tirsdag den 26. august 2008

Birds of a Feather : The Russo-German Bombshell

THE London newspapers on Tuesday, August 22nd (except the Communist Daily Worker, which was busy ringing up Moscow) reported with astonishment the announcement from Berlin that Germany and Russia had negotiated a non-aggression pact, and that Herr von Ribbentrop, the German Foreign Minister, was flying at once to Moscow for the formal signature of the Treaty. This announcement, which came immediately after the completion of a trade agreement between the two Governments, was confirmed by the official Russian Tass News Agency in the following terms : —

After the conclusion of the Soviet-German trade and credit agreement there arose the problem of im¬proving political relations between Germany and the U.S.S.R.

An exchange of views on this subject, which took place between the Government of Germany and the U.S.S.R., established that both parties desire to relieve the tension in their political relations, eliminate the war menace, and conclude a non-aggression pact.

Consequently, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, von Ribbentrop, will arrive in Moscow in a few" days for corresponding negotiations. —(Evening Standard, August 22nd, 1939.)

The Pact was duly signed in Moscow on August 23rd, thus realising a possibility suggested in these columns more than once.

That the capitalist Press was, for the most part, genuinely surprised is undoubtedly true — though this betrays some simplicity on their part and remarkably short memories. They had reasoned on the basis that Russia and Germany were fundamentally divided over the issue of Communism and that, consequently, Russia could be counted on to help British capitalism in its difficulties with Germany, Italy and Japan, the three principal members of the Anti-Comintern Pact. The reasoning was superficial in the extreme and overlooked the ease with which Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini had arranged pacts of friendship on earlier occasions, for example, the Russo-Italian "Pact of Friendship, Non-Aggression and Neutrality" of September 2nd, 1933, and the ratification and continuation on May 5th, 1933, of a German-Russian Agreement of earlier date. Though Hitler was then in power and was ferociously crushing Communists in Germany, the Russian Government could put its signature to an agreement which affirmed that the two Governments, by prolonging the Berlin 1926 treaty of neutrality and non-aggression, " intend to continue the existing friendly relations between the Soviet Union and Germany."

The Press should also have remembered Stalin's speech of March 10th, 1939, in which he made it very plain that Russia had no intention of falling a victim to what he declared was British - French policy, the policy of enmeshing Russia in war with Germany and Japan.

Yet when all these facts have been allowed for, it cannot be denied that, for Stalin to choose this moment, when a German army waits on the Polish border, to enter into a new 10-year Pact with Hitler represented a staggering affront to all those people who had believed that the Russian Government was above the disreputable ways of traditional diplomacy and that for that Government opposition to Fascism and aggression was a matter of principle. As Mr. Lloyd George — a supporter of the policy of alliance with Russia, who has been much praised by the Communists — says, the German - Russian Pact "is a stunning blow to Britain's Peace Front " (News Chronicle, August 22nd). It was so regarded by supporters of the " Peace Front " in Britain and other countries and, according to Press accounts, was received with jubilation in official circles in Germany and Italy.

Sordid Pacts Secretly Arrived At

The method by which the Stalin-Hitler Pact was reached merits a little attention, if only to expose the Communist hypocrisy of denouncing " secret diplomacy." Without being so naive as the Evening News (August 22nd), which says that the Pact " appears to have, been arranged without the (British) Foreign Office having the slightest inkling of what was going on," it is unquestionable that Germany and Russia must have been negotiating secretly for some considerable time, simultaneously with public declarations by Russia that all they wanted was the Peace Pact with Britain and France against aggression. The Daily Herald (August 22nd) reports from Berlin that, according to German accounts, the secret negotiations began in June, though the Evening News thinks they probably began even earlier, in April, when the Anglo-German Naval Treaty was denounced by Germany. Here we have an example of the cynical indifference of the Nazi and Bolshevik rulers to the views of the masses, so cynical that they can arrange in secret a Pact which must shock millions of simple-minded Germans and Russians alike. These rulers will, however, live to regret their action, for it will have repercussions as yet undreamt of by them.

Taking a long view, this is the outstandingly important feature of the Russo-German Pact, in spite of the fact that at no distant date both signatories to the Pact, having served their immediate purpose, may seek to explain it away as of no particular significance. The fact remains that Hitler, who built himself up on the slogan of protecting Germany against Bolshevism, and Stalin, who built himself up on the slogan of anti-Fascism, will have exposed themselves to their own sincere followers as being prepared to shake hands with their allegedly implacable foes, and to compromise with what they have denounced as the worst of all evils. From this realisation may flow the progressive demoralisation of both the dictatorships, with resulting revived hopes for democracy and Socialism.

Thieves Falling Out

Behind these negotiations are intrigues involving all of the Great Powers, an all in game of international blackmail. It is easy enough to reconstruct what has been going on, with reasonable confidence of substantial accuracy. The British and French capitalists, with interests in Europe, but with great interests in and on the way to the East, have long been vulnerable to an attack in both quarters at once. How, then, to gain the greatest measure of security? Equally the game of the German and Italian capitalists was to mass as many allies and potential allies as possible to keep the ring for their expansion. Russia's rulers, on the other hand, have feared that both groups might settle at the expense of Russian territory when various small nations had been gobbled up. After Munich, and the disappearance of Czecho-Slovakia, British policy veered towards a Russian alliance (though this still did not prevent private and " unofficial " conversations between the Secretary of the Overseas Trade Department, Mr. Hudson, and Herr Wohltat, Economic Adviser to General Goering, about possible economic assistance and a loan to Germany, these discussions being suddenly brought to light towards the end of July. Nevertheless, British capitalist interests in and about China necessitated some action against, or compromise with Japan. Russia not desiring to be isolated, has retaliated with the Russo-German Pact, intended no doubt as a final warning to the British Government of a real Russo-German alliance unless the British Government would line up definitely with Russia and against the German-Japanese group. But in the international scramble every new alignment of forces provokes further jostling for position, so now Japan will have an increased fear of herself being isolated through loss of German backing, and the Japanese capitalists will have to ask themselves whether to crusade under the banner " Asia for the Asiatics," line up still closer in the Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany against Russia, or revert to the British alliance, and divide the Chinese market with the British Empire. Germany, having used the Russian Pact to try to bring Japan to heel, may drop it as quickly as it was taken up, in which case Russia, Britain and France may yet be forced into a close alliance. At the moment this still seems the most likely outcome, with, as a minor phase, a further attempt by Britain and France to detach Italy and Spain from the Axis. That the Pact is supposed to endure for 10 years will not disturb either party for 10 minutes if they want to break it.

One feature of the situation which has received less attention than it deserves is the trade agreement which preceded the German-Russian Pact. The Manchester Guardian's Moscow Correspondent (August 22nd) states that the trade agreement, under which Germany advances Russia a trade credit of £16,000,000, was delayed because Russia insisted on being supplied by Germany with "equipment of a strictly military nature " in return for Russian exports to Germany. The Guardian's Berlin correspondent states that, according to German accounts, the agreement arose out of Russia's great need of industrial machinery, which Germany can supply," and out of Germany's need for Russian exports. It may well be that economic difficulties in both countries are forcing the two Governments to revise their policies of recent years and, indeed, one German newspaper states that the Russian Government has recently decided to reorganise its foreign trade and aim at expanding it. (Quoted in Daily Express, August 22nd.)

In the meantime, the rights and wrongs of Danzig and Poland fall into their true perspective as mere counters in the sordid international scramble of the capitalist Powers — not omitting the Bolsheviks. One thing at least should be gained, a growing refusal by the workers to be influenced by the shoddy propaganda alike of " big-business democrats " and Nazi-Bolshevik believers in totalitarian capitalism.

The Apologies of the Communist Party

After their first reaction — one of utter consternation — the British Communist Party Central Committee published a .remarkable statement in the Daily Worker (August 23rd). Its claims were so amazing and the evidence on which they were based is so negligible that the statement is no less amazing than if the Communist Party had decided to deny everything and declare the whole affair to be an invention of the capitalist Press. (They might just as well have taken this line for all the effect their apologetics seem to have had on most of their followers.)

During recent weeks the News Chronicle has several times reported statements that the German Government was making approaches to Russia for a Pact. Each time the Daily Worker has ridiculed the suggestion and put it down to pro-Nazi influences in Great Britain. Now, when it transpires that the statements were correct, and the Russian Government had secretly been negotiating such a Pact, the Daily Worker (August 23rd) blares forth in great headlines that the German-Russian talks are a " Victory for Peace and Socialism," a " Blow to Fascist War Plans and the Policy of Chamberlain." In brief, the argument is that Mr. Chamberlain's policy was that " of endeavouring to strengthen Germany to attack the U.S.S.R., and to refuse the Peace Front," and that " the action of the Soviet Union in its present negotiations with Germany has spiked the guns of the pro-Fascist intrigues of Chamberlain and has strengthened the hands of the British people in their fight for the Anglo-Soviet Pact. Now is the time and the hour to develop the mass movement for the immediate signing of the Anglo-Soviet Pact."

The statement further declares that it represents a climb-down and defeat for Hitler, and that the Pact is fully in line with past declarations of Russian foreign policy. To show this the statements made by Stalin in March last are quoted. One in particular will show the hollowness of the Communist Party's defence. Stalin is quoted as having said : —

We stand for the support of nations which are the victims of aggression and are fighting for the independence of their country.

To justify the present attitude Stalin should have added, " We also stand for Pacts of Non-Aggression with the aggressor State (Germany)." He did not do so, but that is what the Communists are now seeking lamely to defend.

If, as the Communist Party say, the Pact means defeat and "capitulation," of Hitler and the Axis Powers, they signally fail to explain why, in their own words, " the Berlin papers spread the news in the largest of type across their front pages. "

Altogether, the whole of the Communist Party's explanation fails to explain away the glaring impossibility of reconciling the action of the Russian Government with the propaganda of the Communist Party.

One true statement— but only half the truth— is this : —
What kind of discussions are proceeding to-day in German factories, shipyards and mines ? What a strengthening of the mass opposition to the Hitler regime the negotiations will present ? What an exposure of Hitler they represent.

For the other half of the truth read " Russia " for German and " Stalin " for Hitler, for it will be just as disconcerting in Russia as in Germany.

Socialist Standard September 1939

At the Conscientious Objectors Tribunal


Dramatis Personae

LORD CLARENDON .. .. Chairman.
MISTER HUDSON .. .. Clerk to the Council
MISTER CLARK .. .. House Builder.
MISTER SOLOMONS .. .. Photographer.
MISTER GORLE .. .. Solicitor, Conscriptionist, Labour Leader and acquainted with the King of the Belgians.

Crowd of N.C.F. men, Comrades, Constables and Attendants.

THE Bushey and Watford comrades did in ths month of March appear before the local Tribunal with the now familiar result.

The chairman was the Lord and the Military Representative, symbolically enough, was on the left hand of the Lord. A Draper sat next to a House Builder and a solicitor next to a Professional Photographer.

To the right of the Lord's chosen people were portraits of two old-time councillors done by a Bushey painter, who when he has no commissions from local legislators, will condescend to paint angels for church windows. These pictures were as interesting to artists as pathology is to humanitarians. No cantankerous sentiment could be detected on their placid faces, for when the local man took up his brushes there was no European War and all the Conscientious Objectors had been robbed of their telescopes and books and burned and decapitated many centuries ago,

But I must not digress now for I am come to the point when the Lord spoke. I had arrogantly suggested in my appeal paper that what was valuable and precious in Art and Science and Literature had emanated from intellectual research and that militarism either supported or created all those things hostile to a free and secure existence. Before I came to these chosen of the Masters I had suggested that intellectual progress and military pursuits are antagonistic. Then when the Lord asked me if I was a Quaker I saw that my policy and sentiments still remained misunderstood, so I rose to explain that I had accepted the communistic principles of Karl Marx, and consequently believed that the world could not progress towards a beautiful ideal of society or a scientific one until the nations federated on an amiable basis. But while these words were yet unspoken the Solicitor, with prophetic acumen and godly insight, denounced them as " Propaganda," while the Chairman said he was there to " elicit facts and not listen to speeches." This last indiscreet sentence must now pass as ignorance. This is the more lamentable as had it read " elicit facts and not listen to evidence " it would have passed with the public not as bias and illiteracy, but as a decisive, rich, and becoming paradox. I had further evidence to show that the literature of Greece had done more for humanity than the wars of Greece; that Van Tromp, with all his magnificance did not do so much for Holland as Rembrandt and Discartis; that the Spaniards' best day was not when the Armada was loosened, but when Valasquez took up his palette. The Lord waved me down. How could I rise from my insignificance. I only had on my side the lessons of ancient decapitated scientists and charcoal heretics while the Tribunal were greatly inspired and strengthened by the methods of Torquemada. Their actions taught me that the man with estates was in the place of Democracy; the Camera Man in the place of the Artist; the Attorney in the place of the Economist, and the Draper of Bodies in the place of Humanitarians. Before the Tribunal the appellant with artistic ideas is dismissed, the man with rheumatism postponed, and the wine merchant exempt from military service. Then after having stopped me speaking in my own defence one had the temerity to ask if I objected to bloodshed.

Our Comrade Russ sat next before the Tribunal and his case was dealt with in the same clean and aristocratic spirit. They " elicited" geneological facts about his grandmother and partly forgotten brothers; details which are most valuable to any analysis of scientific ideals or the individual conscience. But while on the side of lineage, the examination was most wise and thorough, there are three small points to which the Tribunal were inexcusably indifferent. I admit that a consideration of the forgotten details would in no way have altered the result of the trial, for in all cases the conduct and decision of the Tribunal showed great forethought and preparation. In no instance can I remember a hasty and spontaneous injustice being done to the appellant, for the Socialists were only dismissed after careful consultation with the versatile Labour Leader, while the Religionists were dismissed only after the Chairman's chat with the Christian member. The first of these three unconsidered trifles in Russ's case was that he wore a black scarf of crepe-de-chine, which should have been noted by at least one member of the Tribunal for its photographic possibilities; the second, that sometimes in the summer he slept in the open at night, which should have been elicited and condemned by the Builder; the third, that as a Socialist he would not fight in a capitalist war, which should have been considered by all, as in this assertion, all were alike equally implicated and condemned. But if we review the matter with a milder and less intolerant mind we will understand that if Russ did not know what parts of his Marxian economics were a heritage from his grandmother, his own statement of International Faith is, in the ten or twelve eyes of the Tribnal, robbed of half its value. But his trial ended well, for, as he declared he would not do medical work and assist the wounded, the Tribunal considerately gave him non-combatant duties in which he will only have to help the injured.

When our Comrade Hudson sat next in the chair the modern God filled his pipe and the clerk read the appeal. It was a reiteration of the communists' ideal of Wealth Production. The Lord asked what denomination he belonged to. Now with myself, as I have a pale face, there was some pertinence in the Quaker question, but with Hudson it is different. He is not sickly or peevish; there is not a trace of suffering on his face. It would have been more relevant to have asked the noble Lord if he was the only support his wife had or ask a poet if he sold matches. Our comrade replied that he was an atheist. The Christian Draper sniffed. A man here who would not submit to Kitchener and denied the authority — " You are one of them who resent all kind of control then, eh? " he said. " Not all control," our comrade replied, "only such as you have." The Chairman was indignant to hear a youthful idealist give such a retort to a shopkeeper who sold the best linen within the farthing of a shilling in the town; to a man who has distributed more bibles and advertisements and subscribed to more church organs in a year than the applicant would do in fifty years. In these days of heresy and commerce one can forgive a taunt to God, pass over a slight to Kitchener, but what Chairman of what tribunal can pass over an Internationalist's insult to a homely employer. He cautioned our comrade and later dismissed the case.

The next judgment was to be upon our comrade Wilkins. He, too, was an Internationalist. Had the first been the only one of the day the idea could have been discredited and regarded as isolated Quixotism and futile faith. The poor, bewildered master of the show moreover learned that this Socialist was a Monist. "What is a Monist? " Alas! my Lord, you have given Oxford over to ignominy; the hallowed pile is desecrated. In the past, we are told, much damage and havoc was done with the Jawbone of an ass, but it was infinitisimal compared with that done to the gray and hoary university with the jawbone of our Tribunal Lord. Alas! poor Chairman, you came, you told me, to " elicit facts,'' but you remain to complete your education. Although Comrade Wilkins explained on his appeal paper that he could more effectively assasinate Rothschild with a new ideal or a new economic law than with an old hatchet — although unlike an Indian God he did not wear a necklace of human bones or a girdle of human skulls, they still enquired whether he was prepared to take life. He replied that he did not believe in the sacredness of the individual existence, only in the sacredness of humanity, and would therefore help to establish Socialism by the ballot if possible but by force if force was essential. " We dismiss your case, Mister Wilkins." As the lordly judge spoke his loyal mouth pennies to the Escutcheon: " You may appeal to the County Tribunal," he said. " To the County Press Gang," our comrade retorted with such truth and emphasis that it became quite inaudible to the Newspaper Correspondent.

There was a long hush. The last of the pearls had been cast before the Tribunal.

The Draper demanded that the room should be cleared of the pubiic. This was assented to by the Labour Leader and endorsed by the Lord.

No one moved.

Then in this Earthly Paradise the Provincial God's still, small voice with a slight Oxford accent, said, " Let there be police," and there were police. But this latter day Lord's behests are not so instantaneously obeyed as formerly, for his wand is only a telephone and his angels wear thick-soled boots.

So there was still time for further heresy and the " Red Flag " was sung, and just as it ended the Constables entered the room and faced the perplexed Tribunal and those pigment Councillors on the walls, whose pensive eyes are fixed on the distant Utopian Watford when each of the ten thousand inhabitants was docile and diligent and none had dreamed of Marxian Economics.

H.M.M., Socialist Standard May 1916

Economic Causes of the Great War

HALF a century has passed since the beginning of the FirstWorld War. In August, 1914, the Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of Great Britain issued a manifesto — "The War, and the Socialist Position."

It was discussed and agreed before being issued but the discussion was not at all about the question whether the war should be supported or opposed but about the details of the wording. The Party's attitude to war between capitalist governments did not need to be discussed; it had been decided years before at the formation of the Party. It was implicit in the Declaration of Principles which was adopted when the Party was formed and has remained unchanged, in particular in Clause 6, which reads: —

. . . the machinery of government including the armed forces of the nation, exists only lo conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers. . .

The Manifesto therefore took the form of re-affirming Socialist principles including the principle on which rests the Socialist attitude to war.

It opened with the declaration: —

Whereas the capitalists of Europe have quarrelled over the questions of the control of trade routes and the world's markets, and are endeavouring to exploit the political ignorance and blind passions of the working class of their respective countries in order to induce the said workers to take up arms in what is solely their masters' quarrel.

Later on it declared that: —

as the workers' interests are not bound up in the struggle for markets wherein their masters may dispose of the wealth they have stolen from them (the workers), but in the struggle to end the system under which they are robbed, they are not concerned with the present European struggle . . .

In this Manifesto the Socialist Party of Great Britain was restating three principles which are fundamental to the Socialist case — that war is not an accidental interruption of the peaceful operations of capitalism but is inherent in the structure of the system itself; that the interest of the workers in all parts of the world is to stand together against the governments of capitalism; and that the only way to end war is to end capitalism.

In the world of 1914 the great majority of the organisations which called themselves Socialist did not accept these three principles. They did not accept that it is capitalism itself which necessarily produces the conflicts over markets, trade routes, raw material sources, etc., which engender war. Along with the naive belief that war could be " humanised " by the banning of particularly destructive weapons they thought that war could be eliminated through international agencies appealing in the name of law, humanity or religion. Adding to the confusion there was one school of thought which relied on proving to the capitalists that "war does not pay," and another — we have it still — which envisaged an international agency having armed forces to preserve peace by waging war on war-making governments.

In August, 1914, when the Socialist Party of Great Britain was issuing its Manifesto most of the so-called Socialist parties were declaring their support for their respective governments.

Because they did not accept that capitalism was the cause of the war they readily succumbed to the excuses for the war offered to them by their respective governments. In Britain it was the defence of Belgium and France against the megalomania of the German Kaiser and German Militarism, and later, "the war to end war "; or the war for democracy. In Germany it was defence against Russian autocracy and Russian "barbarism." Although all of these parties, in the second International to which they belonged, had long seen the threat coming and had even formally declared their opposition to it at the Basle conference in 1912, most of them put loyalty to "their country " first, when the war actually came. Their lip-service to internationalism had never possessed the solid Socialist basis of recognising the mutual interest of all workers against capitalism and its governments everywhere.

Those who reject the Socialist contention that the root of modern war is in capitalism have to seek other explanations. These fall into several groups — the innate aggressiveness of human nature; the acts of wicked men or their rulers; economic causes other than capitalist ones; the strength of nationalist or religious feeling; and the conflicts of ideologies.

The human nature explanation of modern war is an irrelevance. It is true that individuals along with the capacity to live peacably side by side and to show humanity and compassion, will in appropriate circumstances engage in quarrels and violence. (The "appropriate circumstances" often being features of the competitive struggle inside capitalism). But when it comes to preparation for war it is always the governments which have to set out deliberately by lying propaganda to stir up hatred of whoever happens at the time to be "the enemy," and so little do the aggressive instincts of the mass of the population cause them to rush into war that almost all of the governments in the 1914 war (and subsequent wars) had to use conscription to drag the unwilling heroes into the battle line.

The argument that wars arise from economic but not capitalist causes, rests on the fact that long before capitalism came into being, or in places where capitalism did not exist, food shortage caused migrations and consequent wars, or caused wars among tribes in adjacent areas. But this situation has little bearing on the wars between capitalist powers in the modern world. It gives no explanation for the 1914 or 1939 wars, any more than it does for the long years of cold war between the American and Russian groups. The Powers involved in the 1914 war were not faced with inability to produce enough. All of them had for years been increasing their output of all kinds of commodities. Their worry was not over production but over the sale of what they produced.

The belief that modern wars are caused by nationalist or religious differences merely obscures the facts. What happens is that when capitalist rivalries have produced clashes in which governments consider going to war, the governments then calculatedly exploit nationalist and religious prejudices in order to popularise the war and cover up the real causes. Nations and the national religions are themselves products of capitalism as Louis Boudin showed in his Socialism and War (lectures given early in the 1914 war), it was the rise of capitalism in place of the feudalism of the middle ages which necessitated the division of Europe into separate national states. "Capitalism needed larger economic units for its development. The small groups therefore began to coalesce and amalgamate into larger units which would permit the larger economic life which is the characteristic of the new era ": —

Thus arose the modern European nations, each with its own language and separate and distinct social, political and economic life : England, France, Spain, the Scandinavian countries, Russia, Italy and Germany.

This development also needed and brought about the separation of the national religious organisations through the Reformation.

The other so-called ideological causes of war fare just as badly when lined up with the facts. British propaganda in 1914 made much of German "militarism"— this was argued also by leaders of the Labour Party — but halfway through the war conscription, the major feature of "militarism " was introduced in this country and, of course, Britain's European allies all had conscript armies. Another ideological charge against Germany was her brutal treatment of populations in her African colonies; but Britain's ally Belgium had an even worse record in Africa, and the British capitalist record in their colonies was equally open to charges.

There remains the argument that wars are caused by the acts of individuals, including individual rulers. It is still possible, fifty years after, for an article in the Sunday Telegraph (28/6/64) to start off: — "Two bullets that killed the Austrian Heir at Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, started the holocaust of World War I," And books are still being published about the degree of personal responsibility of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II for the first World War.

Professor Pigou writing soon after the first World War, in his Political Economy of War, dismissed the Sarajevo incident as being the occasion not the cause of the war. It may have been "the match to the powder magazine. The real fundamental causes are there that lie behind the assembling of the powder."

The Times Literary Supplement (26/3/64) reviewing two books on the supposed personal responsibility of the Kaiser, pointed out that in effect Germany long before Sarajevo had been in what would now be called a "cold war," the stage of preparations for the eventual fighting war of 1914.

An article in the SOCIALIST STANDARD in September, 1914, on the same theme, showed that for years before 1914 the British and French governments had been building up their forces and arranging for the disposition of their navies to meet the counter preparations of the German government.

The origins of that war lay in the fact that the nineteenth century industrial military and naval predominance of British and French capitalism was being challenged by the rapid expansion of Germany. As German industry grew, German production and exports were catching up and the German navy had grown to a size and striking power comparable with the British.

After the German annexation of the French provinces of Alsace and Lorraine in 1871, the way was opened for the link-up of Lorraine ore with Westphalian coal, and Germany's pig-iron production soon jumped ahead. In 1870-74 it was 1,800,000 tons a year against Britain's 6,400,000, but by 1908 German production was far ahead. The same was true of steel and the German mercantile shipping fleet was being rapidly expanded.

A warning had been given by the Commission on the Depression of Trade in its Report as early as 1886 about German competition in world markets : —

A reference to the reports from abroad wiil show that in every quarter of the world the perseverance and enterprise of the Germans are making themselves felt. In actual production of commodities we have now few, if any, advantages over them, and in a knowledge of the markets of the world, a desire to accommodate themselves to local tastes or idiocyncrasies, a determination to obtain a footing wherever they can and a tenacity in maintaining it, they appear to be gaining ground upon us.

An area of acute conflict was in the field of colonies. Britain and France, along with Belgium, had been first in this field, Britain in India and Asia and all of them in Africa. Germany, the late comer, seeking to enter and expand in Africa, more and more threatened the future of those who were there first and had taken most of the more profitable areas. When Germany showed in 1911, by sending a gunboat to Agadir, that she intended to get a foothold in Morocco, Mr. Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, at once reacted with a speech threatening war. This incident had the effect of bringing French and British capitalism nearer together in mutual self-protection.

One of the more dramatic forms of the conflict was the German plan for a Berlin to Bagdad railway, a counter-blast to the British scheme of the Cape to Cairo line. The German plan involved pushing Russian influence out of the Balkans, cutting Russia off from the Mediterranean by control of the Dardenelles, and opening up a way for Germany to expand towards the Persian Gulf and India.

The 1914 war did not start overnight through an assasin's bullets; it was the outcome of years of conflicting capitalist interests.

H., Socialist Standard August 1964

further reading
War and the Working Class SPGB pamphlet 1936 (.pdf)
The Socialist Party and War SPGB pamphlet 1970 (.pdf)

Jingo Communists

One of the strongest holds the capitalists have over the minds of the workers is given by the workers' ready acceptance of the dogmas of patriotism. Before the rise of class society, and even until comparatively modern times before locomotives and steamships broke down geographical barriers, the workers did have a real interest in the country of their birth. But now that independent craftsmen and tillers of the soil have become wage earners the basis of patriotism has gone. Still the sentiment persists when even religion is fast decaying, and the master class who control the forces and services of the State are able to identify their own private interests with the instinctive patriotism of the class which has now no stake in the country. This degenerate patriotism is strong enough in the mother countries of the great empires, but it appears in its most degraded form among the members of the so-called subject races. The British Empire is at once the foremost in power and extent, and it has developed this national spirit in its possessions to the greatest degree. In its modern form patriotism began to become a striking-feature during the last quarter of the nineteenth century when, after the unrivalled trade expansion between 1816 and 1875, a period of depression and competition set in. During the previous period sufficient development on capitalist lines had taken place in India and Egypt to lead to the rise of organised agitation for independence, or at least for some measure of self-government.

There had, of course, always been widespread dislike of the foreign rulers, and to this was now added the resentment of educated natives, lawyers, state officials, merchants, etc., who felt themselves arbitrarily deprived of the best opportunities, and whose discontent was of great importance because it was capable of expression. The growing body of native capitalists and traders were, besides, coming to see what a glorious field of exploitation would be open to them if they could but use this volume of discontent to throw off alien rule. In Ireland, although there was no great gulf of race, historical tradition of suppression and religious bigotry supplied all the necessary zeal to the struggle for independence. There were, too, the very real economic grievances of the Irish farmers and merchants, and these latter, with their intellectual leaders and publicists, were able, without great difficulty, to deceive the workers into the belief that all their troubles, too, were due to foreign tyranny. This was, of course, untrue. The workers' only useful aim is to dethrone the capitalist class. It has nothing whatever to gain by assisting one group against another. The Irish workers who were foolish enough to help Irish capitalists to win Dominion Status from Great Britain now have the chance to learn that the capitalist system is the same wherever it exists, and whatever the nationality of the rulers who use the State forces to keep the workers' hands off their property. We, as Socialists, have no sympathy whatever with the demand for independence made by native capitalist groups. We would no mare assist them than assist the British Government against them. A plague on both their houses ! Our only interest is to try to get the workers in both camps to mind their own business and leave this quarrel about the right to exploit to the people who gain from exploitation. Many so-called Socialists think, or at any rate act, differently. Some of them are still very much the victims of the mental disorder called patriotism, and their understanding of Socialism is nil; others are playing a double game which they call "tactics." They argue that as the people among whom it is desired to propagate Socialism are still entirely wrapped up in all kinds of antiquated illusions, then the way to clear their minds is to tack their superstitions on to the Socialist case. It is hard to imagine anything less calculated to further Socialism. When Socialists are so adaptive that they can be Catholic in Dublin, Protestant in England, Atheist in France, Free Trade, Protectionist, patriots and anti-patriots, their propaganda becomes a farce and they degenerate usually into the more or less open tools of local business interests. Some of our blustering wartime pseudo-Socialist recruiting sergeants had a more intimate connection with the "Trade " than is gained by looking down a pint pot.

Whatever differences there may have been between the various independence movements, they had one thing in common there was money in them. In addition, the Irish movement lent itself to the vote-catching of the Liberal and Labour Parties in this country. Owing to the brilliant lack of success of the "tactic " in making Socialists, the professional Parliamentarians at the head of numerous stagnant parties in this country were anxiously looking for new sources of revenue. These political brigands, who live on and by the ignorance of the workers, found what they wanted by lending themselves to the political wire¬pulling of the subject nations. They were willing (they said in the interests of Socialism) to encourage the vilely anti-Socialist national fanaticism which we find invariably associated with such movements. The Communists of this country have given their indiscriminate support (for what it is worth) to a round half-dozen capitalist movements of this kind, and have attempted to justify their attitude by resurrecting a plea that was familiar and discredited in the Socialist Democratic Federation thirty years ago. They talk about smashing up the Empire as a preliminary to the final struggle with the capitalist class. They forget some things. First, there is no movement or combination of movements which has the power to scratch the British Empire, much less dismember it. Secondly, the effect of their attitude is simply to strengthen the patriotism of the British worker and make him still more ignorant of, and hostile to, Socialism.

Thirdly, assuming independence could be obtained and any real progress took place in the development of Labour movements in these countries, the home capitalists would want to come back into the Empire for the assistance of a strong central Government against their own workers. The stampede back would make their present agitation to get out look sick in comparison. The Irish Communist Party, which ought by now to have learned something from experience, is not one whit better. It has pandered to Catholicism and suppressed the Moscow attitude to religion, and it has stooped so low as to appeal to the foul Jingoism which makes the Irish worker so blind to his class interests.

In the Workers' Republic, June 23rd, 1923 (official organ of the Communist Party of Ireland), half a column is devoted to the exposure of a "scandal." The scandal is that the capitalist Free State Government has placed orders for army uniforms in London instead of in Dublin! This staggering charge "can be proved to the hilt if needs be."

Just consider with me the enormity of it. The Free State capitalists keep troops to protect their property against the propertyless Irish workers. During the last few months, for instance, troops have been openly used to help farmers in Waterford against strikers. If the Communists or anyone else kick against the Free State Government they will get shot, and the remedy they propose is to have the uniforms made in Dublin! They wouldn't like to be shot by a man in an English-made uniform, but these internationalists will be perfectly happy if the uniforms are made at home. Their joy would have no bounds if the bullets were Irish through and through, and what would happen if they were made by Trade Union labour as well it is beyond me to imagine.

But we must be fair. Communists are economists as well. "Can you wonder why their is so much unemployment in Dublin?" To think, dear reader, that it has never occurred to you that if only all the capitalists had their army uniforms made at home the unemployment problem would be solved. It never struck these Simple Simons that contracts and jobless workers have a habit of going to the best market, and that if, owing to bad trade, prices are lower in Dublin, the English manufacturer would sub-let the work to the Dublin sweat shops, even if they are not, as is probably the case, already working in harmony.

The Workers' Republic writer, in fact appears to have decidedly more than a grain of sympathy for these clothing bosses; because they "have had to close their doors for want of contracts, and others are standing off their workers for the same reason." These people occasionally have the nerve to call themselves Marxists !

And the excuse for all this lying and humbug is always the same. They are in a hurry and want to bring the poor benighted workers in. On this ground, more than any other, their policy is damned. Not only are the recruits, soaked in religion and patriotism, totally unreliable and of no conceivable value in their present state for Socialism, but their numbers are not sufficient to justify the telling of the whitest and most forgivable of fibs, let alone the turgid stream of corruption these Communists call propaganda. The sooner they give up pandering to working-class political ignorance and devote themselves to teaching (and learning) Socialism, the sooner will the nationality problem be solved. The capitalists of the subject nations will line up with the Central Government of the Empire for protection against the growing unity of the working class, and the way will be cleared for the real fight — the fight for working-class emancipation.

H., Socialist Standard October 1923

mandag den 25. august 2008

Socialist Thinkers - People Who History Made

Following on from the previous post, Darren has also posted a series of lectures on socialist thinkers. (He also provides detailed lists and links for suggested further reading.) The lectures don't dwell on the person in the title - rather they examine political ideas and their relation to the ideas of the SPGB.

SPGB Lectures on Economics

Inveresk Street Ingrate (one of my fav. blogs) has posted a series of lectures by the late E. Hardcastle on aspects of marxian economics. Darren provides the details.

Marx's Capital

There is a series of lectures online (from a course on Marx's Capital) by Professor David Harvey of City University New York here

the Family Allowances Fraud

Since the I.L.P. have adopted family allowances as one of the items in their programme of reforms, it would not be out of place to enquire into it and see whether this particular reform has any lasting benefits to confer upon the working class. Can the scheme be brought into being, and if so with what effects?

For those unacquainted with the scheme, I will state the broad outlines, and must refer them to Eleanor Rathbone's book, "The Disinherited Family," for fuller details.

The scheme was talked of before the War, but nothing definite came of it until the years 1916-18. A Committee then sat, including Mr. H. N. Brailsford, a prominent member of the I.L.P., and enquired into the cost and the method of application. They were inspired by the Government war-time separation allowance scheme, noting the good effects resulting from the working-class mother having a regular, if small, allowance paid to her at stated times.

The Committee still exists to propagate the idea, and the I.L.P. now stands pledged to support and make it law when they possess the power to do so.

The scheme has a "high moral tone." It aims at giving to every family even the lowest on the industrial ladder (just fancy, even the lowest) the material means for healthy living and of placing the service of motherhood in the position of honour and security which it merits. (Miss Rathbone's words in page 11 of the introduction to her book, "The Disinherited Family.")

The material means are to be financial assistance by means of allowances paid to the parent (preferably the mother) for every dependent child she has. This can be arranged in two ways. The Labour supporters prefer a State-controlled scheme; the money coming from taxation of the wealthy and paid through the Post Office. The more cautious supporters believe in a "horizontal distribution" among the wage-earners, the employers thus paying for the scheme.

Perhaps this term needs a little explanation. The idea is that the single worker shall receive wages based upon a mere subsistence level, the amount to be increased according to the measure of his responsibilities. Thus, the employer actually saves on his wages bill until his male workers marry and have children.

Although this would seem to cause the employer to favour the labour of single workers as against married, there are many clauses that could be introduced to remedy this fact. A law compelling employers to employ a certain percentage of married workers might be passed, but I must refer my readers to the previously mentioned book for details upon this item.

The scheme has been introduced in several ways in a few Continental countries, but so far there have been no startling reports of the increased wealth, happiness and contentment of the workers in those countries.

France introduced the scheme at a time when it was needed to offer every inducement to the workers to work harder and to re-populate the country owing to the ravages of the War. The workers were not in a position in which they could afford to disregard the masters' threat to stop their families' allowances if they went on strike. One firm's workers struck in sympathy with their fellows who were killed in an industrial dispute elsewhere. The result was that they lost their allowance for two months.

One seems to have lost touch with the high moral tone.

In Germany there was need for frantic production to pay the war debts. Again came the family allowance to light the way. It is a light that soon fades.

From Switzerland comes the report that the family allowances resulted in more production and less industrial unrest. What a wonderful weapon for the master it is. What a glorious recognition of parentage !

Let us now examine the scheme for its application to this country.

Miss Rathbone, in her book, says, when talking of the poverty and destitution in the coal-mining areas, that the discontent is not unjustified, even if the remedies asked for are. We are left to infer that the remedy advocated by her, i.e., Family Endowment, will satisfy the needs of these people and avert industrial disputes. Indeed, at a lecture to the Annual Conference of the Faculty of Insurance, April 2nd, 1927, reprinted in the "Insurance Magazine," July, 1927, she said quite definitely that the scheme would prove very anti-revolutionary and prevent Labour from dislocating industry. The methods call for discussion now, and the I.L.P.'s favourite method I will discuss first.

To levy taxes on incomes over a certain amount means hitting the Capitalists in their most vital spot, i.e., their pockets. Is it likely that they can be persuaded to consent to this taxation? Most certainly not. Then the only course left open is to enforce the taxes upon them. If the I.L.P. has a majority in the House and a Socialist backing outside, which alone will enable them to enforce their commands, there would be no need for the family allowance. Socialism would then be practicable and the reform useless.

The other, and most workable to the Capitalist eye, is the "horizontal distribution" stunt. No extra money is here needed. Wages will be graded. The single people will be paid on the basis of the cost of living of an unmarried person. Married men with no children will receive the amount necessary to keep a wife. The total wages bill of the Capitalist remains unchanged. As the children appear they will be allowed for and the money paid, not as wages but as a child's allowance to the selected parent.

Miss Rathbone justifies her scheme on the ground that the present method of providing for many non-existent children and leaving those already here unprovided, is unscientific, but if it is unscientific for a single worker to get as much as a married worker why is Miss Rathbone indifferent to the enormous wealth of nonworkers, i.e., the Capitalist class? If it is unfair that a single man should receive that amount which his married comrade with children gets, the remedy lies not in decreasing the single man's already insufficient share, but in organising society so that every person gets the wherewithal to live decently and with the greatest amount of comfort that the community can afford. Far from desiring this, Miss Rathbone opposes it. Her scheme is intended not for everyone, but only for the workers. Its object is to stave off Socialism.

For the advocates of family allowances the workers are so many cattle in a market, and their fodder is to be rationed according as they reproduce their kind or not.

It is to this kind of calculating hypocrisy that the I.L.P. lend their support.

To Miss Rathbone I would say that her time would have been better spent had she written two pages telling working women how to free themselves and their children from the economic slavery by which they are enthralled, instead of three or four hundred pages showing how to bring more working-class children into the world at less expense to the Capitalist class; but then of course, she would not receive the support of Capitalist Governments and the I.L.P. and Labour supporters.

May Otway, Socialist Standard February 1929

See also the 1943 pamphlet Family Allowances. A socialist analysis (.pdf)

Unemployment - cause and cure

There are now upwards of 1 1/4 million workers registered as unemployed in Great Britain. How many there are not registered, and how many are working short time, it is impossible to say, but we may safely assume that there will be, before this winter is out, more than 1 1/2 million men and women, boys and girls, able and willing to work, but prevented from doing so. The present depression began at the end of 1920 and shows no sign of lifting, and it is no longer sufficient for Ministers to prophecy improvement; even the most credulous workers are now unwilling to believe in the early coming of the long deferred revival.

There is no lack of freaks, frauds and cranks anxious to gain attention for their fallacious diagnoses and quack remedies — free traders and protectionists, and advocates of imperial preference; deflationists and inflationists, Christians preaching Brotherhood, and others who want another war, bareheaded Daily Mailites, and their ridiculous Liberal Labour opponents, who weep for the wrongs inflicted on the poor German capitalists, emigrationists, and last and most futile of all, the motley crowd of "Socialists," who have time for these and every vain scheme, but no time for Socialism. We, on the other hand, urge now, as we have always urged, that there is a solution — Socialism; that it is the only solution; and that it is a solution for the present and not for the distant future.

The attempted explanations of unemployment are as varied as the suggested remedies, and it is necessary therefore to make clear a few important points. First, do rot be misled by those who have tried to saddle Poincare with the responsibility. The widespread unemployment began in 1920 and had reached a point in 1922 higher than at any other time since; yet the French occupation of the Ruhr did not take place until January, 1923.

Do not believe that it is an " abnormal " after-war development. Apart from earlier times of special distress due to political and economic disturbances, unemployment has been a constant feature of our system since the industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century. There has during that period always been a mass of employable but unemployed workers; the number increasing enormously during trade depressions and decreasing with trade prosperity. It never wholly disappeared, in spite of the big drain of emigration to America and the Colonies. Dr. Macnamara, M.P., speaks of a normal pre-war unemployed army of 200,000 persons (Times, llth September, 1923.) Unemployment is a normal feature of capitalist production. And what of the future? Macnamara promises that

" that even if the unsettlement of Europe were ended and normal trade returned, the permanent unemployment in this country would be three or four times as big as in pre-war times."

While Sir John Norton Griffiths, M.P., a Tory, tells us (Daily Herald, llth April, 1923) :—

" We have now got, and always, apparently, will have . . . trade boom or no trade boom a million or more unemployed men who cannot be absorbed in industry."

Neither Macnamara nor Norton Griffiths seems greatly perturbed, but it may be worth your while to consider carefully the prospect before you.

Refuse to be drawn by the Labour leaders into the free trade-protectionist controversy, for it does not concern you. It is no question of principle, but one of capitalist interests, and will be readily scrapped by those who teach you to worship it, when profit-making demands a new policy. The sudden conversion of the traditionally free-trade Bradford woollen industry illustrates this. Moreover free trade is an illusion in the modern world. What does free trade mean to a cotton or soap combine which has a practical monopoly of raw material and the home market? What does free trade mean to an international meat or steel combine, which allocates to its members certain geographical areas and a certain percentage of the sales in the total markets? And remember that the inquiries instituted by the Government immediately after the war brought to light the fact that there is now hardly any important industry which is not controlled in some direction by a federation or central organisation.

Protection is in effect the state support of one industry at the expense of those who pay for the whole cost of administration, that is the capitalist class. Protection or direct subsidies cannot in the long-run overcome the world conditions governing the whole mass of a country's trade, or better the position of the working class. A subsidy for agriculture, or a bar on the import of agricultural produce (advocated by a section of the Labour Party) will, it is true, stimulate the agricultural industry and lead to the employment of more workers there ? But that is only one of the results. The production of more food at home means a decrease of the import of food products from abroad, and a corresponding decrease in coal or manufactured goods which would ordinarily have gone to pay for those imports. A mere transfer of some miners or cotton operatives to the ranks of the unemployed and the corresponding employment of a number of out-of-work agricultural labourers does not solve the problem of unemployment.

It resembles the emigration schemes which appear to rest on the notion that one can remove unemployment by migrating the unemployed from one country to another. It takes no account of the fact that the problem is a world problem, because this is obscured by certain temporary factors and local peculiarities.

Protectionist U.S.A., which two years ago had six million unemployed, strictly limits immigration, but this has not been the means of fulfilling the late President's fatuous wish that the boom of last year should be an era of " permanent prosperity." Depression is beginning there once more, and during 1922 alone no less than two million farmers and hands had to leave the land and resort to the industrial towns, to swell the unemployed army. Their chief immediate trouble was that there is too much wheat in the world for the capitalist system to dispose of, and yet some of our Labour men still believe that the panacea for agricultural stagnation at home is to grow more wheat !

Canada has its own problem to face, and cannot even find work for all of a few thousand men who were enticed out there for the harvesting. Unemployment is acute and growing in South Africa, where it is also complicated by the racial hostility between the relatively highly paid (and out-of-work) whites, and the low paid blacks. The South African unemployed actually asked to be migrated to Australia to join the ranks of the unemployed there, many of them want to come "home" to England. South Africa is also asking for immigrants—"with £2,000 capital."!

France has but little unemployment, because she has remained largely an agricultural country, with a land system of peasant proprietorship. There are relatively few wage-earners, the only ones liable to suffer unemployment, and for some time past French industry, especially textiles, has been doing big trade abroad at the expense of English exporters, owing to the depreciation of the franc. This has led to an amusing clash between one brand of currency-mongers, who want to save us by raising the £ sterling to par, and another brand who can see the millenium in lowering it until Bradford mill owners can undersell French cloths. However, to the extent that French trade prospers and stimulates development of industry (including the Ruhr industries) France, too, will become more and more dependent on the state of world trade, and her growing army of factory workers will be drawn into the pool of, potentially, surplus labour.

It is also quite wrong to suppose that unemployment is a product of over-population. Sir William Beveridge, at the British Association, dealt with this, and quoted elaborate statistics to show that
"Man for his present troubles had to accuse neither the niggardliness of Nature nor his own instinct of reproduction." — "Daily Telegraph," 18/9/23.) Unemployment, he said, was " a function of the organisation and methods of industry, not of its size."

The British Government has announced its policy of authorising the expenditure of £50,000,000 on relief works for the coming winter. This, in face of the evident hopelessness of expecting any important trade revival in the near future, is merely an admission of the failure of the capitalist class to solve the problem. It is just a form of relief without, what is from their viewpoint, the drawback of idleness, leading to a loss of the habit of work. The capitalists as a whole, and their thinkers and apologists, are in the same fatalistic state of mind as one individual employer who was recently declared a bankrupt. He ascribed his failure to his anxiety not to dismiss some old employees although he had no work for them. He just "hoped" that " something would turn up." It didn't for him, and it won't for the system as a whole. Nor is there any hope from Labour Governments. Labour Governments in Australia (including the one still left) were just as helpless as any other; they used precisely the same methods to reduce wages when prices fell, and treated the resistance of the workers with the usual brutality. Unemployment is as rife in Queensland as in any other capitalist state, and as little is done for them. In fact the unemployed are better off under our own Government.

The Australian capitalists, like those here and elsewhere, continually have one consideration in mind. At all costs the workers must be kept from determined discontent. First promises, flattery, or the illusive benefits of Labour Governments are tried, then the paltry bribe of relief and doles, and finally, if nothing else will serve, the open violence of the armed forces of law and order.

Our explanation of the problem is simpler than any of these. It may from one aspect be summed up in the statement that the inability of 1 1/4 million British workers to find work although they wish to do so, is due to the frank determination of another million persons not on any account to spoil their pleasant lives by painful toil. You work because it is your only means of getting the means of living. The things you need are the result of the application of your labour to the natural resources, but because these natural resources, along with the railways, the factories and steamships, etc., are privately owned by a small class of wealthy persons, they can and do live without having to work, and they possess the power not only to appropriate the proceeds of your labour, but also when they think fit to prevent you from working at all. In the early days of capitalism these people justified their rents and profits by the services they rendered. But by now they have, as a class, long ceased to render those services. Land¬owners are no longer the pioneers in agricultural science, they do not lead the way in raising the technique of the industry, or in encouraging their tenants to better methods of production. They lost 35 years ago their last semblance of being a necessary part of the machinery of government, when in 1888 the Justices of the Peace were all but abolished, and their powers handed over to the elected county councils. Industrial capitalists do not now bring brains, enterprise or directive ability to industry; these functions are mainly exercised by salaried officials, members of the working classt Far from promoting economic development, the growing tendency is for the controllers of the chief industries to restrict production in order to save themselves from the world shrinkage of markets. As for the so-called " risks " of capital, it is a commonplace for big business when in difficulties to get the State to help them out and take the risk from their shoulders.

The problem of permanent unemployment arises out of this one fact of private ownership. The owners return to the working class as wages an amount which will purchase only part of the total product. The balance cannot be consumed entirely by the owners and must in any event first be sold. The manufacturer of cotton cloth, for instance, might as well be propertyless as to have on his hands a great amount of unsaleable goods. To sell there must be markets, and owing to the rapid industrialisation of the last 50 years there is now relatively little demand for the manufactured products of the advanced nations.

The competition for the markets causes wars, but far from solving these only aggravate the problem. During the artificial prosperity of war time great strides are made in powers of production, and when peace comes the glut is worse than ever. The Right Hon. C. A. McCurdy, M.P., writing in the Daily Chronicle (14th September) pointed out that the steel industry of this country after the war was developed much above the demand of the market for its products. And it is foolish to suppose that trade depression and unemployment can be avoided by reducing wages or by lowering the cost of production in any other way. The enormous wage reductions in Great Britain which followed the Labour leaders' campaign for increased production, certainly did not stem the tide of unemployment. And if it were true that lower prices would cause a trade revival, the capitalists are perfectly free now to lower their prices by cutting into profits. They would do so if this policy would lead to a corresponding increase of sales. But the world economic position is such that no reduction of prices would cause any appreciable increase in demand. In fact in many industries (cotton for instance) this has been clearly realised, and the policy is being followed of deliberate and agreed restriction of output in order to raise prices. Sir Charles Macara stated this explicitly for the cotton trade (Business Organisation, March, 1923). He argues that the loss of foreign markets led to cut-throat competition at home without any material growth in home sales. The producers sold no more by lowering prices and merely sacrificed profits. It has been said that the Capital Levy, by reducing taxation, would enable manufacturers to sell cheaper, and thus would revive trade. The argument is fallacious, because it assumes that capitalists who now do not reduce prices, would do so then; ignoring the fact that they could do so now if they wished, and that they would not be compelled to do so then if they did not wish. They do not reduce now because it does not pay to do so, and unless the world situation as a whole were changed, it would still not pay them to do so after a Capital Levy. Assuming a reduction in taxation occurred, only profits would benefit.

If then, as we say, unemployment is a necessary adjunct of capitalist production, there is only one remedy. The workers must deprive the capitalist class of their ownership and control of the means of production. Once made the common property of society, they can be used for the purpose of satisfying society's needs; not the unstable demands of a market, but the direct human needs of the people.

For the application of this solution only one thing is lacking. The political machinery exists through which the workers can constitutionally express and enforce their will. The knowledge of the productive process in all its branches is contained within the ranks of the working class. But
the majority of the workers still support the capitalist system of society. The Socialist party is doing all it can to undermine that trust in capitalism, and it invites the immediate and active assistance of all workers who recognise the accuracy of our contention, that there is no future for our class except in Socialism.

H., Socialist Standard November 1923

Capitalism in China — Whose Side Are We On?

THE ARTICLE 'The Red Capitalist Class' which appeared in the November 1969 SOCIALIST STANDARD has brought some correspondence from Frank Collins of Wellington, New Zealand — the vice President of the Wellington-Taranaki Footwear Operatives' Union and a member of the pro-Chinese New Zealand Communist Party. Mr. Collins was a member of a New Zealand Communist Party delegation which recently spent five weeks touring China and we publish some of his observations below:

"I found this article very hard to see, though most interesting. But whose side is it on? — it must be one or the other.

I had the experience recently of a five weeks tour through socialist China. I saw nothing of the 'old China' like I once saw as a young seaman. Culturally much had changed — there are no beggars, no prostitutes . . . and no one trying to take you down. Rather I can state that living standards, housing and general conditions throughout the People's Republic of China are on the rise. There is plenty of food, everyone is well dressed and shod by modern Chinese standards. There was no unemployment. I never saw an armed soldier or a policeman, only People's Liberation Armymen who are like the workers.

When in Shanghai I was told that the few 'capitalist roaders' who had held power until 1967 boasted that the Cultural Revolution would fail in this city. There was no evidence that it had. It was the same in Peking and Canton, Changsha and Wuhan.

In six factories I visited I found that all were run by the workers themselves — by elected revolutionary committees of 12, 13, as many as 30, according to the importance or size of the industry.

I was impressed again and again by the relaxed methods in working by the workers — there was no hurry or bustle, no bonus or piece-work schemes in operation (which are the curse of the worker in the capitalist mode of production). As a result production had increased. Meeting with the revolutionary committees was something to remember! They answered questions freely, modestly and free from arrogance.

The worker in the factory receives medical attention for himself and family free of charge. The factory administration cannot sack a worker, whatever the circumstances. Should a worker in a factory wish to leave, he or she would have to apply to do so. Political education in Mao Tse-tung teaching is carried out in the factory's time.

At the hostels where I stayed, this education is carried out by the staff — who, by the way, would be insulted if offered a tip.

With respect to China's socialism, workers whom I spoke to were all of the one mind: that a socialist China was not possible unless Socialism was world wide."

What Mr. Collins says about the 'new' China is interesting — but proves nothing. It is common knowledge that China has changed a great deal since Chiang Kai-shek's days but it should be obvious that one doesn't decide that a society is socialist simply because there are no longer any prostitutes walking in the streets of Shanghai or because living conditions have improved.

Mr. Collins says that of six factories he visited they were all run "by the workers themselves — by elected revolutionary committees". So what? If factories anywhere (in New Zealand, say, or in Britain) fell into the hands of workers' committees tomorrow what would happen? Since workers at the moment all over the world are committed to capitalism, because they have not yet grasped any alternative method of organising society, these factories under 'workers' control' would continue to produce commodities for sale. It would simply be a question of the workers driving themselves, holding their own whips, managing their own exploitation. The factories in China will be run on socialist lines only when the goods they turn out are no longer for selling on the internal and world markets and when the people working in them have no need for wages.

Mr. Collins also adds that all the workers he talked to understood "that a socialist China was not possible unless socialism was world wide." We are glad to hear it — but this merely demonstrates that workers in China are in conflict with Mao Tse-tung's views. For example, Mao was writing in 1945 that Russia was a socialist country (that is, going along with the Stalinist myth of the possibility of 'socialism in one country'):

Russian history has created the Russian system. There they have eliminated the social system of exploitation of man by man and have realised the newest type of democracy, namely the socialist political, economic, and cultural system. ('On Coalition Government, Mao's report to the Seventh Party Congress in 1945).

Then there is the quesiton of 'whose side are we on?' Mr. Collins' attitude to the so-called Cultural Revolution seems to amount to whole-hearted acceptance of the official Peking version — that this upheaval represented a united front of workers, peasants and Maoists struggling against the proverbial 'handful' of 'capitalist roaders'. The Socialist Party of Great Britain does not agree with this. The 'Cultural Revolution' was comprised of two distinct elements. Firstly there was the power struggle between rival factions in the old leadership — Mao Tse-tung acting as the figurehead of one tendency and Liu Shao-chi playing the same role in the other, though doubtless the infighting was infinitely more complicated (and opportunist) than this simple collision of two groups suggests. This gave rise to a situation throughout China where for a time there was no unified poitical power and, as inevitably happens under these circumstances, groups of workers and peasants used the opportunity to push ahead with their own demands. The Socialist Party of Great Britain is not aware of any workers' organisation operating during the Cultural Revolution which was putting forward a completely coherent socialist analysis of China and the world, but there were plenty of examples of workers going much further in their criticism of Chinese state capitalism and in their proposals on democracy than any section of the ruling class was prepared to go. An outstanding case was the policy advocated by the Sheng-wu-lien movement.

The Ninth Party Congress marked something like the consolidation of Maoist control in China — with the leadership in the hands of Mao himself, Lin Piao, the amazingly durable Chou En-lai and the new men in the Standing Committee of the Politburo, Ch'en Po-ta (formerly Mao's personal secretary) and K'ang Sheng (head of the secret police). Now that rival elements in the ruling class had been defeated it was time to smash organised working class opposition to Mao's state capitalist regime. The traditional bogy of "left deviation" (i.e. workers showing some political initiative) was resurrected and the slogans and declarations of the Cultural Revolution period were dropped, evidently because some working men and women were taking them seriously.
"Trust the masses, rely on them and respect their initiative", the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party had written in their Decision Concerning the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution in August 1966. "Some units are controlled by those who have wormed their way into the Party and are taking the capitalist road. Such persons in authority are extremely afraid of being exposed by the masses and therefore seek every possible pretext to suppress the mass movement." But when Chou En-lai came in for criticism, wall posters immediately went up in Peking warning "the adversaries of Chou" again "any manifestation of opposition".

"Party leadership should be good at discovering the Left and developing and strengthening the ranks of the Left; it should firmly rely on the revolutionary Left" had been the Maoist line during the Cultural Revolution, but now the official agitation is against "left extremism"— against the demand of some activists of the Cultural Revolution period who called for the ousting of the entire former leadership. Most spectacular of all has been the volte-face on the question of force. During the Cultural Revolution the official policy was that in order to "correctly handle contradictions among the people", "any method of forcing a minority holding different views to submit is impermissible. The minority should be protected, because sometimes the truth is with the minority. Even if the minority is wrong, they should still be allowed to argue their case and reserve their views." This is in evident contrast to the widely reported accounts of recent mass public executions. According to Tass, for example, nineteen youths were executed at a stadium in Peking on 27 January 1970 — because they were members of a left-wing opposition movement.

China is a capitalist country and, as always under capitalism, shows all the signs of a bitter class struggle in progress. Faced with a choice between the workers and the Maoist representatives of the ruling class, socialists have no hesitation in deciding whose side they are on.

Socialist Standard July 1970

A Debate Between the SPGB and the IS/SWP

party news - Debate with "International Socialism Group"

Edinburgh Branch have sent the following report of a debate on "Which Way Socialism - International Socialism or the Socialist Party of Great Britain?" held in the Freegarderners Hall, Edinburgh, on before an audience of about 70. (The local branch have seen the report and raised no objections to it.)

The chairman was Alan McLean, a journalist.

Speaking on behalf of the SPGB were our Comrades J. Fleming and V. Vanni, from Glasgow Branch, and on behalf of the IS [NB the SWP now - Gray] S. Jeffries and B. Lavery.

Comrade Fleming opened for the SPGB by pointing out that the SPGB was democratically controlled by all its members; that it was opposed to leadership and the idea of an elite or vanguard leading the working class to Socialism. The muddled policies of the IS and other romantic left-wing groups only confused the working class.

S. Jeffries opened for the IS by saying that he agreed with the SPGB's Marxist theory but that there was a failure to link up theory with practice. He went on to quote Engels on the need to build the revolutionary movement within the trade unions. It was stupid to rely on the vote. He preferred the overthrow of the system by non-parliamentary means, and said that Marxists should always be prepared for the revolutionary situation when this overthrow would be possible.

Comrade Vanni replied that revolutionary phrase-mongering did not make a socialist and invited the floor to look at the dismal history of the IS. Using back numbers of the Labour Worker (now Socialist Worker) he drew attention to their lack of socialist understanding giving instances such as IS having urged workers to vote for the Labour Party in the 1964 and 1966 elections instead of fighting the real enemy — capitalism. It was not a Leninist elite that would bring about the revolution but capitalism itself by the contradictions inherent in it. IS far from being a vanguard, were in reality politically backward. They considered the workers too dull to learn from history but instead that they had to be taken through the struggles and learn from strikes. He went into some detail on the bankruptcy of their political theory, such as the permanent arms economy and their belief in the collapse of capitalism. IS did not even understand what Socailism was, as they saw a need for money, banks and the like, saying that instead of being sacked by a boss you would be made redundent by a 'Workers Council'. In reality it all boiled down to a sophisticated state capitalism.

B. Lavery (IS) said the SPGB had made few mistakes, but this was only because they had always stood to one side of the real struggles. The SPGB's ideas were grossly oversimple and he could not see that how, when Labour MP's inevitably became corrupted by parliament, socialist representatives would not also become corrupted. There were not only two classes in society today but many, one of them being the peasant class. Whole areas of the world, Africa, Asia and South America were predominantly peasant. The peasants outnumbered workers on a world wide basis and the SPGB was wrong in not taking this into account. He realised that IS support of the Labour Party was a mistake but at least it had raised the consciousness of some workers.

Then followed a five minute break and a collection.

The first question from the floor was to the IS asking how soon after Socialism was established, money could be done away with.

The reply from IS was: only when we had eventually gone through the transitional stages and reached Communism.

The next question to the platform was asking for a definition of Socialism.

Comrade Fleming answered and first pointed out what the 'revolutionary' demands of the IS were, (again quoting the Socialist Worker) i.e. bringing the British forces back from overseas bases and five days work or five days pay in the car industry. This had nothing to do with Socialism. In contrast the SPGB did not concern itself with petty reforms. The SPGB wanted the whole world, everything in it and on it, to be the common property of all mankind regardless of colour or sex; all people would take according to their needs and give according to their ability.
The IS then said that a Utopian vision was pointless; what was needed to get the workers on your side was a realistic demand.

The next question was about the class structure of society, especially as regards the small shopkeeper. Comrade Vanni pointed out that in modern society there were two basic economic classes, the capitalist class and the working class. Most small shopkeepers were of the working class as they had to work to make a living. The small fringe of people who could not be definitely placed as workers or capitalists was diminishing all the time due to mergers and was relatively unimportant.

B. Lavery (IS) pointed out again that the SPGB was forgetting the peasant class, who were a majority in Africa and Asia. Although small shopkeepers may be workers they usually supported capitalism. You cannot afford to ignore the people who come between capitalist and workers.

The next question regarded the role of parliament in the revolution.

Comrade Vanni started by quoting Engels on parliament and the vote, about universal suffrage being one of the sharpest weapons the working class had. (Introduction to Class Struggles in
France). If Universal suffrage allowed nothing else at least you knew how many workers were politically conscious. This would prevent the likelihood of the revolution coming about when socialists were a minority.

The next question referred to Lenin's role in the Russian revolution.

The IS began by saying that the revolution depended on smashing the state machine. It was crucial that workers should set up Soviets and workers councils. The real power was in the factories and once the workers got control of them they would easily smash the state machine. A lot depended on conditions prevailing e.g. whether sections of the army would desert to fight on the workers' side.

Comrade Fleming said it was a grave mistake to think that the working class was capable of smashing the state machine. It was ludicrous to assume that because workers had occupied factories they would be capable of resisting tanks and bombs. It was essential to make sure the state machine was in the hands of the working class and not to leave it in the control of the capitalist class. He concluded by stressing that parliament had tremendous power.

The next question was about the danger of fascism and what were the two parties doing about it.

Jeffries for the IS said the SPGB were not interested in the real problems facing the working class. Socialists should concern themselves with things such as the incomes policy and productivity deals.

Comrade Fleming replied by saying that capitalism had played its historic role in solving the problem of production. Now that an abundance of wealth was capable of being produced the only meaningful struggle was for the overthrow of capitalism, which would result in the major problems being solved.

The summing up then followed with Jeffries (IS) saying that only the middle class and small businessmen were interested in parliament. The power of the big capitalists was concentrated in the factories, boardrooms and monopolies; they did not bother with parliament. Working within the Labour Party had produced some results such as the political strike against the government's white paper on Trade Unions. The IS had left the Labour Party along with the politically conscious workers. The revolutionary party must always be where the workers were and must try to generalize their struggles. It was essential to fight for reforms while pointing out that capitalism was the real enemy. He concluded by saying that it was essential to fight within the labour movement because that was where the action was.

Comrade Vanni wound up for the SPGB saying that it was essential to take parliament into account as there was no doubt as to the power it had over the state machine. Only romantic barricade revolutionaries could believe in the possibility of smashing the state machine. Their meaningless activities centred round demonstrations outside embassies and other buildings which usually only succeeded in frightening the caretaker out of his wits. The history of the IS showed their lack of revolutionary understanding; they always tackled the effects and never got to the root of the problems. The IS might call the SPGB's vision of future society a dream but it was much preferable to the nightmare of the IS with wages, banks and all the paraphenalia of state capitalism. It was the job of revolutionaries not to reform capitalism but to leave that to the people who try to run capitalism like the so-called Communist Party, Labour Party and
Conservatives. The real task was to organise and agitate amongst your fellow workers for the overthrow of capitalism by the majority of the worlds' population using democratic processes, if available. ''Peacefully if possible, violently if necessary" was the SPGB's viewpoint. Instead of fighting for such reforms as "five days' work or five days' pay," one should remember Marx when he said "away with the conservative motto, a fair days work for a fair days pay and inscribe on your banner the revolutionary watchword ABOLITION OF THE WAGES SYSTEM".

Socialist Standard July 1970

søndag den 24. august 2008

What is to be Done?

This work by Lenin, running to about 60,000 words, was written in 1901-2, at a time when the party led by him (which in 1917 obtained power in Russia and changed its name to Communist Party), was still one of several factions in the Russian social-democratic movement.

It was written immediately after an unsuccessful conference held in Geneva in 1901, called to unite the factions into a single party and was followed by a period of six years in which Lenin's Bolsheviks and the rival Mensheviks struggled for control of the Social-Democratic Labour Party. It ended with the expulsion of the Mensheviks and the formation of two separate parties.

"What is to be Done?" was printed in English in the nineteen thirties (published by Martin Lawrence) and also as part of volume 2 of "Lenin's Selected Works" (published by Lawrence and Wishart). A new translation was published in 1963 by Oxford University Press and a paper-back edition has now been issued by Panther Books (240p. 6s.). The paper-back edition has the advantage of an Index, and an appendix of explanatory notes. It differs from the pre-war edition (apart from the new translation) by the insertion of two passages which were added by Lenin in a later Russian edition and by the omission of a number of passages which the present translators consider would be obscuring rather than elucidating. It is difficult in some instances to understand how they reached this conclusion.

The new edition also has an Introduction by one of the translators, S. V. Utechin, which usefully summarises Lenin's somewhat involved text. Lenin's purpose in "What is to be Done?" was to explain and justify his ideas on organisation, strategy and tactics for the conquest of power against the views of his opponents, particularly the Menshe¬viks. (The terms 'economists' and 'economism' frequently used by Lenin refer to his opponents and their theories). Lenin pointed out that, unlike some earlier controversies between the Russian factions which had been entirely internal to Russia, the quarrel in Russia in 1901 was part of the international dispute in the social-democratic parties, between those who claimed to be adhering to the theories of Marx and the 'Revisionists', led by the German social-democrat Bernstein, who urged that the movement should go over to the 'practical' work of reforming capitalism, by collaborating with democratic capitalist parties and participating in capitalist governments; that it should, in short, abandon revolution and become reformist and gradualist.

In Chapter 1, Lenin argued that the Mensheviks' demand for 'freedom of criticism' was a cover under which they were attacking basic socialist principles. Against this Lenin insisted that a political party, if it is to be effective, must have a sound and clearly defined theoretical basis. He was not impressed by the argument (so familiar in Britain) that it was more important to provide a broad umbrella under which all varieties of 'socialist' thought could keep up a show of being united.

He quoted at the opening of his preface something Lassalle had written to Marx in 1852: —

"Party struggles give a party strength and life . . . the best proof of the weakness of a party is its diffuseness and the blurring of clearly defined borders ... a party becomes strongest by purging itself."

It is interesting to note that Lenin in 1901 shared the mistakenly high opinion
Engels had in 1874 about the German Social Democratic Party. (In the original English edition a lengthy passage from Engels' Preface to "The Peasant War in Germany" was quoted by Lenin to show Engels' views. This passage is one of these left out of the new paper-back edition). Lenin was blind to the fact that the German Party's attempt to combine a socialist objective with a programme of popular immediate demands had inevitably undermined it and paved the way for Revisionism and reformism.

In Chapter II and III Lenin criticised the school of thought which saw the future as a development of socialist theory out of spontaneous explosions of peasant discontent and the struggles of trade unions. He accepted that the unions had become more effective with experience but he argued that the growth of "trade union consciousness" did not produce socialist theory. In their unions, he wrote: —

"the workers did not have, nor was it possible for them to have an awareness of the irreconcilable contradictions of their interests with the whole modern political and social scene, that is, they did not yet possess Social-Democratic consciousness"

According to Lenin this "socioal-democratic consciousness", the theory of Socialism had to come from "the educated representatives of the propertied classes — the intelligentsia". He wrote: —

"The founders of modern scientific Socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged by social status to the bour¬geois intelligentsia"

To illustrate his theme he pointed to the difference between the English trade union official, Robert Knight, who did good work organising the boilermakers for concrete gains on the industrial field, and Wilhelm Liebkneoht, who engaged more in "the revolutionary explanation of the whole of modern society" (the references to Knight are omitted from the paper-back edition).

Lenin was only partly right about this and drew a wrong conclusion. In order to be effective the trade unions had to work with the human material available, which meant that they had to consist of workers who were not (and mostly are not) Socialists and who were not concerned with deeper social questions but primarily with immediate issues of wages and working conditions of the particular group of workers in each union.

These conditions impede and delay the development of a Socialist outlook in the unions as organisations but do not prevent members individually from coming to full class-consciousness. (Two years after Lenin wrote What is to be Done? the Socialist Party of Great Britain Manifesto remarked of the trade unions that "in many cases a grasp of the class antagonisms necessarily arising from such conditions were obtained by the more virile and intelligent of their members").

While it is true that the advantages of education and leisure enabled men such as Marx and Engels to study and formulate in detail a comprehensive theory of Socialism it is not true that it is beyond the capacity of workers independently to move towards the same kind of theoretical comprehension, nor is it beyond the capacity of the working class as a whole to understand the broad outlines of Socialist theory.

Lenin covered himself on this by arguing that when workers do participate in working out Socialist theory they do so "not as workers but as theorists of Socialism". (Footnote on Page 89). He mentioned Proudhon and Weitling; there are many other examples of workers who helped to develop Socialist theory.

The London Communist Club was formed in 1840 by three German workers who had been active in the revolutionary movement and had been expelled from France in 1830 for participating in the Blanquist conspiracy. The three founders of the Club were Karl Schapper, a proof reader, Heinrich Bauer, a shoemaker, and Joseph Moll, a matchmaker.

This club, which had become the centre of revolutionary activity decided at a conference with the German Workingmen's Club of Brussels, in 1847, to invite Marx and Engels to prepare, the Communist Manifesto.

Another example is Karl Pfaender, a journeyman printer, who was prominent in the Communist League before he encountered the views of Marx. This was also true of Frederick Lessner, a tailor. Some of the workingmen active in the Chartist movement had also developed communist views, among them J. F. Bray, believed to have been a journeyman printer, and of course Robert Owen, originally a mill worker.

Incidentally where did Marx and Engels learn their Socialism? Partly, at least, from inside the Chartist Movement and from German journeymen workmen; before then they were mainly concerned with philosophy and anti-religious ideas.

Lenin never accepted the possibility of working-class understanding of Socialism, hence his jibe that if Socialism had to wait for the intellectual development of the people it would have to wait for 500 years.

It was in line with this attitude that he wanted in Russia, not a political party of the working class, but a party "chiefly of persons engaged in revolu¬tionary activities as a profession".

There was to be no democratic control from below. Instead there was to be "full comradely trust among revolutionaries". (Later on, when the "Comrades" were shooting each other they must have remembered this).

The purpose of this organisation was "preparing for, setting the time for, and carrying out the armed insurrection of the whole people".

Lenin, in What is to be Done? used various arguments in support of this policy of insurerction. Elsewhere he quoted something Engels had written in 1851-2 in Germany: Revolution and Counter Revolution. (See "Marxism & Insurrection" written by Lenin in September 1917. Vol. 6 of Selected Works, pages 218, 291 & 581. Lenin attributed this quotation to Marx but it was later shown that Revolution and Counter Revolution had been written by Engels.) Writing there in 1851-2 Engels had discussed "the art of insurrection", (Chapter XVII of Revolution & Counter Revolution), but later on, in 1895, he pointed out how rare it was for insurrection to succeed even in the early days. He argued that success depended on the government armed forces "disintegrating", and went on: —

"The rebellion of the old style street fight behind barricades, which up to 1848 gave the final decision, has become antiquated". (Engels' 1895 Introduction to "The Class Struggles in France 1848-1850")

Engels' estimate of the only conditions under which insurrection could succeed was to be confirmed by Trotsky in his "The Lessons of October 1917", in which he dealt with the way the Communists got power in Russia.

"The first necessity was an army that did not want to fight. The whole course of the revolution would have been changed, if at the moment of the revolu¬tion there had not been a broken and discontented peasant army of many millions . . ." (Labour Publishing Co. edition 1925 Page 167).

S. V. Utechin in his introduction to What is to be Done? argues that Lenin's tactics and theories of organisation were influenced only to a minor degree by "scattered ideas contained in those early writings of Marx" (P.42) and that in the main they derived from the earlier Russian revolutionary movement.

unsigned article, Socialist Standard July 1970