Notes by the Way
orkers beginning to see through the Nationalist Movement
An interesting situation has arisen in Bombay, where there is a Congress (i.e., Indian Nationalist) Government. The Government, which has the support of the so-called Congress Socialist Party of Bombay, introduced a Trade Disputes Bill, whereupon the trade unions denounced it and called a one-day general strike as a protest. In the disturbances that ensued the police fired, and 75 persons were wounded, one of whom died.
The Indian Labour Journal (October 23rd. 1938) reports that the Labour group in the Legislative Assembly opposed the Bill, “The Government, however, is adamant, and is bearing down all opposition with their overwhelming majority, consisting not only of Congress members but also of representatives of the interests of capitalism. The Bill has been welcomed by the latter.”
According to Dr. Ambedkar, “The Bill takes away the legitimate, constitutional and powerful weapon of the workers, namely, the strike, by declaring it illegal, and therefore punishable in a large number of cases.” (Labour Journal, October 23rd.)
Other critics allege that the Bill will encourage the formation of “company unions” at the expense of genuine trade unions.
This and other inevitable conflicts between Indian workers and Indian capitalism will in time teach the workers that Nationalism, to the capitalist, is only a means to an end. As the Indian Labour Journal sadly recorded on July 17th, 1938, when Congress Governments replaced the former Governments capitalist interests behaved just as they did before, “everywhere the attitude of the employers remains the same.”
Corsica, Nice and Tunis
Mr. W. N. Ewer, in an article in the Daily Herald (December 12th, 1938), did a useful service by recalling the history of the Italian demand for various French territories. In the first place, the demand did not originate with Mussolini: —
“Signer Mussolini has his own purposes in the organisation of these ‘spontaneous demonstrations.’ But Italian patriots were shouting for Corsica and Nice and Tunis before he or Fascismo was born.
The cry for Corsica goes back to the great days of the struggle for Italian unity. For Mazzini it was Divine will that all the Italian peoples should be joined in one Italian state. Garibaldi called himself an atheist : but he felt much the same.”
France got Nice and Savoy in 1860 as part of a bargain by which Napoleon III of France promised to help turn the Austrians out of Northern Italy and thus help the movement for Italian unity. The Italians complained bitterly that Napoleon only half fufilled his promise, but he got his price, the transfer of territory being covered by a fake pebiscite on the most up-to-date lines. “In the town of Nice only eleven votes were cast against annexation.”
Tunis has an equally interesting history. Except that the chief brigands arc different, it reads like a dress rehearsal for the imperialisms of our own day: —
“Italy began to look on Tunis as her predestined share in the coming partition of Northern Africa. And so it might have been. But at the Berlin (Peace with Honour) Congress, Salisbury, to get French assent to his taking of Cyprus, suggested that France might find ‘compensation’ in Tunis.
Bismarck, for his own ends, cordially backed the suggestion. All this, of course, in deadest secret.
Italy’s suspicions were aroused. She asked and got assurances from France : took them at face value : waited too long. In ’81 there was an incident on the Tunis-Algiers border. The French troops were ready. Within a few weeks Tunis was a French protectorate.
Great Britain, tongue in cheek, solemnly protested against the aggression she had suggested. Italy raged furiously : and has been angry ever since. For nearly sixty years the ‘Tunisian question’ has troubled Franco-Italian relations.”
Cyprus under the Heel
As Mr. Ewer points out, the British Government encouraged France to seize Tunis while England took Cyprus. The apologists for British Imperialism will say, of course, “how lucky for the Cypriots to be under British rule.” But the Cypriots think otherwise, they want to join Greece, so Cyprus is now under rigid suppression following an outbreak in 1931. The Manchester Guardian summarises the present position as follows : —
“. . . repression is still the manner of rule. The former representative system of government remains suspended: close restrictions are kept on public meetings ; trade unions are discouraged the Press is suppressed or censored on the flimsiest of pretexts at the will of the Administration.” (Manchester Guardian, October 13, 1938.)
Was J. R. MacDonald a Fraud?
Mr. L. MacNeill Weir, M.P., was Parliamentary Secretary to the late J. R. MacDonald for eight years, from 1924 to 1931. Naturally, when he published his “The Tragedy of Ramsay MacDonald” (Seeker & Warburg, 15s.), and roundly condemned the character and conduct of his former hero, he placed himself under the obligation of explaining his own conduct. If he knew long before 1931, why did he not resign and tell what he knew? If he did not know until the end, that, too, wants explaining. When Mr. Weir’s position is examined he, and the Labour Party, come out in a very bad light. So do the other leaders of the Labour Party.
Mr. MacNeill Weir, replying to letters of criticism published in The Times, wrote, on December 3rd, 1938, defending himself. Here is a remarkable passage in his letter : —
“I am blamed for taking the post of Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1924 when I believed all the charges I have made against MacDonald in the book. In 1922 I was one of the Scots contingent who voted to make MacDonald leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party. We never believed Snowden’s repeated assertion at that time that MacDonald would sooner or later let the Party down.
It was not until the beginning of 1931 that suspicion of MacDonald’s bona fides arose, and suggestions began to be made of a change of leadership. All sorts of rumours, canards and defamatory aspersions circulate around public men—especially politicians. The fact is that MacDonald was a man of mystery, a human enigma, his real character only revealed in the passing of the years. We can be blamed for our unswerving loyalty to Dr. Jekyll during these years, but surely we are not to be condemned for not believing in the existence of Mr. Hyde.”
The S.P.G.B. opposed MacDonald always, i.e., onwards from 1904, when the S.P.G.B. was founded, but nothing we said of MacDonald ever stated such a strong case against leadership in general. We said that the popular theory of leadership of political parties included glorifying the party leader in order to make him an impressive and romantic figure in the eyes of the rank and file. There has to be a kind of conspiracy among the lesser leaders to deify the great ones in order to make the members loyal. What we did not contemplate was that the lesser leaders would fall for the same clap-trap themselves. Yet Mr. MacNeill Weir asks us to believe that, right up to 1931, he was being cruelly deceived by the man he knew intimately.
There is one thing Mr. Weir cannot get over. MacDonald’s speeches and writings were always empty of sound Socialist knowledge and principle, why did Mr. Weir not see through them? Another Labour M.P., Mr. Hugh Dalton, writing in the Daily Herald (November 18th, 1938), says that when he re-reads MacDonald’s old speeches now they give him “a sense almost of physical discomfort.” The answer is, and must be, that Mr. Weir and Mr. Dalton, and all their followers, did not know the difference between Socialist teaching, which endures, and social reformism, which depends for appeal on the trivial issue or the emotion of the moment.
The real tragedy is not the conduct of MacDonald, who, after all, was not a bit worse than his rival Labour leaders, but the admission made by Mr. Dalton that MacDonald’s empty rhetoric captivated his followers. After saying that the speeches were valueless, Mr. Dalton has to add, “But how his audiences loved them! It is a terrifying memory.”
Of course, Messrs. Weir and Dalton think that the Labour Party is healthier now. Perhaps it is. Perhaps experience has taught the rank and file a few things about the dangers of leadership. But if so, they owe little to Mr. Weir and Mr. Dalton, for both of these gentlemen are of opinion that the Labour Party “backed the wrong horse in 1922, when it made him (MacDonald) leader in place of Clynes.” As if the member of a war-time Coalition Government, who himself in 1931 was in favour of some kind of three-party Cabinet, was any more of a Socialist than MacDonald !
Before leaving the subject, it is worth while placing on record the claim made by a Communist, Mr. Idris Cox, in the Daily Worker (November 18th, 1938). He says that “MacDonald’s political record and ruinous policy was exposed by the Communists for 15 years before his death.”
This puts the Communists in a worse position than Mr. Weir. He says he sinned in ignorance. The Communists say they were well aware what MacDonald was, at least as early as 1922. Why, then, were the Communists, in 1922 and afterwards, urging the workers to vote for MacDonald?
Mr. Middleton Murry to be a Church of England Clergyman
Six years ago, when Mr. J. Middleton Murry, the well-known critic and author, became active in “left-wing” politics, it was suggested in THE SOCIALIST STANDARD (September, 1932) that, unless he succeeded in overcoming his obvious failure to understand the principles of Socialism, he would, in due course, drift out again, disappointed. It is now announced that he is training as candidate for the Church of England priesthood. From an interview published in the Sunday Express (December llth, 1938), it appears that the turning point for Mr. Murry was when he listened to a Hitler broadcast in June, 1934: “You may think me fantastic, but I said to myself : This is what the Bible meant by anti-Christ.”
One thing that can be said of Mr. Murry’s incursion into politics is that the freshness of his writings on Marxism and current problems must have given many people an interest which they would otherwise not have had. Along with some serious misunderstandings he wrote many things that were worth while.
Admissions about Spain
At the beginning of the Spanish civil war, now become more and more a war with Italy and Germany, the British Government and the supporters of Franco vied with each other in suppressing important facts. It will be recalled how the authorities, month after month, disclaimed knowledge of German and Italian intervention, until the truth was too well known to be hidden. Now, late in the day, we have Mr. R. S. Hudson, Secretary, Overseas Trade Department, saying, in the House of Commons on December 1st, 1938, that “clearly one of the main reasons” why there are more German than British ships going to Franco territory “is the large quantity of munitions that the German Government are sending to Franco.”
Another recent admission was in the Evening Standard (December 2nd, 1938), where Mr. Aylmer Vallance showed that the assassination of the Conservative-Monarchist leader, Sotelo (often represented as the excuse for the rebellion), was not the only act of its kind. It was itself an act of vengeance for the assassination some days earlier of Lt. Castillo, a police officer, who was a member of the Socialist Youth League.
The Times, too, has several times admitted that air raids on Republican Spain are carried out from Italy. On July 23rd, 1938, for example, their correspondent at the Spanish frontier said:
“Some of the Italian airmen start out from Italy, rest at Majorca, then raid the Mediterranean coast, and return to Majorca for a few hours en route to their aerodromes in Italy.”
Among recent interesting features of the Spanish war was the promise made by Franco to Britain and France during the recent crisis, that he would remain neutral in the event of war (Manchester Guardiam, December 1st, 1938). This may help to explain the continued pro-Franco attitude of British and French circles, which might have been expected to fear a Franco victory, lest it strengthen Italy and Germany in the Mediterranean.
The Duchess of Atholl and her Supporters
The Conservative Duchess of Atholl fought West Perthshire against the Conservative Party because she wants the Government to take a strong line against Germany, Italy and Franco. Forward (December 10th) asked a number of well-known people how they would vote if they were in the constituency. Among those who said they would vote for her were Alfred Barnes, M.P. (of the Co-operative Party), Ellen Wilkinson, Tom Johnson, J. F. Horrabin, and H. N. Brailsford. They all gave much the same reason, approval of the Duchess’s foreign policy.
Among those who said “no” were Ethel Mannin, of the I.L.P. She said that, “as a revolutionary Socialist … I should not vote at all, my attitude being ‘a plague on both your houses.'”
Lord Elton (“National Labour “) said he would vote against her because “Chamberlain saved civilisation at Munich.”
Cecil Wilson, M.P., “Pacifist,” said he would write on his ballot paper, “War and all preparation for war is wrong.” “I stand for Peace, Freedom and the Brotherhood of Man.”
Lord Sanderson, “Pacifist and Socialist,” said he would vote for the Chamberlain candidate.
The Sunday Express (December 4th), has the following comment about the Duchess: —
“She makes a terrible howl about the troubles of the little children in Barcelona. But she is not so anxious about her own little children in Britain. She took the view, when the question of raising the school-leaving age came up, that children must be set to work at fourteen.”
President Roosevelt Believes in Capitalism and Scrambled Eggs
“Actually, I am an exceedingly mild-mannered person, a practitioner of peace, a believer in the capitalistic system, and for my breakfast I am a devotee of scrambled eggs.” (Daily Mail, December 6th, 1938.)
The Communists and Daladier
Since Daladier used Conscription and the armed forces to defeat the General Strike, the Communists are heaping abuse on him. The Daily Worker (November 28th) quotes, with approval, the statement that, in Berlin, Daladier, ever since Munich, has been regarded as a “Hitler man,” and says that the Daladier Government “represents the interests of the big monopoly capitalists, among whom are the closest friends of Hitler.” On December 8th, in the French Chamber of Deputies, a Communist, pointing at Daladier, said : “We, the Communists, are telling you to get out.” (Daily Express, December 9th.)
Who, then, is this Daladier? He is a leader of the Liberals (known as “Radical Socialists”), who formed part of the Popular Front along with the French Labourites and Communists. He was Minister of National Defence and War in Blum’s first Popular Front Government in 1936, and, as recently as April 13th, 1938, when, as Premier, he asked for a vote of confidence and for certain special powers, he obtained 570 votes to five; The Communists were with the majority and acclaimed Daladicr enthusiastically.
After the 1936 General Election, the French Communist Party expressly claimed that the Popular Front had not only helped their own and the Labour candidates, but had also helped to prevent Daladier’s party from losing seats.
So much for “Popular Frontism”!
Prayers to Fill Empty Stomachs
The following appeared in the Daily Sketch (December 5th, : 1938): —
“Mayfair churchgoers, many in fur coats, prayed in the fashionable St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, W., yesterday, for the poor of the East End. They lowered their gaze as the Bishop of Stepney (the Rt. Rev. Hamilton Moberly) told them what life was like with the dole and faint hope of a job. He told of the “constant state of poverty, never enough money coming in to keep a family in decency—wives going out to work and becoming the main support of the family.”
He urged them to pray for the poor of the East End—’not just now and then’—but to make a habit of it. He felt that if only half a dozen people present were to support the Church’s work there by their prayers, something would be achieved. . . .”
From the Manchester Guardian (November 23rd, 1938: —
“Fourteen youths who were arrested when about forty Belfast police raided the McKelvey Recreation Club in a Nationalist area here recently were to-day transferred to Belfast Prison, where they are being held under Special Powers Act detention orders, which enable them to be held without trial for a prolonged period.”
Jewish Employers and Sweating
Fascist propagandists make much of cases of sweating or non-payment of trade union rates when the employer is a Jew, and they are specially active among furniture trade workers. The reason, according to the Daily Herald (December 14th, 1938) is that not more than 10,000 London furniture workers receive the trade union rates and conditions, while 50,000 do not, and “the offending owners are practically all Jews.”
On the other hand, “the stigma does not apply to all Jews. There are about ten Jewish firms regarded by the unions as fair, and which have an honourable record.”
In the case of the furniture trade the whole industry is largely controlled by Jewish firms, but exactly the same kind of situation has arisen in numerous other trades, i.e., one group of firms paying trade union rates and another group underpaying. In the grocery and drapery trades the unions and the employers’ federations have jointly approached the Ministry of Labour to secure the enforcement of standard rates on the large number of employers not paying them. Yet nobody claims that the offending employers in those trades are mainly Jewish.
There are also Trade Boards in about forty industries, set up to prevent “sweating,” and it has been estimated that as many as twenty-five per cent. of agricultural workers are being paid less than the minimum wage legally applicable to them. It has never been suggested that twenty-five per cent. of the farmers are Jews.
Another point of more importance is that capitalism is an exploiting system, even when the trade union rates are paid. The employer who organises his concern on the basis of paying a relatively high wage does not do so from philanthropic motives. He takes good care to select the most skilful and bodily fit workers, and is able to do so because the higher wage attracts more applicants; and, being a capitalist, seeking profit, he, even more than his sweating colleague, introduces labour-displacing machinery and dismisses men when he no longer wants them.
Lord Nuffield is not a Jew, and he pays a relatively high wage, but on November 16th, 1938, he received a deputation representing 1,500 workless men formerly employed by him. (News Chronicle, November 17th, 1938.) “Many of the jobs were eliminated by the adoption of all-steel bodies.”
The most that Lord Nuffield could promise was to find work in other departments for men whose jobs are eliminated, and to re-engage the unemployed men as soon as possible. Some of the 1,500 have been out of work already for six months.
Capitalism is the enemy of the workers, and that will not be remedied by changing the nationality, religion, race, or politics of the capitalists.