Thursday, May 2, 2024

How to Stop War: Mr. Churchill’s Suggestions Examined (1946)

From the May 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

With one Capitalist war just over, and the prospect of yet others looming up in the future, various politicians are bursting into the news with their ideas on how to prevent another war; or to be more accurate, their ideas on how to make sure of being on the winning side in the event of another war.

Chief among them, of course, is that arch-enemy of the working class, Mr. Winston Churchill. His recent effusion, from across the Atlantic, put leader writers over here in something of a dither as to what the great man actually meant. They did seem to be agreed on one of his statements, however; that is, how to stop a war when it looks as though there's going to be one. And since the methods advocated by Churchill find fairly wide support amongst the working class, it might be worth while to examine them, or their implications, in detail.

“There was never a war in all history easier to prevent by timely action than this one," declares Churchill. “ If we had stood up to Germany any time between 1930 and 1935 there would have been no war," says the Sunday Times of March 10th. And, presumably, if America had stood up to Japan between 1930 and 1935 there would have been no war. And if the brutal Boers had stood up "to the gentle English—or was it the brutal English and the gentle Boers—in 1890 there would have been no Boer War; and the same with all previous wars, one can suppose.

In fact, all that has to be done in order to stop a war is to stand up to the nation that intends to declare war some 10 years or so before they actually do so. It only remains for statesmen to equip themselves with knowledge of this universal war preventive and we are in for an era of glorious war-free prosperity.
But before going out to get drunk on such gladsome news, perhaps it would be better to find out a little more about the Churchillian methods for promoting peace. For instance, what does this “timely action" consist of? To make a strong protest, perhaps; but surely that would have no effect without force to back it up. Declare war on them, then? But surely—isn’t this supposed to be a method to stop war? Maybe Mr. Churchill only meant that there would have been a very much smaller war. Still it is all very confusing.

One fact does emerge, however. Boiled down to its essence, Churchill is only an adherent of the “might is the surest preventative," ‘‘trust in my good right arm, O Lord," school, after all. A disciple of the doctrine that, if a nation is only strong enough, then no other nation will dare to attack it.

The first thing that strikes one about this theory is that, for it to be effective, there must be no question of the absolute might of the country that is in danger of attack. And, of course, it must be the country that is attacked, not the attacking country, that is mighty, otherwise things are worse than before.

But how is a country going to make itself so frighteningly strong? There is only one way, of course—that is, by ample production of armaments by unlimited access to raw materials, such as oil, rubber, etc., and by possession of and command over military bases and strategic outposts.

To which one might ask, "How does a nation acquire these things except by going to war in the first place? " Since there are only a limited number of bases, etc., a nation can only obtain them by wresting them from those who have them (except in rare cases of outright buying and selling, or a swap of territory in the interests of two nations).

So it looks as though this method of preventing war has only the effect of increasing its likelihood.

Even for a country with colossal strength there is absolutely no historical foundation for saying that that country will not be attacked. The colossal strength of Germany in 1939 did not prevent Britain from attacking her. Nor did the strength of America prevent Japan from attack, or the strength of Russia prevent Germany from attacking Russia.

So it seems as though there must be some motive impelling Capitalist countries to maintain their possessions or interests at all costs. Such a motive can only be explained satisfactorily by economic reasons. It arises from the fact that under Capitalism goods are produced for the purpose of being sold for profit. And along with the incessant striving for markets in which to sell these goods there is competition in prices. The cheapest goods will sell best. But to sell goods at a cheaper price and get the same overall profit you must sell more goods. Which means still greater competition, coupled with the fact that inability to sell goods means catastrophe to the capitalist.

As long as goods are made primarily for sale, and not solely for use, there is no escaping from these facts. If the Socialist explanation of the cause of war is correct, then no fantastic schemes, such as U.N.O. or disarmament, will have any effect in the long run, since they leave the cause untouched.

Are the working class going to fight their masters' wars indefinitely. If, under Capitalism, the only way to abolish war is by declaring war, then surely it is high time to abolish Capitalism.
Cyril Evans.

Letter: Hours of Work in Socialism (1946)

Letter to the Editors from the May 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard
In our issue for November, 1945 (“The Simple Life Under Socialism"), we replied to a correspondent who had asked whether, under Socialism, a man of simple tastes would have to work for as many hours as those whose needs are greater. We have received a further letter.
London, E.11.

Editor, Socialist Standard,
2, Rugby St, W.C.1.

“Common Ownership" 

Surely it is not the intention of the S.P.G.B. to ghetto-ize, or put in a concentration camp, all those who resent giving extra labour time to produce a standard of life for others in a Socialist Society, far above that which the objectors seek for themselves? It is the purport of your reply to my earlier letter to do so. But I cannot believe it without further information.

It isn't fair to caricature my Objector as a Simple Lifer, thriving on little more than plates of fresh air.

Ernie Bevin likes motor cars, others like aeroplanes, so all I ask is that the extra labour time “equivalent” to the production of these extras shall be provided by Ernie Bevin and aeroplane fanatics. The same goes for tobacco, alcohol, scent, and so on. A very large minority may not want these things, thereby living at a standard requiring less labour time. I do not refer to an extreme simple lifer, such as your caricature for the purpose of your case, as it is easy to cater for a few simple lifers.

I grant that children do not produce and must be provided for out of a common fund, but it doesn’t affect the point I’ve raised as regards those adults who are satisfied in the production caused by substantially less than the average labour time per capita, and do not wish to yield more labour time.

Unless you can explain, I am afraid that common ownership has a very elastic meaning—if any.

Since “ need ” is the basis of your case, and exchange is ruled out, as is the receipt of the product of one’s own labour or its equivalent, you must face the question in this letter.
Yours faithfully,
Chas. E. Berry.

It will be useful to start by making it clear that the problem, if it arose at all, could only be a small one. Firstly, it obviously could not affect a majority of the population because they could decide in accordance with their wishes. Nor could it, as our correspondent assumes, affect “a very large minority.’' While there may be a group that does not want tobacco, another that does not want alcohol, and innumerable similar groups, it is entirely false reasoning to add them together and thus make up "a very large minority” of the population. The problem only concerns those people who want a low standard of living all round, and if we ask ourselves how many people there could be who want none of the things listed by our correspondent—in his earlier letter he mentioned also books, theatres and cinemas—the answer is obviously that there could be very few. (It should be observed that doing without cars and aeroplanes looks simple but may cover much. Are these individuals intending to do without all articles transported by those means?)

If, however, we grant that there might be a small minority that has no wish to share in most of the articles and services that the majority of the population consider desirable, it still does not follow that all of this minority will want to work fewer hours than the rest of the community. Let us, however, suppose, for the sake of argument, that there may be a small minority that wants a low standard of living and insists on very short working hours (as also possibly a few anti-social individuals who want to consume but not to work at all). Why should society bother about such small problems? Both groups could well be left to please themselves. The alternative would be for the majority to burden themselves with making special arrangements to measure each individual's work and consumption. Socialism will not need or want any such capitalist notions. In conclusion we must emphasise how unimportant such hypothetical problems are in relation to the benefits that the great mass of the population will derive from Socialism. The millions who, for the first time, get security and adequate food, clothing and shelter, and who work shorter hours than they do now, will not be unduly exercised in their minds about the proposition of doing without lots of things in order to work, say, only one hour a day. It seems reasonable to suppose that the majority will easily agree on a standard of comfort and corresponding hours of work, which, without being exactly what all groups or individuals require, will please most people and not give any a cause for a sense of grievance.
Editorial Committee

The Role of the Church in Strikes (1946)

From the May 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

During strikes, as during wars, many significant details are obscured by more dramatic happenings. When considering the situation at a later date certain features are thrown into sharp relief, or a passing reference to some action may awaken interest and reconsideration of that fiction.

A radio programme of Thursday, February 7th, had this effect Speaking in a weekly programme, “What are the Churches Doing," the clergyman speaker related, with evident pride, the intervention of two Liverpool clergymen in the recent dock strike. Whether his claims for them were true or exaggerated, his attitude certainly showed a new aspect of the church's activities.

In the Times of November 2nd, 1945, the following account of the affair was given:—
“The Dock strike may be suspended tomorrow to give negotiating parties a period in which to make satisfactory progress. Mass meetings at affected ports will be asked for their decision tomorrow morning.

At a meeting here today the Rector of Liverpool, Canon R. Ambrose Reeves, who, with Father John Fitszsimons, has been mediating, told the dockers that last week he received a letter from Mr. Ernest Bevin which encouraged him, in spite of many rebuffs in other quarters, to persevere and try to help in the impasse. Since then, with Father Fitzsimons, he had met the Merseyside Strike Committee, the National Strike Committee, and Labour Members of Parliament for the Liverpool divisions. He had put before them as a basis for discussion a document in which he summarised the position as he saw it."
Then followed a summary of what the strike revealed, and an appeal to the workers to suspend the strike for 30 days in order that negotiations might take place. The interesting points to note are that the clergyman did not for one moment imagine that the masters should give way to the dockers’ grievances. To one inured in the tradition "the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate," the exploitation of the worker and the real nature of wages are a closed book. Instead of the usual efforts of the church to "reconcile man to God," the efforts are now to reconcile man to his employer’s interests. Another point worthy of notice is the joining forces of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, normally at daggers drawn, but willing in this dirty work to sink their differences. Lastly the approbation of Mr. Ernest Bevin was sweet to Canon Reeves and an encouragement to persist with the new form of blunting the edge of the workers’ strike weapon.
W. S.

SPGB Meetings (1946)

Party News from the May 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

Anarchism: No State, No Market by Howard Moss (1986)

Blogger's Note:
The article below by Socialist Party member and regular Socialist Standard writer, Howard Moss, first appeared in the 1986 Freedom Press anthology, Freedom: A Hundred Years 1886-1986, which, as the title suggests, was a special book published by Freedom Press to mark its centenary. I remember buying the anthology in Freedom Bookshop in Aldgate in the early 1990s, and it was a surprise at the time to see Howard's name within its pages — I perhaps applied my hostility clause a bit too literally back in the day — but it's a good piece of succinct writing and, I think in its own way, its general point overlaps with Rubel and Crump's book, Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, which was originally published around about the same time period.

According to, the cheapest secondhand copy of the anthology would set you back forty dollars today, so it's good to know that a PDF of the book is available over at LibCom. It's worth checking out, not just for Howard's article, but for its history of early British anarchism, the biographical sketches of forgotten Anarchist activists over the decades, and articles from such anarchist 'names' as Colin Ward, Alex Comfort, George Woodcock, Crass, Nicolas Walter, Donald Rooum and Vernon Richards. As an added bonus, it also features a cartoon by longstanding Socialist Standard cartoonist, Peter Rigg, in his Kronstadt Kids period.

Anarchism: No State, No Market

What do anarchists want? It’s a difficult one. Perhaps an easier one along the same lines would be ‘What do anarchists have in common?’ And for me the answer to this one was summed up by Donald Rooum in the May 1986 Freedom through the words of his cartoon creation Wildcat: ‘You get rid of governments by convincing people to withdraw support’. Yes, that’s it, getting rid of governments, and of course getting rid of the thing they govern — the state. The next question, however, has got to be ‘What kind of a stateless society do we want?’ Even if we can’t be expected to give a blueprint, we can at least be expected to give some kind of idea of how things will be organised and the kind of life that will be possible in a society that doesn’t have the state to change it.

Let me say right away that, as I see it, there are two possible choices of the kind of stateless society. And the choices are simple ones. We either have a stateless society with a market or a stateless society without a market. If you’re an anarchist who doesn’t envisage getting rid of the market, then automatically, whether you realise it or not, you’re talking about keeping buying and selling, trade, money, banks, financial institutions, and so on — in other words all the paraphernalia of capitalism, even if it’s capitalism without the state. And there are people, anarcho-capitalists they call themselves, who argue precisely for this kind of arrangement. They want an entirely free-market world, without national frontiers, with a single world currency and where private ownership extends to everything imaginable and the ethos, even more than now, is unbridled competition. Freedom dealt with them (not very well, in my opinion) in October 1984 (Vol 45 No 10) and later referred to them as a ‘squalid bunch’. I doubt whether many readers of Freedom would want to be associated with them either. But the rub is that, unless as an anarchist you advocate not just the abolition of the state but also the abolition of the market system, then logically you can’t escape being an ‘anarcho-capitalist’. Because as long as you’ve still got the market or an exchange society of any kind, then you’ve still got some form of capitalism, or at any rate some form of property society.

Now I know most anarchists would say, if it were put to them, that they don’t want the market system or the exchange economy that goes with it. But how often do they explicitly express this point of view? And how often is it explicitly expressed in anarchist literature? In my experience, very rarely. And this is a pity, because one of the greatest difficulties in putting anarchist views across is reaction from people along the lines ‘You’ve got nothing practical to replace the present system with?’ or ‘An anarchist society would be chaos’. Yet if we stressed not just the stateless but also the marketless nature of anarchism, we’d be making anarchist views that much easier for people to grasp and not react to like that, because we’d be putting across the idea that it’s the market that’s chaos in the way it arbitrarily dictates how much we shall or shall not have, what work we shall or shall not do, the kind of lives we shall or shall not live. And as a logical converse to that, we’d be offering a society in which, instead of competing among one another in a system of privately owned wealth, we could all work together to provide for our needs using the commonly owned resources of the earth. If we did this, we’d not only be putting across the idea that human needs and human worth shouldn’t be measured by money and profit but also advocating a practical alternative in which that wouldn’t happen.

I’ll raise a few hackles now by saying that, having reached this point, we’re pretty close to what some people would understand by ‘socialism’. Not the ‘socialism’ of the Labour Party, or Russia, or China, or the left-wing groups, but the socialism of ‘from each according to ability to each according to need’ and ‘the abolition of the wages system’. These of course are things Marx said (though he did not originate the sayings) and we’ve got to reject a hell of a lot of other things Marx said, but should we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater? Why should’t we accept that those ideas provide a sound basis (as I see it, the only basis) for a truly free society?

It may or may not come as a surprise now if I say that I consider myself a socialist, but when people say to me (as they often do) ‘Isn’t what you’re talking about anarchism?’, I say ‘Yes, as long as by anarchism you mean not just a society organised without a state but also one organised without a market’. That is after all the only road to freedom — isn’t it?
Howard Moss

Socialist Sonnet No. 146: Crossing the Floor (2024)

From the Socialism or Your Money Back blog

Crossing the Floor

Divided, it seems, by just two sword lengths

Are green benched Capulets and Montagues,

Who, in vitriolic rivalry stew

As vexed ambition flexes its strength.

Whether feeling neglected, rejected

Or some bitter sense of injured pride,

One crosses the floor to the other side,

Where greater rewards might be expected.

This act of principle or betrayal

Is mitigated by the growing sense

That it makes little or no difference,

As every Commons cause is doomed to fail.

No matter what the rivals do or say,

Capital profits, and must have its way.

D. A.
Blogger's Note: 
A sonnet written, no doubt, in reaction to the recent news of Tory M.P., Dr. Dan Poulter, defecting to the Labour Party.