Thursday, May 30, 2024

Hoist with his own petard. (1906)

From the December 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard
“The concessions, such as they are, which have been made have been much less due to our agitation than to the pressure of circumstances. . . Would the agitation have been carried on, would there have been any need for either agitation or concessions, if normal agencies—private charity and soon—had effectually grappled with the unemployed difficulty, and unemployment had not, in spite of these agencies, grown and developed into a chronic social disorder? Again with free education. Neither the first compulsory Education Act of 1870 nor the abolition of fees in elementary schools was the work of people who believed in the justice of either measure as an abstract principle ; and neither would have been adopted except that in no other way was it possible to remove that ignorance of even the bare elements of education which had come to be a national danger.

The same too with old age pensions and municipal trading. . . The trade unions are now, with practical unanimity, demanding old age pensions, and many of the great friendly societies are joining in the demand. Why ? Partly, let us modestly admit because of our agitation ; but mainly because of the impossibility of securing decent maintenance for old and incapacitated toilers in any other way. Why, in spite of the avowed hostility of the people in power to the principle of municipal ownership and municipal trading, have municipal ownership and municipal trading grown ? Partly, we may once more admit as a result of the persistent and active propaganda of our energetic minority, but very much more as a result of the utter failure of private enterprise. . . The latest case in point is the report of the Select Committee on the Bill for Providing Meals for School Children. That is a poor half-hearted report on a poor half-hearted measure ; but it does at least recognise the need for giving hungry children one meal a day. That is something; a concession made in the hope of winning over the Socialists, says Sir George Livesey. Partly perhaps. But the chief factor in bringing about this concession lies not in Socialist agitation, but in the circumstances that private enterprise has not been able, in this land of plenty, to prevent the horror and disgrace of the starvation of little children.”
And that is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. We reproduce it, despite its length because it may stand as a strong justification of our attitude in relation to reform agitation. We urge the danger and the stupidity of hitching working-class energies on to palliative propaganda. We emphasise the futility of anything less than Socialism and the necessity therefore for concentration upon Socialism alone knowing quite well that all other things will be added unto us either under stress of economic pressure, or because a growing working-class determination to be satisfied with nothing short of the whole product of their labour has struck fear for their safety deep into the hearts of the capitalist class and impelled them to offer anything, everything, but their power to rob, in an endeavour to turn the workers from their purpose. And we are sneered at therefore and are, if you please, “Impossiblists” on the word of Mr. Quelch himself and the Party he partly leads ! Mr. Quelch’s party has practically abandoned the revolutionary position of which we claim to be exponents, and become, largely under the direction of Mr. Quelch himself, a mere reform organisation. Yet Mr. Quelch and his friends continue to utter (on special occasions) the sentiments of revolution as though they had not strayed one hair’s breadth from the straight but narrow way and continue to pose (when it is good business to do so) as the stern relentless champions of the uncompromising policy. Mr. Quelch has framed a strong indictment of his own party’s methods—not to mention his own and as such we commend the article to the attention of our readers.

The Clarion on its defence. (1906)

From the December 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Clarion has been “hit in the place where it lives” by the protest against its unfairness which was printed in the last issue of the Socialist Standard. At any rate it devotes quite a space to a rather ill-humoured repudiation of the charge, in the course of which it says:
1) That my letter would have occupied a column and therefore was virtually in the waste paper basket before it arrived.
2) That my article contained “spiteful abuse” of the Clarion’s “poor old Editor” who knew nothing of the matter in dispute.
3) That I stated the Clarion was filled with “piffle.”
To which I beg leave to make rejoinder as follows:—

(1) My letter was intended to outline and justify the position of the S.P.G.B. which had been criticised in two previous numbers of the Clarion. I thought this was a rather important matter. If a Party is contributing to working-class confusion, maintaining working-class ignorance and therefore delaying working-class emancipation, it is, I submit, an important thing from a Socialist point of view, to combat the work of that Party. I thought so, anyhow, and the Clarion says it thinks so too—sometimes.

The S.P.G.B. came into existence to combat the confusing effect of the work of professing Socialist organisations and to preach Socialism. The Clarion, which says it agrees with the position the S.P.G.B. alone upholds, refuses to print a letter from the S.P.G.B. because it would occupy a column. Mark. The case of the S.P.G.B., whose position the Clarion says it agrees with, has never been stated through the Clarion. We haven’t had a line. All the other Parties which,—if our contention is upheld as we say we can uphold it—the Clarion is supposed to be against, have pages !

This, however, may not be taken as a sign of a wonderful magnanimity on the part of the Clarion toward those with whom it is in disagreement. It agrees with our position all right, but it also agrees with the position of those we are fighting ! Rum? Not at all ! Just Clarionese.

Now accepting this basis, Clarion’s, it may not unnaturally be expected, I think, that as we are agreed with as much as the other chaps who are opposed to us, we should get as good a show in the Clarion as they. They have had pages. We have had the exact equivalent of nothing. We didn’t ask for pages. I only asked, it appears, so great was my moderation, for a column, and I only asked for that because we had been dragged into the Clarion without our knowledge or consent. I confess I expected to get the space necessary in the circumstances, particularly as it is an infraction of one of the few canons of honour journalism can boast of to print an attack and exclude the reply.

But—dear me ! no, says the Clarionesi Dangle. No code of honour of any newspaper in the world and certainly not the Clarion’ would stand the strain of any reply of over 250 words unless—-ah ! unless your reply will sell Clarions. If you are “Tess of the Suffragettes” for example, well,—”come and welcome, sinner, come.” even though the Clarion’s editor thinks the women’s agitation childish and silly. Or if you are an ecclesiastical dignitary, (Bishops preferred)—come again, even though your arguments are ”piffle” in three column efforts capable of being “smashed like an egg” by the Clarion’s fighting editor. Come one, come all—-if you can sell Clarions. But don’t expect to get in against the sellers of Clarions. You may be the very embodiment of all the virtues ; you may have the message that will set the people free, but if you are obscure and insignificant or if you are useless as a seller of Clarions—outside ! Perish everything—bar Clarions.

Well. I don’t sell Clarion. The Party on whose behalf I write don’t sell Clarion. My letter wouldn’t have sold any. Beside, it hit against the men of the Parties that do sell Clarion. It might have had a bad effect upon sales. Therefore, and so far as I can see only therefore, I am a “stodge-spinner” and am waste-papered.

All right. I don’t mind but—oh ! what a fall is here, my countrymen. What a descent from Olympian profession to Stygian practice. Poor old Clarion. Poor old Dangle.

(2) Wherein did my article contain “spiteful abuse” of Blatchford or anybody else ? Answer Dangle or withdraw. And please—I couldn’t help it if Blatchford didn’t see or hear of my letter. He is still Editor, isn’t he ? And—Dangle ! It occurs to me, speaking of Blatchford, that if he had had the same cause for writing that I had, and particularly if he had had the same case that I have, he would have run his article in weekly 4 column instalments over a period of six months at least, and yes, and then published it in book form ! You know he would.

(3) I stated the Clarion was filled with “piffle”? I? I said nothing of the sort. What I did say was that Blatchford would have called columns of what appeared “piffle.” If Dangle doesn’t believe it he should ask Blatchford himself.

Just another word. My friend Dangle appears to be absorbing some of the methods of the Yellow Editors whom he delights to pillory. He publishes sufficient of my statement to convey a false impression. He inferentially imputes certain beliefs to me which I do not hold, in order that he may have excuse for pouring out the vials of his strongest mixture of caustic and iron upon my head. His references to the flatulency of his correspondents, while doubtless intended to be scathing, are in exceedingly poor taste and if Dangle had been less hasty would probably never have been passed.

In short, my dear Dangle, you have in this matter adopted the methods that are cheap and nasty. And I am astonished !
A. J. M.Gray

Correspondence in brief. (1906)

From the December 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

H. C. (Plaistow) asks if A. Hayday, whose name appears on the Concert Program of the S. West Ham Liberal and Radical Club, as President of the Club, is the S.D.F. Councillor. He is. W. Thorne is also a member, but we are not sure about J. Jones.

W. S. (Stratford.) asks why leaders of the S.D.F. have been glorifying J. J. Terrett at a complimentary banquet when on the 26th Oct., 1905, H. W. Lee, sent round a recommendation from the Sub E. C. to S.D.F. branches not to invite J. J. Terrett to speak for them, in view of the attacks which he had recently made upon the S.D.F. in West Ham. Perhaps “Joe” could explain.

Blogger's Note:
More on J. J. Terrett from the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard.

Answers to Correspondents. (1906)

From the December 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

R. B. (Goodmayes.) — The matter stands thus—A number of members of the Islington Branch were found guilty by a party vote, of action detrimental to the interests of the organisation and injurious to the cause of Socialism, and they were expelled therefore. They now refuse, we understand, to accept the Party’s decision, and still pose as.members of the Islington Branch. This is ludicrous enough, but when at the same time that they are asserting their membership, they proclaim to the world that the Party is rotten and corrupt, the matter becomes sheer farce. We regret exceedingly that our late comrades should place themselves in so deplorably ridiculous a position, but that is their business, not ours. Our business is to warn everybody concerned against the false pretence they make of membership of the S.P.G.B.

G. Geis (Peckham.) —Thanks. But we cannot make ourselves responsible for all the irrelevant and unimportant communications we receive, and we will not undertake to return them to their blushing authors unless stamped addressed envelopes are enclosed for the purpose.

FlL. POP. (Herts.)—We have seen the article in the Weekly People, and recognise the fine Roman hand. The statement that our “Handicraft to Capitalism” pamphlet is the “first and only” is, of course, untrue. But it is true that our translation of Kautsky’s work is a translation only. We prefer our Kautsky pure and undefiled. In this connection we may observe that the interpolation of one’s own ideas into a translation of another man’s work without permission is not regarded as decent, while to foist the result upon an unsuspecting public, without making quite clear where the author leaves off and the translator commences, is just fraudulent. The statement that our largest branch has gone on strike, and that we are in a “bad mix,” is fathered by the wish. There’s nothing seriously mixed with the S.P.G.B., and our largest branch has not gone on strike. A number of members of one of our largest branches gave indication of being in a “bad mix” and the Party dealt with them promptly. The rest of the article requires no comment from us.

W. McT. (Edinburgh.)—You must learn to make some little allowance when perusing comic journals of the type of that you mention. As a matter of fact there is no Ilford Branch of the I.L.P. in existence. The statement, like so much of the light reading of our esteemed contemporary, was founded on fiction.

Pathetic scenes. (1906)

From the December 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Cleveland (Ohio) branch Y.M.C.A. has decided by vote that a millionaire cannot be an honest man. Punch says pathetic scenes were witnessed when the news was broken to the millionaires who had been trying their hardest.

Socialist Sonnet No. 149: Water’s Utility (2024)

From the Socialism or Your Money Back blog

Water’s Utility
‘Water, water, everywhere, nor any

Drop to drink.’ Rain falls freely to earth,

Yet water is not free; so what is it worth?

A fortune to a water company,

Feeling free to pollute rivers and lakes

With sewage in all its variety,

Product of our effluent society.

Consumers pay the bill, while capital takes

The dividends. So, what nature provides

Becomes a commodity by and by,

To profit those who’ll control the supply

As long as capitalism abides.

‘Nor any drop to drink’ safe to say

Unless the drinker can afford to pay.

 D. A.

Letter to the Islington Tribune (2024)

From the SPGB Discussion Forum

The below letter has been sent to the local freesheet in Islington:

Dear Friend,

It is impressive that within two days of Jeremy Corbyn announcing he is standing as an independent candidate his campaign volunteers have put a leaflet through my letter box.

Freed from the shackles of putting the Labour Party line, he has been free to put his true self and programme forward.

Yet, in his election address there is no mention of socialism, nor any discussion of the common ownership of the means of creating wealth.

Taxing the rich means you have to let the rich earn the money to be taxed, relying on the capitalist drive to profit. Common ownership instead means democratically directing wealth to match human needs.

At this election, then, Socialist Party members will not be supporting Mr. Corybn’s campaign. As we can’t vote for a socialist candidate in this constituency this time, we will be carrying out a write in vote, with our members writing “World Socialism” across their ballot papers. We urge anyone who supports our case to do likewise.
Pik Smeet

Editorial: A budget secret revealed (1949)

Editorial from the May 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

Tories praised Sir Stafford Cripps for his “honest and courageous" budget. Loyal Labour M.P.’s rallied round but sadly thought of the awkward questions they would have to answer when next they addressed their constituents. Some blamed him and his budget for causing the Labour Party to lose control of Middlesex and London in the County Council elections. Other aggrieved Trade Union M.P’s, and of course the Communists, raged against Sir Stafford and demanded what they call a "Socialist” budget. Practically everyone assumed that Cripps is the man solely responsible for what the budget contained and it falls to us to reveal that this is far from the truth. But before we divulge our secret and lay the blame where it justly belongs let us glance at what the Cripps budget did. and at the critics who demand a “Socialist” one in its place.

The principal budget changes are the increased prices the workers will have to pay for butter, meat, cheese and margarine because the government will not increase the subsidies on these articles; a reduction of 1d. a pint on beer that the workers drink, and of 2s. a bottle on light wines that the workers don’t drink; an increase of telephone charges; an increase of death duties on the estates of the wealthy; a concession to companies that allows them an increase of the initial tax free amount they may set aside for the depreciation of plant and machinery. .

What particularly shocked the Labour Party rank and hie was that "their own government," while insisting still that workers ought to refrain from wage claims except on special grounds, should itself raise the cost of food by £70 million a year and add insult to injury by the 1d. a pint oil beer and by various concessions to companies in the matter of taxation; and all of this in face of the urgent pre-budget plea by the trade unions for the cost of living to be lowered by abolition of some of the purchase taxes.

Guns before butter.
Now why did the budget contain these things, and not others more to the liking of Sir Stafford Cripps’ critics in his own Party? His own explanation ran on familiar lines. The government, he says, has to meet increased expenditure on the social services (the National Health scheme, etc.), and on expanding armaments to meet the new threats to world peace, and it cannot do this if at the same time it reduces the workers’ cost of living. Or to put it another way, you cannot devote more men and materials to the production of food, and of exports to buy food, if you have decided to take more men and materials for the armed forces and the manufacture of armaments (as a deceased foreign politician once said, "Guns before butter”). Cripps forestalled another line of attack by insisting that it is not possible for his government to go any further in the direction of soaking the rich to help the poor. The rich must be left more or less with what they have and the poor must be patient until such time as they have greatly increased the amount of wealth produced and then some of it will come to them.

This argument fails to satisfy the critics;.they feel there is a catch in it Arithmetically considered, the critics obviously have an unanswerable case. If the rich were brought down to a common level the poor could have more. If armies and armaments were reduced or abolished more food, clothing and houses could be produced. If rent, interest and profits were reduced or eliminated wages could be raised. But we are not dealing with an arithmetical problem. What we are dealing with is the working of a social system—capitalism—and nobody has yet done these things with capitalism or shown how they can be. done.

There have been many Labour governments in different parts of the world but not one of them has ever done these things. They have all put forward the same excuses as Sir Stafford Cripps for not doing them.

Cant from the Communists.
The clearest example of all is that of Russia where a Communist government has had power uninterruptedly for over thirty years. Lenin promised that immediately they got power all managers, officials, etc., would be brought to approximately the workers’ wage. It has never been done. Instead there is the greatest inequality between the masses and the wealthy minority. The British Communists demand of the Labour government in Britain something that the Russian communist government has not done and has no intention of doing. Let the Communists explain why there are rich and poor in Russia—why not soak the Russian millionaires to help the Russian poor? And why not abolish the turnover tax (like the British purchase tax) so that prices paid by the Russian workers could be reduced? Russian State concerns have to make a profit and pay over part of it to the government; and the State concerns and the government pay out vast sums as interest to the bondholders. Why then does not the Russian government abolish profit and bondholding and use the proceeds to raise wages or reduce prices?

The answer to all these questions is that where you have production of commodities for sale and profit-making, where you have the wages system and property incomes, you have capitalism, and those who administer capitalism are forced within very narrow limits to do those things that capitalism requires, those things and no others. Where you have capitalism you nave rich and poor. Where you have capitalist competition for markets you have international tension and must maintain armaments.

It is not our purpose in this article to argue the practicability of Socialism but merely to hammer home the lesson that at present we (and the Russian and all other workers) live under capitalism and from that all else flows. Budgets are the financial arrangements made for the conduct of the Capitalist State and it is childish muddle-headedness to ask that they be transformed in “Socialist” budgets. It is equally unreal to ask that the British Labour government or the Russian Communist government should transform their respective forms of capitalism into Socialism. The great majority of the workers so far do not understand and therefore do not want Socialism and it cannot be imposed upon them against their will and understanding. 

Now we can reveal why the budget is as it is. Sir Stafford Cripps it was who put pen to paper after studying the problems before him, but capitalism and its forces dictated to him what the problems were and the shape his budget had to take. Beside him and backing him stand his fellow ministers, and behind them and sharing the responsibility are all those Labour Party propagandists, delegates and rank and file members who thought that they could run capitalism in a non-capitalist way. They are learning the hard way that they can’t, and are wasting precious years to do it. Any member of the S.P.G.B. could have told them what would happen to their attempt to run capitalism, as indeed we shall remind them again when eventually a disgruntled working class rejects them and they retire to hold a sad and angry inquest into the causes of their failure. They will probably blame Attlee and Sir Stafford Cripps as last time they blamed MacDonald and Snowden but the blame and responsibility will equally be their own.

Letter: Housing, Crises and the S.P.G.B. (1949)

Letter to the Editors from the May 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

Hampstead, N.W.3.
24th March, 1949.

To the Editor,
Socialist Standard.

Dear Sir,

Taking a little time off from my joyous Capitalistic task of enslaving the Working Classes, I read for the first time, and with great interest, The Socialist Standard of March.

Confronted with a Declaration of Principles and with view points so startlingly original I quite naturally failed to absorb the feast in one sitting. I would like, however, to comment on some of your articles and to ask a few questions.

The opening page consists of a skirmish with Sir Will Lawther and it would seem that this gentleman differs in opinion from the S.P.G.B. In fact I notice that he has had the temerity to “challenge the position taken up by the S.P.G.B.”, and strangely enough, also in your own words, he is by no means the first T.U. Official to do so. Could not these poor benighted dissidents possibly be right and the Party be wrong? Of course not, because we immediately find Mr. J. R. Clynes quoted in Reynolds Newspaper of 1919 and in the short space of eighteen months he is shown to have made a bloomer. This game of pulling pieces out of ancient quotations is a jolly one with the dice loaded heavily in favour of the Editor.

I don’t suppose that any member of your Party has ever been wrong on any subject—although I do seem to remember having a most enlightening conversation with one or two of your members during which I was assured that none of the so called War Criminals would ever be executed because the ruling clique of this country would undoubtedly prevent such an unpleasantness occurring in the ranks of the privileged class, "aristocratic and plutocratic.”

On the second page I find the opponents of Socialism neatly divided into two classes and with no great effort I find myself falling snugly into class A. Human nature being what it is I find bitterness and enmity pervading even The Socialist Standard. "R.H.” writes on workers’ houses being stacked and barrack-like blocks of buildings without gardens. Not one house well made and properly erected? Not one fine block of flats? Not one teeny weeny little garden? This distortion of facts ill-becomes a Party so proud of its honesty and sincerity.

"Abolish Capitalism, overthrow privilege, etc., be hostile to every other Party.” In carrying out this happy programme a lot of people are going to be hurt one way or another, and what are you going to do with the "overthrown”? Is the World to exist only for the S.P.G.B.? And when all this is comfortably arranged, who is to decide the measure of the contribution according to the ability of each, and the measure of the needs of each?

Let us imagine that Human Nature changes, suddenly or otherwise, and that all Peoples feel and think exactly as the Party does and are agreed on carrying out its Principles. How do you start next Monday morning? Does the dustman continue his job, the coalminer, the black-coat worker, the shop assistant, the rent collector, etc., etc.? What about Bill Smith in two rooms in Bermondsey and Ivan Ivanovitch in Moscow? When do they move and where? Who is to arrange for the new accommodation, the new demands for the needs of each? Again, what of the “overthrown”? Who re-educates them and in what tasks? To what use will you put the "abilities" of the languid gentry?

These and a few thousand other details will have to be settled pretty quickly because there are quite a number of lads and lasses everywhere ready to change some onerous and/or dirty job for a nice pleasant one, such as arranging all these things for the other fellow.

If there is a book or pamphlet in existence showing the "How to do it" by the S.P.G.B. I would be delighted to read it because as Mr. Waters points out in the S.S. there are many who see the evils of the present system and want to remedy them. He actually says many "workers" but I hope he will permit even a Capitalist to hold such a view.

Your Principles are clear enough, your declaration of war plain enough, but I feel that I ought to withhold my application for membership until I am reasonably sure that you have a plan to put into operation on the glad day when all other Political Parties are overthrown.
Yours faithfully,
Sidney Bolsom.

Mr. Bolsom clearly does not approve of what he read in the March issue of the Socialist Standard. If he had contented himself with saying so in general terms there would be nothing more to say. He has, however, chosen to go into details and we shall naturally expect him to justify himself.

His first move is to come to the defence of Sir W. Lawther, J. R. Clynes and other trade union officials who have claimed at different times that there would not again be a capitalist crisis of "overproduction" and consequent mass unemployment. We say that those who did so in the past were wrong and were proved to be wrong by events, and that the same fate will befall those who do so now. Mr. Bolsom says: “Could not these poor benighted dissidents possibly be right. . .?", All that is now needed is for Mr. Bolsom to prove that they were right How he will prove that Mr. Clynes was right when he claimed in 1919 that there was no risk of "overproduction, causing unemployment" for at least a dozen years, we do not know. What Mr. Bolsom has taken on is the task of disproving the Ministry of Labour's declaration that in the early part of 1921 there were over 2,000,000 unemployed. He will find the figures in the Ministry’s "Abstract of Labour Statistics" (18th Issue, 1926, Page 51). We await Mr. Bolsom’s disproof.

Then there was the similar experience of the late J. H. Thomas. In the Labour government which came into office in 1929 he took on the post of Lord Privy Seal with the special function of dealing with unemployment. Unemployment then stood at just over a million and Mr. Thomas explained that he and his colleagues in the government "were going to do what they could to reduce unemployment while accepting the present order of society." (Daily Herald, 6th July. 1929). He was as unlucky as Clynes had been, for by the middle of 1931 when the government fell the figure had risen to over 2,800.000—again these are Ministry of Labour figures. Mr. Thomas’s own story, admittedly related in a jocular way, was that on taking office he had consulted the late Josiah Stamp, believing that as an economist Stamp could give him the real expert view. Stamp is alleged to have told his friend Thomas that trade was on the mend whereas it was actually on the verge of another crisis.

We now await Mr. Bolsom’s proof that Thomas was right and that unemployment did not nearly treble within two years of Mr. Thomas’s undertaking to reduce it.

We should perhaps explain to Mr. Bolsom that this is not a guessing game. What is at issue is the reasoned case put forward by Socialists that capitalism, because it is a system based on private ownership of the means of production and because it functions through the sale of commodities for profit, necessarily follows a cycle of expansion and contraction, boom and slump. Against this innumerable 19th century economists, followed more recently by Labour Party politicians, have argued that governments, by following certain trade and financial policies can extricate capitalism from the trade cycle. They have been proved wrong at every succeeding crisis for 100 years or more. Still, if Mr. Bolsom feels able to prove that this time they really will succeed we shall be interested to know how he thinks they will do it.

We note that one or two of the members of the S.P.G.B. are alleged to have disbelieved that the "war criminals" of the second world war would be executed —at least they had a reason, they remembered that the Kaiser and his fellow war criminals, despite the threats and pledges to bring them to trial, succeeded in living to a ripe and honoured old age.

On the question of the article on housing Mr. Bolsom is guilty of a piece of distortion himself. He implies that our contributor declared that there has not been built a single well made and properly erected house, not a single house with a garden, not one fine block of flats. Of course he did nothing of the kind. He claimed that one can see around London "uniform barrack-like blocks of buildings, without gardens for children to play in." He also expressed his opinion that these blocks of flats are "loathsome" and are not the kind of dwellings the workers would like to live in and that the rich can live in. Our contributor did not say that no houses at all except these blocks of working class flats have been built. We would, however, add that the kind of houses the workers can live in is determined by their wages and though better houses and luxury flats do exist (as our contributor pointed out) the mass of workers cannot afford to pay the rent demanded.

Incidentally if Mr. Bolsom thinks that the standard of new working class houses is quite satisfactory can we take it that he lives in one himself or would like to?

Then Mr. Bolsom asks us to take note that if capitalism is overthrown and Socialism is established in its place a lot of people are going to be hurt one way or another. He does not tell us how or why this will happen nor who the people are. Perhaps because he does not at all understand what Socialism is and how it will be achieved. He imagines, for example, that we claim that this will all be done by the S.P.G.B. As this is the reverse of what the S.P.G.B. has been claiming for 45 years perhaps Mr. Bolsom will tell us where in our literature he thinks he picked up that nonsensical idea so completely at variance with the S.P.G.B.’s case. Is it not ironical too, for a defender of capitalism, with its periodical wars and preparations for another war. to tell us that lots of people will be hurt? We can assure him, if he needs assuring, that quite a lot of people will certainly be hurt if capitalism is allowed to continue and produce its next world war.

The rest of Mr. .Bolsom’s questions about how Socialism will be administered after it has been established arise entirely out of his absurd caricature of the S.P;G.B.'s case. If we had ever suggested that Socialism will be achieved by the S.P.G.B. overthrowing other political parties (Mr. Bolsom’s description, not ours) and that than the S.P.G.B. will proceed to plan and impose Socialism, then his questions would be relevant. Our actual case is, of course, that until the majority have become Socialists and have democratically gained political control to establish Socialism, there will be no Socialism. But when these necessary preliminary conditions have been fulfilled these questions will take on a very different character from the one assumed by Mr. Bolsom, who in effect asks us to believe that Socialists who have worked to establish a new system of society on a basis they understand and desire will then proceed to wreck it over who shall do this or that particular job. If on reflection Mr. Bolsom still thinks this is a reasonable proposition and will give reasons we will deal with them.

The broad principle of distribution accepted by Socialists is “From each according to capacity: to each according to need.”

In conclusion we cannot resist pointing to a seeming discrepancy in Mr. Bolsom’s argument. He asks us what Socialist society at its inception will do about the workers who lack proper housing accommodation (poor Mr. Bill Smith “ in two rooms in Bermondsey ”); but did we not gather from the earlier part of Mr. Bolsom’s letter that Bill Smith is already being provided with proper accommodation under Labour Party administration of capitalism? Can it be that on second thoughts Mr. Bolsom does agree that the housing problem is not going .to be solved under capitalism?
Ed. Comm.

Letter: A Critic of the Busmen (1949)

Letter to the Editors from the May 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard

East Ham, E.6.

Dear Sir,

I am not a member of your party, or any other party, so perhaps it is not quite in order that I as a very ordinary individual, should write you.

Somehow or other your Socialist Standard booklet has found itself inside my letter box, and I commenced to read the Busmen’s Case.

The Busmen’s behaviour on that Saturday afternoon was the meanest rotten trick they could play on the long suffering public and it certainly earned them the public’s disgust, not its sympathy. Many people had to walk home in the drizzling rain and the ordinary worker was debarred his Saturday sport.

These strikes don't affect people with cars, it only causes them amusement; and after all, these men know all the facts having to work on Saturday and accept them as a condition of employment. They don’t work any longer hours than the average man and have a rest day thrown in.

Supposing the surgeon of a hospital was doing a vital operation and it was past one o'clock midday, would he down tools unless he was paid time and a half The ambulance man, the nurses, postmen. Everybody who is a public servant.

Yours seems to be a one-sided policy, take all, give nothing. If men want to strike let them strike for their suffering wives, who for nearly ten years have had to put up with a ration book and pay the prices what's asked, because it means going without, if you don't

Be men and strike to bring down prices and better food.

They certainly would earn the women’s praise and uphold them in their convictions.
Yours truly,
Margery Anderson.

Our correspondent states that she commenced to read the article on the London Busmens’ half-day strike in our February issue. It is a pity that she did not complete the reading. Had she done so she would have found the answer to most of the points that she mentions.

We have not sufficient space to repeat the article in detail, but we will briefly touch on a few points. Before giving vent to her "disgust” at strikers, we suggest that our correspondent considers the fact that a strike is the expression of a struggle between opposing interests and the responsibility for any inconvenience caused is as much, if not more, with the employer as with the workers. But despite her disgust she urges men to strike for their "long suffering wives" and to “strike to bring down prices.” Would a strike to bring prices down to the limits of the wage packet cause less inconvenience than a strike to bring wages up to the level of prices?

The statement that “these strikes don’t affect people with cars” is meaningless. Neither do they affect people with pedal cycles. If our correspondent means that the capitalist is not affected, we already said that in the article.

She says that the busmen know the facts of Saturday work and accept them as conditions of employment. Sure they do. They also know the rates of pay that the job carries. But we venture to suggest, that if busmen, or any other workers, accepted rates of pay that were agreed upon at the times when they took their jobs years ago, their "long suffering wives” would be more disgusted than is our correspondent. Conditions change and workers must continuously struggle to adjust their wages and conditions of employment to the changed conditions in their industries and the world around them. The busmen did not protest at Saturday work. They asked for more pay for more work done.

The supposition about a surgeon proves nothing. Surgeons, like other workers, strive to get the best price for the energies that they sell. If they are not prepared to accept the price currently obtainable, they do not do the job. Like anyone else they must live, and that factor may force them to accept lower rates than they would wish, but they have their union and their means of struggle. The following extract from The Star 29/3/49) proves that. Referring to a meeting of the "Doctors’ Parliament” in London to discuss amongst other things, insufficient pay, The Star says: “Buckinghamshire delegates agreed to urge the meeting to call for mass resignations from the Health Service unless adequate fees were granted.” Where a section of the workers are poorly organised or do not wage a determined struggle, their working conditions are also poorer. That is one reason why the nursing profession that our correspondent uses as an illustration, has been notorious for its low pay and bad conditions of employment.

Is our policy one-sided? There was no reference to our policy in the article under discussion. Our Declaration of Principles will be found on the back page of each issue of this journal.

"If men want to strike” begins a sentence. They don’t want to do anything of the sort. If wives are to pay the prices that our correspondent complains about, then men are forced to strike to get the necessary wage or, as she correctly puts it, "it means going without if you don't.”
W. Waters.