Monday, April 15, 2024

Editorial: Foreign Loans and Investments (1948)

Editorial from the April 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard 

The Communist Party's present propaganda line is that, through borrowing heavily from U.S.A., Britain is becoming a dependency of that country ; but when Russia lends to Poland for armaments and transfers “gold from her reserves to aid vital Polish economic needs" (News Chronicle, May 28th, 1946), or when Russia holds fifty per cent. of the capital of the Bank of Outer Mongolia ("Statesman’s Year Book,” 1946, p. 798), the Communists do not draw the same conclusion.

Actually the relationship of borrower and lender is not so simple and in some respects it is the lender whose freedom of action is thereby most affected as was shown between the wars when U.S.A. and Britain started the never-ending process of lending to Germany. In order to prevent the first loan being a dead loss succeeding loans have to be made. The following is a report of a speech by Mr. Lewis Douglas, U.S. Ambassador to Britain: —
"Defending the £1,100 million American loan to Britain in 1946, Mr. Douglas said that it not only upheld Britain’s standard of living, but saved the United States from 'very great and adverse effects.' If the loan had not been granted, Britain’s curtailed expenditure would have had direct effect upon America’s economy." (Manchester Guardian, January 12th, 1948.)
Naturally, American farmers, tobacco growers and film exporters do not want their British market closed or curtailed.

Lenin in his "Imperialism" (1916) quotes with apparent agreement a statement made about Britain’s development into a lending country to the effect that “ The creditor is more permanently attached to the debtor than the seller is to the buyer.” (Lenin, Selected Works, Lawrence & Wishart Edition, p. 93.)

British capitalism is now of course in the position of owing abroad far more than the greatly reduced investments abroad.

Another interesting aspect of this is the Communist argument that the workers in a country with foreign investments share, along with their masters, in the proceeds of the exploitation of the foreign workers. In the agreement forced on the Government of Iran for the grant of oil concessions to Russia (an agreement which the Iranian Government repudiated when Russian troops left), a clause provided that Russia should own a controlling interest in the joint company, i.e., 51 per cent. of the shares, should provide capital in the form of equipment and the wages of specialists and workers, and should share in the profits—"The profits made by the company will be divided in accordance with the ratio of the shares of each side.” "Soviet News," published by the Russian Embassy, September 13th. 1947.) According to the Communist argument the Russian workers would then have been participating in the exploitation of the Iranian workers.

White Papers and Black Records (1948)

From the April 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

The White Paper on the threatened crisis should set Trade Unionists thinking hard.

Cutting out all frills, two main points emerge —Wage Pegging and Speeding Up.

As to the first point: “When it comes to a race between rising prices and personal incomes, prices will always win in the long run, so that conditions become progressively worse for the holders of all personal incomes, but particularly for Wage Earners.” (Daily Herald, February 5th, 1948.) Government apologists go so far as to use the ugly words “starvation" and “wide-spread unemployment.”

Here is a clear admission that a “Labour” Government administering its modified State Capitalism can no more prevent the evils arising for the worker than could Liberalism or Toryism.

Do you remember the ”beloved” Ramsay MacDonald? Unfortunately, the worker has such a short memory. Just to jog memories: ‘‘It is recorded on the authority of Lord Snowden that the Socialist Cabinet in 1931 unanimously approved heavier wage and salary reductions than the National Government afterwards imposed. Mr. Morrison was a member of that Cabinet." (Evening Standard, November 8th, 1935.)

The Daily Herald (February 5th, 1948) belatedly expresses in muddled terms what Marx wrote incisively 100 years ago, “Old ideas of relative value of occupations must be put aside,” adding inconsequentially, “the labourer is worthy of his hire.” This is what Marx wrote:—
‘‘Where the physique of the working class has deteriorated, the lower forms of labour, which demand great expenditure of muscle, are in general considered as skilled, compared with much more delicate forms of labour; the latter sink down to the level of unskilled labour.” (“Capital,” p. 179.)
The Daily Herald, wagging a warning finger at the pampered postman and the naughty factory lass, says with solemn air, “The relation which different personal incomes bear to one another must no longer be determined by historical development of the past.” Here a comparatively insignificant factor is raised to a position of first importance. We leave it to the psychologist to decide whether this piffle proffered to the worker arises from sheer ignorance or in more or less sub-conscious obedience to the interests; of its paymasters, or a loathsome mixture of both. The Fabian gang in the Government could at least have saved the Herald from its "economists.” Perhaps the Herald's editor, Percy Cudlipp, will find occasion to explain further on a ‘‘Brains Trust ” ; better still, the columns of the ‘‘Socialist Standard” are open to him.

The Catechism some of us were taught in our early youth solemnly counselled us to be content with that state of life into which it shall please God to call us. Substitute ‘‘Capitalist Class” for ‘‘God” and you have the true intent of wage-pegging. Sir Stafford Cripps’ fervent belief in Christianity the perfect cure for all crises is quite consistent with his mixture of frantic appeals and threats to the worker to “produce” more and ever more; Attlee and Morrison, the other two Persons of an Unholy Trinity, must find it difficult to hide their sardonic smiles.

As to the second main point of the White Paper: Speeding up is a very ancient device for the squeezing till the pips squeak of the slave, chattel or wage variety. A claim is put out that a benevolent government, oozing concern at every pore for the worker, is forced to propose measures which it believes will be of a temporary nature. Much the same sort of plea was put forward after the first World War; humbugs of the Lloyd George variety are replaced on the political stage by an astuter crowd of actors, smart Alecs who have raised the art of political thimble-rigging to the high degree demanded by a rather more politically alert working class that was so easily taken in formerly.

It is worth noting that a Party coloured with crypto-Communists has learnt something from Soviet Russia in the direction of speeding up in the mining industry. Stakhanovism is being quietly but firmly-infiltrated; the more than platonic flirtation of the Government and the Trade Unions with Miss Piece Work should open the eyes of disinterested Unionists and spur rank-and-file to action.

“Go to it” was the perfect expression of the super-driving Government foreman. How long do you propose letting these highly paid tools of plutocracy, who have climbed on your back to power, alternatively wheedle and bully you, greeting you as "heroes" when you cannon-fodder for them, and yelping the ancient insult, "Ye are idle; ye are idle," when you humbly ask for straw to make bricks for the stately homes of England? While your wife is looking old before her time engaged in a hopeless struggle to make ends meet in a “home" which lacks the most elementary essentials of comfort, let alone common decency.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always recognised the importance of Trade Unionism as a factor in the working-class struggle, but is only too conscious of its limitations as a weapon of emancipation. Its "bargaining" function is useful if only for keeping alive a determination not to be driven to mere serfdom. To delegates on the floor of the next T.U.C. Conference, we offer a few points for their earnest consideration: -

First of all, read this: "Mr. J. A. Hall, president of the Yorkshire Mineworkers' Association, told strikers at Hemsworth that they had stabbed him in the back, and said that Mr. Bevin was their best friend in the Cabinet. The Porter Award, with its £5 a week minimum, was the finest piece of mining legislation ever produced. Among the miners was a greedy section who were never satisfied." (News Chronicle, April 10th, 1944.) This is typical talk of the "Leaders" who will be ecstatically cheered when they deign to beam upon you from the platform, snugly ensconced behind a beautiful barbed-wire of Standing Orders.

A member of our Party wrote to the editor: "I sincerely hope there will be a big increase of "greedy miners" who fail to see how they can live anywhere near the standard of life enjoyed by their 'leaders.' I find £6 a week pension barely adequate to run a modest cottage, and make due provision for a possible widow. As one Government (ex) employee to another performing crisis-saving work, I shake hands with the "greedy miner.' "

On October 1st, 1935, at the Brighton Labour Conference, Bevin set about George Lansbury, and properly debunked the Saint of Bow. (See “Guilty Men," p. 33, by Michael Foot; Gollancz.) Is it beyond hope (alas) that one single humble delegate will do something in the direction of debunking both Hall and the Miners' Best Friend?

If space permitted, the sorry history of Trade Union "leadership" told at adequate length, would surely convince the Floor that their sickening adulation of leaders, and patient bearing of whip-cracking needed severe revision.

Just a brief indication of the kind of weapons you forge against yourselves by giving your brains in pawn to the Halls, the Lawthers, the Bevins, the Horners.

G. N. Barnes was once secretary of the A.E.U. He was Minister of Pensions during the first World War. There were 100.000 men "many who ought never to have been taken into the army, and are now physical wrecks " (Daily News, 7/3/16). Pensions were asked (Tories like Hogge warmly assenting) for these hopelessly broken tools. Barnes replied, "They will not get it while I am in office." Comment is needless.

Have you older men forgotten Trade Union Leader Hodge, who, as Minister of Labour in that war, was one of Lloyd Georges' most efficient snarling dogs? We hope your Public Library has "Workman's Cottage to Windsor Castle." Read it—take the chance if you have a delicate stomach. Just one quotation: “In the summer of 1930, Mr. John Baker was entertaining a lady friend and myself to tea on the terrace, when Lady Astor came out of the House, in that vivacious way of hers which makes other women jealous, put her arm round my neck, and said, "It's real nice to see your face again. How are you?' She peered at me and asked 'Why doesn’t MacDonald make you a peer?' 'There he is. Lady Astor,' said I, pointing to MacDonald, 'ask him!' "

Well, to quote Sterne on another sad occasion, "Shall I go on . . . No."
Augustus Snellgrove

Harry Barber and the Fortunate Thieves (1948)

A Short Story from the April 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

Once upon a time there was a poor man named Harry Barber. Now although he could afford only the barest necessities of life Harry Barber could not understand the reason for his poverty. Men who were considered wise had told him that if he worked hard he would eventually scale the ladder of success and leave his poverty behind him.

But Harry Barber had worked hard for many years. Many things had he produced in that time— shoddy articles for the poor, specimens of exquisite workmanship for the rich. Yet, work as he may, he found that the money he received was hardly enough to buy his needs.

And looking around him he found that millions of others were in the same position as himself. With no earthly possessions these people could only sustain themselves by working for richer folk in return for sums of money just sufficient to provide food, clothing and shelter for them and their families.

And seeing these things Harry Barber was sorely troubled. Why was it that the people who produced the good things of life were the very people who could not afford to buy these things, whilst others who did no useful work lived in comfort and idleness? Why was it that although the poor produced things of great value they remained in poverty? Was it because they often experienced times in which their masters did not employ them, and during these times there was no payment for services rendered?

"No," thought Harry, "it cannot be that, for even when I am working regularly I am still poor."

Unable to find an answer to his questions Harry Barber determined to study the framework of his day- to-day existence. He listened to the words of those whom the world acclaimed as wise and knowledgable men. He read the works of economists who claimed a knowledge of the causes of poverty.

But, alas, much that he read and heard would not stand up to examination. Many of the wiseacres, for instance, told him that the workers brought poverty upon themselves by gambling, drinking, and refusing to work to their fullest Capacity. The hard-working Harry who neither drank nor gambled knew that this was not so. But from somewhere in the welter of information he discovered something that could not be dismissed from his mind as unsound—a small but insistent voice which told him of two classes in society, a master class and a wage-slave class; that the master class, although a mere handful compared with the slaves, bought the labour power of the other class; that this labour power produced a value far greater than the value and price of the labour power itself; that the master class appropriated this excess value and thus maintained for themselves a steady flow of profits.

And to Harry Barber came a glimmer of enlightenment “Now I see," he mused. “I have to sell my energy to my masters because they own the factories and workshops, and although my energy may produce mountains of wealth all that I will receive is the price of that energy—a wage. No wonder I am poor. I am robbed all the time I am producing.”

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You, readers, are the Harry Barbers of the world. If you have never before read the literature of the Socialist Party of Great Britain you are now getting your first introduction to Socialist principles. Continue to read our literature and listen to our speakers. In time you will increase your Socialist knowledge, and when sufficient numbers of you can truthfully call yourselves “Socialists” there will he in your hands the power to overthrow the present social system and establish an order of society wherein the means of production and distribution are commonly owned and used in the production of everybody's requirements. When you have established this system which we know as “Socialism” there will be no unfortunate Harry Barbers on the one hand, and fortunate thieves on the other. Then, and not till then, will you be able to live happily ever after.
F. W. Hawkins

SPGB Meetings (1948)

Party News from the April 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard