1930s >> 1932 >> no-337-september-1932

Notes by the Way: Circumstances Alter Cases. A Communist Slogan for England Only.

Circumstances Alter Cases. A Communist Slogan for England Only.

One of the useless reforms urged by the communists in Great Britain is the abolition of inheritance and the confiscation of all fortunes over £1,000. (See Class Against Class, published 1929, by C.P.G.B., p. 30.)

What gives special interest to this demand is that it is something the communists in Russia make no pretence of carrying out. Russian law “recognises the right of inheritance irrespective of the amount involved.” (Soviet Union Year Book, 1930, p. 498.) Inheritance tax is paid, but the law specifies maximum rates of tax, which may not be exceeded by the separate republics which make up the Soviet Union. The maximum scale of tax is graduated from £2 on £200, up to £23,854 on £50,000. (See Year Book, p. 405.)

We wonder what sort of reception a simple-minded English communist would have who tried to enforce the abolition of inheritance and confiscation of all fortunes above £1,000, among the highly paid technicians and, administrative officials in Russia.

Ethel Mannin’s Blunder.

A recent recruit to the I.L.P. is the novelist, Miss Ethel Mannin. In February she was reminded by a correspondent that her claim to be a socialist does not square with the reformist programme of her party. In reply she wrote: —

  I agree entirely that the I.L.P. is a reformist party—which is a reason why I shall probably not remain with them. Actually I have no faith in any party. (Italics hers.)

When the split came, Miss Mannin followed the disaffiliationists. She gives her reasons in the New Leader (12th August). One is that she believes in moving “to the left—always to the left.” Another she explains as follows : —

We of the Left Wing have our dream, the tremendous dream of Socialism in Our Time, and it is up to us to be proud of it instead of being apologetic about it. Thank God we have this dream, for no one else seems to have it—certainly not the official Labour Party! And without this dream what is left to us ?

This is where Miss Mannin makes her mistake. The I.L.P. have not got this programme now. Brailsford and three other I.L.P. leaders, wrote it for them (the “Living Income Programme”). But already by 1928, according to the Report to the I.L.P.’s Annual Conference, presented by the Administrative Council, “its main proposals are being gradually incorporated in the thought and propaganda of the Labour Movement, and are exerting a continuous influence on the policies of its leadership.” (Report, 1928, p. 3.)

It was, therefore, quite logical for the four men who wrote it to leave the disaffiliationists and join the official group, and quite logical, for them to claim that their reformist policy, known as “Socialism in Our Time,” is now the inspiration of the Labour Party. The leading disaffiliationists, who assert that they have made a clean break with the I.L.P.’s past, confirm this claim.

So that Miss Mannin is in the uncomfortable position of having her body in the I.L.P.—and moving “to the left—always to the left’’—while the Ark of the Covenant containing the essence of her proud dream is being borne off to the right by the four men who fashioned it. And in the meantime Maxton and others have drawn up a new list of reforms for their reformist party.

Miss Mannin should be told about this.

Muddled Middleton Murry.

After achieving distinction in literature, Mr. John Middleton Murry blew in on the world of working class politics by announcing himself a Marxist and communist. It was at once evident that Mr. Murry has much to learn and many old habits of thought and expression to unlearn before he will appreciate what the socialist case is and be able to enlighten others. His attempts to explain Marx befog rather than clear the air, and nobody would be more startled than Marx if he could know what he is supposed by Mr. Murry to have meant by some of his writings. To say this is not to throw doubt on Mr. Murry’s well-meaningness, but it appears to be very difficult for the typical academic or literary man to believe that Marx could have meant just what he said.

How muddled Murry is can be seen from his constant shifting of position and his enthusiasm for contradictory policies. He appears at first to have had leanings towards the Communist Party, and is still a worshipper of Russia, being under the impression that Socialism is being built up in that country. However, he quarrelled with the communists and turned up in the I.L.P. While still there he read one of our pamphlets in March this year, and promptly wrote to us: “It seems to me I ought to join.” He did not proceed with the matter, and by August he had discovered a new hope. Writing in The Adelphi (August, p. 764), he said: “There is a good hope that gradually the I.L.P. will become a genuinely socialist organisation —the only one in this country.”

It would be interesting to know in what way the S.P.G.B., which apparently was a socialist body in Mr. Murry’s eyes in Match, had ceased to be socialist by August.

In the same issue of The Adelphi, Mr. Murry shows how little he understands of Socialism by defining it as “economic equality”—an inadequate phrase completely missing the essence of the matter, which is that its basis will be the common ownership of the means of production and distribution. He also describes Mr. R. H. Tawney as chief of the “small number of genuine socialists” in the Labour Party. Mr. Tawney has never committed himself to common ownership. In his Acquisitive Society (p. 67) he expressly declares his belief in the necessity of continuing property incomes in the form of interest on investments.

Unless Mr. Murry will make an effort to understand the elementary principles of Socialism he will no doubt suffer the fate of many others who have skimmed over the working class movement. He will drift off, disgusted with the slow progress of socialist organisation, but no wiser than when he came in as to why it makes slow progress and why his well-meant efforts do not help.

Lo, the Poor Indian!

Those who profess to believe that the poverty of the Indian workers and peasants is due only to the British Exploiters would do well to ponder over a statement which appeared in the Daily Herald (26th July), that there are twenty Indian millionaires living in Bombay whose fortunes are estimated to total £70 millions. The capitalist amasses his wealth by exploitation, and whether he is Indian or British, He does not allow race, religion or sentiment to come between himself and his riches and power.

The Power of the State.

We have heard much from communists and syndicalists—particularly in South Wales—about the all- conquering power of organisation on the economic field. How limited the unions are and how helpless against those who control the machinery of’ Government was well illustrated in a recent case. On April 1st, 1932, Mr. Justice Bennett granted an injunction restraining miners at the Bedwas Navigation Colliery from “the watching and besetting of the colliery,” as being in violation of the law. Members of the Miners’ Federation ignored the injunction and held a show of cards at the mine. On June 29th the Judge required the defendants to appear for Contempt of Court. Accordingly they were compelled to travel to London at their own expense and appear in person to make individual and abject apology. They all of them pleaded that they would not have held the show of cards if they thought it was in violation of the injunction, and they solemnly promised not to do it again. (See Times, 30th June and 8th July.) Some of them are said to be communists and active advocates of so-called direct action.

Curious Communist Electioneering.

Mr. J. T. Walton Newbold, until just recently a supporter of the National Government, writing in the O.B.U. Bulletin (Winnipeg, 28th July), tells how he and Saklatvala, who were candidates of the Labour Party, and later became communists, angled for the non-socialist votes of Irish nationalists and Catholics. He says that he, at Motherwell, and Saklatvala, at Battersea, had deliberately picked seats with a large Irish vote and set out to capture it by appealing to nationalist sentiment. Newbold claims that fully half of the votes he received in 1918 were Irish votes. In the 1922 election, after Newbold had joined the communists, 5,000 out of his 8,000 voters were Catholic Irishmen. This is what the communists called winning elections for Communism and Internationalism.

Newbold has had cause to welcome the split in the I.L.P. Having been a Fabian, then in turn a member of the Labour Party and I.L.P., the Communist Party, the I.L.P. again, then the Social Democratic Federation, then the MacDonald National Labour Group, he was for the moment stumped to find a new party to join. The split in the I.L.P., by increasing the number of parties, has given him another chance, and he is now supporting the Maxtonites.

An Angry Right Honourable.

The Right Honourable Thomas Kennedy, P.C., is editor of the Social Democrat and is very angry because Viscount. Snowden, speaking in the House of Lords on June 29th, commented on the late H. M. Hyndman’s belief that capitalism would collapse as each new industrial crisis came round. Kennedy says that it is a lie, angrily denounces Snowden and the I.L.P., and demands evidence for the statement. Snowden had been supplied (free of charge) with a copy of our pamphlet, “Why Capitalism will not Collapse,” and doubtless was indebted to it for the information about Hyndman. This recalls a curious action on the part of the Social Democrat. When we published the pamphlet (which contains evidence for the statement about Hyndman) we sent copies to the Social Democrat (of which Kennedy was not then editor) and Forward, the I.L.P. journal. Forward reviewed, it and acknowledged that it is published by the S.P.G.B. The Social Democrat did not review it directly, but published an editorial fiercely attacking it on the basis of Forward‘s review, and implying, without saying so directly, that it is published by the I.L.P.

The Social Democrat’s editorial (April, 1932) actually pretended that the pamphlet is an attack on doctrinaire economic theory and a defence of the “broad, open-minded, benevolent, pleasant-Sunday- afternoon methods of the I.L.P.” in the days when it was led by Ramsay MacDonald.

There is nothing whatever either in the pamphlet 
or in the review by Forward which supports the 
extraordinary line taken by the Social Democrat.

A View on Russia.

In The Times (5th and 6th August) an Italian journalist, Carlo Scarfoglio, writing after a tour of Russia. gives an interesting account of the rapid emergence of the typical features of capitalism. He shows how, in spite of the claims and intentions of communists, industrial development is giving rise to the ordinary class differentiations of capitalism, from the collective farm labourers earning about £100 a year up to the foreign specialists with £2,400 and every sort of additional privilege. Clerical and so-called intellectual workers are now being paid more than skilled craftsmen and the latter more than unskilled. He notes the appearance of privately-owned motor cars and racing boats, and the accumulation of capital in the hands of the investors in State loans, receiving up to 10 per cent. interest. The so-called State industries are tending more and more to independence, and to the position of ordinary private enterprises.

He shows the illusion behind the belief that the workers and the State are one, with common interests. The wage-earner is in precisely the same position as in any other country.

Scarfoglio thinks that the Bolsheviks may be able and will wish to continue calling Russian capitalism by the name of communism.

Edgar Hardcastle