Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Task Ahead: Bringing Socialism Nearer (1954)

From the November 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

The 50th Anniversary of the founding of our Party is a time for looking back over the years—and forward to the years to come. How will the next half-century compare with the last, and what will it have in store for the Socialist movement? The details, even perhaps the general outline, of how things will work out must largely remain matters for speculation. For our part, we can sum up what we would like to see at any time in one word—Socialism. But a more practical consideration is: how can it be brought about?

We know that the propagation of Socialist ideas must go on, and that these ideas must gain far wider acceptance than they have gained so far. The introduction of Socialism cannot be the work of a few hundred or a few thousand. It must be the work of the overwhelming majority.

At this point it is not uncommon for our critic to remark “so it’s taken you 50 years to get 1,000 Socialists —how long will it take to get 2,000 million?” If he is mathematically minded he may offer his own estimate of the time needed. It cannot, of course, be proved that this estimate is either correct or incorrect. We can only challenge the assumptions on which it is based. If the people we address are favourably disposed towards Socialism they will want to know how to help to bring it about. It is to such readers that this article is directed.

One of the secrets of success in the business of capitalist politics is the promise of immediate delivery of the electoral goods—even though their shoddy quality soon leads to bitter disappointment. So long as there is Capitalism it is always apparently more “practical” to reform it rather than to get rid of it.

When the Socialist advises abstention from supporting any of the parties of Capitalism he is often dismissed as being "unpractical." Yet how much more practical is it to go on asking for slight variations of something you don’t like anyway?

The inevitable disillusion that awaits supporters of all parties that offer to run Capitalism (and promise to solve its problems) paves the way for people to consider Socialism as a real alternative. At first, they may question the possibility of it ever coming, and may voice all kinds of doubts about it—doubts which, in view of the novelty of the idea to them, are understandable. Eventually the answers to our sympathiser's questions are more or less accepted by him. He then reaches the point of thinking “Socialism is the answer all right. But what can be done about it?"

What can a Socialist do to bring into being the world he wants? Why, make other Socialists, of course! Talk to them about it, explain what it means, challenge the prejudices that stand in the way, correct the misunderstandings that confuse the issue. It is not just a case of waiting until someone attacks the S.P.G.B. or Socialism and then jumping to the defence. If, for example, someone says “it’s human nature to fight wars" then he can be given evidence that it is no such thing. All ideas that oppose Socialism must be persistently and strongly challenged, and followed up where possible with a positive Socialist point of view.

The sympathetic newcomer to the S.P.G.B.’s case will probably find that he needs to get more knowledge to back up his arguments. Accordingly he will want to read about various aspects of the Socialist case, and maybe discuss them with others who share his outlook. If his feeling of agreement with Socialism is strong enough he will, in due course, consider applying for membership of the Party.

Think of the ways in which the Socialist movement is handicapped now. Think also of what more Socialists could make possible We need more literature—and in particular a bigger and better Socialist Standard with a larger circulation. Last month it was an enlarged special number, which required much more preparation and much more money than we can usually afford. But with more help we could have a journal of this size every month—or more frequently. We could also publish more much needed pamphlets on various aspects of our case.

There are many other things that need to be done on a larger scale. In addition to actually producing the literature (writing, editing, etc.) it has to be distributed and advertised. The number of public meetings we are able to hold is now limited by our meagre resources. When we launch an electoral campaign its success depends on the amount of work members and sympathisers put into it. And remember that all these are very practical ways of bringing our object nearer.

To our sympathisers we would say this. The Socialist movement will never flourish just on sympathy It needs action—your action. If you agree with most of what we say but are doubtful on some point then let us hear about it. Attend the meetings advertised in this journal, and make contact with your local branch of the Party (see back page). If, for one reason or another, you are unable to make these visits you can always write to us.
Stan Parker

A Slight Christmas Carol (1954)

A Short Story from the December 1954 issue of the Socialist Standard

Scrooge buttoned his overcoat and picked up his Chronicle, said goodnight to the office and left. This was not the Ebenezer Scrooge who said “ Humbug ” and disliked Christmas but later had a change of heart and died in the workhouse through giving all his money away: this was Stan Scrooge, who travelled on the Northern Line.

He walked home briskly from the station, pleasurably noting seasonable signs everywhere; the inviting tins of pudding and turkey in the grocers’ and the sprigs of mistletoe round the price-tickets, dear old Santa Claus in the Coop doorway, Frankie Laine singing “Silent Night ” in the radio shop in the next street. There was a fresh, crisp layer of snow, and at the corner by the loan-office it was patterned with innumerable converging footprints, as though a pageant of sainted Wenceslases had passed, full of optimism and inspiration. For it was Christmas Eve, the time when men the whole world over feel the warmth of peace and goodwill towards one another. Scrooge passed a paper-boy. The lad, with his glowing cheeks and bright eyes, was the incarnation of the Christmas spirit; his voice fairly rang with it as he shouted, “Thirty more terrorists killed! Read all about it!”

Yes, it was a season of enchantment, Scrooge thought as he let himself into his lodgings. Three Christmas cards, and toad-in-the-hole for dinner; then he put on his slippers and sat by the fire to read his paper. The fire made him drowsy. He leaned back in his chair and folded his hands. In a few moments he was asleep.

When he awoke, the fire had burned down. Scrooge looked at his watch; it had stopped. At that very moment, the clock in the hall began to strike. He counted the chimes—twelve o’clock! Fancy sleeping all that time! Scrooge would have leaped from his chair in dismay, but another sound caught his attention. It was the sound of clanking chains.

Scrooge did not immediately think of ghosts. He had read books published by the Rationalist Press, and therefore despised superstition. In fact, he wondered why his landlady was up so late, and what she was doing. His emotions asserted themselves, however, when the noise ascended the stairs and entered his room. The chains were attached to a shrouded figure which pointed at Scrooge. He suddenly remembered something.

“This happened to someone in my family,” he said. “ Heard my grandfather talk about it. You’re the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

The ghost inclined ils head.

Scrooge sniffed. “Well, I’m nothing like him, you know. Not much to unearth from my past. A girl or two and that’s all.”

As far he could judge, the ghost shrugged its shoulders before it beckoned him to the window. To Scrooge’s surprise, the window was open; to his greater surprise, the two of them floated out. Astonishment over, it seemed a quite natural way of travelling—certainly a satisfactory one, because in seconds they descended several miles away, at a place Scrooge recognized immediately. The biggest football ground in London; broad daylight, 60,000 people, and one team breaking away down the centre. The ghost pointed to a spot in the crowd and drew Scrooge towards it. Half a dozen young men, enjoying one anothers’ company as well as the game.

“Why,” said Scrooge, “ that’s me! And old Johnny Dunn! And—why it’s that match against the Germans: those are the German chaps we got talking to! My word, that’s a few Christmases ago! Before the war, that was.”

The ghost put a finger to its lips. The game was nearly over. They watched the lively conversation, listened to the warm farewells at the end and the two young Englishmen talking as they went off together. They heard Johnny Dunn praise the Germans as decent fellows, and Scrooge saying well, they were human beings just the same, weren’t they? Johnny said that if you thought about it you could see the ordinary people of the world wanted to live in peace. And Scrooge said that was it; the politicians began wars and the common people had to fight them.

It was pretty to hear them. The older Scrooge, slightly puzzled, was led away by the ghost, over rooftops again until they came to a red brick building in a main road. A lot of young men were walking in and out of the building, or talking on the pavement. Among them, Scrooge saw himself.

“I know that,” he said. “ It’s the first Christmas of the war. Just before Christmas, really—when I went to register for the army. And look—that’s just what happened! That fellow talking to me outside the Labour Exchange—I remember him well. Wouldn’t go in the army—just said he wouldn’t kill other working men. Bit queer, he was.”

They drew near. Scrooge saw that he was talking excitedly. "Ordinary people like us? Don’t talk rubbish!” he was saying. “Nothing like us, the Germans aren’t. Arrogant and domineering, that’s their national character. Didn’t you hear on the wireless last night . . .” The other man looked sad rather than angry, and Scrooge felt rather uncomfortable. He felt the ghost was looking at him oddly too, and was glad when they passed on.

A recent Christmas, and Scrooge again condemning a nation—quoting books as well, sitting in his penultimate fiancee’s parlour. This time the Russians, and Joan was full of admiration as he explained about Pan-Slavism, the Russian character, and the menace of Marxism. The spectator Scrooge felt rather proud of himself.

“There,” he said to the ghost, “nothing unreasonable about that, anyway. And you can’t see me fraternizing with any ruddy Russians!”

The ghost took his arm. A few moments, and they were in a theatre. Christmas 1943: Scrooge, on leave, was in the stalls. A fat comedian in lounge suit and panama was speaking solemnly from the footlights. Our gallant allies; their courage, the bond between our two nations; in their honour, and by special request, he would sing “My Lovely Russian Rose.” Scrooge watched himself applauding enthusiastically. As the scene faded, he turned to the ghost.

“You’re too clever," he said indignantly. “ I’ve a good mind . . . ” 

The ghost held up its hand, and again took him by the sleeve. He did not know the time of the scene he was now shown. It was a street of houses, almost totally enclosed from the light, the sky like a strip of faded bunting. The people were ill-clothed and wretched, their children underfed and joyless; dankness and grime so pervaded the whole surrounding as to form a grey texture on the hopeless faces. Scrooge had never known hunger, and he was horrified. He turned to speak to the ghost. It had gone. He turned again, and the narrow street, too, had gone. He was in his own room, standing near his chair. Bewildered, he sat down and, without intending, fell asleep almost at once.

He was awakened again by the clock. As he opened his eyes, he saw that someone was standing there, huge and jolly, holding a flaming torch.

“ Ah! Awake at last!” said the ghost paternally.

“ Christmas present?” asked Scrooge.
“The very same.”
“ More levitation?” said Scrooge.

It shook its head. “A view from the window, that’s all: a mere glimpse of the world around us.”

The window was open again. With the ghost at his elbow, Scrooge looked out. He saw a church hall, drab and bare as those places are. It was snowing slightly, powdering the people who stood in a shuffling, shabby line at the door. Most—not all—of them were elderly. Inside the hall, they advanced one by one to a desk where a man was giving money away. A card said: “ Welfare Officer.”

“What’s this?” said Scrooge.

“ Ah,” murmured the ghost, “you don’t recognize the name. The Welfare Officer—otherwise known as public assistance, the R.O., and even—disrespectfully, of course —the bunhouse.”

“I thought you were showing me Christmas Presents?” said Scrooge.

“Indeed I am.”

“Get away” said Scrooge. “This is what your silent partner was showing me last night. Years ago, this. You don’t hear of people being on the R.O. nowadays.”

“My word,” said the ghost heartily, “ you don’t know much, do you? Thousands of ’em—thousands.” ’“Really?” asked Scrooge. “ But I thought things had improved.”

“You’d be surprised” said the ghost “ A good hundred thousand still call at the R.O. You’d better see this, too.”

It flashed its torch. For a moment Scrooge was dazzled. When he recovered, he saw a bleak, sombre group outside a bleak, sombre building. He asked the ghost if it were a workhouse.

“Dear me, no,’ said the ghost. “ These are free men with money—a little, at any rate—in their pockets.

“ I don’t know it,” said Scrooge.

“ Of course you do,” said the ghost. “ Ever hear of good beds for working men? This place is full of ’em.” 

Scrooge stared. “ Do you mean . . . ” he began to ask. 

“Sure,” said the ghost. “ And the firm which owns this lot pays very handsome dividends, especially .nowadays. . . . We’ve hardly started yet, though. ’ I’ll show you something else.”

He did. He showed Scrooge poverty he never knew to exist, housing he never knew to stand. Sordidness, wretchedness, degradation—Christmas Present could show them all. Scrooge felt in turn horror, incredulity and anger. Finally he forgot the ghost’s presence, and was scarcely aware when the window closed and he was led back to his chair. Before he fell asleep, he saw the ghost beaming at him and heard it saying: “If it gets you like that, you ought to find the cause, you know . . .” But Scrooge was too tired to hear. He fell asleep.

He dreamed that he talked with the Ghost of Christmas Present What was the point of this harrowing panorama? Scrooge demanded. Because you’re going to change it, said the ghost. By myself? said Scrooge. You and millions more, replied the ghost. But what causes all this? Scrooge asked. You tell me, said the ghost. A lot of it’s’ human nature, said Scrooge. Human nature changes, the ghost replied. I suppose part of it’s the system, Scrooge said. What do you know about the system? asked the ghost. Not much, said Scrooge; was me and the Germans a part of the system? Your nationalism, yes, said the ghost And the bunhouse, the squalor and the wars; you don’t know it yet, and things won’t change much till you do know it. All right, said Scrooge, maybe you’re right: what can I do about it? You must first understand, said the ghost. Scrooge repeated himself: What can I do? Understand, said the ghost Understand, understand, understand . . . 

The clock struck twelve, and Scrooge awoke from his dream. Before him stood the Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come. It moved aside, and Scrooge was alarmed. His room had gone, and he, his chair and the ghost seemed suspended above a crowd of people. The ghost’s touch reassured him, and he looked down.

The people looked different, strikingly yet in a way that Scrooge could not identify for a time. His final realization came so suddenly that he burst out: “ Why, don’t they look happy!”

“They do, don’t they?” smiled the ghost.

“ Look as if they've all become millionaires,” Scrooge went on.

“ Strangely enough, they have no money,” said the ghost.
“No money?” Scrooge was disbelieving. “Get away—they’re not poor.”

“Indeed they are not. But they have no money.”

“Go on with you,” said Scrooge impatiently.

The ghost pointed, singling out a man. Scrooge watched him. "Why,” he said indignantly, “he’s pinching a pair of shoes. He walked into that shop-place and took them—bold as brass, too!”
“They are his,” said the ghost calmly.

Scrooge sat open-mouthed with bewilderment. The ghost pointed to a place where a few men and women were working. “ Ah,’” said Scrooge, “ that’s good stuff they’re making. Taking their time, though. Which one’s the foreman?”

“Everyone makes good stuff,” said the ghost firmly. “ And there’s no foremen.”

“No foremen? But they'd do what they liked!” cried Scrooge.

“They are doing what they like. They are making good things.”

Incredible, Scrooge thought. He wondered if everyone had sufficient, but the evidence was before him. Nobody was opulent, but everyone was prosperous; nobody superior, but everyone satisfied. He asked question after question of the ghost; the answers were shown, not told him. The language itself had changed through the disuse of innumerable words. Worship, sell, steal, envy, profit—hundreds of words that Scrooge heard every day were archaisms to the people he watched now. Others, like war and business, were preserved only for the convenience of historians and word-spinners, as are chariot-racing and alchemy in Scrooge's day.

He realized suddenly that the scene began to fade. Clutching the ghost’s sleeve, he begged an answer to only one more question. They began to descend through space, and the uprush of air made speech difficult. Shouting, leaning on the ghost, Scrooge demanded: “What Christmas Present said—something I can do to bring it nearer?”

The ghost’s voice was becoming distant, but still was clear. "Understand—first you must understand,” it said. Scrooge pressed closer. “What can I do—do?” he bawled. The voice floated back, as the floor of Scrooge’s room rushed towards him.

“Understand . . .  understand . . .  understand!”
Robert Barltrop

Monday, December 11, 2017

Zionism and anti-semitism (2007)

From the January 2007 issue of the Socialist Standard

Two dangerous ideologies that thrive on each other

It's now 110 years since Theodor Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews) and launched the Zionist movement, nearly 60 since the state he envisaged came into being. Upset by the Dreyfus case (Dreyfus was a French Jewish army officer framed as a spy for Germany), Herzl had concluded that Jews would only be safe when they had a state of their own.

As they ran for the shelters during the war with Hezbullah, Israelis may well have wondered whether there is any country in the world where Jews are less safe. And although the Israeli government keeps emigration statistics secret, it is estimated that since 2003 more Jews have been seeking refuge by leaving Israel than by entering it. Thoughtful Israelis may also wonder how much of the anti-semitism in the world today is generated by Israel itself through its mistreatment of Palestinians and Lebanese.

Zionists are always complaining about anti-semitism, real or imaginary. They use such complaints especially as a gambit to de-legitimise criticism of Zionism and Israel. From the start, however, Zionist opposition to anti-semitism has been superficial and selective, because Zionism is itself closely connected to anti-semitism. The Zionist needs anti-semitism like heroin addicts need their fix.

Allying with anti-semites
Herzl realised that if his project was to succeed he had to seek support wherever it might be found. And who was more likely to back his movement than the anti-semites? Not the most extreme anti-semites, who wanted to exterminate the Jews, but "moderate" ones who would be content to get rid of them. And so Herzl set off for Russia to sell his idea to the tsar's minister of police, Plehve, a notorious anti-semite widely regarded as responsible for the Kishinev pogrom of 1903.

An opportunistic alliance with another anti-semitic ruler of Russia – Stalin – was crucial to the establishment of the state of Israel. On Stalin's instructions, Czechoslovakia provided arms and training that enabled the fledgling Zionist armed forces in Palestine to win the war of independence in 1947-48. Stalin's motive was to undermine the position of Britain in the Middle East. For some years the Israeli government continued to rely on Soviet military and diplomatic support, while keeping silent about the persecution of Soviet Jews, then at its height. (For more on this episode, see Arnold Krammer, The Forgotten Friendship: Israel and the Soviet Bloc, 1947-53, University of Illinois, 1974.)

In 1953 the Israeli-Soviet alliance finally broke down. Israel switched to the other side of the Cold War, obtaining aid first from France and then from the US. Alliance with "the West" also entailed maintaining good relations with anti-semitic regimes, notably in Latin America. Consider Argentina: a disproportionate number of Jews were among those killed, imprisoned and tortured by the military junta that ruled the country from 1976 to 1983. Given the "anti-democratic, anti-semitic and Nazi tendencies" of the Argentine officer corps, we may assume that they were persecuted not merely as political opponents but also as Jews. Meanwhile a stream of Israeli generals passed through Buenos Aires, selling the junta arms. (See link and this link; also Jacobo Timmerman's book Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number.)

Ideological affinities
But it is not just a matter of Zionists and anti-semites sometimes having strategic or business interests in common. There are ideological affinities. Zionists, like anti-semites, are mostly racists and nationalists for whom it is abnormal that an ethnic group should live dispersed as a minority in various countries. It is therefore natural and only to be expected if the majority reacts badly to such an anomaly. There is a strong tendency in Zionism to agree that Jews have objectionable traits, which are to be overcome as they turn themselves into a normal nation by settling in Palestine "to rebuild the land and be rebuilt by it."

What if the Jews in a given country are well integrated, face no significant anti-semitism, and show no interest in being "normalized"? Originally Zionism was conceived as a means of solving the problem of anti-semitism. From this point of view, where the problem does not exist there is no need for the solution. However, ends and means were inverted long ago, and Zionism became an end in itself, with anti-semitism a condition of its success. Anti-semitism might still be regarded in principle as an evil, but as a necessary evil. Often it was also said to be a lesser evil compared to the threat of assimilation supposedly inherent in rising rates of intermarriage.

Against this background, it seems a trifle naive to ask why Israel's ruling circles don't realise that by their own actions they are generating anti-semitism. They realise. But they make it a point not to give a damn what the world thinks of them.

There is nothing unique about the affinity between Zionism and anti-semitism. Russian nationalism thrives on Russophobia (the denigration of Russians), Irish nationalism on anti-Irish prejudice, Islamism on hatred of Moslems, and so on. To escape the vicious circle, we must respond to ethnic persecution not by promoting "our own" brand of nationalist or religious politics, but by asserting our identity as human beings and citizens of the future world cooperative commonwealth.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A New Year — Forty Years Later. (1945)

From the January 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

In January, 1905, we printed our first New Year Message —a message of struggle and hope. In the intervening years we have slowly built up our organisation, spreading knowledge of Socialism as widely as our meagre finances would allow, burrowing like moles at the foundations of privilege and oppression. Of the small group of enthusiastic young people who delivered that early message some have passed out and some have passed over; a few are still with us.

What have we to show for those years of propaganda? As these lines are written the aeroplanes thunder overhead on their ghastly mission and an occasional bolt from the blue brings death and destruction to numerous homes. They are proof of the amazing ingenuity of the human brain and hand, but directed to ignoble and horrible ends— senseless destruction. Two great wars have destroyed the lives and homes of millions of people who could have made the world a happy place, flowing with milk and honey for all. Capitalism has indeed lived up to its ugly record, and the cynical and the heartsick would answer our question with one word—nothing! But they would be wrong, blindly wrong.

On the surface, it is true, there may seem little reason for optimism. From 1904 until to-day we have delivered the same message day after day, week after week, month after month, “while the hungry teeth of time devour, and the silent-footed years pursue,” and still the workers let themselves be led up the blind alleys of disappointment and despair, following leaders with pathetic trust on the painful march to a promised land that always remains over the hill.

Is our message so hard to understand? No! It is the very essence of simplicity. The workers produce the wealth of the world, the capitalists own it. Just as the workers hand over what they produce to-day to the capitalists, they could keep it for themselves if they wished to do so. The capitalists perform no useful task in wealth production, they are just drones. They take the fruits of the workers' labour because the workers let them; and the workers let them do so because they are bemused by the myth that drones are necessary. It is not remedies for particular social diseases that we need but the removal of the source of all social disease—the legal figment that enables the drone to live on our backs. The truth is that, intelligent though they are, the workers are frightened by the immensity of their own productions and, like the worshippers, make sacrifices to allay their fears.

The legal arrangement that because a man has money he therefore has the right to exploit his fellow men is a social agreement that has not always existed, and it can be abolished at any time that society decides to take this step. Society includes everybody, both workers and capitalists, and the workers are the great majority in society.

Although the sacrifices to capital are still made with punctual regularity, the doubts that were creeping in stealthily forty years ago have grown in volume and in expression, and the ingenuity of those whom the capitalist pays to dispel these doubts is stretched to breaking point. The money that is lavished by the parsimonious capitalist on schemes to keep the workers quiet is evidence of this. In the early days our message was received with laughter and derision, now it is discussed at length as something worthy of serious attention. We have burrowed well and truly and the toppling of the rotten edifice of capital is no longer far away. In the days that follow the end of this war the capitalists will have aching heads over the problem of meeting the demands of the workers and, at the same time, keeping a tight grip on the privileges of the parasite.

This year there is to be a General Election and all other political parties are at pains to impress the world with their altruistic intentions. Some spokesmen of the Labour Party have even carried their altruism so far as to forecast the necessity of the workers working hard to help the capitalist here to capture an important share of the world's markets after the war so that the export trade may flourish. We are not altruists, we are concerned with the interests of the working class in all countries. It is not the building up of trade so that their masters may amass wealth that they need, but the ownership of the wealth they produce.

Alleging that falling prices would hinder economic recovery, some capitalists have opposed a return to the gold standard. Perhaps they have more urgent reasons in mind. A fall in prices would mean that the workers' present wages would buy more goods, his standard of living would rise; whilst further inflation of prices would reduce the purchasing power of wages and might save the capitalist the embarrassment of reducing wages generally, assuming of course that the productiveness of labour remained the same as it is now.

The aim of the capitalists is to force or cajole the workers into the submissive attitude of willing slaves, heaping up wealth for others to enjoy, and flattery and promises, cant and hypocrisy will be instruments used to secure this end. They were successful after 1914, but the worker has learned a great deal since then, and, in spite of war weariness, he is not nearly so tractable now. But misdirected discontent leads to disaster. It is our task to show what lies behind this discontent, and to indicate the direction it should take.

So we deliver the same New Year message this year as of yore, but confident that its soundness will appeal to a rapidly growing body of our fellow workers. The workers of the world can control their destinies once they shed their delusions and cast off the useless burden of capitalist privilege that they have borne upon their backs for so long. But the work they have to do must be done by themselves. With leaders they drift, leaderless they progress.

Neither high sentiment nor low jeers will get us to the goal we seek. The only path is knowledge of what we are, wealth producing slaves of capital, and what we can be, freely associated workers owning in common our means of production and using them to supply the needs of all, without the intervention of privilege of any kind except youth, age or sickness

The tide will soon begin to surge. Who is there so utterly broken and cowed that he can remain deaf to the appeal of the greatest movement the world has ever known— the freeing of suffering humanity from the source of its sorrows! The movement to establish Socialism and banish privileged classes from the earth for ever.

Obituary: Adolph Kohn (1945)

Obituary from the February 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have again the sad task of recording the death of an old and very active member of the Party. A. Kohn died in an hospital in North Wales on December 28th after a long and painful illness. He was 56 years old.

Kohn became interested in politics when very young, taking part in discussions at Marble Arch, Hyde Park, when only a youth. In 1908 he joined the Party and was soon very active as a writer and speaker; he spoke on the outdoor platform nearly every evening for some years.

Soon after joining the party he started a private book agency and was the principal means of bringing English translations of foreign Socialist classics to many of us at a time when they were little known in England.

Practically all his life Socialism and books were his main interests. He read voraciously and few had his knowledge of books, past and present, on different aspects of the working class movement. He was a forceful and humorous speaker, both indoor and outdoor, and early in the last war he had some rowdy meetings. At one of his meetings in 1914 at Marble Arch the crowd rushed the platform, after a hectic meeting, and the police had to escort him through an angry crowd of "patriots" and across the road to the tube station.

During 1915, when the passing of the Conscription Act became certain, Kohn left for America, where he remained for about six years and made many friends in Canada and the U.S.A. While out there he wrote and spoke on Socialism and also organised classes. He sent articles to the SOCIALIST STANDARD from America, and the last one, in 1917, was picked up by the American authorities, who took exception to its anti-war contents and made considerable efforts to trace him. They also pressed the English authorities for assistance, and the latter called Fitzgerald up for questioning and kept him in a cell for a night. They also had his sister along at Scotland Yard for interrogation. However, they never traced Kohn and the matter was eventually dropped.

Arising out of the above police investigation there were two humorous incidents, which it seems to the present writer are worth recording. Fitzgerald was very methodical and also extremely critical of members whose "stupidity" helped the authorities to collect members whose military position was doubtful. When Fitzgerald was arrested and searched the police found in his pocket his address book, which contained the addresses of most of us! The other incident concerned Kohn's sister. Although she was secretary of the Party at the time, the police failed to discover that she was even a member of the Party.

Kohn was on the Executive Committee and the Editorial Committee before 1914, and he was again on the Editorial Committee from 1924 to 1929. He wrote many excellent articles for the SOCIALIST STANDARD and was by nature very lively, full of jokes, and fond of company. Even when he was dying, humour still stirred in him.

A little while before the war his health broke down, and in 1940 he had to go into hospital for treatment. While there the hospital was hit by a bomb, and a few weeks later the room where he lodged was badly blasted. After a couple of years out of hospital, T.B. developed, and ten months ago he was back in hospital again, where he remained until his death on the 28th December. He was twice evacuated on account of the hospital being hit by flying bombs, finally reaching the temporary hospital quarters in a large house in North Wales where he died.

Kohn's brain was crammed with knowledge of the international working-class movement, and he was intellectually generous to members and sympathisers—always ready to answer a question or explain a point. He gave almost the whole of his life to the struggle for Socialism. Now he has followed many others on the last road we all must travel. After months of pain in hospital he died and was buried far from his old haunts and his old friends. We here, and his many friends abroad, sadly lament his passing.

Welsh Workers See Storms Ahead (1945)

From the March 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

A typical piece of modem capitalist industrial development—affecting principally the Swansea-Llanelly area this time—was announced towards the end of January by Mr. Hugh Dalton, President of the Board of Trade (South Wales Evening Post, January 29, 1945). It is an occasion with some useful lessons for Socialists.

It followed closely upon arrangements for merging two of Britain's largest steel and tinplate concerns—Richard Thomas's and Baldwins—and was dead in line with the modern capitalist tendency to concentrate wealth and prosperity in fewer and fewer hands. Now Mr. Dalton, with a pontifical gravity well suited to a political administrator of grand imperial capitalism, proclaimed that Richard Thomas’s, Baldwins, Quest, Keen, Nettlefolds, Briton Ferry Steel and Llanelly Steel were collaborating with a view .to the erection of a hot-strip mill for tinplates and sheets at Port Talbot. This was heralded by the local evening paper with the sort of gravely respectful headlines that it uses for royal visits. The renovation of archbishoprics, and sensations in stocks-and-shares adventures. “Four companies combining to modernise industry,” it commences, quite moderate, rising crescendo to a perfect paean of worshipful ecstasy—'‘Passing of bad old days.”

Before we allow ourselves to be lifted into the blue by the angelic upsurge of adoration for those modern saints, the captains of industry, let us look at some of the cold sober facts that are always related to this sort of capitalist attainment (which is, of course, the usual, inevitable flowering of Big Business).

Concentration of capital—fewer capitalists owning more—is the integral factor. Second aspect is that of a major offensive in the perpetual war between contending capitalist interests. In this case, the war for markets between the American and British steel and tinplate industries. The Americans won a great initial advantage by their early adoption of the "strip mill ” system, whereby the whole process of production, from raw material to finished bulk product, is carried out on one site, like the introduction of a pig into one end of a machine and its emergence as neatly labelled sausages at the other. American steel and tinplates, produced more cheaply than their British competitor, bade fair to dominate the markets of the world. All the blood shed on the Western Front could not damp the ardour of the coming battle on the industrial field. To-day the hand is grasped, to-morrow the throat:, what does it matter to the industrial princes? This hungry, frustrated unemployed are unspectacular casualties. . . . 

But here comes the British counter-blow: British interests, too, adopt the strip mill. A strategic victory! But before we cheer ourselves hoarse, let us look at the probable cost. It is not peculiar; it always happens on grand occasions of this sort: it has happened before, or other things like it, in our rough island story, and it will happen again. In this case, one single huge highly economical concern will be able to dominate Britain's share of a great world industry from Port Talbot. To the West, in places like the Dulais and Llwchwr districts, the older-fashioned methods will be unable to compete: unemployment will increase in those areas astronomically, and only a small number of the displaced could be absorbed in the new strip mill. There will be many slender post-war wage packets (or dole packets!) in West Glamorgan, but "these things, you know, must be in every famous victory."

Yet, goodness knows, there is enough need for things made of steel and tinned plate to keep a dozen Port Talbots and a lot more Gorseinons, Loughors, etc., working full-pelt for ever; and it could be that way, too, if only we had Socialism, and things were produced solely for use instead of as commodities to bring profits for the owner class. Under capitalism improved methods of production, such as strip mill, mean higher and safer profits for the owner class. They also threaten many workers, often whole communities, with poverty, insecurity, ruin. Under Socialism such improvements will mean a higher standard of living for the whole community.
John Jennings

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Trade Unions in the Post War Picture (1945)

From the April 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the early stages of the present conflict, the leaders of the British Trade Union movement temporarily relinquished, at the request of the Government, many rights and privileges which had been won by struggles both on the political and industrial field during a period of sixty years.

It is very doubtful, if, with the information now available, the leaders consulted the rank and file of their members before agreeing to relinquish these rights and privileges, and appears to be a case of the dispensation of largesse without consultation. In addition to the rights and privileges forfeited—which the ruling class and the leadership of the Trade Union members “assure” the working class will be restored immediately the present conflict is brought to a successful conclusion—many additional embargoes and restrictions have been placed on the Trade Union movement by numerous legislative acts. These too have been, almost without exception, accepted on behalf of the membership by the leaders—again without consultation—and the assurance that all restrictive legislation will be withdrawn at the cessation of hostilities given by the capitalist class through its political mouthpiece, the National government.

Whilst the position has perhaps been accepted in a laissez faire manner by most trade unionists who have at best a very limited knowledge of capitalist society and its mechanics a minority of class conscious trade unionists are extremely sceptical concerning any assurance given by the capitalist class through its political machine. A sound knowledge of the industrial and political history of capitalism—in this or any other country—fully justifies this sceptimism. In spite of the fact that the old adage "History repeats itself" is generally considered to be moth eaten and obsolete, it remains nevertheless true.

It appears conclusive that the restoration of rights and privileges and the removal of restrictive legislation, either wholly or partially, will only be accomplished-by an intensive struggle on the industrial field. Whilst a struggle of this nature may be necessary, and even if the working class are able to secure the restoration of industrial rights and the withdrawal of repressive legislation—and the writer is by no means sure that will be accomplished either wholly or in part—the class position of trade unionists as members of the propertyless class will remain generally unaffected. Whilst the working class operate the machinery of production and do in fact produce wealth in superabundance, they do not own the machinery of wealth production. The ownership is vested in the hands of a small minority who play no part, or at best a very insignificant part in wealth production. All that is possessed by the working class as a whole is its labour power. In return for producing wealth, it receives a small proportion back in the form of wages, in order that it might purchase the common means of life. The working class is obliged to sell its labour power in an open market, a market wherein the possessing class follow the inexorable maxim of buying labour power as cheaply us possible. During periods of so-called booms or prosperity within capitalist society, when there is what is termed a shortage of labour power, the working class or at least sections of it may be able to secure a higher return for labour power. Daring periods of so-called depression, when unemployment looms large on the industrial horizon, the working class as a who!e is forced to sell its labour power at a much lower figure. "When ten men compete for one job, wages will of necessity fall " said Marx.

Trade Unionists will sooner or later realize that capitalism—i.e., the private ownership of the means of wealth production and distribution—is the cause of their poverty and its attendant evils, and that any and all reforms within capitalist society will do nothing more than to bring about some slight amelioration of the poverty problem. Trade Unionists will ultimately accept the Socialist case of the S.P.G.B., that the only solution is the ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by the working class, to be administered in the interests of the community as a whole. With this understanding clearly established in the mind of the working class, we shall be standing on the threshold of a new and happier era in human history.
Lewis Lee

May-Day — The Workers Must Choose (1945)

From the May 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

After nearly six years of war, both the capitalists and the workers may check their balance sheet. It is a fearful reckoning, A large part of Europe, including Britain, is a mass of ruins and the fighting there is not yet done. The casualties for all the countries together already exceed in number those of the last World War; Russia alone is said to count fifteen million victims. And in the Far East the war area has yet to resound to the fury of further major battles.

In towns comfortably distanced from the battlefields, the leaders of the Not-So-United Nations, feeling victory close at hand, meet again and again to continue their haggling over world-dominion. Europe, and perhaps the whole world is to be carved up like a chicken to satisfy the appetites of the Big Three. This is called: “Zoning the World into Spheres of Influence and is claimed to be a step towards everlasting peace. The War, which like its predecessor of 1914-1918, began as a “holy crusade” for the independence of small nations, will end by swallowing many of them.

The military conflicts which have periodically decimated capitalist society are bloody replicas of the struggle continuously being waged in the world of “business.” “The bigger capitalist lays his smaller fellow low and he, in turn, is swallowed by a yet more powerful rival.” But combines and cartels do not end commercial rivalry—they intensify the struggle. Nor will the emergence of the three victorious world-empires solve the problem of war. The differences between the U.S.A., Britain and Russia, already evident whilst still  "comrades in arms" are guarantee of that.

The policy of the U.S.S.R. in relation to its smaller neighbouring countries has given the Soviet’s “left-wing” admirers many a sleepless night. After preaching for years about “the one and only Socialist country in the world,” these worthies find it difficult to explain why their idol is behaving in the very mundane, i.e., capitalist fashion of victorious ruling classes, by seizing large tracks of alien lands on the old capitalist plea, of course, of national security.”

During the last war the slogan of the Bolsheviks was: "No Annexations, No Reparations”! The contrast with the war aims of Russia to-day helps to show how remote the rulers at the Kremlin are from working class aspirations.

Only those utterly unsophisticated about world-affairs can still cherish the old illusions born out of the Russian Revolution. The official alliance with a growing religious hierarchy tells its own story. Even more obvious is the careful fostering of a fanatical nationalism.

The ruling class of Britain cannot view the trend and outcome of the European war with satisfaction. Forced to deal with German domination over Europe a second time within a generation, they have eliminated this rival only to watch the rise of a more formidable one. in this way does capitalism pile up one problem on another until the weight of them will crush the morale out of rulers everywhere. Their impotence to put the world aright will be plain to all and the myth of their greatness vanish.

However, in their present state of mind, the workers are at the beck of ruling class needs and propaganda. Nationalism in one country begets its echo in others. When the debacle of Social Democracy and of the Communists in Germany first opened the door to Hitler, many hoped this would be the prelude to a working-class renaissance the world over. This was mistaken. The mass organisations on which the workers pinned their hopes have either collapsed or else, as in France, Britain and the U.S.A., become adjuncts of the capitalist state used to keep the workers in order. The end of the last war found the workers in a mood of rebellion. The defeat of the Russian armies opened the road to power for the Bolsheviks and their success quickly infected the war-weary soldiers and workers of other countries. The present conflict, which began with the high hopes of some who saw in this “war against Fascism” unequalled opportunities for the workers to take control, is ending with the workers less assertive as an organised force than before. Mr. Churchill feels able to congratulate himself and his ruling class cronies that the war has become “less ideological in character.”

But the ruling class cocks may be crowing too soon. The worker’s revulsion against the last war was directly attributable to the physical suffering of four years fighting in the trenches. As the memories of this inhuman travail faded so did the newly born militancy. The Labour and Communist parties, the main beneficiaries of this upsurge, sapped the workers of their revolutionary energies and enthusiasm and finally the sorry residue was unable to withstand the shocks of the world crisis. Since then, a new generation has been growing up, working class men and women who have had no hand in building up the old Labour parties and who have never been the slaves of the Moscow tradition. Their political allegiance is unknown. The politicians in this country busily preparing for an election which, for the major parties, can be nothing more than a sham fight except for the privileges and cash rewards of office, are frankly uneasy.

It is generally admitted that the new generation is far less susceptible to promises than their fathers were. They are said to be cynical about all the established political parties and the experienced political soothsayers cut no ice with them. So far, so good.

But cynicism is negative. It would be too much to expect the fruits of this scepticism to ripen immediately, for Socialist propaganda has during the War been severely restricted and opportunity for reflection rare. But during the coming years, the workers young and old, will sort out their ideas gathered during the fighting and the bombing; they will have time, possibly in the dole-queues, to recollect their experience of sweating in the factories. There can be no illusions for them about their future under capitalism. The slumps will come as regularly as they have done hitherto until the next war sends the capitalists hurrying to their coffers again to pay out wages for guns and bombs. The development of long range automatic weapons during this War is a foretaste of what will happen during the next.

The fundamental driving forces behind the movement for Socialism are the rigours, the hardships of a working-class existence under a social system that turns out wealth unlimited and permits only a minority to enjoy it. This contradiction makes fools or knaves out of all supporters of capitalism who pose as champions of working class desires. Only Socialism can explain the riddle. Very soon the economic problems of a capitalist world at “peace" will make their reappearance. They will affect the workers of all lands, “victorious" and “defeated" alike. Instead of fighting each other, the working class will be forced to fight their own employers for their daily bread. This time there can be no excuse for apathy or ignorance. The bereaved and the suffering will add their cries to the voice of Socialism and it will be heard, and understood, all over the world.
Sid Rubin

So You Want To Be A Capitalist? (1945)

From the June 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Let us warn you against ambition. It is an illusion, a tantalising will-o'-the-wisp, causing untold frustration and disillusionment. Many workers fall under its attractive spell only to discover eventually the futility of ever hoping to achieve their desires.

Please do not misunderstand us. We are referring to ambition in a limited sense—the ambition of the average worker “to get on." The callow youth who is prepared to work hard and conscientiously in an attempt to rise above it all, and obtain a life of luxury and ease. Have you fallen prey to the foul, insincere propaganda of our masters when they endeavour through various channels to instil these naive notions into the minds of the, as yet, gullible masses? The object of their tactics is transparently clear. If the worker accepts the proposition that the capitalist is where he is as the result of hard work, etc,, the worker at once, by implication, condones the existence of the system that exploits and impoverishes him. Added to this he is deluded into believing that he too will, one day join that select parasitic group—the so-called “captains of industry."

Let us indulge in some very straight talking directed to the capitalist class. As far as we of the Socialist Party are concerned we would ask you to quit trying to fool us at any rate. One of your spokesmen. The Marquis of Londonderry, in an article entitled “Why Work?" writes as follows:—
   “We cannot live without work, and as it is the laudable desire of most people to attain a far higher standard of living, it can come only through harder and more intelligent work by all classes.” and, yet again, “Success is the result of hard work, and those who have succeeded must have thought it anything but an affliction-—or they, would have failed." —(“Sunday Express," August 6th, 1944). (Our italics).
Yes, it is true that you are in your economic position as the result of hard work—the hard work performed by us, the working class. Yes, you are there as the result of applied brains and intelligence—our brains and our intelligence. To use an Americanism we are wise to you. The way you permeate even the minds of school-children with your romantic versions of success and ambition. It is a very efficient means of obtaining a high degree of toil out of our carcasses—you dangle a red herring which forever eludes our grasp. Under capitalism the broad mass of the population will unceasingly experience poverty-stricken conditions, notwithstanding the quantity and quality of the energies that the workers may put forward. If hard work is the road to financial success then we all deserve to be millionaires, and if idleness and indolence are the causes of failure then may we respectfully ask how is it, then that you are all so damnably successful?

But now let us address our remarks specifically to our fellow workers. We assure you that ambition and hard work will prove very poor aids. If you find yourself a member of the working class you can be absolutely positive that, short of an Irish Sweep Stake win (and anyway even these have now been discontinued), you are doomed, under capitalism, to remain in perpetual poverty. Try as you will, strain as you may, the barriers dividing the two classes are well-nigh insurmountable, and should you be so foolhardy as to pit your puny efforts against them in an endeavour to climb up, then you will eventually find yourself lying breathless and shaken on the ground, and the effort may have sapped your health and strength.

The socialist realises that the future of the workers lies in the complete elimination of capitalism. We too have an ambition but it is harnessed to the world of scientific reality. The desire to help in the conversion of the minds of our fellow workers to the socialist case so that a politically conscious revolutionary majority can establish a sane order of society—socialism. And then, for the first time in history, all men and women will be completely free to exercise their personality and attain within their life-span a fulfilment of ambition—an ambition which automatically will coincide and harmonise with the interests of the whole of society.
Samuel Leight

This Phoney Election (1945)

Editorial from the July 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Voters who try to interpret the issues in the election by studying the more flamboyant utterances of the Party leaders may well wonder what it is all about. For five years the Labour leaders, endorsed by the overwhelming vote of their Party Conference, at the outset, have worked in the Government with the Tories in furtherance, as they claim, of the war for democracy. Then suddenly they part company and instantly Mr. Attlee finds that Churchill's proposed referendum on the continuance of the National Government is “alien to all our traditions," though it comes from the man who was claimed by the Labour Party to be the embodiment of the British tradition, and that it is a device “which has only too often been the instrument of Nazism and Fascism."

Then in his first election broadcast Mr. Churchill retorts that “ Socialism)” by which he means the (State Capitalism of the. Labour Party, threatens us with a “Gestapo in Britain." “Socialist policy" declared Mr. Churchill, “is abhorrent to the British ideas of freedom. It is inseparably interwoven with totalitarianism and the abject worship of the State."—( Daily Express, June 5, 1945).

From which the innocent looker on may deduce that the “war against totalitarianism" has been conducted by Tories who are in favour of it and by Labourites who are in favour of it, and that whichever wins the election totalitarianism—ended in Germany—will be firmly established here.

Another equally phoney issue of the election is the alleged gulf of principle between the Labour Party, which seeks some form of State Capitalist ownership or control of certain industries, and the Conservatives and Liberals who are supposed to be opposed to it. Yet the nationalisation of the postal, telegraph and telephone services and the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board . . .  and similar monopolies by Act of Parliament were the work of Liberal and Tory Governments; and it was Mr. Churchill who in 1918 declared in a speech at Dundee that the policy of the Government of which he was a member was the nationalisation of railways.—(Times, December 5, 1918.)

Mr. Churchill declares that the election is a fight between individualism and Socialism and between his own Party and the “Socialist Party." By individualism he means capitalism, which has, however, long since got past the stage of a competitive struggle between independent small capitalists and gone over increasingly to giant monopolies.

The Labour Party, equally anxious to misrepresent the situation, accepts Mr. Churchill’s "terminological inexactitude" that they are a socialist party and declares in its Election Declaration (“Let us Face the Future"), “The Labour Party is a Socialist Party and proud of it"—and then proceeds to give us a blue-print of the State Capitalism that they propose to retain and develop.

Lord Croft, Parliamentary Under Secretary for War, even more wildly inaccurate thau his leader, Mr. Churchill, discovered that the in fact always anti-Marxist Labour Party, “wish to impose upon the British people the crude ideas of the German Marx."—(Evening Standard, 24th May, 1945) and reached a peak of falsification in the further remark that Marxism is “not so very different" from Nazism. He quoted a declaration by a prominent Hitlerite that Nazism was “Socialism" but forgot to add Hitler’s own repeated claim that it was based on the total rejection of Marxism. Lord Croft might more accurately have said that in respect of rigid controls Nazism has not been far different from the controls imposed in this country during the war by the Tories, Liberals and Labourites in the National Government.

The Liberal Manchester Guardian accurately appraises the smallness of the differences between the three largest parties. Criticising Mr. Churchill, the Guardian says:— 
   “Because it (the Labour Party) proposes a relatively modest programme of public ownership he leaps to extravagance about totalitarianism and the Gestapo. He would be more convincing if he got to grips with things: if, for instance, he showed why Major Lloyd George's 'Central authority' for coal is likely to secure greater efficiency than Labour’s ‘National authority,' why Mr. Hudson’s plans for regulated food imports are better than Mr. Bevin's, why the Government's national insurance scheme is better than the Beveridge plan, why Mr. Lyttleton’s ideas on the curbing of monopoly are sounder than Mr. Dalton's. But that, as Mr. Churchill knows, would give the game away. Good rotund eloquence meaning nothing in particular is far safer.”—Manchester Guardian," June 5th, 1945.)
The I.L.P. which in recent years has boasted that it had for ever shed its old illusion, was back again where it started, pleading to be allowed into the Labour Party—a plea that was rejected.

The Communists, having temporarily pigeonholed their year-long claim that the Labour Party is “the third capitalist party" is backing that Party in most constituencies though at Rhondda East, Pollitt, the Communist candidate, is running against a Labour Party nominee who is backed by the S. Wales Miners Federation the President of which, Arthur Horner, is himself a leading Communist.

No doubt the real reason for the election is simply that since an election had to come sometime the Conservative Party wanted to get in quickly before the workers had had time to taste the bitter fruits of victorious peace. As caretakers of capitalism they need re-election to handle the difficult capitalist problems during the adjustment from military war to trade war and they count on gaining a majority.

Reading between the lines it seems likely that a Conservative victory will be received with relief at Labour Party headquarters since if the Labour Party happened to win no one would be more embarrassed than themselves.

We confidently make one electoral prophecy. Whatever the result capitalism will be safe because the majority of the working class are not yet Socialists. Whether capitalism has a little less state control with the Tories or a little more with the Labour Party is not an issue that ought to concern the working class. When they know their own class interests they will make the issue Socialism versus Capitalism as the Socialist Party is doing in North Paddington. Our campaign in North Paddington is the beginning of the real electoral fight for the emancipation of tho working class.

A World That Changes But Remains The Same (1945)

Editorial from the August 1945 issue of the Socialist Standard

Since the war cloud has lifted from Europe another cloud has descended which is slowly smothering the bright promises with which the fighters' and the sufferers were fed. The golden and futile promises of war time are giving place to the ugly realities of capitalist peace.

How often was it declaimed on platform and in print that Germany as a nation must be utterly shattered so that wars would come no more. The figment that wars were the product of people with a foul and brutal urge to dominate was spread and fostered to conceal the fact that wars are a product of economic conditions, and in the modern world, the product solely of capitalist conditions. How often was it urged that the United Nations, with high and unblemished ideals, were solidly united on basic principles that would exclude future wars and would bless their peoples with peace, comfort and security!

How soon the lie has been given to this hypocritical moonshine. French interests in the Levant struggling to keep their hands on oil; Russia pursuing its imperialist policy in Manchuria, the Dardanelles, Tangier; America striving for control of air lines; Britain, the older bandits, conniving for its share in the swag wrung from the surplus labour of the workers. Here is an example of the spirit that animates the class that rules us!
   “The Canadian Pacific Railway Company have made a flying start in the post-war shipping race, aimed at giving Britain the lead, by ordering four crack 10,000 ton ships from a Glasgow yard.”—(Evening News, July 7th, 1945).
This is just one sprint in the race that leads to more wars. Another was the report of an interview with Lord Nuffield in the Daily Express (May 25ih, 1945). The report is headed “Nuffield is out to beat foreigners” and it referred to the £ 1,000,000 car company he is starting in Australia.
     “I have started the Australian company because I know that if we do not go in there in a big way others— and I mean foreign competitors—will get in first.”
    “By the time the Empire countries are ready to make cars entirely on their own it may well be that air transport will have developed to such an extent that we shall no longer talk of exporting goods from Britain to Australia.”
   “If people want cars at anything like the 1939 price, will they make the Government cancel the purchase tax? Will they give us cheaper steel? (That means more and cheaper coal). And will they he content with wage rates below an inflationary level.”
The sting is in the last line. The attack on wages is beginning and the workers are about to reap the harvest of the better world for which they fought—hard work and lower wages.

The Daily Express, June 2nd, 1945, reports discussions between Russia and Turkey which should give those who put faith in the protestations of peace and justice something to ponder over. After pointing out that Salim Sarpor, Turkey’s Ambassador, is on his way to Moscow with Turkey’s answer to the proposals Russia made that Turkey give up control of the Dardanelles, revise Turkey’s North East Frontier Provinces, and democratise the Turkish constitution, the Daily Express reporter goes on;
   “Turkey says ‘Yes’ in principle to all three. But she wants them postponed, not through insincerity, but to give an air of negotiation to concessions she knows she must make (italics ours).
That last bit is a specimen of what “small nations,” whose rights have been held up as a corner stone of the future, may expect from their poweiful competitors.

One of the idolised leaders of the Allies, General Smuts, on leaving the San Francisco Conference issued this warning:
   “We buried our arms last time. One of the most potent causes of World War No. 2, was this illusion that there would be no more war. . . . Europe, a fragmented and broken-up continent filled with people glaring at each other with hate, is the greatest problem now facing mankind.
    “The most awful calamity in history has overtaken Europe. Don't ask me who is the enemy I don't know. It may be ourselves.
    “We do not know what is going to breed out of this war. Forces that have been kept under by civilization are now unchained.”—(Daily Mail, June 30th, 1945).
Such is the bright prospect before us!

Finally secret diplomacy, which is the very essence of this exploiting system under which we live, extends to the Berlin Conference of the “Big Three” which is to decide the future of Germany—and other very important carve-ups.
   “It was officially, confirmed to London last night that reporters will not be admitted to the Big Three meeting at Potsdam. Communiques will be issued.”— (Daily Express, July 7th, 1945).
What a joke on all the perishing freedoms we redd about in the Atlantic Charter and elsewhere!

It is still the old world in which the capitalist lives like a leech upon our industry and our only hope of a future free from poverty, insecurity and war is the determination of the workers to abolish the conditions that produce this state of affairs—the private ownership of the means of living. It is not the leeches we object to but the way they have of getting their living.

Friday, December 8, 2017

An Invitation to Lord Beaverbrook (1935)

From the December 1935 issue of the Socialist Standard

On October 28th Lord Beaverbrook, the proprietor of the Daily Express and other newspapers, delivered a lecture on various topics to the members of the Mile End Old Boys’ Club. In the course of his remarks he stated that the only war in which the British should fight in was in defence of the British Empire, which he ambiguously styled as “ours.”

A party member who happened to be present pointed out that the wealth of the British Empire was owned by a small section of the population and that, therefore, there is no reason why the dispossessed majority should defend it. Lord Beaverbrook advised our member to become one of the minority, but on being challenged that that was frivolous, he was forced to admit that he was “only chaffing,” and that the proper answer would take too long for discussion at that meeting.

We would be pleased to give Lord Beaverbrook ample space to reply to our member’s challenge in the columns of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD. Alternatively, perhaps he would prefer to debate with us in the columns of the Daily Express, where he would, no doubt, feel more at home. How about it, my Lord ? A copy of this is being forwarded to his Lordship.

Letter: The Irish Border question (1970)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Sir,

We note your “challenge” to the Irish Communist Organisation (Socialist Standard, October) to deny that “the removal of ‘the Border’ will not remove one social evil from which the working class suffer”. Presumably not even the Socialist Party of Great Britain can deny that the working class movement in Ireland is riddled with religious sectarianism, and that the extent of this sectarianism, (the likes of which is not to be found in any other section of the working class in Europe) is due to the influence of Partition politics. Without going any deeper into the question, it is clear that the ending of Partition and its politics will also bring to an end the influence of those politics on the working class movement, especially the religious sectarianism which has paralysed the working class political movement during the past half century. The ending of religious sectarianism will certainly be the ending of a “social evil from which the working class suffer.” Even a child should be able to see that for himself.

You maintain that the ICO pamphlet on Partition “is the kind of analysis we ourselves have made for years”. The reviewer twice refers to the Border as “just a tarriff barrier”. That is certainly not the kind of analysis made by the ICO. We have shown that the uneven development of capitalism is the basis of Partition. The tarriff barrier is the economic essence of the Border. But the ICO has never, in the SPGB manner, tried to reduce the social and political superstructure to the economic base. The economy is not the superstructure, though it determines the development of the superstructure. Religious sectarianism has nothing to do with tarriff barriers as such. If the Border is “just a tarriff barrier” its social effects are unaccounted for. There have been many tarriff barriers in the world which did not have the effect of riddling the workers behind them with religious sectarianism. (And it should be noted that religious sectarianism began to to intensify in Ireland when it was rapidly dying away throughout Europe). With the absurd notion that the economy is its superstructure, and that therefore the Partition which had the effect of drowning working class politics in religious sectarianism was “irrelevant” to the working class, it is not surprising that the “World Socialist Party of Ireland” has been a non-starter in the working class movement. The “irrelevant” Partition politics of the bourgeoisie have exercised a massive negative influence on the working class. but we have noticed that that the WSPI has [not] exercised any social influence, negative or positive! As we said before, it is the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and not the Partition, which is irrelevant, and a matter of no concern, to the working class of Ireland.
G. Golden,
Irish Communist Organisation,
London, N.19.

The basis of Mr. Golden’s argument would seem to be that since Partition is the cause of religious sectarianism in Northern Ireland the removal of the Border would mean the end also of sectarianism.

We suggest he has got things the wrong way round: it was rather the success of the big capitalists of North East Ireland in stirring up anti-Catholic prejudices amongst their Protestant workers that gave them the mass support needed to force the British government to exclude Ulster from Home Rule. Religion was deliberately introduced into politics in order to serve the economic interests of the employers there. Had they not been able to win mass support (to the extent of obtaining pledges to take up arms if need be) for their opposition to Home Rule, then there would probably have been no Border. Sectarianism, serving the interests of a section of the Irish capitalist class, could thus be said to have given rise to the Border.

The removal of the Border would not in itself end sectarianism; indeed it might make it worse since many Protestant workers would still resist this change in their rulers with violence.

Sectarianism can only be removed, as we pointed out in the Socialist Standard in January last year, by “a sustained campaign to clear away the political and religious garbage that the working class got from its leaders of yesterday”. We went on to ask, however, “why struggle for the apple when the same effort can bring us the orchard?”

Sectarianism is not only a barrier to working class unity for Socialism, but it is also a barrier to those who want the workers’ support for an ordinary reformist party or for an all-Ireland republic. In fact it has now even become an embarrassment to those capitalists, international and local, who have considerable investments in Northern Ireland.

The World Socialist Party is thus not the only organisation campaigns, against sectarianism. This is why it important to ask what will replace it. We would not regard a change to normal non-sectarian capitalist politics (of the British or Irish variety) as much an advance. Our task of spreading socialist understanding in place of political confusion would still remain.

The I.C.O. may be opposed to sectarianism but it is not seeking to replace it with socialist understanding. Rather, with its Anti-Partition stance it is lining itself up with Irish nationalism, The ideology of that section of the Irish capitalist class that was opposed to Union with Britain. Indeed the I.C.O can be seen as basically an Irish nationalist organisation merely using the few socialist phrases that have survived mauling at the hands of their men. Lenin, Stalin and Mao.

We confess that we are not sure what point Mr. Golden is trying to make in the second part of his letter — unless he is again putting the cart before the horse and arguing that Partition is the cause of sectarianism. We will leave the matter for our readers to try and work out for themselves.
Editorial Committee

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Readers Survey Results (1992)

Party News from the November 1992 issue of the  Socialist Standard

If the 245 who replied to the questionnaire in the August issue are representative of Socialist Standard readers generally, then our most popular regular feature is "Sting in the Tail", all but 16 percent of you like the front covers and 83 percent think the price is about right.

The main topics that the largest number of you think do not get enough coverage are music, women's issues, longer analytical articles and Marxist theory. On the other hand, you think we give too much space to leftwing parties. Russia and Eastern Europe and British politics.

Seventy per cent get your Socialist Standard through subscription, 12 percent from a street seller or at a meeting, 7 percent from a bookshop or newsagent, while 8 percent received a free copy from our publicity department at Head Office. Two, in a practice we wouldn't recommend, extracted the questionnaire from the copy in their local library. Over half said more than one person read their copy, so we can conclude that our readership is at least 50 percent higher than our sales.

There is a massive imbalance between men and women, with only 7 percent of you being women. Otherwise, all age groups arc represented in proportions not too different from the general population. The same goes for where you live, with 24 percent in London and 13 percent in the rest of the South East and 11 percent in the Northwest. Five percent live overseas.

Your political and reading habits contained some surprises: 22 percent of you voted Labour in the last election, while the most-read other magazine is Socialist Worker (11 percent). Besides the 22 percent who voted Labour, 41 percent of you wrote “ socialism” or something similar on your ballot paper; 27 percent didn't vote. More voted for the Liberal Democrats (7) than voted for the Green Party (6).

Fifty-nine percent of you are not members of any political party. 29 percent are in the Socialist Party, 4 percent in the Labour Party and 7 percent in various other parties. Thirty-eight percent are trade union members, 10 percent are in some environmental group like Friends of the Earth and 7 percent in Amnesty International or some other human rights group.

The most-read national daily newspapers are the Guardian (41 percent), the Independent (20 percent) and the Daily Mirror (11 percent). On Sunday 26 percent of you read the Observer and 11 percent the Independent on Sunday. Ten percent confessed to reading a Tory tabloid on weekdays and 7 percent on Sundays.

As to other magazines, after Socialist Worker come other trotskyist and Leninist journals (9 percent), Private Eye (7 percent), the New Statesman (6 percent) and anarchist journals (5 percent).

Gold-Seeking Guru (1992)

From the December 1992 issue of the Socialist Standard

The 1992 Schumacher Lectures held in Bristol in October set out to explore the link between "good work, good business, good economics and a spiritually informed world view". One of the advertised speakers was Sir James Goldsmith (in fact, he only sent a video message) who was presented by the Schumacher Society as one of "four great thinkers and activists who look towards a sustainable future based on spiritual and ecological values”. The image that is created of him is that of a businessman and industrialist who has given up his business interests to devote himself to changing human values and creating a better world and who has a particular interest in environmentally-sustainable land use.

Certainly, James Goldsmith gives millions of pounds to the Green movement including organizations like Friends of the Earth. In the 1970s he financed an anti-nuclear campaign against the nuclear plant at Windscale. Nuclear power was, he declared in a recent interview reprinted in Resurgence magazine (no 152), "hopelessly uneconomic, terrifyingly dangerous and insecure”. In the early 1980s he helped his brother Edward Goldsmith launch and finance The Ecologist magazine. Then in 1990 in a flamboyant gesture, he sold his timber interests, the profits from which had largely enabled him to build up his spectacular fortune in the preceding decade, to Lord Hanson. In return he acquired Newmont Mining which owns mostly goldmines. He declared on giving up his timber assets that he would devote the rest of his life to protecting the environment and in particular to persuading businesses and governments to end the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest.

But environmentalists beware! Despite what the Schumacher Society has to say about James Goldsmith—and it is after all one of the leading ecological associations in Britain—his credentials as a great environmental thinker and activist do not bear close scrutiny. The large amounts of money which he dishes out to the Green movement along with the glib, superficial pronouncements he makes on a variety of subjects from communism to Buddhism, farming and sustainable land use amounts to little more than sophisticated greenwash. He is one of those members of the capitalist class who recognize that if they are to hold on to their power and wealth, they must appear to take into account the well-informed and vociferous demands of the growing environmental movement. They must discredit the views of those people in the movement who point to the profit system as one of the main perpetrators of ecological destruction and unsustainable resource use. He attempts to buy off the more naive participants in the ecological movement by appealing to their recognition of the need for global solidarity which is unfortunately coupled with a refusal to grapple with the political reality of the class-divided system under which we live. In the interview reprinted in Resurgence magazine he stated:
I believe business is vital—and a free market extremely important—because you need prosperity to clean up the scars of the past and because people who arc reasonably prosperous can think six months, a year, ten years ahead.
But it is the activities of Newmont Mining in which he holds a 42 percent stake that reveals the full hypocrisy of his position as a promoter of ecologically sustainable land use and his commitment to creating a better world.

Profits from pollution
In September this year, two environmental and human rights groups, Minewatch and Survival International named Newmont and one of its subsidiary companies. Dawn Mining, as being among the top ten violators of Native American land. Both companies are at present in dispute with at least two Native American communities whose survival has for centuries depended on the ecologically- sustainable land use which Goldsmith claims to be such an expert on. In Nevada. Newmont Mining has polluted ground water with cyanide and heavy metals from five goldmines on its Carlin Trend concession. The Western Shoshone tribe who are in dispute with the US government over the ownership of this particular area have commented with dismay at this desecration of land which they have looked after so well for so long according to their spiritual values:
It is the Western Shoshone belief that Mother Earth is a living being, she is alive in her own way. not as we humans are but in a different way.The blood that flows in our veins keeps us alive. The water that flows in our Mother Earth are her veins and keep her alive. This water must be kept clean and pure so that all life upon Mother Earth is to continue for the future. (Statement issued by Western Shoshone . National Council, August 1992).
In Washington State, Dawn Mining Company which is Newmont's 51 percent-owned subsidiary plans to use low-level radioactive waste to fill a huge pit on its uranium mine and mill complex, part of which is on a Spokane Indian Reservation. Both members of the tribe and the Washington State Health Department have demanded that the company use clean soil instead. The company is bankrupt and claims it cannot afford to make the site safe unless it is paid by other US states to take their unwanted radioactive waste. If the site is not cleared up soon there is a danger that 400 million gallons of contaminated water may begin to leak from disused mine pits into nearby rivers.

While Goldsmith pontificates about the environment and spiritual values, Newmont mining continues on its profit-seeking rampage around the world. In Peru, Newmont owns a 10.7 percent share in the South Peru Copper Corporation (SPCC). At two mine sites in the south of Peru, SPCC' is responsible for seriously depleting water resources, poisoning rivers and coastal waters and causing serious respiratory illnesses among the local people.

In Australia, the company suffered a slight setback when another of its associate companies, Newcrest, along with several other mining companies came into direct conflict with the Jawoyn Aborigines over a proposed goldmine at Coronation Hill in the Northern Territory. The Jawoyn are strongly opposed to mining in this region because they believe a dreamtime creation figure called Bula lives there. If Bula is disturbed, apocalyptic events will follow. According to the New Scientist (27 April 1991) the Aborigines also refer to the area as “sickness country". It has high levels of radioactivity caused by uranium deposits close to the surface. Mining in the area could indeed unleash the destructive powers of the sleeping spirit. . . Certainly, mining the area would drastically deplete and contaminate the waters of the South Alligator River system which runs through the Kakadu National Park made famous in the film Crocodile Dundee. In June 1991, the Aborigines won their battle to get mining companies banned from the area by an opportunistic Australian Labor government anxious to capture the green vote over this most publicized issue in election year. But how long will it be before the ban is reversed or the companies find a loophole which will enable them to slip into the area?

Greed for gold
In the meantime, Newmont continues to prospect for gold—in Uzbekistan, in South and Central America, in south-east Asia and in Europe, with little care for people and environment. The company's activities make Goldsmith's words sound very hollow indeed. When in 1990 he swapped his timber assets for a mining company, he was simply exchanging interests that were decreasing in profitability and becoming too sensitive for a man concerned to maintain his green image for a more lucrative source of wealth and one about which there is considerably less public awareness. He has admitted that his sole reason for acquiring Newmont was the pursuit of profit when he said in 1991:
Gold and gold-mining shares will have their day and when they do everyone will want to buy gold shares, (quoted in The Guru and the Gold, Minewatch dossier, 218 Liverpool Rd. London Nl)
Goldsmith is no different in spirit from that group of Europeans who first set foot on American shores—the conquistadores—who were also motivated by a greed for gold.

Any discussion about spiritual values and ecological sustainability should surely begin by referring to the experts in the subject—those people whose survival has for centuries depended on a profound respect for the earth and the finite nature of her resources, and whose customs and traditions reveal an intimate and scientific understanding of their environment.

Certainly, there is nothing ecologically sustainable about multinational mining as those who are first to be on the receiving end of its destructive processes point out. Many Native American communities, and indeed other indigenous groups such as the Jawoyn Aborigines mentioned above, have spiritual taboos relating to human activity which tampers with the land in the way that mining for profit does. Some such as the Navahos in Arizona arc opposed to digging up coal as they regard any mining as a sacrilegious and destructive act, but other communites in other parts of the world have engaged in small-scale mining activity, taking from the earth what is of use to them and with minimal damage.

Unless Goldsmith genuinely becomes part of the struggle to wrest control of the Earth’s resources from the minority who own and control them, in order to create a society of common ownership based once more on a sustainable use of resources, he will go down in history merely as one member of that class of ruthless profit-seekers who for so long have been responsible for the wholesale destruction of people and planet.
Kerima Mohideen