Friday, July 21, 2017

The Correspondence of Marx and Engels (1937)

Book Review from the January 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Correspondence of Marx and Engels pp. 534. (Martin Lawrence, Ltd., 12s. 6d.) 

The above letters, dating from 1846 to 1895, and numbering over two hundred, cover a wide range of subjects, topical as well as theoretical.

Industrial developments in various countries, and political movements arising therefrom, coupled with conflicting economic theories and philosophical methods are all brought under review. It is, of course, out of the question that such a collection should make smooth, connected reading or that all parts should be of equal value. Some of the letters are of outstanding merit and well worthy of preservation. An almost equal number are of only historical interest as illustrating the development of their immature ideas and the points on which they erred even later in life.

Among the most interesting of the former class may be mentioned the letter of April 18th, 1883, written by Engels to Van Patten. Engels here declares that it had always been the view of Marx and himself that “the working class must first take possession of the organised political power of the State and by its aid crush the resistance of the capitalist class and organise society-anew.”

In opposition to the anarchists, who proclaimed the abolition of the State as the first and last word of the revolution, Marx and Engels always insisted on the necessity, to the workers, of political power. This would be the means whereby the revolution (i.e., the substitution of common ownership for ownership by the capitalist class) would be carried out. The disappearance of the State would result from this. It was thus regarded as an effect of the revolution, not its primary condition. (Lengthy extracts from this letter were reproduced in the Socialist Standard in January, 1935.)

Other interesting letters are the six written by Marx or Engels to Danielson on the development of capitalism in Russia. They argued that a Socialist revolution in Western Europe was the only means by which Russia could escape the normal development of capitalism.

Of particular value is their joint letter to the leaders of the German Social Democratic Party, written in September, 1879, dealing with the internal condition and unsound policies of that organisation. The following extract might have been written this year about the British Labour Party, which is deeply engrossed in the problem of winning over the so-called ”middle-class” by pandering to their prejudices and ignorance: —
   In the opinion of these gentlemen, then, the Social- Democratic Party should not be a one-sided workers’ party, but an all-sided party of “everyone imbued with a true love of humanity.” It must prove this, above all, by laying aside its crude proletarian passions and placing itself under the guidance of educated, philanthropic bourgeois in order to “cultivate good taste” and ‘‘learn good form . . . .” Then, too, “numerous adherents from the circles of the educated and propertied classes will make their appearance. . . .  ”
   German Socialism has “attached too much importance to the winning of the masses and in so doing has neglected energetic (!) propaganda among the so-called upper strata of society,” and then “the Party still lacks men fitted to represent it in the Reichstag.” It is, however, “desirable and necessary to entrust the mandate to men who have the time and opportunity to make themselves thoroughly acquainted with the relevant materials. The simple worker and small self-employed man . . . has the necessary leisure for this only in rare and exceptional cases.” So elect bourgeois!
   In short: the working-class of itself is incapable of its own emancipation.
Patching up Capitalism
Then Marx and Engels went on to ridicule the notion, familiar to-day in Labour Party—I.L.P.— Communist circles, that it is necessary to concentrate on immediate demands and leave Socialism to the future.
      “Let no one misunderstand us”; we do not want “to give up our Party and our programme, but think that for years hence we shall have enough to do if we concentrate our whole strength and energy upon the attainment of certain immediate aims. . . . ”
This is what Marx and Engels had to say about that: —
     The programme is not to be given up, but only postponed—to an indefinite period. One accepts it, though not really for one’s own lifetime, but posthumously as an heirloom to be handed down to one’s children and grandchildren. In the meantime, one devotes one’s “whole strength and energy” to all sorts of petty rubbish and the patching up of the capitalist order of society, in order at least to produce the appearance of something happening without at the same time scaring the bourgeoisie. There I must really praise the Communist, Mique, who proved his unshakable belief in the inevitable overthrow of capitalist society in the course of the next few hundred years by heartily carrying on swindles, contributing his honest best to the crash of 1873, and so really doing something to assist the collapse of the existing order.
The letter contains much more of the same kind, Marx and Engels urging that if non-workers join the Socialist Movement “the first condition is that they should not bring any remnants of bourgeois, petty-bourgeois, etc., prejudices with them, but should whole-heartedly adopt the proletarian point of view.”

Considering the time and circumstances under which it was written, the letter to the leaders of the German S.D.P. is a fairly vigorous statement of the case against “reformism” as a basis for a political party.

Bernstein, however, its foremost representative, became editor of The Social Democrat within a year or so of this letter. Marx and Engels appear to have swallowed their threats to sever connection with the Party. Marx died two or three years after; but during the following decade Engels developed a most ill-founded optimism concerning the Party they had jointly criticised.

Marx and Engels on War
It is when we come to their letters on the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1, and Engels' letters to Bebel in September and October, 1891, on the coming European conflict (page 488 et seq.) that we find lacking in moments of practical crisis some of the brilliance which marks most of the theoretical passages.

During the Franco-Prussian War they appear to have been hypnotised by the supposed necessity for national defence.

Socialists, who remember to what uses the doctrine “national defence” was put in 1914-18, will find the arguments of Marx and Engels, in this connection, extremely unconvincing, and it is interesting to notice that Lenin, of all people, appears to have swallowed them (see footnote, pp. 297-8). Just as “liberty,” in the mouth of the capitalist, means his freedom to exploit the workers, so does “national defence" mean the protection of his share in the international swag.

As the war progressed Engels appears to have developed doubts as to its "defensive" character, but twenty years afterwards (September, 1891) he still cherished similar ideas. Anticipating the wider outbreak of hostilities, he wrote to Bebel (p. 490), “If we (Germany) are victorious our Party will come into power. The victory of Germany is therefore the victory of the revolution, and if it comes to war we must not only desire victory, but further it by every means. . . .” (The end of the sentence is omitted in the volume.) If, then, the Social Democratic Party in Germany, like the Labour Party in this country, betrayed the interests of the working class in 1914, they did but follow the path indicated by Frederick Engels.

They could, however, have recalled the words of 1847 to the effect that "the workers have no country," "they have nothing of their own to fortify and secure," "they have only their chains to lose" and “The executive of the modern state is but a committee of the capitalist class" (Communist Manifesto).

These words have encircled the globe in numerous languages, while the lapses of Marx and Engels into ideas of national defence have sunk into obscurity. It may restrain some workers from a tendency to hero worship and to suspension of their critical judgment, to be reminded that Marx and Engels could go badly astray on certain questions.

In general, it is, of course, also necessary to remember that this is a volume of letters written for private reading, not for publication. They were for that reason often in the nature of “thinking aloud," a groping towards conclusions rather than a statement of definite conclusions.

The volume is well indexed, and the text is illuminated by numerous biographical and historical footnotes. The student will, however, need to be flushed with more than ardour, in view of the price.
Eric Boden

The Labour Government in New Zealand—No Change (1937)

From the February 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The New Zealand Labour Party reached the acme of its political aspirations on November 27th, 1935, when it gained control of the treasury benches, having won 53 out of 80 seats at the general election.

The result was the cause of a wide-spread atmosphere of expectancy and buoyancy among a large majority of the workers; their problems were solved; there was no need for further struggle; while some members of the master class, in their ignorance, expected a drastic change. However, after the smoke of the political battle had cleared away, the stark realities of capitalism still remained, and the Labour Party immediately commenced to administer capitalism in their own peculiar way.

Mr. Savage, the new Premier, hastened to assure the people that the sacred rights of property would be strictly observed.

The first act of the Labour Government was to issue a bonus or Christmas box to the unemployed and relief workers in the shape of an extra week’s pay and other small concessions, so that they might enjoy a good Christmas. The rest of the year, of course, does not count.

The inquisitive methods of the Unemployment Board and questions on relief application forms were to cease. While the Unemployment Board has ceased as such, the inquisition still persists, and the Labour Party still find it necessary to ask why a person seeks relief, while applying a means test for which they denounced the last Government.

The natural tendency of capitalism is centralisation, hence the legislation of the Labour Government is along those lines. The first Bill to be brought forward was the complete control of the Reserve Bank by the State and the buying up of the shares of the private shareholders at the highest market price.

The Hon. R. Semple’s policy for Public Works is an example of how the Labour Government can obtain a greater amount of surplus value from the hides of the wage-slaves in a more highly efficient manner—the co-operative system of work.

This system of work has been bitterly fought by the Miners' Federation for many years; for it demands only the very best and fittest of workers and totally eliminates some of the less fit; incidentally giving the master a good job at a low cost to the detriment of the worker, as the fast pace set soon wears him out and at an early age he finds himself on the human scrap-heap of industry.

However, the appeals of the Labour Government to the people to give them a chance have been successful in so far as there have been no major disturbances or disputes to date; the workers in general are suffering in silence until such times as the Labour Government relieve them of the effects of capitalism. This they cannot do. When the workers realise that the Labour Government differs little from other Governments administering capitalism there will be a rude awakening.

The childlike faith of the majority of the workers in the Labour Government is hard to understand, despite the fact that its leaders are continually appealing to everyone for their backing and co-operation. Their pre-election attitude was “We can and will!"

Is it that they find it impossible to administer capitalism in the interest of the majority of the people, which is the working class, or is it that they have now realised their ambition—the position of Minister of the Crown, with all its privileges and advantages?

According to their election manifesto, in which they promise "Higher Wages," “Guaranteed Prices," “Pensions for All," all they need is State control of credit and currency to enable their programme to be carried out. They now have control of the Reserve Bank but apparently that is not sufficient; for they find the co-operation of everyone is also necessary. The question is: Can the capitalist and the workers co-operate in common interest? An understanding of the position of these individuals in society proves the opposite.

If it were legislation that could bring about that state of society of which the Labour politicians dream and vaguely refer to, then they have all they need; an overwhelming majority of seats in the House.

However, they have no mandate for Socialism, while they do possess the mandate to administer capitalism. This can be done only in the interest of capital and the capitalist class.

The New Zealand Labour Party in power has proved itself little different from capitalist Parties; in fact it has simply advanced new methods of extracting more surplus value from the workers, and is attempting to put them into operation. Everything is being centralised and placed under State control where possible; legislation has been rushed through; in fact, records have been made in this direction, but none of it will in any way alter the fundamental position of the workers of New Zealand. They will still have to sell their labouring powers in order to live, the wages, or price of these, will be determined by the value of the necessities required to produce, develop, maintain and perpetuate the labouring power, or in the event of the inability of the labourer to sell his power he will be forced to throw himself upon the charity of the master, that is, eke out an existence on sustenance or other means of relief.

The Socialist Party of New Zealand holds that Socialism is the only cure for the effects of capitalism. While capitalism continues so the workers must suffer from its effects and their condition become worse, so we ask the workers of New Zealand to join us in the work of propagating Socialism and organising for the overthrow of capitalism. Socialism is the only solution to their problems.
Socialist Party of New Zealand.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Greatest City in the Capitalist World (1937)

From the March 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

What it is to be a Worker in London
The following is taken from a review of “Metropolitan Man," by Robert Sinclair (Allen & Unwin, 10s. 6d.). The review is by Francis lles and was published in the Daily Telegraph on February 18th, 1937.
   It is a startling book, but for every startling statement official authority is given. . . . One in every three Londoners dies in a workhouse or a rate-aided hospital. The proportion of tuberculous milk is still as great as a quarter of a century ago. Five out of six London children are not adequately nourished; one in seven is verminous. Consumption deaths among young London women have increased by a quarter in 20 years. Some Londoners are certified every year as dying of starvation. The rapidly increasing rate of suicide—in every group of 13 dwellings in inner London there is someone who will kill himself.

Hamilton. Offer of a Free Copy of "The Socialist Standard" (1937)

From the April 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Some reader of the Socialist Standard regularly defaces, mutilates or removes the copy placed in the Hamilton Public Library. In order to prevent inconvenience to other would-be readers, the individual is invited to apply to the Secretary of the local branch of the S.P.G.B. for a free copy.

Two Readers Write about the Russian Trials (1937)

Letters to the Editors from the May 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the article “What is Wrong with Russia?” published in the March The Socialist Standard, the point was made that Communists, having themselves advocated lying and double-dealing as a form of activity, have no reason for being indignant because they are suspected of having used these methods against prisoners in the series of trials. A Glasgow reader asks us for our authority for the statement that such methods were advocated. It will be found in Lenin's Should Communists Participate in Reactionary Trade Unions? written in 1920. The following extract is taken from the edition published by the American Communists (“Workers' Party of America”): —
   There is no doubt but that the opportunist leaders of the unions will resort to all the dirty tricks of bourgeois diplomacy, invoking the help of the capitalist governments, priests, police, judges, etc., in order to prevent the Communists from penetrating into the trade unions, to force them out of the unions, to make their work within the unions as dangerous as possible, aiding the police to persecute and run them down. But we must be able to withstand all that, to be ready for any and every sacrifice, and even if necessary, to practice trickery, to employ cunning, and to resort to illegal methods, to sometimes even overlook or conceal the truth—all for the sake of penetrating into the trade unions, to stay there and by every and all means carry on the work of Communism.
The publication of this in America led to the Communists being strongly criticised, and they found it very inconvenient to have to defend their declared intention of using trickery, cunning, and overlooking and concealing the. truth, and it was perhaps for this reason that the words were toned down somewhat in the English version to be found in “Left-Wing Communism,” published by the Communist Party of Great Britain. Here the last few lines read : —
   It is necessary to be able to withstand all this, to go the whole length of any sacrifice if need be, to resort to strategy and adroitness, illegal proceedings, reticence and subterfuge, to anything in order to penetrate into the trade unions, remain in them, and carry on Communist work inside them, at any cost.
The case against this sort of thing is a strong one. Ultimately the workers have got to be won over for Socialism by being convinced that the Socialist argument is unanswerable. Trying to win them prematurely by means of trickery and subterfuge is worse than useless. The ruling class and the reformist leaders are bound to win at the game, and the workers will be not more but less ready to listen to what Socialists have to say when they discover that Communists have been willing to trick them.

The second letter, from Mr. T. Roberts, Wealdstone, is largely based on misunderstanding of our position. Mr. Roberts jumps to the conclusion that we have some moral objection to the workers concealing information from the capitalist class. The S.P.G.B. has never held so absurd a view. What we are concerned with is misleading the workers.

Mr. Roberts goes on to argue at some length that the Communists are entitled to lie. He writes: —
    No, they are not willing to submit to the authority of capitalism, whether that authority is expressed directly by the capitalist class themselves or indirectly through traitorous lenders. So what? They double-deal and lie!!? What sanctimonious humbug finds expression in the Sunday School dithering of the writer of the article in question.
   The next step, of course, is clean collars and manicured hands, with the new workers' slogan, “ Play the game, you cads!”
The first thing we notice is that Mr. Roberts does not deny that Communists practise lying and trickery. Indeed, he holds that it is their duty to do so. So we ask again the original question which has roused Mr. Roberts to fury. Why should the Communists be so indignant at the suggestion that they, who preach and practice lying, have perhaps used it to get rid of their Trotskyist and other opponents in Russia?

Come, Mr. Roberts, let us know why the indignation ?

The series of Russian trials are quite a good illustration of the dangers of this policy. If lying is to be effective it is essential that it shall not be found out. But when used on a large scale, sooner or later some of it is bound to be found out. In the case of the Russians, to take only one instance, there is the “confession" of the prisoner who said he was plotting with Abramovitch in Russia, while actually the latter was in Brussels, seen by large numbers of delegates at a conference there. (Mr. Roberts, we notice, does not refer to this.) The result is that among wide circles of workers there is now a suspicion that the trials are not what they seem, and time and energy are now being devoted to that controversy which might have been devoted to more important things.

In passing, it may be remarked that Mr. Roberts jibe about clean collars, and so on, is singularly ill-conceived. One of the recent trends sponsored by Stalin in Russia has been just that— the slogan for clean collars for men and cosmetics and fashionable clothes for women. Though why 'Mr. Roberts should object to workers having these things is a mystery to us. Does Mr. Roberts insist on wearing a dirty collar and is he, in his view, a better revolutionary for doing so?

Mr. Roberts goes on to justify double-dealing as used by the Communists against MacDonald, Snowden and Thomas. Which only shows how little Mr. Roberts knows of the Communists or their methods. The worst lies and double-dealing used by the Communists were not against these men but for them. At election after election, Communists, knowing they were lying, roused the workers to vote for these men, representing them as fit and proper persons for workers* votes. It did not deceive the capitalists, but it did deceive the workers.

May we now ask Mr. Roberts to tell us what useful purpose this lying has served, useful, that is, to the working class and the Socialist movement ?

Mr. Roberts raises many other points, mainly concerned with the reason why the S.P.G.B. doesn’t produce evidence of discontent in Russia, evidence of faked confessions, etc.

What Mr. Roberts forgets is that the Communists, who, as he admits, believe in lying and trickery, also control the Russian Press, the Russian postal, telegraph and telephone services, and almost every source of information.

And doesn't Mr. Roberts perceive that the repeated mass trials themselves are evidence that some discontent exists in Russia?
Editorial Committee.

The Passing of Snowden (1937)

From the June 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

Bitter Truths For Labour Voters
Philip Snowden had some praiseworthy qualities. He was determined, uncompromising according to his lights, and largely indifferent to what he regarded as the fickle moods of the crowd. He fought hard and disinterestedly for many of the causes to which he was attached. Yet his career, early and late, is, to Socialists, not an example, but a warning, a warning of the sterility of reformism. Indeed, the Socialist might well sum up Snowden’s life by saying that it is a pity such gifts as he had were never at any time devoted to Socialism. The Socialist Party, unlike Snowden’s lifelong admirers and associates, did not discover him to be wrong only in 1931. At the first, and unceasingly thereafter, the S.P.G.B. denounced Snowden’s theories and activities as being harmful to the Socialist movement, Never at any time did we join the misguided or dishonest band who called on the workers to put their trust in the Snowdens and MacDonalds of the I.L.P. and Labour Party. Only now, nearly 40 years too late to be of any use, do some of his erstwhile worshippers discover what Socialists knew from the beginning, that reformist organisation and effort does not lead to Socialism.

From its first issue in 1904 the Socialist Standard pointed out that Snowden was not a Socialist, but a Radical, concerned not with the abolition of capitalism but with the useless task of reforming it. Only now when Snowden is dead does everyone else perceive this. The Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill writes (Sunday Express, May 16th, 1937): —
  Was he really a Socialist? Personally I doubt it.
   I do not believe the Marxian aberration ever obsessed his keen intelligence.
  He was a green-eyed, savage Victorian Radical, a later and more sharply defined edition of John Morley, with a double dose of what Mr. Bonar Law once aptly expressed as “Sympathy for the underdog.” In finance he was a Gladstonian purist—Free Trade, Gold Standard, Strict Discharge of State Obligations to Creditors, Frugality and Cheeseparing in Public Expenditure.
The Times (May 17th, 1937) remarks that Snowden’s conversion from Liberalism to Labourism “did not, in fact, deprive Radicalism of a devotee.” The Liberal Manchester Guardian, ever an admirer of Snowden, tells us that his Budget in 1924 was the bright spot in the first Labour Government’s record; "Liberals liked it because it was shaped on the most traditional of Liberal lines. The City liked it because it abolished the corporation profits tax, and was a model of sound finance.” (Manchester Guardian, May 17th, 1937.) Reynolds's News, the Co-operative journal, finds that that Budget ”was certainly not what might have been expected from a Socialist Finance Minister, and might quite well have emanated from the Liberal and Conservative benches.” (Reynolds's News, May 16th, 1937.) Professor Harold Laski, in a full-length article in the Daily Herald (May 17th) says: —
   In essence he was a Benthamite Radical whose association with the Labour Party was less because he was a Socialist in the full sense of the term than because he was a stout egalitarian who saw no defence for the present social order.
   Free trade, disarmament, social reform, control of the drink traffic, the rigorous taxation of those who could afford to pay—these were his political principles.
And again: —
He had not an atom of the revolutionary in him.
Why the Astonishment in 1931?
All of this is true, but why should Snowden’s associates suddenly turn and rend him because, in 1931, his lifelong Liberalism led him to support the National Government in order to prop up capitalism? Why should Laski denounce Snowden, in view of his own admission that Snowden’s attitude in 1931 was not a matter for surprise, but “was inherent in all that he was”? If there were any who supposed Snowden to be, not a Liberal but a Socialist, they never had any real ground for so doing. Snowden himself was comparatively frank and plain on the subject. Writing in the Manchester Guardian Commercial Reconstruction Supplement (October 26th, 1922) he said: —
   The British Labour Party is certainly not Socialist in the sense in which Socialism is understood upon the Continent. It is not based upon the recognition of the class struggle: it does not accept the teachings of Marx . . . .
    . . . .  The Socialism of the Labour Party is just a matter-of-fact practical aim for the extension of the already widely accepted principle of the democratic ownership and control of the essential public services.
    The nationalisation . . . .  of public services does not carry the Labour Party further than many Radicals, who would vigorously disclaim being Socialistic, are prepared to go.
This was one half of Snowden’s creed; the pathetic delusion that capitalism ceases to be an exploiting system when the State or a statutory board becomes the direct agent of exploitation. (Snowden’s death occurred in the midst of the busmen’s bitter strike protest against the Transport Board!) The second half was his notion that capitalism, administered by the Labour Party, can be humanised. He dreamed of transferring wealth from rich to poor while maintaining the capitalist system. What, then, is the true explanation of the 1931 crisis, and the collapse of the Labour Government? It was the final bankruptcy of the theories held by Snowden and his party. Hard experience was showing that capitalism can only be administered in a capitalist way. The Socialist contention was proved up to the hilt.

In an untenable situation Snowden took the line which was strictly logical for him and his radical-reformist party, but many of his associates withdrew at the eleventh hour. They who had entered office on Liberal support and were carrying on negotiations with the Liberals, they who had been part of the War-time Coalition Government, suddenly pretended to abhor contact with openly capitalist parties. It is hardly surprising that Snowden denounced them with force and venom.

Who Betrayed the Workers?
It is only natural that the present leaders of the Labour Party should try to clear their own bedraggled reputations by throwing mud at Snowden and MacDonald. Many of these men, Laski for one, and the I.L.P. and Communist Party leaders, will now say that they always knew what manner of men Snowden and MacDonald were; that they were never Socialists, but only Radicals. What, then, is their defence against the charge that they deliberately hoodwinked the working class year after year? Why did they not tell the truth about the Labour leaders and the Labour Party before 1931?

Why, after the first Labour Government (described by the I.L.P. New Leader as “to an overwhelming extent an I.L.P. Government,” New Leader, February 8th, 1924), did Mr. Maxton and the I.L.P. go on appealing to the workers to support Snowden and the Labour Party at elections ?

Why did not Professor Laski tell the world in 1921 what he suddenly blared forth in 1931?

The Communists are in the same mess as Maxton. After the Labour Party’s War-time antics, after the first Labour Government, after the “betrayal” of the General Strike in 1926, we still found the Communist Party telling the workers to vote for Snowden and MacDonald and the rest of them—“Ramsay Mac,” as the Workers' Weekly affectionately called him in 1923.

They are all in the dock with Snowden. If 1931 demonstrated the bankruptcy of his theories so it did of theirs.

Snowden’s life work was to help build up .the I.L.P. and Labour Party, and then, in his later years, to try to tear them down again. Work for Socialism brings no speedy apparent triumphs like the formation of Labour Governments, but it also avoids waste of effort like Snowden’s.
Edgar Hardcastle

The Tragedy of Middle Age (1937)

From the July 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Manchester Guardian of June 8th and 9th, 1937, publishes two articles dealing with the unemployed women in the cotton towns. Socialists are continually being told that Socialism will destroy the sanctity of the home and family life, and the Guardian gives some interesting examples of what capitalism has done. The article commences:
   “Continued unemployment has made its most disastrous inroads into family life. Married sons and daughters with children of their own have as much as they can do to support themselves." It then goes on to illustrate the miserable condition of the elderly women operatives, mainly spinsters and widows, who cannot get work and who have to rely upon various charitable organisations. “These women normally remain at work at least until they are sixty." Many women even object to taking the old-age pension because it separates them from their accustomed mill life. The Manchester Guardian correspondent notices also the psychological aspect of this particular unemployment problem.

He says, “For instance the tremendous asset of inherited and acquired skill and the habit of sustained and continued interest in work are disappearing among younger women and girls. Few of these have ever had steady employment themselves, or have lived in homes where the steady employment of parents has set the mould of family life. The lack of this habit of work has made the placing of girls and young women between the ages of 18 and 30 a most difficult thing. At the Blackburn Exchange it was recently found that there were 700 young women with no binding home ties for many of whom work was available in other places in a great variety of occupations." Work was offered in wireless, biscuit, and chocolate factories, also domestic service. Not many were prepared to take advantage of these offers, and the writer of the article puts it down to the gregarious habits of three generations and the undermining of their independence through lack of regular work. Amongst the elder unemployed women the writer says there is a sense of frustration and a constant fear lest health should go, and lest there should be any diminution of the regulation sources of supply. When viewing their budget he gives the following among other pitiable details. A single woman’s income of 16s. leaves her with 3s. 1d. for food when all her other expenses are paid. Dependence upon gifts and jumble sales for renewals of clothes and household goods. If out of benefit the extreme difficulty of getting medical supplies, such small things as lint bandages and spectacles, things which, as old age approaches, become more necessary, especially after long periods of under-nourishment. There is little variation in their diet, they simply have to leave out some item of food when they wish to vary it at all. Perhaps leave out dried fruit when they include jam.

Finally, the Guardian correspondent is staggered to find that an unemployed woman of 50, if she lives another 20 years, will cost the State £700. Then, summing up what can be done, he says: “A great deal can be done on the human side by clubs." On the economic side the position is hopeless. The woman is not adaptable, and “the outlook is very drab and costly."

It seems that, as far as these workers are concerned, Socialism will not rob their family life of any of its sweetness. These women workers have done everything that they should have done from the standpoint of capitalist morality, and such is their reward. They have been good wives and mothers. They have started work at a tender age (some at ten years). Married early and continued at work whilst doing their duty to the State by providing it with future wage slaves. They have been thrifty, even taking up mortgages on houses in order to have a roof over their heads in old age. Full of proud independence, they have paid into coffin clubs—no pauper burial for them, kept their houses clean and neat, and lo! at fifty years of age they are stranded high and dry. Each one of these women, viewed by the parsimonious eye of the Relieving Officer, is going to cost £700 until she is safely under the turf. Why don't they die at fifty? What capitalism really needs is a brave new world, where all the industrially useless die off. Those that fall by the wayside and fill the hospitals, those inconvenient compensation-seekers should just fade away, leaving not even a memory. £700, the price, say, of a new car, or a fur coat, or a banquet, or twenty years of a worker’s life. Why won’t they die at fifty?

Just recently money has been poured out like water in a senseless display of Coronation finery and bunting. Beautiful women have each flaunted hundreds of pounds upon their persons. Hundreds of other women have been employed in getting these gaudy butterflies ready for their display. Meanwhile, hundreds of lonely, miserable women are facing the prospect of trying to live on an average of about £35 a year till they die.

Still, there is no satisfying some people. These women even object to leaving work and taking the old-age pension. They like the atmosphere of the mill. It offers a human interest, the back-chat of their fellows, but what an indictment of capitalism. The old and worn-out women clinging tenaciously to hard and laborious work, rather than face the struggle and loneliness of a pensioned backwater. The young, we are told, are even more awkward. They won’t shift over to other employment, not even to be a nice little slavey. They, of course, are demoralised by intermittent employment. They are not thrifty nor imbued with that fine, independent spirit for which their mothers were so richly rewarded. Maybe there is some hope that they will not be such malleable clay as their mothers, either, and that they might even ask for more than £700 for twenty years of useless life. Socialists are often also told that Socialism means the end of individuality. How do these women clothe themselves? Out of jumble sales. All individual models: some other individual’s. Also gifts of other people’s hand-me-downs. When they eat their individual 3s. worth of food they can each individually decide whether it shall be jam or currants.. Such soul-crushing poverty could perhaps be understood were it the result of profligacy or wastefulness, but it has been shown that these workers have worked hard for years, and the youngsters simply haven’t had the opportunity. It could be understood if we simply could not produce enough for all. Such was the common poverty of primitive times, but to-day there is no excuse for lack of food, clothing and shelter for any individual. The Guardian correspondent notices "fear of the future” and “frustration” as part of the outlook of the unemployed. This is typical, however, of employed workers as well. The average wage of £2 10s. to £3 cannot but bring frustration, and fear is engendered at the very thought of losing even that miserable amount. Even in the country districts, amidst abundant fresh air, the signs of undernourishment are painfully apparent. The' agricultural worker’s wage is totally inadequate and unemployment in the country is even more hideous than in the town. The writer of the articles sees no hope except through humanitarian and charitable channels. Next to the crushing effect of poverty comes the crushing effect of charity. It must, however, be administered tactfully, says the writer. Oscar Wilde had something to say about charity. He said it created a multitude of sins, one of which was gratitude. He said also that the best among the poor were never grateful. “They are ungrateful, discontented, disobedient and rebellious." Among these people, then, let us look for our Socialists. The Socialist says: Let us take away the ownership of the land and factories from the present owners and make them the common property of all. Let us make all those people who now perform no useful function do some useful work in production and distribution. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, policemen, canvassers and a host of other people who waste their efforts on useless work, including society beauties, who don't work at all, and the hundreds of people who minister to them. All of this energy could be pressed into service for the community, and the hours of labour considerably lessened. We will have plenty of leisure. We are all so work-weary that we do not really know how to play at all. Socialism will give us time to learn. Socialism means the abolition of poverty of the mind as well as the body. Capitalism means crooked bodies and crooked minds, but not all are so malformed that they cannot think in their own interests. To these we appeal to come and help us to clean up the mess.

Only through the establishment of Socialism can we get rid of poverty and unemployment. Only then can we get rid of Charity and her hateful sister Gratitude.
May Otway

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Specialist Disease (1937)

From the August 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

A novel written by Dr. A. J. Cronin which criticises the medical specialist has caused some comment in the papers lately. A writer in the Evening Standard gave the instance of a friend of his who, after having had a fall from a horse which brought on a form of rheumatism, went to his family doctor and was told that time and rest was the cure for his complaint. Not satisfied with this his friend came to London and spent a hundred pounds or so visiting specialists who did him no good. Finally he had to adopt the rest cure, and after some months was quite all right.

At the invitation of the News Chronicle, Dr. Harry Roberts gave his views in that paper (July 22nd, 1937).

In the course of his article Dr. Roberts makes the following remarks: —
   I have known men who, with no special training and no special qualifications, having failed in general practice, have staked their last few hundred pounds on a room or a share of a room in the Harley Street area, offering themselves to the public as a throat and nose specialist, a skin specialist, or a psycho-therapeutist. . . .
  Numerically, men of this kind constitute a fairly large proportion of the imputation of the fashionable medical area.
One or two ideas are suggested by the above statements. The first one is that people outside the medical profession are groping in the dark when they go to a specialist. They may be led to a competent man and they may be led to an incompetent. Even the competent is likely to be under the influence of his speciality. The man, for example, who is a cancer specialist is likely to twist, quite unintentionally, the symptoms of the patients who go to him into symptoms of cancer. There have been many instances of that kind of thing.

Why is it so difficult to find out the incompetent in the medical profession and why do unqualified people set up as specialists? The reason is quite clear to the Socialist.

The medical profession contains a proportion of competent and incompetent, just the same as any other trade. In the ordinary trades, however, there are men (foremen, managers, etc.) who are paid by the employers to find out and remove the incompetent. The medical profession, however, is one great trade union in which each doctor stands by the other and, so far, they have been able to resist any serious alteration of their methods. They are helped by the large body of wealthy people who are prepared to pay for the attention of doctors. Many of their complaints are due to high living, but quite a lot are purely imaginary.

The doctor, like the engine driver or the clerk, has to get a living. The getting a living (unless he has a private income) overrides all other considerations. If this can be accomplished by a brass plate with a fictitious specialised knowledge then the supporters of the present system cannot complain if the young doctor without patients gains them that way.

As long as a price is put upon knowledge and activity fraudulent methods will flourish. The only way to abolish them is by securing to everyone the satisfaction of his needs. The Socialist is working for this end.

When a man or a woman can devote their whole time and energy to becoming competent in whatever form of activity they may take up, without the haunting fear of being unable to obtain the elementary comforts of life, then there will be some security in going for advice to those who specialise in one way or another.

Why there is Not Enough to go Round (1937)

From the September 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Daily Express, which boasts that it has the largest circulation and the most up-to-date manner of presenting news and views of all the daily papers, has certain merits. One is that its reporting of the Spanish civil war, though concerned only with what editors call “news value," and therefore, scrappy on occasion, has been unusually fair and unbiassed. The second merit — the one which concerns us here—is that the editorials are often models of terse and lucid statement of fact and opinion. So much so that when they contain glaring falsities of argument it is difficult to avoid believing that the twist is deliberate. The issue of August 13th is a case in point. Here are the key sentences out of a three- paragraph editorial: —
  One kind of person goes round saying: “We have now solved the problem of producing all that we need. . . .” He doesn’t know what he is talking about. The world is still a very poor place. Many people in it starve. Many more go short of the ordinary necessities of food, shelter, clothes, and warmth. That is why it is wicked folly to cut down the business of growing more food, making more goods, extracting more material wealth out of the soil.
  The above-introduced fellow will often tell you that it is only the mechanism of the present (individualist) system that holds up the arrival of the Age of Plenty.
    Russia, which has a collectivist system, seems to show otherwise. For there the standard of living is still poor.
Now this is all very clear and all very crooked. A mixture of truth and half-truth, well calculated to mislead the reader. The truth of this matter is of importance to every one of the workers who read the Daily Express, but the distortion of it is of equal importance to the directors and proprietors, hence the discreditable editorial

Let us straighten it out a little.

It is the Socialist who says that we have now solved the problem of producing all that we need, and he does know what he is talking about. For observe that we do not say sufficient is being produced for the needs of all, but only that the problem of doing so has been solved.

In other words, what the Socialist has been saying for a long while is that sufficient for all could be produced but isn’t being produced. The fertile fields and rich mineral deposits are there in abundance, so are the highly developed and productive machines, the railways and motor roads, ships and aeroplanes, and everything else needed for production. So are the human beings who could do the work needed to put everyone far beyond the fear of poverty and deprivation. The Socialist is well aware that enough is not being produced at present, and this in spite of the curious thing that there are numerous instances of production being deliberately restricted and goods destroyed. But when coffee is burned in Brazil or cotton and wheat areas restricted in U.S.A., it is not because the world's needs for coffee, cotton and bread have been satisfied. It is because the people who want more of these things have not money enough to buy them, and the people who have money do not want to buy any more of them. So destruction and restriction go on in spite of the well-established fact that if the hundreds of millions of poor people in the world were suddenly told that they could satisfy their needs free of charge there would be an immediate and immense shortage of the necessities of life.

It will be noticed at this point that, although the Express says that we who say this “don’t know what we are talking about,” what we say is in agreement with what the Express says itself— all except that disingenuous trick already mentioned of pretending that solving the problem of production is the same thing as applying the solution.

The next piece of dishonesty is the pretence that Socialists have in mind Bolshevist Russia; which, of course, they have not. Socialists were claiming that the problem of production had been solved long before the Express heard of Bolshevism, long before there was a Daily Express, and long before Lord Beaverbrook set foot in this country. What Socialists meant and said was, that the problem had been solved in the highly developed and industrialised countries like Great Britain, U.S.A., Germany, and so on. Russia has been dragged in by the leader writer only because he wanted to discredit the Socialist’s claim that it is capitalism which prevents the productive forces from being used to the full. Socialists point out the very obvious thing, that the twofold way of enlarging the supply of goods for those who need them is to increase the number of wealth producers by roping in the idle rich and the unemployed, and to cut out the enormous waste of effort of people whose work is concerned with the unnecessary financial and other operations which capitalism needs and Socialism would not need, including the waste of armaments. What prevents this from being done? Socialists say that it is prevented and will be prevented as long as the capitalist minority controls the machinery of Government, including the armed forces, and can use their control to perpetuate their ownership of the land, factories, railways, and the rest of the instruments for producing wealth. The capitalists are interested in ownership because it enables them to live in wealth and ease without the necessity of working. They are seeking profit, not trying to satisfy the needs of the human race. So they direct policy to that end. They open and close their factories, expand or restrict production, burn coffee and curtail wheat growing, in accordance with their estimate of the effect on prices and, through them, on the amount of profit to be made.

End capitalism and have the means of production owned by the whole community, then goods will be produced for use alone, and the supply of them will not be hindered by artificial barriers of profit and private interest.

What has the Daily Express to say to this? Nothing, except to drag in the red-herring that the “individualist” system cannot be responsible, because in Russia there is a “collectivist” system and still poverty. To start with, the supposed “individualist” system is a myth. The typical capitalist enterprise is no more individualist than is the State capitalist Post Office or the State capitalist concerns in Russia. The Express confuses individual dictatorship over policy with individual enterprise. Lord Beaverbrook and his fellow directors and shareholders can indeed impose their will on the large staff who co-operate to produce and distribute the newspaper, but not by virtue of superior enterprise, only by virtue of legal right of ownership, backed up by the courts and the police. They can prevent the staff from using the paper as a medium for disseminating news and information whenever this conflicts with the shareholders’ purpose of making the maximum profit, but that is no more individual enterprise than is the destructive power of a rat to black-out the electric lighting of a whole town by gnawing a hole in an electric cable. The great-great-grand-fathers of the present generation of capitalists might boast of individual enterprise, but their descendants who do so do not know what they are talking about. They are no more individualist than are the highly organised American racketeering organisations to which they are related by the common purpose of living on the backs of others.

Neither in Russia, nor in the U.S.A. or England, has Socialism, common ownership and democratic control been established. In all countries what we see is a privileged minority tenaciously fastened to the backs of those who co-operate to run the economic machine.

But whereas Russia is still economically a backward country, in England and U.S.A. the production of useful articles could be vastly increased if it were not for the capitalist stranglehold.
Edgar Hardcastle

Letters to the Editors: Socialists and the State (1937)

Letters to the Editors from the October 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have received the following letter from a Southampton reader. Our reply follows.

August 22nd, 1937.

Dear Sir,
    Your party is certainly uncompromising, but when Marx was studying the Paris Commune he discovered the fact that the State, with all its various offices, was not of the slightest use to the working class. In the Socialist Standard, July, 1937, reference is made there to Lewis Morgan; he, more than anyone, illustrates the fact that with a change in the tool, and the ownership thereof, there came a change in government old forms, old means of repression: everything changed when the character of the tool changed. In our day? social methods of production are decaying under private ownership; the S.P.G.B., as I see, contend that the working class will govern, or be governed, as you will, by the political State; you evidently don’t intend an industrial democracy based on the social mode of wealth production.

       I can quote from Marx, Engels, and De Leon, as proof of my ideas, and your movements policy is, to put it mild, dishonest or dumb. A revolutionary organisation holds a great responsibility; do not avoid the facts.
N. Jolliffe.

Our correspondent thinks that Marx expressed certain views about the State, and that the S.P.G.B. holds other ideas, and that, therefore, we are dishonest or dumb. It would have been helpful if Mr. Jolliffe had been more explicit about the place in which Marx is supposed to have expressed these views, and that we are supposed to have opposed them, for actually both of these assertions are baseless.

But, before dealing with them, we would remind our correspondent that he is very much mistaken in thinking that he can prove any policy to be sound or unsound by quoting from “Marx, Engels and De Leon," or from Holy Writ or anything else. All he can prove by quoting from Marx is that Marx held a certain view. As Marx was a careful, conscientious and very well-informed and experienced student of political and economic questions, his considered opinion is deserving of the fullest attention, not, however, to be accepted as gospel. Marx, like other people, had to learn by experience, and sometimes made mistakes. Even geniuses make mistakes.

However, on the question before us the only mistakes have been made by Mr. Jolliffe.

What Mr. Jolliffe believes Marx wrote after studying the Paris Commune is that:—:
   The State, with all its various offices, was not of the slightest use to the working class.
What Marx really wrote was as different as chalk is from cheese. (The references are to “Civil War in France,” by Karl Marx; Labour Publishing Co. edition, 1921.)

Marx (p. 8) first quotes, with approval, the declaration of the Communists, that: —
   The proletarians of Paris . . . .  have understood that it is their imperious duty and their absolute right to render themselves masters of their own destinies, by seizing upon the governmental power.
Marx then adds his own comment: —
    But the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made State machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.
What Mr. Jolliffe has done (and many others before him) is to ignore the first statement about the duty of seizing upon the governmental power, ignore the word "simply,” and ignore the later passages where Marx explains that, having seized on the governmental power, the workers must amputate the “merely repressive organs,” wrest its “legitimate functions” from the usurping authority, and restore the legitimate functions to the responsible agents of society (p. 32). 

Neither here nor anywhere else does Marx ever say that the State is “not of the slightest use to the working class.”

As Mr. Jolliffe has brought in Engels, it will be fitting to use Engels’ own amplification of what Marx and he had in mind. In a letter to Van Patten, on April 18th, 1883 (i.e., immediately after Marx’s death), Engels wrote as follows: —
    . . .  The working class must first take possession of the organised political power of the State and by its aid crush the resistance of the capitalist class and organise society anew. . . . This state may require very considerable alterations before it can fulfil its new functions.
Now if our correspondent will turn to our “Declaration of Principles” he will find precisely the same idea in paragraph 6.

Regarding the next statement in our correspondent’s letter, concerning the supposed views of the S.P.G.B. as to the "Political State” under Socialism, we deny that he can find such a statement in any of our literature. The S.P.G.B. agrees with Marx and Engels that, with the disappearance of classes, there “ also disappears the necessity for the power of armed oppression or state power” (in the letter quoted above). The State will, therefore, in due course "wither away”—
   State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of the processes of production. The State is not “abolished," it dies out.—(Engel’s “ Socialism, Utopian and Scientific.” Chapter III).
Editorial Committee. 

"The Papacy and Fascism" (1937)

Book Review from the November 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Papacy and Fascism by F. A. Ridley (Secker & Warburg, 6s.)

The above is the title of a book by F. A. Ridley (published by Seeker & Warburg at 6s.), which is, as the paper wrapper correctly states, “An analysis of the role of the Papacy through history up to and including the present day.”

In spite of its small size, only 260 pages, this book is very informing and contains a good deal of useful information that is generally only to be had by much out-of-the-way reading. Mr. Ridley has adopted an excellent method which enables him to cover a vast period of time lucidly. He divides his history up into six parts, five of which represent crises the Papacy has survived, while the sixth is the crisis of the present day. The five are, respectively: (1) The fall of the Roman Empire and the migration of barbarian nations; (2) The mediaeval conflict between the Papacy and the Mohammedan world in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries; (3) The Renaissance of free thought and secular culture under the aegis of the Arabs and Moors in the 13th century; (4) The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century; (5) The crisis of modern liberalism that dates from the French Revolution and the enlightenment that preceded it.

Large chunks of history are collected round these central points in short interesting sections.

One basis of the author’s argument is that Catholicism represents ecclesiastical mediaevalism, whilst Fascism represents political and cultural mediaevalism. The two together are the twin enemies that bar the road to Socialism.

He describes the development of the early Church from a democratic institution to one in which the last relics of constitutional government had disappeared and was replaced by an authoritarian Church with an infallible head, using as reasons for this infallibility social and not theological arguments. He also shows how the Church, through the centuries, has been moulded by social circumstances instead of moulding them. It was driven, in self defence, to shield itself behind the bulwark of infallibility: —
   It has been the paradox of Papal Imperialism that it must cloak its acts under a professedly theological guise in order to defend the vast array of vested interests with which it is associated (p. 113). 
On page 117 the author describes how a Church with an unchanging creed and rooted in economic conditions of bygone times secured elasticity that enabled it to meet the challenge of modern times by a fundamental change in the power to make dogma, which was transferred from the Church to the Pope in 1870: —
    From this fate [collapse of the Roman Catholic Church before the intellectual and social revolutions of Europe in the present century] the Vatican decree, which transferred power to make dogmas (of course under the pretence of “revealing” it) from the dead church to the living Pope, from an unchanging to a changing authority, was designed to save the Roman Catholic Church by imparting to it the power of change in accordance with the needs of a changing epoch.
The author further points out that, while it was possible for the Papacy to adapt itself to the slow moving eras of the pre-industrial past, it is much harder for it to adapt itself to the headlong pace of modern life. If the Papacy is to survive, modern civilisation must be destroyed. The means of destruction is the various Fascist movements which, like the Normans and the Jesuits of the past, are the spearhead of the modern Catholic Church. Fascism, he points out on page 173, seeks to play the role of Caesarism in the 20th century; “the forcible stabilisation of outworn forms of society by means of a Totalitarian state, which itself culminated in a permanent dictatorship.”

The last portion of the book examines in detail the statements and actions of the leading representatives of Fascism and shows convincingly their close connection with the Catholic Church. On page 231 he makes the point, “even the Mohammedan Moors are promised entrance into the Christian Paradise if they kill enough baptised Spaniards with rifles ornamented with the insignia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

It may be added that he gives convincing evidence of the debt owed by the Jesuits to Mohammedanism, and makes an effective comparison between the Jesuits and the Fascists.

There are one or two criticisms, however, that we would make, though what strikes us as weaknesses are possibly due to the limited space the author had at his disposal. In the earlier part one has a feeling that there is an undue use of authorities like Lecky, Draper, Renan, and a corresponding neglect of other valuable writers, such as Oman and Ferrero. On the whole the economic bases of different movements and events have not been given the attention one would expect.

For instance, on pages 30-31, the connection between the rise of Catholicism and the rise of feudalism is not discussed, nor is it explained why Catholicism arose at that particular time.

With reference to the fall of the Roman Empire (page 34), Oman points out in his “History of the Art of War” that a considerable factor in the matter was the development of a superior military weapon by nomadic tribes—quickly moving horsemen armed with lances and bows and arrows.

On pages 47-49 the collapse of the Catholic Empire and the immorality of the Popes is described, and the author ascribes something remarkable to the institution which transcended its useful, however briefly, to say how this could degraded leaders. Here again it would have been come about.

On page 85 it is asserted that the Roman Church would have perished in the Reformation of the 16th century but for Loyola and his company of Jesus. This seems to us unnecessary. Who can say what other means might have been devised by the Church?

There are other points of a like nature that could be mentioned. For this reason it seems to us a pity that the economic foundations of the various movements, and mainspring of the principal changes, did not receive more attention, because the impression left on the reader by some passages is that the author sees history as a spiritual rather than an economic development.

On page 144 the author quotes from one of our pamphlets and refers to it as an "anonymous pamphlet” published by us. For the information of those who might be misled by this we will explain the procedure.

When the Party decides that a pamphlet is to be published one or two people are deputed to draft it. The draft is scrutinised and sometimes cut up by a small committee, and is then submitted to the Executive Committee, who go through it word for word before passing it for publication. Consequently every pamphlet published by the Party has the backing of the Executive Committee of the time.

Finally, in spite of the few comments mentioned above, we can heartily recommend “The Papacy and Fascism” as a book well worth reading by those who want to know where both the Catholic Church and Fascism stand in relation to the future progress of the workers.

The Popular Front and the Struggle Against Fascism (1937)

Editorial from the December 1937 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party of Great Britain does not accept the view that Fascism can be fought by uniting all anti-Fascists into a Popular Front or other group. In Great Britain Fascism will only be a serious danger to the extent that it succeeds (as it did in Italy and Germany) in winning over large numbers of the employed and unemployed workers to its side. In what way might that happen and how can it be prevented? It can happen only to the extent that workers who have for a time placed their trust in capitalist or reformist movements and leaders become disillusioned but cannot find any alternative except Fascism. It is of the utmost importance that Socialism should stand boldly and clearly as an independent movement ready to show the workers the right road of escape from capitalism when they had turned in disgust from Liberalism and Toryism and from the Labour Party idea of reforming capitalism. If it were possible for Labour Government or Popular Front Government to be genuinely successful then there would be justification for abandoning Socialism and concentrating on the administration of capitalism by the so-called “progressives." But it is not possible. No matter how capitalism is governed, the struggle between the propertied class—seeking rent interest and profits—and the working class—trying to resists exploitation—goes on. Where there is capitalism there is poverty and unemployment, the oppression of the weak by the strong, social unrest, strikes and rock-outs, and discontent with the Government which stands at the head of the system.

Popular Front Government or Labour Government is bound to bring eventual discredit on the parties associated with it. It is essential that the Socialist movement should not be engulfed in that general discredit.

Fascism can only be fought successfully by Socialists. Labourites cannot fight it because the Fascist social reform programmes are largely made up of points taken from the Labour programme. Communists cannot fight it because they are tarred with the same brush of dictatorship. Open defenders of capitalism cannot fight it because the workers are sick of naked capitalism.

Only Socialists—themselves consistent critics of capitalism, reformism and dictatorship—can combat Fascism.

The Civil War in Yemen: Britain Supports Our Bastards (2017)

From the July 2017 issue of the Socialist Standard

The poorest country in the Middle East, Yemen (part of which was the former British colony of Aden) has endured years of instability and poor governance. After the 2011 revolution toppled President Ali Abdullah Saleh who had been in power for more than 30 years, a new president, Hadi, was sworn in with international backing – but he was never able to fully establish authority. Yemen descended into civil war in September 2014 when the Houthis, a Shi’ite sect, seized power. A coalition assembled by Saudi Arabia launched an air campaign in March 2015, to restore the exiled government of Hadi. The Saudi-led bombardments have resulted in massive loss of life, and damage to infrastructure and millions have been driven from their homes. 10,000 people have been killed, many more thousands injured. In addition, many more are indirect victims of the conflict, including those who suffer from chronic diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes, and are unable to get treatment. Fewer than half of Yemen’s health facilities are operational as aid agencies struggle to access war-torn regions with lifesaving medicine, and around 1,000 children die every week from preventable diseases like diarrhoea and respiratory infections.

The Houthis are endeavouring to take complete control in what is what Boris Johnson has confirmed is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In his words: ‘There are politicians who are twisting and abusing religion and different  strains of the same religion in order to further their own political objectives... That’s why you’ve got the Saudis, Iran, everybody, moving in, and puppeteering and playing proxy wars’ (Guardian, 8 December). Saudi Arabia and its regional partners have used the spectre of Iran to justify an extensive bombing campaign over the country. Despite the extent of suffering, the war in Yemen receives less media attention than conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Many people in the UK are still unaware of the extent of the bloody civil war there and the wide-scale bombing by Saudi Arabia.

Arms sales
Back in early 2016, it was revealed that British military personnel were embedded in the command and control centre for the Saudis. Naturally, this carried the standard disclaimer that the UK’s guidance was to assist the Saudi regime to comply with international humanitarian law. Advice that, if it was given, has been ignored in view of the regime’s bombing of civilians and hospitals, dropping internationally-outlawed cluster bombs (made in Great Britain). Cluster bombs release dozens of small ‘bomblets’, which often lie unexploded and can cause horrific injuries long after the initial attack. When ‘our’ allies commit war crimes, a convenient blind eye is turned to it by the government which remains complicitly silent. Parliament’s International Development Committee has said the evidence is ‘overwhelming’ that the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels violates humanitarian law. ‘We are shocked that the UK government can continue to claim that there have been no breaches of humanitarian law by the coalition, and continue sales of arms to Saudi Arabia. We are convinced that there is more than a clear risk that weapons sold to Saudi Arabia might be used in the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law. The evidence that we have heard is overwhelming that the Saudi-led coalition has committed violations of international law, using equipment supplied by the UK.’

There is a reluctance by the UK or its media to condemn the military intervention of the despotic Wahhabi dictatorship. Imagine a boat full of innocent refugees, men, women, and children, being machine-gunned by a helicopter gunship, leaving dozens dead and many more wounded. Wouldn’t that make the headlines in the media and lead to very vocal condemnation by the government? Not in the UK. Could the reason be that the perpetrators of the crime happened to be one of Britain’s biggest weapons customers.

Theresa May continues a policy of bending over backward (or is it forwards?) to cosy up to the corrupt Saudi sheiks in order to sell weapons. ‘Riyadh is a key trading partner,’ says George Joffé, a research fellow and professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. ‘The main answer as to why the United Kingdom supports the coalition is as simple as it is shameful: contracts’.

Since the bombing began in March 2015, Britain has licensed sales of arms to the regime that are worth billions. Raytheon’s factories in Essex and Scotland produce the Paveway IV guided bomb which, according to its manufacturer, has proved itself ‘time and again, as the weapon of choice by the end users’. One enthusiastic end user is Saudi Arabia, bombing hospitals, schools, markets, grain warehouses, ports and a refugee camp to turn Yemen into a living nightmare.

Britain doesn’t just sell arms to those dictatorships – it sells its diplomatic silence as well. While Saudi Arabia pulls the trigger, it is Britain and the US which ever-faithfully reloads and replaces its weapons. Calls to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia over war crimes have been ignored. The UK has given political cover to the Saudi regime by preventing various resolutions and investigations from happening. Under UK arms export law, it is illegal to sell arms or munitions to a state that is at ‘clear risk’ of committing serious violations of international humanitarian law. To date, the United Nations has recorded coalition attacks that have violated international law, many of them including shelling civilian installations such as hospitals, schools, mosques or markets. However, the British government is firmly opposed to an arms embargo against its ally, claiming there is no conclusive proof of human rights violations. It also blocked a proposal by the Netherlands that the UN Human Rights Council set up an independent inquiry into war crimes in Yemen.

Oxfam has said the UK has violated the International Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates the transfer of conventional arms to ensure there are no violations of international humanitarian law. Governments who sign the arms treaty are obliged to review their weapon sales and ensure that they are not being used for human rights violations. Oxfam accused British politicians of being in ‘denial’ over the selling of arms to Saudi Arabia for use in the war in Yemen. Penny Lawrence, Oxfam UK deputy chief executive, told a conference. ‘It has misled its own parliament about its oversight of arms sales and its international credibility is in jeopardy as it commits to action on paper but does the opposite in reality.’ Addressing MPs in the House of Commons, Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, dismissed evidence from a UN report that the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen had targeted innocent civilians as predominantly based on hearsay and may have been falsified by Houthi rebels. UN Security Council resolution 2216 reads as if Saudi Arabia is an impartial arbitrator rather than a party to the conflict with no mention of the Saudi-led intervention. There was similarly no call for a humanitarian pause in the fighting or safe corridor for aid.

Civilians pay the price
After two years of civil war, the country is on the brink of famine, of Yemen’s 25.6 million people, almost 19 million are in urgent need of assistance. Almost seven million are severely food insecure, meaning they need food aid immediately. UNICEF has calculated that a child is dying every 10 minutes from a preventable illness. Two million children are acutely malnourished. Less than half Yemen’s hospitals are functioning at all, and those that are face daily shortages of staff, medicines, and electricity. Humanitarian groups struggle to deliver aid to large parts of the country. Not only are people starving. Those who try to alleviate the situation are prevented from doing so. ‘Clearly, Yemen is one of the hardest places in the world today to work – massive security concerns, escalation in the fighting and the violence across the country.’ WFP’s Deputy Regional Director Matthew Hollingworth said several medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed. While arms sales to the warring factions are thriving, the key port of Hudaydah, which aid agencies describe as ‘a lifeline’ for Yemen, is now virtually closed, due to a naval blockade by coalition forces and the destruction of its cranes in air strikes is proving devastating for the civilian population in a country that depends heavily on imports of foodstuffs. Imports are essential as only 4 percent of the country’s land is arable and only a fraction of that is currently used for food production.

This Saudi economic strangulation is preventing the import of food and medicine and the targeting of vital infrastructures such as roads and bridges has contributed to the dire situation Yemenis are now facing. ‘If restrictions on the commercial imports of food and fuel continue, then it will kill more children than bullets and bombs...’ said UNICEF’s spokesman, Christophe Boulierac.

The Western states are showing that they value the profits of their weapons industries over the lives of Yemenis, otherwise they would immediately stop providing the bombs, the bombers, the armoured cars and tanks, the Apache attack helicopters, the missiles, the howitzers, the training, the refuelling, and all other military support to the Saudi coalition. The reality is that the Saudi Air Force, roughly half UK-supplied and half US-supplied jets, could barely function without the ongoing assistance from Washington and London. Without a ceasefire between Houthi factions and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, and the opening of sea-ports and airports so vital supplies can enter the country to allow for the rebuilding infrastructure, the crisis is unlikely to let up, and it will be civilians who pay the price.

Saudi Arabia does not operate on its own but receives logistical support from Britain and the US. European manufacturers also contribute to the armaments orgy. The media looked the other way when Saudi Arabia blackmailed the United Nations by threatening to pull funding if the country was not dropped from the secretary-general’s ‘list of shame’ of states that kill children. A UN report had revealed that the Saudi-led coalition is responsible for over 60 percent of the children killed in the conflict. Yet the country was able to use its position on the UN Human Rights Council (how they got there when there’s no pretence in Saudi Arabia is a mystery) to thwart an investigation into violations committed in Yemen. David Wearing, a researcher on UK-Saudi-Gulf relations with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade report, said: ‘Successive governments of all political colours have prioritised arms sales over human rights. The toxic UK-Saudi alliance has boosted the Saudi regime and lined the pockets of arms companies, but has had devastating consequences for the people of Saudi Arabia and Yemen. For the sake of those people, the UK government must finally stop arming and empowering the brutal Saudi monarchy.’

Britain supplies the Saudi dictatorship with weapons and it provides the diplomatic smokescreen to protect the mediaeval Saudi regime’s war-crimes. The current Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon shamelessly backs arms manufacturer BAE to sell more weapons to the Saudi Arabian government. ‘Are we supporting them? Absolutely.’ A past foreign secretary Philip Hammond pledged to ‘support the Saudis in every practical way short of engaging in combat.’ Nor should we forget that about 100 Labour MPs failed to support a motion moved by shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry to withdraw support for the Saudi regime. Thornberry was subjected to interruptions from Labour MPs. Labour MP John Woodcock, for instance, who claimed that British support is ‘precisely focused on training Saudis’ to improve their targeting, so as to ‘create fewer civilian casualties’, was parroting the official government line. The idea that the Saudi regime’s ‘widespread and systematic’ attacks as stated by the UN on civilian targets are just a series of well-meaning errors is one that lacks credibility. And if decades of training provided by Britain to the Saudi pilots hasn’t prevented these supposed errors by now, it seems rather unlikely that it will in the future.