1930s >> 1936 >> no-382-june-1936

Notes by the Way: Workers, Beware! All Your Property is at Stake!

Workers, Beware! All Your Property is at Stake!
Nobody can complain any longer that they do not know what they stand to lose if they don’t go to war. Mr. Churchill has told us, in the Evening Standard (May 1st). The article is about German preparations for war, and how this affects us.

One looks at the people going about their daily round, crowding the streets on their business, earning their livelihood, filling the football grounds and cinemas. One reads their newspapers, always full of entertaining headlines, whether the happenings are great or small. Do they realise the way events are trending? And how external forces may affect all their work and pleasure, all their happiness, all their freedom, all their property and all whom they love ?

You see now how it is. If you, the workers are not ready to defeat Germany in war, then all your property is at stake!


You, the 17½ million adults who don’t own even £100, must be ready to fight for Mr. Churchill and his class, so that their property is safe.


Mr. Churchill boasts that he never ran away from criticism. Very well, let him tell us why the propertyless majority of the population should sacrifice their lives to protect a country owned by somebody else.


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Prominent Labour Leader Admits that Our Policy is Right
The case put forward by those who believe in trying to improve and reform capitalism step by step is that the accumulation of reforms would gradually diminish the gulf between rich and poor until one fine day Socialism would be here. Socialists have always pointed out in reply that this argument overlooks the subordinate and almost defenceless position of the workers against the attacks of employers, and the enormous stream of wealth flowing into the possession of the capitalists year by year. All the money spent by the Government on old-age pensions, unemployment pay, etc., is less than the amount the workers have lost in wages through unemployment and the wage reductions which have taken place over a period of 15 years. Instead of the gulf being removed it has, at best, remained as it was before. In short, all the efforts of the reformers have been wasted so far as helping forward Socialism is concerned. They have barely kept pace with the growth of new problems and the worsening of old ones.


A man who has worked for reforms for over a quarter of a century is Mr. Thomas Johnston, M.P., who held office in the Labour Government, 1929-1931. Reviewing a book on the inequality of wealth, he makes what is to him an amazing discovery, although it is only what the S.P.G.B. has been telling him all these years. Here are Mr. Johnston’s words, taken from Forward (May 9th, 1936): —


  So that despite all the social reforms—all the era of pensions and health insurance, the poor as a class are no less poor than they were a quarter of a century ago.

Having admitted that his party, the Labour Party, has been building on sand all these years, Mr. Johnston should have gone on to explain what fundamental change of aims he proposes. We await his answer. The next move is with him.


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Practice and Precept
The Daily Worker (April 29th), in a review of a new edition of “The Poverty of Philosophy,” by Karl Marx (Martin Lawrence, 5s.), reminds us that, in spite of its age, it is a very useful work. Many of the ideas it attacks are as widespread and as dangerous as ever they were; for example, the two opposite notions that the workers should support free trade because it means cheap food, or protection because it means more work. Once it is realised that under capitalism the workers’ wages rise and fall in fairly close relationship with the value of the workers’ labour-power, or, in other words, with the cost of living the demand for free trade is seen to be nothing more than a demand for bigger profits for the manufacturers. They pay lower wages because the workers’ cost of living is less. Marx showed historically how this resulted from the abolition of the Com Laws, and the Daily Worker reviewer agrees with Marx: —


  To-day both Free Trade and Protection are being boosted as panaceas for poverty; these keenly pointed criticisms expose both as different methods of capitalist exploitation. No worker who wants to get his bearings in the Free Trade controversy can do better than master what Marx and Engels had to say about it.

There is, however, one odd thing about this. The Daily Worker is the mouthpiece of the Communist Party. At the General Elections in 1929, 1931 and 1935 the Communists were demanding Free Trade and the abolition of tariffs! A typical instance is their 1931 Election demand, “No taxes or tariffs which raise the price of food and clothing to the workers.”


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“He (President Roosevelt) is fighting to save the capitalist system, and not to destroy it”.— Sir Arthur Willert, Press Officer and Head of the News Department of the Foreign Office, in an article on American politics. (Times, April 29th, 1936.)


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How Wars Arise—A Capitalist Confesses
Mr. S. W. Alexander, City Editor of the Sunday Express, is an enthusiast for capitalism, yet in a moment of candour he admits that capitalism and pressure for war are inseparable. This is what he says: —


  The British Government is asking for assurances: from Chancellor Hitler. He will doubtless give them, for I doubt not that he is a man of peace.
But these questions are not decided by men. Economic forces are the big pressure which changes men’s minds overnight.
Hamburg people live on trade, and Germany cannot pay for her imports. unless she is permitted to export
And people who cannot trade will arm, and, despite peaceful protestations, they will one day use arms to get freedom to work and live.
So, unless some big international political change takes place, Britain too will be forced—failing revival in voluntary service—to have conscription to get the men to use the immense quantity of arms that are now being manufactured, in such haste, for our own protection.—(Sunday Express, 10th May.)

Here is a highly paid and influential man, one of those on whom our rulers and masters rely for guidance and information, who complacently accepts preparations for world war as if that is the only thing humanity can do. He would say, no doubt, that there is an alternative, the adoption by Governments of policies which would remove tariffs, quotas, and restriction schemes, which interfere with trade. But he has no great hope that they will, so let us, he says, prepare for war. If he would ask himself what are the forces which induce Governments to enter into trade conflicts with each other he would realise that asking them to behave otherwise than they do is to cry for the moon. Capitalism produces poverty and trade depression and Governments cannot alter the facts by trying to be wise. Only by getting rid of buying and selling and profit-seeking will the destructive forces disappear.


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Russian Oil for Italian Bombers?
As the Communists are so full of advice to the British capitalists as to what they ought to have done to prevent the Italian invasion of Abyssinia, what have the Communists to say about the Russian oil supplied to Italy throughout the war? One answer they have given is that it was supplied under contract, and that as the League did not impose oil sanctions, the contract remained. Why, then, was not the contract terminated? And in any event do the Communists admit that Russia is bound by commercial profit-seeking considerations, like other Powers?


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Two Vote-Catching Parties Quarrel
Mr. McGovern, M.P. (I.L.P.) has hard things to say about the Communist M.P., Mr. W. Gallacher (New Leader, February 14th). He says that in Gallacher’s Election address there was no mention that he was a Communist candidate, and no mention of the word Socialism. “It was the poorest document I have ever seen and could have been issued by any Liberal.”
Mr; Gallacher must have learned this vote-catching trick from Miss Jennie Lee (now Mrs. Aneurin Bevan), or some other of Mr. McGovern’s I.L.P. colleagues.


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What Socialist Propagandists have to put up with
Thanks to the Labour Party and Liberals, Socialists have to spend much of their time combating wrong ideas about Socialism. Here is one, from the Liberal News Chronicle (April 1st, 1936):


  Central Electricity Board . . . is the body that runs the Grid. Buys electricity from the generators, sends it over its wires and sells it to the distributing companies. One of the outstanding and most successful examples of Socialism. Set up by a Conservative Government in 1927. (Italics ours.)—(News Chronicle, 1st April.)

The Central Electricity Board, like every other capitalist enterprise, pays tribute to the capitalists out of the exploitation of the workers. The annual payment to investors is about £2,107,000, equal to the average wage of 17,000 workers. All that the investors have contributed to the construction and operation of the grid system is to grant permission for their property (accumulated from the exploitation of the workers in the past) to be used. Even the ancient plea of “risk” has no bearing on this, since the investment is guaranteed by the Government, both as to capital and interest.


Edgar Hardcastle