Notes by the Way

Maxton and Marx
Mr. Maxton’s utterances never show more than a superficial acquaintance with Marx’s writings, just sufficient to impress the average uncritical I.L.P. audience. Nevertheless, he claims on occasion that he is a Marxist, and the I.L.P. as a body is now, according to its General Secretary, on a “definitely Marxist” basis. Mr. Maxton, writing about the late John MacLean (New Leader, September 2nd), says that it was MacLean who gave him his “earliest insight into the work of Marx.” Maxton goes out of his way to praise MacLean for integrity and courage in refusing to “minimise or explain away what he had said,” on the many occasions when his activities landed him in the dock.

This is more than can be said for Maxton in his advocacy of the Marxism which he is supposed to accept. He recently reviewed Trotsky’s “History of the Russian Revolution” in the News-Chronicle (June 27th, 1932). Here was a rare and valuable opportunity for Mr. Maxton to declare himself boldly. But the News-Chronicle is the organ of Nonconformist-radicals, and Non-confornnst-radicals have votes, and they strongly dislike Marxism with its materialist philosophy. So the would-be British Lenin carefully balanced himself on the fence, managing at the same time to deliver a nice back-hander in the shape of the common jibe of the capitalist apologist that Marxists are “doctrinaires.” He gave a brief statement of the Marxist case, but prefaced it with the words “the doctrinaire Marxist . . . tends to describe in hard, formal language the economic conditions, and the nature of the class struggle which is in process.” Then, instead of saying “This is the Marxian case. I accept it,” Mr. Maxton would not commit himself to anything more definite than “The Marxist says, and probably says truly, …”

There is a good word for this sort of thing— “mealy-mouthed.”

Mr. Maxton used to be a teacher. We can imagine how he taught. “Now, boys and girls, the doctrinaire mathematicians say that two and two make four. They are probably right. . . .”

The school authorities must have been glad to get rid of him.

* * *

How Dare They!
The Daily Mail is shocked. Some workers in New South Wales have “seriously” asked to be allowed to have some of the comforts of life over and above a bare subsistence. This occurred at the N.S.W. Industrial Commission. The Mail reports as follows : —

“The trade unions . . . admitted that the cost ot living had fallen but tried to introduce a higher wage standard, seriously demanding allowances for tobacco, 7 pints of beer weekly, two cinemas weekly, 12 suit pressings yearly, hair shingling and cigarettes for wives. They also claimed that the children of workers should not of necessity have to wear patched trousers. . . .” (Daily Mail, 27th August.)

Who ever heard of such a thing? Not necessary for workers’ children to wear patched clothes ! What would there be to keep their mothers out of mischief in their idle hours ? Off they would go for their weekly allowance of cigarettes and hair-shingling, and heaven knows what else.

This was not far short of treason and the Industrial Commission smartly nipped it in the bud, reducing the basic wage from 82s. 6d. to 70s. for men and from 44s. 6d. to 38s. for women.

* * *

The Leopard Has Not Changed its Spots
Labour Party supporters who believe that the Labour Party has become a different party since it lost Snowden and MacDonald should ask themselves why, at the Twickenham by-election in September, the Daily Herald (September 15th) thought fit to give prominence on its front page to a declaration by the Hon. Treasurer of the Twickenham Liberal Party urging voters to vote for Mr. Holman, the Labour candidate. In the absence of a Liberal candidate this Liberal Party official found the Labour candidate deserving of Liberal support. If the Labour candidate stood for Socialism, as his party pretends, he would have received just as much opposition from the Liberals as from the Tories. Instead of which the Liberal press told their readers to vote Labour.

* * *

It is Just the Same at Home
A special correspondent of the Manchester Guardian has made a tour of inspection of the great industrial works being built in Russia. He is favourably impressed by what has already been achieved in the way of improving the productive capacity of Russian industry and is optimistic regarding future progress. But this is what he has to say about the living conditions of the workers at Magnitogorsk, a new industrial town where an enormous steel plant is under construction : —

“Perhaps the most serious and certainly the most obvious defect at Magnitogorsk is the complete absence of decent housing. The barracks where most of the workers live are over-crowded and sometimes infested with vermin ; the canalisation and water supply are most unsatisfactory. The ungainly brick structure which represents an hotel for engineers was so over-crowded at the time of my visit that people were using the bathrooms as living quarters. The administration of the factory readily admits the unsatisfactory state of the housing, but explains it by the necessity for concentrating all available labour and material on industrial construction. That this explanation is not regarded as altogether satisfactory is evident from a recent tart governmental characterisation of the situation, which begins : ‘The conlition of work on the building of the city of Magnitogorsk is in an extremely unsatisfactory state, which threatens to upset the productive activity of the Magnitogorsk works. The plan of housing construction for 1932 has been fulfilled only by 10 per cent.'”

When the correspondent discovered the bad housing and the irregular food supply, etc., alongside marvellously-equipped factories and up-to-date plant and machinery, he must have felt how closely Magnitogorsk resembles any other industrial area in any other capitalist country. But then what is the use of sending correspondents abroad unless they can discover or pretend to discover some new thing ?

* * *

Asquith and the Life of the Worker
What the Manchester Guardian correspondent forgot to say about the life of the workers in England was said by the late Lord Oxford (then Mr. Asquith) in a letter written in the early nineties, and published in The Times (September 14th, 1932): —

“We all think, at least I do, a vast deal too much about ourselves and our own feelings and hopes. When I was at Oldharn to-day I was standing at half-past 12 outside Platt’s works. They are the largest machine makers in the world, and employ 10,000 “hands.” The whistle sounded for the dinner hour, and suddenly the great gates were opened and there burst out an ocean of men, in such numbers that for five minutes the streets in both directions were blocked by the moving crowd. I watched them closely as they passed me—a long procession of wan-faced, grimy, tired, silent figures. They get an average of 18s. a week, and work with intervals for meals from 6 to 6. Civilisation and religion have done something for them—given them paved streets, watertight houses, Board schools, chapels, and even (in Oldham) an art gallery. But life in its real sense they have never known, and to their dying day will never know.”

Twenty years afterwards Mr. Asquith did not think that there was anything incongruous or indecent in his asking these same men to sacrifice their lives defending against the Germans the interests of the class Asquith represented, the class responsible for these conditions.

* * *

Capitalism’s Crises
Writing in the New Leader (September 16th), Mr. Maxton ridicules the possibility that capitalism may recover from the depression. Against a recent forecast of trade revival he places a number of statements from capitalist sources and says, “I could go on citing from Tory newspapers evidences in support of my belief that the industrial crisis is deepening.”

Mr. Maxton may be right about the trend of the depression at the moment (but even on that point he can be right only because he was completely wrong a year ago in announcing that the final collapse of capitalism would have occurred before February, 1932), but in general his argument is hopelessly confused and misinformed. He says:—

“Every year since 1921 one or other or several of our leading public men has announced to the world that the depression of trade is over, that the boom is in sight.”

Mr. Maxton is unaware of the fact, but nevertheless, capitalism, both in Great Britain and in the world generally, was going through a period of expansion up to the start of the present: crisis in 1929. In Great Britain the number of unemployed in 1928 and 1929 was nearly a million fewer than in 1921. The volume of production increased between 1921 and 1929 more or less continuously. According to the review of world production (1925-31), just issued by the Economic Section of the League of Nations, the world output of primary products rose 11 per cent., of industrial products possibly 30 per cent., and general trade 20 per cent. (Manchester Guardian, September 16th).

At different times Mr. Maxton has held many beliefs., most of them wrong ones. Workers who swallow his present absurd belief about the impending collapse of capitalism will have cause to regret it just as they had cause to regret swallowing Mr. Maxton’s earlier beliefs–abandoned for the time being—that the workers’ only hope was to vote for the Labour candidates, that they should put their trust in Snowden and MacDonald, that bankers alone, and not the capitalists as a whole, are exploiters, and that capitalist reforms are the way to solve working class problems.

* * *

Socialist Propaganda in Russia
The refusal of the Russian Government to allow Trotsky’s supporters to propagate his views is a reminder of the obstacles Socialist propaganda will have to overcome in that country even when the Russian workers begin to wake up to the fact that Bolshevik-administered capitalism cannot solve their problems. One of Trotsky’s adherents in Moscow writes as follows to the New York Militant (July 30th, 1932): —

“Despite the unremitting organisational raids, the Left Opposition lives. Oppositionist units and groups are disseminated everywhere, and in many places considerable Oppositionist nests are uncovered. There was hardly ever in this world at any time or anywhere such difficulty for a genuine Marxist trend to carry on its work, in the technical sense, as there is for us at present in the Soviet Union. This is one of those vicious jokes of history, on which the most expert dialectician can break his teeth. The more respectable part of the capitulators motivates its capitulation precisely in this manner, ‘it is anyway impossible to carry on illegal activities ; at any rate, it is better to serve as an honest functionary of the workers’ state.’ But it appears that the Oppositionist idea finds its channels. As regards this sphere, I, of course, am compelled to be exceedingly careful. I shall enumerate therefore only such facts as have already received a certain publicity, or to put it more exactly, which have reached the ears of the rulers.”

Imitating their Moscow masters, the British Daily Worker (August 31st) states that it will not insert letters defending Trotsky’s point of view.

* * *

Where the Communists Get Their Money
Money is not so plentiful in the Communist Party as it used to be, but even so the officially-returned expenses of the Communist candidates at the last election totalled over £2,500, not counting their 20 forfeited deposits, which total another £3,000. (See “Election Expenses,” H.M. Stationery Office, 1932. 1s. 3d.)

Of course, anyone who knows the difficulties which face small organisations with a working-class membership knows that the Communist Party, with its daily paper and lavish expenditure on publications, must be subsidised. Officially the Communist Party has never denied this—why should it ?—but the ordinary members, for reasons of tactics or because they know no better, frequently maintain the contrary. There is, however, no doubt whatever that money has been and no doubt still is being received from Russia.

In 1919 Zinoviev in his Presidential Report for the Executive Committee of the Communist International dealt with the question of monetary support for parties abroad and said that the

“Russian workers . . . deemed it their proletarian duty to render . . . support to the struggling proletariat of other countries. . . . The Italian Communists, for instance, proudly declared quite openly that some of their party organisations could not have been formed except for the brotherly help of the Communist International. Similar declarations have been made by the Communist workers in other countries.” (“Editions of the Communist International,” printed in Christiana, 1920. Report by Zinoviev, P. 17.)

He said that it had been decided that the Russian Communist Party should “take upon itself the chief burden of expense of the work of the Executive Committee.”

Mr. Walton Newbold admitted, in a letter to Forward (July 10th, 1920) that his expenses when running as a Communist candidate for Parliament “were defrayed in the main from the funds of the Communist International, and originated in Moscow.”

The Communist official organ, Workers’ Life, on May llth, 1928, issued a “Frank Statement” on “The Communist Party’s Money.” The statement contains the passage: —

“The Communist Party has never sought to disguise the fact that it is a national section of an international party, paying its financial contribution to its international headquarters and receiving assistance in return from time to time for different phases of its national work.”

This “frank” statement is, of course, decidedly the reverse of frank in contriving to disguise the fact that the money received from Russia is far in excess of the contributions to Russia. The Home Office claimed that the British Communist Party spent £27,928 in the year ended April, 1928, of which £10,330 was derived from payments of £5 Bank of England notes made by a bank in Moscow. (See Daily Telegraph, June 27th, 1930.)

There has never been any real reason why any Communists should deny something which everybody knows and to which the only objection is that it ties the Communist Party to the unsound policy of their paymasters.

* * *

The Quality of Communist Party Membership
The Communist Review (August) publishes figures of Communist membership in Great Britain since 1922. The figure given for that year is 5,116 and for January, 1932, 9,000. Comment is made on the unsatisfactory quality of the membership and on the rapidity with which recruits pass in and pass out again. The writer says that some 1,500 of the 2,700 members who joined between November, 1931, and January, 1932, had left the Party within about six months. This would make the present estimated membeiship about 7,500. When it is remembered how the Communist organisers rope in hundreds of members at a time, this instability is not surprising. During the cotton dispute Mr. Saklatvala was in Lancashire on behalf of the Communist Party. He sent a message from Preston to Communist Headquarters claiming that he had enrolled more than 100 strikers in one day as members of the Party. (See Manchester Guardian, September 9th, 1932.)

The writer in the Communist Review says most of the recruits at the end of 1931 “came from the ranks of the unemployed, signed application forms at mass recruiting meetings in moments of enthusiasm; many of them having no real intention of becoming members.”

* * *

Capitalists and Capitalists
Mr. Bromley, President of the Trades Union Congress, is one of those Labour leaders who encourage the false view that the workers should line up with one section of the capitalist class (the industrialists) against another (the bankers). At the Trades Union Congress on September 5th he developed this line and described the National Government as being controlled by “banking and financial interests.” If we turn to the Labour Party’s analysis of the composition of the House of Commons (see Labour Bulletin, March, 1932) we find how little warrant there is for Mr. Bromley’s assertion. Out of 691 directorships of companies held by Members of Parliament, only 11 are bank directorships, and 53 are described as “finance and land.” Among the non-financial directorships there are 29 brewery, 26 chemical, 30 coal, iron and steel, 40 electric light and power, 36 engineering, 51 insurance, 36 mining, 24 paper, printing, etc., 25 railway, 26 textile and 20 telegraph directorships.

Are we to understand from Mr. Bromley that only the banking and financial M.P.s vote for capitalism and against the workers, and that the remainder have backed the workers against the Government and capitalism ? We have not noticed this, but we do notice that the railway directors are asking for another cut in the pay of the railwaymen, including those who are members of the Union of which Mr. Bromley is General

* * *

The Country that is Safe for the Bondholders
The Moscow Daily News, published in English, and distributed by official Russian agencies, gave prominence in a recent issue (August 15th) to some flattering remarks about Russia made by Mr. Corliss Lamont, son of Thomas W. Lamont, of J. P. Morgan & Co., the American financiers. The headline running right across the top of the front page says, “Soviet Bonds Safest says Lamont.”

The sub-headings are “Recommends them to U.S.A. investors. Big Return, Par Redemption, Defaults Unknown.” . Mr. Lamont, in an interview, said : —

“It is true that the Soviet Union offers great opportunities to American business men. … I am even more impressed, however, by the opportunities here for the average American investor. How many people in the United States know that they can invest in the Soviet Government bonds which regularly bring a return of 10 per cent. in good American dollars, and which can be redeemed at par on demand ? Backed up, as they are, by the resources of the whole Soviet Union, it would seem that there are no safer bonds in the world to-day, and few as safe.”

How happy the American investors will be to discover that they can get a safe return of 10 per cent. in good American dollars, and how lucky the Russian workers are to have this opportunity of consoling the bondholders after their recent unfortunate speculations with Mr. Kreuger, and the Instill companies.

* * *

Perhaps the visit of Mr. Lament to Moscow and the recent suggestions of Russian approaches to New York financiers will explain the sudden cancellation of a Negro film which the Russians had planned. The Crisis (September), a Negro-American monthly, states that 22 young American negroes went to Russia at their own expense, but by invitation, to take part in a Communist propaganda film. Suddenly they were informed, late in August, that the contract was “off.” The Observer (London, September llth) publishes a report from the Moscow correspondent to the effect that some of the negroes concerned have stated that the film was cancelled because representations were made by “an influential American who is interested in promoting closer relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.” The negroes are annoyed and denounce the Soviet Government for “making a compromise with white American imperialism at the expense of the oppressed negro proletariat.”

* * *

Censorship in Russia and Elsewhere
Dr. Edwin Bevan writes to the Times (September 3rd) complaining because the Russian authorities held up a book of his dealing with the History of Christianity. It was returned with the note that its entry into Russia is forbidden.

Dr. Bevan is probably not aware that within the past two or three years, and possibly now also, the SOCIALIST STANDARD, as well as the publications of the Communist Party, are forbidden entry into Australia. Now that we have drawn his attention to it, we wonder if he will write to the Times about it.


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