1940s >> 1941 >> no-437-january-1941

Strange Champions of Socialism

 Socialists have long pointed to a significant change that came over political propaganda in the years after the last Great War. Before then it was possible for politicians openly to champion Capitalism and be supported by the workers for doing so. Then gradually they had to change their tactics. The workers were so suspicious of Capitalism that the supporters of it laid stress more and more on the necessity of reforming its abuses, until finally they were falling over each other in their anxiety to show that they were really in favour of “Socialism.” Needless to say what they called Socialism was only the old Capitalism in disguise, but the trick worked. They all in greater or less degree adopted as their slogan “We are all Socialists now.”

 This atmosphere naturally continued in a Europe at war, and one might almost gather from some of the speeches that the armies on both sides (not to mention the Finns and Russians) are all striking a blow for Socialism.

 Thus, Hitler in his speech at Berlin on December 10th. The following is from the report published in the Evening Standard (the morning papers the following day all appear not to have noticed this passage): —

    “Should Nazi methods be victorious, the ruling class in the democracies would have to renounce their dividends of 40 and 100 and 160 per cent. In Germany 6 per cent, is the highest rate of dividend, and 3 per cent, of this has to return as taxes, while the remainder must be disposed of in the interests of the nation.”—(Evening Standard, December 10th.)

 According to a further report published in The Times (December 11th), Hitler impudently described the Nazi programme as “our Socialist work of construction,” and contrasted it with what he said is the attitude of the ruling class outside Germany, who say:—“ If we lose, our world capitalist structure will collapse and the idea will spread among our peoples that labour is the decisive element.”

The Manchester Guardian felt impelled to take up the challenge that Germany is “Socialist ” and the rest of the world capitalist: —

    “He [Hitler] depicted the war as a struggle between two systems—that of the Socialist German people, on the one hand, and the Capitalist governing class of Great Britain, on the other. For Hitler—or, rather, for Hitler’s hearers— there is in Great Britain no 100 per cent. Excess Profits Duty, or income tax at 8s. 6d. in the pound, nor are there any Socialists like Bevin or Morrison in the war effort of the democracies.”—(Manchester Guardian, December 11th.)

 Those who know the case of the S.P.G.B. will recognise that we, and we alone, are in a position to reject all of these specious arguments. It may be true that profits in Germany are normally restricted to 6 per cent., but knowing the unlimited corruption of high Nazi circles, and the commanding influence exercised by big capitalist interests, it is unbelievable that they do not find a variety of ways of evading the law. What is more, even if the law’ were enforced, the restriction of dividends has nothing whatever to do with Socialism and has never been supported by the S.P.G.B. It is not even a means of lessening the inequality of wealth under Capitalism. It still leaves the owners of big investments their colossal incomes, and their opportunities to continue accumulating wealth on which to receive the permitted percentage. They are quite willing the put up with some temporary interference with their freedom of action, counting on a still bigger harvest of profits when the restriction ends.

Much the same can be said from the Socialist standpoint of E.P.D. and a high rate of income tax. They have no serious effect on the existing inequality of accumulated wealth of income.

As for Mr. Morrison and Mr. Bevin, Socialists have never ceased to point out that schemes for reform are not Socialism, and that the administration of Capitalism does not become Socialism because there are among the members of the Cabinet men claiming to be Socialist.

*      *      *

 Hitler was rather nasty about Eton and our other ” public schools ” (“public” in about the same sense that the Labour Party’s “Socialist” public utility corporations are public). He said: —

    “Their State is governed by quite a thin upper class, which class always sends its sons to its own educational institutions. They have Eton College. We have the Adolf Hitler schools, the National-Socialist education institute, and the national political schools. They are two worlds. In one of them are the sons of the people; in the other only the sons of a stupid aristocracy and financial magnates. I admit one of these worlds has to perish.”—(The Times, December 11th.)

The Times was able to retort that when Hitler’s Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop, was over here he tried to send his son to Eton.

The Daily Express (December 10th) added a little piece of information about some of Eton’s sons:

    Among greetings from Old Etonians received on Founder’s Day at Eton—which is celebrating its 500th anniversary—were:—
    A letter from 64 OEs in a German prison-camp,
    A telegram—in Latin, as the custom is—which read:— “Etonians fighting for the fatherland, for honour, for truth at —, remembering the playing-fields of Eton, salute her. Floreat Etona. Gordon-Canning, H.W.T. 1907, Pitt-Rivers A.M.G., Ramsay E.W.S. 1912.”
    The signatures are those of Captain R. C. Gordon-Canning, former member of The Link; Captain George Pitt-Rivers, pro-Fascist Dorset squire; Captain Ramsay, M.P.
    The place from which the wire was sent was ” indecipherable.”

Hitler went on to say that from the English public schools like Eton come the only men who “play a role in the State, while here (in Germany) the men who play a role come from the people.” (Manchester Guardian, December 11th.)

 Hitler here is claiming merit for the fact that careers under Nazidom are open to men drawn from the ranks of the poor. Even it were wholly true instead of being only partly true—Goering and Papon were never poor—it in no way supports his absurd claim that there is something Socialistic about Germany. Socialists are not concerned with earmarking the plums of capitalist industry and administration for ambitious “sons of the people.” We do not agree with Mr. P. Thorne (son of Will Thorne, M.P.), who wrote to the Daily Herald (December 14th) saying:—“As we are fighting for Democracy, and as most of the ‘ high-up’ jobs go to the ‘old school tie’ candidates, isn’t it time the sons of the workers gained access to these public schools? ”

 As for the reference to the public school education of British politicians, Hitler is only echoing what the Economist wrote a few weeks ago. In an article, “The Supply of Brains” (Economist, November 23rd), it was stated that “the public schools turn out perhaps 10,000 boys a year; from this tiny fraction—about 2 per cent.—of each year’s graduates to life we select the great majority of those who are to be given an easy road to the top. The selection is clearly not one of merit.”

 The Economist went on to suggest a remedy: “The social barriers will be broken down, not when a few poor boys go to the rich boys’ schools, but when a lot of rich boys go to the poor boys’ schools —as they do in France, in Germany, in Scandinavia, in America, in the Dominions, in Scotland (until very recently), in fact, everywhere but in England.”

 It would seem from the reference to Germany in this connection that the Economist rather agrees with Hitler. Yet it is only necessary to note that all of the countries mentioned are countries with the usual gulf between rich and poor, capitalists and workers, to appreciate that the remedy remedies nothing.

Socialists, of course, know the remedy. Not sending the rich to the poor schools, or vice-versa, but abolishing a class-divided society which perpetuates riches and poverty.

Edgar Hardcastle

Leave a Reply