Sunday, September 24, 2017

"I've always been respectable" (1953)

From the April 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

The peace of mind of ordinary English people has been disturbed! A widow has been sued for possession of her flat at Bow County Court, on the ground that she was an annoyance to other tenants in the house. The annoyance was visits by a man she intended to marry.

“The thought of a couple living in the house adulterously. perhaps, and certainly immorally—worried them,” said the prosecuting lawyer. When asked “What is your attitude to this man living with this woman?” a tenant of the basement replied, “I take a very poor view of it. I’ve been married 28 years and I’ve always been respectable.”

Counsel for the Defence: “The fact that two people who are sleeping together have no marriage lines, doesn’t make their conduct an annoyance to people in an adjoining flat.”

Judge: “The average women in the East End doesn’t like to have an unmarried woman living as though she were married next door to her. They come here in their scores and tell me so.”

Counsel for Prosecution: “The poorer classes are very often much more fastidious in these matters than the top layer.”

Judge: “We won’t say the top layer. We’ll say the wealthier classes . . . anything that disturbs the peace of mind of other inhabitants of a house is an annoyance. This sort of conduct is something that I am pleased to say in these days still disturbs the peace of mind of ordinary sensible English people."

Making an order for possession, suspended so long as visits ceased, the Judge told the widow, “If you choose to sleep with Mr. —, I can’t prevent it, but you must choose somewhere else!" Or, as a certain Mr. Henry Ford used to say, “The customers can have any colour they like, as long as it’s black."

In such cases is much material for study. The “poorer classes’’ are more fastidious about “marriage lines’’ than the wealthy ones. They are very worried if somebody lives next door as though they are married, when they are not. They are unlike the proprietors of some expensive West End hotels, which provide accommodation mainly for persons not married to each other.

These hoteliers would get “very worried” if their guests were married couples, since then they would be on the way out.

In addition to all their other advantages and privileges (No Taxation or Death Duties, no financial worries, no servant problem, no wrangles about places in the Coronation procession; or what to do with the old ancestral hall, or Kenya or the Soudan) the poorer classes have, as their most cherished possession, their respectability. Come rain or shine, fair weather or foul, nobody can deprive them of this most precious jewel.

Rich men may marry a new film-star every year; even in the basement, we’re respectable.

Neither does this extend to “marriage lines” only, as every inhabitant of those quarters occupied by the “poorer classes" knows; behind those threadbare “respectable" curtains lurks the prying eye, the sharp inquisitive nose eager for the slightest sign of a minor slip or lapse. Let Mrs. Brown forget to whiten her doorstep when the snow is on the ground; how the bush telegraph crackles over the garden wall!

Crammed together in numbers which ants would find uncomfortable, in parts of dilapidated houses at the rate of more than 2½ to one small room; not merely next to each other, but literally on top of each other, dependent upon a husband whose job is so deadly dull and monotonous that a Coronation Tea party is a thrilling adventure, their greatest experience a visit to a cheap local cinema, small wonder that their main pre-occupation is to be “cleaner” “brighter," “nicer" or when all else fails, more “respectable" than the woman next door. “Them mats haven’t been touched these last two days!"

“Marriage lines" is the popular slang term for the Registrar’s Certificate, issued under the Matrimonial Act to persons legally entitled to it. This Act ensures chiefly that monogamy (one wife or husband only) is observed, the breach of this, bigamy, being severely punished as a criminal offence. “Sleeping together" without these “lines," annoys scores of poorer women in the East End, though whether many or few do this, we cannot say.

Though not guilty of infringement of the Matrimonial Act, the lady in question, a widow, had no “marriage lines” for her visitor, which annoyed the other tenants. They, unlike heathens and foreigners, are “respectable.”

These rules of the matrimonial game, or “gamble,” as it is sometimes called, are the result of the growth of private property. Monogamy is essential to ensure that a fortune goes to a man’s own children, it is the maintenance of private property. Since it is a social law of Capitalism, the poor, like the rich, must not flout it openly. Had the lady been rich she would not have appeared in Court, since she would not have rented a flat in Bow.

Neither could she have been sued for possession of her own property. She could invite as many visitors to as many of her houses as she chose. Had her “visitor” been wealthy, he could have invited her anywhere he pleased (yachts are popular) without risking Court proceedings, seagulls not having heard of “marriage lines." As is well known, some very wealthy people still practice what in earlier days, or other places, was commonplace, the maintenance of an “unofficial" harem as an advertisement of opulence.

As long as working class women are condemned to grim, mean little lives of grinding poverty, “respectability” will be a straw to clutch at in face of premature age and hopeless exhaustion. The lady suffered from a lack of what becomes yearly more expensive and unobtainable; personal privacy. This is a form of poverty. The occupants of a typical house of working-class “flats” have about as much seclusion as a professional footballer on Saturday afternoons.

As our “modern conveniences” increase, so our lives become more inconvenient. As if the Atom Bomb, gastritis, influenza, the Floods and the Mau Mau are not enough “disturbance,” that woman upstairs “ has got 'im 'ere again. There’s too many in the house already without her bringing more in.”

In his vastly entertaining account of his stay in the Marquesas Islands entitled “Typee." subsequently authenticated, the American writer Melville, comments wittily on the happy lot of the Polynesian in the 1840s 
    “There seemed to be no cares, griefs, troubles or vexations in all Typee. The hours tripped along as gaily as the laughing couples down a country dance.” He says there were “no bills or mortgages, no lawyers, no beggars, no prisons, no 'proud nabobs’—in a word—no money.” (Page 136, Penguin Edition.)
   “No cross old women, no cruel step-dames, no withered spinsters, no love-sick maidens, no sour old bachelors, no inattentive husbands, no melancholy young men, no squalling brats. All was mirth, fun, and high good humour.” (Page 136.)
To which should be appended “no marriage lines” because there was no private property.

Should the reader be contemplating speedy departure to this haven let us disillusion him. From the introduction we quote, “The modern visitor would find little trace of the life described in 'Typee,' for the population which at one time was 100,000, has dwindled to less than 2,000; contact with whites has brought syphilis, leprosy and tuberculosis," and, may we add. Respectability?

During the East Coast Floods (1953)

From the May 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

When Socialists outline the society that could be established with the present productive equipment, non-socialists argue that it wouldn’t work. They say it would be against human nature, that men are by nature lazy and greedy and wont work unless they are forced on with the whip or incited by some economic advantage.

The Observer in an editorial refuted those arguments.

The Observer wrote:—
  "When the floods broke, people showed exactly the virtues and the spirit needed in a modern industrial society. Machines and materials had to be moved quickly to the coast, and so had a labour force of many thousands. There had to be a service of engineers and technicians, and a system of administrative control. Everything was done in a hurry; there was a good deal of excited confusion and some ill-directed endeavour. But the total organisation worked well, mainly because so many people worked willingly and in relative harmony.
   "The motive force was enthusiasm, sweeping away the inhibitions and protective restrictions which persist in many of our industries. Engineers on the flooded coast were sometimes embarrassed by lorry-drivers who, foregoing all their rest-periods along the road, arrived with thousands of sandbags in the middle of the night. One of the gangs working with fortitude and persistence, under conditions of unrelieved hardship, did so almost within sight of a building site where not long ago thousands of men struck work partly because they were denied a tea-break. And on the professional and administrative sides, many people hitherto rutted deep in the easy routine of their lives gave themselves up to days and nights of revolutionary discomfort.
   "Moreover, once the tragic side of the disaster had receded, people scarcely bothered to disguise the fact that they were enjoying themselves. They seemed to welcome the chance to work without sparing themselves, in cooperation with others, and for the good of an obviously stricken community." (April 5th, 1953.)
The Observer compared the zeal shown by the workers during the East Coast floods with that shown in ordinary everyday work and implied that if the workers worked with the same zeal in their everyday jobs as they did during the floods British capitalism could be extricated from its difficulties.

But, of course, the Observer realised that there are 
    " . . . differences between an emergency of this kind and the routine of ordinary working life. Nobody on the East Coast was afraid of working too hard or of working himself out of a job; the effort required was intense, but everyone knew it was not going to last long. Nobody was worried by the thought that he was working to make profits for someone else."
In their ordinary everyday life the workers sell their labour power to the capitalist class who own the means and instruments of production. The wages they receive in return are very often not enough to live on. What the workers produce over their wages enables the capitalist class to live in luxury and idleness and increase their investments, and is the primary purpose of capitalist production. To increase their profits the capitalist class use every device; they instal labour-saving machinery, appeal to social feelings and national prejudices to get as much work as possible from the workers at as low a wage as possible. To improve their standard of living, even maintain it, the workers must struggle continually. Between the working class and the capitalist class there is a fundamental conflict of interest

To sell their goods the different sections of the capitalist class come into conflict over markets. They also come into conflict over sources of raw materials and strategic points controlling trade routes.

The non-Socialists who argue that men must be “forced” to work should take note of the following words from the Observer although they are coloured by an appeal to patriotic sentiments:—
   "The experience of the floods has shown that the country has not lost its energy, its co-operative impulses or its adventurous spirit. The problem is to harness these forces to the everyday jobs."
These forces can be harnessed to everyday jobs by abolishing the private ownership of the means of production—the source of the conflict of interest in modern industrial society—and establishing the common property of the means of living. Then there would be a community of interest: the many would not work in the interest of the few; everyone would be working for the benefit of all—as during the floods—for the benefit of humanity.
J. T.

The Floods — Another Solution (1953)

From the May 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is claimed by Anarchists and Anarcho-Syndicalists that they are revolutionaries not reformists; that they are opposed to the various politicians' schemes for patching up the present social system. A recent editorial of The Syndicalist (February, 1953), however, shows that this is not so.

Under the title “A Floodworkers’ Scheme,” The Syndicalist deals with the condition of the sea walls and dykes around the British Coast. “It is a disgrace,” says the writer, "that the people of Canvey Island should have been relying for their safety on dykes built by Dutchmen two hundred years ago, and that elsewhere clay walls built in the time of Henry VIII were relied upon to keep back the relentless sea." After castigating the authorities for not having tackled the task of strengthening the sea defences before, and merely waiting for disaster and then bringing in the Army, The Syndicalist puts forward its own “revolutionary” solution. “What is needed is a national scheme for flood and tempest.” And, continues our Anarchist writer :—
   "The country can afford to keep a few old men as watchmen for such a job . . .  and the possibility of lookout posts, with sirens, on a job modelled on that of the lighthouse-keeper is something that will at the very least help out a few pensioners while remaining a surety for warning if not for safety.
   "A flood labour scheme could continue throughout the year, but particularly employing unskilled labour in slacker periods of the year. That there is vast pool of foreign labour which would be only too anxious to come over and participate in such a scheme is undisputable. But a national scheme is required, and proper rates should be paid, for it is impossible to conceive that Army and volunteer help such as at present exists in the flood areas can continue indefinitely."
Need we comment on this Anarcho-Syndicalist "solution?”
Peter E. Newell

Saturday, September 23, 2017

War, Crime and Punishment (1953)

From the June 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Recently two young soldiers were convicted at Berkshire Assizes of robbery with violence. Instead of sentencing them straight away the judge gave them a choice—volunteer "unconditionally” for Korea or go to gaol. After they had a night to think it over their counsel told the judge: “They are eager to take advantage of your lordship’s leniency, and volunteer for overseas service.”

An editorial in the Daily Mirror (9th May) strongly criticised the judge’s action. The Mirror asks how the choice of the convicted men could be unconditional in such circumstances. But there are other aspects of the matter that should be brought out, and the main theme of the editorial (An Insult to the Army) is of little consequence compared to the deeper questions concerning the cause of crime and war in our present society.

The comments of the judge (Mr. Justice Hilbery) are indicative of the conventional attitude to crime. “You have been convicted of a very grave crime. When you robbed and attacked as you did each was not showing his true nature. Each of you is a better fellow than that. See active service and turn yourselves into "men of courage.”

From this it would appear that when people rob and attack others without the sanction of the law they are not showing their “true nature.” If, on the other hand, they take part in organised attack and robbery against other nations (for what else is war ?) then they are turned into “men of courage.”

The Daily Mirror believes that the men risking life in Korea are undertaking a high and honourable duty, and that it is not for courts to confuse military service with crime and punishment. In extenuation of the courts it should be pointed out that in the circumstances the confusion is pardonable. “War crime” is a name given, by the nation in a position to inflict punishment, to certain of the “military services” performed by the forces of other nations. And the military authorities themselves make it harder to see the dividing line when they treat as a criminal the conscript who is unwilling to fight by putting him in gaol.

Under the heading, “ R.A.F. is Training Burglars,” the Daily Mirror previously printed (18th March) a report of a case of two airmen who broke into a house after drinking. Their officer told the magistrates: “If you train a man 5½ days a week to break into houses and to create disturbances on airfields, it is fair to expect that he might be inclined to put his training to the test when he is in drink.” Further comment is perhaps unnecessary, except that such cases do little to dispel the confusion of organised burglary “in the national interest” with ordinary private enterprise burglary.

As a sidelight on the majesty of the law, however, it should be noted that the officer successfully pleaded that the airmen should not be gaoled, as they had good service records and the R.A.F. was short of such men. They were conditionally discharged. Possibly the magistrates considered that it would be a pity to send men who were doing such sterling work to the already overcrowded gaols when there are much more dangerous citizens at large. For example, two girls who signed “Mrs.” instead of “Miss” in a hotel register were recently sentenced to a month’s imprisonment. True, the sentences were later remitted, but that they should have been imposed in the first place shows that the law is administered in accordance with a standard of values that is more concerned with the sanctity of a property institution (legalised marriage) than with the protection of human life.

The Socialist views the problems of crime and war as inseparable from Capitalism itself. A vicious and competitive economic system breeds vicious and anti-social behaviour. A system based on a community of interests instead of on an antagonism will be conducive to co-operative behaviour and not, as at present, place obstacles in its way. Only with the establishment of such a system will wars and crime lose their purpose and hence their existence.

Korea—Cradle of Conflict (1953)

From the July 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many of those who have been fighting in Korea probably do not understand the reasons why they have been called upon to risk life and limb in this particular theatre of war; a large number probably had not even heard of that country before. It may be just as well for the interests of the great powers concerned that their workers have been kept in ignorance of the role of Korea in world affairs otherwise it might have been difficult to induce them to fight.

An Ancient Culture
With a history of 4,000 years the Koreans are an old civilised group with a high cultural level linked with that of China. They have substantially contributed to the cause of progress—printing was first brought to Europe from Korea. Korean celadon ware is considered to be amongst the most beautiful pottery to have been produced anywhere in the world.

A veritable Korean renaissance followed the founding in 1392 of a new dynasty (which dynasty has lasted until modern times) and in order to emancipate the population from the burden of learning Chinese ideographs an alphabet of 26 letters was invented so simple in outline and of such phonetic adaptability that they can learn to read in less than a month. They also invented the first metal movable type anticipating Europe by 50 years. Astronomical instruments of a high order were made and a whole new literature flourished. It cannot therefore rightly be said of the Koreans as it has been said of other people subjugated and exploited by capitalist powers, that they are in need of the civilizing influence of the West.

It is only since the eighteen seventies, that is. since industrial capitalism opened up Asia, that Korea has been a cradle of conflict. The Chinese ruling class considered that control of the peninsula was necessary for defence of their Empire and up to this time exercised a suzerainty over it. As Li Hung-chang, the famous Chinese viceroy put it in 1879, “Korea is the wall protecting China's Provinces, the lips protecting the teeth.”

China has been constantly threatened by the rising powers of Russia and Japan, both being busily engaged in wresting territory and concessions in Manchuria from the Chinese.

China has had the fear that Korea would “ripen like a pear and then drop into the jaws of Russia.” There were ice-free harbours for ice-bound Asiatic Russia and a footing on the mainland for Japan to be obtained as a result of successful adventures in Korea. A French expedition under Admiral Rose was severely handled by Korean forces and forced to retire from the scene. Again in 1871 an American flotilla was sent to repeat Commodore Perry's exploit in Japan but after killing a number of Koreans the American fleet left. In 1876 the Japanese succeeded in forcing Korea open. In 1894 through the Japan-China war Japan succeeded in forwarding Japanese influence at the expense of the Chinese.

The Japan-Russian war began with Japan guaranteeing the independence of Korea but ended with the Treaty of Portsmouth when the United States assured the Japanese that they would look favourably on the Japanese assumption of authority in Korea. In 1905 the Japanese by force instituted a virtual protectorate and finally annexed Korea to the Japanese Empire in 1910.

A Valuable Consolation Prize
Quite apart from the strategic value of the peninsula the wealth of the gold, copper, coal iron and tungsten resources and the profit obtained from exploiting the 19 million population is quite a considerable consolation prize for the successful “liberator” of Korea. Tungsten is used for hardening steel and is an essential in present day armament making, and as it can be found in but a few places in the world, the output from Korea is particularly sought after.

The Korean War
In 1945, after the defeat of Japan, the U.S.S.R. seized their chance when, by an apparent blunder on the part of the Allies, they were able obtain a belligerent occupants’ mandate in North Korea. The Chinese have for long been well aware of these aims. Even in 1894 when Russia was making friendly overtures to China Li Hung-chang wrote:—
   “Russia is to-day our greatest friend and our most to-be-feared enemy. She is our friend because Great Britain and France pose as our friends also. She is our greatest enemy because what the Russians call the trend of her destiny makes her so. She dominates all Northern Asia and hopes some day to have preponderating influence in China. She will help us to keep Japan out because she herself wants to get in."
In 1950 the American forces in South Korea defeated the North Koreans. This was the moment for China to step into the breach in North Korea to prevent, firstly, the Americans seizing the whole peninsula and possibly eventually installing a puppet Japanese control and, secondly, to forestall the Russians from completely taking over in North Korea.

Development of Chinese Patriotism
There were, however, further advantages for the Chinese in engaging in a foreign war. The Peoples' Republic of China, which had wrested control from the Chiang Kai-shek regime in 1949, were faced with many problems in carrying out their policy of developing China along Western lines. One of the legacies they had to take over from the past was the absence of patriotism. It is necessary for the protection of any capitalist ruling class if they are to survive in the jungle of world capitalism to have a working-class willing to fight for the fatherland. The war in Korea provided a chance for developing the beginning of Chinese patriotism. The Government succeeded in getting popular support for the war by identifying the maintenance of the rising standard of living in China with the necessity of repelling foreign enemies. The task was made easier by the U.S. being the supporters of the former discredited and very unpopular Chiang-Kai-shek clique.

There was the added advantage in giving the government a chance to glorify the Chinese army. Their armed forces are a great help to any ambitious capitalist group who wish to continue exploiting their own workers and if they can also seize the preserves of other national groups. But unfortunately for the rulers in China, soldiering is a despised occupation, and this attitude on the part of the general population has a harmful effect on the maintenance of reliability and efficiency of the armed forces. The internal propaganda which accompanied the military adventure in Korea helped to reform this view which was so harmful to the armed forces and therefore against ruling class interests. Many workers get killed or maimed in the war; the workers pay the price but the rulers obtain the benefit.

Was it worth fighting for?
An armistice has been arranged and there is a prospect that the war to “liberate” Korea will come to an end. Devastation, disease and death are the lot of many of the unfortunate inhabitants of this war-ravaged country, and together with the casualties of the many foreign nationals involved the military adventure in Korea has exacted a heavy toll. But it has been worth it—for the ruling class. China has obtained part control of North Korea at the expense of the U.S.S.R. and has driven into the Chinese working class a measure of patriotic spirit. The U.S.A. have retained control of South Korea with its strategic importance and vast mineral wealth. The U.S.S.R. have retained a large measure of control over the civil administration of North Korea, and in exchange for arms and ammunition supplied to China for use against the U.S. has obtained the bulk of Chinese exports at low prices. Japan has made plenty of profit on war supplies to the Allies, and may in addition, eventually be allowed by the U.S.A. to extend her influence in South Korea.

So in conclusion, Korea—cradle of conflict—is a pawn in power politics.
Frank Offord

A Labour M.P. on Russia (1953)

From the August 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the early years after the Russian revolution most people who went there went looking for something and they usually succeeded in finding what they looked for. It often depended on their prejudice or ignorance whether they found good or evil. Some claimed to see Socialism there but the S.P.G.B. said that the new rulers of Russia could not do otherwise than build up capitalism in Russia at that time and in that stage of economic and historic development. We rejected then as now all claims that Socialism was being introduced.

What to others has been miraculous achievement has to us been the normal course of capitalist industrial expansion; in a country which arrived late on the capitalist scene and had a lot of catching up to do.

If people who go to Russia believe that Socialism or Communism exists there, they will look at Russian institutions and see differences which don’t really exist or they will magnify superficial differences out of all proportion. This self-deception or misguided observation undoubtedly exists, quite apart from deliberately coloured press, screen and radio propaganda.

Mr. Harold Wilson, President of the Board of Trade in the Labour government, recently returned from Russia and wrote two articles for the Dally Mirror (June 8th-9th, 1953) on what he saw.

On the whole Mr. Wilson painted quite a rosy picture of Russia but he shows very clearly what is his own standpoint. The report opens with the revealing statement that “ten years from now Russian Production—unless China absorbs some of it—will be challenging us in the world markets.”

“The Russians are behind us now—but they are catching up.”

Although the articles were open to be read by something over 4,000,000 members of the working class, the “us” referred to is the British capitalist class because “world markets” are not the assets or interests of the workers. This fact holds good for our fellow workers in Russia too.

We are told “most women work, and old men too.”

“Of two old men, waiters at my hotel, one was nearly eighty.”

Piece-work in Russia
Mr. Wilson, when in the Labour Government, was thereby associated with government propaganda to encourage “piece-work” as a means of stepping up production. He also used to be on the staff of the Ministry of Labour and must be familiar with the complaints of British workers that as output rises piece-rates are cut by employers. He found the same in Russia.
   “They are on piece-rate there. But the piece-rate changes. As some people work faster and earn bonuses so the rate is cut—and all workers have to keep pace so that they can earn a living wage.”
The ex-Labour leader was not kind enough to tell us if in his opinion this sort of thing is Socialism, but if it is then they had better insert another “ S” in the U.S.A. and call that socialist too for exactly the same conditions prevail there. Of course we know that the Daily Worker will tell us it is “socialist wages” and “socialist competition” but they never say where it differs from capitalist wages and competition.

It seems that the Russian propaganda agencies have got the workers at it to even a worse degree there than ours have here.
   "Anyone not pulling his weight would not only be reported to the factory committees. He would be taken into a corner by his fellow-workers and get rough treatment. He would be letting the side down, perhaps imperiling the wage-rate—and hampering production." (Mr. Wilson's italics.)
Those capitalist powers ranged up against the Russian bloc MUST of necessity pretend that a totally different set-up obtains there, and the Russian bloc of capitalist nations must play the same game.

How else could they kid their respective wage-slaves to treat each other as enemies. It was exactly the same old story about Germany. If the workers of both sides got the idea that it was fundamentally the same system the world over, when they were told it must be fought they might think of fighting it at home, only with knowledge and understanding instead of bombs and guns.

Wages, Prices and Capitalism in Russia
In comparing prices of goods in Russia with their equivalents here, Mr. Wilson unavoidably makes obvious the fact that workers in Russia do the same with their wages as they do here—eke out an existence from pay-day to pay-day. “A man’s suit of the lowest price and quality costs £8 17s., a pair of low-grade shoes £1 14s. 6d. Medium quality rayon stockings—only the well-to-do wear the Russian equivalent of nylons—were 16s.” He puts the wage rate for an “unskilled worker” at roughly £5 and says “ Rents are low. They are fixed in relation to wages—usually between three and five per cent, of the weekly wage. Even so it takes hard work to provide any margin of extras.”

So there are low-grades and high-grades, low-qualities and higher-qualities, the well-to-do and the not so well-to-do.

The first thing to be straight about when ascertaining what social system prevails in any given country, is a definition and an understanding of what constitutes a social system and how to tell one system of society from another.

A system of society is the particular form under which men come together with the means of production and the sum of social relationships arising therefrom at a given stage of historic and material development. The fundamental feature which distinguishes capitalism from all other systems is the "relationship of wage labour to capital.

Marx on Capitalism
All kinds of things have been falsely attributed to Karl Marx. Lip-service has been paid to his teachings by those who try to pass as socialists. In Russia his name has been used to justify and bolster up state-capitalism. In the western bloc his name has been dragged through the gutter as a means to discredit something Marx never stood for. Both sides have freely adapted him to suit their ends, to stabilise their positions in the propaganda war.

How few have ever attempted to study the works of Marx and other socialist writers is made plain by the wide-spread confusion of the working-class. Consequent ignorance and confusion make it immensely difficult to put over the real socialist case, and people like Harold Wilson only foster that ignorance and confusion.

Marx spent the better part of his life attacking the wages-system and seeking as we do, its abolition. In “Capital” (William Reeves 5th edition) he asserts:—
    “Capital is only produced where the holder of the means of production and of subsistence meets on the market the free labourer who comes there to sell his labour-power, and that single historic condition includes an entirely new world. From that point capital proclaims itself as an epoch of social production.”
   “That which characterises the capitalist epoch is this, that labour-power acquires for the labourer the form of a commodify which belongs to him, and his labour consequently assumes the form of wage-labour.” (page 131- 132.)
In “Wage Labour and Capital ” Marx wrote:—
   "Wages, therefore, are not a share of the worker in the commodities produced by himself. Wages are that part of already existing commodities, with which the capitalist buys a certain amount of productive labour-power."
(Page 12. Marx’s Italics.)
  “If the silkworm's object in spinning were to prolong its existence as caterpillar, it would be a perfect example of a wage-worker.”
(Page 13.)
After showing how exploitation takes place under capitalism (through the working-class creating greater values than they receive in wages), Marx goes on to say, in his own italics:—
   "Capital therefore presupposes wage-labour; wage-labour presupposes capital. They condition each other: each brings the other into existence."
(Page 21.)
The only reason for workers needing a wage packet at the end of the week is because they are a propertyless class. Owning no means of production they therefore, in order to live, must hire themselves to those who do own. The State is the administrative and coercive apparatus of class rule, and only exists in societies torn with class struggles waged over property in the means of production.

Housing and Hovels
Further similarities between capitalism in Russia and capitalism (State or Private) in the rest of the world come out when Mr. Wilson tells us:—
   “I saw some of the houses. Housing is Moscow’s black spot
   “In the city centre, a stone's throw from the Kremlin, there are over-crowded hovels far worse than anything in our big cities. In most of these whole families live in a room 15 ft. square. But re-housing is going on fast with skyscrapers springing up. The homes I went to see on a suburban estate were much better.”
Looking round the shops and meeting the people Mr. Wilson observes:— “Sunday in a Moscow department store is like Saturday in a British department store.” The people he met were not “ sinister men with guns in their pockets nor shivering wrecks waiting to be thrown into the salt mines.”

The masses there seem to have the standard working-class outlook:— “Next to production, they talked about football.”

Mr. Wilson did not say anything about the weighty allegations of the widespread use made of forced labour by the Russian Government and we can well understand that Russian workers who resent the dictatorship may have considered it safer not to express such views to him.

He was there before the sudden removal from office of Beria so we do not know what explanation he would have given for the political set-up that renders such events inevitable.

Perhaps he ponders on how much safer it is to be a Minister administering capitalism in Britain than to be doing the same in Russia. Russia in fact is going through the phase of catching up with capitalism in the Western countries. As Mr. Wilson puts it:— “In a generation they have carried through an industrial revolution that took us 150 years.”

Being first to appear the British capitalist-class had it all their own way for a while and could allow the development of more than one party to represent sectional interests of the ruling class, land-owners and industrialists.

Some of the early struggles the workers had here are yet to be won by their fellows in Russia. A good point is made by Mr. Wilson in closing: — “remember that the ordinary people of Russia are just—ordinary people.” This can be said for every country in the world.

We want the “ordinary people” i.e„ the workers of the world to equip themselves with socialist understanding and put an end to the system that robs them, by bringing about Socialism, a wage-less, class-less world based on common ownership of the means of production.

To this end once again the Socialist Party of Great Britain extends the hand of socialist fraternity to the workers of the world.
Harry Baldwin

Who are the Victors in Korea? (1953)

From the September 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Korean Armistice
AFTER three years of war—the last two years of it accompanied by bargaining between the leaders of the two sides—an armistice has been signed in Korea. As the smoke drifts away from the last shell and the last bomb, as the last wounded are taken to hospital and the last dead are buried, the conflict is continued in the statements put out by each side. The boastfulness of the United Nations leaders claiming that the war has ended in a victory for them is equalled only by the boastfulness of the Russian and Chinese Governments claiming the same thing. But what are the real results of the war? Who has gained, and who has lost?

The Balance Sheet
On the Soviet side the war was fought by the soldiers of China and North Korea. On the United Nations side, the troops were supplied by South Korea, the United States, and sixteen other nations. One has only to read the casualty-lists to know that the peoples of these countries, at any rate, lost by the war. The Commonwealth countries lost one thousand dead and five times that number wounded and prisoners. The Americans had twenty-three thousand dead, and more than a hundred thousand wounded. The casualties of the Chinese and North Korean armies have been estimated at two million (The Times, 28-7-53; references which follow are also to The Times unless otherwise indicated). As for the North Korean people, they were subjected to one of the heaviest bombardments of modern times by American planes; and of the ten million North Koreans at the beginning of the war, John Foster Dulles, the U.S. Secretary of State, now calculates that one in three have died as a result of the war (28-7-53). It is difficult to find an estimate of the South Korean casualties, but they can scarcely be low, since the original South Korean Army was largely destroyed in the first North Korean advance; and towards the end of the war the South Korean Army, reconstituted by the Americans, was holding three-quarters of the line and was bearing the brunt of repeated Chinese attacks. Altogether, some five million people, at the very least, must have died in the Korean peninsula as the result of the war.

Not tomb enough
After three years of modern war, what is the gain and loss of territory? On the eastern side of the peninsula, the South Korean border has been pushed northwards to include about two thousand five hundred square miles of former North Korean land; on the western side, the Communists have gained about a thousand square miles. On balance, file United Nations have gained some fifteen hundred square miles—less than two per cent, of the area of Korea. It works out at more than three thousand people killed for each square mile of territory won. The net gain of territory is hardly enough to bury the dead. This is indeed
                                 a plot.
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause.
which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain.
Price per yew: Three thousand million dollars
The position in Korea now was outlined by an appeal on behalf of the United Nations Association Relief Fund (29-7-53). Of the people of Korea, it said, “Two and three-quarter million are refugees. Four million are destitute. Their homes and industries have been wrecked. Seventy per cent. of their agricultural implements have been destroyed, and over half the country’s rice-growing lands lie idle.” These figures are tragically significant especially when it is remembered that at the beginning of the war the total population of Korea was only about twenty millions. No less than three thousand million dollars’ worth of ammunition was used every year in the Korean fighting—and this means that factories and manpower were devoted to producing this vast quantity of bombs and shells instead of producing goods which the people of the world need. In a reasonable economic system this amount of productive capacity could have been devoted to consumer goods. But the facts remind us of the tremendous productive potentialities which must either remain latent or be used for destructive purposes under the capitalist system of society; we can only use the world’s productive power fully for our benefit under Socialism.

The gainers
Who then gains from the Korean war? The Chinese and the American ruling classes have both gained to some extent. Neither has conquered and brought within its own sphere of influence the other half of Korea; but each has saved its own share for itself. In a future war China could use its Korean foothold to attack Japan, and America has kept South Korea as a base for any future assault on China. And each side has kept part of the valuable Korean mineral supply—gold, copper, coal, iron, mica and bauxite are all found in the peninsula. We have recently had a powerful reminder that the need for such raw materials, and the need for markets, does motivate foreign policy, in a speech delivered in America:—
   A total struggle—let us never forget it—calls for a total defence . . .  Again and again, we must remind ourselves that this is a matter not only of political principle but of economic necessity. It involves our need for markets for our agricultural and industrial products, our need to seek in return from the rest of the world such essentials as manganese and cobalt, tin and tungsten (11/6/53).
The speaker was President Eisenhower, who should know.

The Socialist attitude
To Socialists, Korea is a demonstration of the brutality of capitalist states struggling among themselves; a reminder that war is the only final arbiter of the differences which are inevitable under capitalism; and a foretaste of what is in store if the rulers of each side decide on another “big” war.
Alwyn Edgar

Friday, September 22, 2017

About Books (1953)

Book Reviews from the October 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

The newcomer to the study of Marxian economics frequently finds that Marx's own works are rather heavy going. He searches around for books by other authors who may be able to propound Marx's theories in a more easily readable form. Unfortunately, during the past eighty years, there have been many who have sought to simplify Marx or to tell the world what, in their opinion, Marx really meant. The total product of their labours would justify Marx in demanding to be saved from his friends,

If the student is determined to approach his studies through the medium of secondhand interpretations of the theories, we can save him much wasted time by directing him to the soundest of the books on the subject.

Probably the most useful work of this nature is Karl Kautsky’s "The Economic Doctrines of Karl Marx." There is little we can say about this book except that it was written expressly for the purpose for which the student wants it and it is a job well done.

Next in order of merit is "The Theoretical System of Karl Marx" by Louis B. Boudin. Boudin does not deal exclusively with Marx's economic doctrines. He devotes a few chapters to the materialist conception of history, the social revolution and to some of Marx's critics. Boudin quite correctly makes his early chapters on the materialist conception of history serve as a brief introduction to the study of the workings of the capitalist system. The usefulness of this book to a new student is limited because the author devotes quite an amount of space to replies to critics of the Marxian doctrines. These replies are extremely useful to anyone who has a grounding in the study but are likely to leave the novice a little bewildered. All the same, the book is good and cannot be excluded from a list of this nature.

Julian Borchardt has attempted to present “Capital" in a more readily digestible form by treating it in a different manner to other writers. He has taken a number of chapters from the three volumes of "Capital” and re-arranged them in an order which, he claims, will make them more easy to assimilate. He has eliminated some of Marx's repetitiveness but has not attempted to alter the wording. Borchardt also claims, quite correctly, that the majority of those who read “Capital" do not get farther than volume one, but that volumes two and three are necessary for a complete understanding of Marx's theories. Whether Borchardt's work will be found easy going is doubtful, but for those who cannot avail themselves of the three original volumes it is useful. The only edition of this work that we are able to trace today is collected with some short writings by Frederick Engels and Lenin and Marx under the title “Capital and other Writings of Karl Marx," and published by The Moderrn Library. New York.

Ernest Untermann has written a book entitled "Marxian Economics." Untermann deals with his subject more historically than the previously mentioned authors, in fact over half of his book is devoted to an historical approach to the Marxian economic theories. It cannot be taken as a substitute for "Capital" but rather, as the author claims, a popular introduction to it. 

There is one book which, because of its title and its availability may attract a student’s attention. It is “The Meaning of Marxism" by G. D. H. Cole, published by Victor Gollancz. This is a re-hash under a new title of Mr. Cole's, “What Marx Really Meant” published in 1934. As a Marxist Mr. Cole would make a good plumber. What he thinks Marx meant is a lot different to what Marx said. A detailed criticism of “ What Marx Really Meant" appeared in the Socialist Standard in June, 1934. It stands equally well for the later book. The student should avoid Mr. Cole as an interpreter of Marxism.

Despite the good qualities of the first four books we have mentioned none of them are a real substitute for Marx's original work. If the student has time, diligence and enthusiasm we recommend that he bypasses these attempts at simplification and gets down to his studies with the three volumes of “Capital" We recognise that a study of Marxian economics is not simple and that there is some justification in the criticism that Marx's style is heavy, but his work cannot be adequately compressed into a book of a couple of hundred pages. Much of the so-called heaviness of Marx's writing is due to the fact that he approaches all his points from every conceivable angle, neglecting no avenue of argument to prove his case. It is that which gives rise to the repetitiveness that scares away some of his readers.

The best of the translations of “Capital" are those by Ernest Untermann and by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling. The translation by Eden and Cedar Paul which is used in the Everyman's Library edition published by J. M. Dent has some minor faults but cannot be condemned because of them.

In conclusion, there is a useful little book that is worthy of mention. It gives an answer to many of the criticisms of Marx’s theory of value. “Boehm-Bawerk's Criticism of Marx" by Rudolf Hilferding published by the Socialist Labour Press. Of course, this book cannot be read until one has an understanding of Marxism, but, after the elementary phases of study, it can be useful for clearing away a number of cobwebs.
W. Waters.

The Margate Labour Party Conference (1953)

From the November 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nationalisation was the issue at Margate. It is the issue at all Labour conferences. It is difficult to see how it can be otherwise; for Nationalisation apart what else is there left to discuss within the Labour Party? Housing! Education! The Health Services! These are not the things which separate the Labour Party from the Tories and oft times the Labour Party from itself. Only Nationalisation can do that.

True the Tories have nationalised in the past and might conceivably do so again if circumstances warranted. But for them Nationalisation measures have been a means to an end. The Labour Party for political purposes have made it an end in itself, although the Margate conference saw a full scale strategical withdrawal from that position.

Mr. Woodburn, M.P., made a clumsy attempt to cover the withdrawal by telling the conference that “Nationalisation was not Socialism.” Mr. Woodburn may know that but the history of his party is writ large in the monumental confusion created by it in failing to make any real distinction between them. The speeches and writings of Labour leaders over the years bear damning testimony to this confusion. He also added, “ Nationalisation is merely a means to an end and not necessarily the best means.” Whatever implications one likes to draw from that remark the fact is that the Labour Party in the past has viewed Nationalisation as an end; a social goal, a political ideal. Its 1918 Manifesto, “Labour and the New Social Order,” proclaimed as its aim the continued extension of nationalisation acts to ever widening spheres of industry. And until recent years the Labour Party never substantially departed from it. Hitherto the Labour Party regarded its policy of Nationalisation as one of principle not expediency.

The militant convictions of the Webbs and old Fabians who contributed considerably to the Nationalisation policy of the Labour Party are lacking among present day Labour leaders. Two terms of Labour administration have dispelled from the minds of the “administrators” any notion of the talismanic powers of Nationalisation. The Webbs are dead in more senses than one.

The Nationalisation by the Labour Party in its first term of office of coal, electricity, gas, transport looked impressive to many people. When one realises that these industries have previously been subject to a greater or lesser degree of governmental regulation, the “revolution” appears rather a palace one.

Because there is a natural tendency towards monopolistic growth and practises in Capitalism. Capitalist governments are faced with certain problems. For instance the ownership and control by private monopolies of such things as gas, coal, electric power, transport, etc., are a powerful weapon for exacting toll from the vast majority of capitalist enterprises who are utterly dependent on these things. Moreover private monopolies pursue their interests regardless of the requirements of other capitalist sections. As a result they disturb the balance of capitalist economy by disturbing what is termed the free play of the market and so intensify the anarchy of capitalist production. The State is therefore compelled to intervene in order to curb this monopolistic power. State action along these lines is then both an attempt to protect the various sections of capitalism and to ensure the smoother running of the system from the standpoint of the requirements of Capitalism as a whole. Nationalisation is one way of bringing this about.

So far so good; but when the Labour Party is confronted with making good its promise to extend Nationalisation to other spheres of industry it finds itself faced with formidable difficulties. Capitalism now presents to the Labour Party a different aspect than when viewed through the rose-tinted glasses of yesterday's propaganda.

Once the Labour Party used to damn what they termed the present competitive system. Now they have discovered unsuspected virtues in “competition.” Thus Mr. Strauss tells us that the Aircraft industry benefits the country by rivalry and competition in aircraft designs. Any measure of greater centralisation in that industry may have adverse effects, he said. Nationalisation, Mr. Strauss declared, is not so much a way of dealing with the problems of industry but a rather escapist way of avoiding them. And this is the distilled wisdom of years of Labour Party propaganda.

Now it seems to leaders of the Labour Party that Nationalisation can offer no solution for the successful survival of British capitalism in the world's markets. It appears that high quality manufacture, speciality of design and responsiveness and adaptability to market requirements are the basic essentials. In fact the trend of Labour Party opinion seems to suggest that Nationalisation with its mammoth structure and bureaucratic dictation might be an hindrance rather than an aid. One spokesman at Margate illustrated this point by saying that it was the mammoth’s inability to adapt itself to changing conditions that lead to its extinction, its place being taken by the more agile elephant.

While the Labour leaders might propose a new line for the Labour Party’s general acceptance it will not be able to easily dispose of the old one. The policy of state Capitalism, miscalled by the Labour Party, state socialism, has deep rooted attachments for many of the rank and file. Popularised and propagandised by the Labour leaders for nearly fifty years it has acquired an ideological significance not to be easily dismissed. For many workers the old State-capitalist policy of the Labour Party conjured up in their minds visions of a "A New Era” in which the working class would in some way or another come into its own. It will not be easy to divert the energy and enthusiasm this has called forth into other channels. Then of course there is Mr. Bevan. And Mr. Bevan is still Mr. Bevan. For that reason the appeal of Mr. Greenwood for the Labour Party to close its ranks and stop internal dissension will not we think deter Mr. Bevan from his private ambitions. He will continue to keep the pot of Nationalisation boiling by the advocacy to use his own phrase—"Socialism through the old hard agony of Public Ownership and control.”

This of course will embarrass other Labour leaders because it will be difficult for them to admit that they no longer believe in such things. Because the Labour Party’s claim for political support rests on the fact they represent themselves in the light of a progressive party as distinct from the Tories, they must aspire to the semblance even if not the reality of having a social goal not envisaged by their political rivals.

In the past the old policy of State Capitalism served them well in this respect The difficulty will now be to find a substitute goal which will be as effective. One thing appears certain, however, that is whatever their political calculations and figuring might be. Nationalisation will be for the Labour leaders a recurring decimal.

One other thing is also certain that is for the workers the golden promise of a Labour summer is and will remain unfulfilled. It is the long hard winter of capitalism which lies ahead.
Ted Wilmott

About Books (1953)

Book Reviews from the December 1953 issue of the Socialist Standard

John Peter Altgeld and Clarence Darrow had much in common. Their lives overlapped and during the latter part of Altgeld’s life and the earlier part of Darrow’s they were close friends.

Both were lawyers, both were humanitarians. Each wrote books on crime and each defended the early American Trade Unions in the law courts of his day. Each gravitated to an extreme radical outlook during his life, “going over to the left” as it would be called in modern parlance. Each one sacrificed lucrative jobs through his strict adherence to his humanitarian principles, but neither of them scratched below the surface to find the causes of the social problems that stimulated their sympathies. Neither of them came anywhere near to being socialist.

The life of each of these two famous Americans is interestingly portrayed in books by Howard Fast and Irving Stone. In his book, “The American,” Mr. Fast gives us a very readable story of the life of John Altgeld from the days when his German farmer father used to stripe him across the buttocks with a leather belt, to the day when he was laid in his coffin for hundreds of thousands of Americans to file past in homage in the pouring rain.

When a boy, Altgeld ran away from his poverty stricken home and joined the army of the northern American states to fight in the civil war. Later he became a school teacher, a barrister, a judge and governor of the state of Illinois.

In the early days of his legal career, Altgeld wrote a book entided, “Our Penal Machinery and its Victims,” which drew down on his head the opprobrium of the American ruling class. In this book he showed that the major portion of crime could be traced to the poverty, slums and lack of opportunity which result from the unequal distribution of wealth in a class society. This book was published in 1884, fifteen years before that internationally famous criminologist, Cesare Lombroso, arrived at the same point of view as Altgeld.

In the days when men like Phil Armour, George Pullman and John D. Rockefeller were piling up their vast fortunes out of the sweat and misery of the American working class, and men like Eugene V. Debs were risking their lives to try to organise the American workers to resist the intense exploitation—in those days Altgeld was driven to the support of “Labour.”

When he became governor of Illinois, Altgeld found himself in the embarrassing position that is experienced by all who seek to help the workers by undertaking to manipulate capitalism. The American newspapers vilified him in column and cartoon, presenting him to the people of America as a bloodthirsty ogre trampling on their rights and liberties. President Grover Cleveland moved federal troops into Illinois during the strike of the workers of the Pullman Company. Altgeld was powerless.

He tried to get his nominee elected as president of U.S.A. but failed. He tried to organise an independent political party, a sort of “Labour” party, but failed again.

Apart from all other merits, Mr. Fast's book is to be recommended for its detailed account of the Haymarket bombing incident of 1886 for which eight prominent working class leaders were “framed,” four of them executed and others imprisoned. This affair had international repercussions. Also, Mr. Fast presents us with an insight into the working of the American political elections, a most illummating insight.

Darrow for the Defence,” the book by Irving Stone, picks up the threads of American history at a date just a few years prior to the death of Altgeld. In it Darrow is presented as a man who would take on any task to help the “under dog” at no matter what cost to himself.

From the day that Clarence Darrow walked out of his job as attorney for the Chicago and North Western Railway to fight for Eugene Debs and the American Railway Union against whom the railway company had obtained an injunction, he became accepted as the man to represent trade unions and other workers' organisations when they were in trouble with the law.

It was a tough job in those days. Murder was committed and trade union officials were charged with the crime; an explosion occurred and a union organiser would be accused; men were bludgeoned into defending themselves and then accused of attacking; a union man was fair game to hang any crime on to and the American press worked up mob hysteria against the accused. Darrow defended brilliantly and with more than frequent success.

He argued that man had not a free will; that a man's actions were the product of his biological makeup worked upon by his social environment This was the basis of all his arguments whether he was defending a murderer, a thief, a prostitute or union officer. In fact, he did not defend his clients so much as he attacked their prosecutors.

His particular bête-noire was capital punishment against which he lectured, wrote and campaigned for many years. He also spent much time and money opposing prohibition and the colour bar. Probably his most sensational case was the Scopes Evolution Case at Dayton when he defended the right to teach evolutionary theories in public schools against William Jennings Bryan and his Fundamentalists who were moving to get an Anti-Evolution Law passed in each of the American states.

During his last years Darrow cast a friendly eye at “Russian Communism” whilst talking about a fair capitalism in America. He pleaded the case of the small business man. He died in 1938 at the age of eighty and, as when Altgeld died, thousands queued in the rain to do homage at his coffin.

These two men, Altgeld and Darrow, were admirable, but neither of them has left a mark on the History of the class from which they sprang and with which they sympathised. They spent their lives rescuing individuals from the morass of capitalist crime and class antagonisms, but left the bog undrained and uncharted for others to wander into. They fought against injustice by taking separate “injustices” and striving to straighten them out—make them just. The cause of all the injustices, the class nature of capitalist society, escaped their attention. The problems they sought to solve were being bred faster than they could eliminate them.. We may salute them for their endeavours but we cannot compliment them for their achievements.
W. Waters

By The Way (1917)

From the January 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

A short time since columns of print appeared in the Press on the question of taking a Referendum in Australia with regard to the subject of Conscription. While the vote was being taken some reference to the possible result was made, and from a newspaper report I take the following:
  The “Argus" looks on the result of the poll so far as a stalemate, and says the great mistake was made in taking a Referendum at all on the subject of Conscription.
And again:
   “I am unable to express an opinion on the significance of the Poll as disclosed by the first figures, because, of course, I have been out of Australian politics for some time,” said Sir George Reid, M.P., formerly High Commissioner in London, to a “Daily News" representative yesterday. “None the less, I deeply regret the results to far disclosed by the figures. I have heard also that there is every possibility of a strong vote against Conscription I even among the men at the front.”
                                                           —“Evening Standard,” Oct. 30th, 1916.
At this juncture I might add there was a large majority against, consequently one is not surprised to read that a “great mistake was made" in taking a vote. But oh! if the votiug had only gone the other way, wouldn’t our wiseacres have said “we told you so.”

Hush! Hold your breath! worse follows. The final result was received in painful silence. Without trimmings of any kind appeared the following brief report:
The final figures of the Conscription Referendum are:
Yes . . 1,085,000
No . . 1,146,000 
           No majority 61,000
—“Daily News," Nov. 23rd, 1916.
*   *   *   *

We have just recently had the luxury of a National Mission, and in these somewhat dull days an outdoor procession organised by “Holy Church” even adds to the gaity of nations. I recently came across one of these processions in my travels, and took it for granted that possibly owing to so many counter attractions there was a slump in church attendance, and that our spiritual guides, in order to boost their wares, were holding a sort of minor Lord Mayor’s show, or taking a leaf out of the book of the old showman, who, when giving an exhibition in some village or town, paraded the streets with big drum and such other lures as he had at command. On this occasion the “Bishop’s Messenger” was the star turn who was to endeavour to draw the people. And so I gazed upon the aforementioned person, who was supported by other gentlemen of the cloth, choir boys and men, with all the appurtenances of religious ceremony, cornet players, policemen (regular variety) boy sprouts, old women of both sexes, and, finally, a rearguard of special constables.

*   *   *   *

What I was going to draw attention to is this: That I really think a special mission to the clergy is indeed necessary. A few days ago I was reading that at the annual meeting of the Bath Free Church Council an individual there made a vigorous attack on church teaching.
   Mr. Wills said the reason why four-fifths of the people were outside the churches was because the ministers were not honest with the people. They did not preach what they believed. They were bound by chapel trust-deeds, and dare not speak their minds. Children in Sunday Schools were taught erroneous doctrines.  
   There would he a valuable revolution in churches if members of congregations were allowed to question the preacher at the close of a sermon.
Reynolds’s,” Nov. 26th, 1916.
The latter suggestion, if carried out, would prove highly interesting, though perhaps a disastrous one to the gentry who have for so long enjoyed facilities of an exceptional character. It is worthy of notice that “children in Sunday schools were taught erroneous doctrines.” The acceptation of religion with all its dogmas depends upon a child-like faith, and on an attitude of open your mouth and shut your eyes and believe what the man of God tells you.

*   *   *   *

The question of economy in foodstuffs brings in its train many and varied suggested reforms. The limit of 3s. 6d. for an officer's meal must make many a woman with children turn green with envy when she has to make a like amount cover the entire week and provide other things besides meals. Really, how they manage to eke out an existence on the munificent allowance of a grateful country passeth my understanding.

The position we of the Socialist Party take up finds confirmation in many and even unexpected quarters. The poverty of the class to which we belong— the subject of our oft-repeated reference —has become a theme of intense import to our masters. On the matter of “meatless days’’ the following extract should he of interest:
  So far as the mass of workers is concerned, it is a matter of indifference whether soup or hors d' oeuvre is regarded as a course. In the same way, the establishment of meatless days once or twice a week will bring no change into the lives of the really poor, for many years most of their days have been meatless.
Reynolds’s," Dec. 10th, 1916. 
These occasional allusions to the conditions of working class existence are significant and in themselves are a striking commentary on the anomalies of capitalist society.

*   *   *   *

We live in a topsy-turvy world. Within the space of four days two very remarkable announcements appeared in the Press. They are worthy of notice. One refers to the demand for women's high-legged boots, and reads u follows:
  Prices for smart footwear range from two guineas to 65s. per pair. . . The average length of fashionable uppers worn to-day is from 10 ins. to 16in., while heels are from 2½ to 3½ ins. But women's boots with uppers of bronze-coloured glace kid, measuring as much as 22 ins, were prominently displayed. The price asked was three guineas.
Daily Mail" Dec. 1st, 1916.
These are regarded in the light of necessities so that Lady Never Work may stroll about town in the latest mode, and perhaps, on occasion, dispense smiles and flags for a penny upwards.

The other, which relates to the “poor,” is somewhat brief. It states:
   The Eastbourne Board of Guardians recommended poor people to buy clogs for their children. The Rev. H. V. Scott suggested that the fashion of going barefooted should be reintroduced.
Reynolds’s," Nov. 26th, 1916. 
The merits or otherwise of going barefooted I do not propose to enter into, but it is sheer humbug and hypocrisy for these well-fed, well-housed, and well-groomed folk to thus talk to the producers of the world s wealth. I seriously suggest to the rev. gentleman that he should make a start by applying his recommendation to himself. Practise would be much better than precept.

*   *   *   *

Whilst one observes posters on the walls appealing to women of all classes to undertake munition work, etc, and help win the war, it is exceedingly doubtful whether many recruits are gathered in from what might he termed the idle rich. Recently there was held a Dog Show (whether dog breeding is regarded as work of “national importance" or a “certified occupation” the reader must investigate for himself) and from the list of exhibitors appearing in the papers it is evident that they were, in the vernacular of the man in the street, “not having any” war work.

From the description given of the accommodation it almost makes one wish that one had been born a dog. I notice that—
   The most precious dogs of all were in glass cases hung with little ribboned curtains. Other dogs reclined on silken cushions in show pens converted into Lilliput boudoirs. One proud and prize Pekingese had h:s “bench" decorated with ancient Chinese embroidered hangings of great worth. The hall was warm nay, hot after the biting air of Kennington Road, but two toy spaniels, wrapped in a soft and fleecy shawl, still shivered.
Daily Mail," Dec. 2nd, 1916.
*   *   *   *
The antithesis of this function might be quoted. An inquest was held on a little girl who met her death as the result of her dress catching fire whilst playing before an unguarded grate. The report says
  The mother, the English wife of a German interned at Alexandra Palace, said that the Government allowed her £1 0s. 3d. a week and her husband was able to earn about 3s. To augment her income she took in washing and minded a neighbour's child, although the had five children of her own. She had no fireguard, having had to sell it twelve months ago to obtain food.
Reynolds’s,” Nov. 26th, 1916.
To-day the pleasures and pets of modern society take precedence, but in a sane system the humans will take priority.

*   *   *   *
More light on the Old-Age Pension Act. Even at seven shillings and a tanner it is cheaper for our masters to give this dole rather than have the old people go into the workhouse house. Therefore read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the following:
    We hear many complaints as to the inadequacy of the assistance given to old-age pensioners to make up for the increase in prices. Local conditions differ, but some Committees are acting with great harshness, and we have heard of cases where only 1s. extra was given, though the pensioner was only kept from starvation by the charity of neighbours. The object of the Old-Age Pensions Act was to keep aged men and women out of the workhouse. The object of many of the local Committees seems to be to drive them inside.
—“Reynolds’s,” Nov. 19th, 1916.
*   *   *   *

A further item on the subject of Pensions would not be amiss. Two extracts were recently given in one of the papers as hereafter follows:
  The King has been pleased to grant to Sir Walter Phillimore, late one of the Lords Justices of Appeal, an annuity of £3,500 for life, commencing from Oct. 12.
   The memorandum (of the Treasury raising the total means of married pensioners to £1 a week and of single pensioners to 13s a week) concludes by impressing on committees that the additional grant is only intended to meet cases of special hardship and emphasising “the paramount importance of economy at a time when the Exchequer has unparalleled burdens imposed on it.”
—-“Daily News,” Oct. 25th, 1916.
*   *   *   *

It would indeed be interesting to hear in explicit terms what are the exact objects for which the Allies are fighting. Much has been said and written of Belgium and the “grievous wrong” that she has suffered. While in times past we were informed that “we” were fighting in order to obtain justice for that country, of late more than one reference has been made to the designs of the Allies for other territory. One newspaper correspondent writes from Petrograd thus:
   “Only this morning does the Petrograd Press deal in detail with the passage of the Governmental declaration to the Duma which referred to the question of Constantinople and the Dardanelles. The Novoe Vremya says :
  This proves more clearly than anything else the determination of the Russian Government and the Allies to carry on the war to the end, that is to say, to that moment when the capital of one of our enemies passes by right of conquest into Russian hands. In these conditions there can be no question at all of any half peace. Since Saturday the Turks must know that the war is for them not a matter of life, but only of death.
The article continues:
    “The Bourse Gazette asks whether it is any longer possible to believe that the smallest particle of mistrust towards Russia exists in the minds of England, France, and Italy, and continues:
   Together with the Dardanelles agreement there has entered into international relationships a new factor, the grandeur of which it is difficult to estimate. If England and Russia have succeeded in agreeing so cordially on this most acute and cardinal point which for so many decades had been a stumbling block in their relationships, if at an even earlier date Russia with the assistance of M. Sazonoff worked out with England a complete agreement as to the Middle East which finally liquidated all misunderstandings with regard to Persia, if with the co-operation of the same Sazonoff and the support of England we succeeded in laying down the foundations of a future alliance with Japan, which opened for us a new era in the Far East, then it is evident that there has begun to live and act in the world a new international grouping, the heart of which will be Great Britain and Russia united in common ideas.
Daily Telegraph,” Dec. 5th, 1916.
From which I gather that the Allies are animated with other ideas than the freeing of Belgium from German oppression.
The Scout.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Slaves in War Time (1917)

From the February 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the past couple of years the workers of “this country of ours” have been hearing a great deal about "poison gas” through those journals of "mud and blood,” the "Daily Mail,” "Sunday Chronicle,” "Daily News,” and "Manchester Guardian,” and others of that great heap of refuse which is spread broadcast daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, to the detriment of the wage-slaves who buy them.

This "poison gas" is the gas which is being used by the various armed nations against their opponents on the European field of slaughter. But we Socialists draw attention to another kind of "poison gas” the doses of "mental chloroform” daily given out to the wage workers by parson, politician, and journalist—all of them hirelings of the master class.

These individuals, in order to gain life’s necessaries, "gas” the workers with their fairy stories concerning man’s activities and his relations with other men in the material world, and fool them with the "eternal life” phantasy.

Of course, it is not to the interest of our masters to have editorials dealing with and exposing this brand of "poison gas.” Such work is left to the working class itself; hence the reason and the need for the Socialist Standard.

It is surprising to find how many workers are always ready to believe anything the papers and their masters tell them. We have heard a lot of cant and hypocrisy mouthed by parson, pressman, and politician on "Equality of Sacrifice.” They wax quite eloquent on "everyone doing his bit.” It is, however, rather hard to find what most of these hirelings and their masters (the employing class) have sacrificed. For instance, what have the food manufacturers, the shipping companies, or the armament firms sacrificed? Their profits?—not likely ! You see what is really meant by their cant phrases is sacrifice for the "lower classes.”

Everyone nowadays is aware of the huge profits that are being raked in by our "good” masters. Consequently, to the workers who have started to think for themselves the question naturally arises, "For what are we fighting?” But the reply, of course, rests upon what is meant by "we.” If "we” means the workers, then the only reply can be, a more intense form of slavery in the future even than in the past, greater poverty and misery for the many, and an outlook eloquent of strikes and revolts of the workers against their miserable conditions.

On the other hand, if "we” stands for the master class, then the fighting is for the control of trade routes and the securing of further markets in which to sell their surplus manufactures ; the gaining of territory in which to "collar” the natural resources, and the obtaining of cheap native labour. In other words, it means big profits now, with the chance of even bigger profits in the future.

Are we not constantly having these facts brought to our minds by flaring newspaper headlines, such as "How to Capture Germany’s Trade,” "How Great Britain may Increase Her Share of the World’s Commerce,” and so on? Then, again, have we not got such things in our midst as the Anti-German League, whose object is the smashing of the industries of Germany? Have not "our’ politicians told us that as soon as the war is over we must be ready to smash the Germans on the field of commerce after having smashed them on the field of blood?

Of course, in order that the state of affairs may not be too easily seen, our masters and their agents (the "patriots”) lie and bully and invent such statements to gull the workers as that this war is "a fight for Liberty and Freedom,” and “a struggle to suppress German Militarism.” And this, mind you, when the masters are so rapidly increasing militarism here.

Then we have the good old catch cry of the violation of Belgium's neutrality, as though any country hesitates to break treaties and make "scraps of paper” of them when it suits their interests to do so. This is admitted by that "patriot," Harold Begbie, of “Fall In" fame, when he says ("Daily Chronicle", Aug. 5, 1914), “At every Christian frontier you can pick up a broken treaty and a dishonoured bond.”
Then England is supposed to be fighting for the “rights of small nations,” this after what happened to the Dutch Republics a few years ago. Concerning this we might with interest read what was said at that time by Mr. Merriman, who was then an English member of the Cape Assembly. He was reported thus:
   I say “never again" will England hold the title she did as the friend of small peoples. When it is a question of tyranny towards some small powers, how can she say anything? The Transvaal and the Free State will be flung in her teeth.
—“The Speaker," Oct. 27th, 1900. 
And to show how kind-hearted this country was we were told :
    We went into war for equal rights, and we were prosecuting it for annexation. Wc went into the country for philanthropy and we remained in it for burglary.—Mr. Lloyd George, reported in the “Manchester Guardian,” July 26th, 1900.
All the flowery excuses which have been spread broadcast since August 1914 are but dust thrown in the eyes of the toilers to prevent them from seeing the truth.

Some very enlightening articles have recently made their appearance in the columns of the anti-working class papers. One in the “Weekly Dispatch” for March 19th, 1916, which told of the huge profits that have been, and are still being, made owing to war conditions, commenced with this valuable piece of evidence:
   In this country millions have been made by companies who hold the lives of the civilian population in the hollow of their hands.
This knocks the bottom out of the statement so often made that we are fighting for our liberties. What liberties are possessed by any person whose life is held in the hollow of some other person’s hand ?

In the same paper for Dec. 24th last another “war profits” article appeared. To give that part which deals with armament firms, would not, perhaps, be out of place. For such people a "good” war is a heaven-sent blessing.
Munition profits—in the early months of the war at any rate—were fabulous. Recent figures in some cases, are not accessible, but here are the facts of a few typical companies' change in fortune:

Latest Profits.
Pre-War Profits.
Cammell Laird
Curtis and Harvey
Webbley and Scott
(6 months only.)

From such instances we can see how well the master class can afford to invest a portion of their profits in the War Loan at 5 per cent. Yet they would have us believe they are making a sacrifice. A sacrifice at 5 per cent. smells good. The fellows who are making the sacrifices are the workers, who are being used as food for cannon, and who, when they return broken from the war, are not even given the bare means of existence.

How often do we find in the daily and weekly Press such headlines as "Starved under Hun Rule”? Yet what about the thousands of starvation cases under the rule of the Brit-hun ?

That high-class organ of piffle and bluff, the “Daily Dispatch,” on Aug. 9th last commenced its editorial in the following strain :
  Among the good resolutions we all made in entering this war was one that the scandalous treatment that in past wars was meted out to our broken soldiers should not this time disgrace our national fame.
 We recalled Mr. Robert Blatchford's piercing remark about “the candidate for the British workhouse charging the guns at Balaclava,” and nothing had bitten deeper into the nation’s conscience than the spectacle of war-worn veterans, with medals on their chests, selling matches and bootlaces at back doors. We rightly resolved, at any rate, that that mutt never happen again.
After pondering over the latter part the only conclusion one can come to is that our masters never expected any of their warriors, even the wrecked ones, to return. Of course, the attempt is made to convey the impression that every provision is made for those of our “Tommies" who come back maimed, but does anyone with the least common sense believe that? No! "Equality of sacrifice” is a fine phrase for rogues to use and fools to swallow.

The shareholders in shipping, tea, armament, coal, iron, milling and other companies, are obtaining dividends of from 35 to 40 per cent, without ever having done a day's work to earn it. On the other hand, the man who has been broken in fighting for such shareholders gets a pension of 8d. a day and is buried a pauper. Even this is not the worst, for the "Weekly Dispatch” for Dec. 20th says there are "50,000 broken soldiers without pensions."

One has only to go through the daily papers to find scores of cases regarding the treatment of the broken Tommy. Space admits only of a few in the present article, but each goes to prove our contention. Thus we read in our masters’ papers accounts like these :
  At a meeting of the Redruth Urban Council a member declared that numbers of soldiers, broken in the war, called on him every day stating that they were unable to secure employment of any kind and had to go to the workhouse to get food.
—“Manchester Evening News,” Feb. 3rd, 1916.
  A case was reported this week where two heroes found their way into the workhouse because they were unable to get any allowance from the War Office. It is this sort of thing that does a great deal of harm and in itself is entirely indefensible.
Reynolds’s,” Feb. 13th, 1916.
Of course, we know the "harm” our masters are afraid of. It is not that the soldiers may "demand” a mere allowance, but that the above treatment may help in a large degree to awaken the workers from their slumbers, in which case the wage slaves, becoming intelligent and understanding the class struggle, will not waste their time demanding anything, but will turn their energies toward the capture of the political machinery, in order to abolish capitalism and its many evils.

"A grateful country will never forget you.” So runs the cry. The following shows the amount of truth in it:

“I am a discharged soldier,” said a man who asked a West London magistrate for advice, “I have served my King and country for twelve years, eight months. I have been in France gassed and wounded. I came out time-expired, and went back again for 180 days in the Royal Garrison Artillery. Since I have been discharged I have only had two sums of 10s. from the Soldiers and Sailors Association. I have been sleeping out for several nights and have had no food for two or three days." The man, who looked very ill, had had no pension, and the magistrate said if the story was true it was a case of very great hardship, and directed the court missionary to investigate the case, and, in the meantime, to give the man a little help.
—“News of the World," Oct.8th, 1916.
And in the Manchester edition of the "Daily Dispatch” for Aug. 18th last there was a photograph of a man standing alongside a street organ, and underneath were the words : “Not receiving the pension due to him, a Manchester soldier, disabled at Ypres, turns a street barrel organ for a living.”

These cases go to show the attitude of the ruling class toward the workers, and are irresistible evidence that it was rank hypocrisy when they tried to make us believe that they intended to "make good ’ to the "heroes.”

Those of the discharged "Tommies” who can work are treated in a similar way. The following, although it has been quoted in these columns before, will show the truth of my statement :
   Army and Navy men wanted who have done their bit; bring discharge papers ; salary 28s. a week to start with."—“Daily Chronicle,” July 21st, 1916. 
There is magnificent generosity for our gallant warriors ; 28s. a week for those "who have  done their bit”!  One would like to ask, where is their country now? The truth is the workers of all lands, whether they be Germans, Russians, Frenchmen, Belgians, Englishmen, or Italians, have no country ; they are but the slaves of those who own and control society’s means of production.

The war, we Socialists hope, will be the means of enlightening large numbers of our fellow workers as to their true position in society.

To us the only hope of freedom, comfort, and happiness lies in "A system of society bused 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." And this can only be brought about by the workers learning and understanding the Socialist position.
H. C. A.