The Communist Party: Communists in a Hurry
In the ‘Communist’, September 10th, 1921, F. Willis remarks on the passing of propaganda pamphlets like “Socialism and Bimetallism” and “Socialism and Old Age Pensions” ; relics of a bygone age. Our present-day Communists need “sterner stuff “; they want something quickly. One wonders why those professing to be Socialists ever came to propagate solutions for the domestic difficulties which beset the Capitalists, such as those mentioned above; but “J. B., ” in the same issue of the Communist, evidently doesn’t agree with Willis that the day for such things is no more. He has rediscovered an old friend, although it is dressed in a new garb, with Communist trimmings.
Discussing the problem of unemployment, he points out that while food and clothing are abundant the unemployed are starving and freezing, and, not unnaturally, the sufferers demand sustenance. “The unemployed have a right to share in these; they, have, a right which the capitalist has not.” “The righteous demand for relief must be fully met. That, is the first, and most urgent reply of the Communist to the evasion of the Capitalist . . . All possible pressure must be brought to bear on Boards of Guardians and the Government to meet the demand.”
Unfortunately, the Capitalist class have an irritating habit of’ ignoring demands, even “righteous” ones, demand the Communists ever so urgently.
The reply will be that foreign trade, on which as a nation we depend for food, in return requires low wages to permit low prices. “J. B. ” says this is a fallacy, but goes on to say “nevertheless, it is a business proposition that what we do produce should be produced as economically as possible, and to do that we must remove capitalism.”
To remove capitalism would mean, one might suppose, to remove the need for competitive commerce; but evidently the goal to which the Communist Party hastens is not our goal at all, for this is what follows : “But we must still face the fact that, that advantage would not be permanent, as other countries are bound to follow in the same path. ” If that means anything it means that “J. B. ” envisages the possibility of the seizure of power here by an intelligent minority, before similar seizure in the rest of the world and the continuance of production for the world market in order to get food, until other countries see our superiority and do likewise.
That other capitalists would allow such even if it were likely to happen, is incredible, and “J. B. ” sees this, for he gives his remedy. “We are thrown back, then, to the need for developing agriculture, . . . and here is the central problem which emerges from the unemployment crisis. Food production must be organised to produce, not profits, but food. ” What land is cultivated “is treated merely as a tool to make landlords and farmers rich. . . . The financial interest of the farmer must go. ” Here incidentally arises a pretty little problem. Suppose farmers join the Communist Party to gain “relief from the unendurable burden of landlordism, ” as they are invited to do (see Agrarian Thesis—Introduction), then to the extent that the Communist Party is successful they will have become richer than before, only to have their riches taken away; a mean kind of trick, to say the least of it. However, who would refrain from admiring such masters of tactics as the intellectual giants who conceived this?
“Communists then, while devoting every possible effort to compelling immediate and adequate maintenance for the unemployed, as a right and not charity, declare that the only way to end the menace of unemployment is the reorganisation of industry, removing private ownership, arid working with the knowledge that the branch of industry which primarily needs developing and organising is agriculture. “J. B.’s” argument is that because the first and most urgent need of the: unemployed is for food, that the reorganisation of food production is the solution of their problem. That agriculture has been backward under Capitalism no one would deny, but that backwardness can be and is rapidly being overcome by the Capitalists whose concern it is. The workers are poor because they are robbed, not because their employers in agriculture or elsewhere mismanage production. Under Socialism food would be produced where it could most economically be produced.
It is only the military necessities of capitalist states which induces them to become as nearly as possible self-supporting, and it is because capitalism has broken down national barriers and has made production social and world-wide that the workers’ movement is international. The idea that each nation must aim at being self-supporting is in reactionary in the extreme, for it encourages the false notion that the workers have an interest in promoting the national welfare.
Agriculture does not present a problem different in kind from the general social problem; it is merely a branch of industry and will be included in the transfer as a whole to common ownership. Those questions of technique and organisation with which the present owners are unable or unwilling to deal, cannot usefully be grappled with by the workers until after the revolution.
Some Communists are in a hurry—backwards ‘. Back to the Land.