1920s >> 1921 >> no-200-april-1921

Jottings

The speeches of the Labour members in the debate on German reparations show once more the futility of supporting them. To support the Labour Party means to support capitalism—the monstrous system to remove which ought to be the endeavour of every worker. Speeches are too long to quote here: no doubt they have been widely read.

 

The Prime Minister, criticising J. R. Clynes’ contribution, thought his words would have no practical effect except to stiffen the German resistance to payment. He (George) claimed that we ought to give Germany the appearance of complete unanimity in this matter, whereupon Clynes went one better by retorting that he wanted the fact of unanimity; not the appearance of it! He meant, of course, that they should all present one united front in the method of extracting payment, and not to let Germany see that they quibbled over details. The business was straightened out eventually by J. H. Thomas coming to the rescue and announcing that the Labour Party would not vote against the Bill in order to show a united front to Germany, although, inconsistently enough, he had supported Wedgwood when he pointed out that “the British workers, through unemployment, were paying the indemnity.”

 

Without speculating as to how it comes about that the British workers are paying the indemnity beyond remarking that it shows a remarkable ignorance of elementary economics, it is seen that by identifying themselves with the question of the amount and method of payment of war indemnities, they are concerning themselves with something that is purely a capitalist issue. As Mr. J. L. Garvin points out in the “Observer” (20.3.21),

 

   . . . the Labour Party, considering its nominal convictions on international affairs, gave last week on the Reparation Bill as miserable an exhibition of shuffling, ducking and retreating as Parliament ever has presented. . . . Labour denounces the unparalleled iniquity of the Government, and yet does all it can by these methods to keep the Government in. Labour’s feebleness in the House and tactics in the constituencies are the chief support and hope of the Coalition. . . Altogether, nothing more convenient and providential could be imagined for the Government than the Labour Party as it stands, and as it is likely for some indefinite period to remain.

 

These truths could not have been better stated, and the Socialist unhesitatingly subscribes to, no matter what their source.

 

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In the “Labour Leader” for March 17 there is a criticism of Lord Leverhulme’s definition of capital. Leverhulme’s definition was not the correct one by any means (capitalists take care to have special definitions where working-class audiences are concerned), but what I am concerned with here is the ”Labour Leader” critic’s conception of capital. He appears to believe that capital is necessary to the well-being of any society, that it is only its possession in the hands of a few individuals which constitutes a menace. “No one in his senses wants to destroy capital, any more than anyone wants to destroy the air we breathe. Capital is almost as necessary as air—and because of this it should be as much the common property of all.”

 

As this individual (John Jacks) runs a column in every issue of the “Labour Leader,” we may take it that this represents the official view of the I.L.P.—indeed, it is laid down in their programme that “Socialism requires that land and capital necessary for industrial operations should be owned and used collectively.” Socialism, of course, requires nothing of the kind, and statements like these only go to prove that the I.L.P.’s understanding of Socialism and capital resides in the same quarter as “the air we breathe.”

 

Capital is a means of robbery, whether in the hands of the few or the many, and being so must be abolished. Robbery and slavery are the basis of present-day society, and that basis must be smashed in the interests of toiling humanity. If the I.LP. believes that capital will exist under Socialism—which they claim— and if capital can only arise through exploitation, then, clearly exploitation will continue !

 

To take it a little further, if capital is taken out of the hands of the few and placed in the hands of the whole of the people, then the people, collectively, are going to exploit or rob themselves collectively ! The absurdity will be seen.

 

The clever individual referred to above recommends Lord Leverhulme to get a text book on elementary economics in order to learn what capital is. I advise him to do the same, and to read it twice. In the meantime I offer him— and others—the correct definition of capital:

 

 Capital is wealth used to exploit labour.

Capital is unpaid labour, therefore robbery and slavery are the terms used to denote the conditions of human beings who are compelled to submit to being robbed, bludgeoned, and butchered through their ignorance of the factors operating within the capitalist system and the means necessary to remove them. This ignorance is not dispelled by so-called Socialist organisations preaching capitalist economics.

 

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The great boom in diamonds has come to an end. During the war, when thousands of men of the working class were being blown to hell daily, those for whom they were fighting splashed their money about like water. Diamonds especially found a tremendous sale, but like most things with the moneyed class, they soon tired of one thing and turned to another.

 

To prevent diamonds coming down in price the supply has been purposely restricted by partially closing down the mines, and in some cases closing them down altogether. This has the effect of cheapening labour power by augmenting the available supply, and at the same time keeping up the price of diamonds at about three times the pre-war level by restricting output. As the world’s output is controlled by a strong syndicate, they have things pretty much their own way. Production being for sale, glutting the markets is avoided as much as possible. Thousands of tons of foodstuffs have been destroyed for no other purpose than to keep up the price artificially. Under Socialism production will be for use.

 

Tom Sala.