1930s >> 1930 >> no-311-july-1930

The “New” Socialism

Mr. G. D. H. Cole, who explains how to “deal” with unemployment in the I.L.P. paper, The New Leader, also contributes a series to the columns of Everyman Weekly. One article is called “Socialism, Old and New,” but his ”Socialism” is neither old nor new—it may be Coleism, but it isn’t Socialism. He explains that the old Socialist method was to nationalise industries. Not entirely nationalised, but some in State hands and others in private hands. Mr. Cole does not point out that Socialism means social or common ownership, and, therefore, does not mean Government or private ownership. But even Nationalisation is too strong for this I.L.P. contributor, who is now an economic advisor to the Labour Government! He explains the “New Socialism” thus:


   Meanwhile, on their side, the Socialists have not been standing still. There has been an’ evolution of opinion among them fully as notable as that which has taken place among economists or employers. Broadly speaking, most Socialists (and nearly all the younger Socialists) have ceased to regard nationalisation in the old sense of the term, as something desirable in itself and inherent in Socialist policy, and have tended to transfer the emphasis of their argument from the need for national ownership of industry to the need for effective public control.

According to this, “Socialists” certainly haven’t been standing still—but standing on their heads. Ownership is the basis of control, and while the workers do not own they will not control. While another class owns, that class will always control the workers’ lives—by control of their means of living. Mr. Cole asks:


   Can we not have, instead of nationalised industries in the old sense, great recognised public utility corporations working under social control, and co-ordinated into an efficient whole by means of a State economic agency? It does not need great changes and it may need no change of ownership at all, to convert the railway service into a public corporation of this sort.

Public Utility Corporations, controlled publicly—owned privately! That is the new Socialism. But America contains plenty of these firms, and they are just as much capitalist as any other concerns with the added monopoly power of vast businesses in control of the entire field. Exploitation of the worker and the large profits of the capitalist continue. Public control, what is that? Where it is not ordinary Government regulation it may be State, employers and workers represented on a board. And as the State is the agent of the capitalist—as Labour Rule as well as Tory Rule shows— the workers’ voice is in a minority—especially when the so-called workers’ representative is usually a Labour leader looking out for a “future” for himself.


Later in the article Mr. Cole confesses that his new “Socialism” is simply the old capitalism. For he instances two so-called publicly controlled businesses in this country in which “public” control was established by Tories and Liberals. He says:

   “Socialists are apt to forget that the railways and electricity Acts of late years were passed by anti-Socialist Governments.”

No, we do not forget—Socialists remember and know that Liberals and Tories and Labour tools of capital will establish Government regulation of large utilities in order to harmonise these services with the general interests of the capitalists who use these utilities.
The railways—Mr. Cole’s own illustration —are privately owned. And the real control lies in the owners of the largest shares who decide by the number of shares how the railways shall be run. In the interest of the Traders the Government regulates their charges, but does not stop them making profits out of their employees who do the work.
Labour misleaders, like Mr. Cole, will confuse the workers with false ideas of Socialism. The function of the Socialist is to explain the nature of Capitalism and Socialism. Capitalism under private or public control means a working class working for wages (when it pays the capitalist to employ them), it means a parasite class living on profits in the forms of dividends on shares, public loans, etc., which all come out of the results of the workers’ labours.


Government control or ownership does not alter that.


Socialism means common ownership by the workers of the means of producing wealth, and also of the product.


Many who don’t know, think that the object of the Labour Party is common ownership. Others think that it is only Government ownership of industries. The truth emerges that the object of these alleged Labourites is public control, thus leaving ownership as well as control safely in the hands of the owning class. Liberals, Tories and “Labour” can unite on this; and when this capitalist objective is achieved the working class will be where they are now—slaves of capitalism.


Adolph Kohn