fredag den 4. marts 2016

Sorry boys and girls. I have had such a rotten tummy bug. I will post that pamphlet when I feel better.

In the meantime "VOTE SOCIALISM" if you live in America. Hillary is just as useless and dangerous to the working class as Trump.

fredag den 8. januar 2016


I am sorry I haven't posted the Horace Jarvis pamphlet yet. I had to take a break for personal reasons. I shall complete posts within the next week or so.

mandag den 26. oktober 2015

Christianity and Socialism by Horace Jarvis - What is religion?

Gray's note: This is the first section of the pamphlet. I have altered the "Marx quote" Jarvis gave at the end to bring it into line with the standard translation found on They are certainly different -- Jarvis again not noting his source or indicating that he cut a paragraph out of that famous bit of  "A Contribution to the Critique of  Hegel's Philosophy of Right."

There are many who ask, why are socialists against religion? Why did Marx write:- "Religion is the opium of the people?"

Those who think religion is necessary to mankind and that it has a salutary influence, are usually very vague as to what constitutes religion.

Religion does not mean leading a good life; it is not sharing your possessions with the poor; it is not turning the other cheek when assaulted, or loving your neighbour. All these are problems of ethics and morality, so often confused with religion.. Christianity as well as other religions have their moral and ethical codes.

When Matthew Arnold defined religion as "morality touched with emotion", he added to this confusion.

Both Socialists and Christians may wish to help their fellows, and not harm anybody. They may try to be kind, courteous and considerate to the wishes of others - these are things which so many people think are religious principles. In fact socialists are doing their bit to better mankind in spreading the knowledge of socialism, and are often despised for it.

Religion portrays itself as a system of absurd anachronistic beliefs - usually accompanied by threats to non-believers and promises of rewards for the pious. In some cases it seems to be a pathological condition (what disease is to the body, religion is to the mind), where the person suppresses his reasoning power in certain directions. He accepts statements from the Bible as being beyond dispute, statements he would reject completely if he read them elsewhere. No wonder religion has been defined as a "psychological purgative for imaginary sins."

Religion is superstition running away from truth and afraid of being overtaken. This is because religion is based on belief. The many references to belief in the New Testament, makes it clear that "belief" is the basis of Christianity.

Religion is not a revelation, but the product of evolution as all forms of ideas and culture. No matter if fundamentalists reject evolution, their religion and all it contains has been the product of evolution. Even the idea of God evolved. See Grant Allen's "Evolution of the idea of God."

Originally, religion was a belief in the existence of supernatural beings, and the observance of rites and ceremonies in order to avert their anger or gain their good-will. "Corpse worship", as it has been tersely called, was the protoplasm of religion.

Religion is woven like a threat into the texture of human society from the early times to the present day. It is based upon man's ignorance of natural forces and has been propped up by rulers a s a means of keeping slaves in subjection.

Religion developed by primitive man to explain natural phenomenon such as storms, earthquakes, volcanoes etc. To the savage mind when the avalanche fell the rocks were angry; when the volcano belched forth destruction, the mountain was furious; when the ground rumbled and cracked then the earth was determined upon destruction.

Savage man saw everythingin his own image. When his mental development had advanced a stage further it was the mountain spirit and the river spirit and the earth spirit that was angry, and he commenced to devise means to propitiate angry spirits.

It was here the priesthood stepped in, the vague beginning of what was eventually to become the Church, that has harassed mankind across the ages, supported tyranny, and reaped much profit in the process. Priesthood became the imaginary bulwark of man against the forces of nature and society; and religion his refuge when life was too burdensome.

In the early civilisations of Babylon and Egypt the priesthood was wealthy and powerful; chattel slavery and poor freeman toiled for its benefit. How powerful it was has been clearly shown by the treasures and manuscripts found in the tombs of the rulers. By holding out the threat of eternal damnation on the unfaithful the Egyptian priesthood accumulated vast wealth and property and stood behind the whips of the slave driver.

Each new religion starting with the will of the oppressed has ended with the power of a new oppressor. Privileged classes learned early the value of religion and used it ruthlessly to support their domination.

All religion is based on faith and faith is an illogical belief in the occurrence of the impossible. It is belief without evidence in a preacher without knowledge about things without parallel. Christian faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason; it is believing in something which your common sense tells you must be wrong. All this is in direct opposition to socialism, and cannot possibly be reconciled with or incorporated into socialism.

Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions

It is, therefore, the task of history, once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of this world. It is the immediate task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, to unmask self-estrangement in its unholy forms once the holy form of human self-estrangement has been unmasked. Thus, the criticism of Heaven turns into the criticism of Earth, the criticism of religion into the criticism of law, and the criticism of theology into the criticism of politics.

søndag den 25. oktober 2015

Christianity and Socialism by Horace Jarvis - Introduction

Gray's note: Jarvis doesn't note which version of the Bible, or publisher, he was quoting from nor make reference to editions, etc with other non-Biblical quotes.

There are among religious people many good and sincere citizens who could be very useful to society, who are prepared to sacrifice everything for their principles. The Salvation and Church Army. Nuns, who renounce marriage and motherhood, and dedicate their lives to helping the poor, the aged or the infirmed. There are also hundreds and thousands of workers for churches, christian associations, and "do good societies", who hope to leave this world a better place than they find it, and who are seriously interested in peace and the betterment of the human race, and the alleviation of suffering.

Christians often claim that their religion is a comfort in times of trouble, but in political crises (which are now continuous) and also in wars, they are in a hopeless philosophical position, like a ship without a captain in a stormy sea.

Because of this they easily become victims of wily politicians and ruthless statesmen, and instead of helping to work for a better social world order, find themselves unintentionally supporting corrupt regimes and dedicating their lives to maintaining these systems. Their naive blindness to the real nature and background of religion prevents them from seeing clearly the material tasks of this life.

"The greatest curse of humanity is ignorance. The only remedy is knowledge. Religion, being based on fixed authority, is naturally opposed to knowledge. Science needs investigation and criticism. Religion is opposed to both these." Robert Blatchford.

Socialists who take a realistic view of man's problems, will look on the miracles of the Bible, the virgin birth, the resurrection, life after death and all the paraphernalia of religion as an obstruction to social progress. It is difficult to understand how any normally educated person can take it seriously, and hard to believe that thousands of people still consider stories that are the equivalent of Andersen's fairy tales, are true.

Christians might do well to follow the advice of the Bible (1. Cor. 13.11) "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put aside childish things." So long as they are tied to the Bible, they can never put aside childish beliefs which prevent them from understanding socialism.

It is quite obvious that if Christians are guided by the Bible and the priests, they cannot be expected to see through the much more skilful propaganda of the politicians, television, radio and newspapers, on life's more important matters.

One must oppose religion because it stands in the way of socialism and the understanding the latter necessitates. A man under the influence of drugs and alcohol cannot be expected to make a good socialist; but if he can be freed from these, at least there is a chance.

One cannot hope to change the world if the ideas that have made it remain unchallenged.

"Philosophers up to know have merely interpreted the world; what we have to do is change it." Karl Marx.

To be continued. Next: What is Religion?

Religion and Socialism

As far as I am aware, nobody has published the text of Horace Jarvis' pamphlet Christianity and Socialism. Therefore I shall be reproducing it at about a section per blog. It is 80 pages long, in 20 "chapters" and looks (and feels) like the 1978 SPGB pamphlet Questions of the Day.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always had the position that religion is not a personal but a social issue, therefore applicants for membership are not allowed to join if they have religious beliefs. There is a specific question on this in the membership test so applicants are in no doubts as to where we and where they stand.

A book review from the Socialist Standard (November 1998) with some pertinent details:

Socialism and Religion

By F. A. Ridley. Rational Socialist League, 70 Chestnut Lane, Amersham. 40 pages.

This is a reprint, updated by the author before he died in 1994, of a pamphlet originally published in 1948.

On religion, it takes up a basically similar position to ours, derived from Marx: that religion is an expression of human alienation, of the fact that humans are not in control of their destiny but are the playthings of uncontrollable, impersonal economic and social forces and resort to religion to console themselves and to try to make sense of this. This is why, as Ridley puts it in a criticism of bourgeois non-political rationalists and freethinkers, "no amount of merely expository or destructive criticism—useful and necessary as such criticism is in itself—can finally destroy religion; only the coming of international socialism can do that, by abolishing the social antagonisms which necessitate its existence".

On socialism, however, Ridley is not so clear. Since he was a member of the old Independent Labour Party (ILP) who hob-nobbed with Trotskyists this is not surprising and explains his reference to that contradiction in terms a "workers state" existing in socialism.

He mentions our 1910 pamphlet Socialism and Religion which he says relied too much on Herbert Spencer's ghost theory of the origin of religion according to which the first gods represented the imagined spirits of dead heroes as they appeared in the dreams of their followers (fair enough). He also mentions a pamphlet, Christianity and Socialism, published by an SPGB member, Horace Jarvis, in the 1970s. This was published privately, partly because a pamphlet on religion was not considered by us to be a priority but also because it was more oriented towards textual criticism of the bible than a deeper Marxist analysis of the social and historical origins and role of the Christian religion. Even so, some Socialists have always liked that sort of thing. Jarvis, incidentally, before he joined the Socialist Party, had been a member of the Communist Party's front organisation, the League of Atheists, but left the CP when they dissolved this body so as to be able to attract religious support for the Popular Front policy they adopted in the second half of the 1930s.

lørdag den 24. oktober 2015

The Nature of Capitalist Crisis

Another of my recent acquisitions: the 3rd edition (1936) of Strachey's book, published by Victor Gollanz Ltd.

I only knew of the book and its author from articles in the Socialist Standard, like the one in the picture.

Strachey had a rather muddled political career. He joined the Labour Party in the 1920's. He left with Oswald Mosley, only to leave the New Party and join the CPGB when Mosley began drifting to overtly fascist politics, He then left the Communist Party, after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, for another spell in the Labour Party, where he held a few ministerial posts and served as MP for Dundee from 1943 til his death. He was a widely read author in the 1930's and helped Gollanz found the Left Book Club in 1936. (Details from Wiki, retrieved 24/10/15.)

As for the SPGB's views on the issue, there is a plethora of material in my archive or at the SPGB website and/or in David Perrin's book on the Socialist Party.

fredag den 23. oktober 2015

Two Books by an American Socialist

Book Review
"It is a rare treat to review a book that claims to be about socialism which is not bursting with misconceptions and illusions. Samuel Leight's World Without Wages is not only readable (which contrasts sharply with those academic "Marxist" tracts written in language that only the initiated can comprehend), but it is full of the kind of basic socialist arguments which every open-minded worker will want to know about. There are fifty chapters and two hundred and twenty-nine pages, so it is possible to read the book in stages, absorbing the case for socialism bit by bit.
Samuel Leight is a member of the World Socialist Party of the United States, a companion party of the SPGB. World Without Money is based on talks given by him on KTUC radio station in Tucson, Arizona. From the first page the writer loses no time in providing the basic message:
    "Visualise with us a completely different economic, world-wide system of society. Within this system all the means of production and distribution that exist on the face of the earth will be owned and democratically controlled by the whole of society. Each person will stand in exactly the same economic relationship to the instruments for producing and distributing wealth. There will be no class owning and there will be no non-owning class—it will be a classless society. Goods and services will be produced and distributed solely for use and not for profit. People will contribute according to their individual ability, taking from society according to their needs. This means literally free access to whatever they require. Visualise then a system in which there will be no means of exchange, no money, no barter. A system wherein there will be no capitalist class paying wages, with no employers or employees. Such a system cannot operate in one country, as no one country is economically self-sufficient; nor can it be inaugurated until the vast majority understand its economic and social implications."
Recognising that socialism is "possibly the most abused, misused, misunderstood term in the English language", Leight makes no assumptions about his readers' acquaintance with the terms he is using; the socialist case is explained with the kind of clarity that only a real desire to communicate can achieve. Academic writers on the Left—especially those of the New Left Review type—often deter working class intellectual interest by the use of pretentious jargon. By contrast, Leight's approach is that of classical, down-to-earth Marxism—Marxism according to Marx, not Lenin, Trotsky, Mao or Mugabe. The class struggle, recognition of which is the basis of the socialist movement, is clearly explained:
    "In a society wherein the vast majority are non-owners of wealth production and distribution and a minority are the owners, a conflict of interest must exist . . .  We acknowledge the absolute necessity of Trade Unions under capitalism, and we support the active participation of workers within the Trade Union movement in their attempts to safeguard, and improve, their wage levels and working conditions. At the same time we also fully realise the limitations of the Trade Unions . . . We are the sole advocates of the highest expression of the class struggle on the political field—the demand for the abolition of class society, together with the class struggle, through the establishment of socialism."
The key to capitalism's "closely guarded secret"—the appropriation of surplus value by the capitalist class—is well brought out in Chapter 22 on The Wages System:
    "Most workers spend a lifetime blissfully unaware of the fact that as a class they are being legally robbed when they produce values equal to their pay cheques, but then continue producing excess values for the bosses."
There are chapters on war, human nature, Russian state capitalism, nationalisation, racism, ecology, charity, leadership, and the materialist conception of history—as well as chapters dealing with recent events in American labour history. Were this writer not a committed socialist he would have been convinced to become one by reading Samuel Leight's book. World Without Wages is distributed in Britain by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and costs £3.50, including postage and packing. Don't just buy a copy for yourself; buy one for your best friend and another for your worst enemy."
Steve Coleman (Socialist Standard, April 1982.)