Saturday, April 13, 2024

Readers in the United States (1933)

Notice from the April 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

Readers of the Socialist Standard in the U.S.A. are invited to get into touch with the Workers' Socialist
Party at the following addresses:—
Headquarters, 138, East 28rd Street, New York City.
Local Bolton, Mass., Fred Jacobs, Secretary, 118c, Warren Street, Roxbury, Mass.
Local Detroit, Mich., Nils Akervall, Secretary, 70, Ferry W., Detroit, Mich.
Local Los Angeles, Calif., Helen Dyer, Secretary, 8011, Tillie Street, Los Angeles, Calif.



The Socialist Party of Great Britain and Questions of the Day (1933)

Party Notice from the April 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain 
and Questions of the Day

Deals with the founding of the Socialist Party, the Liberal, Tory, Labour and Communist parties and the I.L.P., the Russian Dictatorship, War, Trade Unions, Social Reforms etc

80 Pages—Price 3d. (Post free—4d.)

War and Socialism

Do you know why modern wars occur ?
Do you know what is the Socialist attitude towards war ?
Do you know why Socialists are not  Pacifists?
Do you know that the S.P.G.B. was the only political organisation in Great Britain which proclaimed its Socialist opposition to the Great War immediately it broke out and kept to that attitude throughout the War ?
Do you know what attitude you as a worker should take up towards war?

For answers to these and other questions read

“THE S.P.G.B. AND QUESTIONS 
OF THE DAY."
80 pages for 3d. Post free 4d.

The German Communist Party (1933)

From the April 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent asks if the Communist Party of Germany represents a real revolutionary backing to the extent indicated by its vote of five millions. If not, what is the programme on which this vote is obtained.

The German Communist Party, like the Communist Party of Great Britain, is a party based in the main on discontent without any serious understanding of capitalism or Socialism. Because the German Social Democratic Party ever since the war has been associated with the Governments of Germany, discontent with capitalism has undermined the popularity of that party and built up the Communist Party and Hitler's Party. Although all three parties (including Hitler's Party) claim to be Socialist, none of them has tried to do more than to exploit every kind of discontent. Consequently, at all times, many items have been common to all three programmes. But beyond these common items each party has made its own particular appeal. The Communists have stressed their doctrine of street-fighting and armed uprising. Hitler has beaten the big drum of patriotism, and has exploited sentiments hostile to Jews, bankers and large-scale capitalism. The Social Democrats preached social reform, and appealed to anti-war sentiment and sympathy for internationalism and the League of Nations.

One consequence of the overlapping programmes of the three parties has been a large number of voters supporting now the one and then another. In the elections at the beginning of March, Hitler gained several million votes and the Communists lost nearly a million. The Manchester Guardian's Berlin correspondent says that "a great proportion" of the votes lost by the Communists went over to Hitler. (Manchester Guardian, March 7th.)

The Times' Berlin correspondent (March 2nd) said that the “really organised Communists, infected by the Russian Communist religion, number, at most, a few hundred thousand." The millions who voted Communist were described by this correspondent as disgruntled Social Democrats, "unemployed rendered desperate by poverty and insufficient food," and "even petty bourgeois ruined by the inflation."

A pamphlet published by the British Communist Party ("What Next in Germany?"— August, 1932) gives a summary of the programme of the German Communist Party early in 1932 : —
Already, some time before the elections, the Communist Party had issued its appeal for a United Anti- Fascist Front of the working-class with a programme which included; Resistance to all wage cuts and unemployment benefit cuts: for the extension of Social Insurance benefits; for the provision of funds to give work to the unemployed; for the reduction of hours to 40 per week with no reduction in earnings. For the withdrawal of prohibition against all working-class organisations, meetings and demonstrations; for the release of all class war prisoners; for the stoppage of all foreign debt payments and payments to the Hohenzollerns (the ex-Kaiser’s family) and other German princes.

Already this appeal had begun to receive increasing support from the workers in the factories and trade unions.
It will be seen that the programme was composed entirely of reformist demands. One disgusting feature of German Communist propaganda has been the appeal to national hatred, in the form of the demand that the debt payments and reparations (paid by German capitalists to foreign capitalists) should cease. This appeal was in the forefront of Hitler's programme also, and with it the Communists knowingly fostered the illusion that not capitalism, but foreign debts, are the cause of the misery of the German workers. Even the German Social Democrats and the breakaway party, the German Socialist Workers' Party (which rejoined the S.D.P. at the end of February) protested against this Communist exploitation of ignorant nationalism, bound to play into the hands of Hitler.
Ed. Comm.

The Socialist Forum: Socialism and Toleration. (1933)

From the April 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism and Toleration

A correspondent asks the following question: 
Would the S.P.G.B. forbid religious instruction and close down the churches, as has been done by the Bolsheviks in Russia, in view of the fact that, even after revolution, a minority will probably still cling to superstition; or, on the other hand, would the Party adopt an attitude of toleration, relying upon the march of science and progress to eradicate religion ?
Reply.
Although the Bolsheviks suppress their political opponents our correspondent is mistaken in saying that the Russian Government has closed down the churches. Subject to certain restrictions and disabilities religious worship is permitted in Russia and is fairly widely practised.

With regard to the main part of the question, of course, the Socialist majority after conquering political power, would not use that power for the needless and provocative purpose of suppressing the propagation of minority views, whether religious or political. The work of the S.P.G.B. is based on the fact that the Socialist case is sound and only needs to be understood by the majority of the workers for them to accept it. Our confidence in the correctness of our position rests on the only sure foundation, that is, that so far from trying to suppress criticism we permit and encourage our opponents (including religious opponents) to state their case on our platform. Ours is the only party in Great Britain which does this, and we can say with confidence that the movement built up in this way will never take refuge in the cowardly and in the long run unnecessary persecution of a religious or political minority. 
Ed. Comm.

The Socialist Forum: Communism and Socialism. (1933)

From the April 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

Communism and Socialism.

Reply to C. L., Vancouver Island B.C.

Engels in his 1888 Preface to the “Communist Manifesto" explained why in 1847 Marx and he called their Manifesto "Communist" and not "Socialist." It was to distinguish the revolutionary working class movement from the middle-class utopian movement, which at that time called itself Socialist. Later on this method of distinguishing the two movements ceased to be necessary, and Marx and Engels habitually used the terms Socialist and Socialism to indicate what they had formerly indicated by the terms Communist and Communism.

The Third (Communist) International called itself by that name to distinguish itself from the Labour parties and their International. They now use the term "Socialism" to mean the stage of development which in their view is intermediate between the future Communism and the present mixture of State and private capitalism as it exists in Russia. Thus Leontyev in his "Towards a Classless Society" (Co-operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the U.S.S.R , Moscow, 1932) writes:—
The classless socialist society which we must build during the second five year period, represents only the first, the lower phase of Communism.—(Page 25.)
When the Russian Communists want to indicate something approximating to what the S.P.G.B. defines as Socialism, they use the term Communism.

With regard to the withering away of the State, see January Socialist Standard
Ed. Comm.

The Socialist Forum: Russia's Bondholders. (1933)

From the April 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

Russia's Bondholders.

Reply to P. L., Poplar.

In addition to commercial credits obtained by the Russian Government abroad, and unofficially estimated at between £200 million and £300 million, the Russian Government has raised large sums at home to help finance the new industries. The total sum so obtained, according to information given in the Moscow Daily News (Weekly Edition, January 5th, 1933), has exceeded the original estimate of 6,000 million roubles (£600 million) and has reached a total of over £1,000 million. £800 million of this is held by the Government direct, and the remainder by Government industrial undertakings. The interest paid to the bondholders is in most cases at 10 per cent., or more; on some issues there is no interest, but in its place the chance of winning a big lottery prize. The Moscow Daily News states that the bondholders number 40 million persons, "the vast majority of whom are workers and collective farmers.” No figures are given showing the extent to which a minority of wealthy individuals have large holdings. While the Russian Government is now trying to sell its bonds abroad it is certain that the major portion of the £1,000 million is held internally.
Ed. Comm.

Hard Times in the Peerage (1933)

From the April 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

Spare a tear for the Duke. Even Dukes have their worries. Remove the envious leer from your countenance for a moment and listen to the sordid tale of struggle and penury unfolded by the Daily Express (March 9th, 1933). How often is it said, one half the world does not know how the other half lives? What a debt we owe to the intrepid representative of that public-spirited journal, who dared everything, even the Hall Porter of the Savoy Hotel, that we might know—and understand. He found the Duke of Manchester struggling to put a bold face upon his poverty, in a luxurious suite of rooms, and absently smoking fat Turkish cigarettes “specially made to his order, with a coronet on the tip.” Whilst his valet served whiskies and sodas he unfolded the heartrending tale of his fifty-seven years of vicissitudes. “I have been so broke,” he said, “ at one time or another that I have only just been able to pay for my valet's meals . . ."

Those of our readers who have been reduced to this extremity will know what it means and sympathise. However, dry your eyes, for you will be relieved to learn that his income "is sufficient, normally, to buy a couple of meals a day and to provide the reasonable comforts of life . . ." We had better pause there, in the middle of his sentence, so that the continuation may be savoured in all its dire significance. Draw forth your handkerchiefs again and learn ". . . but it has been reduced by £50 a week on account of depression, and £50 a week is a considerable slice out of most people’s incomes.”

It is; it most emphatically is. Millions of hearts will throb responsively when they realise this great home-truth. The Duke, with a penetration as creditable as it is rare, has made a profound discovery. Fifty pounds a week, docked from your income, does make a difference. We cannot recall a single economist, publicist or statesman who has publicly called attention to this devastating fact. And why not? You will see that a duke is just as seriously affected as a plumber, or a baked-potato man.

The Duke of Manchester is a genius, doomed, unfortunately, to the fate that mankind has so often reserved for its greatest benefactors. Hitherto, genius has been left to die in garrets; now we let them eke out a precarious existence in a suite of rooms at the Savoy. What could this brain have done, if not doomed to a dukedom?" The same thought has occurred to the Duke.

"My one regret in life is that I was never allowed to go into business when I was a boy. It was considered infra dig in those days for a duke to do anything of the sort. I never was able to go into business until I was forty-two years of age, otherwise I might have been in a much better position now.

"I go in for a little private business now. I can't say what it is. Of course, my name must not figure in the schemes, and I can’t put any money into them, but I supply the ideas. I think my head is screwed on the right way, and I should have been sitting pretty if the depression had not come along. Why, even to-day, I have £270,000 j tied up in commodities, but, for one reason and another, I can't touch a penny—not a penny."

Here is a story of human anguish. One can savour the bitterness behind that cry: “Not a penny"; behind that tale of thwarted ambition. Who can doubt that had fate been kinder the Duke, in business, would have been just as capable of introducing a ten per cent. cut as any great captain of industry. The hearts of all our unemployed, especially those who have appeared before the Public Assistance Committee, will warm to this engaging figure. One sees him condemned to occupy a luxurious suite in the Savoy Hotel, to smoke innumerable fat Turkish cigarettes, to drink incessant whiskies and sodas, to be attended by his faithful valet, and dream of the time when he was a young man.

"When I was a young man and I found I had not enough money to live as I liked, I used to go away on world cruises, spent next to nothing for eleven months of the year, and come home and spend nearly a full year’s income in the other month." .

Here the Duke, with prodigal generosity, seems to have given the world one of his great ideas. Why do not the unemployed utilise their enforced leisure in this way?

Mr. Chamberlain has cheered us all up by seeing no definite improvement ahead for the next ten years. Why not go for world cruises—so much advertised just now—and “ spend next to nothing for eleven months"? All of us have “next to nothing," so there should be no difficulty on that score.

Quite a lovable creature, the Duke, don’t you think? And so full of ideas. “Say I am a philosopher," he said to the newspaper man. How different from those misguided unemployed, who supply the newspapers with particulars of their domestic budgets, and complain of the difficulty of living on the “dole." It is safe to say that few of them have had their income reduced by £50 per week, and fewer still are philosophising in their own suites at the Savoy. Spare a tear for the Duke.
W. T. Hopley

Here and There: On Initiative (1933)

The Here and There column from the April 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard

On Initiative

It is a commonplace argument of the apologists of capitalism that the possession of wealth is the reward for and the result of the initiative of its owners. Socialism, they argue, would destroy this initiative and progress would be impossible. Three reports in the Daily Telegraph for January 1st and January 2nd completely upset this claim.

It was stated that Professor Haldane, who was Professor of Bio-Chemistry at Cambridge University, was resigning his position to take up a position at the London University. Some remarkable facts were given of his career. It was stated that he had produced in his own body the condition of certain diseases in order to discover a remedy for them. In doing so he had knowingly and deliberately endangered his own life in order to increase the knowledge of science in the conquest of these diseases.

Yet he does not appear to have had any pecuniary advantage in view.

Another instance was given in an appreciative obituary notice of Dr. Alfred Smith: Dr. Smith was one of the eighteen pioneers of X-ray work. In devoting his life to X-ray research, he fell a victim to X-ray dermatitis. The consequences for Dr. Smith were the loss of a leg, semi-blindness, and physical ruin. Unable to practice in his profession, his life savings gone, he was rewarded with a disused army hut to live in, and 35s. a week from the Carnegie Hero Trust.

The Daily Telegraph also gave the names of twelve others who had lost their lives in the cause of X-ray.
The same newspaper reported the trial of J. Geen, the associate of Factor, the fraudulent company promoter, who had successfully displayed initiative in relieving his fellow capitalists of millions' of pounds. It was stated of Factor that he was an illiterate, who "was even unable to sign his own name without difficulty.

Such are the rewards for initiative. It would be true to say that the ownership of wealth by the modern capitalist class is as much due to initiative as Factor’s millions were due to his academic attainments.


Some Effects of Capitalism

From W├ępszava (“The People’s Voice”), the Hungarian Social-Democratic daily, for December 22nd, 1932: —
In 1932 down to December 20th 1,126 women began giving birth to children in the street, and were taken to a hospital or nursing home. 1,126 fearful blows in the face for Hungarian social policy, which does not even take steps to see that new-born children shall come into the world with a roof over their heads! . . . A mother who finds herself lying in the hour of her greatest stress in the filth of the street instead of on a clean operating table, not only feels that society has no use for her, but that her child is born with the chains of poverty shackling its limbs, and to a destiny devoid of hope.
And from The Star, December 22nd, 1932: —
The best study I have seen recently of the psychological effect of unemployment is the vivid report on life in the Austrian village of Marienthal which appears in “Character and Personality.” The 1,500 inhabitants have been workless since a local factory closed three years ago, and are living on 5d. per family per day.

The investigators got at the facts in an ingenious way. Before distributing clothing they called from house to house, inquiring into the need, and in this way secured an insight into the domestic conditions. They also organised sewing classes and made the keeping of household accounts a condition of membership.

The inquiry revealed that the unemployed, having time on their hands, lose all sense of it. They become unpunctual and slowly resign themselves to a state which renounces even the discussion of politics and the reading of newspapers.

After three years the inquiry tabled only 14 per cent. as unbroken in spirit. Of the rest most were resigned to enduring their present state and the remainder broken completely. “heedless of the future as of the present.”
We can imagine all the parsons and priests in the kingdom arising with a great self-righteous show of protests if animals were treated with a fraction of the inhumanity meted out to the unwanted wage-slave.

Incidentally, these conditions and their results on the workers in Austria are a somewhat tragic commentary on the notion held by many woolly headed persons that starvation makes Socialists.


In the House of Commons

During the debate on the Kenya New Lands Trust Ordinance, which deprives the Natives of Kenya of the right to their lands on it being required by the Kenya Administration or White Settlers, Sir J. Sandeman Allen, commenting on the protests on behalf of the natives made by several prominent clergymen, said: “ . . .  If Church dignitaries in East Africa confined themselves to their missionary work and did not try to do anything outside of their proper sphere it would be. better for all concerned.” (Hansard, February 8th, 1933.)

The social influence of the Church seems to be in its twilight. When it interferes in class conflicts, as in the “General Strike,” it is told—in the words of Mr. Baldwin to the Archbishop of Canterbury—to ” mind its own business.” In short, the business of the parson is to console and not to interfere.

The varied attitude of the British Government in foreign affairs makes a somewhat interesting and contrasting reading. Mr. J. H. Thomas, being asked in the House of Commons what there was to be gained in pursuing the policy of the Government in relation to Ireland, replied (amidst laughter): “I have got a few hundred thousand pounds more as a result of the increased duties.” (Hansard, February 9th, 1933.)

On Saturday, February 10th, a wireless debate took place between students of Yale University, America, and students of Cambridge University, England, on the subject of War Debts. The English case was for the complete cancellation of War Debts, thus summarising the attitude of the British capitalist class as expressed through its Press. The reasons given for cancellation were ingenious, and were to the effect that cancellation was really in the interests of the United States of America. Somewhat after the sanctimonious manner of the schoolmaster, who, having punished a pupil, claimed the punishing to have hurt the schoolmaster the most. In Kenya the attitude of the British capitalist class is one of the heavy boot; in Ireland, that of a. bullying braggart; but their attitude to America is—well, sycophantic is a mild word, perhaps Pecksnifian would be appropriate. The reasons, of course, are obvious. Beneath the tender solicitude for backward countries and the polished verbiage of diplomatic documents, there are hypocrisy and greed as crude and as vicious as that which characterised the early days of Capitalism..


Strange Bedfellows.

The Leader, February 7th, 1932, contained an article called “Blasphemous Attacks on Christianity.” Among other books that were quoted was our pamphlet (without reference to its source of publication), “Socialism and Religion.” The Leader is very concerned about these attacks and thinks leaders of the Labour Party, especially ”those who call themselves Christian Socialists,” should do something about it. The Leader is a "tipster’s ” journal, which thrives on the belief among millions of gullible workers that they can get rich quickly and easily from betting and competitions of the kind run by popular newspapers for large money prizes. (Quite recently, a mathematician publicly stated that the chance of winning a prize in one of these competitions was many millions to one.) It is perhaps quite fitting that those who thrive on one form of superstition should feel a brotherly concern for those who foster superstition in another form.


The I.L.P. Finds Inspiration.

During January, letters appeared in the columns of the New Leader from members of the I.L.P. on the subject of “ Religion and Revolution.” The varied views held aptly expressed the confusion of ideas of the I.L.P. on the subject, and ranged from the view that “Christianity is Socialism” to an attitude that more or less approached the Marxist position on the subject. In the issue for January 10th, Dr. John Lewis replies in what the Editor of the New Leader describes as an “able contribution” to the discussion. Dr. Lewis's reply is a typical piece of I.L.P. shuffling. He evades the essential points in the letters from critics of Christianity, and, like Paton in his reply to a similar discussion on "Parliament and Democracy,” attempted to placate and satisfy all the diverse elements that make up the I.L.P. Christianity, he says: —
. . . .Takes on a totally different form according to the period, and at no period is it a mere reflection of a static economic order. . . . At periods of crisis in which we are mainly interested, religion splits. One part sanctifies the obsolete; one part champions the new order.
Which, as historical summary, is fairly accurate. But his conclusion, based on the above, is as follows: —
To-day religion inspires, for the first time, a movement which can achieve its ideal by building a classless society, and finally overthrowing the exploiters.
Dr. Lewis's view, which he attempts to support with Marxist formulae, is that the demand for Socialism by the workers will express itself in a religious form inspired by Christianity. Dr. Lewis is, of course, entitled to his peculiar views, but to pretend that these are the views of Marx is sheer misrepresentation of Marx's explanation of religion. Had Dr. Lewis gone one step further he might have discovered that the forces which, in the past, determined that Christianity took on a “totally different form according to the period,” also determined the decay of Christianity in Capitalist Society. So much so that, for all practical purposes, Christianity is dead so far as the workers are concerned. It is almost a certainty that if Christianity ceased to be taught in the Schools and subsidised by the State, it would quickly take its place in the museums of antiquities.

It is an interesting explanation, however, that the I.L.P.'s latest pose as a “ real revolutionary party ” is so inspired. This is a new angle on the decisions of the Bradford Conference, which was perhaps a waste of time.
Harry Waite

SPGB Meetings (1933)

Party News from the April 1933 issue of the Socialist Standard