1970s >> 1970 >> no-791-july-1970

Letter: Unfair to Fascists

Sir,

 

The January Socialist Standard rightly condemns racial persecution and the exploitation of race hatred for political ambitions (c.g. Powellism). It also correctly suggests that economic factors are often responsible for manifestations of “racial” or “national” conflict.

 

There is a danger in seeing everything in the human universe in restricted economic-materialist terms, as if (for instance) biological variations between humans were of no account. It is also an error, theoretically and tactically, to minimise the fact that various human groups, often irrespective of changes in the means of production, wish to retain their own distinctive languages, customs and loyalties. To ignore such human preferences for particular cultural folkways or locality identifications is to play into the hands of more appropriate fascist or neo-fascist theory and practice. Hence, the size of working-class “Powellism.”

 

Thus, it is a mistake to deal as you do with the Union Movement study on emigration, by the leading Mosleyite writer, Robert Row. This pamphlet, written some time ago, argues that the influx of West Indians into Britain was caused largely by bad working conditions and unemployment at home, and that with a restoration of prosperity to the Caribbean — by changes in our trading arrangements — these immigrants would be able to return. Social frictions arising from their presence in this country would then diminish. Presumably the Socialist Party of Great Britain does not suggest that Britain alone should admit immigrants from all over the outside world without any limitations whatever, or that this would not complicate our local and economic problems?

 

The main problem is to secure existing living-standards, at least, for British workers, while at the same time creating a saner international system whereby the “coloured” countries also develop rapidly on fair terms. In practice, the facts of racial loyalty — national development — and geo-political realities in terms of raw materials, foodstuffs, wage-rates, social customs and educational levels — also have to be considered in these matters.

 

Mosley has always opposed the sweating of cheap backward labour overseas, or its deliberate import at home, by international finance-capitalism, which seeks to make profits through the exploitation of low-wage labour in competition with western workers on higher wages but using similar machines. Such cut-throat competition was an integral feature of capitalism in the 1920s and 1930s, and a contributory factor in the crises of that period: it is returning in a similar form today with the re-equipment of the Far East and other countries, along with the use of immigrant labour for related purposes.

 

Houses, which you mention in criticising the Row pamphlet, are indeed made and used by workers, irrespective of nationality. In fact, both Row and Mosley have often proposed the mass-production of homes, as in arms-manufacture operations during wartime, by government action—combined with interest-free loans. They have also repeatedly urged, for example, that the vast western agricultural surpluses created by over-production in relation to the available market should be used to feed the hungry in the underdeveloped areas.

 

E. J. Parker 

 

London, E.17.

 

Reply: 

 

Socialists argue that human history can be usefully analysed only by making reference to society’s economic basis—in other words, history can be understood only in terms of the mode of wealth production prevailing at any one time. This is a very different matter to seeing everything in economic-materialist terms. Others may be guilty of this; socialists are not.

 

Preferences (or prejudices) for particular languages, customs and loyalties are influenced by changes in the social system. The rise of capitalism entailed a powerful movement in many parts of the world, for a sort of unity between states and provinces which had previously been separate — for example in Germany. Italy and America. This unity created new loyalties, new nationalisms, new prejudices, which overrode the old. no matter how established they had been.

 

Social friction is not caused by the influx of workers from abroad. The cause of that friction is in the inadequacies and contradictions of capitalism — in its housing problems, its economic anarchy, in its poverty. Immigrants may highlight these problems but the problems are with us all the time: they were certainly prominent before the first West Indian worker set foot in Britain. Socialists do not think that unrestricted immigration would solve any working class problems, any more than immigration control has done. We stand for a social system in which human beings would be able to move freely all over the earth and in which there will be none of the false national barriers and patriotisms of capitalism. The problems associated with large scale migration of workers are problems of capitalism, which always needs a mobile pool of unemployed, sometimes national and sometimes international. And we should not forget that while some problems may be associated with large scale immigration, others are associated with large scale emigration.

 

The main task before all workers of all colours is to abolish capitalism but while capitalism lasts they must defend, and struggle to improve, their living standards. These tasks can only be done in unity. when “white” and “coloured” workers all recognise that their interests are one against their common enemy, the capitalist class. This fact may be obscured for some workers by “racial loyalty” — another euphemism for prejudice — but it is nevertheless valid.

 

Capitalism has always exploited its workers as best it can and its competition has always been cut-throat — what other type can there be? The fascist “opposition” to sweated labour overseas was no more than a cover for spreading racial prejudice. If Mosley was so keen to denounce exploitation, why didn’t he object to “pure-bred” British workers being exploited by “pure-bred” British capitalists, and point out that their interests lay in joining with their brother victims abroad to end the system which rests on exploitation ?

 

Of course the fascists have their pet schemes for housing. Which capitalist party hasn’t? All of them claim to be able to solve the system’s problems and there is nothing basically new in the fascists’ ideas.

 

The same can be said for the apparently simple notion of sending agricultural surpluses to the “under-developed” areas. The thing which prevents a sane distribution of the world’s wealth is the profit motive of capitalist society that causes “surpluses” while people starve. It also causes some “under-developed” countries to have their own “surpluses” which they are as likely to destroy to save the market as any other capitalist state.

 

There is no reason to think that the fascist brand of capitalist reform is any more effective than the others–quite apart from the fact that a fascist government would mean a ruthless suppression of trade unions, other political parties and some racial groups. Socialists are always ready to meet our opponents in open debate, whoever they are. Lately, however, it has been the “anti-fascist” fascists who have been preventing us from exposing the fascist case for the pernicious reformism and prejudice that it is.

 

Editorial Committee