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society ?

***

Another ecclesiastical dignitary, the celebrated Father Bernard Vaughan, has replied to another Bernard, yclept, Shaw. In his reply the worthy Father has well maintained his reputation for sensationalism in three statements. (1) That in Shaw’s lecture on religion he was “unable to detect a shadow of scientific thought.” (2) That the prayer that rose to his lips after reading it was “Father, forgive him, for he knows not what he does,” and (3) that Shaw would find “eminently satisfactory results” from an enquiry into “the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church.”

***

I did not know that the father’s investigation into “Smart Set” morals qualified him to pronounce authoritatively upon scientific thought. Moreover, as he has so well pointed out, the tenets of the church to which he belongs are eminently satisfactory to—those who know not what they do ! and it would seem, only those. However, statements one and two are all right—a coincidence in the circumstances quite sensational.

***

After “Rocks Ahead,” “Another Political Wreck.” Should the third effort not be entitled “Saved from the Sea” ? I throw out the suggestion for what it may be worth. If the drama is to be well rounded we must have a coming to. The villain might then stand a chance of retrieving his fortunes by playing rescuer and even getting applause at the fall of the curtain. However. I have it on good authority that the reason for the selection of nautical titles has nothing to do with the author being at sea.

***

Herbert Burrows thinks that his comrade Askew is not worth discussing with ; he thinks Askew has deliberately insinuated things against him (Burrows) which are maliciously false ; and he holds that if Askew has a spark of decency in him he ought to be ashamed of himself and apologise.

***

This is distinctly the Burrovian method. If anyone disagrees with Herbert and says so, and particularly if he goes so far as to give good reason for his disagreement, he is (pace Herbert) a fellow of no decency, not to say a thorough paced scoundrel. Herbert, of course, is a gentleman, never uses language that is ungentlemanly and anybody who has known him and his Socialism will admit at once that the Socialist movement ought to be proud of its Burrows. Herbert says so and Herbert ought to know.

***

I am glad to find Herbert ragging more members of the S.D.F. because to me that is prima facie evidence that these members are waking up. When anything of the kind happens, and particularly if in the process the position of Herbert and what I may call the official S.D.F. comes under sharp criticism (as it must) Mr. Burrows can always be relied upon to start in with the “slang.” And it will always be found that the safest and surest sign that he hasn’t the rockiest leg to stand upon is when he falls back upon his “past record.” I will, when I get time, turn up some of that record and I think I can surprise the Burrowsite (if there is any such misguided person alive) with a reproduction of some of the gentlemanly language that ethical Herbert has given off.

***

In the same paper for December 15th, Mr. H. M. Hyndman has an article on the same subject, from which I extract the following :
“No pluck whatever has been displayed. Nothing meaner or more contemptible has ever been done, even by our scurviest enemies, the Liberals, than the wholesale discharges of men from Woolwich Arsenal and elsewhere. What has the Labour Party had to say about this infamous conduct ? So far as I know, nothing. Worse still, when Mr. John Burns turned the whole unemployed question, which made his personal and pecuniary fortune, into a farce, who was it who jumped up in haste to thank him for his fine speech and flatter him to his face for his valuable proposal ? No less conspicuous a person than the Chairman at the time of the Independent Labour Party and the Whip of the Labour Party in the House of Commons. Yet not a single man of the whole group dared rise and publicly repudiate such mean talk as utterly unworthy of themselves and their constituents.”

***

In these last days everybody is mightily concerned to manufacture a particular brand of what is called Socialism to meet the requirements of some particular group of individuals. Every brand requires a distinctive label, and every label demands a separate organisation to push it upon public attention. During the last few days I have come across a “Socialism” for millionaires (this is a strictly proprietary brand, placed on the market as was fit and proper, by that “mad-hatter” of the “advanced” movement who owns the Fabian Society), the Guild of St. Matthew brand of “Socialism”; “Socialism for the ‘educated middle class'” ; Tory “Socialism” (!),; I.L.P. “Socialism” (which is realised when land and Capital are nationalised), S.D.F. “Socialism,”— which Mr. H. M. Hyndman says is to be achieved for the working class by the class above, and so on.

***

Amid the din of so many pedlars crying their wares it is grateful to come across a small body of propagandists who advance just a plain, unqualified Socialism as the solution for the problem of poverty which affects one class only—the working class ; a Socialism which they preach as members of the working class to members of the working class only on the ground that only the working class matter. At any rate I am grateful to these, The Socialist Party of Great Britain.

***

Professor Oliver Lodge has given us his articles of faith. He holds that the two greatest requirements of life are companionship and affection. But what about food ?

***

“We are told that our women friends who are agitating for the Limited Bill, are in favour of Adult Suffrage. Then why don’t they agitate for it instead of for the smaller measure ? I have always held that the best way to get part is to ask for the whole, and that if you ask for part you won’t even get that.”

***

Hear ! Hear !! Hear !!! Precisely what we are always pointing out to those who, while professing to want Socialism, prefer to ask for unemployed relief, payment of members and—a citizen army ! And one of the men who call us “Impossiblists” therefore, is—the writer of the foregoing extract, H. Quelch!

***

Messrs. Quelch & Co. are most vehement opponents of those who urge in connection with this “Votes for Women” agitation that the best way to secure complete adult suffrage is to get the right of women to the vote conceded ; that the only way indeed to the ultimate goal is to proceed by short stages. Mr. Quelch says in effect, and I quite agree with him, that if we must proceed by stages we will at any rate endeavour to make those stages as few as possible, and the best way to do that is not to concentrate upon a stage, because that stage is thereby made, for all practical purposes, the ultimate goal, with the result that progress toward it is again made in stages, but rather to demand the whole so that when a concession is wrung out of the ruling class (and if the concession is material it will have to to be wrung anyhow) it will be as substantial a concession as possible. Mr. Quelch says this, at any rate, upon the question of votes for women,—and anything else that suits his purpose at the moment, for that matter. Yet when we apply the same process of reasoning to the position taken up by Mr. Quelch and his friends in connection with their palliative proposals, we are quite impossible !

***

The question of the unemployed is in point. Mr. Quelch knows that only Socialism will solve the unemployed problem—and sometimes says so. Mr. Quelch knows that the capitalist class cannot solve the unemployed problem it they would and would not it they could and sometimes says so. Yet Mr. Quelch heads deputations to the capitalist class who cannot and will not solve the unemployed problem, to ask for relief for some of the unemployed. The result is a farcical drop of relief to a vast ocean of misery, the drop to be administered in homeopathic doses by a contemptible capitalist hack.

***

And this is not the only result, as Mr. Quelch knows. He knows that the miserable labour derelicts who follow his lead are being deluded by his agitation even as the “suffragettes” are being (as he says) deluded. They are not organised for, or concentrated upon, the ultimate goal. They are not demanding the whole. They are only asking for what Mr. Quelch implies it is absurd to ask for, viz., a very small part of what they want, with the result that they don’t “even get that.” And because they don’t understand that the whole is their right ; because the leaders of the agitation by their cap-in-hand deputations convey the impression that the little they are asking for is the most they ought to expect; because of this they induce the belief in the working class that the capitalists who finally give the bit of relief are excellent good fellows who are doing their best and who deserve to be supported. In other words the class struggle is obscured, and instead of having advanced a stage in the direction of the ultimate goal, they have at the best remained where they were, and at the very probable worst, have actually retreated a stage.

***

Therefore it is not in the mouth of Mr. Quelch & Co. to talk down at the “Suffragettes” who are but doing what Mr. Quelch himself does. It is notoriously unwise for the occupants of glass houses to exercise with catapaults and it is proverbially grotesque for the man with a beam in his own eye to labour in the endeavour to pluck the mote out of the eye of his—sister ! The only safe place from which Mr. Quelch may criticise the one-step-at-a-timer is in the ranks of The Socialist Party of Great Britain. If he has determined to be consistent for the future I invite him to apply for membership.

***

Try the quality of the “Labour Leader’s” parliamentary writer with me. He is referring to the number of ladies in purple and fine linen who are escorted about the precincts of the House of Parliamentary Gallants and goes on : “The Labour members stand and wonder at it all. Some of them—Barnes, Will Thorne and some others sternly leave the lobby” ! . . . Why—if a plain person may ask the question—do they leave the lobby ? And how do they do it sternly ? Does the sight of the lovely ladies with whom they may not mix give them the waterbrash ? Or what ? And who are these others who prefer not to leave the lobby ? Why do they stay ? Is it on the chance of a tete-a-tete? In any case are we to conclude that they also serve who only stand and wonder?

***

Try again. They (the Balfours, etc.) “are very nonplussed by the presence of the Labour men. It is not that our men interrupt them . . . but they make them feel they are there. Just as they are going to utter their most unreal sentiment they happen to make a half turn, and then—they get a full broadside from the eyes of Keir Hardie.” Dear ! Dear ! How very dreadful ! Especially when you are not expecting it. But why doesn’t Keir Hardie sit on the other side of the House ? He could then fix his man every time, and his man couldn’t say a word. Perhaps those eyes would impel the victim to speak the truth. You never can tell. As it is Hardie has to wait for the half turn before he can operate. Surely it cannot be that love of compromise and half measures has led the “Labour” Group to prefer half turns when they might get a full turn for the same effort. A half loaf may be better than no bread, but, I have never heard that a half turn is better than a whole stare !

***

These are examples of the strong meat the Labour Leader regales its readers with. It’s the sort of literary wash that may serve to satisfy the unhealthy cravings of some of the I.L.P. now that the novelty of the “Labour” Group has worn so thin that the capitalist Press cannot work good “copy” out of it, but it will scarcely do more than impel a sensation of hilarity (or perhaps of nausea) in sober and serious students of working-class politics. The Labour Leader, taking its cue from the “Labour” leaders, is playing down to the weakest headed of its following. Which, being interpreted, is to say that the Labour Leader is playing it as low and as sloppily as it can well do.
Alegra.

Some Publications. (1907)

Book Reviews from the January 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

More Books to Read on Social and Economic subjects. The Fabian Society. One Penny.

A list of books which the Editors think are likely to be required by Socialists and Social Reformers. The Editors do not pretend to have examined all the books catalogued, nor are they prepared to assert that the works are correctly classified, nor can they hope that there are no omissions, nor that every book named is rightly included. In these circumstances the pamphlet may conceivably be useful to the student who finds in it the information he wants !
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The Reformers' Yearbook. Paper, 1s., Cloth, 2s., net.

For 1907 this well-known annual contains those useful compilations of facts and figures which we have come to expect in it and which we, as exponents of the revolutionary method are able to use so effectively against the reform advocate for whose purposes, as the title signifies, the book was specially designed. Nevertheless its Editors have so far as in them lied, endeavoured to confine its scope to the records of reform agitations and reform parties and the views of those who are steeped to the eyes in unadulterated revisionism—if such a term is permissible as descriptive of methods essentially the result of the adulteration of the revolutionary idea. Therefore it is fitting that while such reform organisations as the S.D.F., the League of Young Liberals, the Young Scots’ Society, the Patent Law Reform Association and the Women’s Social and Political Union and the rest of the bodies which go to make up the weirdest packet of political ineptitude that was ever flung at the heads of a long suffering democracy, find adequate inclusion, and while the words of the sundry and divers mouthpieces of these bodies stand boldly up upon many a page there is no reference to the revolutionary S.P.G.B. or its work. However, as we say, the book contains much that is interesting and useful to the discriminative propagandist of Socialism and if it also contains much that is of no consequence such as the articles on the Decay of Liberalism, the propertied woman’s suffrage agitation, “Some Urgent Reforms,” “A Commune for London,” and so on, we cannot help it.