Wednesday, August 16, 2017

To Young Speakers. (1905)

From the April 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Many of our young speakers do their best, and are still disappointed. We can give them one or two tips which, if followed, will assist them.

The very first essential to making a good speech on any question is to have an implicit belief that the side you are talking on is right. That essential is already possessed by all our speakers.

The next greatest essential is to know everything of your subject. If you can’t know everything, know all that you can. Study Socialism, read Socialism, and in order to understand Socialism study capitalism, if you want to make a good speech about Socialism. You can’t know too much about the subject; you can’t possibly know enough. Know all that you can freeze on to.

An old friend of the writer, probably the greatest Socialist speaker in America to-day, once said to him: "My boy, the Worker gets here Friday. On Friday evening when I get home from work I sit me down and read the Worker —every word in it; not the headlines only, not the articles only of news, but every line — and then I know what is doing in Socialism, and I know what to say and how to say it.”

Young speakers particularly should do this. But they should not stop there. Read a book now and then. Read a book worth the reading, and read it carefully. When you have read a chapter, stop and recall all the meat of it that you can. If there is some important part of it that you do not understand, or cannot recall clearly, go back and look it up. Learn to remember things that are worth remembering.

Not only read good books. but if you are a young speaker, read them aloud. Watch yourself. You will be surprised how many words you fail to pronounce distinctly, clearly. When you do that go back and read the sentence over again and again, as many times as may be necessary to enable you to acquire a habit of speaking in a clear tone and sounding every syllable of a word — no slurring.

If you will do these things — inform yourself on the subject, saturate yourself with it, read aloud, clearly, distinctly; read good, well-written books, so as to get the habit of speaking correctly, strongly, elegantly — do these things, and there is no reason why a young man of strength and good lungs and voice should not become not only a speaker, but an orator.
The Worker

Ishmaelites (1905)

From the May 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has often been charged—and rightly too—with being a party of political Ishmaelites. It is so because the only logical position in the political world that a genuine Socialist party can take up is that of opposition to all other parties. There is room for but one Socialist party in any country and, therefore, we cannot be in opposition to ourselves, and we must be in opposition to all other political parties. Thus we have to stand out clearly and distinctly from other “Labour" or "Socialist" bodies in this country. There is not one of the multitudinous array of these that we cannot at once show, by the position it takes up, to be in opposition to the principles of Socialism, and acting, consciously or unconsciously, as the catspaw of the capitalist-class. For any party that dares to claim the support of the working- class is acting as their enemy if it does so on any other ground than that of a clear recognition of the class war that is being waged in all civilised society, and that the goal of those workers who are acting their part consciously in the class war, must be the complete overthrow of the capitalist system of private ownership in the means of life, with its method of production for profit. This goal can only be attained by the capture, peacefully or otherwise, of political power, national and local, by those class-conscious workers, so that by its control they can substitute public for private property, and co-operative production for use for production for profit, and thus transform the working class from being mere hewers of wood and drawers of water for the parasitical capitalist-class, into the nation itself.

By this change in the basis of Society the workers will have destroyed the power by which they are kept in their present position of wage-slavery, and it naturally follows that the capitalist-class., as such, which exists because of this power, will have ceased to exist. The civilised nations then, instead of being divided into two classes—workers and capitalists—will contain but one class, a working-class, which will be the nation itself. All history of society, from the breakdown of primitive communism (a system of common ownership of the necessaries of life) is but the history of class struggles between those who controlled the means of life (and because of that fact dominated all political and social institutions) and those who did not own these means. In every instance where society has progressed, it has only done so because the underneath class has overthrown the class above it, and has substituted the particular political system best suited to its particular method of building and producing the necessaries of life, until now, for the first time in the world's history, society has reached the stage where all the means of life are held by the capitalist-class, and, on the other hand, the workers own nothing but their power to labour. The working-class can only free itself from its ignominious condition by the overthrow of the capitalist class and system. By virtue of the fact that the working-class is the last class, that is, that there is no class below it that can possibly be subjected: working-class emancipation is the emancipation of all mankind. That emancipation can only be accomplished by the establishment of the Socialist Republic. Any party that has less than this for its object is not worthy of the support of the workers. Any party that deludes them into believing that the re-legalising of the strike or picketing, or the safe-guarding of Trade Union funds, or anything short of the establishment of the Socialist Republic will be effective is acting as the enemy of die working-class, confusing the only issue that is of importance, and so assisting to perpetuate the capitalist system, with all its infamies. The only principle on which a working-class party can progress is on the lines of the class war, and strenuous opposition to any party not based on those lines. Thus The Socialist Party of Great Britain resolutely opposes Liberal, Tory, “Labour,” and all those, including certain professing Socialists, who, directly or indirectly, support capitalist politics, which comprise all politics other than the revolutionary politics of the Socialist party.

The position taken up is based upon sound and logical conclusions, and is supported by science, whether it be in history or economics, and, what is still more valuable to the “practical" English mind, is supported by political experience as well. Because we oppose all political bodies, especially those claiming to be "Labour" or "Socialist" which are gulling the workers by their cries of "something at once," cries which have simply had the effect of leading them into the political shambles of capitalist reform politics, we have been dubbed the “Political lshmaelites.” May we always deserve it! The principles on which the working-class must organise demand this policy, and as the only party here that is based on these principles and has this policy is The Socialist Party of Great Britain, we call upon those of the working-class who desire emancipation to enrol themselves in our ranks, to form the nucleus of the revolutionary army of the workers, to prosecute the class war to the successful issue of the Social Revolution.
E. J. B. Allen


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What George Learnt (1905)

A Short Story from the June 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

George — “You class-conscious Socialists want too much. You ought to he more reasonable.”

Frank — "Well. Socialism being justice, isn’t it reasonable to want it?”

George — “Oh, yes! But you demand the lot. I reckon that half a loaf is better than no bread.”

Frank — “Granted, my boy; but a whole loaf is better still. Besides, why ask for half when you want the whole?”

George — "Because I think you are more likely to get it. In a bargain both sides must make concessions.”

Frank — "Must they? Well, in a bargain according to your curious plan, though the article you have for sale is worth 20/- and you want that amount, yet you would make it known that you would be jolly glad to get half for it. Do you think you would stand the ghost of a chance of getting what yon want? ”

George — “Maybe not; but we would get something.”

Frank — "Would you? In any bargain with the ruling-class the workers’ claims would obviously only be respected when the workers are in a position to take what they ask for. Therefore a bargain would be unnecessary except to enable the capitalists to stave off the workers’ victory.”

George — “But wouldn’t you bargain with them? ”

Frank — “Of course I would not. Look here: the country round a certain small town in Italy was infested by a band of brigands who waylaid and robbed those who came to and from that town. The town folk were too lazy to undertake the extermination of this band, so they bargained with the brigand chief that on payment of a yearly sum his band would cease to molest them. The brigand agreed, but feeling his power, he increased year by year his demands for money, and his insolence became unbearable. The town folk, driven to desperation, organised an attack on the brigands and finally succeeded in breaking up the band. The townsmen lamented bitterly, but too late, that they had not made war on the brigands sooner, but had instead supplied them with the means of becoming more powerful.”

George — "Very pretty, and the lesson is, I suppose, that the longer we bargain with the brigand capitalist-class, the longer they will be on our backs and the harder it will be to dislodge them? ”

Frank — "Not only that. Remember that it takes two to make a bargain, and if the masterclass are not going to gain by it, a bargain won’t come off. In fact the ruling class will only bargain when they know that if they don't concede a little, the people will take the lot. The people lose at that game all the time.”

George — “I didn’t think of that.”

Frank — “Besides, the capitalist-class has in its pay, and can buy, the most cunning brains in the nation, whilst the workers have, in comparison, but homely common-sense. Who are likely to get the best of bargains under such conditions? ”

George — “The capitalist politicians of course.”

Frank — “You’ve guessed right. In a game of cunning or hoodwinking, the master-class, having in its pay the lawyers and commanding by its wealth the smartest wits, will always win. The workers can't play successfully at that game. But in an open political battle the workers have the advantage of mass and numbers, which the capitalists have not.”

George —  “I see."

Frank — “Glad you do. The workers’ advantage lies on the side of au open struggle with the forces of capitalism, for in strategy and cunning the owning-class is first every time. To urge the workers not to adopt the class struggle basis of action, is to play the capitalists’ game, and to deliver the workers, ready scalped, into the hands of the enemy. Now that you understand the position you will of course apply for membership in The Socialist Party of Great Britain.”
F. C. Watts

The Raunds and Leicester Marches. (1905)

Editorial from the July 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The striking bootmakers of Raunds have marched into London and have marched out again, and, thanks to the fine weather experienced, the astuteness of the Liberal Party politicians en route (who tried, with considerable success, to make party hay while the sun shone) and the fact that the capitalist press had no other sensation to write up at the moment, they seem to have had a moderately good time.

Encouraged by their example, 500 unemployed workers set out from Leicester on a similar pilgrimage. But their time was not so happily chosen, and their numbers were unwieldy. So that they were reduced to sleeping on straw after marching in rain.

That the action of both parties enlisted a good deal of public sympathy at the moment is clear. But public sympathy butters few parsnips, and already the historic marches are among the faint memories of those districts that were covered, while outside of them they have faded from most recollections.

The Conditions of Successful Demonstrations
What good purpose, from the point of view of the working-class, was served, cannot be clearly seen. Had the men set out in the full knowledge that the capitalists of London had interests in no way differing from the capitalists of Raunds or Leicester; had they commenced with no delusions on the score of the reception they would get at the hands of the representatives of the master-class in the House of Commons and Buckingham and Lambeth Palaces; had they understood that their position was the inevitable result of the private ownership of the means of life; and had their march therefore been frankly a demonstration of class-conscious workers in revolt with the object of stirring their class to revolt also, good work would have been accomplished. But to set out ignorant of their class position, and under the impression that if they were very peaceful and law-abiding and abstemious, and sang their grace before meals with becoming reverence, the capitalist-class would help them, as they appear to have done, was a folly that will bear fruit of disappointment and despondency for themselves; while by accepting the interested and much advertised hospitality of their enemies of the Liberal Party, the Raunds men have contributed materially to the confusion of their class, whose discriminating powers may not unnaturally be unequal to the task of grappling with the problem of why the Liberal Party, who helped the workers of Raunds, are not the friends, but the enemies of the workers of Raunds.

Pioneers of Confusion
How far the Raunds leader, Mr. Gribble of the S.D.F. (whose action, by the way, the S.D.F. made many pathetic attempts to exploit for their own party purposes with equally pathetic results), understood the dangers of the movement to the working-class whose interests he ostensibly serves, we do not pretend to know. Having undertaken the task of organising the march he had, of course, to find lodgment and food for the men, but if he had the knowledge that is claimed to be in the possession of all members of the S.D.F., he must have known in the first place that the appeal to capitalism in London would be as profitless as the appeal to capitalism in Raunds had been, and he must have seen in the second place how inevitably the class struggle would be obscured by apparent fraternisation with the representatives of the capitalist-class in the Liberal Party.

The Leicester leader, Mr. Sherriff, of the I.L.P. (whose action, by the way, the I.L.P. also made pathetic attempts to exploit for their own party purposes), seems to have endeavoured to make his contingent's march a demonstration in support of the Government's "Unemployed" Bill, which Mr. Burns says, and for once says rightly, is not worth crossing the street for, let alone tramping a hundred miles to support.  And Mr. Sherriff should have known that under present conditions any “Unemployed" Bill must be a capitalist dodge to rid themselves of responsibility while endeavouring to convey the idea that they accepted it and were prepared to bear the burden of it.

The Position of the S.P.G.B
We are far from desirous of creating the impression that we are out of sympathy with class manifestations of the working-class. The Socialist Party of Great Britain is a working-class party; and is therefore concerned to do everything possible to arouse the class it represents from indifference into organised action against the present form of industrial organisation to which can be traced the evils under which the workers suffer to-day, But we well know that no working-dam manifestation can he effective, no successful conflict with capitalism can be entered into except it be based upon a clear understanding of the class position. Upon this basis alone can be built the fighting organisations, political and industrial, of the working-class which by concentrating upon the conquest of political power and the substitution of the common ownership and control of the means of life for the present private ownership thereof, shall achieve the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of the Socialist Republic. And it is because we know, what apparently the Raunds and Leicester men did not know, that nothing short of Socialism can materially affect the condition of the workers, and because we know that all attempts to secure a betterment in working-class conditions that do not take full cognisance, and are not made in the full knowledge of this fact, are foredoomed to failure, and must tend to retard rather than to expedite the realization of Socialism, that we deprecate the actions of the persons responsible for the Raunds and Leicester marches.
A. J. M. Gray





Monday, August 14, 2017

Year One of "The Socialist Standard" (1905)

Editorial from the August 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

With this number we achieve the completion of our first volume and the first year of our existence. We have gone the round of the seasons, we have successfully negotiated the initial difficulties always attendant upon the issue of a new paper, and we have settled down to our work as the literary mouthpiece of The Socialist Party of Great Britain with any tremors on the score of our ability to keep on which a few of us may have started out with, at rest

When we remember the number of journals appealing to a far greater constituency than we, unfortunately, can hope to affect for many a day, journals with a financial backing almost fabulous by contrast with our puny revenue, yet which have succumbed to the pressure of adverse circumstances probably not greater than those we have combatted, we are conscious of a not unpardonable feeling of satisfaction and elation at the results of our year’s work— a satisfaction and elation that we have good reason for knowing is far from being shared by those who so confidently anticipated the early demise of the Party that came into existence as a protest against their defamation of the name of Socialism. We refer, of course, to those pseudo-Socialist organizations—particularly the Social-Democratic Federation—which, by compromise with capitalist parties and by pandering to working-class ignorance make such material contribution to working-class division and confusion. The advent of our little journal killed the hope they entertained of the speedy dissolution of the Party, and they will, we conjecture, regard the celebration of our first birthday with feelings that will not be improved by the knowledge that the Party’s literary offspring is a sturdy, robust youngster who has already intervened in English working-class affairs with marked effect and whose voice has penetrated if not to the uttermost parts of the earth, at least to those parts where any Socialist movement exists and who has succeeded, therefore, in giving wide circulation to the strong, plain case The Socialist Party of Great Britain has made out in justification of the attitude it has adopted.

To-day, with confidence in the correctness of our position and enthusiasm for the great cause we champion, unabated, strong in the strength that comes of the knowledge of our stability and perceptibly growing power, we send fraternal greetings to our comrades the world over and record anew our unwavering determination to prosecute relentless war against all the forces of capitalism in whatever guise they come; against working-class oppression, against obscurantism  and sectionalism and all that makes for working-class delusion and impotency; to keep in the forefront of our advance the red flag under which the workers of all nations must marshal themselves if they would win to their freedom ; to keep that flag unfurled and aloft and boldly emblazoned with the object of our mighty mission and to lower it never; to march by the undeviating road that leads direct to the goal of our desire, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left to curry favour with ignorance or to secure place and power at the cost of principle — to do, in brief, all that men may to educate and organize the working-class against the day when the germ of destruction inherent in the capitalist mode of production, shall have rotted the heart of capitalism itself and broken down the social superstructure erected upon it, to the end that they may the more readily and surely enter into their heritage.

Party Notes (1905)

Party News from the September 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Stirring reports of successful propaganda work have come in during the month. Several Branches record increased membership and in almost every district in which a Branch exists the activity of our members meets with encouraging response.

*  *  *

In Finsbury Park particularly, our Islington comrades appear to have swept the field, their meetings, entirely sympathetic, numbering from 500 to 1,500 people. At one such gathering 200 copies of The Socialist Standard and the Manifesto were sold.

*  *  *

The Manifesto with its admirable resume of the historical development of the modern wage slave, its trenchant criticism of contemporary parties claiming to represent working-class interests and its clear-cut arguments in justification of the existence of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, has evoked an interest far greater than our most sanguine expectation. Requests for it have reached us from most unlikely quarters all over the United Kingdom and the first edition of 5,000 copies is well on the way to exhaustion.

*  *  *

It will be unnecessary for me to emphasize the importance of every effort being made to maintain and increase the sales of the Party literature. Members will be fully aware that this is perhaps the most effective weapon in our armoury.

*  *  *

Another useful method of spreading our principles is through the medium of public debate. Before this paper is in the hands of readers, Comrade Fitzgerald will have upheld the position of the Party in opposition to Mr. Humphreys, S.D.F., upon the proposition. “Does the S.D.F. deserve the support of the working-class ? ”

*  *  *

Another debate has also been arranged with Mr. Wilson, Cobdenite, and our Peckham comrades are settling the preliminaries fora similar encounter with Mr. J. J. Stephenson, treasurer of the L.R.C.


*  *  *

With a regret that every member of the Party will echo I have to announce the resignation, through business pressure, of C. Lehane from the position of General Secretary. Our comrade has discharged the duties of his important office with an efficiency that could not easily be excelled and although the work of no member can be extolled above that of another when all are doing their utmost within the limits of their capacities and opportunities, the action of the E.C. in recording their high appreciation of Lehane's services will, I am sure, be most heartily endorsed.
The Acting General Secretary.

The Social Democratic Federation: Does it deserve the support of the working class? (1905)

From the October 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Sydney Hall, York Road. Battersea, now in the possession of the Battersea Branch of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, was crowded on August 31st, the occasion being a debate upon the question asked above, between Mr. W. H. Humphreys, an accredited lecturer of the S.D.F, and Comrade J. Fitzgerald, representing die Executive Committee of the S.P.G.B.

Mr. George Hicks, O.B.S., presided, and after explaining the object and conditions of the debate, called upon the opener.

Mr. Humphreys said that it mattered little to him whether the workers joined the S.D.F., S.P.G.B., or I.L.P., as long as they joined some Socialist organisation. The members of the Battersea Branch S.P.G.B. had gone to S.D.F. meetings and by their bickerings had undone the good work of the S.D.F. He maintained that the S.D.F. deserved the support of the working-class, although he strongly favored the formation of a United Socialist Party. The S.D.F. had helped to raise the physical and mental conditions of the workers. He did not always agree with its tactics. Politics was a dirty game and left its marks on those who played it. Years ago, when he joined the Army, he had belonged to the Socialist League, and did not believe in political action. When he left the Army the Socialist League was dead, while the S.D.F. still lived. This fact converted him to political action. The S.D.F. had produced much valuable literature and altogether had done an enormous amount of educational work. By backing up palliatives the S.D.F. kept the flag of Socialism flying. Some reforms might throw things back, hut other reforms were also the means of getting better conditions for the workers and of dispelling superstition. The feeding of the children and secular education would make for the social revolution, as they would physically improve the race and abolish superstition. If we took political action the electors demanded a certain attitude on all questions. He was an anti-vaccinist because he objected to having his child poisoned. This was not Socialism, but a question of human well-being. He was an Internationalist and therefore considered that it was the business of Socialists to prevent the Capitalists setting the workers of the world against each other. He was glad of the cordial relations existing between the French and English fleets. It seemed to him that The Socialist Party of Great Britain was opposed to the feeding of the children only because some capitalists now advocated this reform. The S.P.G.B. argued that feeding the children meant making better wage slaves of them. The S.D.F. on the other hand held that the children when fed became more physically and intellectually fit. The workers could not at the present time control the political machinery. In order to do that they would first have to abolish plural voting and obtain payment of members and of election expenses. The second ballot would also be of advantage to the Socialists, as in three-cornered fights many would not risk their votes by voting for Socialist candidates as they would much rather back the winner. When the lecturers of the S.P.G.B. alleged that the workers were bought and sold like pieces of merchandise it amounted to backing up the bourgeois political economists. According to Karl Marx the workers only sold their labour-power. He held that material interests did not control all actions, as was easily proved by the action of the Japanese at Port Arthur, the Communards of Paris, and the Socialists who, owing to their revolutionary propaganda, were sent to Siberia. Principles very often controlled man's actions. Mr. H. M. Hyndman rightly denied that the workers could emancipate themselves, they must be taught and guided by such middle-class men as marx, Engels, Hyndman and William Morris. They must not place too much reliance in working-class labour representatives. Battersea would have done much better if it had one such middle-class man as its Parliamentary representative instead of John Burns.

Comrade Fitzgerald pointed out that the subject of debate was “Did the S.D.F. deserve the support of the Working-class", it must be clear that an organisation to deserve the support of the working-class must strenuously work on behalf of that class, and that class alone. The declared object of the S.D.F. was the emancipation of the working-class from the thralldom of capitalism, but in their political action they were going contrary to their principles. If it were true that under capitalism the workers had to sell themselves, their emancipation could surely only lie in becoming free men who could establish and control their own conditions of labour. To do that they must first capture the present political machinery, which was the means of entrenching the capitalist-class so firmly in their citadel of economic domination. He would like Mr. Humphreys to explain how a man could sell his labour-power without selling himself. Man was therefore a commodity, and differed from other commodities only in one respect. In the case of other commodities you could separate the seller from the commodity, whilst the worker was inseparable from his labour-power. And as the worker was bought by the capitalist to produce a profit, he must be robbed. The most important thing in life was to obtain the means of living, and this material fact must of necessity be the dominant factor in human movements. If that were so then the interests of capitalist and labourer must be irreconcilably opposed to one another. And if in order to become economically free the workers must get hold of and control the political machinery, then it stood to reason that any assistance given to the capitalists or their henchmen was decidedly taking antagonistic action to working-class interests. In 1894, Mr. H. M. Hyndman said that Socialists must not bend their knees to any capitalist party. In 1897, when there was a slump in the Socialist Movement, the S.D.F. at their Conference resolved that no candidates should be run unless there was proof of their command of at least 10% of the votes. In 1898 their Annual Conference empowered the E.C. to decide the policy of the organisation, subject to ratification by the branches. In 1899 the Conference decided that the members of the S.D.F. vote Tory, in order to smash the Liberal Party, in 1900, when the Boer War was on, they considered that they could not very well support the Tories; so they passed a resolution to support several Liberal candidates, viz., Labouch√®re at Northampton, Philip Stanhope at Burnley (Hyndman's candidature being withdrawn), Lionel Holland at Ilford, and John Burns at Battersea—a member of the E.C. of the S.D.F. working for Burns on his election day. In 1897 the S.D.F. ran W. G. Pearson for the London School Board and he polled 12,000 votes. After the death of Pearson they again contested the seat, with George Hewitt as the candidate, in 1900. The largest branch in the district. Bow and Bromley, fell out and so disrupted two other branches, viz., Whitechapel and Poplar, that they also fell out and subsequently collapsed. The Mile End Branch alone was left to carry on the campaign. All that disloyalty and disruption were due to the fact that Hewitt stood for Secular Education, which, G. Lansbury and his followers complained, would lose Lansbury the Nonconformist support for his Parliamentary candidature fur Bow and Bromley. Mr. Cluse, au S.D.F. lecturer, stated that supporting capitalist candidates was not supporting the capitalist party, as the issue in 1900 was the Boer War. But he (Fitzgerald) would like to point out that this excuse could not hold water as the total casualties in the Boer War were less than 60,000, while the official returns for one year in four trades in the United Kingdom showed over 100,000 victims. Moreover, after the War was over, J. Hunter Watts supported Masterman, the Liberal candidate at Dulwich, and Will Thorne supported Percy Alden at Tottenham against the wish of the local Branch of the S.D.F. This labour leader also signed the Free Trade Manifesto of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress. If Socialists held that the cleavage between Capital and Labour was growing wider and that the workers could only obtain their emancipation by means of capturing the political machinery it was worse than madness to support capitalists or their nominees. The rank and file of the S.D.F. could obtain no information as to the doings of the E.C., as that body claimed that the members ought to have confidence in the elected men and trust them implicitly. Because some members of the S.D.F. had kicked against the Kautsky Resolution at the Paris International Congress they were accused of having inspired the letters that appeared in the New York People on that subject. When at the S.D.F. Conference at Blackburn, H. W. Lee and H. Quelch were accused of withholding from the Organisation a certain letter Lansbury had addressed to the E.C., both denied having done so. When, later, the letter was published and could no longer be denied as in existence, Quelch stated that he was not present when it was read although the E.C. minutes stated he was present at the meeting where the letter was read, and if he came in late, it was absurd to suppose that so important a letter was not shown to him. At Shoreditch, H. W. Lee admitted having told a lie and in justification said that under similar circumstances he would so again. Lansbury's letter had announced his resignation as S.D.F. Parliamentary candidate for Bow and Bromley because lie could see no good coming of it unless the S.D.F. made common cause with the Liberals. When Socialists fight straight their political game is clean, when they back up Liberal hacks it becomes a dirty game. It was on account of their not fighting straight that a great number of members, some of the oldest members among them, came out of the S.D.F. and formed the S.P.G.B. The facts mentioned showed clearly that the S.D.F. was neither Socialist nor Democratic and therefore did not deserve the confidence of the working-class.

Mr. Humphreys in continuing the debate again asserted that the capitalist did not buy the worker but only his labour-power. If he bought the worker he would look after him, as, however, he did not purchase him he let him go to the devil. In spite of the bad conditions of the workers they could revolt against brutality. The desire to do good induced Hyndman, William Morris and others to fight for the working-class. It does not matter what class men are born in but what class they fight for. Henderson, Bell, and similar men were as bad as Liberal Capitalist candidates. It was an important matter to obtain better conditions for the workers as for instance free feeding of the children and secular education. Mr. Straus, the late Liberal candidate for Mile End declared himself in favour of Socialism. Socialists accepting the co-operation of capitalists in obtaining reforms must make sure that these capitalists were earnest in helping forward those palliatives and there were some who were earnest. One must judge candidates on personal grounds. If the Tory candidate in Battersea declared in favour of feeding the children he would support him against Bums. Mr. Hunter Watts supported Masterman because Rutherfoord Harris had the blood of the South African farmers on his hands and it was not a question of mere numbers of victims; but Hunter Watts was wrong in supporting the Liberal candidate because that candidate was not in favour of the S.D.F. palliatives. That was a great mistake. All parties make mistakes. It was not in the material interests of the working-class in 1897 to have displayed their great loyalty to the Royal family. He had looked up Hansard and had found that in 1900 eight Radical members had voted against supplies for the Boer war. If they supported these men individually they did not support the Capitalist Party. It was true that a member of the E.C. of the S.D.F. supported and worked for Burns during the election in 1900. This was, however, done in conjunction and with somebody, who is now a member of the S.P.G.B. Will Thorne was called over the coals by the E.C. for supporting Percy Alden. If the rank and file of the S.D.F. did not get to know anything of the doings of their E.C. it was due to the fact that their organisation was poor and their full E.C. met only once a quarter. Their organisation had no money to waste and therefore were wise in deciding to run candidates only when they were sure of 10 per cent. of the vote in a constituency. Their expenses were heavy as it was. Golden sovereigns were hard to get. It was better to spend money on literature than on hopeless candidatures.

Comrade Fitzgerald in replying said that be had taken 25 minutes to bring the facts, points and arguments to show that the S.D.F. was acting against the interests of the working-class, but Mr. Humphreys had made no attempt at refuting his statements. The capitalist buys the worker’s Labour power bit by bit, hence had to buy his body. Under chattel slavery he bought the slave right out, but to-day he only bought the wage slave piecemeal, and owing to the number seeking sale was able to disregard their welfare. If some of the capitalist class act contrary to the interests of that class that does not prove that that class fights for the interests of the working-class. Mr. Hyndman had said that no slave class had brought about its own emancipation — the class above it had emancipated it. Therefore the middle-class would emancipate the working-class. Those who voted for individual capitalist candidates supported the capitalist party in the most effective manner, viz., politically. Capitalists were all in one camp, and must be the enemies of the working-class, if Socialist principles were true. Mr. Hunter Watts’ defence for voting for Masterman was absurd. If Rutherfoord Harris had the blood of the South African farmers on his hands, Masterman, as a Liberal, had the blood of the murdered Featherstone miners on his, which was worse. Two and two were four, even if the accountant made a mistake in adding up. Apparently the S.D.F. did not mean to learn by all their blunders and mistakes of the past. H. W. Lee, their Secretary, said in the current number of the Social Democrat that twenty years ago the Radical advocated payment of Members of Parliament, now the S.D.F. must do that work. The E.C. of the S.D.F. not only make mistakes but deceived the workers in regard to their tactics, which were not Socialist but Radical. At the last Annual Conference of the S.D.F., at Northampton, Mr. Dan Irving threatened to leave the Conference if his motion were not carried. When L. Cotton, at the Shoreditch Conference, insisted that his vote had been falsified, Mr. Irving refused to go into the matter. Mr. J. P. Lloyd had moved that some scheme should be devised to let the members know more of the work of the E.C. Members of the S.D.F. were kept in ignorance of things, and when information came to them and they revolted they were at once branded as impossible. He (Fitzgerald) was described as a danger. At Burnley when he called for evidence, Quelch declared he had none. The S.D.F. having broken its pledges by backing up the capitalist position, directly and indirectly, did certainly not deserve the support of the working-class.
Hans Neumann

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Socialism and Respectability (1905)

From the November 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism is the political expression of the recognition by the working-class of their suppression and oppression under the present form of society, based as it is upon their exploitation, and politically administered as it is solely with a view to conserving, and, as far as possible perpetuating their exploitation and subjection.

Like every other social ideal in which men expressed their wants and aspirations, Socialism has its history, its stages of growth. The working-class, oppressed from birth, have made manifest their desire for human conditions—for liberty—in stages which correspond with the stages of social development by and through which the working-class have arrived at their present numerical proportion to the rest of the population, their present degree of want and suffering, of interdependence and of knowledge, and their present fast developing determination to have Socialism, and with it liberty, and to have it now. The first vague conception of Socialism was born in the study of the leisured philosopher—a suggestion thrown out by men of culture for the better drilling and re-organisation of the non-cultured, common people. And for long it remained the plaything of Culture.

The working-class struggle for emancipation was at first weak, spasmodic, vague. Here a rick-burning, there a machinery-smashing riot; here a tempestuous revolt, there an abject petitioning of king, kaiser, or local magnate, for pity on the poor. But as the working-class grew with the development of capitalism, they learnt the lessons which are best learnt and longest remembered by those who have eaten the bread of affliction and drunk the waters of bitterness. They had tried individual revolt, and by its failure learnt the necessity of organised collective effort. They had tried by begging to obtain concessions, and had been treated as beggars. They had tried political efforts aimed at reform, had had reforms promised by capitalist politicians, had used their votes and voices to help these capitalist politicians wring the last vestige of political power from the aristocracy—only to find that promises have a proverbial use that the little finger of Rehoboam was thicker than the loins of Solomon. Thus the working-class learned that their emancipation could only be achieved by a collective effort, organised and intelligently aimed at the conquest of the political power and the effecting in the teeth of their oppressors of a Socialist Revolution. The intelligent movement of the working-class towards emancipation reached maturity in the struggle for Socialism and the lessons learnt in their life of struggle and suffering are crystallised in the Principles of The Socialist Party of Great Britain. Bearing in mind this process by which Socialism was brought into being, nourished and developed, we have a scientific touchstone by which to discover the real inwardness of any one of the many volumes (professing to expound Socialism) which have been launched upon a suffering public.

And the “latest born and (more or less) loveliest far” of these is “Socialism and Society” by Mr. J. R. MacDonald, a leader of the I.L.P (a body whose ruling delusion is that it is a Socialist Party) and secretary and high priest of the L.R.C., whose “independent” “working-class” Members of Parliament hang loyally on to the tail of the Liberal Party.

The book seems to have been written in order to justify the round-about road to the Liberal rump which these two bodies conjointly think it necessary to follow, but probably few even of his friends will be able to unreservedly congratulate Mr. MacDonald on the result of his efforts, while an entirely unbiased critic may well set to marvelling why he wrote the book at all.

The first obstacle to front him is the Revolutionary ferocity of the angry working-class, and the old, old, scientific lumber is trotted out; the blessed word “evolution” is many times invoked to show that “revolution” is a dark impossibility, and that the class-struggle does not exist and, with much magical muttering of “science” and “Darwin,” that the establishment of the State of Socialism must be the work of a select company of cultured persons, elected by a grateful working-class who will wait patiently while the Elected Persons solemnly proceed to discuss, and perhaps to pass, a series of measures of experimental amelioration—“laboratory experiment, not revolution, is the method of Socialism emerged from its Utopian and pseudo-scientific stages.” (p. 179.) “Public ownership, after all, is Socialism.” (p. 59, footnote.)

In writing a complete explanation of what Socialism is and bringing it to this conclusion, Mr. MacDonald is compelled to fall foul of most of the recognised classics of Socialism. Especially is he dogged at every step by the grim and terrible spectre of Marx. At least a fourth of the book is given up to a detailed attack upon Marx and Engels, but, as usual, the criticism does not betray even a nodding acquaintance with the writings criticised. Mr. MacDonald reads “the emancipation of the working-class must be the work of the working-class itself.” This is enough. It is revolution! It is Utopian! It is not scientific! It is vulgar! It is not “respectable!” Marx, it seems, is not the first of the scientific Socialists: he is the “last of the Utopians.” And the first of the scientific Socialists is Mr. J. R. MacDonald, who has made Socialism respectable!

Mr. MacDonald has put into words the thoughts of the small middle-class. To understand what this class think it is necessary to look at the relative social position they occupy, viz., sandwiched between the working-class on the one hand and the capitalist-class proper on the other. They are threatened with extinction from both sides. Every move forward of capital flings a section of them down into the ranks of the working-class. Every day that brings the working-class closer together and impels them to the grimly inevitable battle for emancipation threatens them with extinction. Hence the small middle-class (the class of small producers, shopkeepers, house-owners, journalists, and professional Respectability generally) is in word the most Insurrectionary, and in deed the most Reactionary of all existing sections. They shriek against capital—because of their imminent bankruptcy—and call upon the workers to help limit its power. They shriek at the working-class for its revolutionary tendency, and call upon capital to help them preserve “Law and Order,” “Property, Religion, and Respectability.”

And the nearer their end the louder their screams.

To this see-saw striving of this class can be traced all the elements of confusion in present day politics:—Single Tax and Land Nationalisation, Free Meals and Farm Colonies, Passive Resistance and Municipalised Milk. And hence also Mr. J. R. MacDonald’s self-contradiction is the clearest proof that his “Socialism” and his “society” are the “Socialism and society” of the Respectable Small Middle-Class. Mr. MacDonald denies that a class-war exists on one page and on another proves its existence:—“Thus we see how machinery which might lighten labour, supplants it when used in the interests of a capitalist class. . . . Thus we see how tools, a dead factor, rule men, the living factor in production, and how a class engaging in production for profits controls the class which takes part in production in order to maintain life. ... A pillar of Sabbatarianism can prove satisfactorily to himself that his works must . . . go seven days in the week. The owner of the land and the means of production is the owner of the lives of the people. He holds society in the hollow of his hand.” (pp. 52-53). And of course there must be no revolution: the working-class must patiently endure while MacDonald & Co. “experiment.”

I should have liked to have gone over Mr. MacDonald’s critique of Marx in detail, but the Editor of T.S.S. says he doesn’t want serials. However, Marx has retorted on MacDonald and his light by prophetic anticipation:

“He wished to be the sympathiser; he is a composite error. He wished to soar as a man above the Bourgeoisie and the proletariat; he is only the petty bourgeois, tossed about continually between capital and labour, between political economy and communism.” The Poverty of Philosophy.

And again:—“A part of the bourgeois is desirous of redressing social grievances, in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society. To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working-class, organisers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole and corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form of Socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems.” We may cite Mr. J. R. MacDonald’s “Socialism and Society” as an example of this form. “The Socialistic bourgeoisie want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They desire a bourgeoisie without, a proletariat. . . . Bourgeois Socialism attains adequate expression when and only when it becomes a mere figure of speech. Free Trade: for the benefit of the working-class. Protective duties: for the benefit of the working-class. Prison Reform: for the benefit of the working-class. This is the last word and the only seriously meant word of Bourgeois Socialism. It is summed up in the phrase: the bourgeois is a bourgeois—for the benefit of the working-class!”—Communist Manifesto.

The ethics of Socialism, says J. R. MacDonald, are provided by Evangelicalism; its politics by Liberalism. We leave the courteous reader to the task of picturing a Holy Trinity compounded of “General” Booth, Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, and Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald!
T. A. Jackson


The Clarion Vanner vs The Truth (1905)

From the December 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the "Clarion Van" was in the neighbourhood of Paddington, the speaker, E. R. Hartley, was asked whether it was true that Keir Hardie accepted the class-struggle when in Amsterdam in order to gain admission to the International Socialist Congress, and immediately denied the existence of that struggle upon his return to this country.

Hartley replied that it was not true. Our readers may judge of his ignorance or dishonesty from the following facts.

The resolutions agreed to at the Brussels Conference of 1899, which complete the conditions of admission to the International Socialist Congress as adopted at the London Congress, are as follow:

Are admitted 
  1. "All associations which adhere to the essential principles of Socialism : socialisation of the means of production and exchange: union and international action of the workers: Socialist conquest of political power by the proletariat organised in a class party."
  2. "All corporate organisations which, placing themselves on the ground of the class-struggle and acknowledging the necessity of political action (legislative and Parliamentary) which do not, however, participate directly in the political movement.”

Keir Hardie's renunciation of the basic principle of modern Socialism — the class-struggle — on his return to the country in which a Liberal capitalist pays part of his election expenses, shows him to be playing a double game; for he acquiesces in the class-struggle only in order to pass muster with the international proletariat.

Will Hartley apologise ?

Who Wrote The Bible? (1994)

From the January 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Bible dates from 700 BC but many Genesis stories are based on ancient Mesopotamian myths. The Garden of Eden was Mesopotamia’s fertile flood plain, the "Edhen". This dried up when the Persian Gulf withdrew 200 miles southwest causing the people to believe that they had offended the gods. Hence the "Fall of Man” myth.

John G. Jackson in his work the Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth comments:
  "There are liberal Christian apologists who no longer subscribe to the literal belief in the Fall of Man. But if there is no Fall, there is no need of an atonement, and no Redeemer is required"
Amorite people from Mesopotamia — known as the Habiru or Hebrews — entered Northern Canaan about 1500 BC and some were possibly taken as hostages when the Egyptians reconquered Canaan in 1468 BC. In about 1400 BC. the monotheistic Cult of Aten first appeared in Egypt only to be destroyed soon after Tutankhamun’s death c. 1300 BC. Pears Cyclopedia states: "From the historical point of view an important influence on Judaism may have been the monotheism of Akhen-aten".

The Exodus refugees may have been expelled Aten cultists. Professor Richard Friedman, states in Who Wrote the Bible?:
    "Some have concluded that only a small proportion of the ancient Israelites were in Egypt. The names, Moses, Hopni and Phineas are all Egyptian, not Hebrew. The group that was in Egypt and then in Sinai worshipped with god Yahweh. In Israel they met Israelite tribes who worshipped the god El. The two groups accepted the belief that Yahweh and El were same god."
The people of south Canaan eventually became known as the "Yahudi" and the land "Yahuda" or Judah. The name is possibly derived from "Yahweh” or its variant "Yah" (as in "Halleluyah”). The people of north Canaan — including the Hebrews — worshipped the Canaanite god "El", which may explain the name "Ysrael" - Israel.

Some historians now believe that the kingdom of "all Israel” never existed and that Israel and Judah emerged separately. In 722 BC Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians and its sacred writings to El were subsequently combined with similar Judean scriptures to Yahweh. These were further combined in about 622 BC with Deuteronomy when this long lost Book of Moses was supposedly "rediscovered" in the Temple. The German scholar, De Wette, described the "rediscovery" as a "pious fraud".

In 586 BC Judah was conquered by the Babylonians who in turn fifty years later were conquered by the Persians who made Palestine a province in 458 BC. This, therefore, marks the real beginnings of Judaism a combination of the declining Yahweh cult and Persia’s official religion. Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrianism introduced to the Jews the concept of a god of love whose good would triumph over the Devil’s evil. Heaven was for the righteous and Hell for the wicked. Zoroastrianism also introduced the concepts of angelology, the soul, a Messiah, Resurrection and a Judgement Day. "Paradise" is derived from the Persian for an "idyllic afterlife” - “Pairidaeza".

The archaeologist, John Romer, in his work Testament, writes:
    "The influence of ideas that once filled the mysterious faith of ancient Persia runs through the Old Testament and continues well into the pages of the New Testament; an influence that leaves a trace even in the words of Jesus. "
In 332 BC, Palestine was conquered by Alexander the Great and a Greek influenced Jewish priesthood eventually emerged, the Sadducees. In 152 BC the Jewish Maccabean uprising occurred, out of which emerged the Pharisees whose apocalyptic ideas stemmed from the Book of Daniel. E.E. Kellett in his History of Religion states that "it was, as is now fully acknowledged, from the Pharisees that Christianity drew much of its inspiration.”

Perverted temple
A third group also emerged — the Essenes — who introduced the concept of a holy community temporarily replacing the "perverted" Temple worship of the Sadducees.

Kellett describes the apocalyptic philosophy’s development:
  "The idea of a 'new heaven and a new Earth' had hitherto been materialistic. A gradual transformation of this view look place in the last century before Christ, and prepared the way for his ideas. Apocalyptic ideas asserted a catastrophic end of the world. It is needless to prove that this conception, also, was taken over by early Christianity."
The first Christians were probably Essenes living in Jerusalem called Naasenes or Nazarenes. The Essene Dead Sea Scrolls describe a schism between the followers of the Essene leader, the "Righteous One", who strictly adhered to the Law of Moses and a breakaway group led by the "Wicked Priest" who wanted faith to replace Jewish Law.

This parallels the New Testament schism between the Jewish Christians of James the Just and the Greek Gentile Christians of Paul. The New Testament refers to Jesus as the "Righteous One” and is the only non-Essenian literature to use their term for the Devil "Belial". Jesus, James the Just's brother, clearly says: "Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the Law. I did not come to abolish but to complete." (Matt. 5:17 20). But Paul claims: "Christ bought us freedom from the curse of the law"! (Gal. 3:8-18)!

Similarly, the conflicting genealogies of Jesus attempt to show that Jesus was virgin born and descended from the Jewish "House of David". Jesus confirmed his Judaistic cause in Matthew (15:24 26): "I was sent to the lost sheep of Israel and to them alone".

Christians claim that Jesus's so-called "Doctrine of Love" is unique, but Zoroastrianism's god was a god of love and the Old Testament Book of Leviticus says "Love they neighbour as thyself". (Levi. 19:18). Rabbi Hillel, the Liberal Pharisee who died in AD 9 preached "Love thine enemies". Jesus later hijacked the phrase, falsely claiming the Old Testament said "Love your neighbour, hate your enemy". This is curious given Jesus’s own statements: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, he cannot be a disciple of mine" (Matt. 5:43-44). In fact, some disciples of Jesus were Zealot insurrectionists. At Gethsemane, some disciples were armed with swords and one attacked the High Priest's servant.

The accounts of Jesus’s life are all riddled with numerous contradictions. For example, Matthew claims that Jesus was born before Herod’s death in 4 BC but Luke says the birth occurred when Cyrenius governed from AD 6.

Given the many contradictions it's no surprise that there is not one genuine contemporary account of Jesus's life. As Gibbon says in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:
    "During the age of Christ the lame walked, the blind saw, the sick were healed, the dead were raised, demons were expelled but the sages of Greece and Rome appeared unconscious of any alteration in the moral or physical government of the world."
Christianity’s real founder was Paul. His writings which make up 44 percent of New Testament were written many years before the Gospels.

In AD70. the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, its Temple and dispersed the Jews. Four years later they overran the Fortress of Masada and 960 Zealots committed suicide.

This final destruction of the Jewish Messianic movement meant that their doctrines were totally reversed. The Gentile Christians made their Holy Community, as symbolized by Jesus, a permanent Temple replacement. Jesus promised salvation in the next world and Mosaic Law was replaced by faith in Jesus as the central doctrine.

Christianity survived by accommodating Rome’s influence on its teachings. Hence the whitewashing of Pilate’s role in Jesus’s death. In AD 325 the Council of Nicae fixed the Canon of the New Testament. The Emperor Constantine arbitrarily decided the location of Jesus’s birth, death and ascension, and built a church on each site.

Professors Eisenman and Wise in their work The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered state that some Essenes were known as "The Children of Salvation". The Hebrew for "salvation" is "yesha" - and the noun "yeshuato" means "his salvation" ("his" = “Righteous One") — and "Yeshua" is Hebrew for Jesus. Eisenman and Wise further state: "The personification of this concept in the Gospel can be considered a most revolutionary development and one that has not ceased exercising its influence on mankind even now."

The Dead Sea Scrolls referred to were suppressed for 40 years because, as Eisenman and Wise state, it is impossible to distinguish them from the doctrines of the Jewish Christians. Christianity’s origins in the violent xenophobic Jewish Messianic movement contrast vividly with the demure picture painted by today’s Christians. Today’s Christians may equate "Loving your neighbour" with the so-called socialism of the Labour Party, but as has been shown such sentiments did not even originate with Christianity. As Socialist and Materialists we reject the notion that our destiny is ultimately determined by something outside the material world. The ideas that the existence of a complex universe presupposes the existence of an even more complex creator/designer/god — whose own existence does not — answers nothing.
Richard Layton

Necessary Illusions (1994)

Book Review from the February 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies. By Noam Chomsky. Pluto Press.

Like other socialists, I was impressed by the Channel Four documentary on Noam Chomsky shown last summer. So much so that I bought this book. Its subtitle gives a good idea of its content. In closely-argued detail, Chomsky shows how the media reflects the interests of the capitalist system. Whilst he doesn’t declare himself a socialist his views on the media fit easily with ours.

Chomsky’s examples are taken from the American media but are applicable to Britain (or any other country for that matter). Basically the media reflects the interests of capital despite the media’s self-image of acting on behalf of the people. Whilst the press is often accused of being anti-government or anti-business, this doesn’t hold true on closer inspection. Views about the media range from it being anti-government (or left-wing) to it being independent and representing the public interest. There is no acknowledgement that the media might be pro-government. Anyone who makes this observation and attempts to engage in discussion on it is either ignored or marginalized.

Therefore the thought control is that of portraying the interest of big business as the "national interest". It doesn’t necessarily favour any particular government, as whoever is in power will act in the interest of capital:
    What is at issue is not the honesty of opinions expressed or the integrity of those who seek the facts but rather the choice of topics and highlighting of issues, the range of opinion permitted expression, the unquestioned premises that guide reporting and commentary, and the general framework imposed for the presentation of a certain view of the world.
This "certain view of the world" can be found in the media’s portrayal of, say, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan compared with US aggression in Indo- China or Central America. This agenda-setting helps to influence the population as conflicting views are not allowed air time, or if they are it is "a three minute stretch" in which "it is impossible to present unfamiliar thoughts or surprising conclusions with the argument and evidence required to afford them some credibility".

In order to achieve true democracy, full informed participation from the people is required but this is dangerous to any government. Chomsky quotes a government study which urged "moderation in democracy"; his definition of this is "the general public must be reduced to its traditional apathy and obedience".

His views on free speech led to him defending a neo-nazi historian. The excellent point Chomsky makes is that genuine free speech is hearing views you don’t agree with. A review of the Chomsky film by the SWP missed this point but if free speech is just what you agree with then one could say that Hitler and Stalin believed in free speech. This is worth remembering when the Left calls for censorship of the BNP (who would probably welcome such martyrdom).

A short review can’t do justice to Chomsky’s ideas so I would urge readers to explore his books for themselves.
Nigel Green

Profits before homes (1994)

From the March 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard

If you were to hear of a country where one in 25 of the inhabitants were affected by homelessness — two million people — what country would spring to your mind?

You might imagine a Third World country, or a war-torn one. It is neither. The country in fact is . . . England

The figures above are an unofficial estimate by the housing charity Shelter (Homelessness in England — The Facts, information release, October 1993). The official figures are hardly more cheery. In 1991/2 a total of 196,039 households were officially accepted as being homeless in England and Scotland together. This understates the case, however.

There are no comprehensive figures for single homelessness nationally. Shelter estimate there may be around 50,000 single people homeless in Britain. Official figures exclude the majority of the single homeless, and only include households deemed in "priority need", for instance, those with children.

It can be easy to conclude that either there is a dreadful lack of houses, or many feckless people exist. Certainly, many believe so, especially those who think that our capitalist society is the only world possible.

The truth, though, is blindingly and tragically plain. It involves the perennial co-traveller of the working class — poverty. It doesn’t matter that an individual or family needs a decent, warm and comfortable house, if they do not have enough of the rationing vouchers that capitalism calls money, then tough. Capitalism has one driving force, and that is to make profit, not to supply resources to prevent pressing social need.

Poverty
Capitalism is run in the interests of those who own the means of making wealth. The working class, who own nothing in the way of creating wealth, have no choice but to work for the capitalist class for wages or salaries, and through their labour create every last penny of profit for the privileged class.

Yet many members of the working class have been able to buy a home. At a time when nearly three million people are unemployed, they are indeed fortunate to have a job and an income to secure a mortgage. Or are they?

Many believe they own their home, little realizing that in reality the bank or building society does. "Owning" is a misnomer, in that "ownership" can so easily be removed. In 1992, in England alone, 68,540 houses were repossessed. In the first half of 1993 courts in England and Wales awarded a further 53,436 re-possession orders.
In addition, a large number of people live on the knife-edge of being repossessed, with the resultant toll of stress and misery. A Roof magazine survey claims that 800,000 home owners are in mortgage arrears, with over a third of a million in arrears of six months or more.

Unfit
Renting a house, or flat, might seem a safer and more affordable way of getting a decent home to live in. But the facts of life here are not very enjoyable either. The 1991 Housing Conditions Survey for England and Wales (covering private, rented, local authority and housing association houses) revealed that 1.5 million occupied houses were unfit to live in (Independent, 10 September). It also found that one-in-20 of owner-occupied houses were of an unfit standard.

Misery knows no borders either. The 1993 Scottish House Condition Survey found that one-in-20 of occupied houses were unfit to live in. Also, nearly a third of Scotland’s occupied houses were found to suffer dampness, condensation and mould. These figures were reinforced by the 1993 Glasgow Housing Survey. It found one-in-5 of private rented housing was unfit, "Below Tolerable Standard" to use the official term.

Millions are affected by homelessness, the threat of homelessness, and living in "Below Tolerable Standard" housing. Multiply these figures across the whole of the developed world, and the amount of human misery connected to housing problems due to working-class lack of means is phenomenal. Capitalists don't have housing problems, other than getting more, or bigger, mansions for themselves.

None of this is new, of course. When capitalism is in recession — which is a permanently-recurring feature of the profit system — levels of poverty rise. But poverty, and its symptoms like homelessness, don’t go away when capitalism is booming. It — they — only stand slightly in the shadows.

Many construction workers are currently unemployed; there are large stockpiles of bricks and building materials, while the figures above tell of the number of people who need a decent home to live in.

A caring, people-based society would readily see the solution: apply the skills and resources to the problem. That will not happen in our capitalist society, for the missing ingredient of profit cannot be made in sufficient quantities. And it makes no difference that society becomes more aware of homelessness, and wishes to do something about it, for the capitalist rule is: No Profit, No Solution.

Pretending
Capitalist politicians — be they Conservative, Labour or Liberal — periodically latch on to the plight of the homeless and pretend that something is being done, or that they know what the solution is.

My own constituency MP spent a night in December camping out on the street in Edinburgh in his sleeping bag, with like-minded people, to draw attention to homelessness. Amazingly, our capitalist opponents are always saying that we are the wooly-minded idealists.

Capitalism runs governments, not the other way round. Reforms are a redistribution of poverty, not wealth. And reforms are reversible. Remember the Welfare State? Real Socialists do know the solution and it’s the only one that tackles the real problem, not merely the symptoms. Capitalism needs to go.

Homelessness, and just about every other social ill, will never be solved in a capitalist world. That is not mere pessimism on our part, it is a fact you can confirm by reading your paper every day, then looking to see how the world around you really is.

Meanwhile, workers everywhere can only keep their fingers crossed that illness, unemployment, and poverty don’t pull them into the misery of homelessness. Or they could be thinking how Socialism could be a move to something better than the mess capitalism is.
Sandy Wilson

Who will be the winners in South Africa? (1994)

From the April 1994 issue of the Socialist Standard 

It was in 1652 that Dutch settlers first went to the Cape of Good Hope. This began as a supply station to service the ships of the Dutch East India Company. It also began 350 years of conflict which has now produced a very different beginning. In April, new constitutional arrangements will start with all adult South Africans having the vote and the election of a transitional government.

The struggle of mainly black workers against that bigoted, racist ideology, "apartheid" has been long and bitter. The struggle to get the vote has required determination and sacrifice. Socialists support that struggle. Without the power to capture control of the state by democratic means, socialism is impossible. This raises an important point. Getting the vote is not the end. Now that it has been won, how is it to be used?

Inevitably, in the first flush of the expected ANC victory in the election there is a lot of optimism amongst its supporters about what the ANC in power will do for them.

Great expectations
They foresee not just the end of race discrimination but the end of the grim poverty in which most of them have lived. They expect their living standards to rise on the basis of jobs and good wages for all. They expect decent housing, health care, education, pensions and other benefits. In fact, this will not happen.

This is not a question about the sincerity or good intentions of Nelson Mandela and his associates. It is about economic realities. The ANC leaders are now being fitted into the mould of reforming capitalist politicians and as such believe that when in power they will be able to do all sorts of good things for their supporters. They believe they are the right men and women for the needs of the hour. It has been a popular misconception that if only workers are able to get the right people into the right positions of power at the right time then everything will be alright. This false idea has led to failure and disillusion in almost every country throughout this century and it won’t be any different in South Africa. By now the reason should be obvious.

Committed capitalists
The ANC leaves no room for doubt that it is committed to running the capitalist system. For example, in the ANC "Freedom Charter" Nelson Mandela has written:
   "Under the Freedom Charier, nationalisation would take place in an economy based on private enterprise . . . [this] would open up fresh fields for a prosperous African population of all classes, including the middle class. The ANC has never at any period of its history advocated a revolutionary change . . . nor has it.. . ever condemned capitalist society " (page 179).
This means that in a South Africa run by an ANC government it’s going to be capitalist business as usual. Class differences, with a great gap between rich and poor, will continue. Black workers will still be exploited alongside whites. Through their labour they will continue to keep the wealthy and the privileged in a society which puts the profits enjoyed by a few before the needs of the whole community.

If a movement has at last managed to form a government to run capitalism, as Nelson Mandela says the ANC is going to do, it has no choice but to work within the economic limitations and class objectives of the market system. Particularly at this time of world slump most governments are in financial difficulties and this is the situation that the ANC will have to take on.

One of the first promises to go will be the promise of jobs for all black workers at good wages. No government can control the level of employment or wages; this is impossible. The promise to provide decent housing for everyone along with health care, education and pensions will also be forgotten.

What is also inevitable is that the ANC government will come into conflict with the trades unions. Despite the present links between the unions and the ANC, when in power the new government will be concerned to run and develop a profitable economy. The unions will be concerned with wage increases and better conditions.

Higher profits
The two objects of higher profits and higher wages will be in conflict with each other and as always, this will lead to disputes at places of work with the possibility of the ANC government using the state machinery to smash the workers’ strikes. The function of the state is to administer class society and enforce the exploitation of workers and this is the anti-working-class role that the ANC is about to embrace.

The policy of apartheid was never in the best interests of South African capitalists. The Nationalist government was kept in power by an eccentric alliance of Afrikaner fanning interests and white urban workers who. to their eternal discredit, imagined that it was in their interest to keep black workers out of the skilled labour force and to deny them the vote. Hence the support of white workers for the various job reservation Acts and other forms of discrimination against black workers.

Best interests
Capitalist interests would have been best served by a reform programme aimed at integrating the black population within a multi-racial system of exploitation. The old United Party formed by Smuts might have achieved this but it was obliterated by the success of the National Party which held power continuously after 1948. Latterly, capitalists like the Oppenheimers put money into a new reforming party, the Progressive Party, but this also failed.

For many years it seemed that the Afrikaner bigots of the National Party would be the last people on earth to change their ideas but they have at last caught up with economic realities. Confidence in the economy began to drain away as a result of poor investment returns, the collapse of the Rand and rising commercial and political risks coupled with stagnation. In February 1990 De Klerk told the South African Parliament that "a new South Africa is only possible if it is bolstered by a sound and growing economy, with particular emphasis on the creation of employment".

Before this, the ANC had already been in discussion with South African capitalists assuring them that their interests would be safeguarded under an ANC government. For their part, the capitalists were anxious to emphasise their own non-racist credentials. For example, in 1985, the Chairman of Anglo-American Corporation, one of the biggest in South Africa, told the ANC negotiators that::
  “what we are concerned with is not so much whether the following generation will be governed by black or white people, but that it will be a viable country and that it will not be destroyed by violence and strife" 
he added, 
   "they [by which he meant the ANC and South African business] shared a common interest in maintaining the profitability of the South African state".
At last it seemed that under the ANC a reforming regime could emerge to facilitate the maximum exploitation of South African workers without distinction of colour on the basis of a broad consensus between the main political forces. This leaves the question of whether the groups outside the consensus, Inkatha and the extreme Afrikaners, will be strong enough to disrupt the new arrangements.

So, who will be the victors in this long struggle that has held the attention of the world since the end of Second World War? If the extreme elements are so foolish as to plunge the country into a civil war that will only add new chapters to a conflict in which the main sufferers, as always, will be the working class.

Given that the new arrangements work out on the other hand, we take it that black workers will enjoy greater freedom to organize in trades unions and benefit from the end of political censorship and repression.

We shall see. But the most immediate class beneficiaries of the constitutional changes will be the South African capitalists and those with high investment in the country.

As the Chairman of Anglo-American emphasised, when it comes to the human resources that it wishes to exploit, capital is completely free of racial prejudice.

We should ask whether these results will be worthy of the suffering, torture, imprisonment and deaths which have been the input of black workers into the struggle. It will be a very poor testament to the courage of that struggle, and all the sacrifices that have been made, if its gains are now thrown away in a betrayal in which the great majority continue to be exploited.

Surely, the least that struggle deserves is that those who have won the vote should think long and hard about how it should be used. Since all the main strands of South African history still intrude so forcibly into the present political situation it is useful for black workers to think back to their past. It is worth remembering that working for wages is very recent and that tribespeople had to be forced into it.

A colonial report entitled African Labour Efficiency Survey - 1949 was concerned with the problem of how to force the people of the Kikuyu in East Africa to become wage workers. It said this:
    "The East African comes from a tribal economy in which his human needs of sustenance can still very largely be met. He has not, to any significant degree, been de-tribalised. The East African has not been bent under the discipline of organised work . . .  In respect of the few working activities which in the past occupied him he was free and independent.
     Though the tasks he performed were prescribed by tribal law and custom, he could do them in his own way and at his own speed, for him time had no economic value. The work he did for others was not for wages, but was one of the duties arising from his relationship with his fellows. He gave satisfaction by his work and he derived a measure of contentment from it. In these circumstances he was willing to do what was required from him.
      To work steadily and continuously at the will of another was one of the hard lessons he had to learn when he began to work for Europeans."
This was how African people lived for countless centuries, not working for wages but co-operating to provide for the needs of the community.

Healthy society
Why should black workers embrace and continue the economic forces of capitalism that destroyed that way of life? If the traditional relationships of co-operation are extended to all other workers and are applied using modern technology, modern communications and fully democratic methods of organization, they are all we need to create a healthy society which can serve all our needs without distinction of race or sex.
Pieter Lawrence