Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Obituary: Ralph Critchfield (2024)

Obituary from the January 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ralph Critchfield, who wrote for the Socialist Standard for nearly 70 years under the name of Ivan, died at the beginning of November. He joined the Socialist Party in 1947 at the age of 17 after listening to outdoor speakers on Ealing Green in West London. His two brothers were also Party members. He recounted how and why he joined in an article that appeared in the World Socialist in 1985.

He was born, lived and worked in West London all his life. As a conscientious objector to ‘national service’ he was required to work at Ealing film studio. Later he worked, as many from the area did, for Hoover in Western Avenue. Dissatisfied with a useless office job there, he changed career to become a probation officer.

His first article appeared in 1949, with the others following more frequently. In 1960 he became a member of the Editorial Committee, a position in which he served for a decade or so. From then until his last article in 2018 he wrote at least one every month, a remarkable achievement. An accomplished and skilful writer, his articles were not just straight expositions of the case for socialism — though he did draft a pamphlet of that title that was published in 1962. There were many exposing the horrors of war and what wars mean for ordinary people. He particularly specialised in analysis of politicians, parliament and the main political parties of capitalism, writing columns for the Standard on this theme for many years, including ‘Caught In the Act’ and ‘Greasy Pole’. There were also many pieces about daily life, sometimes based on his personal experience. In fact, if you were to go through them you would know that he must have worked for Hoover and later had a job in the criminal justice system. However, he never seemed to have mentioned playing rugby or being a rugby referee.

He stood as the Socialist Party candidate for parliament at two general elections — in Hampstead in 1974 and in Islington in 1979. He was also a candidate on a number of occasions in local elections in Ealing. In addition, he represented the Party in a number of public debates against opponents ranging from the Communist Party to a future Conservative MP.

Ralph Critchfield was a dedicated socialist who was engaged for over 70 years in the struggle for socialism and who made a massive contribution to the cause. A Party member spoke at his non-religious funeral. Our condolences go to his wife and family.

Cooking the Books: Does austerity breed extremism? (2024)

The Cooking the Books column from the January 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

In an article entitled ‘Austerity in Europe has huge consequences for its politics’ Mehreen Khan, Economics Editor of The Times, cited research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which suggested a link between the severity of austerity and votes for ‘extreme’ parties:
‘An MIT study covering more than 200 European elections between 1980-2015 found that deep fiscal consolidation ‘leads to a significant increase in extreme parties’ vote share, lower voter turnout and a rise in political fragmentation’. . . The researchers noted that centre-left governments paid the highest political price for their austerity drives’ (28 November).
This has a certain logic. The mainstream political parties, especially those of the ‘centre-left’, such as the Labour Party in this country, promise that, if elected, they will make things better. Voters believe them, and when these parties fail to deliver, seek an explanation. Few accept the socialist view that, however determined or competent or honest these governments might have been, they were doomed to fail because they set themselves the impossible task of making capitalism work to serve the interest of the majority. After turning from centre-right to centre-left and back again and seeing them both repeatedly fail, it would be surprising if there wasn’t an increase in the number of voters turning against both of them.

The end of the post-war boom in the mid-1970s brought about what has been called ‘the fiscal crisis of the capitalist state’. Governments found themselves unable to maintain the same level of spending on social reforms as before without undermining the accumulation of more capital out of profits that is the driving force of the capitalist economy. Since then, during the slump phase of the boom-slump economic cycle, they try to encourage investment for profit to resume by cutting back on their spending so as to reduce the burden of taxation on profits. This ‘deep fiscal consolidation’ (aka austerity) involves cutbacks in social benefits and in the provision of public services and amenities.

It is not as if centre-left governments want to impose austerity. They are compelled to by economic forces beyond their control which dictate that priority must be given to profits and conditions for profit-making on pain of making things worse as it is the pursuit of profits that drives the capitalist economy.

When governments, inevitably due to the nature of capitalism, fail to make things better some voters blame not capitalism but the politicians who have failed to make it work for them and even see politicians as a self-serving elite. Some give up bothering to vote, saying that ‘they are all the same’ (which, actually, is essentially true). Others turn to new political parties which denounce the conventional parties as rival gangs of professional politicians who are in it for themselves (as, again, many obviously are, not that it would make any difference if they weren’t).

Unlike in the 1930s these parties don’t blame political democracy, they blame the conventional reformist politicians who currently operate within it. They are ‘extreme’ in the sense that, being xenophobic and ultra-nationalist, they are at one end of the nationalist spectrum on which the conventional parties situate themselves too.

It goes without saying that, if ever they become the government, they will no more be able to make capitalism work for everybody than the mainstream reformist parties that they denounce. It is capitalism, not self-serving politicians, that is the cause of the problem.

Letter: Edinburgh – then and now (2024)

Letter to the Editors from the January 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the late twentieth century I moved from Rome to Edinburgh. It was a spur of the moment life-changing decision. I was worried that, after having loved living in the eternal city and being amazed daily at the beauty surrounding me, I might just be a little disappointed in my new surroundings.

But coming out of Waverley station on a cold bright November morning, my breath was taken away, not just by the cold but by the beauty of what confronted me. To my left was the splendid castle on the hill and looking down away from me the most spectacular skyline I had ever seen. It was a mixture of medieval, Gothic, Georgian splendour arranged in a harmonious descent from the castle to Holyrood – the Royal Mile. In the almost 10 years I was then to spend in Edinburgh I came to know the city intimately. I had no car and every day discovered more architectural beauty. This had truly to be one of the most beautiful cities ever.

In mid-November this year, I visited Edinburgh again for the first time since. I went for the day with my partner to see an art exhibition we had looked forward to for some time. I eagerly described to him the visual pleasure he would enjoy on emerging from the station.

What I found when we did emerge shocked me profoundly. It’s something I found hard to take in. The gardens which divided Princes Street from the Royal Mile had all but disappeared under an avalanche of commercial tat. The view of the castle was practically obliterated by a huge Ferris wheel, a ghastly ‘fun fair’ with all the attendant noise and clatter. And then, my own personal nightmare, a ‘Christmas market’. And so many retail outlets, cafes, bars with all the familiar names. I remembered spending time in what had been a beautiful urban space hand-feeding squirrels.

And then it came to me again, as it so often does, how capitalism will stop at nothing, will, for profit-making reasons, defile and ruin the most beautiful and precious of what makes us rejoice as humans. Yet how much real profit has been gained from this desecration compared to the pleasure and respite this beautiful place gave to residents and visitors to Edinburgh alike? The exhibition was fantastic but my heart was so very sad.
Joy Baszucki

Labour, Tory, same old story (2024)

From the January 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

A wise old commentator used to say: ‘Governments are not elected, they are dismissed.’ And, after Labour’s recent by-election wins and the increasing mess the Tories are in, that seems a perfect fit for the likely outcome of next year’s General Election. But if Labour do win next year, what difference will it make? A ‘man in the street’ interviewed by the BBC following those by-elections said ‘it will just be different people doing the same things’. The socialist view is that he wasn’t far wrong. Of course a Labour government may go a little bit easier than the Tories on, say, refugees and the unions, but in the overall picture of people’s lives the difference will be minimal. Experience has shown that, whatever a government’s promises or intentions, they are not in control of the system they administer. The market is in control, and the rule of the market is maximisation of profit for the class that owns the resources and the productive capacity of society – the capitalist class. No government, no matter how well-meaning, can get around this.

Democratic decision-making
So we may vote Labour or Tory and think this is part of a democratic process. But it is so only in an extremely superficial sense. That’s because, owing to the way ‘democracy’ operates in the society we live in, none of us are allowed to take the really important decisions, the ones about the distribution of wealth, the environment, education, health, peace, and so on. The one decision we are allowed to take is who shall take all those decisions for us. And this happens only once every few years. In between voting times we have virtually no involvement in the decisions that affect our lives. They are made from on high by governments or leaders of one kind or another, or, at work, by employers. And such decisions, whether political or economic, reflect at bottom the needs of the market – the world market in which both governments and businesses operate – and in that context good or bad intentions count little.

What would a properly democratic system look like? It would be one in which people take all the decisions about the things that concern them – a society without governors and governed, without leaders and led, without employers and employed. Instead of people having to accept the decisions of those in charge, it means cooperating voluntarily to run society and all its resources and technology in our own mutual interest – no rich and poor, no haves and have-nots. And all this without money or markets. Some would say this is too idealistic, utopian even. But we don’t think so and we’ll try to explain why.

Ownership and wealth
Firstly, the society of equality we’re suggesting definitely isn’t possible if a small minority continue to have control of most of the wealth by being employers, landowners or shareholders and the rest of us have to scramble to find employment and then depend on the wage or salary that gives us to get by. All this is unnecessary because the resources, technology and skills that exist in the world today could, if used rationally, provide enough – far more than enough in fact – in the way of goods and services to satisfy the needs of the whole of the Earth’s population (8.1 billion). This doesn’t happen at present because the economic system that exists the world over – capitalism – dictates that only what can be sold will be produced. It doesn’t matter if people need food, even to the extent of starving from lack of it. They won’t get that food unless it’s ‘economically viable’ for it to go to them – that is, unless they’ve got the money to pay for it. The same applies to everything else too – houses, clothing, transport, and so on – meaning that even in an economically advanced country like the UK, for example, millions of people live in poverty and go short of good food, warmth and decent housing because they haven’t got the means to pay for it.

Cooperation and competition
Given this state of affairs, what is the objection to our all deciding, via democratic political action, to organise our resources so that production takes place to satisfy human needs and not to make a profit on the market? All it needs is for us to establish a new system of ownership where we own all the means of production together and take freely from what is produced according to our needs. In such a system, democratic decisions will be taken by everyone about organisation, production and distribution, replacing money as the organising principle of society.

But will it break down in chaos because human beings are naturally competitive and acquisitive and will grab everything they can if it’s freely available? We don’t think so, since, though humans can certainly be grabbing and competitive, they can also be (and most of us are in our normal day-to-day relations) cooperative and generous. We are in fact what our situation makes us – and if there is enough to satisfy all our needs, we are much more likely to be generous than irrationally acquisitive, to be socially cooperative than selfishly competitive. We’re not basing our arguments on an appeal to people to be ‘good’ or idealistic’. We’re simply asking them to see that a fundamental change in the way society is organised is in their interests and in all our interests. The reward will be lifelong security for all as we meet our own and the Earth’s basic needs.

Fairness and equality?
There may be much talk of fairness and equality from a coming Labour government, but one thing we can be sure of is that, for the reasons outlined here, they will not be able to deliver that. And we can also be sure that there will be no talk from them of the only possible condition under which fairness and equality can meaningfully exist – the classless, stateless, moneyless society that we call socialism.
Howard Moss

News from Canada: it’s the same the whole world over (2024)

From the January 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

To put it mildly youth violence in Toronto is on the increase. Violent incidents in schools have spiked beyond pre-pandemic levels, with shootings and stabbings occurring in broad daylight on school grounds. Nor is it just in schools; in the last year a 16-year-old was stabbed to death outside a subway station; a 15-year-old was injured in a drive-by shooting; another 15-year-old shot inside his home, with an 18-year-old charged with second degree murder. A 1,766 page report on youth violence was published by the provincial government in 2008, but little has been done to implement its recommendations. In 2014 Toronto city council voted to develop a ‘Youth Equity Strategy’, but didn’t follow up on it because it was underfunded. If these plans had been acted on it would still be a case of trying to solve the problem within capitalism. In other words, using a band-aid when a major operation is called for.


The unemployment situation in Canada remains pretty much the same every month. In October 18,000 new jobs were added to the economy, but the unemployment rate went up from 5.5 percent to 5.7 percent. This was due to the population growth as more immigrants, many of them refugees, came here. Stats-Canada said one third of Canadians reported that they found it very difficult to make ends meet when it came to transportation, housing, food, clothing and other necessary expenses. So it never gets better and still most folk believe capitalism is the best of all economic systems.


The auto-workers union Unifor has completed a deal for their members that secured wage gains for production workers which will be 28 percent at the end of the contract. Other improvements include better pensions, job security, bonus pay and more vacation days. Sounds good doesn’t it? But you know what, many of the beneficiaries of these gains are pissed-off the union didn’t do more for them. An example are the workers at Stellantis who voted 54 percent to accept the new contract. According to Larry Savage, Brock University Labour Study Professor, ‘Workers aren’t content to tread water in the context of a cost-of-living crisis; they expect their unions to do more for them at the bargaining table’. The auto-workers have been badly treated over the last 15 years and they know the gains the union made will soon be wiped out. As long as capitalism lasts the working class will struggle.


It’s a surprising fact that 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is discharged into waterways untreated. Some folks may think it would be different in an industrialized country like Canada, but it’s only a matter of degree. The average Canadian household uses 630 litres a day, about a third of it goes down the drain. One doesn’t hear about it until something goes wrong, which happened in Hamilton, Ontario in January, when it was found it had been leaking sewage into Lake Ontario for 26 years. In Nova Scotia, 25 percent of the wastewater goes untreated and in Newfoundland and Labrador its 38 percent. The reason is the treatment systems are expensive to build and maintain. In Vancouver the new facility under construction may cost 5 times more than its initial $700 million budget. That’s so typical of capitalism, there has to be a price tag on everything.


A recent news program informed us that the use of food banks in Toronto has increased 60 percent since Covid and 38 percent more than last year. With the cost of groceries going up, rent hikes and mortgage interest rates increasing some folks have no recourse but to use food banks. Though they’re probably grateful to the food bank they use, nevertheless isn’t it a case of life being so crummy under crapitalism that economic necessity has brought a part of socialism into being? People come in, take what they need and leave without paying. It’ll be better when all society is like that.

Food banks in Canada are seeing a surge of international students using them, in fact the manager of one of them in Brampton, Ontario had so many student users he banned them. The number of study permits in Canada has tripled in the past decade, from 300,000 in 2013 to 900,000 now. Through spending and tuition they contribute $22 billion to the economy. Many work 40 hours a week to pay tuition, live, and have to work 2 and sometimes 3 jobs to stay afloat. This fall, tuition fees are, on average, $22,061 for graduate studies and $88,081 for undergrads. With declining government funding, post-secondary educational institutions have turned to international students to bring in the bucks. Though nearly all of them work, it’s at low paid jobs like retail, warehousing, factories and fast-food joints. With rents the way they are it’s no wonder they go to food banks. So the lack-of-moral to the story is that the international students are learning what life under capitalism, especially in Canada, is really like.


On November 3, federal Environment Minister, Steve Guillbeault, signed a deal with the B.C. government and Indigenous leaders to protect 30 percent of B.C’s land by 2030. The federal government will invest up to $500 million over the next seven years with B.C. contributing $563 million, which includes $150 million to protect old-growth forests. Though the federal funding has yet to be allocated specifically, nevertheless it will include $104 million to restore the habitats of species at risk. One the one hand it sounds great but on the other we do live under capitalism and therefore must ask what happens after 2030? And what about the rest of this planet? It’s just another band-aid reform and like all reforms they don’t go far enough rooting the problem.


Canada’s rate of inflation fell to 3.1 percent in October down from 3.8 percent in September, but it didn’t feel like it if you’re paying for a place to live. The Consumer Price Index showed the cost of shelter rose by 6.1 percent, up from 6 percent in September. Mortgage interests costs rose 30.5 percent from last year, while rent rose 8.2 percent up from 7.3 percent in September. In the lowest earning 25 percent of Canadians, 91 percent of household income goes to shelter, food, transportation and utilities. In the highest earning quarter, 30 percent of their income goes to those 4 necessities. Any comment is unnecessary.


Saskatchewan’s energy minister Dustin Duncan said, on November 21, that the federal government’s target to have zero-net emissions by 2035 is just not doable in Saskatchewan. He said it would cost the province $40 billion to meet those standards, which they could probably reach by 2050. Ottawa would require all electricity to be from renewable sources such as wind or hydro or to be equipped with carbon capture technology by 2035. The provincial Premier, Scott Moe, said earlier this year that Saskatchewan could not abide by those regulations and might continue to run some of its natural gas and coal facilities till the mid-2040s. What a laugh; capitalism creates a lousy, stinking problem and its main upholders can’t agree how to solve it.


Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland revealed the federal budget on November 21. The Liberal government is promising $15 billion in low-interest loans to support the construction of low-rental homes, with new money starting to flow in 2 years. Freeland said the biggest challenge was to deal with people’s concerns while not running up the government’s bills. This money will be spent over the next 6 years, but $2.5 billion is money being reallocated from other programs, so someone will have to suffer. Almost $8.5 billion will be spent on a host of clean economy subsidies including cash for new electric vehicle battery factories from Stellantis and Northvolt. It will spend $1 billion on non-profit, co-op and public housing initiatives that will build more than 7,000 homes by 2028. The government said they will make changes to the Affordable Housing and Groceries Act, which would strengthen the power of Canada’s Competition Bureau to crack down on companies by combating regulatory pricing and anti-competition mergers. The media reaction is that the government are like the rest of Canada, cash-strapped but doing its best. We’ve all heard that about other governments, but they always find lots of money to finance war. As for the above — we shall see. Miracle making buffoonery!


International students aren’t the only foreign folk having a hard time in Canada. In its issue of November 4 the Toronto Star published an article about foreign agricultural workers in farms across Canada. They work 14 hour days for weeks at a time without a day off or overtime pay. If they complain they are threatened with deportation. Thousands leave their homes every year to work on farms in an industry which contributes 7 percent of Canada’s GDP. Tomoya Obakata, the UN’s expert on present-day forms of slavery, said Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Programs: ‘are a breeding ground for modern forms of slavery’. He was deeply disturbed by the accounts of exploitation and abuse that workers told him about on a recent fact-finding mission to Canada. It’s The Grapes of Wrath all over again and goes to prove that for all capitalism’s amazing technology, for the world’s working (wage-slave) class, life doesn’t fundamentally change.


There is a bit of a stink in Canada now that Michael Spavor has accused Michael Kovrig of being a spy for China. These two guys were both imprisoned in China in 2018, days after Canada’s arrest of a Chinese executive, Meng Wanzhou, who was wanted in the U.S. on criminal fraud charges. She reached a plea deal with the U.S., after which the two Michaels were released. Spavor now claims he was fooled by Kovrig into giving up information on North Korea, which was, he thinks, the reason he was arrested. Kovrig said his job was to get China to persuade North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons technology and was never involved in espionage. Spavor was, at the same time, running a non-governmental organization whose function was to promote business and cultural exchanges with North Korea. It doesn’t matter to the working class of either, or in fact, any country whether these guys were spies or not. Commercial rivalries between different sections of the capitalist class are something the working class have no stake in.

From Socialist Party of Canada’s December Newsletter

What competition for profits means (2024)

From the January 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Built into capitalism is competition between states and trading blocs for markets, raw material sources, trade routes, and strategic points to protect these. In fact capitalism is an economic system based on a competitive struggle for profits.

Military spending by states is an aspect of this competition as even in diplomatic negotiations might is right, meaning that states have to spend as much as they can afford on weapons of war. This waste of resources on instruments of death and destruction and training people how to use them is unavoidable under capitalism. When diplomacy reaches an impasse, as it tends to when the stakes for a state are high, this competition leads to wars, often proxy wars fought by local puppets of the major powers.

This competition also severely restricts what governments are able to do about the current climate crisis. If a state does too much to combat it while others don’t, it risks undermining its own competitiveness vis-à-vis other capitalist states and trading blocs.

It’s not just certain capitalist corporations such as fossil-fuel companies that are, or cause, the problem; it’s the whole capitalist system of production for profit. Governments can’t adopt policies to bring about a sustainable economy because that would be to go against the nature of capitalism as a system of unending capital accumulation out of profits, as reflected by rising GDP. A sustainable system of production will only be possible in a world socialist system when there will no longer be the economic pressure to make and accumulate profits as more and more capital.

No effective and lasting measures will be able to be implemented until the Earth’s natural and industrial resources have become the common heritage of all humanity. Then we can tackle this problem in a rational way without profit considerations or vested interests. All working people throughout the world have a common interest in getting rid of capitalism and nation-states and their frontiers. In a frontierless post-capitalist society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the world’s resources, ie, socialism properly understood, we will all be ‘citizens of the world’. Then there will be no waste of armaments or the threat — and reality — of war.

Halo Halo! (2024)

The Halo Halo! column from the January 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics’
Robert Heinlein, Time Enough For Love, 1973.

As if flying wasn’t stressful enough, two instances have been reported of aircraft passengers being subjected to close encounters of the weird kind on American air transportation. Is it a mania brought about by, in their own minds, being twenty thousand feet nearer to the North Korea in the sky to which they aspire? Remember, Jesus and his dad ‘love’ you, but only if you give them blind, unconditional, fanatical, eternal praise and devotion, otherwise it’s ‘off to the gulag with you laddie and lassie’.

On Delta airways an American female gospel singer was in an altercation with a flight attendant after she attempted to perform and proselytise to the passengers. ‘I’m doing what the Lord is telling me to do,’ she said. Voices in the head; isn’t there a term for that? At least those who used to stand on the street wearing a sandwich-board that said ‘Repent! Judgement is at hand’ could be more easily ignored. As could Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons appearing on your doorstep. Two steps backward and a shut door in that instance prevent further unwanted disruption to your life. But imagine if you’re captive in an aeroplane and…

…here we go again. A woman is having what’s described as a ‘huge meltdown’ on a Frontier Airline’s flight. A beanie-wearing female passenger shouts that the breakdown is being caused by a ‘real devil that wants to kill each and every one of y’all including your family members’. Isn’t she getting her religions mixed up? ‘She’s possessed!’ The devil is real, beanie woman shouts. ‘She needs help! I’ll tell you right now, Jesus Christ is the way, there’s nobody that’s gonna come to God, the Father, without Jesus Christ.’ ‘Who doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ?’ (educate yourself; read the surveys, more and more every day), the woman demands as people mutter. ‘If y’all don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I suggest you find one.’

It’s not reported whether this suggestion was politely declined or whether other suggestions of their own came from the passengers subjected to this unwanted tirade (MailOnline 12 and 22 November).

These ladies have been missing a trick, which is, this sort of thing with a television audience of many more than a plane full can earn you loads of bucks.

The Guardian (4 November) reports that the new American House of Representatives Republican Speaker, Mike Johnson, has an ‘inerrant biblical truth leading him to reject science. Johnson was a ‘young earth creationist’, holding that a literal reading of Genesis means that the Earth is only a few thousand years old and humans walked alongside dinosaurs’.

Caught in the Middle (2024)

Book Review from the January 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Goodbye Eastern Europe. An Intimate History of a Divided Land. By Jacob Mikanowski. Oneworld. 2023. 375pp.

Jacob Mikanowski’s book tells of how over many centuries, in what we still commonly call Eastern Europe, people and territories mixed, split and merged and empires came and went. Goodbye Eastern Europe is remarkable both for the eloquence and flair with which it is written and for the immensely broad and detailed knowledge it displays of the complex history of so many peoples and so many lands, into which the author also poignantly interweaves the story of his own Polish family. In a wide-ranging and dramatic but dispassionate narrative of shifting frontiers, multi-layered identities and changing nationalities, we view both worlds that have vanished and new cultures and systems of governments that have arisen, from medieval times right up to the present day, with even a perspective on the current war in Ukraine.

In comparing Eastern to Western Europe the author points to major developmental differences. In the West, he writes, ‘rulers worked hard to homogenize their states’, ‘the equation between ethnic and linguistic belonging began very early’, and ‘the machinery of the state worked like a giant steamroller, ironing out differences wherever they could be found’. In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, empires were much more pragmatic, tending to accept and indeed ‘accentuate difference rather than suppress it’. So, for example, Christians of all persuasions and Jews were allowed to manage their own affairs by the Ottomans and the Hapsburgs. A Hungarian king, we are told, ‘lectured his son about the usefulness of immigrants’ on the grounds that ‘a kingdom of one language and one custom is weak and fragile’ and newcomers should be treated ‘with goodwill and honor’, in order that ‘they will prefer to live with you rather than inhabit any other place’. So Eastern Europe became a land of diversity and difference and remained largely so until the wars of the last two centuries tore the old empires apart (the Ottoman Empire, for example, ‘was crumbling like a mouthful of rotten teeth’), and made it begin to take on the homogenized, nationalistic model of the Western nation state. At the end of the First World War, in particular, with these new political formations taking shape, the map of Eastern Europe ‘resembled a sky full of shifting clouds’, as national mythologies (that ‘nemesis of the working class’, as someone has put it) developed.

Part 3, the last main section of this book, deals with how these clouds shifted and eventually came to rest, via a series of illuminating chapters entitled, respectively, ‘Moderns’, ‘Prophets’, ‘War’, ‘Stalinism’, ‘Socialism’ and ‘Thaw’, and ranging over the whole stretch of what could be called Eastern Europe from Poland and the Baltic states in the north to Bulgaria and Albania in the south. The chapter on war – World War 2 – though magisterially and dispassionately told, is hard to read for its unflinching account of the near extermination of the Jewish people in the Holocaust. Then, in the chapter on Stalinism in particular, while not dwelling on the horrors of the Soviet pre-war period when millions of Stalin’s supposed ‘enemies’ were starved, deported or eliminated, the author presents a stark view of the expansion of the Soviet dictatorship from 1939 onwards, as it initially took in eastern Poland and the Baltic states and then, after the end of the Second World War, completed the process of domination, in which ‘every country in the region was a one-party state, dominated by a local version of the Communist Party’, with leaders approved by Stalin who ‘dictated their foreign policies and determined their relationships with the rest of the world’. This was, as the author so eloquently puts it, the ‘dreamworld of High Stalinism’, a revolution ‘imposed not from below but from above, and not from within but from without’. It was, furthermore, he tells us, not just a model of political oppression but also failed to provide anything resembling decent living standards to its working masses and any claim to be establishing socialism was ‘shameless puffery’.

A contradictory and misleading thing, unfortunately, is that, having said this, the title he gives to the chapter that comes next, referring to the Khruschev-Brezhnev era that followed Stalinism, is ‘Socialism’. Misleading both because the reality of this era bore no relation to the classless, stateless, moneyless society of free access that proper socialism is and also because the author himself then goes on to portray that reality as very much the same as before but in a milder version. He characterises it thus: ‘Stalinism eliminated its enemies. The socialist regimes that followed neutralized them instead’. Whatever the case, it carried on being, as he puts it, ‘a realm of deceit, of empty slogans and meaningless exhortations’ as well as ‘status and scarcity’, where queues were one of’ ‘the defining experiences of life’.

It could not last and, from 1989 onwards, what the author – again misleadingly – calls ‘real socialism’ began to break up, both in the satellite states and the Soviet Union itself, leading to what he refers to as ‘thaw’. He sees this shift as a process of moving from socialism to capitalism, whereas in reality capitalism already existed in the East. It was not the private or ‘mixed economy’ capitalism of the West but capitalism nonetheless, state capitalism, a system with all the characteristic features of that system – money and wages, buying and selling, an elite class controlling (if not formally owning) the means of production and living off the benefits of this. Something that is still largely the case in countries such as China and Cuba.

The following overview in the book’s epilogue provides a fitting epitaph: ‘For Eastern Europe, the twentieth century was a century of barely interrupted cataclysms. The old ties that bound people together dissolved, only to be replaced with murderous aggression. As rival armies flooded into the region from east and west, neighbour killed neighbour. When the wars ended, mass expulsions and population transfers unravelled what was left of the old Eastern European tapestry’.
Howard Moss

Film Review: Miss Marx (2024)

Film Review from the January 2024 issue of the Socialist Standard

Miss Marx. Director: Susanna Nicchiarelli.

Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen had 3 children who survived into adulthood: young Jenny, Laura and Eleanor. This film is about the latter. The film starts in March 1883 with Karl’s funeral, and ends in March 1898 with Eleanor’s suicide. The film shows Eleanor (nicknamed ‘Tussy’) meeting the socialist playwright Edward Aveling at her father’s funeral, and charts how he neglected her, over the next 15 years.

Miss Marx was written and directed by the Italian Susanna Nicchiarelli and is an Italian-Belgian co-production. The biggest problem with the film is you have to do your homework before watching it. The first time I saw it, I was constantly asking: ‘who is that?’ and ‘how do these characters know each other?’ Once I did some research, the film was much more enjoyable on second viewing. The final half-hour of it is too slowly paced, and also features a bizarre scene in which Eleanor smokes opium and dances around her house to punk-rock music (really). The most glaring omission from Miss Marx is that there’s no William Morris and no mention of the Socialist League (the party they helped to found as a breakaway from the increasingly reformist Social Democratic Federation).

Nicchiarelli crosses the creative-licence-line when it comes to (Karl Marx’s housekeeper) Helene’s son, Freddy. In the film, Engels is depicted as being Freddy’s father, however, the former confesses (on his deathbed) that Karl is the latter’s real father. While it’s up for debate whether or not Freddy was Karl’s son, Engels did not adopt him.

Moving on to the positives: the film has an amazing punk-rock soundtrack (provided by the band the Downtown Boys); the acting is excellent; it’s a wonderfully made motion picture; and it includes some great moments of the titular character delivering some of Eleanor Marx’s real speeches/writings (either directly to the camera, or to an audience within the film).

The best moment in the film was when young Jenny’s son, Johnny, is upset about his grandpa (Karl Marx) dying, so he asks Eleanor if she’s sure there isn’t an afterlife. Eleanor tells him that there isn’t, and, to comfort him, she says: ‘Think of it this way, if we’re wrong and there really is a life after this one, then Grandpa is surely burning in hell.’
Matthew Shearn

Proper Gander: An appetite for profit (2024)

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

The usual template followed by TV documentaries presents issues in a frustratingly simplistic way, reshaping and reducing them to fit the pattern. The format starts with a speedy summary of what’s to come, which assumes the viewer doesn’t have the patience to see a story unfold. The rest of the programme is still edited in a snappy way which jumps around from one aspect of the topic to another, just at a less fast pace. Scenes of the reporter speaking with victims and experts on the issue are usually short, cutting down their explanations to a minimum in case we lose interest. Statistics aren’t very visual, so evidence of wrongdoing is livened up as shaky footage filmed undercover by the reporter with some personal risk of being rumbled. Bouncing between briefly sketched out aspects of a problem doesn’t give the subject enough depth, nor help the viewer comprehend it. Watching a documentary which keeps to this template is like watching edited highlights of the start of a more substantial programme. Problems are revealed and questions are raised, but any answers suggested never reach the fundamental causes or reasons. The usual implication is that different state regulation will resolve the issue, although why such reforms have never brought about a capitalist paradise isn’t considered. The companies which produce mainstream documentaries are embedded in the system, and so aren’t going to look beyond it.

A recent example of this formula being followed was BBC Three’s The Skinny Jab Uncovered, an investigation into the availability of semaglutide. This is medication which has been developed over recent years to manage type 2 diabetes and which also works as an appetite suppressant. NHS doctors are only likely to prescribe it to help with weight loss for people who are classed as obese. Other people who want to lose weight and can’t afford a private prescription can easily find lots of cheaper traders in semaglutide at beauty salons or online who won’t ask any questions apart from what their payment details are. Most people hear about it on social media such as Facebook, TikTok and Instagram. Demand grown by online promotion and discussion has outstripped supply, leading to a global shortage.

The product is a white powder which buyers mix with a liquid and then inject themselves with. The people attempting this aren’t likely to have had any medical training beforehand, and the packs they receive don’t even tend to come with instructions. Buying semaglutide from a salon can be accompanied by haphazard advice from staff about dosage and administration, as revealed by undercover filming. Some packets are stamped with words like ‘not for human consumption’ or ‘for research purposes only’, intended as a get-out clause for the seller if anyone makes any complaints after using it. Understandably confused buyers have tried to work out what to do for themselves or have turned to social media groups for guidance, with posts such as ‘I’m a bit scared’ and ‘hopefully I don’t die’. Some have experienced unpleasant side effects such as nausea and ended up in hospital. The manufactured desire to be thin makes some people accept or overlook the risks which come with self-administering what’s sold as semaglutide.

Reporter Pria Rai buys 12 packs from various suppliers and sends them off to a laboratory for analysis. Perhaps surprisingly, as many as eight were pure samples, with the others being adulterated with sugar or containing no semaglutide at all. Diluting drugs with cheaper substances is a longstanding tactic by dodgy manufacturers and dealers to maximise how much money they make from each dose. Semaglutide made illicitly is likely to come from producers working outside state regulation, which further saves on costs which come with safeguards and testing. All this means that as well as being unsure how to use the product safely, buyers are unsure what they’re putting into themselves.

When Pria contacts the companies selling packets containing little or no semaglutide, they reply with flat denials or abuse and gloating. These sellers represent the weight loss industry at its most blatant. While semaglutide suppresses the appetite for food, it has fuelled an appetite for profit. Making money by encouraging and preying on insecurity about looks is more important to sellers than acting responsibly about a medical procedure. This has led to dubious tactics to reduce production costs and also unreliable and extravagant claims to promote sales of the product. The documentary doesn’t explain the weight loss industry in this way, though, and just ends with a quick mention that the government’s regulator is investigating.

How would this situation play out in a socialist society? Does the principle of free access to goods and services mean that anyone could have substances such as semaglutide on demand? The practicalities would be for people at the time to decide, but any responsible society would have safeguards around medication which had the potential to be used in a harmful way. Regulation of medication in a socialist society would only be based on the best available knowledge of its properties, a framework to make decisions which wouldn’t have to compete with an obsolete need to make money. This means that the current risks with semaglutide wouldn’t apply, such as the adulteration of black market supplies to minimise costs, and responsible use being linked to what people can afford. There would be no reason to produce or administer it in a way which encouraged harm. And what place would a substance like semaglutide have in a socialist society, apart from its use to treat diabetes? We don’t know to what extent people would crave an appetite suppressant as a dieting technique, but it’s likely to be less than today. Attitudes to weight, attractiveness and health would differ, and wouldn’t be shaped by an economic market, and in particular by industries which profit from manipulating how we want to look.
Mike Foster

Socialist Sonnet No. 131: Self Defence (2024)

 From the Socialism or Your Money Back blog
‘Self-defence’ is the mantra that’s cited,

These days, for acts of aggression that’re launched,

So unwonted threats to free trade may be staunched

And economies saved from being blighted.

Or as a response to atrocity,

Fully justifying, or so it’s claimed

Greater atrocities, counting the maimed

And the dead as an acceptable fee.

Then left right march in solidarity

With whichever cause, with judgment’s suspense

Is deemed to be acting in self-defence,

By those whose partial view lacks clarity.

Best self-defence, for a good life and health?

Transcend borders, choose a world commonwealth.

D. A.

The Clapham Commoners

How's this for serendipity? 

Just 45 minutes ago I visited Andrew Whitehead's excellent website to snaffle an image of John Burns from the 1880s to accompany this front page article from the April 1906 Socialist Standard and, as an afterthought, I thought I'd check out Andrew's latest posts on his website. 

What do I find as his most recent post in 2024?  . . .  An account of his recent visit to the SPGB's Head Office in Clapham, South London.

Okay, his piece is gently mocking in its tone in places but that's fair enough. If you're going to wrap yourself in a hostility clause for 120 years you can't be too quick to clutch at your pearls if and when someone gives it back to you in kind. And, as someone who's written about the SPGB in the past - I seem to remember a New Statesman article he wrote on Harry Young ('Horatio') in the early 1990s - he knows more about the history of the SPGB than most *cough* 'outsiders'. 

And, sadly, he is right about the current health of the SPGB. It has seen better days and it is going through one of the roughest patches in its history but the SPGB - and more importantly its ideas - aren't going to go away any time soon.

The Evolution of Revolutionary Burns. (1906)

From the April 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard
(Extracts from a speech delivered by John Burns at the Old Bailey when tried for seditious conspiracy on April 9th, 1886).
These extracts from a speech of the Burns of the Eighties have been reproduced so that the working class may have an opportunity of contrasting the present views of this Right Honourable person with the views he then enunciated. It has been, and still is, the fashion to gibe and jeer at the volte face of another Right Honourable turn-coat (Joseph Chamberlain) and no one has delighted in the exercise more than Burns himself. Yet it has recently been held to be an exhibition of bad taste to bring Burns’ own past up in evidence against him—and no one was more righteously indignant than Burns ! The Burns revolution has been far and away more complete than that of Chamberlain and it is the more conspicuous because of the price Burns received for his apostacy—a price the recipient has so often rejoiced in the size of. The hope that Burns expressed in ’86 that the penalty for the betrayal of the working class would be heavy enough to deter anyone from attempting it has not been realized. The penalty has not been enough—for Burns ! We do not, of course, suggest anything so absurd that a man may not change his view, seeing it is upon that change of view in the working class that we rely for the realization of Socialism. But we are concerned to emphasize the point that the Burns of yesterday, who has secured his present position by virtue of his influence with the unthinking working class, is very far from being the Burns of to-day. It is more necessary to emphasize this difference than many think. Undoubtedly Burns secured his following as the Burns of the Eighties—by his association as a member of the working class with working-class movements. And undoubtedly it was because this following held to the idea of a practically unchanged Burns, an idea insinuating itself into an ever wider circle, that Burns’ services as a decoy were purchased by the Liberal Party. These extracts may help to destroy that illusion. Burns is now engaged in administering that capitalist system to which he at one time traced the poverty of the working class. To-day he urges the usual capitalist argument of working-class intemperance as largely the cause of working-class poverty, where previously he designated as liars those who held such views. To-day he is a member of the same sort of government, adopting exactly the same sort of method that he denounced so roundly in ’86. Yet poverty has only intensified in the interregnum. Burns’ attitude to-day is the capitalist attitude; his method the capitalist method. Only the unthinking section of the working class could fail to note the fact that between Burns and his Tory predecessor there is no material difference. Unfortunately the unthinking section of the working class is very large. Hence these extracts.


My Lord and Gentlemen of the Jury,

… I expected that at some time of my life I should be brought face to face with the authorities for vindicating the class to which I belong. I have, from my earliest infancy, been in contact with poverty of the worst possible description . . I have done everything I could in a peaceful manner to call the attention of the authorities to the frightful amount of poverty and degradation existing among the working class . . . I heard that there was going to be a meeting of the starving unemployed of London in Trafalgar Square on February 8th. . . I reached the place at 1.30. I was recognized . . . I got upon the plinth and spoke to 13,000 or 14,000 men. . . I pointed out that a remedy could only he found by bringing pressure to bear upon Parliament and the local authorities as I had tried to do 12 months before when I had to walk the streets of London for 7 weeks for daring to speak as to the condition of the workers . . . I ask you, can you wonder at a workman’s language being strong ? I am inclined to think that the day is not far distant when stronger language will have to be used. When the Fair Traders came, I climbed up the balustrade and acted as chairman of that second meeting. Why? All know that the Fair Traders Messrs. Peters, Kelley, Kenny, Lemon and others, are regarded as arrant impostors by the workmen of London and I was desirous that there should not be a physical conflict between the unemployed and those honest but misguided men who are the dupes of these bogus representatives . . . The day of these mercenaries I am pleased to say is now over. The penalty for betraying the workers I hope, will be heavy enough to deter any man from selling their cause, as it has many times been sold. . . I found that the crowd were becoming somewhat turbulent . . and I thought it my duty to listen to the suggestion that we should proceed in procession through the West End to Hyde Park. . . No damage was done by the procession … until we reached the Carlton Club. . . There is a class of men who make it a practice on occasions of political demonstrations to laugh and jeer from the Club windows at the poverty or what they term “the great unwashed,” to to jeer at the misery their own greed has created. . . The crowd were not in a temper to respond to contemptuous jeers by a smile. . . Stone throwing commenced. And that was the result of the stupid, ungentlemanly, criminal conduct of Carlton Club members. I did my best to repress the stone throwing . . . believing as I do that window breaking, except, perhaps, as warning, is useless to effect a change in our system of Society, based as it is upon the robbery of Labour. . .

John Burns in the 1880s.
Against this system of Society, I frankly confess I am a rebel, because Society has outlawed me. I have protested against this state of Society by which at present one and a half millions of our fellow countrymen, adult males, are starving—starving because they have no work to do. Talk about strong language ! I contend my language was mild when you consider the usage they have received and that the patience under severe provocation displayed by the workers is almost slavish and cowardly. . . We come before you not as paid agitators . . . but as men anxious to change the existing system of society to one in which men should receive the full value of their labour, in which Society will be regarded as something more than a few titled non-producers who take the whole of the wealth which the useful workers alone produce. . .

If you want to remove the cause of seditious speeches, you must prevent us from having to hear as we hear to-day, of hungry poverty-stricken men, who from no fault of their own, are compelled to be out of work. . . . I have not one single word of regret to utter for the part I have taken in this agitation. . . I say we cannot have in England as we have to-day five millions living on the verge of pauperism without gross discontent. . . . I am sorry to say that it seems to be a characteristic of the Government and the governing classes to be influenced only by fear—at least Mr. Gladstone, Lord Randolph Churchill and Mr. Chamberlain say that their Governments are not susceptible to reason or appeals unless the Hyde Park railings are pulled down and the club windows broken. . . Mr. Chamberlain prior to the riots denied that exceptional distress prevailed; but about a fortnight afterwards he admitted that it was exceptional and severe. . . It (the riot) also made the landlords and capitalists surrender to the Mansion House Fund some of the proceeds of their past robbery in the shape of charity. . . That meeting of Feb. 8th called the attention of the people of Great Britain to this fact that below the upper and middle strata of Society there are millions of people leading hard degraded lives—men who through the unequal distribution of wealth are consigned to the criminal classes and women into the enormous army of prostitutes whom we see in the streets of our great cities. And as an artisan I cannot see poor puny little babes sucking empty breasts and honest men walking the streets for months at a time—I cannot hear of women of the working class being compelled to resort to prostitution to earn a livelihood—I cannot see these things without being moved not only to strong language but to strong action, if necessary. . . And when the Attorney General says we incited to riots, I say that the Social system is to blame. It prompts men to thieve and it prompts women of the working class to resort to dishonest acts by not giving all a fair start in life and not giving them an opportunity to get honest work. Society journals demand our imprisonment. Why ? Because £11,000 worth of windows have been broken. But how about the sacred human lives that have been and are being degraded and blighted by the present system—of capitalism?. .  . . 

I shall serve my cause as well inside a prison as out. The word prison has no particular terror for me. Through the present system of Society life has lost all its charm, and a hungry man said truly (as Isaiah, said in the Holy Book) that there was a time in the history of our lives when it was better to die in prison or better to die fighting than to die starving. . . The wonder is that there was not more destruction, of property and that no life was lost. If we had given the word, not a single inmate of the Carlton Club would have been alive to-day . . .

Matters Parliamentary. (1906)

From the April 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

That “zeal for reform” commented upon in last month’s Socialist Standard continues to actuate our legislative assembly. That parliamentary passion for progress still inflames the minds and ennobles the purpose of our faithful commons. We still make headway “with sledgehammer strokes.” Privilege and Corruption are like the notorious aunt of the celebrated Charley, “still running,” and hot foot upon their trail comes a press of stern, relentless champions of truth, righteousness, peace and political purity, with souls illumined by the vision of what might be and with minds revolted by the knowledge of what is. We are having a time.

* * *

And it’s all due to the “Labour” Party and their policy of independence. Straight from the forge and the bench and the coal seam (or nearly straight), they have come to fan the smouldering embers of reform into a fierce white heat once more. There they sit, a small but solidly welded phalanx, splendid in their isolation, unswerving in their determination, yet radiating a warm and genial glow that suffuses the whole house and “with new fervour fills the hearts of men.” Already this has borne wonderful fruit. Flogging has been abolished in the Navy—for an experimental twelve months to see whether the Captains can manage to rub along without it. This is a victory for humanitarianism ! The Chinese Labour Ordinance has been shewn to be not such a bad affair after all—certainly not slavery—and the Government’s decision not to interfere for the present has been upheld. This is a victory for truth ! Then the expenditure on armaments is not to be reduced which, although not a victory for retrenchment may be reckoned a victory for efficiency ! Also the fiscal status quo has been affirmed and the ghost of Protection has been laid—-a victory for industrial freedom this !

* * *

Three separate and distinct resolutions have been passed in favour of payment of members, payment of election expenses, and old age pensions subject to certain necessary precautions as to when they shall be put into operation and the scope of their application which are left to the decision of the Government. This is not exactly a victory for anything as the Government has laid it down that the time was never more inopportune for increased expenditure. The Government has a passion for economy in these directions. Yet whole-souled reformers need not be despondent. All in good time we shall have payment of members and in the interval doubtless public and private subscriptions will come to the aid of the poor but honest and honourable member for Stoke whose gallant struggle with adversity has done so much to force this (to him) pressing question upon the attention of a sympathetic house. In these matters we must, of course, make haste slowly lest financial disaster overtake us. Mr. Ward will understand this and although he is not attached to the Parliamentary “Labour” Party per se and is therefore not “independent,” he will, with Mr. Roberts who does belong to the “Labour Party” and is ” independent,” repose his perfect confidence in the intentions of the Government and will refuse to embarrass it. It is this spirit of sweet reasonableness which has endeared the “Labour” members to their capitalist fellow-workers and enabled them to achieve in so short a time so many magnificent triumphs. Which shews how, when Capital and Labour work hand-in-hand, apparently insurmountable difficulties may be overcome ! We should all be very grateful.

* * *

Nevertheless, and at the risk of incurring the opprobrium of those who rejoice in the work of the “Labour” members, we are not grateful. We find no consolation in such victories. Such exhibitions of sweet reasonableness do not appeal to us. We have no confidence in the intentions of the Government because we know the Government and its intentions. It is a capitalist government and its intentions are to maintain capitalist domination. Capitalist domination means continued working-class enslavement; working-class poverty and unhappiness. It intends to maintain the power of the class it represents by a carefully simulated sympathy for the wishes of those who claim to voice working-class requirements. That is its game. It will kill the working-class agitation with kindness.

* * *

It will accept any number of reform resolutions of the payment of members order. Why not ? They are not dangerous. On the contrary, they are advantageous to capitalist interests because they obscure the class line, they blur the antagonism existing between Capital and Labour. They convey the idea of a common concern, a common progress towards a mutual objective. If necessary the Government may even translate the resolution into practice without trepidation. It will if pressed. Yet the position of the working class will not even then be affected. How can it be ? Such legislative enactments simply do not touch the problem of poverty. But the Government is not pressed even on such immaterial matters as these. The Government accepts the resolutions on the understanding that it will fix its own time to introduce a bill and impose its own limits upon the scope of the measure. It could accept a resolution for the socialization of the means of production upon such terms.

* * *

And the “Labour” members accept these conditions without protest and have faith in the intentions of the Government ! Such sweet reasonableness ? Such damnable stupidity rather. What are such victories worth? What is the independence of the “Labour Party” worth? What are the members of the “Labour Party” worth ? And these are the men we are asked to support. These are the methods we are asked to approve. These are the individuals who swell with indignation when their actions are adversely criticised. Why, ordinary hack Liberals have more determination. The boasted “progress” they recognise and proclaim as little short of flummery. They are waiting, they say, for the curtain to rise upon a stage set for what they consider will be serious business. Some of them are prepared to move resolutions against their own party and persist, against the appeals of their own chief, to a division. But the “Labour” members are loyal to their chief. And their chief is mightily concerned because he thinks he heard another honourable member say “damn”—while political refugees are being deported back to Russia and there, on the authority of a Rothschild, shot out of hand ; and the working-class slave and die waiting in their ignorance for the men who claim to be fighting on their behalf, to act.

* * *

If they had any grit, if they had half the courage of the professions some of them have made outside the House of Commons, the “Labour ” M.P.’s would break through every form and custom of Parliament to force the hands of the Government on behalf of their class. In the past men of determination have single-handed achieved their purpose in the teeth of the whole 670 representatives of capitalism. And there are a score and ten “Labour” representatives; and they have confidence in the intentions of the Government and decline to embarrass it ! “They have no intention of pressing the Government” (Keir Hardie, 19.3.06); and their views on the land question are identical with those of the Minister of Agriculture (W. Crooks, 17.3.06) ; and they are so interested in the prolongation of the life of the present administration that Crooks, Shackleton, Snowden and others vote for the Government and against a reduction in the land forces moved by a Liberal against his Party. These men of peace and progress ; these men who are the new force in politics; these “leaders” of working-class thought; these champions of independence; these harbingers of a new era—faugh ! An ounce of civet good Mr. Apothecary while Mr. Thorne and Mr. Crooks act as advertisement touts for works on the hire-purchase system.

* * *

Outside the House, however, addressing audiences who believe in them and upon whom they rely for their standing (and their salaries), they can change their tactics. Some of them can wax quite truculent. The talk of their fellow M.P.’s they deride as piffle and the forms of the House are childish and silly. Inside the House they make slavish conformation to the childish forms, and valuable contribution to the derisive piffle. They are clothed with respectability and obsessed by desire to create favorable impressions. But outside the “whispering humbleness” can be shed. They are only anxious to drop the cackle and get to business. And as for confidence in the intentions of the Government, why—! They have no delusions as to what their reception will be when they demand substantial concessions.

* * *

“The moment,” says Mr. Keir Hardie at Swansea on the 17th ulto., “it became known that the Labour Representation Committee meant encroachment on privilege and monopoly, the fight against it would become earnest” and —

* * *

“There has been no contempt shewn in the treatment of Labour so far. Contemptuous treatment can only be extended with safety to those who are not successful and Labour has now succeeded. Vigorous and determined opposition will, no doubt, be offered to the claims of Labour WHEN its advocates demand the substantial concessions and changes which ALONE can benefit the class which the Labour Party has been specially created to give FIRST assistance to,” says Mr. J. R. Clynes in the “Labour Record.’

* * *

Then why hasn’t it become known that the L.R.C. means encroachment upon privilege? And when will “Labour’s” advocates demand those substantial concessions which alone can benefit the workers ? And why, it the Labour Party has been specially created to give first attention to these substantial concessions, haven’t they been given first attention ? What are they fooling about ? Why don’t they drop the cackle and get to business? We are tired of their damnable faces and their smug conceits and their oppressive respectability.

* * *

They would not matter were it not for the unfortunate fact that a considerable section of the working class who sit in darkness, are content to pin their hopes of beneficial change to these gentlemen. To us it is all important that the working class should understand why they are poor. Until they do, they cannot take effective action. And the only way by which that may be accomplished is by the consistent and emphatic declaration of the class struggle. The class struggle is submerged by the Parliamentary pirouettes of the Labour Party marrionettes and the working class mind is confused by their vacillations and quick changes. That is why we protest more particularly against the actions of the “Labour” M.P’s. It is our business to hit as hard as possible those individuals whose work is most calculated to keep the workers in darkness. Just as the most dangerous enemy is the false friend, so the most dangerous working class leader is he who, attached to the working class by birth and breeding, leads that class into an intellectual morass while ostensibly helping them in the direction of their desires. Labour, said Mr. Clynes, has now succeeded. It has—in raising another obstacle to its own progress.