Here and There: Harry Pollitt
“The peoples want peace. They want to be shown the clear road to be able to keep peace. The working-class movement has the sacred duty of showing them . . . what road has to be taken. . . . Let the working-class movement of Great Britain lead the way to peace. It can do— it shall do!”
“Forward, then, to the greatest Crusade for Peace this country has ever known: —
For the defeat of the National Government;
for helping in every way the German people to overthrow the Hitler Government, the Government that is the chief war incendiary in Europe to-day;
for the expulsion of the Japanese invaders from China and for a democratic Japan;
for the expulsion of the Italian plunderers from Abyssinia, and the liberation of the Italian people from Fascism;
for a world front of workers and peasants and all friends of peace against the instigators of war.”
If Mr. Pollitt ever gets the time to ponder on his inane slogans he might ask himself and try to explain how the working-class movement could effect the expulsion from Abyssinia of 250,000 Italians, armed with guns, tanks, aeroplanes and poison gas, without war. Having settled that problem he might also try to explain in what way the working class would benefit by the expulsion of the armed forces of Italy from Abyssinia and of the Japanese from China.
Come, Mr. Pollitt, the Daily Worker will be read with interest for your reply!
Slave-ridden, barbaric, semi-feudal Abyssinia has been “annexed” by capitalist Italy. The annexation, inevitable otherwise, might have been prevented by the intervention on the side of Abyssinia of strong capitalist Powers like Great Britain and France. The intervention did not take place, despite the vociferous demands that it should by many capitalist interests, supported as usual by soft-headed Labour and Communist Party leaders. Italy’s new Abyssinian Empire, situated as it is on the British sea route to India, and in a strategic position among British African colonies, gives Italy a vastly increased bargaining power with British capitalism. The conquest has doubtless caused intense concern to British interests. That the British Government did not intervene to prevent this possible threat to its interests and prestige suggests that they had hoped for a result less decisive—a compromise giving Italy a less dominating position, or that they had considered the cost too great and the possible consequences at the moment too grave. For it is certain that if British capitalism became involved in another war that smaller capitalist Powers would seek to embarrass her by throwing off her domination, by demanding concessions, and even, if the opportunity occurred, by grabbing part of her wealthy Empire.
It is indeed a hard world for capitalist countries that have the responsibility of owning enormous wealth.
“The disappointing thing to me about the Budget is that it reveals an altogether unpleasant healthiness about the capitalist system.”
It must be discomforting to Mr. Maxton to reflect that six years ago he made a dramatic forecast that the capitalist system would collapse within six months. He was wrong, as we pointed out then, and as events proved. He is now disappointed in capitalism’s “unpleasant healthiness.” That much he has learned. If Mr. Maxton had the ability he might, by study, understand the workings of the capitalist system: why, in times of crisis, it appears to be collapsing and at other times shows “unpleasant healthiness.” It is more likely that Mr. Maxton will understand capitalism better and ultimately acquire Socialist understanding only as events force their lessons home to him. That is, in the same way that the mass of workers will acquire an understanding of Socialism.
Postmen and Knights
The Annual Conference of the Union of Post Office Workers, held at Brighton, at its sitting on May 5th, had a minor breeze. Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the T.U.C., who was a fraternal delegate, came very near to being refused a hearing. A resolution was moved to delete his name from the list of fraternal delegates. This drastic action was proposed because Sir (formerly Mister) Walter Citrine had accepted a knighthood. The voting was amazingly close. The resolution was defeated by 1,081 votes to 910. In explanation, lest it be inferred that the respectable postmen recognise the emptiness of titles and the futility of working men possessing them, the resolution was supported mainly on the ground that it was conferred by the National Government. The delegates supporting the resolution staged a walk-out when Sir Walter rose to speak. An awkward situation, through which, it may be assumed, the dignity of his title helped Sir Walter without undue embarrassment.
Socialism versus Reforms
The Socialist argument that reforms have only a limited benefit for the working class is graphically supported by the following from the News Chronicle (March 12th, 1936): —
Sir John Orr’s report on Malnutrition is no pleasant reading for a lazy afternoon; and it should dispel the belief which seems to be gaining currency in lazy circles that malnutrition is due to ignorance of food values rather than to poverty. It is easy for well-fed persons to accept such doctrines as the truth.
Proof, if proof be needed, that poverty is, in fact, the villain of the piece can be found in Stockton-on-Tees, which boasts one of the best Medical Officers of Health in England: .
In the last five years Stockton has re-housed nearly half its worst slum population in one of the country’s best designed and spacious housing schemes.
Economy and efficiency have made possible a rent in this new district of barely one shilling per week per head more than was paid in the slums.
And in the last five years the only really noticeable difference between the slums and the new area has been a big increase in the death rate among those who have been better housed. The slum death rate remains the same.
That one shilling per week per head means, in fact, sufficient food to make the difference between life and death.
We oppose reformist policy on the grounds that reforms do not solve the working-class problem of poverty, even though reforms might have some immediate benefit. The reform dealt with above— better housing—would appear to be definitely harmful to the working class: the position being that health suffers and the death rate increases as more money is spent on rent and less is spent on food. And after a hundred years of reforms we have as much poverty and more reformers than ever.