Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Obituary: Ken Smith (2012)

Obituary from the August 2012 issue of the Socialist Standard

We are saddened to have to report the death in June of comrade Ken Smith in Cheltenham at the age of 89. Ken first joined the Socialist Party in London in 1944 after moving in anarchist anti-war circles. He had been conscripted but, in his own words, “was invited to leave the Army after twelve-month’s service and a jail sentence for mutiny.” He worked at various jobs and ran a number of businesses. (He was a pioneer of Sunday trading when it was not yet legal).

Over the years Ken was in and out of the Party for various reasons, including a period when he lived in France. In the 1940s and 1950s he was active in the old Fulham branch. Thirty years later he was in Bristol branch and hosted a number of Party Summer Schools in his place at Stow Hill in Gloucestershire, the part of the country he hailed from.

In retirement, he published two books Free is Cheaper (1988) and The Survival of the Weakest (1994). He also wrote for the Socialist Standard. Free is Cheaper is an attack on the waste of the market system, making the case that a socialist society, in which there would be no need for money, would use up much fewer resources. Its claim in passing that capitalism was not a necessary historical development raised some eyebrows but, then, Ken was anything but conventional. His other, less successful book argued that the agent for the change to socialism would not be, as traditionally assumed, the working-class movement but rather the Green and environmentalist movement.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Easter, 1917: A Survey and a Statement (1917)

From the May 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

Spring still sees the murder machine of war carrying on its ruthless work. The toll of dead and wounded, of maimed and crippled, of the working class of the various belligerent countries only varies in its monotony by its increasing quantity. In other directions changes are rapidly taking place in the methods and constitutions of the different countries that would have seemed quite improbable a short time ago.

Perhaps the most unexpected of the changes has been the revolution in Russia. Information published here is small in quantity and only of such kind and character as the master class choose to let us know, hence caution is necessary before arriving at conclusions based upon such news as we have. One of the most significant features of the business is the speed and unanimity with which the several governments and other supporters of the capitalist system of society have hastened to praise the Russian revolution, and to offer their congratulations and advice —particularly the latter—to the Provisional Government and the Workers’ Committee.

The common theme of all these messages is the need for the more vigorous prosecution on the part of Russia of the war against the Central Powers. So far as can be judged from the news published here, the replies seem generally to be favourable to these promptings, though the repudiation by the Workers’ Committee of the idea of annexation of territory as a result of the war appears to have somewhat staggered the other parties, who are fighting only for liberty, righteousness, democracy, and freedom.

All the information available, both past and present, shows quite clearly that the upheaval in Russia is not a revolution of the working class, clearly seeing its slave position under the old order and setting to work in an organised fashion to emancipate itself. Far from this is the truth, we are sorry to say. It is but another example of the capitalists using the discontent and numbers of the working class in Russia to sweep away the Feudal rules and restrictions so strongly symbolised in the Czar and the Council of Nobles, and to establish a system of government in line with modem capitalist needs and notions.

Hence the welcome given to the revolution, not only by the capitalist governments in their official capacity, and also by their various hangers-on, like Hyndman, Kropotkin, the B.S.P., I.LP.. etc.

According to the report in the “Daily Telegraph” of 18th April. 1917, the Duma gave a great welcome to the decoy ducks of the British Government, Messrs. W. Thorne, J. O’Grady, and W. S. Saunders. These individuals were sent out by the Government as representatives of the “Labour” movement here, although not a single organisation of workers was consulted as to their views on the matter, nor was their choice asked in reference to a representative. The “Labour" organisations have been completely ignored in the matter, and the individuals referred to have been chosen by the Government because of their peculiar fitness to perform the dirty work required to be done.

America’s entry into the human slaughter whirlpool was easier to foresee. Huge factories equipped with expensive plant had been built to meet the Allies' demand for munitions of war. Owing to the increasing number of munition factories built here, and the extension and more complete organisation of those already existing; the home supply of munitions has increased enormously. This has meant a serious reduction in the orders going to America, with the result that vast amounts of invested capital are practically idle and unproductive from the capitalists’ standpoint. Moreover, the openly announced extension of the German submarine campaign against American vessels, as well as against others, means the danger of losing such cargoes as were bring sent over. To keep these factories in America fully employed and thus to continue the vast profits their owners have been reaping, it was necessary to find some market for their wares. The only course open to secure this end was for America to enter into the war and so create the market needed by her own demand for munitions. A more remote, but still very important factor, was the anxiety of the American capitalist class to be represented at the conference that will deal with the settlement of affairs at the end of the war. Their commercial interests, particularly in Asia, might be hampered seriously, or even excluded, from certain areas, unless they were present at the conference with powers equal to those of any of the other parties.

The chatter about defending the rights and liberties of humanity is just the usual cant and humbug which the capitalist class resort to whenever they think fit. It only needs to recall the treatment served out to the natives of the Philippines and, still more significantly, the way the various sections of the working claw were bludgeoned and shot down, and their wives and children starved, when the men were locked out or on strike, to show how much “freedom ” or 'humanity" counts against profits in America, as in every other country where the capitalist system of society exists.

In England both the B S.P. and the I.L P., while pawing resolutions in favour of peace at their annual conferences, remain affiliated to the “Labour” Party, which not only actively supports the war. but whose prominent members join in the scramble for the well-paid political jobs it has brought into existence.

At the I.L.P. Conference the action of Mr. J. Parker in joining the Government was repudiated, but Parker is still allowed to remain a member of the party on the plea of “toleration.” 

The fact that the actions of many other prominent members are quite as open to criticism as Mr. Parker’s may have something to do with this defence of treachery to the working claw. The chairman of this same Conference, Mr. F. W. Jowett, M.P., stated :
   “Whatever in the nature of protective armaments is necessary to keep the land of my birth free from an invading force I would without hesitation provide. For this purpose I should consider the self-governing^ colonies and the United Kingdom as one nation.” (“Labour Leader,” 12.4.1917.) 
This is just the same attitude as was taken up by Lord Roberts, Mr. Hyndman, Mr. Blatchford, and the “Daily Mail.” For “protective” measures, as every military authority agrees, includes attack as well as defence. Then why condemn Parker for joining the “Committee of Protection” called the Government, if Mr. Jowett is prepared to provide “without hesitation” (or with) the armaments, including, of course, the conscription of men, necessary for this “defence”? Let the twisters of the I.LP. answer—if they can.

At the beginning of the war the Socialist Party of Great Britain was the only organisation in the British Isles that stated the Socialist position toward this and all other capitalist wars. Now, in the midst of the upheavals taking place in various directions and the suicidal policy of further nations joining in the strife, we still stand by that position, still fight for the emancipation of the working class from the slavery of capitalism, without any regard for racial or geographical boundaries. At our Annual Conference—the third during the war, and well attended despite the inroads made in our ranks by the master class—no doubt or question as to the correctness or soundness of our attitude was heard. On the contrary, the experience of the period since August 1914 has but added fresh evidence in support of the need for Socialist understanding on the part of the working daw before they can march to their emancipation. Every new order under the Defence of the Realm Act, whether applied to military or civil purposes, whether for obtaining recruits for the Army or shortening the food supply for the family, shows with startling emphasis the immense weapon of control formed by the political machinery. Not until that weapon is torn from the masters' hands by the working class, with an understanding of their object and the organisation to achieve it, will there be any hope of peace on earth with happiness for all.

By our motto, “The World for the Workers,” we still take our stand, and continue to strike the note that has been the key to our actions since the Party was first formed, namely, “The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working claw itself."
Editorial Committee. Socialist Standard

"Neither Shall They Eat." (1917)

From the June 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the time of writing an appeal is being circulated throughout the country by the War Savings Committee on the necessity of still further tightening our belts. It consists of a card containing the King's proclamation on frugal living. It is being distributed by some 1,200 local committees (essential occupations?) and those who sign pledge themselves on their honour to abstain from eating but the barest possible amount of food.

As is to be expected, the appeal is directed chiefly to the working class, forming, as it does, the bulk of the population. The class which produces all the food, needs the food, but too often experiences the greatest difficulty in getting a small portion of it back. After the multitudinous exhortations from Press, platform and pulpit to be frugal and still multiply (the output), it would appear that it really isn't necessary for the workers to eat at all—at least, that is the impression I get, especially after reading the [advertisement] of a certain cocoa firm, which assures us that if we will only drink their cocoa we shall save bread !

Besides, look what valuable time is wasted in merely eating! How much better, then, would it not be if the workers abolished the function of assimilating food, and left it to the unemployed rich, who have far more time in which to consume it.

Every sacrifice in this war brings its reward, we have been told. In this case the "voluntary abstainers" will be granted the privilege of wearing a ribbon badge of royal purple, which signifies that the wearer is entitled to go on (hunger) strike without violating the Defence of the Realm Act.

As the majority of the workers have stood for every imposition thus far, it is easy to believe they will stand for this as well, and I can picture the contemptuous smirk on the face of Lord Stink as he floats along in his six-cylinder, to cast a glance now and again at a be-ribboned figure swanking up the road with a satisfied air an an empty gut.
Tom Sala

The Capitalist View of the Worker (1917)

From the July 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard
   The era of mere exploitation of workpeople as “hands” scrapping and discarding them when worn out, as if they were mere animals or machinery, has had its day and ought to cease. Such procedure is by no means universal, but it is far too prevalent; and the splendid work of engineering firms is too noble a service to the country to be spoilt by any such inhuman relations.—Sir Oliver Lodge, “Daily Chronicle,” 1.2.17. 
   I hope your readers will not doubt my sincerity when I say that I am out for the game and not for the stakes, and while I admit that I find business a very fascinating game I contend that by increasing the means of subsistence of the people I have in the aggregate contributed more to the material happiness and well-being of Welsh colliery workers and their families than have all the miners' leaders combined, . . .’’—Lord Rhondda," Daily Chronicle,” 7.13.16. 
   A system which renders it possible for the wage-earners to obtain too easily the money they require for the maintenance of their normal standard of comfort fails to provide a sufficient incentive. Report of “Health of Munition Workers’ Committee.” 
  The Labour troubles which are occurring in various engineering centres are most regrettable There is no real justification for them, and as the real facts get known we hope that the men’s minds will cool and that they will resume work. . . We strongly appeal to the men who are out to resume work on Monday. Their grievances, in so far as they are real, will be remedied. Fears as to what may happen after the war need not haunt them. Apart altogether from the solemn pledges of the Government, which are embodied in Acts of Parliament, the skilled worker may be easy in his mind: his future an this country is absolutely secure.—” Daily Chronicle," leading article, 13.5.17. 
   One incidental consequence of the state of war has been a considerable decrease in the number of civilian patients, out and in, dependent for treatment on the public hospitals. This decrease is a real decrease, and indicates improved health among the people for whom hospitals exist, and the improvement of health is accounted for by the abundance of food which the military separation allowances have assured to many women and children for the first time. —“Daily Chronicle,” 12.2.17.
The man in the street who may possibly have read the above Press cuttings in their context at the time of their appearance, will probably see no connection between them, nor any purpose that can he served by bringing them together. A brief examination of each item may, however, not only bring out a connection, but even prove instructive.

The kernel of Sir Oliver Lodge's statement is the admission that ’’exploitation” and “scrapping” goes on. He claims that the much boomed welfare movement will do much to remove them. Exploitation, he says, ought to cease. What is his conception of exploitation? Evidently only a portion of the workers are exploited, in his opinion—possibly the worst paid. He pretends not to see the real facts— that the purchase of labour-power only takes place because in its functioning labour-power leaves behind a surplus over the price paid for it, i.e., labour-power is bought so that the person in whom it is contained may be exploited.

Lord Rhondda, on the other hand, does not, presumably, believe that such a thing as exploitation exists at all. He claims that he increases the means of subsistence of the people by allowing the said people to work and produce the means of subsistence. The greater the amount of wealth produced, therefore, in any concern, the greater the “material happiness” of the people, irrespective of the wages paid. The essence of his statement is, however, one that is common to all capitalists — that he increases the world’s wealth by allowing the workers to use the tools of production and het raw materials of nature.

The report of the Health of Munition Workers Committee, together with the extract from the “Daily Chronicle” leading article, are both typical of the attitude of capitalists toward the workers everywhere. According to the first the poverty of the working class is ordained. The workers are born poor that their necessities may compel them to serve the capitalists. To ensure a continuance of their toil they must be kept poor—they must not “obtain too easily the money they require for the maintenance of their normal standard of comfort."

This being the attitude of “capital” toward “labour,” it is not surprising to find the “Daily Chronicle” lecturing the workers for striking “without justification,” hoping “their minds will cool,” aspersing them generally, and finally appealing to them to place confidence in the government that has given them such solemn pledges. “Their position in the country is assured after the war,” they say. Of course it is — the position that has always been theirs— material for exploitation. As such they are necessary to capitalists; without them surplus-value is unobtainable.

The last quotation is an inadvertent but withering commentary on the capitalist system as a whole. A system that admittedly fails to provide adequate sustenance for women and children except when all its resources are concentrated on destruction and slaughter, is self-condemned. With modern machinery and methods wealth can be produced far in excess of the needs of the people; yet because of capitalism, which stamps labour-power as a commodity, the bulk of the workers are unable, in normal times, to obtain the food necessary to maintain themselves in health. And capitalist newspapers cannot help noting the improvement in the health of the workers when war, with its imperative demand for blood and sinew, absorbs the human commodities that are in excess of the peace-time demand.

And now we can link up the quotations and show how they run like a descriptive serial portraying the tragedy of working-class slavery. There is little need to refer to the increased sufferings of the working class due to the war. 'Terrible as these sufferings are, we are reminded by the “Daily Chronicle” that separation allowances have assured to many women and children for the first time abundance of food: an admission that capitalism, in peace time, cannot guarantee to those who produce the wealth of society the necessaries of life. Labour-power before the war was so much in excess of the demand that men were too old at forty. After that age they were scarcely worth exploiting, and the system made no provision for them until they were seventy. Because the war has tipped the beam in the labour market, setting the demand for labour-power above the supply, we are told that exploitation and scrapping have had their day. But if wages rose till they stood at ninety-nine per cent, of the total wealth produced exploitation would not have ceased.

Before the workers can expend their energy on the materials supplied by nature, they must submit to capitalist organisation, discipline, and conditions. The wealth they produce belongs to the capitalists, who permit them to be paid out of it the market value of their labour-power— until circumstances connected with the disposal of the wealth produced on the world market bring about changes in the labour market favourable to the worker in the sale of his commodity. Then the boot is on the other foot. It demoralises the workers to earn their living too easily. Although the prices of necessaries have more than doubled and wages have risen but slightly over peace-time level; though trade-union safeguards against more vicious exploitation have been removed, strikers are told they have no justification for their action.

Acts of Parliament are passed against those workers who attempt to practice the first right proclaimed by capitalists—the right to withhold a commodity until the price demanded is forthcoming. Then, on top of all the insults and slander directed against the workers, they are coolly asked to put their trust in the representatives of the class that has robbed them— robbed them under the plea of freedom of contract — which is itself cancelled and made illegal when it begins to operate in favour of the workers.

The full story of capitalist exploitation, brutality and duplicity will never be told. But the five quotations given at least reveal the true nature of the system, the degrading conditions of the working class and the contempt in which they are held by their rulers. Such mall things as these are but as straws which show the way of the wind, but as straws have their use, so may these trifles have if the workers will only learn.
F. Foan

So-Called Socialist Congresses. (1917)

Editorial from the August 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

The endeavour to prevent Socialist opinion on the war from making itself heard at any international congress continues to be prosecuted with vigorous tenacity. The instruments of the master class now resort to a congress to be held in London as a preliminary to the one proposed for Petrograd or some other Continental city. It is easy enough to see what the game is. The capitalist Government, with one eye on the "pretty kettle of fish” in Russia, are letting I dare not wait on I would in the matter of passports to the congress called by the Russians. They have already made it pretty clear that no Socialist organisation (there is only one in this country) need apply for passports, but they are afraid that the refusal might reach Russian ears and “give furiously to think” those armies of “our gallant ally” who have expressed their opinion of all “war aims” by withdrawing to the limits of their own frontiers.

Of course, this London congress is to be in the main controlled by the pro-capitalist crowd to whom the workers owe so much that it is to be hoped they will repay. This much is already revealed in the fact that the congress has had its chairman selected for it, and the appointed one is none other than that very-good jingo and prosperous capitalist henchman, Mr. Arthur Henderson.

The congress will, doubtless, be expected, under the guidance of this gentleman who, like most of us, has got his living to earn, to arrive at decisions and formulate and pass resolutions which shall convey the impression that Socialist opinion in the Western countries is behind their governments for the prosecution of the war “to a finish.” With a bit of luck, and a bit of clever chairmanship, even the awkward question of passports may be satisfactorily settled by appointing delegates for the later congress— perhaps even Henderson himself, for the “ majority,” and Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, for the "minority.” They are a precious and worthy pair, in whose bands the “war aims” of our masters would be quite safe.

In addition to the above, and perhaps not unconnected with it, there is to take place as we go to Press, a national conference of the British Labour Party to consider the question of representation at the Stockholm Congress. Mr. Bonar Law has expressed both his concern and the Government’s uneasiness in the incautious statement that he hoped the L.P. conference would decide not to send delegates to the congress which, it appears, is to be held at Stockholm. For this blunder he has been called over the coals by the capitalist Press, which complains that it creates a bad impression to even seem to attempt to influence the decision of “Labour.” So again there emerges what our masters are afraid of. It is the first time in our pretty lively recollection that the capitalist Press has thought “Labour” capable of dealing with its affairs without the advice of its masters and pastors and those set in authority over them, much less deprecate the intrusion of a mere outside wish into its councils.

In the background is that grim joke, the Russian defection. Just as the Statesmen of all the Western countries of the Alliance have scalped themselves in their frenzied efforts to demonstrate that the Russian formula “without indemnity or annexation” means the same thing as “reparation, security, the smashing of Prussian militarism, and the working out of national aspirations,” so now they would like it to appear that their refusal of passports fits in entirely with the Russian call to conference. If the London Congress, or the National Labour and Socialist Conference decide not to send representatives, or if, as is likely enough, they come to loggerheads about it, good, from the capitalist point of view. That leaves the Government at one with the “free and enlightened democracy,” and therefore democratic to the very marrow. Bat if delegates must be sent, then there is every argument in favour of those boon travelling companions, Henderson and Macdonald—both advocates of representation—being chosen.

So Ramsay Macdonald, who at one time appeared to-have “backed the wrong horse” in his attitude over the war, but who has probably by that attitude found favour with the Russians, who cannot be acquainted with the whole facts, will have opportunity to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of his paymasters, and to turn even his quasi-opposition to the war to their eventual service. Ready with the limelight, there, the performance is about to commence.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Party Funds (1917)

From the September 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

The recent debate in the House of Lords on the subject of the sale of parliamentary honours is of decided interest to those who are not acquainted with the inner workings of the political machine. Raised in debate by the Marquis of Salisbury, the ensuing discussion brought out some really delightful admissions of corruption in legislative channels. The admissions hardly come as news to seasoned Socialists, but this is one of the first occasions where the subject has been discussed at any length, many previous attempts to raise the matter, especially in the lower house, having signally failed.

The party funds, let it be here stated, are moneys contributed by financiers and rich business people for the purpose of securing recognition in “birthday honours" lists and the like for services rendered or expected. In the course of the discussion, however, mention was made as to the way in which the party funds were expended. Hilaire Belloc, a well-known character in jingo journals, has said that he resigned his seat in the Commons some years back owing to his disgust at party politics and “the party system generally".

In the course of his short career as a member of the Commons Belloc tried hard to raise the question of the expenditure of the party funds by asking for an audit, but needless to say, he failed. In his book The Party System is dealt with at some length, and much that we knew of legislative corruption is proved to the gaping world.

One of the richest morsels of the recent discussion came from Lord Curzon, who said with all the impudence possible:
  The idea of a commercial transaction, of disposing of a peerage like a parcel of goods across a counter, is a horror to all right-thinking men. When such things are spoken of some of us are moving, however, in a world of which we know nothing. I know no foundation for these public rumours.
—“Daily Express," 8.8.17.
His talk of “moving in a world of which we know nothing" may in a sense be true, for has not the great patriot Bottomley just said that “Sir Edward Carson is under the impression that the Rhine is the border of France and Germany” (“Sunday Pictorial,” 12.8.17), and that Mr. Balfour has “never beard of the kingdom of Bohemia” ? (Same source.)

Just previously, however, the noble earl had said:
   . . . that but for the aid of party funds he would have been unable to enter political life, as neither his father nor he at that time was able to afford a parliamentary contest .—Ibid.
From which it will be seen that if he did not know where the party funds came from and why, he was not altogether ignorant of where they went and why.

Evidence that elections are contested by means of such funds was handed out by another noble lord, for listen to this:
   Lord Charnwood said that he had contested several expensive elections and received help from the party funds, and was not in the least ashamed of having received it .—Ibid.
This, therefore, is the way the present-day politician rejoices in the sickening fraud of party politics. The average member of the back benches is merely a pawn in the political game, the real power coming from the front benches and the Ministers. In the matter of choosing the members of this front bench the workers have no part whatever. Small wonder that Ministers themselves were found describing the whole thing as “despicable.”

When will the workers awake to a consciousness of their surroundings and, taking over the political machine in their own interests, sweep the whole tainted system from public life?

The present brief criticism is but a detail. Pages might be written in condemnation of the stinking mass of corruption. I will be content with quoting that clever reflection of Oscar Wilde’s, who, upon the subject of “Critics and Criticism” said: “Surely in order to test the quality of a wine it is not necessary to consume the whole cask.”
B. B. B.

"Murder Will Out" (1917)

From the October 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is curious what strange instruments truth at times will find by which to express itself. This reflection is strengthened by a letter in that “organ of the Democracy,” “Reynolds's Newspaper" (Sept. 3rd.) from “Recruiting Sergeant" Ben Tillett to the members of the Docker’s Union.

This budding field marshal is reported to have said, among other things, in reference to the proposed International Conference:
  We are of the opinion that before any meeting it possible the organised Labour of each belligerent country should first of all define its attitude by democratic vote, that its representatives should be purely Labour representatives,and under no Government patronage, with a view of free expression of opinion.
  That this Conference upholds the rights of democracy to its share of representation in determining peace settlement, and invites the democracies of all the belligerents to co-operate with a view of ending the tragedy of the war.
“General" Tillett it greatly concerned that the labour representatives shall be “purely" labour representatives. This, to start with, knocks out all the “labour" members of the Government, and also all those who, during the period of the war, have assisted the Government—directly or indirectly, officially or unofficially—in the task of roping in the workers for war purposes, including Henderson, Hodge, and of course, Tillett himself.

As for the suggestion that the Conference upholds the “rights of democracy to its share of representation in determining peace settlement," the governing class will allow the workers as much voice in the peace settlement as highwaymen allowed their victims in the matter of their robbery.

But seriously, the desire of the labour “leaders” to take part in the function of cutting up the swag, shows that they either do not understand the slave position of the working class, or that they deliberately misrepresent it. In the first case they are fools, in the second case rogues, and in either case they are of no use to the workers.

It is the mission of the propertyless class— instead of seeking to participate in the division of the spoils—to see to it that there shall be no spoils. To do this they must put an end to the exploitation of the producers by the non-producers, i.e., the capitalists.

It is the duty of the workers to achieve a real peace—a peace guaranteed by the identity of interest of all the members of society in contrast with the “peace" hitherto prevailing. Such a peace can only be obtained by the realisation of the Object of the Socialist Party.

We are further told that “We can only end the war by striking at militarism” (not capitalism). But here comes the gem of the letter: “The genuine working-class movement must take its affairs out of the hands of political adventurers and parasites, take its destinies in both hands, and ask organised Labour in all lands to war against militarism, repression, and annexation, and to be prepared to enforce this should occasion arise."

This is a brilliant example of the devil rebuking sin, for what are Tillett and his colleagues but “political adventurers and parasites," out to lead the workers up a blind alley, where they may be the more easily victimised and exploited? Evidence of this can easily be found in the various issues of this journal, and also in our Manifesto.

An additional instance of this is furnished by Tillett himself in the final sentence of his epistle, in which he advocates the use of the “industrial and economic weapon," ignoring the political weapon.

It is reported in the “Daily Sketch" for September 1st 1917 that the Australian Government had suppressed the I.W.W. in Australia, and imprisoned some of its members. Can a better object lesson in the necessity for political action by the workers be needed ?

In a series of interviews during the T.U.C. Mr. Tillett is reported to have said re Stockholm, “How can there be democracy without a defined policy?” This, from a man of Tillett’s record, is almost Gilbertian, or would be if it were not so tragic.

Is it necessary to recall the famous prayer on Tower Hill, when Tillett hoped that “God" would strike the late food controller dead, and to compare that with his attitude since the war? During this period we find him using his energise to the utmost in the dirty work of getting other people to fight and kill each other, taking on this job under the auspices of a government a prominent member of which was his one-time enemy. Lord Devonport.

Is this Tillett’s idea of a “defined policy” ?

However, such contradictory actions are common to all reformers. Forever chasing will- o'-the-wisps, they are forever getting deeper into the mire of capitalism.

War Fever in America (1917)

From the November 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Socialist" Activity.
Many leading "Socialists” supported the candidature of President Wilson because “he kept os oat of war." Now the same alleged Socialists are supporting him because be has declared war. Ever since the Socialist Party adopted a resolution at their St. Louis Conference (1917) criticising the war these “comrades" have bean resigning.

At the time of writing (September) the members of the Socialist Party of America are more active in other organisations than in their own. Scores of new reform organisations have been formed upon every pretext under the sun.

The “Intellectuals.”
A. M. Simons has long been known as a great "Socialist.” His Socialism (!) recently consisted of advising Congressmen of the necessity of ridding the Socialist Party of all opponents of the war and turning over to the Government inside information concerning party activity. He was expelled from the party. His co-worker in this “Socialist" work was W. R. Gaylord, the Socialist Party candidate for Congress from Wisconsin. The "intellectual" was also expelled.

Many others, however, who have been guilty of equally treacherous work, are allowed to remain in the party or else to resign with a great show of injured innocence.

John Spargo— Patriot!
John Spargo's actions ever since he made his home in America confirm oar position that reformers are dangerous to the movement. He has turned his energies continuously towards helping the enemies of Socialism. At one time slandering Marx, at another time endeavouring to give a religious twist to Socialism, he has latterly filled the Press with jingoism in the name of Socialism. He has now resigned from the Socialist Party because it has criticised the war. Loop inflictions from him fill the columns of the capitalist papers with the usual wails of of such jingoes.

"Socialist” Exports to Russia.
As soon as things looked doubtful for the continuance of the war by Russia the American Government, like their English pattern, proposed sending a Commission of friendly advice to Russia— just as though Russia had not suffered enough without having to endure delegations from the autocrats of the West— Lloyd George and President Wilson.

To lend a political touch to the Commission the President, of course, selected a “Socialist." Needless to say, the chosen one was one of the most notorious jingoes of the party, Charles Edward Russell. He has since been expelled for joining the Commission without the party consent.

Nationalist "Internationalists."
Upton Sindair and his wife rose to fame with his book "The Jungle,” and later by his exhibition of starvation as the road to happiness. Ha has again sought notoriety by resigning from the Socialist Party, attaching a long, wild screech about the necessity of joining the Allies in the fight for "World Democracy.” Our millionaire "comrade” J. G. Phelps Stokes, and his wife Rose Pastor Stokes, have also joined the “struggle for liberty” and resigned from the party.

William English Walling, W. J. Ghent, (ex-Rev.) Geo. D. Herron, Robert R. La Monte, and Allan Benson (Presidential candidate), are among the number of the (in)famous supporters of the war in America.

All Workers Unite—Except Germans!
Most of these “comrades” seized the opportunity of the Russian situation to send a telegram to the Russian Soldiers and Peasants Council, begging the workers of Russia not to make a separate peace. In the name of “World Democracy” and of Western liberty they beseeched them to keep in the fight to smash Germany and free Europe of the honor of future war! Mrs. Jack London consecrated (!) her husband’s memory by signing the reactionary message. Spargo is now calling upon them to form a new party—a “real Socialist party” on the lines of the nationalist body that H. M. Hyndman adorns in England.

Several new papers have sprung into existence to voice the views of each section. Louis M. Boudin, author of “Theoretical System of Karl Marx,” objected to the telegram sent by Victor Berger and Maurice Hillquit to President Wilson at the outbreak of war. This telegram begged the President to place an embargo on all boats in the danger zone.

Boudin claimed this was pro-German. At the St Louis Conference he quarrelled with some of his fellow members of the S.P. Executive, and has been active ever since combatting the views of Hillquit.

One notable recantation he made at the St Louis Conference was that he withdrew his support of national defence at the end of his book on Socialism and War.

"The Class Struggle.”
Boudin and others hove started a new monthly —"The Class Struggle”— to express their aims. In the main it is against the war, but it supports the growing Industrial Unionist movement without explaining its real value. Many of the contributors are also connected with the “New International,” the monthly paper of the Socialist Propaganda League. This is an organisation of the self-styled “left wing” of the Socialist Party of America. Their advanced teaching consists mainly of supporting "direct action” by means of Industrial Unionism. This anti-Socialist propaganda is carried on in conjunction with “The International Socialist Review.

The "Socialist for President.”
Allan Benson of the Socialist Party was boomed as the great anti-war Presidential candidate of the Socialist Party in Nov. 1916. Workingmen throughout America objected to sending a capitalist with Elihu Root’s black record as chairman of the U.S. commission to Russia. Allan Benson showed his revolutionary conceptions by issuing the following to the Press from Yonkers, N.Y., on May 4th:
  If the German submarines are sinking 400,000 tons of shipping a week it doesn’t make any difference whether we send Elihu Root or Billy Sunday to Russia. Elimination of the submarine is the thing of paramount importance, overshadowing everything else. I never regarded Root as a good exponent of democratic principles, nor do I now regard him as such. But I have no sympathy with any opposition to Root which is really more of an attempt to bring about a separate peace between Russia and Germany than it is to prevent Root going. I would infinitely rather have Root go on the commission than have some man go who might work for a separate peace between Russia and Germany.
The Call of the Wild.
One of the carious documents of the war is Upton Sinclair’s resignation statement sent to local Pasadena (California) of the Socialist Party. Below is an interesting extract taken from the “New York Call” (July 18):
  I say that this war must be fought until there has been a thorough and complete democratization of the governments of Germany and Austria, and I say that any agitation for peace which does not include this demand is, whether it realizes it or not, a pro-German agitation. The argument that we have no right to say under what institution the German people shall live seems to me without force. The Germans did not scruple to make war on the French and to set up a republic in that country. They did this because they believed that a republic would be less formidable from a military standpoint; and it is now on the cards that the world shall do the same thing for the Germans, and to the same purpose.
  For these reasons, Comrades, 1 cannot follow you in your declaration that this is "the most unjustifiable war in history,” or in your policy of mass opposition to the draft. But I would not have you think that I have gone over bag and baggage to the capitalist system. I believe that there is a work of enormous importance to be done by the forces of radicalism in the present crisis.
The Blind Leading the Blind.
On May 12th the capitalist Press was ablaze with the long telegram to the German Socialists sent by some of the prominent “Socialist” jingoes. I reproduce below the essentials of the traitorous message:
  The democratic peoples of the world now in league against the kaiser and kaiserism will be compelled to continue their war against Germany and her autocratic allies until the kaiser and kaiserism are overthrown. The German Socialist faction that opposes the Government has already realised that both an early peace and German liberty require that the power of the kaiser should be rigidly and immediately curtailed and they have announced the following program as a core for kaiserism:
   Responsibility of the government to the reichstag, reichstag control of peace and war; equal reichstag election districts; abolition of the upper houses of the states and the empire, as well as equal suffrage in Prussia—now apparently on the way to accomplishment tho not yet promised even “after the war.”
     This program is fundamental and excellent—so excellent, indeed, that it is extremely unlikely to be granted without a protracted series of overwhelming German defeats. It is fully half of what is needed. But it is not enough. The Hohenzollerns must go.
     The rest of the world realises, whether the German people realise or not, that liberty in Germany and peace in the world must remain a sham as long as the Hohenzollerns and their supporters retain any real power.
      But whether Germany prefers a republic or a constitutional monarchy the Hohenzollerns' tradition and prestige must not only be reformed—it must be broken.
     The kaiser himself claims that kaiserism is to be democratized and strengthened in its fight against the other nations. It will be difficult if not impossible, to convince the democracies of the world that a reformed kaiserism is anything else than an effort of the Hohenzollerns to make the German people more willing tools of his foreign policy. Nothing but the overthrow of the autocrat can prove finally to the world that the German people repudiate his past crimes and refuse to have any share in the crimes he is planning for the future.
      There is only one way to bring the war to an early end —the kaiser must go.
Signed to the cable were these names:
Wingfield R. Gaylord, “Socialist” candidate for congress from Milwaukee; Robert Dives La Monte, Socialist author and editor of Connecticut; Charles Edward Russell, Socialist candidate for governor of New York, 1914 ; A. M. Simons, world-renowned Socialist, editor and author; J. G. Phelps Stokes ; Rose Pastor Stokes, author ; William English Walling, author and Henry L. Slobodin, formerly national secretary of the American Socialists’ committee.
An instance of the treachery can be gathered from the following cutting from the daily papers in America of May 4th:
  WASHINGTON, May 4.—German Socialists in the United States who attempt to force or influence a separate peace between Russia and Germany will be dealt with to the full extent of American laws.
  The state department indicated this today following publication of charges by J. G. Phelps Stokes, that some of the German wings of American Socialists are trying to force such a peace.
   Such efforts are considered extremely treasonable acts.
  The new censorship will be applied vigorously to prevent the socialists communicating with the Slav leaders.
An indication of the attitude of the coming party is revealed by the following:
  Expressing Socialism in terms of American life and experience, this new party . . .  will not cling to formulae and let the substance of the Socialist hope pass by unnoticed. . . .  It will make its appeal not to one class alone, but to all men and women of good will and social vision. It will be a party of toilers, not because it sets them apart and panders to them, but because its principle carried into effect must bring their emancipation.—(John Spargo in the “Philadelphia Public Ledger.”)
Thus the English reader will observe that the language and methods of the traitor are curiously similar, whichever hemisphere they belong to. Their dainty stomachs revolt at the idea of the class struggle, while they bawl for butchery by nations.
Adolph Kohn

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Are Socialists Slackers? (1917)

From the December 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard

There ie no object for which the capitalist class might enlist or conscript the Socialist that could, by any conceivable argument, be considered by him to coincide with his interests. The sole aim and object of the Socialist is the establishment of Socialism. It matters little to him, as regards the direction of his revolutionary energy, that he may not live to see its fulfilment: his interest is bound up with his class, and the necessity imposed on that class to prepare itself for the organised and conscious effort that will carry it through the convulsions of social revolution to a complete transformation of Society.

The emancipation of the working class can only mean extinction for the capitalist class. The latter must be deprived of ownership in the means of wealth production. This is the conscious aim of the Socialist, because only by that means can the power of the ruling class be broken. The Socialist objective is to strip the capitalist class of the power they wield to-day— to take from that class that which gives them the power to exploit, and makes of them a separate and ruling class.

Stripped of political power and ownership in the means of wealth production, capitalists and capitalism cease to be, and the working class, having rendered them powerless by capturing the machinery of government, are at once free to organise production and distribution on the basis of common ownership and democratic control.

Such an object is contrary to every capitalist interest. It denies to the capitalist the right of exploitation, the right to govern, the right to live in idleness and luxury: it even denies to capitalists the right of existence as a separate class inside the social organism.

The Socialist is committed to the task of ending capitalist industry. He is convinced by facts, figures, and experience that the capitalist class are parasitic, are useless, pernicious, corrupt, brutal and hypocritical; he is convinced that their affluence is the result of robbery, and that the poverty of his class is due to this robbery.

In the light of this knowledge the Socialist confronts the ruling class as the implacable enemies of his class. There can he no affinity of interests, no compromise, no object in common that can unite him with that class. He is pledged in complete antagonism. Convinced by irrefutable evidence of the truth of his position, he stands shoulder to shoulder with his comrades in the red army, determined to wage the class war to the utter extinction of capitalism.

His slavery is real, ever-present, all-engrossing. Beside it monarchies, markets, nationality and empires are as dust in the balance. He can only wipe out the degradation of it by waging incessant and relentless war on the class that enslave him. And that class, fully conscious of his antagonism, knowing his object, alive to its meaning and significance, must know that the Socialist would not voluntarily give one moment of his time nor one ounce of bis energy, to the fulfilment of any object espoused by them.

To call the Socialist a slacker is therefore absurd and peevish. In pre-war days the capitalist and bis agents failed to conceal their chagrin and annoyance at the steady advance of Socialism. To-day they endeavour to bridle their mortification at the opposition they meet with. For the moment the Socialist is the lesser enemy, and his antagonism is submerged by the hubbub of patriotism raised by labour leaders and self-styled Socialists, who have only adopted the name that they might serve capitalist interests more effectively.

Every capitalist newspaper contains columns of support from prominent Socialists, so-called. Fraternisation—by order of the capitalist—is to be the policy of the Socialist. The capitalist would have the class war suspended while his business war remains undecided. More, he would even conscript the conscious and stalwart enemies of his class and drag them from the noble and glorious fight they are waging, and sacrifice them like pawns on the military chessboard glad to be rid of them, even if their going helped him not at all towards a decisive victory and a firmer grip on the markets of the world.

But it is only the dupes of the false Socialists that are soared by the fraternisation cry. The Socialist, who understood Socialism and meant Socialism, even before the war—years before—declared emphatically that no conceivable circumstances could possibly justify the suspension of the class war. The irreparable injury inflicted upon tho working class by the master class placed all thought of armistice or compromise out of the question. While the robbery of the working class proceeds, while they are enslaved and impoverished, it is the duty—a duty he owes to himself, to his class, and to posterity—of every Socialist to expose every capitalist bait that may tempt the workers, to lay bare the hollowness of all their protestations, the futility of all their reforms, and the baseness and greed that stimulates all their actions. It is the duty of the Socialist to dissect and lay bare before a politically ignorant working class, the capitalist process of exploitation. The working class can only emancipate themselves when educated and organised. Can those who join in the performance of such a task be termed idlers or slackers? The colossal nature of the task answers the question. There is no slackness about the Socialist; others may be drifted and drafted, through sheer apathy, spinelessness, and ignorance, into capitalist enterprises, but he is occupied to the full. The class war is the only war that matters to him, and all the energy left to him after his periods of exploitation, is absorbed in its prosecution.

It is more ridiculous and absurd for the. British capitalist to call the Socialist a slacker than it would be for him to rail at the German capitalist for not assisting in his own defeat. Their present enmity will pass. Their pre-war understanding and international solidarity against the workers of the world will be re-established—some day; but the class war is a war that must be fought to a finish, a war that will increase in bitterness as economic conditions intensify and the ruling class, actuated by the desire to maintain their supremacy, descend to even more infamous and brutal methods of suppression than they employ to-day.

But whatever the tactics or policy of the ruling class, the Socialist will neither be deceived nor intimidated. When they appoint their bourgeois friends and agents — men like Kerensky, Thomas, and Lloyd George—to act as leaders and make pronouncements for the Socialists, they will be stripped of their disguise and exposed as frauds. When all such methods fail to deceive the workers and armed force alone keeps them in subjection, the Socialist will fearlessly reiterate his advice to capture the machinery of government and use the armed forces against the enemies of Socialism.

Those who believe in the righteousness of the allied cause but fail to take their share of the work and danger, slinking into the munition factory or skulking behind jobs of so-called national importance while shouting their loudest for a military triumph to be accomplished by others—those are the slackers. Those who plead before tribunals on any but Socialist grounds, although they plead in accordance with capitalist laws are not only slackers, but humbugs. Christian. Quaker, and humanitarian can all justify their objection to fighting by extracts from their book of superstitions. But the fighting parson can also justify his bloodthirsty attitude from the same source—such is the accommodating character of the Christian religion and the farcical nature of the conscientious objection.

Capitalist politicians, in the past, have said that the working class, unrestrained by capitalist authority, were powerless for anything but destruction and anarchy. But even while it was being said capitalism was drifting helplessly toward the present maelstrom of slaughter and devastation. With full power and authority over the wealth producers, the capitalist class cannot safeguard them against poverty and starvation, although the wealth actually produced by the workers would suffice for a population three times as large. Capitalism failed to protect the workers in peace-time from poverty and anarchy. It has even failed to keep the peace. Its failure is complete a failure for all men to see. Yet still the ruling class pretend to hope—for what ? A solution of the poverty "problem”? No, for that would end their supremacy. They hope that the working class, the bulk of society, will continue to leave them in possession of all the means of wealth production ; that idleness and luxury may still be theirs ; that the right to exploit shall still belong to them, even though their rule is responsible for a continuous glut of wealth side by side with universal poverty, periodically culminating in a welter of blood and an orgy of destruction.

To support such a system is a crime against the working class. To work steadfastly for its abolition is meritorious and sensible. The Socialist, therefore, takes no side in capitalist quarrels, but works consistently for the overthrow of capitalism. He does not believe in the righteousness of any of the belligerents, because the capitalist class of each nation lives by the robbery of his class. His object is to end the chaos and ruin that afflicts society. Let those who bolster up or tolerate such a system compare their actions with his and then ask themselves who are the criminals and slackers of modern society.
F. Foan

Friday, September 15, 2017

Young, homeless, hopeless (1991)

From the January 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

It is easy to pretend that the beggars on the street are not really destitute and desperate. They are crafty kids on the make. They claim to be homeless, hut they are making huge fortunes sitting on their arses conning the vulnerable British public. No, there is no need to beg in Britain. This is a civilised country. It says so in the Sun. It says that beggars are earning £200 a day. They earn more than you do; the undeserving swines. The pretence goes on all the time. It is part of the self-delusion which sustains capitalism. But it is a huge delusion. There are homeless kids in Britain. There are thousands and thousands of them. And they will not go away by pretending that they are not really there.

According to the Independent (1 October), there are now 50.000 workers under the age of 25 in London who are homeless. Nationally, there are over 200,000 homeless youths. Many are housed in temporary hostels or cheap rented accommodation. Others sleep rough. They are the inhabitants of Cardboard City, the squalid emblem of revived Victorian values which can be seen any night of the week on the streets of central London.

Why are the inhabitants of Cardboard City out on the streets? In most cases they have left home under pressure, not by choice. Either it was too expensive for their parents to pay to keep them at home (especially with the notorious poll tax to be paid) or they were forced to leave because of violent or sexual abuse by parents. Capitalism celebrates the family, but for thousands of young workers family life is a story of intense poverty, humiliating parental oppression or hideous incest. They were free to stay at home, just like the mouse is free to snuggle up and keep warm in the cat’s basket.

Under this system the majority of young people are not free to leave the family home (if the family has one) and make a life for themselves. Out in the world the first task is to become a wage slave: to find a boss to exploit you. Some young workers leave home and enter the world of wage slavery; they are the "lucky" ones who are legally robbed and offered enough of a wage to keep themselves in food, clothing and shelter—just enough to leave them poor enough to have to go back and be robbed again the next week.

Most workers under 25 are on the lowest wages. The average worker under 21 earns only 60 percent of the wages of the average 21-35 year-old worker. In 1987 the average 16-17 year-old earned only 39 percent of the average wage. Many such workers, though employed, are too poor to afford a home. They must either rent accommodation (in a market where there is very little cheap rented accommodation, and where landlords are amongst the most unscrupulous and thieving capitalists) or else apply for council housing which is almost never available for the single person.

Those workers who cannot find a job are in a far worse position. If they cannot sell themselves to a boss who can make a profit out of them they are on the scrapheap. According to the 1977 Housing Act. from which the current legal definition of homelessness is derived, there is no legal right for anyone to be given a place to live. If you cannot afford the rent or mortgage for a home you can apply to the local council. but it is more than likely that they will completely ignore you—though some councils have been known to tell young girls who are homeless to go away and get themselves pregnant so as to win a priority place on the housing waiting list. How the profit system cherishes human life!

Thieving landlords
The 1985 Housing act stated that special priority must be given by councils to homeless people who are “vulnerable”. This excludes most homeless youths on the grounds that they have “chosen” to leave home and are therefore "intentionally homeless". Last year Thatcher was asked in the House of Commons what she expected these homeless youths to do: "Stand on your own two feet or go home to mother” was the reply from the Empress of Callousness.

The Housing Act of 1988 rubbed the faces of the young homeless further in the mud, as the Tories made it legal for their friends, the parasitical landlords, to charge "premiums” or “key money" as advance payment before a homeless person can rent a home. This was previously illegal.

So, the prospects for the young homeless worker are grim. The benefits system makes it grimmer still. Before the 1988 social security reforms were introduced it was possible for homeless youths to apply for state money to pay rent in advance. This is now abolished. Under the current law young workers may apply for a so-called "crisis loan”, only if they can prove that (a) they are destitute and (b) they will be able to repay the loan. It does not require genius to see that most claimants will fall down on one or other of the qualifications. In the absence of such a loan the young homeless workers are on their own. No money, no shelter, no hope. They can go on the game if they are female and marketable. So do many of the destitute lads who end up working as rent-boys for assorted vicars and moralising MPs. Or they can beg.

Unemployed, homeless youths have little prospect of finding a job: no address, no job—no wage, no address. They are out in the cold. At best, there is the chance of super-exploited, non-unionised casual labour—for some. The others have no chance.

The dangers of living alone in a strange city are fearful and life-threatening. The temptation to seek easy refuge in drink and drugs is not to be condemned by those whose system has created the problem. Weeks and months on the streets causes physical damage to the bodies of the homeless workers and lasting psychological distress. Even if capitalism was brought to an end tomorrow, this would leave tens of thousands of profoundly emotionally-damaged people whose lives as social rejects has wounded them no less than the casualties of capitalism's wars.

Many workers like to pretend that the homeless young workers do not exist. In helplessness or self-deception, they look the other way when they see them. The pernicious tabloid rags tell lies about these modern paupers, claiming that they are con-merchants on the make. And the law punishes them. The police use the 1824 Vagrancy Act to fine homeless kids who are caught begging. It is a punishable offence to be so poor that you are forced to beg from other poor people.

Pathetically, the reformists seek their limited solutions within the capitalist system. There is a Campaign to End the Vagrancy Act which boasts that it has abolished the Act in Scotland in 1982. Well-meaning people in CHAR (the Campaign for the Homeless and Rootless) plead with the ruling class to offer a few pounds more to the unemployed, to build a few more council slums, to offer jobs for the poorest of the poor. None of this will solve the problem. In fact, if asked, those campaigning for these miserable little reforms will admit that the problem is further from being resolved now than when their campaigns began.

The problem of young workers who are homeless is only an extension of the problem of all workers who are too poor to live as well as society could allow us to live. For the truth is that we could all live in decent comfort and equality if only the madness of the profit system is cast aside and we begin to live without the social barriers of sale and profit.

In a world socialist society of production for need, where all goods and services would be available to all people on the simple basis of free access, the concept of begging would not exist. And children will ask how it was that once there were young men and women sleeping in cardboard boxes on cold and rainy nights, pleading for pennies from passers-by. They will, perhaps, pretend that this could never have been so. It was an illusion, surely, dreamed up by some awful creator of horror fantasies. Such forgetting is for the morrow; for now we have the Earth to take back from the thieves who have stolen it from us.
Steve Coleman

Propaganda from Iraq (1991)

From the February 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard
  Last year we received, via the Iraq Embassy in London, the following circular letter signed "Comrade Latif Nasayyif Jassim, Member of the Regional Leadership of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party. Baghdad. Iraq". Jassim is also the Iraqi Minister of Information.
The Foreign Relations Bureau of the Regional Leadership of the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party is pleased and honoured to extend its warmest greetings of friendship and solidarity, reaffirm its keenness to maintain our relations with you on the basis of our common principles, and present to you herewith a copy of the documented historical and legal paper recently published on the question of the relationship between Kuwait and Iraq.

The paper also offers a political review of the conspiratorial role played by the former Sheiks of Kuwait, in collaboration with the United States of America, in order to destroy the economy of Iraq, undermine its national security and impoverish its people to the benefit of imperialist and zionist interests.

We are confident that these facts will help you to understand the background of the events taking place in the Arab Gulf region and to follow their developments. We stress our categorical rejection of the USNATO invasion of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, along with our conviction of the ability of the Arab Nation to settle Arab problems without foreign intervention and on the basis of the initiative of H.E. President Saddam Hussein announced on 12 August 1990. We also reiterate our resolve to resist the military alliances with which Washington plans to fetter the Arab Nation in order to ensure its absolute hegemony over our oil and free will.

Comrades and Friends,

We call upon you to denounce the inhuman economic boycott and blockade aiming at starving our people, depriving us of our medical needs and our children of their milk.

We also call upon you to expose war mongers and aggressors, and to uphold the peace option as a means to resolve all problems in the Middle East on basis of uniform criteria and principles.

Our reply:
We are fully prepared to denounce all war-mongers in the area: Bush. Mitterrand, the unlamented Thatcher—and His Excellency President Saddam Hussein. As the Gulf Crisis reaches its flashpoint, we of the Socialist Party of Great Britain and our companion parties overseas, constituting the Movement for World Socialism, reaffirm our unequivocal opposition to all the belligerents, be they major powers defending the interests of their capitalists or despotic oil-producing states anxious to extend or maintain their arbitrarily-established frontiers and to raise the price of their oil on the world market.

We wish to make it absolutely clear that we have no “common principles” with the so-called Arab Ba’th “Socialist" Party find that they are no “comrades and friends" of ours. We have never had any relations with them and never will have. No doubt they have mistakenly assumed that we form part of the rag-bag of trotskyist and maoist organisations like the SWP. RCP, WRP. etc, etc which have taken up a pro-Iraq position in the Gulf conflict.

The Arab Ba’th “Socialist” Party is no more socialist than was Hitler's “National Socialist German Workers Party” in whose tradition of aggressive and totalitarian nationalism it is to be placed. As the governing party in Iraq and, under a rival faction, in Syria its record in both countries has been one of oppression, torture, assassination and mass murder. And its doctrine that all Arabs form a single nation with a common interest is mistaken and divisive. Like all cultural and language groups, the Arabs are divided into two classes with antagonistic interests: workers and their exploiters and rulers. Those who are workers form part of the world working class, not of some mythical “Arab Nation".

Regrettably, the notion of a unified Arab nation-state, however illusory, still holds great sway throughout much of the Arab world. It is to this public that Baathist propaganda is addressed, in the hope that they will see Iraq’s tyrant in a Napoleonic role challenging the no longer divine rights of the billionaire oil sheiks to rule and benefit from their statelets set up and protected by the Western powers.

Naturally, as Socialists, we have no sympathy whatsoever for the oil sheiks but, equally, we hold that national entities, actual or envisaged, offer no solution to the problems of the working class majority anywhere in the world.

While the horrors of war are about to be unleashed yet again, we re-iterate even more urgently our call for the World Working Class to take conscious democratic action for the creation of a world without markets, frontiers or classes in which the oil of the Middle East will belong, together with all other productive resources, not to this or that “nation" but to all the people of the world in common—a world free, at last, from the wars that result from the competitive struggle for profits that is built-in to the capitalist system.

Obituary: Fred Kenny (1991)

Obituary from the March 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

Manchester Branch were saddened recently to learn of the death of Comrade Fred Kenny at the comparatively early age of 55. Fred, a building worker, joined the Socialist Party in 1983. and was a keen literature-seller and fly-poster. He had been ill for some time and unable to attend meetings, hut his enthusiasm for socialism never dimmed.

Money-worship (1991)

Book Review from the April 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

Hayek and the Market. By Jim Tomlinson, Pluto Press, £24.95.

Hayek has been a notorious life-long opponent of socialism, and not just of socialism but even of relatively mild reformist and trade union attempts to improve working class conditions within capitalism.

After the publication of his book The Road to Serfdom in 1944 nothing much more was heard of him until he re-emerged in the 1970s to provide intellectual ammunition for the Thatcherite wing of the Tory party. So Tomlinson’s short, readable but expensive book can serve a purpose on the principle of “know thine enemy".

An Austrian by birth. Hayek began his political life as a member of that country’s school of anti-socialism associated with the name of Ludwig Von Mises. Mises argued, that without buying and selling, money and prices it would be impossible to make rational decisions about what to produce and how to produce it; production solely for use and without monetary calculation was thus a mere pipe- dream. This was the argument against socialism. But the Mises school went on to argue that, even if buying and selling, money and prices exist, rational economic decisions would still not be able to be made unless prices were fixed by the free play of market forces. This was the argument against state capitalism and reformism (but which they also, either mistakenly or lyingly, called socialism).

Hayek’s main argument was directed at state capitalism and the concept of the central planning of all economic activity. He convincingly showed that the modern productive system was so complicated that it could not be planned from a single centre and that therefore some decentralization and autonomy for producers was a necessity. He went on to argue, however, that this made the market economically inevitable, an argument that is now accepted not only by open champions of capitalism like Thatcher but also by the likes of Kinnock and Gorbachev.

But this conclusion by no means follows, since why is it impossible to conceive of a system in which groups of producers would be responding not to market demand but to real demand as indicated by what people took under conditions of free access? Why could a system of production solely for use not be able to function on the same sort of self-regulating basis as the market is supposed to?

Hayek, however, ruled out this option in advance, arguing that there were only two choices: either free market capitalism or some form of statism. As he wrote in The Road to Serfdom:
The only alternative to submission to the impersonal and seemingly irrational forces of the market is submission to an equally uncontrollable and therefore arbitrary power of other men.
We deny this. The choice is not between the dictatorship of the market and the dictatorship of some state bureaucracy. A free, socialist society without either the market or the state is possible.
Adam Buick

Rise and Fall of a Pitboy (1991)

From the May 1991 issue of the Socialist Standard

A great future was once forecast for Michael Eaton, not least by himself. He might have made it to the top, to become a recognisable man of power and influence. Instead he is someone dominated by a feeling of “gloom and failure", of no longer being in charge of his life. Once he was a firm supporter of the professed free market principles of the Thatcher governments. a disciple of the creed that hard work, ingenuity and experience were enough to build a fortune. Now he complains bitterly about the government which undermined him. with policies which brought the recession and his own failure and which, he says, could and should have been changed a long time ago.

Eaton’s finest hour was during the coal strike of 1984-5, when he was called in to run the Coal Board’s public relations. His appointment was widely welcomed in those places where the defeat of the miners was seen as an urgent need. Eaton came of a family of colliers and he himself was a pit boy at the age of 15. He took a degree in mining engineering and, as he climbed the managerial ladder, was sent by the Coal Board to the Stanford Business School in California, where they aim to hone their students' techniques of worker exploitation. Only the highest of high flyers get that kind of schooling; at 50—seven years ago—Eaton was in the top flight, the youngest and longest serving Coal Board area director.

When the strike started Eaton was in charge of the mines in North Yorkshire. He soon showed his hand by stopping the pay of mine officials who declined to supervise the few miners who went in to work— a policy which, had it been applied nationally, would have been disastrous for the employers. But the blunder did not dent the Eaton reputation as Mr Fixit, a boss whose direct style and rough-hewn Yorkshire opinions ensured that he was "good at dealing with people”—which really meant cunning at screwing the maximum possible profit out of the labour of others.

When it became clear that Coal Board chairman Ian MacGregor was unable to put the case for making useful and productive workers redundant without threatening the Saatchi brothers with simultaneous heart attacks, Eaton was given the job of trying to repair the Board’s public relations. MacGregor, as we all remember, had been taken on by the government mainly to devitalise the unions, at first in the steel industry and then in the coal mines, and to slash the industries back to a size more in keeping with their profit-making capabilities.

He was very good at that, as Arthur Scargill will agree, and anyone who doubts his abilities need only consider what has happened to the mines since the strike. What MacGregor was not good at was putting himself across as other than someone imported to impose lower standards of poverty on selected groups of workers. His low point came when he appeared in public with his head in a carrier bag; it was never completely clear why he did this but what was clear was that it was conduct unbecoming the holder of a high public office in the midst of a savage struggle with his employees.

Eaton was very different. He had known Scargill, in one way or another, for over 12 years and had played a large part in working out the government’s strategy which eventually beat the miners. But things did not turn out as planned because he clashed with MacGregor on many issues and his presence was resented by the man whose job as communications chief he had taken. His career was more or less stopped in its tracks; he did not. as many people had expected. get to be chairman of the Coal Board and had to be content with the award of the QBE for his services to British capitalism. In 1986 he resigned from the Board and with his family bought a building firm which, as the economy boomed, grew into an employer of nearly 200 workers and a valuation of about £6 million.

So far so good—at least for Eaton as he contemplated this apparent proof of the adage, which the striking miners had regarded with such scepticism, that hard work and initiative must bring success. Whatever Eaton had learned he had missed the fact that we live under a social system of economic rises and falls, a system which will not be controlled by any skill or industriousness and which takes no account of the predictions of the experts. Eaton’s business suddenly collapsed, with debts of about £2½ million and likely, when the receivers have chewed it over, to be left owing about £700,000.

This blow to Eaton’s self-esteem, and to all he believed in, has been worsened by the fact that he and his family may be made homeless by the crash. And he is not happy about it:
What most upset me was when I heard John Major as Chancellor say. "if it isn't hurting it isn’t working". People like him don't appreciate—they can’t appreciate—the abjectness of failure and the consequences on your family.
He seems to have forgotten that during the miners’ strike many miners were describing the effects of the pit closures in similar terms. They talked fearfully about the depression of unemployment, about the stress of getting by on the dole, about the feelings of being worthless when they could not find an employer to exploit their labour. They, like Eaton now, felt out of control of their own lives.

The official response, which Eaton was employed to announce, was that the miners must face economic reality—that if the pits were not profitable they had to be closed, whatever the effect on the miners, because only the profitable deserves to survive. And if the miners argued for changes in government policy to keep the pits open they met the kind of implacable opposition to subsidising the unprofitable which Eaton's company got from the firms it owed money to.

An idiot
There are probably quite a few miners, redundant or still in work, who are gloating at how things have turned out for Eaton. It would be more helpful if there was a better understanding of what happened to the miners, and to Eaton’s business. Capitalism does not operate from sentiment or from any obligation other than to produce wealth—like coal, like houses— for sale and profit. The market where goods are sold is neither predictable nor controllable but when it is booming people like Eaton, and millions of workers, misinterpret this as the results of their own skills and hard work. When it slumps they assume this is the fault of the government or the City or foreign financiers or whatever. Remembering how different he saw things during the strike, Eaton said:
If anyone had suggested then that the country would he in the position it is now, they would have sent you to the Tower as an idiot.
What is the "sanity” of capitalism worth, when a man who once personified it admits the idiots got it right after all?