1970s >> 1977 >> no-869-january-1977
Workers of the world wake up!
The title of this article is by way of an apology to Marx. His grave at Highgate is only a few miles from Hyde Park and his remains must have been gravely disturbed by two demonstrations attended by many thousands of workers at the end of November, one being for The Right to Work and the other against racialism. The first one is the sadder event in the eyes of a Socialist and the one that really must have made Marx turn in his grave, although the second is outrageous for reasons we come to later.
If Marx could have come to see the first demo, he would have dropped dead again immediately to see the forest of banners against the cuts which the fake-socialist government are compelled to introduce, on the orders of British capitalism which must be obeyed, and in favour of “The Right to Work”. After all, it is well over a century ago that he told the working class they should inscribe on their banners not this sort of tosh (which is merely demanding the right to be exploited by the capitalist class) but “The Abolition of the Wages System”. Around a century ago Marx’s son-in-law Paul Lafargue wrote a pamphlet directly opposing the parrot-cry of the Right to Work and called it The Right to be Lazy. Yet here we are, at the end of 1976, watching the descendants of those same workers, with all the bitter lessons that capitalism has taught them over the years (well, should have taught them, anyway), with the experience of being governed by a so-called workers’ government, something that was unheard of in those days, hugging their chains and complaining that they were not bound and fettered tight enough to the task of making profits for their rulers.
When the slaves of Pharaoh were building the pyramids and groaning under the lash of the slave-drivers, when Uncle Tom’s friends were being driven by the plantation owners in the Southern States, they may not have done much thinking about a free society but at least they did not organize demos demanding the right to be sweated and scourged by their rulers. Marx would have grounds for despair if he could see the antics of the wage-slaves of the oldest of all capitalist societies today.
The workers have really no excuse. Other considerations apart, they should be aware that unemployment is an integral feature of capitalism and always has been. When goods stop selling, then capitalism simply must lay off workers. No amount of exhortation by the Jarrow marchers in the ’30s against a mainly-Tory government, or by these demonstrators now against a so-called Labour government, us going to make a scrap of difference to hard economic realities. One advantage was gained by thousands of workers, however, since the Socialist Party went into the park to hold our own meetings and sell our literature, and our speakers told those of the demonstrators who would listen that they were simply wasting their time and their energies in marching for the abandonment of the cuts.
Even if the Callaghans and the Foots are sincere people, there is just nothing they can do against the inexorable laws of the system. After all, does anyone suppose that the National Government in the ’30s really enjoyed having nearly 3 million unemployed on their hands (who incidentally had to be fed, or at any rate only half-starved)? Is it not time that the working class woke up and decided they were ready to act on the advice of Marx and abolish the wages system which causes unemployment, among a host of other evils? Is it not time to have a system where not only unemployment would be abolished but employment, too? Where everyone will work freely instead of being employed by masters (that is, when the masters want you) for their — the masters’ — profit?
It is perhaps a pity that workers don’t, on the whole, read that ancient organ of British capitalism, The Times. The chap who runs the “Times Diary”, a highly-paid worker who does not understand the first thing about capitalism or Socialism (he would be horrified to know that he too was a wage-slave) had a paragraph about the SPGB meeting in his description of the demo. As he has deigned to notice us a few times recently, that must be a strike in his favour. He mentioned that one of our speakers was lambasting a heckler and telling him not to bemuse himself with his right-to-work slogans. The heckler was one of the numerous Trotskyists of various splinters who were in the demo (“at least we are doing something” — no doubt they could make the same claim of they were merely banging their heads against a wall which, in essence, is what they were at). They were flogging their pamphlets, all replete with headlines of the reformist slogans which the demonstrators had on their banners. And these are the very people who have the nerve to attack Labour politicians because they are reformists. One heckler was carrying a paper with a headline which looked to say “Down with Capitalism”: which was interesting to say the least. However, on closer inspection it read “Down with Capitalism’s Cuts”. The “revolutionary” idiot (who, like most of his ilk, was more intent on preventing our case being heard than taking part on a democratic argument; they carry banners denouncing fascism but of course are incipient fascists themselves) and the “Marxists”, Maoists, Trotskyists, etc., really think you can keep capitalism intact but without its cuts. And its wounds and its scars and its deaths.
A few days later, we witnessed — and addressed — another crowd of demonstrators who, this time, were on about racialism, which is just another evil produced by capitalism. (You could have a demo a day for a whole year against a different evil and not exhaust the list. And still not get rid of one of them!) The real thing about this one — which apparently never occurred to most of the marchers — was that it was actually run by the Labour Party and addressed by well-known leftist humbugs from the present government. Everyone was busy denouncing racialist legislation, quite oblivious to the fact that it’s a Labour Government in power which could remove it if it wanted. In fact, under Wilson, they actually brought in some of the vilest racialist laws themselves. Need we say more?
L. E. Weidberg