1920s >> 1925 >> no-254-october-1925

A look round


Capitalism produces some vile things. In no other age could the motive arise to adulterate and half poison the very essentials of life as is done to-day. As far back as 1860 an Act was passed for “preventing the adulteration of articles of food and drink,” yet the report of the Public Analysts recently published in a blue book admits that adulteration takes place “about the same as in former years.” (Report Morning Advertiser, Sept. 10, 1925). There is adulterated milk, butter containing washing soda, condensed milk containing lead, copper and tin, and jams dyed by salicylic acid. In one case a sample of “strawberry jam” was found to contain not less than 75 per cent, apple jelly, and not one “whole strawberry.” A trader was fined for exposing for sale jam which was described by the prosecution as being indescribably filthy and containing dust, dirt, and straw, and even a small piece of ham bone. Two samples consisting wholly of flavoured maize starch, without any dried egg, were described as “delicious custard.” There is even “Glorious Beer” contaminated with lead, arsenic, or an excessive amount of salt. Small wonder that the workers overworked, stifled in slums, and half poisoned, fill early graves in such numbers. Nor are the public authorities immune from suspicion. The very existence of an army of food and drug inspectors is evidence that this form of sophistication is inevitable under Capitalist society :—

“The owner of a carcase of meat which no one required locally, decided to send it to a large town. There was no local inspector, but under the regulations, the carcase had to be inspected locally. An inspector of drains and nuisances was sent for to carry out the inspection, although he lived five miles away and admitted that he knew nothing about the work.” (Letter from W. S. Stevens to the Times, July 22nd, 1925; quoted also Vegetarian, August.)

When medical science has said the last word it still remains for the Working Class to establish a sane system of society (Socialism). Only when such a system prevails in which pure food, fresh air, and rational pleasures are the prerogative of all, can the human organism develop powers of resistance to disease, disease which is admitted by all authoritative opinion to be mainly the outcome of unhealthy social conditions.

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Probably one of the prejudices most difficult to dislodge from the workers’ mind is their concern over Rates and Taxes. The truth regarding this question is obscured by appearances, and discussion is often difficult because most of the workers’ thinking is superficial. To remove confusion, these deceptive appearances must first be put aside so that a deeper insight may be obtained. The question is an economic one. Out of the total wealth which the workers alone produce from nature’s material—what determines the share that falls to the Working Class and the Capitalists respectively? Rates and taxes have been put on and taken off year in and out. Prices of the necessaries of life have likewise varied. Taking a sufficiently lengthy period (say, 20 years) all the variations have been experienced. Have the workers ever gained any real advantage from these variations ? Did bonuses help them during the war when they barely covered the already advanced prices? Did the later fall in prices help them? Did not the removal of bonuses and wage adjustments bring conditions roughly to their former state? The answers are all plain ones. Likewise, there have been years of relatively higher or lower rates and taxation but each year end finds the Working Class as they were at its beginning—in poverty. Why? They can produce much more in a given time than is necessary to sustain them for that time, but that “much more” is the property of their masters. The chattel slave of antiquity did likewise, but he was fed and sheltered directly by the slave owner. No one would suggest that he paid the Taxes of the Roman Empire. They were paid out of the wealth which the slaves produced. Where, then, is the difference? It is merely a surface one; though the modern slave receives a wage he can only obtain with it the necessaries of life on the average. The exploiting nature of the buying of Labour Power is covered by the deceptive appearance of the money payment. Deluding the workers that they contribute towards taxation is pre-supposing that in some mysterious way they receive more than a subsistence wage. But the Capitalists take ALL the wealth produced and return only that wage, or cost of living. All Capitalist expenditure, therefore, such as the maintenance of criminals, of paupers, and the cost of Poor Law Relief, comes out of the wealth the workers produce but DO NOT GET. If the workers want proof that these expenses concern the Master Class only, we point to the reform legislation introduced by them that deals with such expenditure; Old Age Pensions, for example. The cost of maintaining aged paupers is less outside than inside institutions. The cost of the Workmen’s Compensation Act is less than other forms of maintaining Capital’s human wreckage. The Widows’ Pensions Bill is further evidence. Introducing this Bill Mr. Chamberlain proceeded to deal with the charge that it would impose an impossible burden on industry :—

“Proceeding, he put some considerations on the other side which are to be taken into account in weighing up the advantages and disadvantages. . . . There will be immediate relief of the rates, estimated at about 3 millions a year, which will probably rise until it gets to about 7 millions a year” (quoted, Gleanings and Memoranda, June).

Thus the paraded philanthropy of Widows’ Pensions is found to be a repetition of the Lloyd George Old Age Pension swindle, a device for saving Capitalist rates. Fellow workers, study our position and you will cease being bated by your masters and their agents over matters that haven’t the slightest concern for you if you but knew it. Which is the most important, relief for your masters’ rates and taxes, or relief from your present slavery and consequent poverty ?

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The pet scheme of the I.L.P. and the Labour Party has always been Nationalisation. That they call Socialism and they point to the Post Office as its standing example :—

“The Post Office was really the one big Socialist organisation that had been built up in this country.” (Vernon Hartshorn, late P.M.G., Observer, May 4th, 1924.)

We oppose Nationalisation because we claim and show that it is only a form of Capitalist ownership leaving the workers wage slaves still separated from their means of life and compelled to work for the collective Capitalists under a system of State ownership. The economy effected in the use of human labour power through co-ordination means a decrease in the number of workers required for Capitalist production and distribution. Nationalisation, therefore, means that the workers are still to remain a subject class whilst their conditions will be worsened.

Our alternative is common ownership, which will abolish privately owned wealth and the class subjection which is its outcome. Speaking at Durham Ramsay McDonald said :—”The Labour Party stands for Nationalisation”; but, more important, he said also :—

“I should not be doing justice to you or to myself if I told you that Nationalisation was going to get you out of your present difficulties. You know I should be lying if I tried to spoof you in that way.” (Times, July 27th, 1925.)

So, for 25 and 30 years respectively, the Labour Party and the I.L.P. have been lying and spoofing you because they have told you thousands of times that public ownership or Nationalisation is the only remedy for the social evils from which you suffer. Furthermore, we have always insisted that with even a substantial Labour majority as in Australian Labour Governments, you cannot have Socialism, if such Party has been elected on a mandate merely to administer Capitalism. Such Parties fail because they cannot, even if they wished, force Socialism against the wishes of a Working Class who still cling to Capitalism under some form or other. Again the hypocrite, MacDonald, supplies the evidence though not at election times, that would lose votes :—

“Even if they had a revolution they could not create a Socialist state out of it. In building up their state they had to deal with the habits, the prejudices, and the expectations of the people, and when that failed they would be compelled to retreat.” (Report of I.L.P. Summer School, Daily Herald, August 4th, 1925.)

One of the mental habits of which the Working Class must rid themselves is the expectation that any Government or set of people can achieve their emancipation for them : While the workers place political power in the hands of the Master Class or their decoy Labour agents they will be compelled to retreat again and again : only when through class understanding they elect and control their own Socialist representatives can they go forward with the objective they have in view, the conversion of Capitalist Property to Common Property, the Socialist objective.

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Apart from the possibility of establishing Socialism in any isolated country, we have always maintained that a widespread Socialist opinion was impossible in such a country as Russia, where social production, the generating condition for such ideas, had not even been developed. That did not prevent us from giving the Bolsheviks full credit for their achievements carried through under great difficulties. Likewise, we have consistently refused to pour scorn upon them for failures that were inevitable under the particular conditions prevailing in that country. Many and varied have been the opinions of the Labourites who have visited Russia. Apparently, each sees exactly what he wishes others to believe he has seen. Lansbury went “to see what a Socialist Revolution looks like at close quarters and came back convinced that there is perfect freedom for everybody to worship God.” (What I saw in Russia : Lansbury.) The trade unionists find perfect models of trade union organisation and decide to apply their experience to British conditions as soon as they return home. (Visit of W. I.R. Delegation, Morning Post, Aug. 18, 1925.) Others profess to see only starvation and misery, while Mrs. Snowden finds the Bolsheviks insulting the great religious figures and decrying religion (Daily Telegraph, Sept. 8, 1925). Some may remember the stock bogies of the Capitalists and their agents in the past : the Boer and the white flag, the always drunk and bestial German officers, the alien agitator spreading sedition in “our” country. Mrs. Snowden’s pet obsession is :—

“One little fellow who rattled off his father’s pet Communist speech and demanded that we should go back home and tell the British workman to turn the rich people into the street.” (Through Bolshevik Russia, Mrs. Snowden.)

That was in 1920, but another precocious orator appears in 1925 :—

“One little fellow of 13 or 14 years of age delivered a speech which he had learnt by heart in the language of the Commissars. It was one long tirade against everybody except the proletariat.
On another occasion a little boy said to Mr. Ben Turner : “Why don’t you in England kill all the bourgeoisie? In Russia we have killed them.” Mr. Turner mildly explained that people in England did not do such things, but the boy turned away in contempt, saying-: “It is better that you should kill them.” (Daily Telegraph, August 8th, 1925.)

Mrs. Snowden thinks such words strange to come from the lips of a little boy. So do I, but not for her reason. Boys of 13 are not in the habit of memorising long political speeches. And there does not appear any language difficulty. No interpreter was, apparently, there, the “little fellow ” just turned away uttering his murderous views as he “turned.” Perhaps.

Ben understands Russian “mildly,” or. being considerate perhaps, the “little fellow” spoke in English. Strange—yes ! Such trifles apart, however, they enable Mrs. Snowden to prate of “the effects of teaching the hard theories of Bolshevism without the softening influences of Christian Faith, love and justice.” Regarding the latter, most people will remember their practical application by the Christian Nations during the years 1914-18. As for the softening process there certainly does seem some evidence. Loosely speaking, we would say that it takes place in the region of the
thinking apparatus.


(Socialist Standard, October 1925)

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