Letters: Parliament and Dictators
Parliament and Dictators
R. Barltrop in “Parliament and Private Armies” may be right but I am not so sure. He says: “If a military-minded group seeks power it must do so as a political party.” Did Franco achieve it so? Or the Greek colonels, Chilean generals, Nasser, to mention a few?
“Political power”, he states, “cannot be transferred to bodies which do not hold it.” Perhaps not, but they could usurp it. “The Nazis were ineffectual until the majority of the German people elected them.” This is not the impression I got from William Sheridan Allen’s How the Nazis Gained Power, or from Robert Cecil’s The Myth of the Master Race: The Rosenberg Ideology. Rather the power was gained by fake, coercion, bully-boys. H. W. Schneider in Making the Fascist State tells a similar story with Mussolini.
If they need the backing of capital it will be provided should capital accept them as saviours whether with cross or truncheon.
The people here and the world over will probably have to seize power. As R. Barltrop wrote in the July ’73 Standard, “Our business is revolution”. The operative word is defined, great change; forcible substitution.
The SPGB is right in that people need no élite to lead them. We have had far too much experience of middle-class aspirants to working-class leadership referring to them in a detached manner as though not of them. Some “intellectualize” the intellect until it bears no resemblance to the brain.
Westminster’s Hall of Clowns provides the evidence where performances equate with qualifications. It proves the truth of R. L. Stevenson’s words : “Of all professions, politics is generally regarded as the one for which no preparation is considered necessary.” Generals could perform as well and if conditions demand it will undoubtedly do so.
The quality of writing in the Standard is high, contrasting sharply with meanderings elsewhere which for all the professional literacy could be adduced as emanating from the ill-educated such as myself. It is elating to realize that there are those of the common people, unsung by the minions of the media, who can confront and defeat them on most occasions.
The facts of the Nazis’ rise to power are as follows. In the German elections in March 1933 Hitler received 17,266,000 votes (43.9 per cent.) and his allies, the Nationalists, received 3,132,000 (8 per cent.), giving the Nazis and their supporters 51.9 per cent, of the votes and a clear majority. The Social Democrats received 7,176,000 (18.3 per cent.) and the Communists 4,845,000 (12.1 per cent.).
Six months earlier, though the Nazis were the largest party in Germany they were not in control of the political machinery. Hitler was derided by President Hindenburg and members of the government; his officers were charged and imprisoned, and their activities suppressed. But once in power, Hitler was able to turn the tables, to suppress and tyrannize his former opponents.
To say the power was gained by “fake, coercion, bully-boys” is another way of saying the Nazis gained support by crudely exploiting discontent; a familiar political course, which was attempted by the Communists and Social Democrats also. You are correct, of course, in saying the backing of capital is always provided. Hitler was supplied with funds by German industrial capitalists, armaments manufacturers in Germany and France, and American and other foreign investors who needed protection.
It is likewise a myth that Mussolini “seized power”. The Italian government (a democratic, constitutional one) and monarch wanted him in office, and arrangements to this end were made before the farcical “March on Rome”. Mussolini’s first Cabinet included a number of non-Fascists, and Parliament voted him emergency powers; while outside Parliament the Fascists exploited discontent with the so-called Socialist Party to gain support.
In the more recent examples you give, of course violent upheavals take place, but whoever is successful must (a) placate the mass of the population and (b) harness his aims to the needs of the capitalist system, if power is to be maintained by him. You assert that: “The people here and the world over will probably have to seize power.” If you mean the people, i.e. the great majority, capitalism will be impotent against their will when they become Socialist. The outcome will be not “seizing power” — which implies some kind of desperate fling — but taking control of the political machinery to abolish capitalism and establish Socalism.
Women’s Lib. & “Bigots”
I was disgusted to read that at the 70th Annual Conference it was decided that being a member of Women’s Lib. is incompatible with membership of the SPGB. At the moment I have no wish to join Women’s Lib. but one of the reasons I left the Party was that I objected to having my life ordered about by a group of narrow-minded, authoritarian bigots. I thought maybe the Party would, however, gradually become more libertarian as time went on but it does not appear to be so. It is a great pity because the Socialist message is itself invincible. Soon Party members will have to get permission before they can join the local choir, I expect — a heinous crime to sing Christmas carols or vote for anything that is going to improve the lot of the workers, both men and women.
We are sorry that you think single-minded determination to pursue an object is bigotry However, the reasons why we find membership of Women’s Lib. incompatible with membership of the Socialist Party were set out at length in our July issue and in a reply to a correspondent in October. It would be more constructive if you explained where, in your opinion, that reasoning is wrong.
Have you considered that the left-wing parties — Communists, International Socialists and so on — which support Women’s Lib. stand for the establishment of dictatorial regimes, and exclude democracy from their practice?
Your letter makes some wild assertions which are quite untrue, and you should be ashamed of them. As you know, members of the SPGB have interests and pursuits from football and painting to the cinema and genealogy (don’t know if there are choristers) and lead what lives they wish without interference by the Party. Would you have expected your letter to be published if half of what you say were true?
Enclosed is money order for the next 12 issues of the Socialist Standard.
I would like to compliment you on the recent Anniversary issue which I thought quite outstanding. Also I believe the SS is now much more interesting than previously due to the correspondence columns being given greater prominence.
Keep up the good work. You might be interested in the enclosed cartoon which appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald. As you can see we still have a long way to go.
With best wishes from “down under”.
New South Wales