Here and There
Lo! It has come to pass! The Communist Party, which has during the past few years been straining itself to demonstrate that it can, and will do, anything but expound Communism, has succeeded so well that it is now to the “right” of the Labour Party. Mr. William Gallacher, Communist M.P., during the debate on Anglo-Germanic relations in the House of Commons, said: —
I am very happy to say that I agree entirely with the concluding remarks of the right hon. gentleman, the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill)—his remarks about collective security. . . . (Daily Worker, March 16th, 1938.)
The Daily Worker went further in unctuous approval. It said: “Contrast Churchill’s speech with the thin gruel of Attlee or the indigestible suet pudding of Mr. Alexander.” Time was when no Communist could mention Churchill’s name without loathing and contempt. But now Churchill and Gallacher are brothers under the banner of “Collective Security,” behind whose screen the workers of this country may soon be persuaded and cajoled into giving their lives in defence of their masters’ property. Much has happened since Lenin sent his clarion call to the workers of the western world to help the Russian Revolution by overthrowing the capitalists in their respective countries, and since Churchill spent £100,000,000 of the British capitalists’ money in an attempt to overthrow the Bolshevists. Times have changed, and so have the Communists. “Collective Security” for the British capitalists and their allies has taken the place of “World Revolution.” But the modern Communist is imperturbable. The simple phrase that “conditions have changed” is sufficient to account in his mind for any change in the “Party line.” As one Communist, unable to explain glaring changes in C.P. policy, in an argument with one of our speakers in Hyde Park, said: “Ah, Mr. Speaker, you don’t understand, it is dialectical materialism.” A Christian would have said: “It is the will of God!” Phrases—and both indicating a paralysis of mind.
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Capitalism and Progress
What is progress? According to an article in the News Chronicle (March 4th) it means: —
The relief of difficulties in everyone’s life, the best possible use of all objects and their widest distribution.
It means the fight against waste of energy and material. . . .
The article, “Pigeon-holed Inventions,” goes on to show that capitalism, rather than promote “the best possible use of all objects and their widest distribution,” works in the opposite direction. We are told, for example, that in Germany, soon after the War, the project was proposed of supplying Berlin with cheap gas by means of pipelines running under the earth direct from the coal districts of the Ruhr. The project was abandoned because the owners of the German railways would not permit the laying of the pipes under the soil over which their wide network of railways ran. They feared loss of revenue through losing the transport of coal to Berlin.
Another example. Who would deny the immeasurable advantages of a smokeless atmosphere? Nobody, of course. And, quite naturally, you will smile and say to yourself that only a Socialist could be guilty of the fantastic inference that anyone would prevent that if it were possible. Well, here’s the answer.
Professor Haber, “one of the most outstanding German war-time chemists,” constructed a completely reliable working smoke consumer, which could be employed in any chimney at a low running cost.
The secret consisted in making the smoke pass through an electric filter. He offered his invention to the German Admiralty, for one of his aims in constructing this consumer had been to render the German fleet almost invisible.
The invention was investigated and found to be excellent, but was not accepted. The German Admiralty were convinced that it would not be possible to keep the device secret, and the probable victory of the unlimited submarine warfare, just then started, would have been imperilled if enemy ships could no longer be traced by their smoke on the horizon.
And that was the last that was heard of that invention!
Another example. This time concerning that common little article of everyday use, the match. The writer records that an Austrian chemist discovered the everlasting match! What followed, it can be imagined, was in strict accord with the progressive principles of capitalist morality. That match was bought by the Swedish Match Trust for one million Swedish Kroner, and has reposed since in its secret safes to this day. The Trust could, however, preen itself with the disinterested reflection that several small European states who subsisted on the Trust’s loans were saved from economic ruin!
Other examples: The abandoning of the Channel tunnel, which was actually started, and a collective scheme to provide the whole of Europe with abundant electricity, both of which were killed because of military considerations and the petty jealousies and rivalries between competing capitalist interests.
As Marx said: “Capitalism becomes a fetter. . . .”
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Wages and Brains
One of capitalism’s complacent lying boasts is that “brains” will send the man possessing them “to the top.” Possession of brains, it is assumed, is characterised by outward symbols, signifying the possessor to have had certain conventional opportunities to acquire “education”— accent, a degree, specialised knowledge, and all those things which most workers, by reason of environment, can never acquire. It is curious, therefore, that a group of these superior people, so carefully groomed in the capitalist process which denotes “education” and the possession of “brains,” should follow the example of the “lesser breed” and strike against their employers ”until better conditions are obtained.”
Yet it is so. A leaflet in our possession tells us that the tutors of the British Institute of Technology, and two Tutorial Institutes, men who hold university degrees and professional qualifications, are on strike to increase their average wage of £3 5s. 0d. a week. (Their students are prepared for posts up to £16 a week. Seems something wrong with the “brain” theory here.)
Recognition that organisation is necessary to obtain improved conditions is a hopeful sign that the “superior’’ ones may yet recognise the necessity for Socialism.
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People in Glass Houses
Herr Hitler recently replied to several prominent English M.P.s, who had protested about his treatment of the opposition in Germany, by telling them that they should concern themselves with “the sentences passed by the British courts-martial in Jerusalem.” Should your comfortable English complacency lead you to believe that that is just German spleen the following should prove disabusing: “. . . In the House of Commons I drew attention to the death sentence passed on Sheikh Farham Sadi, seventy-five years of age, by a military court in Palestine, for carrying firearms” — Major-General Sir Alfred Knox, in a letter to The Times (March 12th, 1938). Complacency will again infer, of course, that that’s different; no British Government would treat its own subjects like that. Comforting thought, but history just does not support it. There can be found very few examples of political repression and vile economic conditions in the modern world for which parallel examples could not be found in English (even recent) history.
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Another Crisis on the Way
With the passing of the worst period of the recent industrial crisis and the beginning of another brief span of expansion of production, our tabloid Press, labour leaders and City editors, all began to chorus the chant that there would (or could) be permanent prosperity. When figures for unemployment began to rise their optimism became tempered with a little caution. “Just a temporary recession,” they all cried. This is, of course, very appropriate propaganda with which to fool the gullible. But there are people, who, like ourselves, are not fooled. Ministry of Labour officials, whose job it is to manage the unemployment insurance fund, have found themselves with a nett surplus of £60 millions, but instead of increasing benefits to the unemployed it, “for very sound reasons, bases its estimates on the anticipated duration of a trade cycle, and in these good years is laying by a reserve for the lean years that may follow” (The Times, March 4th, 1938). That the “lean years” are approaching has been brought home to the officials by the fact that the insurance fund produced in 1937 only a £20,000,000 surplus as against £40,000,000 for the year 1936.
When the next depression shows itself in unmistakable fashion, we shall, no doubt, see the spectacle of the present optimistic chorus chanting the refrain of a “permanent crisis,” the “collapse of capitalism,” and so forth.
Socialists, understanding capitalism, see in the rise and fall of production, in booms and slumps, just the normal working of capitalism—its pendulum, so to speak. And capitalism without its pendulum movement would not be capitalism. The poverty and insecurity of the workers can only be abolished when the condition on which the pendulum rests is abolished. That condition is the private ownership of the means and instruments of production.
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From the Evening Standard (March 1st, 1938): —
“Lord McGowan, as chairman, presided at this afternoon’s meeting.
“I understand that his salary, now in the neighbourhood of £55,000, is being continued, although he has relinquished his duties as managing director of the company.”
£55,000 for not doing his job!