Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Zollverein (2018)

The Cooking the Books column from the April 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
During the 19th century, even before Germany became a single state in 1871 and was still divided into kingdoms and duchies large and small, there was nevertheless a considerable degree of economic unity. This was achieved through the ‘Zollverein’, under which the states and statelets who joined committed themselves to two things – a common market, or customs-free trade with other member-states, and imposing the same tariff on imports from outside the union.
Zollverein was translated into English as ‘customs union’. When in 1957 six European states – Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg – established what they called the ‘European Economic Community’ it was popularly known as the ‘Common Market’ after the free trade area established behind the common external tariff. The common external tariff had another consequence. It meant that the EEC was a single trading bloc vis-à-vis other states and trading blocs. In 1973 the UK, Ireland and Denmark joined this common market/ customs union and trading bloc.
Some of the EEC member-states envisaged going further, seeing the common market as a step towards economic and monetary, and eventually, political union. This aim was formalised in 1993 when, under the Treaty of Maastricht, the EEC changed its name to ‘European Union’. This also introduced the aim of removing non-tariff barriers to trade within the area such as differing safety, environmental and technical requirements by establishing common standards and regulations and so a frictionless market called ‘the Single Market’ (as a step beyond a merely tariff free ‘common market’).
In the referendum in Britain in June 2016 a 52-48 majority voted ‘leave’ in answer to the question ‘Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ But it wasn’t clear what this meant in practical terms. Did it mean simply leaving the EU and its political institutions but still staying in the customs union (the minimalist interpretation, which would put Britain in the same sort of position as Norway) or leaving the customs union too (the maximalist interpretation)?
Ever since, both the capitalist class and its political representatives have been divided on the issue, with a sizeable majority of actual capitalists in favour of staying in the customs union (they never wanted to leave anyway). Their political representatives are more evenly divided, with ironically the Labour Party being closer to the majority capitalist position than the Tories.
The government itself wants to leave the customs union so that Britain can negotiate trade deals on its own. They believe that they will be able to negotiate better deals for the capitalist class than as part of the EU trading bloc. This remains to be seen as one of the original capitalist reasons for being in the EEC was precisely the calculation that a big trading bloc would have more clout in trade negotiations than going it alone. The first test will be what sort of deal an independent UK will be able to negotiate with a big trading bloc like the 27 remaining EU member-states will still be.
As socialists, who have no concern with what is in the best interest of the capitalist class, we can sit back and watch the show.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Death of an Old Revolutionary Hero by George Bernard Shaw (1905)

Blogger's Note: Yes, I know it could be said that Shaw's short story is a dig against the Impossibilists of his day, but I don't mind; the pages of the Socialist Standard of Shaw's day were always filled with well-aimed kicks against Shaw and his fellow Fabians, and if you can't take it, don't dish it out.
   Though the short story dates from 1905, I found it in a GBS short story collection of which dates from 1934. 
From The Clarion of the 24th March 1905.
So old Joe Budgett of Balwick—Stalwart Joe—is dead at last. The Socialist movement has seldom mourned a more typical thoroughgoer than dear old Joe. We all knew him; for he quarrelled with every one of us at one time or another; and yet is there one who is not sorry to lose him? Those who witnessed that simple funeral at Balwick last Thursday morning, when the remains of a poor workman in a cheap pine coffin were borne through the pelting sleet to their last resting-place on the shoulders of Robert Blatchford and H. M. Hyndman, Sidney Webb and Harold Cox, Jaurès (who had come from Paris expressly to pay this last sad duty to the veteran of the International) and myself, Mr Gerald Balfour and Lord Lansdowne, must have asked themselves what manner of man this was to receive a tribute from persons of such diverse views, and so far removed from him in social position.

Joseph Budgett was a heavily built man; and even at 90—his age when he died—he was no light weight. My heart was heavy as I helped to shoulder the coffin; but I confess that poor Joe seemed heavier still by the time we reached the grave; for we were not trained to the work; and there was a good deal of sugaring among the bearers: Harold, for instance, did nothing but shelter from the sleet under the pall after the first ten yards; Jaurès and Hyndman argued in French instead of attending to their work; Blatchford, after the manner of highly sympathetic literary geniuses with a strong susceptibility to incongruous humor, was so convulsed with suppressed laughter that his quiverings rattled Joe’s bones over the stones without contributing anything to their support; and if it had not been for Webb and myself (Fabians doing the practical work as usual), Joe Budgett would never have got to his grave; for Gerald Balfour and Lord Lansdowne were too far forward to get their shoulders properly under the coffin.

Lord Lansdowne was evidently taken aback to find that there was to be no religious service (Joe having been an uncompromising atheist); but he spoke very feelingly at the graveside. “It was part of the tragedy of this man’s career,” he said, “that in all the seventy years of active political life during which he agitated ceaselessly on behalf of his own class, he never found either in the Liberal party or in the irregular groups which pretended to represent Labor and Socialism, that incorruptible spirit, that stainless purity of principle, that absolute integrity, aloof from all compromising alliances, which his honest character demanded as the sole and sufficient claim to his support. He regarded the Conservative party as an open enemy; but he rightly preferred an open enemy to a false or half-hearted friend; and so, if we never gained his theoretic approval, we at least always had what we valued far more: his practical support.”

It was at this point that the accident of which so much has been made befell Blatchford. The account of it in the evening papers was much exaggerated. It is true that the editor of The Clarion broke down and covered his face with his handkerchief. It is also true that in an attempt to hurry away from the graveside with his eyes full of tears he tripped over the sexton’s spade; but he did not fell into the grave, nor was an impression of the name-plate found on his person afterwards. The capitalist press naturally strives to belittle and make ridiculous the obsequies of a political opponent; but I cannot help thinking that it might have shewn better taste than to choose a funeral for a display of its cockney facetiousness.

The rest of the speaking has been so fully reported in all the Labor papers that I need not give any account of it here, except that Webb’s advice to the Progressive Municipalities to make Free Funerals a plank in the program of Municipal Socialism was quite practical and sincere, and was not, as The Deptford Times asserted, a thinly veiled threat of wholesale political assassination.

A good deal of misunderstanding has been caused by the report that the reason I did not speak was that Mrs Budgett said it would be a mockery for a man who had done his best to kill her husband to make a speech over his grave, and that Joe would turn in his coffin at the sound of my voice. Now it is quite true that Mrs Budgett actually did say this, and that I took no part in the speaking in deference to her wishes. But the three Labor papers who have rebuked Mrs Budgett for making her husband’s funeral the occasion of an attack on the Fabian Society are quite wrong in their interpretation of her remarks. She was not thinking of the Fabian Society at all. The truth is, I once did actually try to kill Joe; and as it happened a good many years ago, and he forgave me handsomely—though Mrs Budgett could never forget it—I may as well do penance now by describing the affair exactly as it happened.

I was quite a young Socialist then; and when I heard one day in spring that old Budgett was passing away whilst the earth was germinating all around, a lump came into my throat: the only one I have ever had. I got used to the news later on, because Joe began dying when he was 75, and never got out of his bed from that time forth except to address a meeting or attend a Socialist Congress. But, as I have just said, I was a young hand then; and an intense desire to see the old revolutionary hero before he returned to dust took hold of me. The end of it was that I found myself a couple of days later at his cottage at Balwick, asking Mrs Budgett whether he was strong enough to see me. She said he was not, as his heart was in such a state that the least excitement or any sudden noise might be fetal. But when she saw how disappointed I was, she added that he was so mortal dull that a little company would perhaps do him good; and so, if I would promise not to talk to him, and be careful not to make any noise, she would let me up for a while. I promised eagerly; and we went up together, she warning me not to trip over the high sills or dash my head against the low lintels of the sturdy old oakframed cottage, and I doing the one at every door in my anxiety to avoid doing the other.

This is perhaps the best place for me to say that Mrs Budgett struck me even then as being extraordinarily devoted to Joe. In fact, I dont think she ventured to regard him as anything so familiar as a husband. She had known both toil and sorrow; for she had had to keep Joe and bring up a family of five by her own exertions. As a boy, Joe had been apprenticed to a bigginwainer, and had served his time and learnt the trade; but when a little thumbed and blackened volume containing Shelley’s Queen Mab and Men of England, and Tom Paine’s Age of Reason, came in his way, and he heard a speech from Orator Hunt, the famous Man in the White Hat, he threw up his bigginwaining and devoted his life to the cause of the people, entrusting all his business affairs to his faithful wife, who never let him know want. In course of time he almost forgot his trade; for I remember on one occasion, when William Morris, in his abrupt way, said to him “And what the devil is a bigginwainer?” Joe was quite at a loss, and could describe it only as a branch of the coopering. The consequence was that Mrs Budgett had to work pretty hard as a laundress; but she did not mind hard work: what weighed on her was the curious fatality that the five children all turned against Joe. They became strong chapelgoers and moneymakers, and made their quarrel with Joe an excuse for doing very little for her, because, they said, they did not want their earnings wasted in encouraging him. So there had been sorrow and strife enough even in that little household.

Joe was sitting up in bed when we entered; and I was struck at once by the lion-like mane of white hair, the firmly closed mouth with its muscles developed by half a century of public speaking, the serene brow, clear ruddy complexion, and keen bold eyes of the veteran. He gave my hand a strong hearty grip, and said, in tones that were still resonant (for he had not then acquired the senile whistling utterance that pierced the ears and hearts of the International Socialist Congress at Amsterdam), “Do I at last see before me that old and tried friend of the working classes, George Bernard Shaw? How are you, George?”

Although I was not then old, and had no other feeling for the working classes than an intense desire to abolish them and replace them by sensible people, Joe’s cordial manner encouraged and set me at ease. He invited me to sit down; and before my trousers had pressed the chair he was deep in a flood of reminiscences.

“I served my apprenticeship to the revolution,” he said, “in the struggle against the Reform Bill of 1832.”

Against it!” I cried.

“Aye, against it,” he said. '“Old as I am, my blood still boils when I think of the way in which a capitalist tailor named Place— one of the half-hearted Radical vermin—worked that infamous conspiracy to enfranchise the middle classes and deny the vote to the working men. I spoke against it on every platform in England. The Duke of Wellington himself said to me that he disapproved of revolutionists in general, but that he wished there were a few more in the country of my kidney. Then came Chartism with its five points to fool the people and keep them from going to the real root of the matter by abolishing kings, priests, and private property. I shewed up its leaders, and had the satisfaction of seeing them all go to prison and come out without a single follower left to them. Then there was Bright and Cobden trailing the red herring of Free Trade across the trail of the emancipation of the working classes. I exposed them and their silly lies about cheap bread; and if I’d been listened to, no Englishman need ever have wanted bread again. Next came those black blots on our statute book, the Factory Acts, which recognized and regulated and legalized the accursed exploitation of the wives and children of the poor in the factory hells. Why, when I took the field against them, the very employers themselves said I was right and bid me God-speed in that campaign. Then came a worse swindle than the Reform Bill of 1832—the ’67 Bill, that gave just a handful of votes to a few workmen to bolster up the lie that Parliament represents the people instead of the vampires that live by plundering them. Didnt I get this scar over my eye from a stone that hit me while I was speaking against that Bill? But it became law for all that; and it emboldened the capitalists so much that they brought in the Education Act to drive all our children into their prisons of schools, and drill them into submission, and teach them to be more efficient slaves to make profits for their bloodsuckers. I spoke against it until I lost my voice for a whole month; and the people were with me too, heart and soul. It ended, as all double-facedness ends, in the Compromise. But thank God—not that I believe in God, but I use the word in a manner of speaking—I never compromised; and I never will. I left the International because it would not support me against the school Bastilles. And it was high time I did; for the International was a rotten compromise itself—half mere Trade- Unionism, and the other half a little private game of a rare old dodger named Marx—not Harry Marks, you know, but Karl— a compromise between a German and a Jew, he was: neither one thing nor the other. Then came the Commune of Paris, that did nothing but get the people of Paris slaughtered like mad dogs, because, as I pointed out at the time, it was too local, and stood for a city instead of for all the world. That put an end to everything for ten years; and then Socialism came up again with all the old mistakes and compromises: the half-hearted Chartist palliatives, the stooping to use the votes that the capitalists had bribed the people with, the pushing middle class men and autocratic swells at the head of it. I soon saw through Hyndman, and went with Morris into the Socialist League. But Morris was just as bad: all he wanted was our pennies to publish his poems—John Bull’s Earthly Paradise and such tosh as that—in The Commonweal. I turned the League against him at last and took The Commonweal from him; and then he shewed his true nature by leaving us without means to pay the rent or publish the paper. Nothing came of it but another Reform Bill in 1885. I said, ‘Does it abolish the registration laws and establish Universal Suffrage?’ ‘No,’ they said. ‘Then have nothing to do with it,' I said; and I spoke against it and agitated against it as I never agitated before. But the spirit of the workers was broken: they submitted to it like sheep. I took to my bed then, and never came out of it until the Dock Strike of 1889.”

“That roused you, did it?” I said, ambiguously; for I was now alive to the danger of jumping to any conclusions as to which side Joe might have taken.

“Could I lie here and see the people led away by a renegade like John Burns?” he exclaimed. “Oh what a degradation that was! what a spectacle of crawling slavery! to see freeborn men begging for sixpence an hour instead of insisting in a voice of thunder on the full product of their labor! That was what Burns’s pretended Socialism came to when he was put to the test. Sixpence an hour! But I expected no more. I saw through him from the first, just as I saw through Francis Place, and Fergus O’Connor, and Bronterre O’Brien, and the hypocritical Christian Socialists, and George Odger and Charles Bradlaugh and Hyndman and Morris and Champion and the German wirepullers, Bebel and Liebknecht. Self-seeking humbugs, talkers and compromisers all of them. None of them thorough, none of them genuine right through. The Dock Strike was nothing but a conspiracy between Cardinal Manning and John Burns to get Manning made Pope and to get Bums into the County Council. From that day I resolved that Burns should be driven from the cause of the people if my tongue and pen could do it. I’m organizing the Socialist opposition to him at Battersea—the genuine real Socialist opposition—and we’ll have him out at the next election, when the Albert Palace is replaced by flats full of Conservative voters.”

“You are working for the Conservatives, then?”

“Young man: I have opposed the Tories all my life; but theres one thing I hate more than a Tory; and thats a traitor.”

“Are all the Labor and Socialist leaders traitors?”

“Traitors! What puts such a thought into your mind? There are hundreds of true men who ought to be leaders, and will be when the people come to their senses. But the men that put themselves forward as leaders—that organize strikes and tout for votes and win elections are all traitors and self-seekers, every man of them. It’s the so-called unsuccessful men—the martyrs of the movement—the men that stand up for the people against everybody—mark that, against everybody: those are the real men, the salt of the people’s cause, the glory of the revolution."

He paused to take a sip of Liebig from a cup his wife had brought him when we came in. He did it just as a speaker who is getting hoarse takes a sip of water on the platform. As his historical reminiscences had by this time come pretty well up to date, I thought he was done; but he suddenly switched off from history to moral exhortation.

“Look at me!” he said, “going on for eighty, and as sound as a bell, except for this complaint in my heart, brought on by its bleeding for the people and by overwork on the platform. Thats because I am a teetotaler, young man. And why am I a teetotaler? Because the cause of the people has been drink to me and stimulant to me and courage and warmth to me. Have I ever taken money for my principles? Never. The exploiting classes have offered over and over again to finance me. But I have never accepted a penny.”

“Except from your wife,” I remarked, thoughtlessly.

For a moment he was completely taken aback. Then he said, with indescribable majesty, “Never. It is a foul lie; and whoever told it to you lies in his black throat. Prove to me that my wife has ever accepted a farthing from any oppressor of the people— that she has ever possessed a coin that was not earned by her own honest toil—and I will never look on her face again.”

“Thats not precisely what I mean,” I said, rather lamely; for I perceived that he had missed my point; and I rather doubted whether an explanation would mend matters. But he went on impetuously, being constitutionally a bad listener.

“My wife is a crown of rubies to me,” he said, with feeling. “But I have always kept her out of the rough and tumble of political strife. It has broken me up; but at least I have shielded her from it.” Here he wiped away a tear. “And when I think,” he went on, “that there are men who are at this present moment plotting to give the vote to middle class women and deny it to my wife, I feel that I could rise from my bed like a young man and fight with my last breath against it as I did against the abomination of 1832.”

“All or nothing is your principle," I said.

“Thats it,” he responded in a ringing voice, aglow with enthusiasm. “All or nothing.”

“Well,” I said, “as it is quite certain that you wont get All, you are practically the propagandist of Nothing: a Nihilist, in fact.”

“I am not ashamed of the word Nihilist,” he said. “The Nihilists are my brothers.”

“To change the subject,” I said: “is it really true that your heart is so bad that a sudden noise would kill you?”

“It is,” he said proudly. “You could snuff me out like a candle by knocking that cup of Liebig’s Extract over on to the floor.” 

I looked round. A grandfather’s clock ticked peacefully in the silence; for Joe, having reminded himself of the Liebig, was now drinking it; and even he could not talk and drink at the same time.

“Mr Budgett,” I said, rising, “I am not a Nihilist; and it is perfectly clear to me that nothing will ever be done as long as you are about. So here goes!” And I pulled the grandfather’s clock right over.

It fell with an appalling crash, striking as it fell until its weights thundered on the boards. Terrified at my own deed, I looked fearfully at the dying man. But Joe did not die. Instead, he sprang out of bed and said, “What the — — are you doing?”

I thought it best, on the whole, to drop from the window and make for the railway station. Next day I sent him £2—all I could spare—to pay for repairing the clock. But he sent it back to me with a letter of some thirty pages to say that he could do without a clock, but not without his self-respect.

That was why Mrs Budgett objected to my speaking at the funeral.

I confess, now that advancing years have mellowed my character, that I was wrong in trying to kill Joe. One must live and let live. He bore no malice whatever for the incident, and used to refer to it with the utmost good humor, always ending up with the assurance that he did not take me seriously, and knew that my real object was simply to give him a hearty laugh.

His end was undoubtedly hastened by his efforts to turn the Labor movement against the new Bill for the Enfranchisement of Women; and he was proud to number a Countess among his converts. He almost lost his temper with me because I said that I should support any Bill that would make a start by giving a parliamentary vote or seat to even one woman, though the property qualification were a million sterling. “All or nothing!" he said, with a fervor worthy of Ibsen's Brand.

The governing classes keep the mass of people enslaved by taking advantage of their sloth, their stupidity, their ignorance, their poverty, their narrowness, their superstition, and their vices. They could not enslave Joe by such means. He was energetic and clever; he was as well read as most cabinet ministers; he was sufficiently fed, clothed and housed (by his wife); he was a universalist in his breadth of view; he was an atheist; and he had practically no vices. And yet the governing classes tied Joe up with the principles of absolute morality tighter than they could tie a hooligan with a set of handcuffs.

After all, the principles of absolute morality were made for this very purpose; so Joe was hardly to be blamed.
George Bernard Shaw


50 Years Ago: Machinery (1962)

The 50 Years Ago column from the January 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Machinery, says the Liberal, has deepened the working man's chest and increased his stature by shortening the hours of work. When he says ‘shortened hours' we promptly ask ‘compared with when?’ and as promptly comes the answer: 'In comparison with the hours worked in the hungry forties’, or ‘when my grandfather was a lad’.

To compare present hours of work with the length of the working day in that transitional period when capitalism was in its birth throes (with the aim of extolling the difference), is an inane procedure.

Thorold Rogers has shown the comparative leisure of the workers under the system of ‘small production'—with that we need not deal. If we take our case at its worst and compare hours of work today with the hours toiled in the early years of capitalism, we find justification for our case. We find that side by side with the shorter working day has come a quicker pace, a more rapid rate of production, a faster consumption of working-class brain, nerve and muscle. Whether it be in the sphere of production—at lathe or loom, or in distribution on train, tram, or taxi, the working pace is fierce.

Even if we examine types of work where steam-power cannot be applied —office executive and the like—we find mechanical appliances such as calculating machines, typewriters, dictating appliances, etc., adding to the intensity of the workers grind.
From the Socialist Standard, January 1912.

Crisis in the aircraft industry (1965)

Editorial from the March 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

The aircraft industry is giving British capitalism perhaps its biggest headache for a long time. Once was when it enjoyed a leading reputation, both in the civil and military spheres, but over the past few years it has been hit by a series of crises. In a severely competitive market the gap has been rapidly narrowed until today it faces the threat of almost total eclipse by its American rivals.

This fact, accepted by government and opposition alike, stood out starkly in the Commons debate on February 9th. It was matched in its starkness only by the government’s avowed intention to cut its already heavy losses, pare the industry down by several thousand workers, and divert skilled manpower to other and more profitable ventures, particularly in the export field. "We are determined not to leave skilled labour lying idle,” said Aviation Minister Jenkins during the debate, although only time will tell just how far this intention is realised.

The present structure of the aircraft industry is something which was largely imposed on it by the capitalist class as a whole. Large amalgamations were pushed through at the behest of previous governments in return for a guarantee of a certain amount of support and protection. Whatever the intentions were, however, it seems they did not prevent the industry floundering, and the days are gone when our rulers are prepared to throw more large sums of good money after bad. There will be a link-up with France, Holland and U.S.A. in the development of future projects, obviously a cost-saving move among other things. 

As usual in any upheaval of this kind, workers are the ones to suffer, and already thousands of redundancies have been declared. Men who entered the industry as youngsters, when it was the up-and-coming thing, are having to face the prospect of retraining for other employment, with the possibility of lower wages and conditions. Most of them have been engaged on military aircraft of one sort or another, and it is one of the bitter ironies of the situation to see them demonstrating in favour of these instruments of death and destruction in a quite understandable attempt to save their jobs. Clearly, one worker’s livelihood is another one’s obliteration—one more example how capitalism pits workers remorselessly against their brothers elsewhere.

But protest as they may, there was no sign that the government would relent. After all, the capitalist class is not in business for the benefit of its workers, and if better value for money can be had by pulling out of one industry and investing in another, then this is what will be done, unemployment or no unemployment. "Value for money,” was a battle cry of the Labour Party for some time before their recent return to power, and there is every sign that they will be just as ruthless as anyone else in their effort to attain it. Already they have said that the firm of Short Bros, must go, and future contracts with other companies may carry much stiffer "fixed price” provisions—something which will give employers an added incentive to resist wage claims.

An interesting comment on the essential similarity in the ideas of all capitalist parties was given on February 10th by the Hawker Siddeley chairman Sir Roy Dobson. In a slashing attack on the Tory party, he said they “would have liked to have done” what the Labour government was now doing, but instead “just waffled” when they were in power. But apart from this anyway, the Commons debate was notable for the closeness of views on both sides. And not one whisper of dissent was heard when Mr. Jenkins uttered a cardinal fact of capitalist life:—“We can afford to make products only if others buy them.” This is what is really behind the wrangles over the aircraft industry today, the textiles industry yesterday, and who knows what tomorrow. And workers will always get hurt in the process, for capitalism is a very hurtful system.

Rising Star? Do We Need Another One? (2018)

The Greasy Pole column from the March 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
The relationship between Ministers of the Crown and the civil servants who are employed to carry out their wishes has often been a matter of agonising delicacy. For example there was a minister in a Blair government who was faced with a crisis in the NHS while one of his top officials had been hiding about a thousand unanswered parliamentary questions while coming into the office at weekends to falsify the figures on the matter. As one minister put it: ‘Everyone thinks they are white knights and that we are the villains whereas the truth, which we all know, is that many officials are useless’. But then there was the Labour minister who was more concerned about the size and temperature of his morning coffee than about any of the vital matters preoccupying his office. Distinct from this, at present there is the Home Office, absorbed in such sensitive issues as crime and immigration, which manages to work in a more relaxed and considerate style. In charge there is the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, who comes from a family of wealthy financiers, which did not prevent her in 2008 winning a poetry prize in her constituency local paper which included the lines: ‘Loving you is so exciting. But why dear heart, did you not mention, What we’ll do for contraception?’ Rudd was recently said to be in a relationship with Kwasi Kwarteng, the Tory MP for Spelthorne and Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but this was not officially assessed as damaging in the same way as the recent cases of what became known as ‘inappropriate behaviour’ among politicians.
Quiz
So far there is no record of any poetry being written about Kwarteng. His parents were students who came from Ghana in the 1960s and he was born in London. When he was eight he was placed in an expensive private boarding school – which he said he ‘loved’– and from which he blossomed into a King’s Scholar at that emphatically costly breeding place for the aristocracy, Eton College. A fellow student there described the place as ‘a competitive intellectual hothouse…but everyone said that probably the greatest brain of the lot was the guy with that extraordinary name’. It became something of their history at Eton that when Kwarteng was later being interviewed for a place at Trinity College, Cambridge, he was so graciously confident of the outcome that he could reassure the nervous young tutor not to worry about his clumsy handling of the matter because ‘you did fine sir…’A memory which must have endured for him – for example when he was a member of the Trinity College team in the TV programme University Challenge and he was broadcast referring to a memory lapse by blurting out ‘Oh fuck, I’ve forgotten!’. Which provoked a flood of complaints, typically in a piece called Rudiversity Challenge in, of all places, Page Three of The Sun. The entire episode took on a rather different reputation when the Trinity College team ended up as National Quiz Champions which contributed to Kwarteng sprouting a reputation as an exceedingly brainy performer but also as an extremely charming one. He began to work as what is known as a financial analyst which, as the various crises typical of capitalism flooded around and across the world, provided hopefuls such as Kwarteng with opportunities to venture into journalism and authorship.
Dry
A succession of books and other material were published in his name or as a contributor. This was all very satisfying for him except that his views on what was happening, and why, did not reveal any original thinking about remedies or even original versions of the problems. In Thatcher’s Trial: Six Months That Defined A Leader he varies between denouncing her government’s 1981 Budget as designed 'to produce three million unemployed’ and lauding her as a leader who ‘. . . fought passionately for absolute values in a world which seemed diffident and uncertain of purpose’. One of the sour fruits of his co-authorship was a diagnosis that ‘Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world’. As an enthusiastic economic ‘dry’ in his tome Gridlock Britain he defines himself (as a member of the Transport Select Committee) with a belief in the effects of working markets, and demands road pricing as against tax-funded free roads which he rejects as part of his version of a moribund ‘socialism’.
Spelthorne
So it was that Kwarteng came to explore the possibilities of using his talents in party politics, by offering himself as an electable representative of some parliamentary constituency. The first of these was Brent East. This was an ethnically diverse, busy area of London which was held stolidly from 1974 to 1987 by Labour’s Reg Freeson and then, when Freeson died, by the unsettling Ken Livingstone. The next Member in Brent – Paul Daisley – died in 2003 which resulted in a by-election from which there emerged as winner the Liberal Democrat Sarah Teather, who was able to benefit from the stress and anger of the reaction to the attack on Iraq, which continues to roll on. Kwarteng was third at the bottom of the poll, which did not deter him from turning his attention elsewhere, to the constituency of Spelthorne which lies near the airport at Heathrow. Additionally attractive to him was the fact that in the 2016 Referendum Spelthorne was emphatically in favour of Brexit.
Obama
He was selected to stand for the Conservative Party and won with a majority of 10,019, which was increased with each successive election until it reached 13,425 in 2017. By then it seemed appropriate to the Tories that they might recognise the talents of this persistent wrangler and Kwarteng was made the PPS for the nationally prominent (but, unlike Kwarteng, anti-Brexit) Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, where his practised skills in trying to ignore the inhuman ravages of capitalism were busily engaged. Meanwhile the Tories seem to be relieved that his relationship with Amber Rudd should be accepted as ‘workplace’ – which at least distinguishes it from those previous embarrassments among their parliamentary colleagues. Although what the burdened Honourable Home Secretary thinks about him being known as the ‘British Obama’ has not been revealed. The government of capitalism comes in many shapes and sizes but with the unvarying object of protecting the interests of their ruling class through imposing and managing the repression and exploitation of the subject class. 
Ivan

Trade War (2018)

Editorial from the April 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard

Donald Trump fought the Presidential campaign pledging to put ‘America First’. Soon after taking office, he pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) trade deal and plans to cancel the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade deal between Europe and the US.
On 8 March, Donald Trump appeared to fulfil an election promise to steel workers by slapping a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminium. Canada and Mexico are, for the time being, exempt. However, if during the renegotiation of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), they fail to make the concessions that Trump wants, then they will also be hit with these tariffs. Trump justified these measures on the grounds of national security and so-called ‘unfair’ trading by America's competitors. Other countries have threatened to retaliate.
These measures also face opposition within the US Republican Party and some US capitalist interests, such as the aviation sector and car manufacturers, which risk having their profits squeezed by the increased cost of steel. Trump's economic adviser, Gary Cohn, an opponent of these measures, has quit.
The general view seems to be that a maverick president has defied the natural order of free trade that has taken place between nations for decades. However, trade protectionism is nothing new in the history of capitalism. In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the new American nation state used tariffs to protect its nascent industries from foreign competition. In 1930 the US government introduced the Smoot-Hawley bill, which raised tariffs over a wide range of imports. After the Second World War, when the US emerged as the dominant global power, it supported a liberal trading regime which opened up global markets to US capitalists. However, since the 1980s, its enthusiasm for free trade waned as its economic supremacy was challenged by emerging powers like Japan. Both Ronald Reagan and George W Bush attempted to raise tariffs.
Britain and the European Union have also employed trade protectionist measures, such as subsidising their export industries. Britain, like the US, was in favour of free trade when it was the top economic power in the nineteenth century. However, in the early twentieth century, when facing increasing competition from rivals such as Germany and the US, it sought a more protectionist trade policy.
Donald Trump's move has to be seen against the backdrop of a global overproduction of steel and the more difficult world trading conditions since the 2008 financial crisis. He is attempting to reassert US capitalism's dominance over world markets and check the rise of Chinese capitalism and keep the European Union in its place. It has little to do with the wellbeing of the American working class. Trade wars are usually cloaked in the language of protecting workers' jobs. Workers should not be fooled by this.
Despite the attempts by global organisations like the World Trading Organisation to regulate world trade, capitalist nations will invariably use their economic clout to gain advantage over their rivals, and on many occasions, back this up with the threat and even use of military force. In this light, to talk of ‘fair’ or ‘unfair’ trading practices is a nonsense.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Karl Marx's Legacy (2018)

Karl Marx in 1859.
From the March 2018 issue of the Socialist Standard
5th May 2018 marks the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx in Trier, in what was then Prussia and is now Germany. Marx went on to become a major figure in the founding of the modern socialist movement and many will be marking the event with reverence. But so what, you might ask? Surely Marx isn’t relevant today? Why do socialists today want to read and talk about the ideas of a nineteenth-century philosopher?
Marx has two main legacies for socialists today. Firstly, Marx helped us to understand the economics of capitalism by explaining that it is a system based on the exploitation of workers by capitalists that occurs during the process of the production of commodities, as opposed to the point of sale. Secondly, he developed a view of history that placed people and their social and economic development at its centre and not religion or any other notion of an ideal society that floats apart from real life. Today this is more or less how most people think of and understand history and the world around them, although many people simultaneously hold religious views and some argue for secular, ‘postmodern’, diluted versions of idealism.
Critique of political economy
Marx’s major work, Capital, was a critique of economic thought up to that time (1867). The classical political economists, such as Adam Smith and David Ricardo (who Marx regarded as the last of the scientific investigators of capitalist political economy) had argued that labour was the source of value. Following on from this conclusion, critics of capitalist competition like John Gray, Thomas Hodgskin, William Thompson, and John Francis Bray reasoned that what was wrong with capitalism was that an unequal act of exchange was taking place outside of the process of production – workers were not receiving the full value of their labour. From the working class perspective this infant labour theory of value was a great stride forward in understanding the relation of labour to capital. The claim that labour was the source of value and that workers therefore had the right to the value that they created was a bold step towards explaining why it was that capitalists, who did not work and so created no value, were getting richer; whilst those who laboured, and so created value, were getting poorer (often absolutely, always relatively). From the capitalist standpoint this was the Achilles heel of classical political economy, and the reason why it was abandoned in favour of a view of economics as the study of the competition of choices for the allocation of scarce resources, which is still the basis of modern mainstream economics.
The enduring legacy of Karl Marx was that he developed the arguments of the classical political economists to their conclusion (which they themselves had avoided) and was able to develop a withering criticism of capitalism. Classical political economy had been unable to explain profit convincingly. After all, how could profit be accounted for if the value of a commodity was the labour embodied in it and labour had been sold at its value by the worker? This was why the early critics of capitalism placed so much emphasis on the idea that a portion of the value of their labour was being corruptly usurped by capitalists, merchants, bankers and the like who were taking over from the landed aristocracy and the ‘old corruption’ of court politics to become the wealthiest members of an increasingly industrial society.
Marx argued that the classical political economists had missed a crucial link in understanding how capitalism works and what profit actually is. Rather than workers being paid for their labour, Marx argued, they were in fact paid for their labour-power. The value of this labour-power varies according to (1) the cost of reproducing labour-power (in other words the cost of feeding and housing workers and their dependants) and (2) the amount of labour embodied in the labour-power of a given worker (in other words the value of a doctor’s labour is more than an unskilled machinist because the many hours of education and training received by the doctor are bound up in their labour, unlike the machinist who performs only simple labour). The crucial point is that the difference between the value of what workers produce and what they are paid in exchange for their labour-power is the source of surplus-value, otherwise known as profit. This was the source of increasing capitalist wealth and not unequal exchange. Workers are paid an equivalent; not for their labour, the product of which is owned by the capitalist, but for their labour-power which they sell at a price around its value (sometimes more sometimes less depending on the given state of the labour market in a given branch of industry).
Materialist Conception of History
Marx’s view on history can be gathered from different parts of other critiques and historical works he put together. They can be summed up by the first line of the Communist Manifesto (1848) ‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles’ and in the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859):
  “In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”
An awful lot has been written about what became known as ‘historical materialism’, particularly in the second half of the twentieth century when it became fashionable among Marxist academics. It is not determinist as it critics insist – it does not suggest that change happens automatically, that ideas mechanically reflect technological and economic change, after all these changes often require new ideas and political interventions. Marx is merely arguing a rather simple point, that ultimately the material world provides the limits of our perception. Our thoughts must always relate to the real world, to the necessity for food and shelter and social production and to current social and economic relationships and the struggles associated with them. Although thought obviously feeds back into how we perceive the world and therefore act, thought itself does not exist independently of material reality.  Marxian socialists accept the importance of ideas in creating social change but reject the notion that ideas can come from outside experience, as a vision, and transcend it to establish a new social reality.
Marx was challenging the religious views prevalent in the nineteenth century that the material world was shaped by our ideas, which ultimately were derived from God. Marx countered this by asserting that, on the contrary, our ideas emerge from our experience of the material world. These ideas then feed back into our experience by acting to re-shape it through social and political struggle. Limits are placed on the actions of individuals by their social and economic context – so changing the social and economic basis of society is therefore, for Marx, the fundamental point of political action. This is what industrial capitalists in the nineteenth century were doing to displace landed capitalists as the dominant power amongst their class – in the process creating a new theory of society (modern economics) to further propel it and justify it. It is also, crucially, what Marx thought that socialists needed to do to create a new society. Ideas without a change in the economic basis of society could not result in a socialist society. This economic change is not pre-determined and requires class conscious political action to make it a reality – capitalism would not collapse on its own or evolve itself into a new form of society.
For Marx, capitalist production involved the production of commodities for exchange, wages, and profit. Its opposite was a society with rational, planned production for use, with co-operative labour under conditions of free association. In other words, there would be no need for exchange in socialism and therefore no reason for money to exist – given that its reason for existence was as a facilitator of exchange. But socialist revolution won’t happen by itself – we need to make it happen.
Among the dead-end political movements that followed in the century after Marx’s death in 1883 were Labour governments and nationalised industries and the Bolshevik revolution and other so-called ‘Marxist’ regimes around the world. These political projects attempted to create a fairer world, which they called ‘socialism’. Marx – read in his own words – helps us to understand that they could not deliver the societies they sought because they left the capitalist process of production intact. The lesson for the supporters of Corbyn’s Labour party should be obvious.
Colin Skelly

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Kreuger: A Product of His Time. (1932)

From the May 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

When enumerating the virtues of the present order of society and the difficulties that bar the road to social change in the direction of common ownership, one of the essential points brought forward by our opponents is the part played by the so-called "captain of industry” to-day. It is urged that production on a large scale is impossible without them, that their energy and enterprise depends upon self-interest which signifies the pursuit of wealth and power, and that such incentives being absent from the proposed new social order captains of industry will not develop and large scale production will therefore languish.

Events constantly make plain the weakness of this position, but its supporters continue their advocacy unabashed, partly from interested motives and partly from the sheer incapacity to see and understand the facts in front of them.

One of the periodical sensational cases has now come up for judgment, which again shatters this great man theory and at the same time lays bare the rottenness at the basis of the present social system and the misery this rottenness causes.

A bright star of big industry, Ivar Kreuger, the "Swedish Match King,” shot himself in Paris recently, and when the news was first broadcast the Press united in eulogising him and his achievements; publishing sketches of his life to show how by industry and ability he had built up from a small and insignificant beginning the huge Kreuger organisation that stretched its tentacles across national boundaries, financed governments and brought the whole world into its web. There is no narrow patriotism about big industry, it only uses this sentiment at times to further its economic aims.

Kreuger’s achievement was hailed as a triumph of the principle of "self-help,” the beloved child of Samuel Smiles. One striking feature of this case, however, was the withholding of the news of his death for several hours lest it should have an adverse effect upon dealings in Kreuger stocks. Uneasiness was abroad, and the taking of his life by an apparently successful and prosperous business magnate raised doubts about the stability of the concerns he controlled.

That the fears were well-founded was very rapidly proved. Whereas in 1928 the price of Kreuger & Toll "B” shares stood at £56, on April 19th they fell to 1s. 6d. (See News-Chronicle, April 20th.) Other shares suffered a similar devastating fall and shareholders organisations are being formed to see if anything at all can be saved from the ruin of these vast concerns.

The paeans of praise have turned into torrents of wrath and vilification. The change has been brought about by sensational disclosures alleging gigantic frauds of one kind and another in carrying out the schemes of these companies. It is another sad blow for the captains of industry and self-help worshippers, and comes before they have had time to recover from the Hatry frauds. Yet the path of capitalist enterprise has been marked by constantly recurring instances of this kind, and the explanation is simple.

Leaving aside those who set out from a fraudulent beginning, ambitious men, brought up on maxims of wealth and power, set out to build up large enterprises and use all the capital and credit they can lay their hands on. A business slump, which these optimists rarely foresee, a shortage of available capital, or something similar, interferes with, their projects or stands in the way of some greater achievement, and induces them temporarily to resort to methods which come under the legal heading of fraud, in the expectation that they will be able to put matters right when their designs have been accomplished. Sometimes they are successful and live on as highly respected pillars of society, with the probability of a monument after their deaths. Sometimes they are unfortunate, then economic rivals, frightened financiers, maddened shareholders, and the moralists, unite in condemning them and bringing them to “justice.”

The larger the concerns involved the larger is the scale of fraud, and, in the event of the fraud being discovered or the promoter of it over-reaching himself the greater is the confusion and ruin resulting. Thus, when Hatry fell, there was considerable financial confusion, and many went down in the wreck.

Big industry strives to utilise all the funds it can lay hands on for the purpose of expansion and of enriching those at its head. It puts its hand in the pocket of small capitalists,, shopkeepers, and the better-paid “professional” men, utilising their savings for its schemes. Consequently, it is the heartbroken cry of the small shareholder that usually makes the most noise when a collapse comes, because it is just these people, with economic security in sight, struggling fiercely to get there, who are being constantly ruined and flung into the more hopeless sections of the propertyless class. And yet they are the fruitful soil for the blooming of all the pernicious doctrines of self-help and the like. Striving for economic freedom, unable to accomplish it by their own efforts, they look hopefully to company promoters, provide funds for all kinds of hare-brained schemes, and sing the praises of “great” men whom they trustfully expect will lift them out of the mud. Like all huggers of narrow, petty ideals, they cannot find words hard enough for those who let them down and shatter their delusions.

Another side to this question of relying upon individuals of alleged great directive ability is also seen when crashes such as those we are discussing occur. If the main threads of such large concerns are in the hands of one individual, when he is removed no one knows where to turn and a sound undertaking may be wrecked by the confusion involved. When Hatry was convicted he had to be brought back to help sort out the tangle. Kreuger is dead and apparently no one knows what may happen, because no one has a clear knowledge of what strings Kreuger was pulling.

Of late, doubts have even crept into the capitalist’s breast, and the wisdom of building up organisations that outstrip the powers of control is being questioned.

The trouble, however, does not lie in the size of .the organisation but in the method of control that has to be adopted on account of the private property basis of the organisation.

To-day the duty of the captain of industry is to overreach other captains of industry and collect under him groups of willing tools to aid him in the work of extracting the greatest amount of surplus value from the working class. It is not a question of running an industry but of piling up profits, and the captain sometimes seeks to obtain the lion’s share of these profits.

When industry comes to be organised to meet the needs of everybody without distinction, the various tasks necessary will be distributed and controlled on behalf of all. There will be neither opportunity nor incentive for one to achieve power and wealth at the expense of another, and there will be every inducement for each to give of his best in the way that is most congenial for the benefit of himself and the rest of society.

Kreuger, Hatry, and their like, are really only victims of a society that puts wealth and power among the principal virtues.
Gilmac.

Briand: A Lesson in Leadership. (1932)

From the April 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

So Briand, the famous French Parliamentarian, is dead, and as would be expected the newspapers have taken the opportunity, to broadcast the story of his life. Reading it serves to emphasise the view, so often advanced in these columns, that people who allow themselves to be led are often led “up the garden.”

We are told he started life humbly (as did most of our own labour leaders), but, being an opportunist, he soared to the heights of Premiership over the bodies of striking railwaymen. From being an “extremist" in his youth and helping to found L’Humanite,” now the organ of the French Communists, he used his knowledge thus gained to round up and arrest, not many years later, the whole of the strike leaders when assembled round the editorial table of that very journal! Throughout his career be wavered, at one time defending armaments at Washington, at another throwing a sop to the so-called Socialists in order to enlist their support for a return to power. As War Premier he rivalled Lloyd George in advocating a fight-to-a- finish policy, and as Foreign Minister in 1926 he joined the French National Government, even as our own labour leaders joined one in this country last year. The folly of one nation seems to be repeated in every other!

But let us not exaggerate the importance of. M. Briand. Most of his actions echoed the wishes of the multitude: and is he a great man who thinks only as everybody else does? At intervals, he changed places with other political messiahs, who had, for the moment, captured public support. But we notice no change in the conditions of the mass of people under them. There is only one necessary characteristic about a leader and that is he must have followers. Take away the followers and he ceases to be a leader. It seems too obvious to need mentioning, but whenever a plea is raised for a new leader or whenever disgust is shown against an old one this truism appears to be forgotten.

The life of a political shepherd always follows the same plan. His early cryings in the wilderness strike the hearts (not heads) of the common men. A note of sympathy is detected and a vague hope springs in the breasts of the listeners that this plausible speaker who has interpreted their woes must see farther than they, and can lend a hand to help them out. A little more rhetoric, a little more sentiment, election excitement and airy gesticulation and our would-be leader is invested with the robes of office. He is acclaimed a prophet, a maker of history!

Now it is one thing to command a servant to perform a task or to elect a delegate to carry out your will—it is the exact reverse to elect a leader to put things right for you in his own way. Stowed away in his head may be stores of great ideas, but not necessarily all of the kind we should approve. Our interpreter has become a magician and asks for our sanction to foist upon us his mysterious box of tricks. He is no longer our delegate to carry out our commands, instead he is a leader, and we find, alas! that the road he takes is not always to our liking. In course of time, we hear lamentations about his betrayal of his followers' interests. In 1926 it was Thomas, in 1931 Snowden and MacDonald. In the French Railway Strike of 1910 it was Briand.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain holds that the emancipation of the working class must be the task of the working class itself. There is no secret formula. The main outlines are set forth on the back of this periodical and can be grasped by any normal person. No need for a shepherd here—only those who do not know the way need to be led. Do you return home from work unaided? Of course—you know the way. Those who need a guide must come under one of the following groups:—
Those who are blind and cannot see.
Those who have forgotten.
Those who are ignorant and never knew.
Those who are being escorted forcibly to a destination they do not desire.
To us who do not come under one of these groups the notion of a leader is laughable. We are possessed of ordinary intelligence and can learn the only real road to freedom by a little reading and thinking.

As the machinery of Government—including the Army, Navy, Police, etc.— exists only to conserve for the capitalists the wealth taken from us, we must organise consciously to convert that machinery from an agent of oppression to one of emancipation when sufficient of us know, clearly and definitely, what we want, and how to get it; we can elect our delegates through the ballot box and see that they carry out our instructions.

They will not be great men, they will never be able to claim the grand title of leaders—but they cannot, obviously be mis-leaders. They will be our delegates, to fulfil our instructions, and the results will be on our own heads. Let us spread the knowledge and hasten that day.
M.

The Importance of Parliament. (1932)

From the March 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

The State is the public power of coercion. It arose out of the early division of society into classes, and developed with the development of class conflicts. It is the result of the desire to keep “order”; that is, order in the interests of the class that is supreme; order to allow the ruling class to subdue and exploit the rest of the population without hindrance. Through the ages the State has been controlled, as a rule, by the class that has been economically the most important. It is maintained by taxes, and hence a class that has outgrown its economic importance can often continue for a time to control social affairs. As the State grew in size and complexity, it became more burdensome and the taxes grew with it. This led to quarrels among property owners over the amounts of their contributions. Much of the apparent cleavage between parties in modern States is at bottom only a question of who shall take the weight of taxation.

In the development of the State the modern Parliamentary system emerged as the most appropriate means for securing the domination of the present capitalist class, the last class to obtain social control. Parliaments were subjected to modification in the course of time and the modern product ensures to the capitalist the unquestioned right to the proceeds of the exploitation of the working class.

But the State controlled a huge aggregate of people of various social standings and nationalities, a relatively small number of whom moved in a circle so distinct from the majority that they might almost have belonged to another world. Production and distribution of wealth also developed on such a tremendous scale that social affairs became correspondingly burdensome and complicated. One could compare the past with the present as the comparison between Stephenson’s first locomotive and a modern railway engine. In order to run the State smoothly and secure the peaceable flow of profit, it became necessary to alter Parliamentary procedure so that the voice of the mass of people could be heard and their needs met; but only in so far as such alterations did not jeopardise the rule of the capitalists, in the opinion of their leading thinkers. Thus, in due course, the electoral machinery was modified until universal suffrage became the rule.

Parliament is the centre of power in this country. It makes the laws and it enforces them. Local bodies have certain lawmaking and enforcing powers, but these are subservient to the central body, which is supreme and which, where required, supplies the local body with any extra force necessary.

The instruments of power are the Army, Navy, Air and Police forces. The final word for setting these forces in motion rests with Cabinet Ministers. The Cabinet is the executive council which carries out the will of Parliament. Its members belong to the majority group, or are allowed to function by that group, or by arrangement, through a coalition of parties. In other words, the group that has an absolute majority in Parliament can put into operation whatever decrees it wishes by means of its control of the executive—the Cabinet. In theory the Prime Minister is appointed by the King (though the selection is confined within narrow limits) and has a free choice in the selection of his Ministers; but in fact no Cabinet could live without a Parliamentary majority to sanction its proposals.

Members of Parliament are elected by universal suffrage, and the vast majority of the voters are members of the working class. The result is near enough democratic to ensure that when the mass of the working class understand the meaning of Socialism they have the means to bring it into being through Parliamentary action when they desire to do so.

Up to the present, the mass of the workers have lacked political knowledge and have voted for people instead of principles. They have given their votes to the people who made the most alluring promises, and as time proved the hollowness of the promises, the workers turned in disgust from one group of people to another, and then back again as the memory of previous disappointments faded.

This fact has led many to question the usefulness of Parliament. They have forgotten that whenever the workers have placed their trust in leaders they have almost always been let down. The workers have been as readily betrayed on the industrial field, as they have on the political field. The trouble has not been due to the field of combat. It has been due to the method adopted. When the workers cease to regard certain individuals as endowed with some special capacity of "leadership,” they will adopt the method of issuing instructions to delegates that are to be carried out regardless of the delegates' own views or wishes. The ground will then be cut from under the feet of those who prosper out of leadership, and such people will no longer have a saleable article for the capitalist in the shape of a blind following.

There has not yet been a Parliamentary test of the power of delegates acting on instructions given them by a large body of workers who knew exactly what they were after and how to get it. In fact, outside the Socialist Party of Great Britain the method has never been really applied. Time after time the specious words of some acknowledged leader have diverted groups of workers from their original aims, generally on the plea of “expediency." The word “expediency" has acted as a useful veil for generations to cover the compromising activities of leaders, but of late there are indications that “tactics" will replace it. The truth is that the foolish and cowardly belief in this fetish of leadership has been a considerable barrier to working class knowledge and progress. The power and wealth leaders acquire induce them to fortify their positions and insist on the necessity of leadership as a permanent institution with the development of appropriate means for wire-pulling and mutual bargaining for position. The Labour Party has given striking proof of this in recent years.

Socialism will not be possible until the mass of the workers understand it and are prepared to vote for it. If a working class that did not understand Socialism were to vote for it, the result would only be chaos, as the first attempts to put it into operation would bewilder the majority of people and leave the way open for a counter-revolution. When the workers understand Socialism they will know what to expect and what will be.involved in putting it into operation, and here they will defeat the efforts of any delegates ready to sell themselves to the opposition. In such circumstances a delegate could only sell once; he would not get a second chance. The price he would demand would be proportionately high. Even if the absurd view were accepted that all the delegates would be sellers, the price would be too great to be paid out of even the huge wealth of the capitalists.

Parliament has supreme power and the armed forces are only kept in existence by the yearly voting of supplies. As Marriott points out in “English Political Institutions":—
   Under the English Constitution there would be no greater difficulty, in a formal and legal sense, in decreeing the abolition of the House of Lords or the House of Commons, than in procuring an Act for the construction of a tramway between Oxford and Reading, (p. 20.)
The Army Council controls the Army, but, as Sir John Creedy showed in his memorandum to the Civil Service Royal Commission, December, 1929, the Secretary for War, who is a member of it, is supreme and is solely responsible to King and Parliament. The Permanent Under-Secretary is solely responsible to the Secretary for all internal finance.

The Privy Council has no legislative authority; cancellations from it and appointments to it are at the discretion of the Prime Minister. Privy Council proclamations are not made at full meetings, but where the presence of two or more members is arranged by the Cabinet. In practice not more than four members are summoned, and rarely is anyone invited to attend a Council meeting who is not an active Cabinet member. It is executive in those matters only where the Cabinet does not require Parliamentary authority.

Marriott (“English Political Institutions"), adds the following relating to the Admiralty:—
   The Board of Admiralty now consists of six Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, a Financial Parliamentary Secretary, and a Permanent Secretary. The responsible minister is the First Lord, invariably a civilian and a member of the Cabinet.
   . . . The Board meets at least once a week, and is in a very real sense responsible for the first line of National Defence, though in a technical and parliamentary sense the First Lord has undivided responsibility, (p. 116-117.)
A similar organisation obtains in the Air Force, the Air Minister being the responsible official.

The above shows how complete and secure is the grip Parliament has upon the armed forces, and the strikes and disturbances of past years have shown how readily these forces are put in motion, and also upon whose side they act. They are a forcible illustration of how necessary it is for the workers to obtain control of Parliament before attempting to uproot the existing foundations of society. They further show that the only way to obtain control is by the legal one of sending delegates to Parliament.

It has been suggested that when the workers' movement began to really challenge the position of the capitalist, the latter would suspend Parliament. The suspension of Parliament would, in the first instance, abolish the right of the workers to combine, and would thus put a legal end to all forms of working-class combination. But the cost to the capitalist of the permanent suspension of the Constitution would be the end of their rule and the beginning of chaos.

The size and complexity of a modern nation is so great that the time has long since gone by when members of the ruling class could occupy any considerable number of the administrative posts and manage any appreciable part of its activities. From top to bottom all departments are filled by paid or elected officials, and only a very few of these officials are drawn from the capitalist class itself. Practically all the work of controlling the activities of society to-day is performed by people who depend for their livelihood upon the pay they get for the work they do—members of the working class.

Thousands of functions have had to be delegated to subsidiary bodies, such as County Councils, Town Councils, Parish Councils, and the like. Year by year this delegation of function grows greater and representation increases at the same rate.

Circumstances, therefore, have compelled the masters to place administration in the hands of elected bodies, and they can only withdraw it by bringing their house down about their ears.

The importance of Parliament is quite plainly recognised by the capitalists, and they give clear evidence of this at election times by the amount of wealth they spend and the inconvenience they suffer in order to ensure their control of it. 
Gilmac.

"The Hell of Steyr" (1932)

From the February 1932 issue of the Socialist Standard

(From an Austrian Correspondent.)
The name of Steyr is unfamiliar in England. Steyr is an Austrian town in which motor-cars are manufactured, Detroit on a smaller scale, and it is significant that the appearance of an article in the Detroit Free Press on the conditions of the workers in the American auto-industry should have almost coincided with the publication in a Vienna paper of a report under the above heading from their correspondent in the Austrian city of motor-cars. The workers of Steyr, like those of Detroit, are a law-abiding, industrious, hard-working lot, but under capitalism these virtues do not guarantee either sustenance or security to the workers. As one of our speakers, now dead, used to put it to his audiences when analysing the effects of the capitalist system: “It comes to this,” he used to say, “the better you are and the harder you work, the worse it is for you in the end.” Steyr as well as Detroit have proved the truth of this assertion. The workers there have attained an extraordinary degree of efficiency in motor-car making with the result that within a relatively short time all the markets were glutted and work had to be suspended. Under capitalism, increased efficiency has the consequence that while the companies have amassed huge fortunes for themselves, the workers’ lot has gone from bad to worse until it has, on the masters’ own showing, become a veritable hell!

The Vienna newspaper, “Sonn-und Montagszeitung, ” in its issue for January 4th has a long report from its representative who made a special visit to Steyr. The newspaper writes:—
  “One has been quite accustomed to the daily desperate calls for help coming now from this, now from the other working class quarter, but the signal of alarm, 'A City Dying of Starvation,’ makes one look up. It comes from the second largest city of Upper Austria. The Mayor of Steyr at the last meeting informed the city council that of the 22,000 inhabitants about 11,000 are without any income whatever, that 90 per cent. of all the children are underfed and that a large proportion of the population are simply compelled to go begging. The correspondent says that one must have been in Steyr to realise what is concealed behind these figures. 11,000 tragedies in one small city which has become a city of beggars. You are accosted at every street corner by swarms of children—tiny, pale creatures in thin rags and torn shoes who surround the passing stranger with outstretched hands, wailing and imploring. They enter the shops begging for money or something to eat. And there are also young people and old women. In the Municipal poor house there are 328 aged people who now have to go out into the streets too, once a week, to supplement their scant rations by begging. And so do the inmates of other municipal institutions. Friday is the principal day set down for general begging and thousands of people go begging on that day in Steyr. 
Beds Without Bedding.    
“The greater part of the unemployed, and those who are no longer in receipt of the dole, do not live in houses, but in wooden barracks. The conditions there are described as simply appalling. Twelve persons were found to live in one room with three beds without bedding, which had all been sold long ago. All sleep on straw, the wife and the husband and 10 children. They eke out their existence between the four wet walls, the inevitable clothes line drawn across the room with wet clothing. The big boys and girls sleep side by side and next to the parents, with two little children in one bed, without bedding. They sleep as long as possible in order to suppress the pangs of hunger, many also have no shoes. On New Year’s night a woman was confined in a room of the barracks in the presence of her four other children. In another barracks a woman with two children tried to take her 'life'; she had been dismissed from the works two days previously and was not entitled to the dole, so she took prussic acid. Other families live in what were formerly stables. A canal with stagnant water runs outside and the barracks are infested with rats and mice. 
Dogs For Dinner.    
"Here and there in the barracks the correspondent saw remnants of what used to be toys, but the children, he says, do not play. They are hungry and cold. Also they have lost their favourite playmates—the dogs. Formerly there were hundreds, but they have nearly all disappeared within a year, in Steyr. Nobody will openly say what has become of them, but everybody knows that in this city of starvation the dogs have been killed and eaten. 
Children Condemned To Death.    
"The Municipality, a bankrupt municipality, has the care of 1,100 children who have lost their father or whose parents are divorced. ‘The state of health of the population is simply alarming,' said Dr. Pitniskern. 'In a year I have treated 5,000 patients free of charge. Consumption plays havoc in the town. The children are nearly all ill; at least 90 per cent. are underfed; at school examinations I find only skeletons. No flesh, no blood, only skin and bones, and when asked, it is invariably the same answer: nothing to eat. I treat many children who have not seen any meat for months. A boy in the first class did not know what meat looks like, he had never eaten any.’ 
“It goes without saying that under such conditions a normal school service has become impossible. The dilapidated school rooms serve as mere places in which to keep warm. Half of the children cannot attend for lack of shoes, others have only torn ones and insufficient clothes. 
“The Works now employ only 1,700 people, whereas more than 15,000 are dependent on work there. Another 300 were about to be dismissed. ‘With the dole,’ the correspondent says, they will be ‘alright' for a time. They are envied by those who are no longer in receipt of any benefit and only get 42 groschen (4½d.) per day poor relief—42 groschen!
   "366 persons are daily given a meal in the canteen of the Steyr Works. A thousand present themselves every day, but there are only 366 soups, the daily portion, consisting of cabbage and a piece of bread; sometimes they get a piece of meat. The correspondent describes how he watched an old worker eating but half of the contents of his basin, food that would barely have sufficed a child. When asked, he replied that the other half was to be taken home. ‘How many are there at home?' asked the correspondent. ‘Wife and three children,’ was the answer, and he pressed the basin closer to himself and sought to get away; others barred him the way, begging of him, begging of the beggar! 
“This is what the tourist guide book says about the picturesquely situated city of Steyr: 'A lovely place on the meeting place of the River Steyr with the River Enns, with 22,000 inhabitants, tall chimneys and a Gothic church,  to which the correspondent added: 'with 11,000 beggars, with 15,000 starving, with 18,000 persons destitute, tall chimneys that have not smoked for years, chimneys of idle factories. The industrial city of Steyr has become the hell of Steyr, an Austrian 'devil’s island ’ of decent, honest men, ready and willing to work.”
The paper added, of course, the usual appeal to its readers for help, though it confessed at the same time that charity is no solution. The editor did not give a remedy, but there are, of course, numerous political parties and crowds of professional politicians, chiefly coming from the so-called "intellectuals,” always ready with "remedies ” and “ reforms,” with "demands” and programmes supposed to cope with economic ills, and generally pretending to represent the interests of the workers. Every one of these remedies has been found to be a fraud, a farce and a delusion, while some of them have turned out to be worse than the disease.

Socialism the Only Remedy
There is ONE remedy for all the evils of working class existence, and ONE only— it is the solution which the science of Marx and Engels made plain, but which it does not pay the “leaders of labour ” to propagate. For that task the Socialist Party of Great Britain and its companion parties in other countries have been established. We insist that these evils are all part and parcel of, and inseparable from, the present social order—capitalism—a system of society in which the means of wealth production are owned and controlled by a small section, on whom the mass of the people are dependent. These evils will persist and glow unless and until the working class, organised in the Socialist Parties, make an end to private ownership, so that no individual will be dependent on another private individual for his material subsistence. Under Socialism, such absurdities as poverty in the midst of plenty, which is the outstanding feature of capitalism, will be unthinkable, because society will produce all human comforts and conveniences for USE only and not for profit. The product of men’s hands will then cease to play tricks with them, and the further improvement of machinery, which spells wreck and ruin to the workers to-day, will then only increase the real well-being of all. We insist that no proposition can be sound and worthy of working-class support that respects the present social order and does not aim at the destruction of a system that deprives millions of people of a chance of earning a living, that humiliates and degrades, and drives thousands to despair and suicide. Any proposition that does not establish equal right for all to the means of life, deserves nothing but the contempt of the workers.

The workers of Steyr and of Vienna have had an object-lesson which should open their eyes. Putting their trust in leaders—who are the curse of working-class organisations —they elected a majority of Social-Democrats to the two city councils, with the result that after 12 years of such administration Steyr is now “a city dying of starvation,” while Vienna—a city of under 2 million inhabitants—has the dreary record figure of over 120,000 unemployed, over 3,000 suicides in the past year, and more beggars than ever before.

Workers of the world! It is high time to bestir yourselves! Rid yourselves of your illusions and of your leaders! Join our ranks and so leave your mark to posterity as men and women of whom they will be able to say that you assisted in the great task of ridding the Earth from the fangs of the monster incubus of capital!
Rudolf Frank