Editorial: The proposition they will not consider

Over a century ago the famous pamphlet, “The Communist Manifesto,” was published, beginning with the words: “A spectre is haunting Europe —the spectre of Communism.” It went on to describe the terror that the Communist movement inspired among the rulers of Austria, France, Germany, Russia, etc.

Almost any journalist picking up that pamphlet today would be likely to write about the way these words apply to the world in 1957—but he would be entirely wrong! It is not history repeating itself, but a word being distorted into an opposite meaning.

In 1847 when Marx and Engels wrote about the governments and the ruling class being afraid of Communism, they meant by Communism a movement springing from the workers, having for its aim the overthrow of capitalism and establishment of Socialism. And they meant by Socialism what the S.P.G.B. means today, a system of society in which all people would co-operate in producing articles and services freely for the benefit of all.

It is true that for many years now the governments of half the world, and, above all, the American Government, have been scared by the spectre of Russia and that they call it the spectre of “Communism”: which just goes to show how the politicians can hypnotise themselves with words.

Communist Party the enemy of Communism
The Russian Government is controlled by the Russian Communist Party, but the Russian social system is not Communism (or Socialism), and the Russian Government is no more interested in achieving such a social system than is General Eisenhower or General Franco. If the Russian Government were interested in spreading Communism in the world, it would, of course, show its interest by starting at home and introducing Communism into Russia; but this would mean abolishing the very comfortable privileged position occupied in Russian state capitalism by governmental and managerial circles of the population. Why should they seek to destroy the capitalism that gives them power and privilege and wealth?

Why not be friends with the Russian Government?
Are we saying then that the American Government’s fears of, and hostility towards, the Russian Government is based on pure illusion? By no means. American and Russian capitalism have just the same kinds of reasons for mutual hostility and fear as British and American capitalism had in relation to Germany in 1914 and 1939.

Back in the 19th century West European governments feared the Russian dictatorship under the Czars because Russia’s ruling class had ambitions to expand into the Middle East and the Mediterranean and into India and the Far East; in all of which regions they clashed with the similar expansionist ambitions of other Powers. Exactly the same rivalries exist today, the main difference being that nowadays the Western politicians say (and seemingly many individuals actually believe) that their clash with Russia has to do with “Communism.” What it has to do with is the economic rivalry that capitalism gives rise to between the separate capitalist Powers, of which Russia is now in the top rank, surpassed in power only by America.

If Communism (or Socialism) in the sense of the Communist Manifesto were the issue dividing the world today, the Russian Government would be lined up with the ruling class of America, Britain, Japan, India, etc., to crush it

They never consider Socialism
The Western politicians and Press will give thousands of words and acres of space to the Western case against the Russian bloc and give less but quite a lot of space to those who defend the Russian point of view or argue in favour of seeking compromise with it. But they never on any account give space to considering the case for Socialism (or Communism) in the sense in which the pioneers of Socialism used it and meant it

But, after all, why should they? Why should the Press take the trouble to answer the Socialist case since nobody (except the S.P.G.B. and its companion parties) ever puts it? When do Gaitskell or Bevan or Bulganin ever put the case for Socialism? Probably all three would (privately) feel embarrassed at trying to prove that society can look to a hopeful future inside capitalism, with its production for sale and profit, the wages system, the continuance of property incomes, investment, competition for markets, etc. But when do they ever say in public that Socialism necessarily means abolishing that capitalist social system?

And as they don’t ever say it, the capitalist Press falls into line and happily ignores the case for Socialism.

Labour Party comforters of Capitalism
Mr. George Schwartz, in the Sunday Times (9/6/57), picked on the latest Labour Party pension plan as an example of this. He pointed out that the capitalist Press gave much and sympathetic notice to the plan.

“Cos why? Because it is in essence a straightforward exercise in capitalist reasoning based almost wholly on capitalistic methods of calculation and reckoning. Bless you, I have met stockbrokers who couldn’t spell the word dialectic, who have read it with interest and understanding.
“. . . There is no talk about the annihilating that disreputable trio, rent, interest and profits. There is no nonsense about egalitarianism. On the contrary, the main thesis and principle is that the more you put in the more you take out. In short, chums, it is a stern lecture on the virtues of capitalist attitudes and behaviour.”

And the H-Bomb Controversy
It is a far cry from the Labour Party’s new scheme for contributory old age pensions to the rights and wrongs of the H-bomb (though there is a certain relationship: if “the bomb must fall,” it doesn’t seem to matter what pension you might otherwise have been going to get!) In this field, too, the Press will consider every aspect except the Socialist point of view. The Manchester Guardian in a frank editorial (3/6/57) tried to face up to the implications of the Bishop of Manchester’s demand that the British Government should renounce the H-bomb—whatever the consequences. The editor of the Guardian thought that the chances of such an example being followed by general disarmament could be put at about one in ten. the far higher probability would, he thought, be the more or less speedy Russian overrunning of Western Europe and Britain. To the advocates of giving up the H-bomb he put the question:

“Are they prepared to face the agony of living under a Communist system?” Recoiling from this himself, he prefers to rely on the deterrent value of having the bomb.

“The deterrent theory is that on the contrary their use by either side has become less likely. Six big bombs, as has been said before, would be enough to destroy central government in the Soviet empire.”

It is not our purpose here to follow the Guardian into these muddy depths, but to put a question and a challenge. The challenge is to the Guardian to give its evidence for its utterly fantastic statement that the Russian Government behaves as it does because its objective “is a Communist world.”

Where does the Guardian so hide itself from the facts of capitalist life that it cannot see that the Russian Government behaves like any other expanding Capitalist Power because it is an expanding capitalist Power?

Our question is to ask the Guardian why, when it is actually trying to be frank and objective, it can only see the choice between capitalism with the H-bomb and capitalism without the H-bomb: why does the Guardian steadfastly turn away from even considering that perhaps after all there really is a case for destroying war at its source in the capitalist foundations of the social system on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Which means considering the case for Socialism, and that the Guardian cannot bring itself to do.

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