1930s >> 1936 >> no-382-june-1936
Answers to Correspondents
Will the Workers ever become Socialists?
R. A. Gilbert (Stroud).—Your view is that it is a disservice to Socialism to attack the Bolshevist Government and deny that “Socialism is being born in Russia.” It all depends, of course, on the facts of the case. If you could show that Socialism is being born in Russia we would have no choice but to accept that, but you cannot do so. Like many others who in earlier years have denounced our attitude, and told us to wait and see while this or that Liberal-Labour or Labour Government introduced the millennium, or while this or that minority party seized power and introduced Socialism without first converting a majority to Socialism, you act on faith, and take no regard of the forces which really govern the situation. Socialism cannot be achieved by the “inflexible determination” of leaders, or the inspiration of non-Socialist masses, but only by a politically organised Socialist majority. You suggest that the workers, ‘‘in their present environment, are incapable of emerging from the serf-like mentality which obsesses 95 per cent, of them.” We would ask you to consider two points: (1)Why are the 95 per cent. not capable of doing what the 5 per cent. have done? (2) On what ground do you assume that the leaders of the Labour Party are more enlightened than their followers? Have you ever contemplated the difficulties of converting the Macdonalds, Thomases, Bevins, Morrisons, etc., from reformism to Socialism?
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Socialists and Strikes
C. F. Jansen (N. S. Wales).—Your letter only just to hand. Although the hypothetical case you state may seem clear, yet in practice the problem sometimes presents surprising difficulties. We have known of a case, for example, where war-mad workers came out on strike to force a Socialist to signify his support for the war by entering his name under a recruiting scheme. Does he thereby become a blackleg because he defies the Union? What of the cases where men are trying to prevent the employment of women, white men trying to exclude coloured men, or where an outside body is trying to engineer a strike for reasons of its own, irrespective of the interests of the workers directly concerned? Remembering that these and similar difficulties have to be reckoned with, the position of the S.P.G.B. is that we support the workers on strike against the employers when the strike is for objects that are in the interests of the working class.
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Bolshevist Notabilities and the Workers
A correspondent (Mr. T. Grenfell, Bath) writes to protest against what he considers the unnecessarily bitter reference to prominent Bolshevists who attended the funeral of King George V. (See The Socialist Standard, March, p. 38.) In an article contrasting that funeral with the case of a woman who had to push her dead child in a perambulator, the statement was made that ‘‘Needless to say, Maxim Litvinoff and Marshal Tuchaschevsky were not there.” Mr. Grenfell takes this as suggesting that the two men “were even less considerate of the sufferings of the bereaved mother than the agents of British imperialism.”
We need hardly say that was not the intention of the article, and it had not occurred to us that it would be so understood. The main point was that life and death are little regarded under capitalism unless the persons concerned are wealthy or powerful. A second point was that the representatives of the Russian Government play their part in the official ceremonials of capitalism just like the representatives of other Powers, and attend unofficial ceremonies, such as the Shakespeare commemoration, where their presence is gratuitous and has no bearing on working-class questions. That they and other official personages are sympathetic towards the workers’ sufferings is beside the point. The sympathy of the privileged for the unprivileged has no practical effect in social questions. Opposition to capitalism and its representatives is required of all who stand for Socialism.
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N. Lafferty (Edinburgh).—In a letter running to nearly 1,000 words you range over a very large number of points of varying importance. If you will write briefly, telling us what is your essential criticism of the S.P.G.B., and what alternative you advocate, we will publish it, and our reply.