Friday, June 21, 2024

Puzzle corner (1950)

A Short Story from the June 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our problem this month is adapted from a chapter in Edward Bellamy’s book, “Equality,” entitled, “The parable of the Water Tank.” Through a certain land there flowed a clear and pleasant stream and to this stream the people came to draw their water as and when they desired. There came amongst these people those who suggested that this state of affairs was far from good. They hinted that one day the stream might dry up and, as a precaution against this possibility, they proposed the building of a water tank to hold a reserve supply. This was agreed to by the people and the proposers took charge of the operations and also control of the tank. They arranged, and enforced, a plan whereby the people should draw water from the stream in buckets and pour it into the tank. For this they were to receive one half-penny per bucket. When the people required water they would not go to the stream but to the tank where they would be supplied at the price of one penny per bucket. Those who owned and controlled the tank would be exempt from the need to assist with the filling operations but would have access to the water in store. This arrangement went on until the tank became full, when the owners cried "Halt.” The next day the people came for water with their buckets but the owners asked first for the price of one penny. The people pointed out that as they were not now allowed to put water into the tank because it was full they earned no half-pennies and, in consequence, they had no pennies to pay. But the owners sneered and turned them away without water. To protect the tank and its contents from the thirsty people, the owners engaged men to act as policemen and soldiers, they engaged economists and soothsayers to explain to the people and to pacify them, they engaged clerks and officials to measure the water and keep accounts, they engaged servants and slaves to help them to enjoy the privilege and luxury that their position entailed. They bathed in the water, they drank it, they wasted it, until the level fell. Then they cried out to the people to come with their buckets to the stream to get more water to refill the tank. So the process started over again. ½d. a bucket put in and 1d. a bucket taken out. Soon the tank was again full and the people were once more turned away thirsty because they were not allowed to earn the pennies per two buckets that would entitle them to draw one bucket out. This is the state of affairs now. The stream still flows through the land, the tank is rapidly filling again, and hundreds of people are talking, questioning and seeking a solution to the problem of a land with plenty of water and plenty of thirsty people. There is a solution, a very simple solution. We do not intend to give it here. We think the workers are wide awake enough to see it. At least, those who read the Socialist Standard should be.
W. Waters

Party News Briefs (1950)

Party News from the June 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Provincial Propaganda was a matter of concern to the delegates at our Annual Conference last Easter. They recommended the Executive Committee to find two or more part-time propagandists who would be prepared to speak in the Provinces for a period of three months during the 1950 summer propaganda season. Acting upon this recommendation the Executive Committee has appointed Comrades D. Verity and D. Moss to make a propaganda tour of selected provincial centres. On May 8th these two speakers left London for Manchester where they will operate for approximately one month. Whilst they are in the Manchester area a programme of activity will be drawn up by the Executive Committee for these Comrades to follow during the remainder of their tour. Bradford and Sheffield are two of the towns that have been suggested as possible centres for their future activities.

Propaganda Research was another matter that received Conference consideration. The Executive Committee has now issued a report on this matter. Subject to the necessary office equipment being available, the material already in the hands of the Propaganda Research Bureau is to be made available. It will comprise 8 to 10 pages of duplicated notes arranged from the material supplied to the Bureau during the Autumn of 1949. The report points out that many speakers do considerable research in preparation for their lectures and the results of this research should be made available to all Party propagandists. Future issues of these research notes could, in addition to those covering general information, be devoted to special subjects. An instance is given of such a special issue dealing entirely with “China” and compiled largely from the material collected by a Party speaker who has specialised in this subject. The report concludes:
“What has to be remembered is that the best results can be achieved only with the full co-operation of those in the Party who read, write and speak. The Propaganda Research Bureau must come largely from outside the bureau itself.”
Members for Full-Time Posts are to receive special training. The Examination Committee has reported to the Executive Committee presenting a list of subjects on which they propose to examine the members whose names have been submitted for training. The list, which has been approved as a basis for the Examination Committee’s work is as follows:—Communistic Society, Slave Society (Greek, Roman and Egyptian) and Feudal Society; migrations of culture. The English Revolution, the French Revolution, the American Revolt for Independence, the Peasant Rebellions (English, French and German), the Industrial Revolution, the Corn Law Movement, the 1848 movements. History of Working Class Movements, the Utopians, the Materialist Conception of History, Trade Unionism (old and new). Development of Parliaments, the American Civil War, Reformism and Reform Movements, Geography—its effect upon History, Evolution, Progress, etc.. Trusts and Nationalisation, Party History (S.P.G.B.), Currency (Credit) Malthus, Henry George, Crises, and Economics (General).

The secretary of Ealing Branch informs us that seaside propaganda trips to Southsea are being organised for Sunday 2 July, Sunday 13 August and Sunday 24 September. Southsea is a good spot for propaganda. Seats are 12s. for each trip and can be booked by writing to W. Critchfield at 48, Balfour Road, West Ealing, W.13. Comrades who are interested and want further information are urged to make early application.

Members of the Swansea Discussion and Study Group report on their efforts to get the Party case stated in the local Press.

A correspondent to the South Wales Evening Post recently mentioned that he was mystified as to the meaning of Socialism. He drew attention to the fact that the Labour Party, I.L.P., Communist Party, S.P.G.B. and others, contested the Election as Socialists, yet were all in opposition to one another.

In reply to this, a Swansea member of the S.P.G.B. wrote to the South Wales Evening Post stating that the S.P.G.B. was, in fact, the only party that contested the Election with a mandate for Socialism. The Editor added a footnote to this quoting the Concise Oxford Dictionary meaning of Socialism: i.e.
“Principle that individual freedom should be completely subordinated to interests of community with any deductions that may be correctly or incorrectly drawn from it: e.g. substitution of co-operation for competitive production, national ownership of land and capital, state distribution of produce, free education and feeding of children and abolition of inheritance.”
Our member replied to this giving our full objective: i.e.
“The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community."
This letter was published by the South Wales Evening Post. In reply, another reader wrote agreeing that the S.P.G.B. is the only Socialist Party, and challenged members of the other so called “Socialist” parties to state their case in opposition to the S.P.G.B.

If any reply was given, it was not published. Are these parties so confused that they do not feel qualified to reply?

The Socialist Party of New Zealand writes that, “Our pamphlet, (Introducing the S.P.N.Z.) did not bring a rush of inquirers into the Party and its activities. It did bring forth a statement per medium of the official organ of the Communists, the 'Peoples Voice.’ Needless to say the article contained the usual Communist distortions, stupid assertions and, if they are as well informed as they claim to be, deliberate lies. However, we wrote the manager of the ‘Peoples Voice’ pointing out the errors and distortions. At the same time we challenged them to debate. Which Party should the Workers support, the C.P. of N.Z. or the S.P. of N.Z. Our answer to this letter has not been received up to the time of writing.”

Our Belfast Comrades are anxious to receive visits from S.P.G.B. speakers. They extol the virtues of Northern Ireland as a holiday venue as an inducement to get some of our members across the dividing channel. Arrangements for accommodation in Belfast will be made for any intending visitor, particularly if he or she will speak on the S.P.I. platform. If there are any Party speakers who are intrigued by the idea, early contact with the Overseas Secretary, S.P.G.B. is urged.

Newport Branch has been in difficulties for some time. It has now been decided to dissolve the branch and transfer its members to Central Branch.

Lewisham Branch sought to renew permission to hold meetings in Greenwich Park but has been refused. It is, in consequence, intended to re-open the propaganda station at Romer Avenue on Saturday evenings.
W. Waters.

Members and sympathisers in Coventry and district who are interested in forming a Discussion and Study Group are asked to get in touch with F. Morton, 64, Gretna Road, Coventry.

Editorial: War—But With Whom? (1950)

Editorial from the June 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is a popular theme with writers on war to discuss after the event how each war could have been avoided if only the government had taken action to stop the aggressor in time. Thus Sir Duff Cooper in an article in the Daily Mail (16/5/50) tells the British people that “had they been willing to listen to Lord Roberts before 1914 or Mr. Churchill before 1939, it is possible that two world wars might have been avoided.” His present theme is that Russia is not the only danger to world peace for within a short time Germany may again have recovered sufficiently to become an equal or greater menace. The fact that he recognises the existence of more than one potential enemy reveals the fallacy of the whole of his case for stopping war by timely action; for it must be obvious that a government cannot take a decision unless it knows with which Power it may be at war and with which Power it may then be in alliance. Sir Duff Cooper's list of warning voices is not complete; to it should be added those who expected war with Russia in 1919, or with France in 1923, or with America at various times of tension. Where all such arguments go astray is that they fail to see that while the world remains capitalist all Powers are potential enemies. From which it follows that the capitalists and the capitalist politicians are always divided in their judgment about which rival Power is the greatest menace. Before 1914 there were influential British groups which favoured an alliance, or at least a “deal,” with expansionist German capitalism and it was a similar division of opinion that produced the Chamberlain policy towards Hitler.

At the present moment most British and American Statesmen see Russia as "the only militaristic and aggressive Power in the world,” but others, like Sir Duff Cooper, taking a longer view, see a renascent Germany as “the enemy,” and in truth nobody can be certain that these discords may not be overshadowed by others in the course of a few years. Under the Russian threat France, Britain and Holland now welcome American Military Aid to hold colonies in Asia, and the investment of American capital in colonies in Africa but if and when the Russian threat diminishes the encroachment of American capitalism may appear as the more dangerous menace.

Each school of thought can produce supporting arguments. While the People (7/5/50) featured the threat to British exports from “the growing menace of cheap goods made in Germany and Japan” the Sunday Empire News of the same date was warning its readers that “countries behind the Iron Curtain are flooding world markets" with all sorts of goods at cut-throat prices.”

The British Government, through the Foreign Under-Secretary, Mr. E. Davies, declares its view that at present German exports do not constitute a serious menace to British export trade (Daily Telegraph 16/5/50); but Mr. Davies' further statement that German exports would have to be increased many times before they represented “a threat equivalent to the German pre-war export rate” shows that he has not forgotten the alarm British exporters felt in the years immediately before the second world war. What happened then may happen again as German production increases.

A more understanding view used to be expressed by Sir Stafford Cripps who told an audience of co- operators at Ilkeston, Derby, on 17 September, 1944: “A return to open competition between the nations will inevitably lead to another and even more disastrous war” (Daily Express 18/9/44). Having now forgotten what he once knew Sir Stafford Cripps has in recent years been the Minister primarily responsible for the drive to flood world markets with British exports at prices below those of foreign competitors. He was responsible for the devaluation of the pound in September, 1949, with the specific object of lowering British export prices but now he cannot see that in the eyes of foreign capitalists this is “economic aggression" which will in due course produce its harvest of international enmity, retaliatory action and eventual threats of war.

The former Sir Stafford had a better grasp of the relationship between capitalism and war but at that time he was not finally committed to the effort of the Labour Government to put British capitalism on its feet again. He still cherished the utopian notion of a world capitalism pruned of aggression through the now moribund United Nations.

More about children and crime (1950)

From the June 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

Over the past few months, popular newspapers have been giving a great deal of space to articles on crime, juvenile delinquency and more especially to crimes of violence. Some newspapers in fact, have been accused of giving “cosh cases” prominence in order to canalise public opinion in such a way as to make people demand the return of flogging. Although it is not the purpose of this article to either justify or oppose flogging, it is interesting to note that even so-called “experts” are divided as to whether this form of punishment is a deterrent. It is even more interesting, however, to read these “expert” opinions on the cause and cure of crime.

The Daily Express (April 25th, 1950) displayed on page 3 the following headline:—
“Glittering Toys Blamed for Theft” 
and reported the Mayor of Acton, Mr. A. E. Mitchell, when addressing a conference on juvenile crime at the Middlesex Guildhall, as saying:—
“Multiple stores are responsible for much of the petty thieving today. Glittering toys in easy reach are great temptation to children. . . . The Stores should co-operate by putting them out of reach.”
We may well ask Mr. Mitchell what sort of a world it is that can produce glittering toys in superabundance merely to lie in windows and on shelves out of reach. Is it so surprising that children unable to buy them, will take them?

What then of the older child? The child who is old enough to know that the taking of toys is forbidden and old enough to know that toys are not to play with, but only things at which to look and covet; the child who wants to amuse himself, who has no playroom, playground, or nearby woods in which to roam?

At the same conference Mr. A. T. Pike, Chairman of the Highgate Juvenile Court has something to say of this very child. He asks:—
“What causes children to trample down allotments, ill-treat old ladies, and do things of that kind?”
and then answers:—
“It is downright wickedness!”
It is evident that Mr. Pike has a remarkable insight and is aptly fitted to deal with the cases that come before him. No doubt he is a source of inspiration and guidance to those children whose misfortune it is to visit his Court. His suggestion for the cure, however, is one which is no less brilliant than his analysis of the cause, and must have been the result of painstaking research.

He says:—
“The sooner we get back to old-fashioned terms and remedies the better.”
We may also ask Mr. Pike what he expects in a world where Commando thugs and Dick Barton are the heroes, where violence, atom bombs and mass murder are the order of the day. Is it not to be expected that some children will react accordingly, emulate their heroes and become little toughs.

In speaking to the Annual Conference of probation officers at Cheltenham, Sir Hartley Shawcross seemed to be getting on the right track when he said, (Sunday Observer, 23/4/50):—
“In these days of economic uncertainty and, still more, of the fear and threat of war, many of us are tempted to a get-rich-quick attitude. . . . 'Let us live while we are alive; let us get what we can while we can.' Too often that is the modern philosophy ”
He goes on to say: —
“The basic factor is that the suppression of crime by adults consists primarily in preventing juvenile crime. Not only are virtually all habitual offenders people who committed their first offences when children; no less than a third of those convicted of indictable offences are children under seventeen. . . . The number of criminals to each 100,000 of the population is greater at the age of sixteen than at any other age. What an indictment of us! We may not be able to do much about those who have established themselves in a life of crime, except to keep them out of mischief. But we must stop the rot at the beginning."
If Sir Hartley Shawcross appears to be on the right track in his earlier remarks as to the cause, we are sadly disappointed later on, when he says of the cure: —
“I wish we could build up . . .  a uniformed youth organisation in the social services of the nation. Young people love uniforms.”
Then, to forestall any accusation of suggesting the building of a “Hitler Jugend,” he says:—
“That was the secret of the “Hitler Youth” a damnable organisation. But that love of uniforms and of the idea that they are doing something important can be developed for good ends, as well as base ones.”
It is difficult to see exactly where Sir Hartley’s youth organisation would differ from the “Hitler Youth” in either means or ends, but no doubt, being an “ expert ” he must be right when he asserts that there is a difference.

He goes on to say: —
“Just fancy, if you could enrol those over school leaving age in a junior section of the special constabulary, you might divert a lot of the spirit of adventure into stopping crime instead of creating it."
Just fancy, if only children would grow up with a spirit of adventure, law-abiding enough to be honest and conscientious workers in peacetime and ruthless enough to be cold and efficient killers in war. Unfortunately for Sir Hartley and his whole tribe of “experts” he can't have it both ways, and all the psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, child guidance clinics and other “specialists” can rack their brains and hold conferences from now until the cows come home but until the economic system that causes crime is fundamentally changed, they might just as well knock their heads against the wall.

It may be argued, of course, that all children do not react in the same way to the same conditions, but let us compare the country child with the slum child. It is generally accepted that there is less “delinquency” among the former as compared with the latter. But the former has many more facilities for occupying his spare time in a “ law-abiding ” manner—open spaces, trees to climb, and the thousand and one things the country can offer—but the slum child, hemmed in with brick walls, in most cases unwanted in the house all day because of lack of space, has to play in the streets and in finding an outlet for his energies often resorts to destructive behaviour.

What conclusions are to be drawn then? The workers the world over produce those very toys and all the other goods that they and their children want. The development of science in production has proceeded far enough for all their demands to be satisfied providing the world were run in a sane manner. As things are however most people are unable to buy everything they want and are, in fact, often unable to obtain all the basic necessities of life. Some therefore take what appears to be the easy way out and resort to what is known as “dishonest ways” of obtaining those things. The number who succeed in this way and stay unapprehended is probably small. Those who do succeed most likely spend their time wondering how long it will be before they are caught. There is one way in which robbery can be successfully carried out and yet at the same time be legal. This is what is generally known as robbing the workers of the fruits of their labour, and to do this only one condition is required—that of being an employer or capitalist. As, however, this is impossible for most of us, we are back where we started. The solution to the problem, however, does exist.

Seeing then, that the mass of the people produce those goods they need, why can’t they have them? This is what our comrades in America probably call the sixty-four dollar question.

The Socialist solution is one that would remove crime, poverty and slums in one fell swoop. We hold that all the evils of the modern world including war, are a result of that very way in which the world’s wealth is produced and distributed, and of the fact that approximately one-tenth of the people own nine-tenths of that wealth. We do not call for the equal distribution of that wealth, but for the abolition of private or State ownership of the means of life and the making of production and distribution and making them the common property of every man, woman and child on the earth. Everybody who is able will work to produce the things that we need and everybody will have equal access to those things.

We argue that the need to “cosh” a man on the head for his watch or his wallet would no longer exist because watches would be freely available to all who needed them, and money would be a thing of the past. Even today, who would bother to steal water from another man’s tap? Nobody dreams of doing so because water is freely available to everybody.

Under Socialism the same condition would apply to all our needs—they would be freely available to all.

Those who prattle about “human nature” being the cause of crime and making Socialism impossible, should be reminded of a few facts. According to the calculations of scientists like Gordon Child and Julian Huxley, man has probably existed on this planet for a period of at least 500,000 years. Of that period the greater part was lived in primitive communism, where money was unknown, where such property as existed was commonly owned and where the distribution of the wealth produced was in accordance with the needs of the community. A fine example is given by De Poncins in his book “Kabloona.” During his stay among the Eskimo untouched by civilisation he was amazed to find that in spite of the severity of the climate and the consequent scarcity of the means of life, stealing was unknown and that there was no word for stealing in the Eskimo language. He found, in fact, that in this condition of rude communism crime was virtually iron-existent.

Let those who talk so glibly about “human nature,” appear in the dock and plead like the German War Criminals that “human nature” is the cause of their crimes. The court that passes sentence will be no more lenient and the rope that hangs them will be no less deadly.

In conclusion; when the working class decides to solve its own problems instead of leaving it to the “experts,” society will no longer need prisons, nor indeed will it need “experts” on the cause and cure of crime.
S. J. Burton.

A Glance at Christianity (1950)

From the June 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

It was recently reported in the Press that a clergyman held a special religious service before the F.A. Cup Final in order to offer up prayers for an Arsenal victory. At least one national newspaper ridiculed the whole affair and accused the unfortunate clergyman of reducing religion to a cheap commercial level. It is worth pointing out that although the Almighty has been called upon to perform some peculiar deeds in the past, it is the first requested intervention into league football.

Most people dismiss such irresponsible episodes as sheer nonsense, but there is no doubt that many of the working class still harbour a feeling of awe towards the Church and its teachings. Few people understand how Christianity originated, least of all those who profess to practice it.

Christianity was born during the period when the great Roman Empire commenced its decline. To understand the reason for this phenomenon appearing at this time it is necessary to delve into Roman history to discover the conditions that were peculiar to this period. A very suitable book that deals exhaustively with this subject is “The Foundation of Christianity” by Kautsky.

The early Christians were mostly recruited from the oppressed and property-less classes, slaves, etc. Hence the vehement hatred towards the rich that is expressed in the early Christian writing. This attitude was modified as the cult grew and rich and influential members became an obvious advantage to further expansion and power. By the time that Christianity was adopted as the state religion by the Roman Emperor Constantine little remained of the early ethical teachings of the followers of primitive Christianity. The whole religion had undergone a very efficient watering down process with certain necessary modifications that made it more palatable to the ruling class of that period.

As society has changed so we find that Christian teachings have also changed to keep pace with the intelligence and aspirations of the congregation. But there is one sermon that the organised Church has always preached—the sanctity of private property and the necessity and justification of a ruling class.

Under Feudalism the church would attempt to frighten the simple serf into accepting the unquestionable rule of the Aristocracy with spine chilling accounts of the fate that would befall wrongdoers and rebels deep in the fiery bowels of the earth. Most churches at this time made a practice of displaying, in a prominent position, a picture of Hell showing vividly what ghastly tortures might be expected, just in case the verbal description did not penetrate and produce the desired results.

Of course modern wage slaves would scoff at such amateurish and obvious attempts to encourage acceptance of their lot, and the church is astute enough to realise it. The church these days will emphasise the other side of the picture and teaches the working class that the rewards of after-life will amply repay them for a miserable existence on earth. They offer no solutions to the problems of this world; accept war, poverty and want as “inevitable,” indeed they are not concerned with causes only the effects. In the event of war the churches support the cause of their respective masters. We had the spectacle during the last war of the churches in all countries praying to their God for victory. The only consolation that the Church can offer after the wholesale butchering of millions of people is that it is “Gods Will.” Perhaps this God emulates the Roman Emperors of bygone days and regards the earth as a vast arena, gloating with sadistic delight at the sight of human beings torn limb from limb and workers’ bayonets ripping open each others bellies. The socialist recognises that the Church under capitalism, as under previous forms of society, offers support to the ruling class and opposition to any change that would endanger the supremacy of this class.

Workers will one day realise that the remedies to their problems lie in their own hands and that no supreme being is concerned with their welfare, the outcome of wars, football matches or any other earthly pursuits. They will learn that it is the present arrangement of the machinery of production and distribution for sale that lies at the root of their problems. Once these conditions have been swept away and production for use replaces them, there will be no need for religion, sky pilots, supreme beings or any of the other unintelligible jargon.
G. L.

The Welfare State (1950)

From the June 1950 issue of the Socialist Standard

All the major political parties applaud the Welfare State. They vied with each other, during the election campaign, to claim credit for bringing it into existence. The Conservatives made the most of the fact that the government which set up the commission to inquire into the problem of reorganising the social services was a coalition Government predominantly Tory. The Liberals claimed their share of the glory because Sir William Beveridge, who gave his name to the report, was chairman of the Commission, and a Liberal. To the Labour Government was left the triumph of passing the legislation.

The truth about it all was that the so-called “Welfare State” arose not through the good will of any political party but because of the need to adapt the social services to the changing condition of capitalism. The need to allay any possible working class discontent after the war. Of course, it was a benefit to the health of the working class. That was another reason. To take advantage of post-war conditions and capture as many foreign markets as possible it was necessary to increase production. To do this a healthy efficient working class was needed.

But the capitalist class give with one hand and take back with the other.

The New Statesman and Nation, criticizing the Daily Mail's handling of the figures which led to the headline “Father Pays £34 9s. a year to Put Family of Four on the Panel,” makes some calculations of its own and comments:—
“This would make ‘fathers' payment for health services (Daily Mail calculation) around £23. or almost equal to the estimated benefit (Marshal Aid calculation) which a family receives under the scheme.”—(April 1st. 1950).
From these figures, as far as the health services are concerned, the working class are just getting what they pay for. The Economist in an article deals with the total social expenditure, and it quotes from the report of the E.C.A. Mission to the United Kingdom, “Facts about the British Economy.” Publishing a.table giving the Mission’s estimates The Economist writes: —
“The left-hand side of the table puts the total social expenditure for an average family—on the assumption that the population can be divided into families of four persons—at 57 shillings a week, including expenditure from the local rates and from the national insurance funds. The right-hand side of the table gives estimates of taxes paid by lower income families in 1948, taken as those with an income of under £500 in 1947. The total taxes estimated to be paid by such families who make up about 80 per cent. of the population, were larger than the whole of current social expenditure.” (The Economist, 1/4/50).
The socialist view is that the Welfare State won't abolish the poverty problem which confronts the working class out is just the best method the capitalist class have devised to distribute wages from the point of view of efficiency. When the Beveridge Report, the blue print of the Welfare State, was published, the Communist Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Party and some sections of the Tories were in favour of it. The Socialist Party of Great Britain thought fit to publish a pamphlet putting forward the socialist view. It had the title “Beveridge Re-organises Poverty.” How right it was! The Economist thinks that way too. It later continues: —
“Since it is the lower income groups which benefit mainly from social expenditure the report says ‘the social expenditures are chiefly financed by transfers of income within the lower income group, in accordance with variations in the patterns of consumption, family size, etc., rather than by transfers between different income levels.’ ” (The Economist, I /4/50).
J. T.