Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Socialist Sonnet No. 133: Bald Eagle (2024)

From the Socialism or Your Money Back blog

The bald eagle becomes more decrepit,

Talons still brandishing its three arrows,

But the olive branch it long since let go,

All the while losing its grip, bit by bit.

Fanciers misleadingly quibble about

Whether the right wing or the left is best

To keep their bird flying, though, even blessed

With power in both, the body’s giving out.

Meanwhile its emboldened prey no longer

Grudgingly quails, turning a passive back,

Not only resisting, but will attack

Viciously; all the while feeling stronger.

Amidst blood and feathers, look closely, look,

It is not an eagle, but a lame duck.


D. A.

Editorial: The Countess of Warwick and John Burns. (1906)

Editorial from the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

A considerable amount of interest appears to have been aroused by a statement which appeared in a recent number of this journal to the effect that the lady who came down from her exalted position to become a member of the lowly S.D.F. (the Countess of Warwick) sent a telegram to the gentleman who left his lowly position as a member of the S.D.F. to ascend to an exalted sphere (the Right Honourable John Burns) regretting her inability to attend one of his election meetings, and wishing him success. We have received quite a number of communications on the subject, and have been requested to state the grounds upon which the statement was made. Our correspondents appear to be astonished that a member of the S.D.F. should have taken a course so entirely opposed to the attitude of that body, and apparently are unable to understand why, if such a telegram was sent, the organisation has taken no steps to repudiate either the member or the action. So far as we are concerned, however, the only cause for surprise lies in the fact that there is evidently still a number of persons who see in the incident something incongruous—persons who, it would seem, are students of, or at any rate interested in, contemporary English politics. We can only commend to them a perusal of back numbers of the Socialist Standard and the pamphlet called the Manifesto of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, wherein they will find a record of many incidents of a similar character. Not only are members of the S.D.F. continually taking public action opposed to the policy for the time being of that organisation, but the organisation itself is continually taking action in flat contradiction to its professed principles. In the matter of John Burns its attitude to-day is one of virulent denunciation, but to-morrow it would not be a surprising thing if it were the complete opposite. On the contrary, it would be strictly in accordance with precedent. In the past it has roundly trounced the Right Honourable gentleman and a week or two afterwards supported him, although his attitude was unchanged, just as in the past it has been engaged in roundly trouncing the capitalist party Burns is a member of, while its members and branches have been actively engaged in assisting the candidatures of representatives of that party. Sufficient evidence to satisfy the most hard-shelled unbeliever can be found in the file of this paper and the Manifesto mentioned.

Therefore we may say that neither the present action of the Countess nor the lack of action of the S.D.F. is ground for incredulity. Indeed, there is less ground in this instance than in many others of a similar nature, because in the other cases the members concerned were just common or garden persons while the Countess is an exceedingly valuable asset. Her personality and associations secure for the S.D.F. most useful advertisement (much to the very pronounced disgust of the I.L.P., which regards itself as the refuge par excellence for all aristocratic and plutocratic persons with bees in their bonnets or democratic yearnings in their hearts, and is naturally incensed that the S.D.F. should have poached upon its preserves to such good purpose). Besides which has it not been told in Gath that “a mere drawerful of jewels” has been at the S.D.F’s disposal ? Very well then ; why should the S.D.F. take action ? Why should it risk a trump card ?

But if our correspondents want the evidence they may have it. We only hope its publication may serve as a further justification for our opposition to the S.D.F. and similar bodies, and by establishing a fact in proof of the supine, vacillating and confusing attitude of that organisation, help to direct the working-class mind to the consideration of the only principles and the only policy upon which a working-class party capable of effecting those social changes which alone will remove poverty and all its concomitant evils from out of working-class experience, can be built up—the principles and policy of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, as summarised on the front page of this paper.

This is the evidence :—
  1. Several members of this Party were present at the meeting and heard the telegram read (names and addresses can be supplied if desired).
  2. Our Comrade Fitzgerald, speaking at Battersea on the Sunday following, was challenged by Mr. Archer, a prominent supporter of Burns, who, under the impression that Fitzgerald was a member of the S.D.F., demanded to know why he (Fitzgerald) was opposing Burns when the Countess was supporting him according to the telegram he (Archer) heard read at Burns’ meeting.
  3. The written statement of Mr. J. H. Brown, Hon. Sec. of Burns’ Election Committee, who informs us that he received application to reserve seats on the platform of Burns’ meeting for Lady Warwick and friends ; that Lady Warwick was unable to attend and sent a telegram of regret etc.
  4. A written communication from Mr. W. Rines (Mayor of Battersea) whose recollection was that some such telegram was received and read.
  5. The report of the Battersea Borough News, Jan. 12th, 1906, which concludes “Telegrams expressing regret at their inability to attend were received from Lady Warwick and Lady Collins.”
For our purposes statements 1 and 2 (the reports of our own members of public incidents well within the knowledge of the large audiences of both Burns’ and Fitzgerald’s meetings) are good enough. Statements 3, 4 and 5 only confirm and amplify those reports. Our correspondents may consider all of them in conjunction with the fact that another prominent member of the S.D.F. (its treasurer, Mr. J. F. Green) speaking at Hammersmith on April 22, informed his audience that they had only one “working man” in the Cabinet who could not do much by himself, and that what they wanted was to send another six working men to help him from, which we conclude that, according to Mr. Green, the S.D.F. is all wrong, and that there is nothing deplorable about Mr. Burns’ position except that there is not more of him !

Editorial: Why Mr. H. Quelch resigned. (1906)

Editorial from the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

We intended dealing with the matter of the resignation of Mr. H. Quelch from the Chairmanship of the London Trades Council last month, but the April issue of the Trades and Labour Gazette, containing the official report, did not reach us until we were going to press.
“Mr. H. Quelch announced his resignation at the ordinary meeting of the Council, held at the Club Union Hall, on March 8th, after a letter had been read from John Burns, sincerely thanking the Council for its expression of congratulations on his appointment to the Cabinet. He (Mr. Quelch) wished to announce that he did not propose to offer himself for re-election to the chairmanship. In his opinion the chairman ought to be the official mouth-piece and representative of the Council as a whole . . In view of the decision of the last meeting, when the Council repudiated the whole of his cherished convictions and stultified itself by repudiating all the principles which had been supposed to guide it during the whole of the period that he had been associated with it, it was obviously incompatible that he should retain his position. … He did not propose to retire from the Council unless the society whom be represented, the Printers’ Warehousemen—he did not represent the Socialists—declined to elect him.” The italics are ours.
Mr. Quelch, editor of “the Organ of the Social Democracy,” member of the S.D.F. Executive, does not represent the Socialists. In his capacity as a trade union representative he has sunk his Socialist principles and has supported Liberal-Labour candidates, both for Parliament and the L.C.C., whilst in his capacity as Editor of Justice and member of the S.D.F. Executive he has opposed them. Could anything be more absurd and more calculated to confuse the minds of the working class ? And seeing that Burns is no worse than Steadman, whom Mr. Quelch and the S.D.F. have supported, why all this fuss over Burns ? Both are “firmly caught in the nets of the Liberal Party.” They were already caught at the election of 1900, when the S.D.F. supported them, and the position at the last election, when Mr. Quelch denounced Barns but supported Steadman, was unchanged.

We are glad, however, to see that Mr. Quelch is beginning to recognise how “obviously incompatible” is his position. It is charged against us that our persistent criticism of his actions in these columns has in large measure contributed to his awakening. We take the flattering unction to our soul and hope that he will soon see further and decline to sit on a body obeying the behests of a trade union when those behests are in flat contradiction to the Socialist principles and policy that he professes. If we have been the humble means whereby one erring Social Democrat, albeit he a leader, has seen the error of some of his ways, we have not lived in vain, and we will go forward hopefully, confident that others, equally erring, will eventually forsake the broad road that leadeth unto personal power but working-class confusion, and plant their feet firmly on the narrow path that leadeth direct to the triumph of Socialism.

Editorial: The Social Ladder. (1906)

Editorial from the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard 


“Those who were at the top of the social ladder, or half-way up, must help those who were at the bottom. If they did not do so they must expect that some day the ladder would be pulled away.” W. Crooks, 4/5/06.

The first part of the pronouncement is quite up to the Crooks standard, and assumes, like the statement familiar to every school-boy that “every lad can become a Lord Chancellor if he likes,” that there is plenty of room for everybody on top of the social ladder. Which even the school-boy himself, to-day, recognises as the acme of absurdity. The idea of Society being likened to a ladder at all is confusing. It presupposes that the whole of Society is on the ladder, whereas the fact is that the bulk of Society forms the base upon which the ladder rests. Even social ladders must be planted on something. Only infinitesimal fragments of Society occupy the rungs, fragments which grow smaller by degrees and beautifully less the higher they get. Clearly, therefore, the fragments on the ladder could not help any appreciable portion of the bulk below into a more elevated position because to do so would render the base upon which the ladder rests exceedingly unstable and the position of the fragments most unhappily precarious And even if this were not so it would be quite palpably impossible to assist any notable number on to the bottom rungs already overcrowded, without pushing off some of those already on or forcing them higher; and as the economy of ladders precludes the possibility of any overweight at the top, the fragments of Society already there must be unceremoniously cuffed or pushed off by those forced up from below or the whole ladder must lose its balance and come toppling to the ground. Therefore the main concern of those on top, as well as those on the lower rungs, is to prevent the base from shifting.

We do not think Mr. Crooks is so desperately baffle-headed as not to understand that. As a matter of fact he makes it fairly apparent that he does understand in the last part of his remark. If those who are on the ladder do not help those at the bottom they must not be surprised if presently the ladder itself is pulled away.

Precisely. And the exact difference between Mr. Crooks and ourselves is that we are out to pull the ladder away by inciting the working-class at the base to view it as not less than an unmitigated nuisance at the best and as a crushing burden at the worst, a ladder up which they cannot climb anyhow, while Mr. Crooks is out to inspire the working-class at the base with the idea that the ladder is a great institution up which they may climb if they are good and virtuous, what time he points out to those on the ladder that if they are to maintain their position they must fill the working-class base with the idea that they (the ladder persons) are very sympathetic and only anxious to lend a hand to help them (the working class base) up the rungs. In other words Mr. William Crooks, M.P., like his friend, Mr. John Burns, M.P., is playing a double game.

A Look Round. (1906)

From the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dr. Emil Reich has continued his lectures upon Plato. In the course of the one dealing with “The State and Individual Socialism” he said that we had slavery here as much as it existed in the time of the Greeks. The working men were slaves. It was no use to say : “They are not slaves; they have rights”; for the Athenian slaves had certain rights also.

* * *

It is just this bogey of “rights” that leads the members of the working class to consider themselves free. They claim to have the “right” of free speech, the “right” of choosing their employer and their landlord, the “right” of combination; the “right” of recording their vote for one of the master class or for a misleading Labour “Leader” and so on,

* * *

Take the “right” of free speech. Does it exist ? Is it not a fact that if only three persons congregate in a public place they cause an obstruction within the meaning of the Act ? And the many prosecutions and imprisonments which have taken place in connection with this alleged right have conclusively proved that no such right exists.

* * *

Then we are told that a man can work for whom he likes and live where he likes. Leaving out of the question the many who cannot work at all, because nobody can find it profitable to employ them, and who consequently cannot pay the rent, where does the “right” of the employed come in ?

* * *

Does a workman enter a factory, dock or warehouse and say to the employer, “I’m coming here to work, my hours will be from 10 to 5, with 2 off for refection, no work on Saturdays and my wages will be £4 per week ?”

* * *

Of course not. When he presents himself at the factory gate he either sees the familiar notice “no hands wanted” and sorrowfully departs, or he humbly enquires if there is any chance of a job. If he gets the welcome “yes” he is told when he must start and when he must finish and what the pay will be. When his employers consider he shall eat, or, at any rate, cease work with that object in view, a bell is rung to denote the fact, and when he is permitted to return the bell is again rung.

* * *

And as to the ” right” to live where he chooses, this also does not exist. He must of necessity live where and how his economic circumstances determine.

* * *

We are all born into this world without being consulted in the matter. We are supposed to belong to our parents. Before we are six weeks old we must be registered, before we are six months old we must be vaccinated, unless our parents have within four months of our birth obtained an exemption order; when we are five we must go to school, and we must not leave school and go to work until the State says we may. If we cannot find work and therefore cannot pay the rent, the landlord has the right to employ the machinery of the law in ejecting us. We then have the right to become an obstruction or a nuisance ; if we beg, the policeman has the right to run us in, as he also has if we steal or poach, or wander about without any visible means of subsistence, or sleep out of doors, and if, finally, we give it up as a bad job, and seeing that Capitalist Society will not allow us to live decently, we endeavour to put an end to our miserable existence by jumping from “the bridge of sighs,” once again the gentleman in blue has the right to take us into custody and we shall get “time.” Where do our “rights” come in ?

* * *

Either with the object of killing time or of playing the game of bluffing the workers, some Belgravians have formed an Association called the “Freedom of Labour Defence.” At the inaugural meeting Lady Francis Balfour, who a few days afterwards was prominent at the Women’s Suffrage Demonstrations, presided. Lord Wemyss, a life long defender of the liberty of the propertied few to exploit the propertyless many, gave as his ideal: “Work as long as you like, for what wages you like and for anybody you like.” I can see his lordship “a doin’ of it.” This reminds me of the speech of Lord Salisbury, when Viscount Cranborne. He said: “So long as they are not overworked, all the working classes want is plenty of work,” and in order that they may have it, of course, Salisbury, Wemyss & Co. refrain from working themselves. It is the “freedom” of the working class to be exploited that they, the shirkers and exploiters, would defend !

* * *

The formation of the Association is due to the Sweating Exhibition organised by the Daily News, at which a number of ardent one-step-at-a-time revolutionists like Herbert Burrows, Ramsay McDonald, Chiozza Money and others have been lecturing to the sweaters on their moral responsibility in this matter. But appeals to this unknown quantity been have made many times, and sweating continues. The Daily News itself points out that more than half a century ago Charles Kingsley wrote his impeachment of “Cheap Clothes and Nasty.” Seven years before this Mrs. Browning in “The Cry of the Children” and Hood in “The Song of the Shirt” had awakened the public conscience to a menacing danger. Civilization has broadened and deepened. England has become a world-State. Science applied to industry has multiplied by twenty-fold the capacities of production. Yet to-day “The Song of the Shirt,” the “Cheap Clothes and Nasty,” “The Cry of the Children” still remain. Women are still working their lives into the fabric of shirts and Bibles, and children are labouring in home industries “who have never known the sunshine nor the glory that is brighter than the sun.” All the large processes of change, the accumulated wealth of Empire, spoil gotten from all the seven seas, has brought no mitigation and no hope to these unfortunates.

* * *

The Daily News could not have penned a better indictment of Reform had it tried. Revolution, and Revolution alone, will be effective.

* * *

Seventeen syndicates in the French Engineering Trades,—including the Iron and Steel Trades, the machine-making trade in all its varieties, the cycle trade, the hardware trade, and others—have formed themselves into a Confederation in opposition to the Workmen’s Union. They declare that the attitude of the Workmen’s Federation, which is now revolutionary, leaves them no alternative but to found a Confederation of their own.

* * *

Such is inevitable that, as the Class War intensifies, as the final struggle between the master class and the working class approaches, changes must take place in the organisation and methods of both armies. Just in proportion as The Socialist Party impress the working class by their propaganda, so the latter, becoming class conscious, will recognise that the form of Trade Union that has served a purpose in the past, and which is based upon the superstition of the brotherhood of capital and labour, is unsuited to present day conditions.

* * *

It is the function of The Socialist Party to prepare the working class for the Revolution and to build up the necessary organisation. Some of our friends, tired of the vote-catching dodges of alleged ”Socialist” candidates, disheartened at the slow rate of progress, disgusted at the large number of good men gone wrong after being elected to legislative and administrative bodies, declare for an industrial organisation, having for its object the taking and holding of the means of life, without affiliation to any political party. And it is not to be wondered at that some of the more impatient are reviving the Anarchist doctrine of the futility of Parliamentarism and are advocating an economic organisation alone, with its ultimate general strike, or, as it is now being put, the general lock-out of the master class.

* * *

It looks very alluring, but do not let us forget that the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, is an instrument of oppression. Is it wise to leave that instrument in the hands of the capitalist class ? No. The Socialist Union must work in conjunction with The Socialist Party.

* * *

There are others who are of opinion that the new economic organisation should not be called a Socialist Union, as its object being “the taking and holding of the means of wealth production,” it would be sufficiently stamped as a Socialist Union without mention of that word.

* * *

Some of these very folks, however, have denounced those who have pursued a similar policy in electoral contests, and I think justly so. I have before me now the election address of Mr. T. R. Wall, who, although a member of the S.D.F., contested a seat on the Fulham Borough Council as “The Labour Candidate” and whose election address stated the Socialist position whilst carefully refraining from avowing it as such. To oppose men who do this on the political field and assist them to do a similar thing on the industrial field is illogical and confusing.

* * *

Last month John Burns was elected a member of the National Liberal Club. What an affecting sight it must have been when he first encountered those members of the Club who are also members of the S.D.F., viz., H. M. Hyndman, E. Belfort Bax, J. F. Green, A. S. Headingley, etc. Every candidate for the Club, before being elected, must take a pledge that he will support the principles of the Liberal Party.

* * *

In a recent issue of the Socialist Standard we gave details of the compacts entered into between candidates of the Independent Labour Party and the Liberals at the General Election. In the Labour Leader for Sept. 9th, 1904, Mr. J. Keir Hardie wrote “Temporary tactical understandings with, say, the Irish Party, or any other independent section of politicians I can understand, but a working agreement with Liberals or Conservatives would spell ruin.” In view of this utterance it is easy to understand why the recent “working agreements with Liberals” were not mentioned in the Labour Leader.

* * *

“Importation of Chinese Stopped ” was the double column head-line in the Daily News for December 22nd, 1905, above the report of, Sir H. Campbell Bannerman’s speech at the Albert Hall. It was there that he stated the Government’s conclusion to stop forthwith the recruitment and embarkation of Coolies in China for South Africa. At that time there were 47,217 Coolies employed ; At the end of February the number had risen to 49,995, and in the three months the desertions had nearly doubled. Thus have the Liberals carried out the promise “No Slavery under the Liberal Flag.”

* * *

I know that Bannerman said that the importation should be stopped as “far as practicable,” and no doubt some Liberals will argue that this has been done. But it was practicable to stop it in December. The Daily News of May 19th admitted that “of course, the present Ministers might have withdrawn the permits just as they might have ordered the repatriation of the Coolies already there. There was no physical impossibility in either case.” And the Western Morning News pointed out in January that “the Transvaal being a Crown Colony, the Home Government could, if it chose, cancel the Chinese Labour Ordinance, and send every Chinaman back to China.” But, of course, they didn’t, and there are now more Coolies in S. Africa than at any previous time. The lie, however, like other Liberal lies, served its purpose.

* * *

On May 25th a complimentary Banquet was given to Mr. W. M. Thompson, Editor of Reynolds’, at the National Liberal Club. Hobnobbing with the titled participants were Messrs. H. M. Hyndman, E. Belfort Bax, and A. E. Fletcher. The Rt. Hon. John Burns was the principle speaker, and was followed by Mr. H. Hyndman ! Oh, these revolutionary S.D.F’ers !
J. Kay

The Appeal to Dives. (1906)

From the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

To the glory of the Daily News and the increase of its circulation, a “Sweating Exhibition” was opened in the early days of last month, under the distinguished patronage of certain serene or royal highnesses who were graciously pleased to express their heartfelt sympathy with the condition of the victims of the system which their royal highnesses are also pleased to uphold, and of which they are the more or less picturesque figure-heads. We read that when she saw these brave workers Princess Henry was moved several times to say, “Oh, terrible ! terrible ! terrible !” and again “Shocking ! shocking ! shocking !” And these ejaculations seem to have so greatly affected the Daily News gentlemen that they forgot to reject the advertisement which has appeared at intervals in their journal check by jowl with the lavishly worded reports of the proceedings of their Sweating Exhibition—a large displayed advertisement which sets out the advantages of somebody’s suits at 21s.

All through the month of May the exhibition has, with the assistance of a weirdly polyglot committee of high church dignitaries, low church ecclesiastics, broad church clerics, non-conformist church pillars and a host of laymen of every church and no church—a committee ranging from my lord bishop to plain Harry Quelch—kept its doors open. The well-to-do folk in goodly numbers have followed the lead of the royal personages and passed through the tastefully arranged hall and after closely inspecting; the horrors of sweating with all the horrors carefully eliminated, have passed out again having remarked “oh, terrible ! terrible” and also “dreadful! dreadful !” which it seems is the proper thing to say in the circumstances. And the soul of the Daily News has been much gratified thereat; and the sweated workers on exhibition have (vide the Daily News) been equally gratified ; and the columns of the Daily News have been filled with much good “copy;” and a firm has written expressing their great indignation that the boxes used by them should have been discovered in process of manufacture under sweating conditions and has donated a sum to the exhibition ; and the Daily News has secured a wide and valuable advertisement out of the undertaking; and what with one thing and another it has been most excellent good business.

It was a great idea to fix upon the West End for the show. It was done purposely to attract the well-to-do. All that the well-to-do wanted was to have their consciences shaken up a little. Once effect that, and something was bound to happen. It was useless going to a poor neighbourhood as had been proven by the lack of success of the previous exhibition which had been holden in the East End. The conscience of England, rich England, that is not poor England which does not matter, could not be reached from the East End. Certainly much interest was aroused by the East End Exhibition. Representatives of large firms unable to understand how their trade rivals could undersell them, came and were astounded at what they saw. It cleared the air for them and they went away no longer seeing as through a glass darkly. Yet the sweating did not stop. On the contrary, it seemed to increase. Perhaps it was that the City firms, knowing their rivals’ secret, had been forced to adopt their methods. Its a poor Exhibition out of which nobody gets a wrinkle.

Therefore, the Daily News show came to the West End in order to lash the moral consciences of the rich and if a West End conscience expresses itself under the lash in “shockings” and “terribles” the show has done it. The Daily News people at any rate have no doubt about it. Their Exhibition “has rendered a great service to humanity;” it has successfully appealed to the moral conscience of England and has raised such a storm of indignation that, if the land is not filled with fugitive sweaters hastening without the revengeful reach of relentless wrath, it clearly ought to be.

Nevertheless, the truth compels the admission that sweating still continues and must continue so long as the worker is compelled to sell his or her labour-power on the market as a commodity and has no control over the disposal of the wealth which the labour of the worker alone produces. Just because it is inevitable that the exigences of profit manufacture,—the necessary accompaniment of capitalism,—should demand that a large proportion of labour should be redundant on the market; just because, that is, capitalist production would be impossible without an army of unemployed to keep wages down, it is inevitable that the pressure of want should force numbers of these workers to sell their labour-power at starvation prices. Not all the waves of indignation and “moral feeling” that can be conjured out of a community, can affect that result even though the community were ten thousand times more susceptible to “moral” appeals than English people are. Given capitalism, there is no escape from the mind-blunting, heart-racking misery which the annals of toil shew as their dominant and most persistent feature.

Exhibitions such as the Daily News has organised are useless—worse than useless, because the only effect they have or can have is to temporarily stimulate the flow of ludicrously impotent driblets of charity to the end that the evil plight of those unhappy persons whose condition has been brought under notice, may be in some measure palliated, and the time when drastic and adequate action may be taken, delayed. To delay that time may or may not be the deliberate intention of charity dispensers and their following, but it is indisputable that their action contributes to the dissemination of the idea that there exists a “moral conscience” which when occasion demands, can take on tangible soup-and-blanket expression sufficient to satisfy the immediate demands of the acutely impoverished. In other words, the response of the charitable is the excuse for Governmental indifference to the poverty problem, is the force that blunts the agitation of those concerned to press that problem upon a reluctant public attention and, what is of far greater importance from our point of view, helps to obscure that class issue which it is our business as a Socialist Party to keep boldly defined, and so fosters confusion in the minds of the working class. As against the Daily News and its circulation raising sensationalism, we urge that nothing short of the overthrow of capitalism itself and the establishment of Socialism can effect the eradication of poverty and all its attendant horrors. Only when the working class understand that they are poor because they have no control over the machinery of wealth production and, therefore, have no control over the wealth which they alone produce ; only when they have recognised that fact and appreciated the unalterable antagonism existing between themselves and the capitalist class in control of the machinery of wealth production, which that fact necessarily connotes, only then will they understand that by organisation on class lines and by waging unceasing war upon the dominant class until they have achieved complete victory and secured possession of political power and through that the possession also of the means of life can they ensure for themselves freedom from the possibility always present with them to-day, of reduction to the ranks of the sweated and even below. Until then, the fear of abject poverty will haunt them perpetually. Until then, sweating, as even a Daily News writer has been obliged to confess, will continue. The leopard cannot change its spots nor the Ethiopian his skin. An appeal to either to do so would not be more preposterous than the appeal to capitalism to abolish sweating is,

Blogger's Note:
There's an interesting post which gives more background on the “Sweating Exhibition” at the following link.

Do We Move? (1906)

From the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

How it is possible for people to still hold, as so many do, that what is has always been and must be, is very difficult to understand. This difficulty is increased when the rapidity with which change follows change is realised, along with the size and importance of the changes themselves. The vast alterations that have taken place in our social life through the linking of place to place by networks of railways in a manner undreamt of less than two generations ago ; the ease and facility with which one is enabled to travel over great distances of land and sea and the equal ease with which, goods can be carried, have practically resulted in the annihilation of distance as any great barrier between the peoples of the world. So much so, indeed, that the most lengthy journeys that would, but a comparatively short time ago, have been attended with a host of uncertainties and dangers are now undertaken as pleasure trips. The development of the telephonic and telegraphic systems has still further removed the difficulties and disabilities of distance. To-day news reaches us in a few hours that would have necessitated but yesterday a long sea trip lasting perhaps many months. Our postal system and its facilities for communication are essentially of recent date. The days of stage coaches and horse travel are not so far distant as some are prone to imagine.

To mention a few such changes suggests a host of others of a similar nature that will amply illustrate the fact that we are constantly going through a process of development and improvement. Each fresh addition suggests some further one, and like the proverbial snowball, the rapidity of growth increases with the growth itself.

Such developments, as those of transit, etc. which have been instanced, are not without their effect in other directions. Everything that tends in the direction of rendering more accessible a place that previously was inaccessible makes that place more eligible as a market for exporting countries. The spur thus given to competition among capitalists for the new market would hasten economic development and render more efficient the means and methods of producing wealth.

The altering social conditions resulting from any change in economic relations have been too frequently stated to need repetition here. Suffice it to say, that with the growth of the market catered for, grows also the scale on which production is conducted. The larger the business the greater are the economies effected through the medium of the sub-division of labour and the introduction of more and more perfect machinery. Such economic developments result in increasing the co-operative and social nature of production. The way is paved for the trust and the combine, which render still more necessary and easy the collective ownership and control of such industries, in place of the private ownership of such essentially social concerns.

The rapidity of development in the last half century (so insignificant a period in the history of the world and society), and the recognition of the fact that the speed increases rather than decreases, points to yet more startling and far-reaching developments in the future, which, with the conscious co-operation of the working class in the direction dictated by the development itself, will culminate in the readjustment of the Social structure to its altered economic basis, while some people are still mumbling “things are as they were, and will so remain.”
D. K.

Emigration. (1906)

From the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The March issue of the Socialist Standard contained a letter sent to one of our comrades by a friend who had gone to Canada to “escape poverty” in the Land of the West, describing the conditions he found existing there for the working class. These facts, which could have been supplemented by the communications received by others of our members, were timely in face of the long depression that has existed in the trade and commerce of this country for the last five years, and which has led to the booming of the theory of emigration as a cure for the poverty and misery existing here. Railway Companies, Shipping Companies and “Free Labour” providers like Mr. Graeme Hunter, have turned many a penny—if not honest, at least useful—by the rush of the workless, and those afraid of being workless, across the sea. Glowing accounts of the country and its prosperity are widely advertised by these interested persons, and the brilliant prospects for the “industrious” worker are dangled before the eyes of the unwary or unthinking like the bunch of carrots before the donkey. When these efforts are not sufficiently successful, then a prominent “Labour Leader” like Mr. Ben Tillett is engaged to travel this country lecturing upon the glorious conditions for the working-class existing in Australia, and it is the truth that these various agencies reach a much larger number of the people than the occasional accounts of the real situation can, under the circumstances, possibly do.

Still the seed sometimes reaches good ground and in response to an enquiry, a few remarks on the general question of emigration may be useful.

The question may be viewed from three different points. Firstly, that of analogy; secondly, the economic conditions in the countries emigrated to; and, thirdly, the reasons for emigrating.
Under the first heading we may say that if emigration as such were a cure, or even a palliation, to any extent worth considering of the poverty of the working class, then Ireland should be the most prosperous country on the planet. For over fifty years her sons and daughters have streamed across the oceans to the continent of the West or to the land down under the Southern Cross, until to-day the population numbers about four and a half millions, while four millions of people have left her shores in that period. With what result ? The working class of Ireland, particularly the agricultural labourers, are even worse off than the workers here ! With such an example at our very doors, we are asked by the smooth-tongued agents of the ruling class to believe that if some of our fellow-workers cross the ocean all will be well with those remaining !

“But,” it may be objected “those who went away benefited by so doing.” Let us see. The countries usually emigrated to are America, Australia and New Zealand. Although South Africa is sometimes counted, the unsettled conditions still prevailing there—to say nothing of the large number of Chinese—renders it advisable for us to leave this territory out of the present consideration. What are the general conditions prevailing in the countries named ? In essentials, similar to those we have here, that is, capitalism rules there with all its consequences as we know them here. While the standard of living—and wages—are slightly higher in America than here, they are more than counterbalanced by the speeding up and greater driving that exist there and which result in throwing the worker on the scrap heap at an earlier age than occurs here. “Too old at 35” is an intensely real cry in that go-ahead land, and this, coupled with the increasing use of machinery in all industries, thereby dispensing with men or filling their places with women and children, creates an ever increasing army of relatively redundant and, therefore, unemployed workers ; so much so, that America can shew as large a number unemployed, comparatively, as any old country; while the march of Coxey’s Army to Washington will still be fresh in the memories of many here. The emigrant thus finds that he has left one set of capitalist conditions to go into a similar set elsewhere.

Australia, as far as its industrial sections are concerned, which are the only sections the mass of the emigrants can exist in, has for years been troubled with the question of poverty and unemployment. At the very moment Mr. Ben Tillett was endeavouring to persuade the workers to go to Australia, all the large cities and towns there were discussing “what to do with the unemployed,” while the various reports, including both the “Labour” papers and emigrants who have returned, show that the struggle for existence and the prospects thereof, differ in no essential from the same struggle undergone here. “General” Booth’s wily scheme to deport some of our unemployed to the region known as “Piliga Scrub,” where, as was shown at the time, water scarcely exists and the soil is all sand, totally incapable of producing anything to support life, seems to have been dropped for the present, but may well be borne in mind when the firm of Booth and Sons move again in the matter.

Thus, Australia offers no escape from the conditions of poverty and lack of employment that the emigrant thinks to flee from, but simply alters his position geographically while leaving it economically just as it was.

In New Zealand we have a country about twice the area of Great Britain with a population of just under 800,000. Certain reforms clamoured for here by several parties are in existence there, such as State ownership of the land, Labour Colonies, etc. Yet, with all these “advantages,” they are not more successful in dealing with the problem of unemployment and poverty than those in charge of affairs at home. Tom Mann, after spending some time in the colony and travelling in various parts, came to the conclusion that New Zealand was as much in need of Socialism as the Mother Country.

No matter then, in which direction we turn, we find the arguments in favour of emigration fall to the ground when confronted with the facts of the circumstances existing in the countries where the emigrant is urged to go. And this brings us to the third heading—the cause for emigration. The answer of course is poverty or dread of unemployment.

But this is only a surface answer, and in itself asks another question—Why are the workers poor ? The answer to this latter question will contain the solution, of the problem.

It will be admitted, generally, that if a person has a right to stay on any portion of this globe, he has the right to stay in the country where he was born, and before being driven out of that country, it should, at least, be shown that the country is unable to support him—or, rather, allow him to support himself. Can this be shown of England ? Take first the raw material in the shape of land. Is it all occupied, or cultivated, or being worked ? So little so, that millions of acres are uncultivated and large areas are kept for non-productive purposes, such as game preserves, deer parks, etc. The warehouses and stores are filled with machines and tools ready to be used for the conversion of this raw material into articles for man’s use and enjoyment, while large numbers of mechanics are available, nay, anxious to be employed in producing more machines and tools if those existent are not sufficient. Are the means of transport inadequate ? According to the statements of those favouring Railway Nationalisation half the trains run empty now, and while the goods trucks are obsolete and clumsy, they could, even as they are, transport far larger quantities than they do at present.

Many miles of canals have been bought up by the Railway Companies for the purpose of stifling competition and are almost unused, while those still operating are by no means overburdened with traffic. Evidently then, the means of transport, if not ideal, are at least adequate, and here, as with the machines, we have a large supply of workers at hand ready to extend or improve these means of transport should it be decided to act in that direction.

We thus see that there is an abundance of raw material (land), of instruments of production (machines, mills, etc.), of means of transport and of workers to operate all these things, yet we have poverty and misery. Why ? Because all these means of life are owned and controlled by a comparatively small section of Society—the capitalist class.

The workers have no means of living, except by selling their abilities—or power to work, which means themselves—to such members of the ruling class as care to employ them. As the capitalists are only concerned with wringing profits out of the labour of those they employ, which again depends upon their selling the articles produced, it follows that the capitalist will only employ the workers in accordance with the demands of the markets for commodities.

To-day wealth is produced in much larger quantities with relatively fewer workers than at any previous period of the world’s history. Every increase in the speeding up of the workers, every improvement in the present or introduction of new machinery, and every further application of science to industry, results in a still smaller number of workers being required to produce the same, or even a larger, amount of wealth than before. This, of course, applies wherever capitalism exists, and the attempts to escape results by flying to similar conditions in another clime necessarily fail in every case.

The solution of the difficulty stands out clear from the answer given above. As the workers produce all the wealth and are the only useful class in modern Society, they must take the means of life, in all its branches, into their own hands, to be under their own control, for their own benefit. In other words, only by establishing a Socialist Commonwealth can they abolish the poverty, misery and unemployment which the masters’ agents to-day tell them can be avoided by emigration.
Jack Fitzgerald

Land Nationalisation. (1906)

From the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the 25th Annual Meeting of the Land Nationalisation Society held last month, Mr. Philip Snowden, M.P., said he had fought his own election almost entirely on the land question. Mr. Will Crooks also spoke as did Mr. Franklin Thomasson, Mr. A. H. Scott and other Liberal M.P’s.

Wilhelm Liebknecht quote. (1906)

From the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard
"On the ground of the class struggle we are invincible; if we leave it we are lost, because we are no longer Socialists. The strength and power of Socialism rest in the fact that we are leading a class struggle; that the labouring class is exploited and oppressed by the capitalist class, and that within capitalist society effectual reforms, which will put an end to class government and class exploitation, are impossible."

“The Manufacturers’ Association of Great Britain.” (1906)

From the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

To carry on the work of organising “The Manufacturers’ Association of Great Britain,” a provisional committee has been formed, and includes such well-known manufacturers as Colonel Sir John E. Bingham, Bart. (Messrs. Walker and Hall), Sir Joseph Lawrence (Linotype and Machinery, Limited), Mr. G. Byng (General Electric Company, Limited), Mr. R. K. Morcom (Messrs. Bellis and Morcom), Mr. Hugo Hirst (Robertson Lamp Company, Limited), Mr. W. C. Mountain (Messrs. Ernest Scott and Mountain), and Mr. H. H. D. Anderson (Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (1900), Ltd.)

A fundamental principle of the association, it is asserted, will be that party politics in every form shall be rigidly excluded. The movement is receiving the support of many of the leading manufacturing firms, and the members already enrolled are said to represent many millions of invested capital.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Reflections. (1906)

From the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

A letter in Justice from one whose identity is hidden, reads, “I am one of about 12 Socialists who have decided to study Socialism. We all favour the S.D.F. programme and want to start an S.D.F. Branch here.” Twelve “Socialists” who haven’t studied Socialism want to join the S.D.F. When those twelve “Socialists have studied Socialism and have discovered that they are Socialists, they will not want to join the S.D.F. They will want to join a Socialist Party. At present, as they have not studied Socialism, they cannot claim to be Socialists. Nevertheless, they may, without incongruity join the S.D.F., because the S.D.F. isn’t a Socialist organisation.

o o o

In addition to this, “one of twelve,” there appears to be quite a number of other members of the S.D.F. who want to study Socialism. They write asking for economic classes. Evidently they are unaware that conductors of economic classes are far from persona grata with the S.D.F. leaders. At least one conductor has been expelled the organisation for no greater crime.

o o o

Does any one know what has become of the Justice crusade against motor-cars ? There was a time only a few short months ago, when readers of that Journal were urged to walk the roads with loaded pistols in one pocket and bags of calthrops in the other. The calthrops were to spread in the path of the rushing motor. If this did not have the effect of bursting the tyres, the pistol was to be used. If the shot missed the tyre and hit the occupant, so much the better. Since the advent of the red car and her ladyship, however, pistols and calthrops and even tin-tacks are, apparently, taboo ; which may, of course, be only a coincidence, although if political action reflects economic conditions (Socialists who have not studied Socialism may not understand this) there may be something more in it.

o o o

Somebody must have told Justice I was to refer to the foregoing, or it must have been conveyed to Clerkenwell by some telepathic process. Anyhow, it had hardly been written when our contemporary erupted in the same place again. From which it may be inferred that the notorious red motor has followed the “mere drawerful of jewels” to the sale room. If it hasn’t her ladyship must proceed with caution. Otherwise it may occur that she will drive unwittingly into a trap laid by the wily S.D.Fers, out under the inspiration of Mr. Quelch, to treat all motorists in the Swiss fashion (which we understand to be something drastic). Imagine the excitement if, while touring with, say, Bill Thorne, the Countess was to be potted by her own comrades !

o o o

Mention of Bill reminds me that since the day when he achieved fame by making his debut as M.P. at St. Stephens in a very large hat of the uncompromising “Alpine or Trilby” variety, he has dropped almost completely out of sight. This need not necessarily be reckoned against him for unrighteousness. Bill is a big man, and it must have meant a real effort on his part to obscure himself. Moreover, he may have profited by the horrible examples which some of his fellow members of the “Labour” Party in their endeavours to impress their statesmanship upon the House, have succeeded in making of themselves. However that may be, I am sure he has disappointed many of his friends, who expected him to do great things as the only M.P. the S.D.F. can allege connection with. And really the acquisition of a large hat and a readiness to write advertisements for books on the hire purchase system, are not much to show as the result of several months labours.

o o o

This advertisement writing, by the way, does not appear to be regarded favourably by the Labour Leader. The organ of the l.L.P. waxes indignant with those “Labour” members who have lent their photographs and their strong approbation to the firm who are widely advertising the sale of books by easy payments. The Labour Leader does not approve of such action and expresses its disapproval in no mild manner. We fear, however, the Labour Members assailed will not be greatly impressed, seeing that the Labour Leader has itself accepted advertisements from the same firm for the same set of books (as well as from other firms for other commodities), and seeing that its columns have for months contained a puff for a certain musical instrument from Mr. Keir Hardie. The I.L.P. organ should shew cause why the Labour Leader paper may augment its income by advertisements and why the “Labour” leader person may not do the same thing for the same reason. And it must shew wherein a musical instrument puff by Keir Hardie differs from a book puff by Will Thorne. If it does not, Mr. Thorne may fairly dismiss its criticism as, to put it, mildly cant.

o o o

This question of how to raise the financial wind seems, on the surface, to strike “Labour” journals and leaders in different ways. I say on the surface because it is fairly clear that at bottom there is no difference at all. Justice for example is quite frankly unconcerned as to the source of its income. “Get it,” it says, “honestly if you can, of course—but get it.” And Justice is far from satisfied with the success of its endeavours up to the present. The £500 realised by the sale of the Countess’s jewels was very nice and very welcome. But a donation of £1,000 would be better. Justice is sure that the S.D.F. can give better value for the money than any other organisation afloat; which may or may not be true. At any rate, its S.D.F. will have to manage better than they did at Camborne, if they want to inspire persons with thousands of pounds to spare, to donate large sums to its treasury. Large sums are never given without conditions, and when the donor requires those conditions to be kept dark it is unpleasant, to say the least of it, to discover that the recipient of the largess does not possess “political aptitude” sufficient to keep inquisitive noses from scenting the game.

Blogger's Notes:
  • "Evidently they are unaware that conductors of economic classes are far from persona grata with the S.D.F. leaders. At least one conductor has been expelled the organisation for no greater crime. . . " This is a reference to Jack Fitzgerald, a founder member of the SPGB, who was expelled from the SDF for, amongst others, holding economic classes.
  • "Since the advent of the red car and her ladyship . . . " is a reference to the Countess of Warwick who had recently joined the SDF, and was quite the celebrity catch for the SDF at the time.

Answers to Correspondents. (1906)

From the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

L.G. (Reading.)—It was in August, 1902, that the S.D.F. Conference, acting on the recommendation of its Executive Council, decided to withdraw from the L.R.C., and it was not until February, 1903, that the L.R.C. Conference decided that in future all candidates run under its auspices should be designated Labour Candidates only. The statement by Mr. H. Quelch, at the Amsterdam Congress, to the effect that the only objection that the S.D.F. had to the L.R.C. was its refusal to allow candidates who claimed to be Socialists to run as such was somewhat misleading.

W.H.M. (Merthyr.)—The attitude of the I.L.P. on the Class War may be seen from the following :
“We refuse to utter the shibboleth of ‘the class war,’ and we remain loyal to the non-Socialist Labour Representation Committee.” [Labour Leader, Editorial on ”The Amsterdam Congress,” Aug. 26, 1904.]

“I denounced it” (the Class War dogma) “as a reactionary and whiggish precept, certain to lead the movement away from the real aims of Socialism.” [J. Bruce Glasier, in same issue.]
COMRADE (Tooting).—If possible will deal with the matter referred to in next issue.

Important! (1906)

Party News from the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Please Note -
The adjourned Meeting to discuss the Trade Union question will be held at the Communist Club, 107, Charlotte St., Fitzroy Sq. on Saturday next, June 9th, at 6 pm.

Blogger's Note:
A very small notice for a very big issue in the history of the SPGB.

The S.P.G.B. Lecture List June (1906)

Party News from the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Monday, January 29, 2024

The Extinction of Petty Enterprise. By Karl Kautsky (1906)

From the June 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

Translated from the German by H. J. Neumann and revised by the Author.

Since the beginning of the capitalist mode of production and until twenty years ago, the decline of the independent petty peasant enterprise has been most marked. The peasant was being reduced to the condition of a wage slave either through his holding becoming absorbed by a large farm or, where such did not exist in his immediate vicinity, through his holding being cut into pieces and sold to his neighbours. This development still continues to a large extent, although it has ceased in some localities owing principally to the aforesaid foreign competition, but partly also in consequence of the migration of agricultural labourers to the towns—a point we cannot deal with here. Statistics, for instance, show us the following results: —


SIZE OF FARM Increase (+) or Decrease (-)
Under 1 hectare + 243,420 hectares
Over 2 and under 5 Hectares – 108,434 hectares
Over 5 and under 10 Hectares – 13,140 hectares
Over 10 and under 40 hectares – 532,243 hectares
Over 40 hectares + 197,288


Under 2 hectares + 17,494 hectares
Over 2 and under 5 hectares – 95,781 hectares
Over 5 and under 20 hectares + 563,477 hectares
Over 20 and under 100 hectares – 38,333 hectares
Over 100 hectares + 45,533 hectares

(1 Hectare = 2.47 English acres.)

Everywhere, however, we find a decline in that agricultural enterprise which, having a separate existence, is independent of capital. The leasing system and mortgaging increase. In the German Empire, the mortgages on landed property increased in the ten years from 1886 to 1895 by about 23,000,000,000 Marks, and the number of farms held on lease rose from 2,322,899 in 1882 to 2,007,210 in 1895, viz., an increase of 281,311.

Finally, we find a decrease in the entire agricultural population. In the German Empire the number of persons employed in agriculture was 18,704,038 in 1882, while in 1895 the number was 17,815,187, or nearly a million less.

Much more telling, however, than in agriculture is the decline of petty enterprise in industry. Here it is absolute.


1882 1895
Size according to No. of workers employed Number of establishments Number of establishments Increase or Decrease
Small (1 to 5 workers each) 2,175,857 1,989,572 – 8.6 %
Medium (6 to 50 workers each) 85,001 139 459 + 64.1 %
Large (over 50 workers each) 9,481 17,941 + 89.3 %

Between 1882 and 1895 the population increased by 14.5%. The number of workers employed in small industrial establishments was in 1882 still over one half (59%) of the entire number of industrial workers (4,335,822 out of 7,340,789) but in 1895′ the number fell to 46.5% (4,770,669) out of 10,269,269). During the same period, however, the number of workers employed in large industrial establishments was doubled (from 1,613,247 to 3,044,267).

As German capitalism is still young, these are most surprising figures, for the decline of petty industry is generally a tedious process. An example will make this clear. Already in the forties of the eighteenth century, machine weaving, particularly the English weaving trade, produced such keen competition that the misery of the hand weavers became proverbial, and the starvation existing among them produced rebellion. Nevertheless, according to statistics, out of the 491,796 weavers in the German Empire in 1882, 285,444 were still employed in small weaving concerns (employing from 1 to 5 persons), that is to say, more than half. But nobody then maintained that there were good prospects in store for hand weaving, and that its decline was not inevitable in the course of evolution. In England the last hand weaver has been starved long ago. In Germany, too, they are fast disappearing: there the number of persons employed in small weaving concerns decreased from 285,444 in 1882 to 156,242 in 1895. If there are still some hand weavers in existence, that does not prove that petty industry is capable of competing successfully, but merely that the hand weaver is capable of enduring starvation.

The complete disappearance of petty industry is not the first but the last act of the tragedy entitled “The Extinction of Petty Enterprise.” The first effect of the competition with capitalist production is that the handicraftsman—and what may be said of him is with some modifications also applicable to the peasant—gradually sacrifices all that his own or his forefathers’ industry succeeded in accumulating. The petty industrialist grows poor ; in order to stave off his increasing poverty he resolves to be more industrious; the working hours are extended until late at night; wife and children are compelled to assist in the work; in place of expensive adult assistants cheaper apprentices are engaged, and their number disproportionately increased; and while the working hours are extended and the toil is proceeding with ever more feverish speed without rest or interval, food becomes more precarious, and the expenditure for housing and clothing is more and more cut down.

There is no more miserable, wretched existence than that of the petty industrialist or the small farmer who is struggling hard against overwhelming capital.

The assertion that the wage workers are to-day better off than the small farmer and the small manufacturer or trader, is fully justified. This statement, however, was intended to show the workers that they have no, reason to be discontented. But the arrow does not strike Society, at which it -was directed, but private property. If indeed the propertyless are better off than the property-owning small manufacturers, of what value can their property be still to the latter? It ceases to be of advantage to them, it commences to be detrimental to them. If, for instance, the home weaver persists in carrying on his unprofitable concern, although he would be able to earn more in the factory, he does so only because he still possesses something, a cottage, a piece of land for growing vegetables, which he would have to surrender were he to give up his business. To the petty industrialist his possession of the means of production has ceased to be a safeguard against misery and has become a chain binding him hopelessly to utter wretchedness. In his case private property has brought about an effect which is not usually looked for. What a hundred years ago was still a blessing to the handicraftsman and peasant, has turned out a curse to him.

But it may be argued that with this increased misery the small peasant and handicraftsman are purchasing a higher independence and liberty than are enjoyed by the propertyless wage workers. Even such argument is erroneous. Where petty industry comes into contact with capital, it becomes only too rapidly quite dependent upon it. The handicraftsman becomes a home-industrialist and is thus enslaved by the capitalist; his home is turned into a branch of the factory; or he becomes an agent of the capitalist, a salesman of manufactured goods, besides bearing the cost of wear and tear; in both cases he is entirely dependent upon the capitalist. And the peasant who is unable to keep up the competition as small farmer or succumbs to the pressure of usury or taxes, also takes to home industry in the service of the capitalist, or to wage work in the employ of the large fanner. He may become a journeyman, or go to a factory or mine, and leave the work of his little holding to be attended to by his wife and young children. Where then is his independence and freedom? His property alone distinguishes him from the proletarian, or wage slave, but it is that very property which prevents him from taking advantage of the best opportunities to obtain work; it ties him to a certain 6pot and makes him more dependent than the propertyless wage worker. The private ownership of the means of production increases not only the material misery but also the dependence of the small man. In this respect private property has also produced a contrary effect—it has changed from a bulwark of freedom to the means of enslavement.

But, it will be urged, private property ensures to the handicraftsman and peasant at any rate the ownership of the product of their labour. Now, this is poor consolation, seeing that the value of these products has declined to such an extent that it does not suffice for the sustenance of the producer and his family. But even this poor consolation is a delusion. In the first instance, it does not apply to the large army of persons who are compelled to take to homework or wage slavery in order to support themselves. Neither does it apply to the majority of the small handicraftsmen and peasants whom overwhelming capital has not yet brought into its direct service, so that until now they have apparently been fortunate enough to preserve their entire independence. It does not apply to all those who are in debt—the usurer holding a mortgage on a peasant farm has a claim, superior to that of the peasant himself, to the product of the peasant’s labour. First of all the usurer has to be paid, and only what remains belongs to the peasant; whether this balance sufficed to maintain the peasant and his family is no concern of the usurer’s. The peasant and the handicraftsman both work as labour for the capitalist as the wage worker does. The difference which private property causes in this respect between propertyless and property-owning workers, is only that the wages of the former is generally regulated according to customary requirements, while as far as the property owning workers are concerned, no such limit exists. In the case of the latter it may happen that after paying the usurer’s interest nothing remains of the product of their labour—that they work for nothing, owing to private property.

If in remote places there are still peasants and handicraftsmen to be found who are not in debt, even they are compelled to pay their tribute to capital by means of the National Debt.

By interest on mortgages and goods on credit, peasants and handicraftsmen pay interest on capital they themselves have employed. By taxes raised for paying interest on the National Debt, they pay interest on capital which the State has borrowed in order to enrich at their expense their very competitors and exploiters—contractors, builders, large manufacturers, great landowners, and others. Militarism and the-National Debt, these are the two means by which the State of to-day succeeds in forcing even the remotest village into the domain of capitalist exploitation, thereby hastening the abolition of peasantry and handicraft. What is the final result of this painful struggle against the overwhelming competition of industry on a large scale? What reward is there for the handicraftsman or peasant for his “thrift” and his “industry,” that is to say for the enslavement of himself, his wife and children, for their physical and mental ruin? The reward for that is bankruptcy, entire disinheritance (expropriation is the artistic term for-it), divorce from the means of production, descent into the proletariat.

That is the inevitable final result of the economic development in Society to-day, a result as inevitable as death itself, and just as death comes as a relief to the person suffering from a painful disease, so under present conditions is bankruptcy hailed with equal satisfaction by the small man as a relief from property which has become a heavy-burden to him. The continued existence of petty industry leads indeed to such demoralisation and misery that we must ask ourselves the question whether we would be justified in delaying its extinction, if that were at all possible. Would it be more desirable that handicraftsmen and peasants should all sink to the position of the hand weavers of the Ore Mountains or that they should become wage workers in great industrial concerns?

This alone is to be considered when efforts are made to maintain petty enterprise, for it is impossible in this age of steam and electricity to place handicraft and small farming in a flourishing condition so that they may bring to the petty proprietor a share in modern culture. The self-supporting small concern, independent of capital, having perfect. control of its means of production and of its products—this system of property holding and wealth producing, upon which in the middle ages and even so late as the seventeenth century all economic existence was based, disappears inevitably before expanding capitalism, which seizes one trade after another. What still survives in the shape of petty industry and at times even newly developed, is nothing but a hidden form of wage slavery, and by no means one of its highest forms. It becomes the last refuge of those unfortunate propertyless persons who cannot find employment in large industrial concerns, and who are too proud to beg, too honest to steal.


The Housing Problem: The Socialist View. (1933)

From the January 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

The problem of housing has been brought into prominence again by the Government's decision to discontinue subsidies except for the purpose of slum clearance. What is the so-called housing problem? And what have Socialists to say about it ?

The first thing to be noticed is that, properly speaking, it is not a housing problem at all. There is not a universal shortage of housing, but only a shortage among part of the population. Those who have enough money experience no difficulty in renting, buying or building new and spacious accommodation. It is only the workers who need help, and that is simply because they are poor. The housing problem is only another aspect of, or another name for, the general problem of working class poverty.

Does capitalism produce houses (or any other articles) for the use of the population? By no means. It produces houses only when it is profitable to the capitalist to do so, and to the extent that those who need accommodation can afford to pay for it. Mr. Harry Barnes, formerly Vice-President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and Liberal M.P. for Newcastle East, in his book, “Housing" (Pub. by Ernest Benn, Ltd., 1923), points out that the rate at which new houses were being built during the 110 years from 1801 to 1911, was not constant, or increasing with the increase in population, but rose and fell in accordance with the amount of profit to be obtained in house building as compared with the rate of profit to be obtained by investing money in other directions. (See pages 17 and 43, and all chapter V.) He says: —
In times of great trading, commercial and industrial activity, building will slacken owing to the engrossing and profitable character of other occupations. (P. 43.)
Thus, instead of building houses to meet the growing needs of a growing population, 19th century capitalism showed “a period of considerable activity in house-building from 1801 to 1841, then half a century in which the pace of building fell away, from 1841 to 1891. Last of all, a period from 1891 to 1911, during which the greatest effort in absolute numbers by private enterprise to supply this fundamental human need was made." (P. 17.)

At no time, however, could it be said that all the working class were decently and adequately provided for. Mr. Barnes states that, in 1801, the estimated number of “surplus families" (i.e., “the family for which no structurally separate dwelling exists, which can only find its shelter by inhabiting the home of another family, a result producing, in innumerable cases, the deadly social evil of overcrowding") was 320,000. By 1911 it had risen to nearly 900,000. (See p. 18.)

He wrote (p. 18):—
Year by year during the century it is seen that there has been a steady falling short of the number of houses required to be provided.
And again (p. 37): —
The housing shortage of to-day is not something that comes like a bolt from the blue . . . . but is rather the slow accumulation of a century, suddenly and terribly increased by the conditions arising out of the war.
As early as 1835, when elected local councils were set up, these new municipal authorities "began to obtain private acts empowering them to demolish insanitary dwellings and to impose stringent regulations upon the builders." (See Houses for All, by E. D. Simon, now Sir E. D. Simon, Pub. Daily News, Ltd. 1923. P.3.) But it was the Shaftesbury Act of 1851 which brought local authorities into house building in an endeavour to make good the declining supply of working class houses. It will be noticed that 1851 was ten years after the year in which house building began to decline. The number of houses built in 1851 was only about three-fifths of the number built in 1841. (Barnes, P. 37.) The position was, of course, that the workers could not afford to pay a rent which would make the building of new houses as profitable to the capitalist as it was to invest his money in industrial and commercial buildings, or in mining, iron and steel, railways, etc., at home or abroad. Between 1851 and 1914 many other Acts were passed with the object of promoting the building of working class houses, and in 1884 the whole subject was inquired into by a Royal Commission.

The period 1891 to 1911 was a period of great activity in house building. The reason was the trade depression: Capitalists found their investments in industry yielding only small profits, and the consequent glut of money forced down the yield on Government stocks, so they turned their attention to houses until such time as trade revived again.

Yet, in spite of this burst of building, and in spite of numerous Housing Acts and the activities of local authorities, we have Mr. Barnes' admission referred to above, that in 1911 the number of families without a home of their own (rented or owned) was nearly three times as great as in 1801.

The Effects of the War.
Then came the War, during which every other activity had to give way to the needs of the fighting forces. House Building practically ceased for five years or more, and in 1919 the position was far worse than in 1911. Mr. J. G. Martin, Secretary of the National Housing and Town Planning Council, in a letter to the Morning Post (January 14th, 1927) quoted an official estimate that there was a deficiency of 800,000 houses, that being the number required to restore the pre-war position. It was also estimated that at least 100,000 new houses are needed each year to replace wastage due to the demolition of old houses and the demand caused by growing population. (See Houses for All, E. D. Simon. P. 4.)

This does not mean, of course, that only 100,000 houses would be needed to satisfy the requirements of the population, but that 100,000 new houses are needed each year to satisfy that part of their requirements which the workers can afford to pay for—a very different matter.

When the census was taken in 1921, 9.6 per cent, of the population in England and Wales was living in a condition which corresponds with the official definition of overcrowding. (See How to Abolish the Slums, by E. D. Simon. Longmans. 1929. P. 13.) In Manchester the percentage was 7.9,% in the County of London 16.1, in Bermondsey 23.2, and in Shoreditch 32.

E. D. Simon, in the above-mentioned book, questions the value of the official definition of overcrowding. According to that definition, a house is only overcrowded if there are more than two adults to a room (two children under ten count as one adult). Simon suggests a standard of two-and- a-half persons per bedroom, or a standard which holds a house to be overcrowded unless it enables the parents to have one bedroom and enables boys and girls over ten to be separated. (P. 7.)

On either of these standards the percentage of overcrowding would be shown to be far higher. They would, for example, show the overcrowding in Manchester to be at least 25 per cent. instead of only 7.9 per cent.

The Great Post-war Housing Schemes.
All three of the big political parties have had a hand in “solving" the housing problem. The Tories began with the 1851 Act, and the Times (March 25th, 1927) boasted that the Tories had a record of achievement in this direction extending over seventy years. The Liberals and the Labour Party both claim credit for several Acts under which house building has been helped by the Government, through subsidies or otherwise.

The late Mr. Wheatley, prominent member of the I.L.P., was responsible as Minister of Health for the Labour Government’s Housing Act in 1924. Imposing figures have been presented showing what has been done. Up to November, 1932, over 1,800,000 houses had been built since January, 1919, 1,096,387 with State aid and 797,249 without aid., (See Manchester Guardian, November 2nd, 1932.) The cost to the Government in respect of subsidies is now over £13 million a year, with another £3 million paid out of local rates. (Manchester Guardian, November 12th, 1932.)

As long ago as 1928 the Conservative Party, in a leaflet called “Conservative Social Reform," claimed that their Government had been able "to wipe out the housing Shortage by building nearly 650,000 houses in less than four years."

And yet, after the problem has been “solved" many times during the past century, and after all the chief reformist parties have had a hand in it, supplemented by innumerable philanthropic and semi-philanthropic efforts, the evil is with us still, as huge and as devastating as ever.

Let us see what some acknowledged authorities have to say about the position now or within the past year or two.

The Problem Still Unsolved.
It is true that between 1919 and January, 1927, 768,000 new houses had been built, but most of these were needed to meet the ordinary wastage and the demands of the growing population. Mr. J. G. Martin, Secretary of the National Housing and Town Planning Council (Morning Post, January 14th, 1927), said that less than 100,000 of these 768.000 could be counted towards wiping out the abnormal shortage caused during the War. In January, 1927, therefore, there were still 700,000 houses needed to restore the pre-war position (as compared with 800,000 needed in 1919).

The utmost that can be claimed for the new houses built between 1927 and 1932 is that they have been sufficient to catchup the war-time arrears and restore the pre-war position.

The Eighth Annual Report of the Scottish Board of Health for 1926 said of Glasgow slums: —
The majority of the houses were dark, many of the tenants having to burn gas all day, winter and summer . . . Everywhere we noticed an almost total lack of sanitation. Ceilings are falling down, woodwork is rotting away, there are holes in the walls of houses through which the street can be seen. The houses are a hunting ground for vermin of every description. The tenants complained that they could get no peace from these pests. . . . .

In addition to the insects which I have mentioned we found evidence of a perfect menagerie of animal life, including rats in great numbers, mice, snails and even toads. Can it be wondered that such places breed an unhealthy and discontented people?
(See Morning Post, June 21st, 1927.)
Lieut.-Colonel Freemantle, Medical Officer of Health, in The Housing of the Nation (see Times, March 25th, 1927) said: —
For a large section of the working-class there is really no such thing as home. Home life has no meaning for them. They have no part or lot in such things.

. . .Herded together, family upon family, in the same tenement, in the same room, what chance have they of life worth having in houses, meanly built, crowded round courts, dark, dingy, and out of repair, too often dirty and verminous from generations of tenants past, destitute of life and air, devoid of the necessary equipment for domestic needs, packed tight to help pay the rent that even such accommodation can command.
Mr. F. N. Kay, Medical Officer of Health for the L.C.C., in his report for 1929, said (Daily Herald, October 16th, 1930): —
There are about 30,000 basement dwellings in London which are considered unfit for human occupation.

. . . No worse housing conditions exist anywhere than in the underground rooms of the Metropolis.
The Times editorial (March 25th, 1927), which acclaimed the Tories' seventy years' work for housing, had to admit that the problem was still unsolved, and that even after the war-time shortage had been removed “there will still remain the problem of the slums, and the housing of the people in our great towns."

The Bishop of Southwark (in an article in the Evening Standard, November 9th, 1929), wrote:
On a moderate estimate, that of the last census there are 3½ million persons living in overcrowded conditions; but the standard adopted by the Registrar-General is a very low one . . . If a rather higher standard is adopted, one and a half persons per room, no less than 9,000,000 would be living in overcrowded conditions.
He said that on a very moderate estimate there are over 100,000 persons in London living in insanitary houses or areas.

He said that the subsidised building of houses since the War has—
not drained the slums of their occupants. . . . They have had no appreciable effect on the worst and most overcrowded districts. . . . Usually the new houses are too far away, the slum dweller cannot afford the long journey to and from his daily work. More serious still is the fact that he cannot afford the higher rent required for these houses.
Mr. E. D. Simon (now Sir E. D. Simon, formerly Lord Mayor of Manchester, / Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health in the National Government, and Chairman of the Manchester City Council Housing Committee), writing in the Manchester Guardian (August 10th, 1927), pointed out that as regards workers' houses rented at 6s. to 8s. a week:—
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that nothing has yet been done to help these people--just those whose need is greatest.
And further:—
The overcrowding in the low-rented houses is no less than it was in 1919, while the larger houses are under-tenanted.
The same authority on housing conditions (in a letter to the Times, February 12th, 1931) wrote: —
According to all the available evidence there has on the average been no reduction whatever in the terrible overcrowding in the slum areas: the houses are steadily deteriorating; the position of the slum- dwellers is worse than it was ten years ago.
Sir Raymond Unwin, President Royal Institute of British Architects, and formerly a housing official at the Ministry of Health, admits that the houses built since the War have not done more than make up the deficiency of the War years, and that:—
In some ways the housing position is worse than it was in 1921. (M. Guardian, 2 Nov., 1932.)
Mr. Norman McKellen, Secretary of National Federation of House Builders, in a letter to Manchester Guardian (November 12th, 1932), wrote: —
Notwithstanding the annual cost of subsidies, little or nothing has been done to house the poorer working classes; and the National Housing and Town Planning Council, a body largely composed of representatives of local authorities themselves, are reported as saying: “It is lamentable that 14 years after the conclusion of the war medical officers of health should find it necessary to report that there is still a large amount of gross overcrowding, that indecent occupation of sleeping-rooms is not infrequently met with, and that many unhealthy basements are being used as dwellings by the poorer families. Moreover, only the fringe of the slum problem has so far been touched.
Now we have the Government, as an economy measure, stopping the payment of subsidies except for slum clearance, although, in common with the Liberals and the Labour Party, it has hitherto proclaimed subsidies as the only way of tackling the problem. In addition, the Government is negotiating with the building societies for them to take on house building, on condition that in future there shall be twenty instead of twelve houses to the acre—a definite worsening of the standard.

As in the period 1891-1911, the world depression is making the capitalists turn once more to house building owing to the decline of profits in other fields of investment.

Socialism the only Remedy.
There is no remedy except Socialism. There will always be a working class housing problem so long as there is a working class, that is a class producing wealth not for themselves but for the capitalists. None of the schemes of the reformers will touch the problem. The late John Wheatley himself had to confess that his Housing Act was only “patching up the capitalist system," yet his I.L.P. worshippers claimed his Act as the outstanding achievement of his life! What a confession for alleged Socialists to have to make. Municipal and State owned housing estates are no solution at all. The recent eviction case at Dagenham illustrates this. A widow was thrown out of her house by her landlords, the London County Council, in spite of resistance organised by local “direct actionists." In the struggle several were injured on both sides and several workers were imprisoned. Yet it is this municipal capitalism on the Dagenham and other L.C.C. housing estates of which the I.L.P. in its Socialist Annual, 1925, boasted as being instances of “Socialism."

As an actual fact, Judges in the East End of London have several times declared in court that the municipal authorities are more harsh than private landlords in their treatment of tenants who cannot afford to pay their rent.

Cases have come to light of the London County Council refusing to let their houses to workers employed in the Post Office (the institution which the I.L.P. describes as “Socialism in practice"), on the ground that their pay is too low to enable them to afford the rent.

The most damning indictment of capitalism and of reformism is the recent discovery that some houses condemned by Engels as unfit for human habitation in 1844 (see Condition of the Working Classes in England in 1844) are still inhabited and overcrowded to-day. (See Some Housing Conditions in Chorlton on Medlock, May, 1931.)

Part of the post-war shortage of new houses is due to the Rent Restriction Acts, which, by keeping rents low, reduced the margin of profit to be made by house building. Thus—as is usually the case— the attempt to reform one evil effect of capitalism creates or aggravates another evil.

The working class should decide to waste no more time and energy on the Liberal-Tory-Labour reformists, and to organise for Socialism. Not till then will the housing and other aspects of the working class poverty problem be solved.
Edgar Hardcastle