Sunday, June 30, 2024

Alice in Labourland (1995)

From the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard
Earlier this year, curious about how many Labour MPs agreed with the wording they carried around on their membership cards, and what they actually understood their Clause Four to mean (what for example, is common ownership of the “means of exchange” all about?), our Media Dept sent each of them a copy of our Object, written incidentally before the Labour Party was even formed:
“The establishment of a system of society based upon the
 common ownership and democratic control of the means 
and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by
and in the interest of the whole community.”
We asked them three questions:
  1. Do you regard the above object as being a desirable political goal?
  2. Do you regard “common ownership ” as a socialist objective?
  3. On what basis do you see your political position as differing from the above Object?
We also challenged each of them to debate the issue of common ownership and democratic control. Not surprisingly, perhaps, not a single one was prepared to take us on. Common ownership has never been on Labour's agenda after all, in spite of Clause Four. In fact we began to wonder how many of them, before the current “modernisation” of the Labour Party, even knew they had a Clause Four, never mind what it meant. 

As for how they now thought Clause Four stood up against our Object, we didn't really expect too many replies demonstrating a clear understanding of socialist ideas from a party which is gearing itself up to run British capitalism, and if we expected muddy thinking and evasive answers, we were not disappointed. Few of the replies received dealt directly with the questions asked, and from those that did, it is clear that “common ownership” in the Labour Party is a wonderfully flexible and adaptable term.
It can mean literally common ownership (as long as it’s expressed as an ideal only, and not intended to be put into practice); or it can mean state ownership and control by a small elite. It can mean a democratic system where goods are produced to satisfy human need (as long as it’s expressed as an ideal only, and not intended to be put into practice) or; it can mean—State ownership and control by a small elite. It can mean a noble ideal which Labour has steadfastly and unflinchingly advocated (but it doesn’t), or it can mean, er, state ownership and control by a small elite.

As Lewis Carroll put it: “When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."

A few of our would-be political leaders demonstrated a similar talent for childlike fantasy. As John Marek MP so eloquently put it: "common ownership to me can mean many different things”. John Gunnell agreed: "common ownership can take different forms and it is not practicable for all the means and instruments of production to be in common ownership.”

Keith Hill thought that “democratic control, but not exclusively common ownership, is a desirable political goal". And Max Madden's response was a two-page speech, the climax of which was “we need imagination and innovation to devise new ways of administering public control. . .”.

Austin Mitchell considered that "Democratic control is desirable, common ownership is another matter”, he felt the need however to add- “I wouldn’t have wanted to change Clause Four and regard the whole business as a waste of time, but if the Leader decides to throw himself off a cliff, the Party has no alternative but to catch him”. Catch him? Most of them in their eagerness to get their hands on the spoils of governmental control are lining up like obedient, well-trained lemmings just waiting for the order to jump.

Chris Mullin suffered from a different delusion. Just like your average Daily Mail reader, he was under the impression that common ownership has already been tried somewhere: “I agree that a society based upon common ownership is a wonderful ideal. The only difficulty is that it has proved catastrophic in all the countries where an attempt has been made to introduce such a system”. Where on earth could he be thinking of? Surely not the corrupt state dictatorships of Russia, China, etc?

Mike Gapes found our letter “rather irritating” and wouldn’t answer the questions. John Cummings also seemed rather irritated. He preferred not to tell us what he thought because: “I feel that the Labour Party’s constitution is a matter for Labour Party members alone to decide”. Now there’s a novel idea, ordinary Labour members being given a say on decisions regarding their Party’s constitution! Whatever next?

Bryan Davies was honest enough to admit that “the establishment of a system of society based on common ownership is not a realistic objective for a Party seeking to obtain power” (and presumably not once they’ve got “power” over us either), but isn’t this precisely what Labour have been telling us they stood for all these years? Bob Ainsworth certainly knew what he wanted if he got into power: “a strong market economy helped, encouraged and regulated to operate in the public interest”. (Isn't that what they promised last time?)

Poor old Tony Benn, daft as ever, missed the whole point of the three questions. His response was: “'Thanks for your letter. I don’t want to see Clause 4 changed either.” Perhaps in a moment of wild optimism he thought our object was Clause Four.

Labour supporters intending to put their trust in this lot. should consider another piece of Lewis Carroll advice: '“Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat’.”

Labour, by the admissions of their own MPs don't even understand what "common ownership” means, never mind stand for it, and have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, promises and a meaningless replacement for the meaningless Clause Four. The rules at both the Mad Hatter Tea Party and the Labour Party are the same: “jam tomorrow and jam yesterday—but never jam today”, or to spell it out even more clearly: "Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone. Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.' I don’t see any wine,' she remarked. 'There isn't any,’ said the March Hare.”

Is it just a coincidence that Labour’s policy and promises come straight from Alice in Wonderland. Finally, before we leave the subject of Alice, this is how Alice Mahon MP replied to the above questions:
  1. Yes, it's an admirable goal and one 1 share.
  2. Yes, common ownership is an obvious socialist objective and one I hold very dear.
  3. None.
So, what on earth is she doing in the Labour Party? We would strongly advise this particular Alice, and anyone else holding up the Labour bottle marked "drink me” to check out the contents a bit more carefully.
Nick White

Levellers or Diggers? (1995)

From the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard
At the end of April a few hundred demonstrators occupied the site of the old Wisley airfield near George’s Hill, in Surrey. This was where, in 1649, the Diggers had set up a communist community with the aim of starting a movement to make the Earth “a common treasury for all” again. The demonstrators called themselves the “New Levellers”. this was appropriate because, like the original Levellers (but unlike the original Diggers), they were demanding a reform of the laws governing land ownership and use rather than the abolition of private property, as the leaflet we distributed pointed out.
Many of the Levellers of the 1640s, being inexperienced in rebelling against the injustices of the market, and yet to recognise the incompatibility between FREEDOM and PROPERTY, sought to reform and make just property relationships. For example, the Leveller leader, Lilburne, in March 1648 wrote that the Levellers had “been the truest and constantest asserters of liberty and property (which are quite opposite to communitie and levelling)”.

THE TRUE LEVELLERS were the Diggers. Their ideas can serve as an inspiration to those of us in the 1990s who detest and reject the iniquities of the commercial system. The Diggers stood not for state ownership but COMMON OWNERSHIP: “The earth with all her fruits of Corn, Cattle and such like was made to be a common Store-House of Livelihood, to all mankinde, friend and foe, without exception” (A Declaration From the Poor Oppressed People of England).

Where all wealth is commonly owned there will be no need for money. In the above-quoted Declaration the Diggers proclaimed that “we must neither buy nor sell. Money must not any longer . . . be the great god that hedges in some and hedges out others . . .” Production must be solely for use and all people able to take from the common store on the basis of FREE ACCESS. As Winstanley explained in his Law of Freedom: “As everyone works to advance the Common Stock so everyone shall have a free use of any commodity in the Storehouse for his pleasure and comfortable livelihood, without buying and selling or restraint from any”. This is a wonderful and compelling socialist vision of a society where all things in and on the Earth are the common property of all; where all people give according to their abilities and take freely according to their needs; where money and other time-wasting features of property relationship are done away with. It is a practical alternative to capitalism’s property mania.

Modern Tory defenders of property assert that owning things makes us free. This false equation between liberty and property was spread by the 17th defenders of property power, and was also accepted by several well-intentioned Levellers, just as it has been by subsequent leftists who have feared to break with the ideas of THE MONEY SYSTEM. In truth, property and money make us unfree. As Winstanley stated: “True freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the Earth”. Those in Britain living beneath the poverty line and the millions in the world dying from starvation should see the sense of that.

Socialists must learn from the wisdom of our Digger predecessors and have the boldness to state the case for A MONEYLESS WORLD SOCIETY – a case now more materially feasible and globally urgent than ever.

Press Exposure: Make Your Excuses and Leave (1995)

The Press Exposure column from the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the Richter scale of blatant deception it does not come up to George Orwell’s Newspeak but it is a pretty impressive misnomer, for a newspaper which carries very little proper news and which pays scant attention to what goes on outside these shores to be called the News Of The World.

Not that that has ever worried the people who own it or edit it. Their yardstick for the success or failure of the paper is how much it is talked about in the pubs on a Sunday. And as it has a circulation approaching five million—which means a probable readership of nearly 15 million—it is a fair bet that whenever people are in alcoholic bondage on Sundays there will be some discussion of the News Of The World's latest account of the roller-coaster sex lives of the royals or TV soap stars or famous sportsmen or obscure clergymen.

Of course it might be that the people leaning up against the bars will find other things to interest them. Like the recent WHO report that every year 12.2 million children under five die "because they are poor". Like the training now being given to Job Centre staff to deal with an expected upsurge of violence from claimants made even more desperate by cuts in benefits. Like the revelation that since peace broke out in 1945 there have been three crises in which America and Russia were on the brink of all-out nuclear war. But that is the real world of capitalism, in which the News Of The World has only a limited interest.

Getting close
The paper was born in 1843 and has always been noted for peddling the more sensational style of journalism, giving the full treatment to the likes of Jack the Ripper and Dr Crippen. Aristocratic divorces were a convenient way of catering for its readers’ assumed need for respectable sexual titillation. All of this was driven by the paper’s belief in itself. Emsley Carr, who edited it for 50 years, once asserted that it was ". . . always right. Nothing we did could ever be wrong".

This confidence had something to do with the News Of The World’s knack of getting close to its readers. Free insurance was one way of doing this; another was a missing person’s service (often aimed at funding someone who stood to gain from a will). Most famously of all. it ran the John Hilton Advice Bureau (Hilton was a professor of industrial relations at Cambridge) which helped with readers' problems on pensions, insurance, rent and the like and took up many cases. The spin-off was not just in publicity and higher sales but the fact that the Bureau sometimes opened up an avenue of investigation which could lead to a tasty story. For the News Of The World being close to its readers paid off; in the 1950s its circulation exceeded eight million.

But the readers need to be not only titillated. They had also to be shocked, frightened, amused, outraged—if possible all at once. Too often this has been manipulated by the selective exposure of someone who has been through the courts for sexual offences. It matters little that in so many cases the offender has themself suffered sexual assaults; in the columns of the News Of The World they are less than human— "fiends" or "beasts" or "perverts". And when they leave prison the paper continues to pursue them, protesting hysterically at wherever they live or whatever job they find.

Making excuses
The paper’s preoccupation with crime, the pornography of which they pretend to legitimise, has led it into some contradictory stances. On the one hand they make a lot of denouncing criminals, at times offering rewards for information leading to the conviction of a murderer. On the other they can befriend the notorious "acid bath" killer Haigh and pay for his defence in court after he had given them exclusive rights to his memoirs. More recently this preoccupation has reached the pitch of an obsession to including “dole scroungers’’ who must seem, to the News Of The World readers in the pubs, to be infesting the country and threatening to bring down the Stock Exchange. Lloyds and the money market with the rest of capitalism's class structure.

This obsession might be taken more seriously if the paper had a stronger reputation for respecting the truth. For example in 1991 it ran a story about Clare Short, the Labour MP who was campaigning against the cult of Page Three girls. This story was about a classified advertisement in Tribune which suggested that readers might like to send for a selection of "granddad’s naughty pictures"—the nature of which can easily be imagined. The News Of The World presented this boring, insignificant item—it could hardly be called news—as if Clare Short was in some way responsible for the advertisement when in fact her only connection with it was that she was a Tribune reader.

The sort of "exposures" the paper excels in are normally of some type of prostitution—the wilder and more bizarre the services on offer the better. So carefully have these investigations been arranged and reported that they have added a new phrase to the usage of English. The story begins when a reporter poses as a punter and. as what might be called the crunch approaches, has to extricate himself, complete with hidden tape recorder, from a potentially embarrassing—even dangerous—situation. Breathless readers are told how it is done: "I made my excuses and left."

Since 1968 the News Of The World has been owned by Rupert Murdoch, who is not renowned for upholding high journalistic standards, especially when the lower the standards the higher the sales. Before Murdoch took over, between 1891 and 1970 the paper had six editors. After Murdoch arrived, from 1970 to 1993 there were 23. Perhaps this is part of the paper’s proud boast (it was, after all, an advertising slogan) that All Human Life Is There.

But—all human life? The poverty, famine. fear and disease which is what human life is under capitalism? The futile, posturing leaders who the News Of The World urges us to support according to the whims of its proprietor? The corruption and cynicism of a social system which exploits and degrades its useful people and assumes that they will suffer it all. provided they have a weekly helping of malicious rubbish to wash down with their booze on Sunday?

Time to leave. And no excuses. 

Blogger's Note:
The News of the World finally shut up shop in 2011 after the fallout from the phone hacking scandal.

These Foolish Things: It takes your breath away (1995)

The Scavenger column from the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

It takes your breath away

Orimulsion is a cheaper fuel for electricity power stations. It is based upon bitumen and is imported from Venezuela. Since it has been used at Merton power station, near Ramsgate, asthma attacks in the area have quadrupled. Because it is cheap there are plans to introduce it at a number of other power stations.

So what's new?

They throw the most lavish parties. Last year they air-freighted more than £13 billion in cash into the country to satisfy the popular demand for foreign currency. Their offices are already extravagant temples to Mammon. But now Russia's bankers want more.

With the Kremlin’s help they arc amassing enormous political power. In short. Russia's new plutocracy can boast of wealth and influence to rival the Medicis or the Rothschilds. Sunday Telegraph 16 April.

Current account

In the first five years of private operation, the regional electricity companies accumulated £1 billion surplus funds, instead of reducing charges to customers. Professor Stephen Littlechild, the highly-paid regulator appointed to prevent such excesses, either knew nothing about this or chose not to take any action. Whichever was the ease, he was useless.

The Thatcher nightmare

House prices have fallen by 25 percent in real terms since 1990 and experts believe that they have much further to fall. Over a million people in Britain arc caught in the negative equity trap, where they currently owe an average of £7.000 more in mortgage repayments than their home is worth on the market. Apart from the debt burden, this makes it extremely difficult for them to move house. During Margaret Thatcher’s rule, with her campaign for a “home-owning democracy” and income tax relief on mortgage interest payments, house prices doubled in seven years. Now the market is swinging back again.

True Brits

National Grid, the electricity transmission company being privatised, has avoided paying almost £2m in tax by setting up a financial arm in Dublin.

The company ladled £160m of its cash flow into the tax avoidance scheme before the government stepped in to make the arrangement less attractive.

A National Grid spokesman yesterday confirmed the existence of the "special purpose” firm and defended it as: “a tax-efficient way of managing the company’s money which is our duty on behalf of the shareholders. It is part of our treasury function, and normal practice for UK companies that have big cash flows” Independent on Sunday, 2 April.
The Scavenger

Whispering Sweet Nothings (1995)

The A Word in Your Ear column from the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Blah, blah; blah, blah; Blair, Blair. This column has decided that a change is as good as a rest and it is time to commit ourselves to utterly platitudinous cliches. Away with this talk of bosses, wage slaves and unseemly class struggles. What politics needs today is a good dose of empty rhetoric—and by Jove, we’re out to let you have it, bang between the eyes (as our role models, the boxing commentators, say).

A political cliche in the hand is worth two in the bush, and a stupefying slogan in time saves nine.

Perhaps there is some truth in the observation that most political speeches these days read like the outpourings of a cheap word processor which has been deprived of human contact, but let none be deceived that cliches are a recent invention. Even before the inane banalities of Major Clinton and Paddy Blair, creative depths were reached by orators of old whose capacity for saying nothing was in direct proportion to what they had to say.

Take Hitler, for example. By most historical accounts this “evil genius” had verbal powers which could hypnotise a crowd faster than Churchill could down a litre of brandy. In fact, Hitler was a transparent nutter, a loud-mouthed cliche-merchant who, without the musical build-up and the theatrical setting would have been regarded merely as an out-of-work painter with an irreparable groin injury. Watching newsreels of Hiller’s rants, as well as those of Mosley’s pathetic echoes, is an invitation to a cliche-spouting competition. Take away the mass unemployment, hyper-inflation and defeat in a recent world war and Hitler's platform at Nuremberg would be about as popular as the Catholic Evidence {sic) League in Hyde Park on a drizzly Sunday. Or take Thatcher. (Take Hitler, take Thatcher. . . take the bloody lot of them.) another sufferer from chronic verbal diarrhoea. Takeaway the TV cameras, the specially-invited audiences and the VIP label and put Maggie on a platform in any high street in Britain; she wouldn’t last ten minutes. Which is nine minutes longer than her successor would last and longer still than Reagan who reportedly went through the entire 1984 presidential election campaign without responding to a single spontaneous question.

Cruel commentators have labelled New Labour’s new-look, brand-new, extra-new-ingredients, we’ll-swap-four-of-your-old-claws-for-one-of-our-new-ones Object as being a bit. . . er, wordy . . . and, well, empty. Hot air, to be precise. The Blur leadership need not feel slung by such criticism, for in committing themselves to such apple-pie platitudes they are merely following a long-preserved record of cliche, going back to their party’s founder. Defining socialism in June 1896, Keir Hardie surely surpassed even the new Clause Three-And-A-Quarter when he explained it to mean “brotherhood, fraternity, love thy neighbour as thyself, goodwill towards men, and glory to God in the highest”. Now, that is what you call a relentless commitment to unadulterated cliche.

So what if almost everything that every politician says sounds the same? Has it not occurred to Generation X, whom the sociologists tell us are characterised by a universal disdain for politicians, that they sound the same because they stand for the same thing? Try selling Coke and Pepsi without, after a while, descending to cliches about fizz, bubbles and cold soda on a hot day. Nobody accuses Pepsi ads of dwelling on the obvious merits of ice-cold drinks or Kellogg of talking too much about breakfast instead of lunch, or Punch and Judy of pursuing the same boring quarrel when they could always go to Relate and patch things up. So why expect defenders of a social order which should by rights have been put on the scrapheap with the Hillman Minx to have anything original to say?

It is high time that voters stop bleating about the cliched vacuity of those who seek to lead them and realise that secondhand tripe is quite good enough for anyone seeking to be led. Or, to put it another way, "You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it think”,
Steve Coleman

University Challenge (1995)

Party News from the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Are you a student or employee at a college or University? Would you like to assist the spread of socialist ideas within your College or University? If so, you may be interested to know that the Socialist Party has embarked upon a nationwide campaign, leading up to and during the 1995/1996 academic session, to make its viewpoint more widely known within the student community to 1) attract more students into the Socialist Party and in the longer term 2) set up a national network of Socialist Student Societies.

The campaign will involve compiling a database of contacts (who will be put in touch with each other) in higher education establishments, writing to student societies and offering to provide them with Socialist Party speakers for meetings and debates, making our presence felt at Freshers’ Fairs and, finally, organising a one — or possibly two — day Winter School in London (involving workshops, meetings, debates & video-shows) in early December.

If you would like to get involved, please write as soon as possible to:

“University Challenge" 

c/o The Socialist Party, 
52 Clapham High Street, 

London SW4 7UN

There'll be another one along in a minute (1995)

From the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Chelmsford 105
At the end of March a demonstration, addressed by Bill Morris of the TGWU and John Monks, the TUC General Secretary, was held to protest at the plight of the Chelmsford bus drivers who last November were subject to the despicable but predictable anti-working-class action by the now private bus company, Eastern National, owned by the Badgerline Group of Companies. One hundred and five of them were sacked. The drivers had been using normal industrial procedures to support their grievances, these were soon exhausted and a ballot was held which gave a 74 percent majority vote in favour of strike action. The drivers were warned by the management that if they proceeded with their strike they would all be sacked. This was apparently written into their contract of employment. They went ahead with the strike with the full support of the union—and were sacked.

The TGWU bulletin, circulated in the Chelmsford local papers, rightly points out that the fight for reinstatement is fast becoming a historic dispute, and that it has highlighted the class bias of our laws which allows management to sack workers for taking a few hours perfectly legal industrial action.

We have seen many times the type of anti-working-class action practised here by Eastern National. Even before strike action was taken the bus company had organised advertisements for new drivers in the local press and made arrangements for the transfer of drivers from other Badgerline companies in other parts of the country, at great expense to the company. It is blatantly obvious that their aim was to destroy all effective organised union activity in order to impose worse conditions of employment on all Badgerline workers.

Some of the “Chelmsford 105”, as they have been called, have set up a rival bus company with the assistance of the TGWU and are operating alongside the larger bus company’s buses offering a free service. The aim is to disrupt the Eastern National service as much as possible by eventually matching their service bus-for-bus and hitting them where it hurts the most—financially.

The chance of this having the required effect and getting Eastern National to decide to reinstate the sacked drivers is very slim. So what is the logical outcome for this reasonably successful new bus service if not to convert a free service into a commercially-run concern?

We would then have competition between two business organisations both clambering for a share of a limited market Even now we have competition between union members in both organisations, both fighting for their own interests.

The drivers, who were very unfairly dismissed (but legally correct in the eyes of the law) arc obviously very critical of the methods adopted by the managing director of Badgerline, Mr Orbell. But if in the day-to-day running of any new rival bus company it became necessary to cut costs and increase productivity to retain the correct profit margin, how would the new management cope with this type of problem? Would they not have to make the same sort of decisions as the bigger bus company?

The new management may say: we would certainly not run our company the same way as Eastern National, we would be much more interested in the welfare of the employees. In other words, they would be "good" capitalists. This might even happen for a brief while, but what would happen when the competition hots up or another recession bites into the profits? The new management would have to do all that is in their power to preserve the profits of the company—it is the only way it can operate, if it wants to survive. This is the basis of the capitalist system.

Continuous quest for profit
This continuous quest for profit drives all business organisations to the most despicable anti-working-class tactics. This drive for profit is what makes people compete; business against business plying for the same trade, worker against worker fighting for the opportunity to be employed. All the good intentions in the world will not make the capitalist system operate in the interest of all the people

We need to understand how the capitalist system works against our interests and that the only way to achieve a life where we are able to contribute our energy, skills and talents and share the wealth of the world, is to replace the system of competition we are presently forced to suffer. We need to totally adjust our way of life, and establish socialism and do away forever with competition and concentrate on a life of co-operation. We can do this by running society, exactly as we all do now, but in the interest of us all and not the few fortunate enough to own it.
Allan Goldsmith

50 Years Ago: Atrocities—Cynical Ruling Class Attitude (1995)

The 50 Years Ago column from the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

For weeks on end the British Press carried horrifying accounts and pictures of atrocities committed in Nazi concentration camps; mass starvation, brutality, sadistic cruelties perpetrated by degenerate guards on helpless men, women and children, prisoners buried alive, tortured by solitary confinement and so on. Some of the worsened conditions of recent months may have been due, as one of the German guards said, to transport difficulties—the stupendous Allied bombing of roads and railways can hardly have failed to produce disorganisation—but this does not affect the main facts of appalling brutalities over a long period. But if the facts are substantially agreed this is certainly not true of the conclusions that can be drawn from them. Far from accepting the views of many newspapers and capitalist politicians we deny their right to raise hands in holy horror; or to attempt to fasten the responsibility on the German workers. On several counts the British ruling class and their spokesmen have not the slightest justification for the attitude they adopt. (. . .)

By all means we protest against atrocities and brutality, but we do so not as an expedient according to circumstances but against atrocities and brutality wherever and whenever they occur.

It is for the working class of the whole world to see as it really is the cynical and hypocritical use made, by the capitalist class of atrocities, and not to let themselves be divided by capitalist propaganda directed against first one and then another foreign nation. It is capitalism itself that produces the worst atrocity of all—war, and which everywhere has a record of brutality towards the working class and colonial peoples in peace or in war.

Only Socialism can end it and only world working class unity can achieve that end.

[From an article in the Socialist Standard, June 1945.]

Letters: And do slam the door . . . (1995)

Letters to the Editors from the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard
We have received a number of letters along the same lines. Extracts from some are published below.
I am a non-affiliated socialist, who has been a traditional "Labour” voter since eligibility, but find that my views and beliefs on socialism are deemed as anachronistic and extreme by the modern Labour Party.

I am not prepared to modify or adapt my beliefs to political concepts which are, in my opinion, the antithesis of true socialism.

I was born and bred in Ebbw Vale, in the South Wales valleys, which, whilst a bedrock of "Labour-voting socialism”, also reflects the true face of 1990s’ Britain; poverty, high unemployment. social and material deprivation, and hopelessness.

And all the modern Labour Party offers is diluted conservatism! Surely "Clause Four" is what defined the socialist policies within the Labour Party’s own philosophy?

I have longed dreamed of a "Utopian” society where housing. education, welfare and health care are readily available to all; one classless society.

Please forward information and membership details of the Socialist Party, so that I can. at long last, physically contribute to the cause."
South Wales.

“I am at the moment a member of the Labour Party. Whilst I agree the Labour Party is bureaucratic. it is at least better than the Conservative Party. If Blair gets his way over Clause IV, then I believe Labour will never be able to win power again. Therefore I must help to ensure that Clause IV stays. However the Socialist Party is most in line with my own view of Socialism, therefore I will be interested in joining sometime soon."

“I was in the Labour Party for only one year but I have seen enough to make me believe that Labour are not capable of tackling Britain's major social and economic problems. And since they have elected Tony Blair as leader this only confirms my belief about the party. If you could send information on your party to me then I could get in contact with you about joining."

“I received a copy of Socialist Standard some time ago and have just acted upon it. I would be keen to take up membership. Can you point me to a local contact or branch. My history is ex-Labour Party. CND (still active anti-Sizewell B and C), Cruise-watch but disgruntled over Labour Party. Its view of 'Socialism' and what it means does not equate with my thoughts. I thought the argument 'Compromise' was just to get the Tories out. I went along with it but this new episode finally pushed me into a decision. Many fellow comrades share my view." 

"After 20 years’ membership I've quit the Labour Party. The Special Conference, both its decision and the way it was conducted. was the blessed limit. I’m not going on my neighbours’ doorsteps to advocate the joys of the 'Rigour of competition' and the ‘enterprise of the market’.”

Letter: Missing something here (1995)

Letter to the Editors from the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors,

Re the editorial in the April issue. I assume that the vague reference to "the Green movement" gaining power refers to the Green Party.

What is your evidence for alleging that the Green Party is pro-capitalist? Which part of the Green Party manifesto opposes, or is incompatible with, “the common ownership and democratic control of the means for producing and creating wealth"? I may be missing something here. 
K. A. Gilchrist, 

The Green Party’s general objective of a “sustainable society" is not at all incompatible with the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources. In fact it could only be achieved on this basis. The Green Party, however, does not stand for common ownership and democratic control, but for the retention of private ownership, profit-making and the market on a small-scale—in other words, for small-scale capitalism, involving small firms producing for local markets, instead of the Big Business capitalism geared to the world market that we have today.

Among the passages you have missed in the Green Party’s Manifesto for a Sustainable Society is the following on “Monetary Policy": 
"In a Green society the informal sector will eventually gain in significance so that formal transactions and money generally will have a lesser role than at present. There is however no reason why a financial system cannot be made to work in the interests of the community . . . The place of the commercial banks in financing enterprise will gradually be taken by mediating, non-profit local community banks providing low-cost finance, both at district and regional levels" (EC 640 and EC 642. 1993 edition).
Have a look too at the sections on taxation and Basic Income which also assume the continued existence of the market and monetary economy. Such an economy, even if reduced to a local scale, is incompatible with common ownership and democratic control. This is because if productive resourcesarc owned in common so is the social product and the problem then becomes not how to sell it but how to share it amongst the community on a non-monetary basis.

The market, banks, money, taxes, etc. disappear as meaningless. Instead, the principle “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs" applies where each person contributes what they can to production and then has free access according to their self-determined needs to what they require to lead an enjoyable life.

Letter: A malicious attack? (1995)

Letter to the Editors from the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Editors,

There must have been a page missing from April's Socialist Standard. When I came to read the review of Strike Back by Ernie Roberts, what I found was an extensive review of pp. 32-33 and a malicious attack on E. Roberts.

So a mistake was made (has it been pointed out to the publisher?) Is Roberts the first person to make a factual error in a book? I think not. The venom in the review made me think that Roberts was guilty of a crime against humanity, rather than a simple error. Although I disagree with Roberts's tactics over the years, he has done some good work in the trades unions and in fighting fascism. So when are we going to have a proper review, by a more rational reviewer?
Wayne Holmes,
Neath, Glamorgan

Alright, so it wasn't a proper review but it wasn’t that bad. We never said Ernie Roberts was not a good trade unionist nor that he was not a good anti-racist. By all accounts he was both of these. We criticised him for helping to spread the lie that the SPGB is anti-union and for being a loyal supporter of state-capitalist Russia. We feel we are entitled to be annoyed about this since the thousand or so militant trade unionists and political activists who will read his book will go away with a completely false idea of our attitude to trade union action, and may be put off from taking us seriously as a result, without us being able to do anything about it.

Passing the parcel (1995)

TV Review from the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Election nights are almost exciting, and Local Elections ‘95 on BBC 1 last month proved to be no exception. There was David Dimbleby with a twinkle in his eye and a Mars bar in his pocket. Peter Kellner looking studiously professorial next to a bank of computers. Anthony King thumbing through his mental book of historical precedents and the ubiquitous Peter Snow arms flailing like a whirling dervish in conversation with Magnus Pike. "Just a bit of fun” is Snow’s catchphrase. and of course it all is just that, at least for him.

For the politicians it is different—election night is akin to a life-or-death prognosis. John Selwyn Gummer had seldom looked glummer as the news trickled in of the most humiliating Conservative defeat in local elections on record. Frank Dobson chortled like a Father Christmas on Prozac and the Liberal Democrats' spokesman was there as well, popping up like Chad over a wall occasionally in the hope that nobody would forget he was there too. But it was Labour's night, and if all Frank Dobson's Christmases had come at once. John Prescott beamed as if his political marriage to Tony Blair had just been consummated in spectacular style. He opened a bottle of champagne at Labour Party headquarters and thrust the spray orgasmically at the cameras, adjectives tumbling over one another just as the Moet tumbled out of the bottle.

It was indeed touching that the working class could have had such an effect on their fellow human beings. Touching, though not altogether surprising, as it is the workers who put the politicians in their exalted position to start with.

If local election night demonstrated anything it was that the Labour Party . . . pardon me. New Labour, is on a roll of gigantic proportions and that the Tories are digging themselves further into a hole and not out of it. Labour, on this performance seems set to win a General Election and they will be aware at this time like at no other that dangerous talk costs political lives. During the election campaign itself they showed themselves cognisant of this fact, fighting the battle on presentation, managerial abilities, sharp suits and white teeth. "Policies" has become the most dangerous word in their vocabulary. When tackled about this by Dimbleby. Frank Dobson shrugged his shoulders and gave a "what can we do" look. Local government, he said, is hamstrung by government subsidies and capping, and so even if Labour wanted to spend more on education or local services, it couldn't.

At this point John Gummer intervened to claim that you could not blame the Conservative government for the belt-tightening consequences of the world recession and that in any case things were getting steadily better under the foresighted stewardship of John Major. But then came the pièce de résistanceSir Teddy Taylor. Tory rebel, beamed in via satellite or some such device to tell the panel that they were all wrong as the real problem was Europe. "I know I'm being a bore . . ." he said, and of course he was right. And right about something else too. He went on to say that just as it didn't matter which of the parties controlled the councils, neither did it matter much which party controlled Westminster, as they were all prisoners of the system, the headquarters of which he identified as being somewhere in Belgium. Now he might have been misplaced about the importance of the last bit. but his substantive point, of course, has a lot going for it.

Travel with Teddy
Travel round Britain and can you tell where a Conservative council ends and a Labour one begins? Travel around Europe or any other part of the world and try doing the same with governments. It is very difficult indeed, and Sir Teddy has obviously noticed. Given all this, quite what his function is as a politician must be in some doubt, his obsession with Brussels notwithstanding. If he thinks politicians are as impotent as this (and they generally are) then it cannot be long before he packs it all in forever and takes to the stage.

But have some sympathy for him. Sir Teddy showed that he had grasped, in his own hamfisted way, a fundamental truth of capitalist politics, even if he lacks the full explanation for it. And this is that, in reality, election nights at present are momentary interludes in a mind-numbingly tedious and pointless exercise. They are the time when the two rival but otherwise identical brands of cola release their sales figures, when two bluebottles climb up a wall to see who can reach the ceiling first. Pointless, though at the same time mesmerising if your life is empty enough. And if the phrase "get a life" should be directed anywhere, the BBC studios on election nights are as good a place as any to aim. 
Dave Perrin

Rochdale election results (1995)

Party News from the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the May local elections the Socialist Party ran a candidate in the Central and Falinge ward of Rochdale Borough Council. Our candidate, Roger Chadwick, polled 144 votes or 4.6% of the vote. The Conservatives didn't bother to put up a candidate but, where they did, in one ward they only got 90 votes. The socialist vote was also higher than that of the racist and fascist BNP. The full results are given below.

Central and Falinge
Thomas (Lab) 1745, Ali (Lib Dem) 1201, Chadwick (Soc) 144

Entwhistle (Lab) 1304, Collinson (Lib Dem) 1294, Henderson (BNP) 104

Smallbridge and Wardleworth
Sanderson (Lab) 1990, Greenwood (Lib Dem) 1555, Taylor (Con) 90, Abrahams (Ind) 51

SPGB Meetings (1995)

Party News from the June 1995 issue of the Socialist Standard

Editorial: Conscription—1916 Over Again (1939)

Editorial from the June 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

After repeated pledges not to introduce conscription in peace-time, Mr. Chamberlain has introduced it in peace-time—with the bland excuse that “no one can pretend that this is peace-time in the sense in which the term could be fairly used.” The Labour Party can fairly claim that the man who treats pledges so lightly can hardly throw stones at Hitler, but on every other ground the Labour opposition to conscription is of the flimsiest kind. The Government is treating it accordingly. Particularly during the past six months the Labour Party has done its utmost to persuade the voters and badger the Government into a system of alliances to “stop the aggressors.” Now the Government suddenly falls into line, but says that its actual and potential allies want this country to adopt conscription in order to show that it means business—the nature of the business being the capacity to wage war on a large scale. The Government also points to the fact that France, Russia, Poland and the rest of the countries—except U.S.A.—already have conscription, and M. Blum, leader of the French Socialist Party (the equivalent of the British Labour Party), throws in his influence on the same side and tells his British colleagues not to be illogical. In these circumstances the Government would be foolish to treat seriously the Labour Party’s wordy opposition to conscription—those who have swallowed the camel of war do not for long strain at the gnat of compulsion. If Mr. Chamberlain had any doubts about the matter he could remove them by observing how the Labour Party behaved in 1916, when war-time conscription was being introduced. In theory they were opposed to conscription, but they were also represented in the Government and were in favour of the War. What then could they say when the Government came to them and said that the voluntary system had failed? Some of them did say, indeed, that the Government had broken its word and was tricking them, but they were answered by Mr. Arthur Henderson, one of the Labour Party representatives in the Government. Speaking at the Labour Party Annual Conference at Bristol, in January, 1916, Mr. Henderson supported conscription, on the ground that—
“Notwithstanding the magnificent success of the voluntary system, even now we had not all the men we needed to meet the enemy in the various theatres of war that we were confronted with.” (Report, page 120.)
In spite of Mr. Henderson’s support for conscription, it was obvious that a majority of delegates were still against it. A resolution was before the Conference which declared opposition to the Military Service Bill and went on to commit the Party to “agitate for its repeal” if it became law. This would have been very awkward for the Labour Party and its members, who were part of the Coalition Government, but Mr. Will Thorne and others proposed dividing the resolution. This was done and everyone was satisfied, because Conference then proceeded to adopt the harmless attitude of opposing conscription and also of opposing the resolution which would have committed them to agitating for its repeal. This can safely be taken as a forecast of what will happen now if the Government continues to put in practice the Labour policy of preparing for war, and if the international situation continues to be tense.

As far as the Trade Union Executives are concerned, that is indeed what happened at the special conference held on May 19th, 1939. They rejected by 3,817,000 votes to 232,000 an amendment which would have meant withdrawing from co-operation with the Government on National Service, and passed by 3,933,000 votes to 550,000 a long resolution which opened by protesting “most strongly against the Government’s action in introducing compulsory military service, in violation of the definite pledges given by the Prime Minister, and of the solemn assurances offered to the T.U.C. General Council when co-operation was sought by the responsible Ministers in the organisation of Voluntary National Service.” (Report in Daily Herald, May 20th.)

They also rejected by 4,172,000 to 425,000 a resolution in favour of a “general strike as a last effort to oppose military and industrial conscription.”

The Labour Party’s votes in Parliament in 1916 were equally illuminating for the light they throw on that Party’s attitude. There were three votes on the Military Service Bill, on January 6th, 12th and 18th, 1916. At the first vote, fourteen Labour M.P.s were absent out of the total of thirty-six. Of those present, thirteen voted “against” conscription and nine “for.” At the Second Reading, nine were absent, eleven voted “against” and sixteen “for.” And at the Third Reading, no fewer than twenty were absent, six voted “against” and eleven “for.” (The number of M.P.s had in the meantime increased to thirty-seven.)

As in 1916, so in 1939
The Labour Party is, in 1939, again making a great show of opposing conscription, because, in its view, the voluntary system “is providing, and can continue to provide, the nation with all the manpower required for effective national defence and for the fulfilment of its obligations for mutual assistance in the collective system of resistance to aggression.” (Statement issued by the National Council of Labour Daily Herald, April 26th.)

Many trade union executives and conferences have endorsed the Labour Party view, but one Union, the Civil Service Clerical Association, a little more far-seeing than the rest, has anticipated the likely future trend of misguided working-class opinion. Instead of playing for immediate popularity by opposing conscription, the General Secretary of the C.S.C.A., Mr. W. J. Brown, and his Executive Committee, moved an emergency resolution at their annual conference supporting conscription “on conditions,” one of which was the “immediate conscription of wealth.” The movers are thus in the safe position of still being able to say that they never supported conscription unconditionally in the form in which it will actually exist. At the same time they save themselves from the ridiculous position of the Labour Party. The C.S.C.A. delegates carried the vote for conscription by 414 votes to six.

The man who was largely responsible for persuading the delegates was Mr. W. J. Brown, former pet of the Communists and the I.L.P., ever a nimble sprinter after the merry-go-round of capitalist reforms and expedients. The day before yesterday he was MacDonald’s friend, then Mosley’s (at the birth of the New Party). Then he was very, very “left-wing” and the enemy of Bevin. Now he is “for conscription” and Bevin is against it. But the present position will, doubtless, be no more stable than the others, and any serious crisis for British capitalism will find them in the same camp again.

The Socialist Position
As against both of the above policies, policies circumscribed by the callous requirements of predatory capitalism, the Socialist Party stands for Socialism, well aware that neither the Browns nor the Bevins, the Chamberlains nor the Stalins, have any practical solution to offer for the evil plight in which the world’s workers find themselves.

The Socialist is opposed to conscription because he is opposed to the capitalist war for which the armed forces, whether volunteer, professional or conscript, are wanted. Though the war would be described on the one side as a war “for democracy” and on the other side as a war “against encirclement,” the driving force behind both sides would be the capitalist lust for markets, raw materials and strategic positions. When Hitler for the German capitalists says that Germany must expand or explode, find markets or perish, he meets his opposite in Mr. Hudson, British Secretary for Overseas Trade, who said in Warsaw on March 21st that “we are not going to give up any markets to anyone. . . Great Britain is strong enough to fight for markets abroad. Britain is now definitely going to take a greater interest in Eastern Europe.” (News Chronicle, March 22nd, 1939.)

Fighting that at present takes the form of words, trade agreements, loans, guarantees against aggression, etc., may, as in 1914, turn into an armed conflict, and that armed conflict will be yet another war produced by capitalist rivalries.

The Socialist Party knows that such wars solve nothing for the workers, and leave capitalism to produce still more wars in endless horror.

The Socialist Party declares its opposition not only to conscription but to capitalist war and to capitalism itself. The Socialist Party can repeat now what was written in its official organ in February, 1916, about the conscription then being introduced : —
“… We are bitterly opposed to conscription. But what are conscription, war, unemployment, poverty, overwork and starvation wages but the direct results of capitalist class rule? What hope of any permanent amelioration so long as the workers are the underdogs? What hope, indeed, of even a paltry concession in this matter so long as the exploiters are masters of the State and feel their controlling position unmenaced? We, therefore, urge the workers to join the real campaign against conscription; for conscription, on the part of the governing class, is only one item in the war upon the workers.”

Here and There: The Royal Mission to Canada (1939)

The Here and There column from the June 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Royal Mission to Canada

George VI is visiting Canada. It is a political visit, arranged by and in the interests of British capitalism.

Of late years, Canada’s attachment to the great family of British nations has shown signs of waning. Economic ties with the U.S.A., and other factors, have helped to weaken the political and traditional associations with Great Britain. The drift has reflected itself over a number of years in detachment from and even criticism of British foreign policy. The American journal, Nation (March 11th, 1939), points out that, at the time of the Czechoslovakian crisis, whilst the British Government received assurances of military support from other Dominions, Canada never committed itself beyond vaporous expressions of attachment. And so the spell of kingship has been called in to check the drift.

Will it succeed . . . ?

Since Dominion status was conferred upon Canada, a war in which the British Government is involved would not of necessity involve Canada. Consequently, its foreign policy has responded the more easily to interests which will keep it out of war. Unlike Australia and New Zealand, whose vulnerable position leads them to seek the protection of the British Navy, Canada’s policy more inclines to march in line with the U.S.A., whose geographical position and enormous resources offset the need for British protection. Hence the flagging enthusiasm for Empire, which George VI’s visit to Canada attempts to revive.

Several factors militate against its success. One, certainly the most important, is the ever-expanding influence of U.S.A. interests in Canada, as the following figures testify.

In December, 1936, the amount of American capital invested in Canada was approximately 4,000 million dollars, as against 2,725 million dollars invested by British capitalists.

The amount of Canadian capital invested in the U.S.A. was approximately 1,000 million dollars, as against 50 million dollars invested in England.

In 1937, exports from Canada to the U.S.A. were 425 million dollars.

In the same year, imports into Canada from the U.S.A. were approximately 400 million dollars, as against approximately 100 million dollars from England.

It is quite clear that the interests of Canadian capitalism are more closely linked with those of the U.S.A. than with those of Great Britain. The recent Anglo-American trade agreement, which was an attempt by the British Government to get U.S.A. sympathy for its difficulties in Europe, gives the U.S.A. still further concessions in the Canadian market. Hard economic realities tend to weaken rather than cement the attachment of Canada to the British Empire.

But what about the traditional ties to the “Mother Country” ? The facts, according to the Nation, are somewhat revealing. Fifty-one per cent. of Canadians only are of British extraction, one-third are French, and the rest are of mixed nationalities from Central Europe. Among those of British extraction the sentiment is fostered that they are Canadian or American rather than British. A sentiment which is hardened by the interchange of ideas, amusements and newspapers with the U.S.A. As for the French-Canadians, they regard the British as their oppressors and tend to sympathise with the enemies of British capitalism. During the last War the Canadian Government had to suspend conscription in Quebec for fear of an outbreak of civil war. During the war in Abyssinia, and in Spain, French-Canadian sympathy was with Italy. Mayor Haude, of Montreal, said recently: “In the event of war between Britain and Italy, the sympathy of the French-Canadians would be with Italy.”

Canada’s attitude to any future conflict in which Great Britain is involved is likely to be governed by her own interests and the policy pursued by the U.S.A. Whilst that policy is likely to be sympathetic to British interests, it is doubtful whether that sympathy will go beyond “moral” support, and of supplying the “democratic” armies with the implements of warfare.

It will take far more than the magic of George VI and his consort to obscure the vision of American and Canadian capitalists from the real explanation of the honour of Royal favour.

* * *

Onward, Christian Soldiers! 

Bleating Bishops, who are busy persuading their flocks that, in certain circumstances, it is not un-Christian for Christians to kill other Christians with poison-gas and other unpleasant instruments of modern warfare, might consider the following letter, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph (April 29th, 1939): —
“The Lateran Council in 1139 forbade the use of the crossbow ‘as being too murderous a weapon for Christians to employ against one another.’ It would be interesting to know if this is unrepealed !”

* * *

A Distinction Without a Difference

A letter to the Daily Express (March 5th, 1939) says: “I should say that about ninety per cent. of the ordinary public are still hazy as to the meanings of the following terms: Conservative, Liberal, Socialist, Labour, Communist, Right, Left, Red.”

To which the Editor replied : “The Conservatives believe in conserving what they consider best in the British Constitution. The Conservatives and the National Liberals support the Government policy of appeasement and Protection. The Opposition Liberals oppose the Government on these points. The Socialists and Communists both believe in national ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange; but Communists believe that nationalisation can only be obtained by means of revolution.”

Note that the only difference the Editor of the Express can find in the policies of the Labour Party and the Communist Party is one of method—not of object. They both stand for Nationalisation. If any real difference were implicit or apparent in Communist Party propaganda the Editor of the Daily Express, like others, has been unable to find it.

* * *

Another “Democracy” Guaranteed

The Manchester Guardian (May 10th, 1939) publishes the following despatch from its correspondent in Rumania, to which country the British Government recently extended a guarantee:—
“The Premier, M. Calinescu, announced to-day that a national election would be held soon for a new corporative Parliament, modelled on Fascist lines. It will meet on June 7th.”
Comment would be superfluous!

* * *

Capitalism is still Thriving

The Daily Telegraph (March 7th, 1939) reproduces figures from the surtax assessments in the reports of the Commissioners of the Inland Revenue, showing the distribution of income in the year ending March, 1938.

The number of millionaires or persons with incomes exceeding £30,000 a year was 917, an increase of 42 over the year before.

Persons with incomes of £2,000 or more numbered 95,750, an increase of 4,358. Their aggregate income totalled £483,739,386, a rise of £27,394,398.

There were 73 persons with incomes between £75,000 and £100,000, compared with 72 the year before; and 80 with incomes exceeding £100,000, as against 83. Incomes of this class amounted to £15,270,207, a decrease of £1,023.

It can be said with some confidence that capitalism will not collapse this year!

* * *

Forward” and the “Daily Express” Advocate “Socialism”!

Forward (March 18th, 1939) protests that the Daily Express has stolen one of the “main items” from the Labour Party’s programme—increased pensions. The Express amplified its arguments in favour of pensions of fifteen shillings a week with a strip picture cartoon, which was reproduced in Forward. The first picture represents a benign Chancellor of the Exchequer handing the Minister of Health a bag of money. The captions over the pictures narrate the following simple story for simple people: —
“If Simon handed 25 millions to Elliott—Elliott could hand an extra five shillings to the old-age pensioner—the old-age pensioner could buy more bread—the baker could buy more flour—the miller could buy more corn—the farmer could buy more machinery—the machine maker could employ more men—the newly hired man could buy a radio set on the H.P. system— radio manufacturers could increase their dividends—shareholders could pay back Simon with their increased dividends.”
Economics for lunatics ! The tax on dividends from the sale of £25,000,000 worth of goods is apparently £25,000,000 according to this argument !

Says Forward: “This is the argument which has been appearing in Forward for a generation and which is the keynote of the Socialist argument for increasing expenditure on old-age pensions, widows’ pensions, increased unemployment allowances and increased wages.”

We will not dispute Forward’s claim that they have used these arguments for a generation, but we categorically deny that they have anything to do with Socialism. They are the arguments of wishy-washy reformers and crassly ignorant economists. Reforms carry minor benefits for the workers, but they cannot affect materially the fundamental character of capitalism—the extremes of wealth and poverty, unemployment and insecurity. If they can, then perhaps Forward will try to explain why, to-day, after generations of reforms, and relatively enormous sums spent on social services, these problems are as intense to-day as ever.

* * *

Brailsford and Conscription

In Reynolds (May 21st, 1939), H. N. Brailsford openly advocates conscription. He says, anticipating objection on democratic grounds: —
“The word “compulsion” has in this connection an ugly ring in our ears. Yet we should be indignant if any section of our Movement raised the banner of individualism against compulsory measures for education or health. Is defence less necessary ?

So far from objecting: when the State prescribes an obligation, we ought to welcome this as an arrangement that frees us from torments of conscience over conflicting duties.

This lad may feel that he would serve society better by continuing his studies. Another has a widowed mother.

It is right, it is even merciful, that society, weighing the general need against our personal interests, should prescribe our duties to us.”
That’s where “fighting for democracy” leads “revolutionary left-wingers.” For smugness it takes the cake. In doctrine it is more naked and unashamed than Nazism or the Catholic Church.
Harry Waite

The Death Dance of Danzig (1939)

From the June 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard

“If a geographical position may be described as absolutely bad, this certainly applies to the position of Poland.”

So says Bukoviecki, in a pamphlet which he published when running as a parliamentary candidate for Poland twenty years ago. He was appointed Attorney General and therefore can be quoted as representing the views of a powerful section of the Polish ruling class. (The above quotation and those that follow are taken from “Poland’s Westward Trend,” by Hansen.)

He says something more, though he may not have realised it would be drawn attention to so long afterwards: “The political path followed by Poland must indeed be peaceful, but the nation must, nevertheless, be inspired by the military spirit! The people must be the army! The army the people.”

He expresses himself at length on the problem of Germany, Poland and East Prussia: “As already mentioned, the German-Polish relationship appears particularly hopeless. Poland, in consequence of the Treaty of Versailles, obtained from Germany what was her just due; if anything, even less, inasmuch as a great slice of Upper Silesia, with a preponderating Polish population, remained beyond the western frontier, while Ermeland and Masuria, with their mixed but preponderating Polish populations, are situated within the frontier of East Prussia, and the mouth of the Vistula, and Danzig itself, are situated outside the Polish frontier, these latter being the natural links between our country and the sea. Notwithstanding these facts, Germany regards the loss of these territories, which Poland has obtained, in the light of a grievous wrong, and will endeavour with all her might to regain possession of them. The right of this age-long quarrel is, if the matter be regarded objectively, undoubtedly on the side of Poland. . . . While we assert this to be our right, we must not, on the other hand, take it amiss if the Germans, regarding the matter from that subjective point of view, which plays so large a part in political sentiment and aims, feel the loss of these territories very acutely. . . . The German owners of Polish territories were, moreover, to be distinguished from the Russians and the Austrians in that they did not regard the conquered territories as an object of economic exploitation, but introduced a rational administration which was advantageous to the occupied territory, since they succeeded in raising the cultural level of the country in all directions. . . . To deny these facts would be unworthy of a serious political journalist; however, we must not draw conclusions from them, for they do not refute another fact, which must be regarded here as a circumstance of the greatest importance—the fact, namely, that this is Polish territory, and that even the most intensive German labour could not legitimatize its ownership, because it was the labour of an unlawful owner.”

It must be borne in mind by the readers of the Socialist Standard that Bukoviecki gave no thought whatever to the opinions of the wage slaves, Polish or German, in this connection. And now we come to what he is driving at: “… Most grievous to Germany, however, is the loss of Pommerellen, especially of its northern part, the so-called Danzig Corridor, which separates East Prussia from the rest of the state. The Danzig Corridor, which, on the one hand, is a stumbling-block to Germany, represents, on the other hand, a cause of complete dissatisfaction to Poland, something that does not guarantee her a really secure and permanent access to the sea. It is open to Germany to work for the removal of this obstacle, but it is, likewise, open to us to work for its extension. The mere fact that the lower course of the Vistula is not exclusively in our possession, whereas its eastern bank belongs to Germany, and, further, the fact that the Free City of Danzig to a considerable extent is bounded by German territory, is most unfavourable to Poland, and, in case of war-like developments, would be dangerous.”

The reader should carefully note the next part of the argument of this astute politician : “And East Prussia, which occupies such a central position in the northern part of the Polish territory— does it not for us represent a perpetual threat ? Is a real connection with the sea and the necessary development of our navigation and commerce to be reconciled with Germany’s possession of this territory?”

We can see from the above what may be behind the moves of Colonel Beck and, in addition, what may be involved in a fight for “democracy.” To be fair to Bukoviecki we must point out that he clearly states: “Obviously we are not speaking of preparations for any sort of military or diplomatic action, but merely of an absolutely peaceful activity on the part, not of the State alone, but also on that of the nation, calculated well beforehand and systematically pursued.”

Hitler never put it better.

We will now quote from the self-styled “Socialist” Grabski, who eventually allied himself with the National Democrats. He was a professor of Political Economy at the Lemberg University. As a representative of his party he was from 1919 to 1922 Chairman of the Commission for Foreign Affairs of the Polish Parliament. He was at one time Vice-Premier and twice held the office of Minister of Education. His book from which we take our extracts is (in English) “Observations concerning the present historical epoch in the development of Poland.” His views can be taken as the views of the National Democrats.

In the chapter, “The Direction of our National Expansion” : “What direction shall the expansion of the Polish people follow ? Shall it expand northwards to the Baltic or to the south-east, in the direction of the Ukraine and the Black Sea? . . . Thus in the course of the next fifty years at least Poland will have an opportunity of expanding towards the east. It must, however, be fully understood that our efforts towards further expansion to the east cannot be carried into effect without complete security from Germany. This security, however, can only be purchased by relinquishing our claims to the Baltic and by returning West Prussia and Upper Silesia to Germany. . . . The decision of the Eastern Prussia problem which was given by the Treaty of Versailles is too artificial to be permanently maintained. . . . And, therefore, one of two things—either we turn the Polish policy of ascendency eastwards against Russia, by taking advantage of the successive periods of weakness which the next half-century will bring, and thereby leave the decision of the merely provisional settlement of the East Prussia problem to Germany, or we stake all the power at our disposal on the solution of the East Prussia problem by Poland in a sense favourable to Poland. If this is our position, any hesitation will be mistaken.”

It is to be observed that he gradually works up to the necessity of fighting Germany, and now we have the plan of campaign: “First of all, however, we must bring into being our movement of expansion towards the Masurian lakes and the Baltic. This is, as yet, not a fact of our daily life, yet it is the first commandment of Polish history, the historical path of the Machtpolitik of Polish people and the Polish State. … In this clash Poland, however, will be victorious only if she is not merely technically prepared by the necessary organisation and equipment of her army but also politically, by the arousing of a Polish national consciousness in the Polish population of East Prussia. . . . For, as a matter of fact, the continuance of the Polish Republic will be permanently secured only if we are victorious in the inevitable war with Germany, a war in which the latter will hurl herself as soon as she has recuperated from the defeat that she sustained in the Great War.. . .”

He concludes with an interesting statement: “The Polish expansion towards the Baltic implies at the same time a rapid industrialisation of Poland, the development of the towns and of democratic middle-class culture, the consolidation of the administrative organisation of the constitutional State, and the progress of western civilisation.”

The progress of capitalism and the extension of wage slavery is what he really means. It is to be noted that the class to which we belong is never taken into consideration.

The above is reproduced at length in order to show the reader what is operating underneath the movements of the different politicians; the Germans are just as ruthless as the Poles, but, should War come between Germany and Poland, and we be called upon to respond to a call to protect “Poor little Poland,” it is well to know what the trouble is about. There are many other authors I could quote to prove that the Poles aimed at expansion twenty years ago, but I will use just one more, Stanislau Srokovski. His work, “From the Country of the Black Cross: Notes on East Prussia,” is well worth perusing.

From 1921 to 1923 Srokovski was the Polish Consul-General at Koenigsberg. The fact that he was at one time an official Polish representative in a German province justifies one in concluding that his statements are of considerable importance.

Having stated that East Prussia has lately displayed a greater eagerness to attract settlers of the small-holder type, Srokovski continues as follows:
“Poland does not consider it in any way necessary that the East Prussian colony should attract a surplus population, since in that case there will be an increasing danger, not so much of peaceful penetration by an element foreign to the Polish race, but of the possibility of an effective armed intervention on the part of East Prussia in conjunction with simultaneous action on the part of the Reich. It does not seem superfluous to call attention to the fact that the East Prussian frontier is less than seventy miles distant from Poland’s capital.

“If the Polish part of East Prussia, the Masurian district, which by right should fall to us, cannot be severed from the province, thereby at a stroke reducing the numerical weight of the East Prussian population which is hanging over us, we ought at least to counteract, by all possible means, such a process of colonisation, which would produce over our heads, on the shores of the Baltic, a concentration of elements hostile to Poland.”
He recommends the flooding of East Prussia with cheap Polish peasant labour as a means of getting Poland entrenched in the country, but if you would understand what is behind the present controversy, carefully chew your cud on the following:
“The idea of a Polish-German conflict in respect of the Corridor is gradually being replaced by the idea of a conflict in respect of the development and importance of East Prussia. For there is no sense in insisting on an immediate territorial connection between the Reich and East Prussia, unless the latter, which is to be bound and held fast, does actually represent a valuable and important object, and unless there are, to the north and east of it, territories into which Germany, based on East Prussia, might seek to expand. In proportion as East Prussia declines, or acquires a different and independent administration, and in proportion as Lithuania, White Russia and Latvia, with all their commercial and other possibilities, slip away from East Prussia, the less will East Prussia interest the leading political and commercial leaders of Germany. Almost automatically it would lose its importance as a German province, and would become a sort of autonomous region, more or less estranged from general German politics, and, under certain circumstances, even in opposition to them. In that case, too, the Polish-German conflict in respect of the Corridor would, almost automatically, recede into the sphere of problems devoid of actuality, and, after a further lapse of years, during which the strength of Poland would increase, it would sink more or less into oblivion.”
In other words, Srokovski, a responsible Pole, who, as Consul-General, held important posts, was advising that East Prussia be economically strangled. We can gauge from these statements the general attitude of the military caste of the fair land of Poland towards the Danzig problems.

It is the same old system that is responsible. Amid the A.R.P. and the Labour Exchange we perceive, if we look closely, that what is involved is a question of capitalist expansion and profit. So far as the working class are concerned, they will be periodically used as cannon-fodder, until they decide upon the abolition of the wages system.
Charles Lestor