J. R. Campbell
Date: January 1928
Publisher: The Dorrit Press., London.
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: Chris Clayton
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
The average worker who has never studied Communism must be confused as to the rôle which the Communist Party is playing in the British Labour movement at the present day.
Let us say he is a miner or an engineering worker. He may come in contact with a Communist in the same pit or engineering shop. He notices that this Communist is continually propagating his ideas, and is prepared to tale the lead in any struggle on behalf of the workers that may arise in the workshop or in the pit. Our miner or engineering worker may not understand all that the Communist stands for, but will probably arrive at the general conclusion that the Communist is a good fighter on the side of the working class. Later, he may read a report in the Press of a speech by Sir William Joynson-Hacks, denouncing the “Reds,” and if he is a good labour man, will probably come to the conclusion that anything that Sir William Joynson-Hicks denounces is worthy of working-class support, and that therefore the Communists are a section of the working class who ought, to be encouraged.
He gets a shock, however, when, a few days later, he reads the account of a Labour Party Conference where the Communists are expelled because their policy is alleged to be inimical to the best interests of the working-class movement. If he reads the report of that conference he will find the Labour leaders denouncing the Communist Party in almost the same terms as Sir William Joynson-Hicks. The average worker will be naturally dumbfounded at this strange spectacle of Labour leaders and Tory Cabinet Ministers, who are alleged to be the sworn enemies of the Labour leaders, uniting to denounce the Communist Party. At the one moment the worker sees the Communist being victimised by the boss in the workshop, and at the next moment by the Right wing in the Local Labour Party, and is naturally led to wonder what strange kind of political party the Communist Party is when it draws the fire of the Labour leaders on the one hand and the leaders of the capitalist class on the other hand.
If our worker follows the Labour and capitalist Press, he finds Communism treated in different ways at different times. In the first place, he will find in both the capitalist Press and the Labour press, Communism treated as a joke. He will be told that the Communist movement has no influence in Great Britain whatsoever, and is worthy only of contempt. Yet the same papers — Labour and capitalist — which tell him that Communism is a joke and that it is unworthy of notice, are constantly giving it notice from week to week. At other times the Communist movement is treated as a menace, and the Press is full of scares about the machinations of the “Reds.” The same Labour leaders who, a few months previously, have dismissed Communism as a joke, now begin to denounce loudly Communist intrigues in the Labour movement, and no less a person than the secretary of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. W. M. Citrine, commences a series of articles in a Labour paper in order to combat the growing menace of Communism in the Trade Union movement.
Our worker finds the Labour leaders deriding the Communists because they are alleged to believe in dictatorship and not in democracy. Yet he finds that some Labour leaders are combating Communist propaganda in their unions, not by democratic methods, but by depriving Communists of all rights within the Trade Union movement. He finds Communists attacked because they are bloodthirsty people working for a bloody upheaval. He may be impressed by this charge until he remembers that the people who most often level it against the Communists are people like Mr. Churchill or Labour leaders who served in the Coalition Government during the period of the war.
It would be quite impossible to answer all the lies which have been levelled against Communism in a pamphlet, or, for that matter, in a whole library. Not by pamphlets alone, but also by daily experience in the class struggle, will the workers be won for Communism. Yet a pamphlet may be useful in removing prejudices, in inducing workers to study the question further, and particularly to realise that Communism is not merely the propagation of an ideal order of society, not merely the longing for a revolution which may come in the sweet bye and bye, but it is the political creed which affords to the worker the only practical guide to the successful waging of the day-to-day struggle against the capitalist class, and the development of that struggle towards the overthrow of capitalism.
The average worker is aware that all the political parties which claim his support have a programme which they put before him, explaining their point of view in relation to present-day questions. The Liberal has one programme, the Conservative another, and the Labour Party has another. Like all these political parties, the Communist Party has also a programme which it puts before the working class. Back of all these programmes, however, there exists in the mind of those who are propagating them a particular point of view as to the nature of present-day society and of the tendencies of present-day society. If the Conservative programme is different from the Communist programme it is because the Conservative programme represents the interests of a different class from that of the Communist Party. It represents the programme of the capitalist class which looks at present-day society from a different point of view from that of the working class, whose aspirations the Communist Party represent. In order to understand that attitude of the Communists towards present-day questions, it is therefore necessary to understand the Communist point of view in relation to present-day society.
If we look at the production of wealth in present-day society, we find that that production of wealth can only take place through the co-operation of many diverse trades and industries interlocked one with the other. Within a given workshop, the whole variety of workers, manual and mental, co-operate together in order to produce a common product. Within society as a whole all industries co-operate together in order to produce wealth, the raw material of one industry being the finished product of the other. Without this co-operation of all the useful elements of society in production, there can be no society as we understand it to-day. Wealth to-day can only be produced and industry maintained through this co-operation.
The vast industries in which men co-operate to produce wealth to-day are not the creation of any particular class, but have only been created and can only be maintained by the co-operative labour of all useful elements in society. The technical knowledge, the science which is utilised by these industries is not the creation of any particular social class, but is the common product of men co-operating together in society.
This technical knowledge, this application of science to industry, is constantly increasing, and with it, the power to produce wealth quickly and efficiently. Within the lifetime of comparatively young men and women, we have seen tremendous progress in the application of science to industry. The use of electricity as a motive force in industry, the development of the motor-car from the wheezy machine which broke down every half mile, to the smooth running cars of to-day, the development of aviation, the application of oil fuel to industry, are all technical changes which have taken place within the lifetime of most of the readers of this pamphlet. The ability to produce wealth grows every year, and with it, in a rational system of society, the welfare of the mass of the people should grow also.
In capitalist society the opposite process is taking place. Alongside growing power to produce wealth there is growing poverty. According, to the Ministry of Health figures there were twice as many people on Poor Relief in 1924 as pre-war.
The wealth which is produced by the co-operative labour of all active workers in industry is divided in most hopelessly unequal fashion. The following table gives a good example of how wealth is distributed in present-day society, giving one class enormous wealth and power and condemning the majority of the workers to poverty and subjection.
Distribution of National Income in 1923
Profits and Salaries
Income of Manual Workers
In addition to this, the existing powers of wealth production are not being utilised to their fullest capacity. On the one hand, we have had for the past seven years, a huge unemployed army, never falling below the million mark. Alongside this army of unemployed workers there are idle factories and uncultivated land. Capitalist economists and Labour leaders talk as if at the moment we were at the bottom of a profound trade depression which will sooner or later give way to a period of prosperity. A more candid examination of the facts would probably show us that at the moment we are probably at the height of as great a trade boom as capitalism in Europe is capable of under postwar condtions.
The cause of the rotten distribution of wealth lies in the nature of the capitalist order of society. Whilst wealth is cooperatively produced, while industries can only be maintained by the co-operative labour of millions of workers, these industries are not owned by the workers who operate them, but by a small idle class owning the land, the banks and the means of production. Because this class owns the means of life, it is able to dictate to the producers the terms on which they will work. These terms may vary for different classes of workers, in accordance with their scarcity, skill, or organisation, but they are always of such a character as to allow to the employing class the lion’s share of the wealth which is produced by the labour of others.
In addition to the unequal distribution of wealth, capitalism wastes many of the advantages of science and invention because of the planless character of modern industry taken as a whole. In a single workshop, or even within a single industry, production may be planned according to the most scientific methods, but in capitalist society as a whole there is no plan regulating the production and distribution of wealth. The whole system is based on the pursuit of profit by the owners of the means of production. The regulator of the whole system determining whether industry shall be expanded or shall go on short time is the rise and fall of prices on the market, reflecting the rise and fall in the possibilities of profit for the capitalists whose industries produce for the market.
The planlessness of capitalism taken as a whole renders it incapable of completely utilising the results of modern science and invention or of overcoming the crises in the basic industries in this country. At the present moment it is recognised on all hands that the coal industry in Great Britain is technically in an exceptionally backward state, and even from the standpoint of efficient capitalism, requires to be reorganised from top to bottom. No capitalist will make any effort to reorganise an industry on more efficient lines, however, unless there is the prospects of a vast profit accruing from the expenditure on that reorganisation. As no such return for expenditure on reorganisation is probable in the coal industry at the present moment, the technical backwardness is allowed to remain, while the mine-owners concentrate their attention on cutting wages on the one hand, and forming price rings to extract a higher price from the home consumer of coal on the other hand. The coal industry is left to drift to ruin, while the capitalist class as a whole is diverting its investments into the new luxury industries or into the industries abroad which promise greater profits than the decaying coal industry.
The exact opposite of this is seen in the Socialist industry of Russia, in spite of the meagre resource in a country which is still largely agrarian. The Russian workers have been able in recent years to raise the efficiency of their industry enormously. Should one section of industry in Russia fall behind another section and require assistance from outside, then resources are diverted from the more prosperous industries to the industry which is lagging behind, in order to bring it up to date. The result of this is that the whole of Russian industry is advancing together, no section being neglected and allowed to fall into decay.
The scramble for profit leads also to the scramble for markets for sources of investment and raw materials on an international scale, and leads inevitably to war.
The late war was produced by this scramble for trade and territory, and it has left capitalism in Europe definitely on the downgrade. Even when capitalism was on the upgrade, however, continually expanding year after year, the workers did not receive the advantages of the mighty technical progress that was being made. Many capitalist authorities have argued that the workers, at the end of the nineteenth century, were in a better position than at the beginning of the nineteenth century, as a result of 100 years of capitalist development. It must be pointed out, however, that in relation to the wealth and the luxury enjoyed by the capitalist class, in relation to the capacity of society to produce wealth, the worker was poorer at the end of the nineteenth century than at the beginning. Thus, in the period of the greatest expansion of capitalism, colossal wealth existed alongside the most heartrending poverty.
All this may seem the most elementary Socialism and unworthy of emphasis. The very elements of Socialism, however, are being forgotten by many people in the Labour movement to-day. At the moment the idea is being widely spread that by an improvement in the efficiency of capitalism the workers will be able to obtain a continuous improvement in their standard of life. The Secretary of the Trade Union Congress, Mr. Citrine, writing in the “Manchester Guardian,” advocates, for example,
“that the unions should actively participate in a concerted effort to raise industry to its highest efficiency by developing the most scientific methods of production, eliminating waste and harmful restrictions, removing causes of friction and avoidable conflict and promoting the largest possible output so as to provide a rising standard of life and continuously, improving conditions of employment.”
The idea behinds this is that the more capitalism produces wealth the better off everyone will become. This is not the case. The more wealth capitalism produces the greater its difficulties as a functioning system; the more difficult it is to obtain markets, the more intensive international competition becomes; the greater becomes the danger of the antagonisms created by this competition ripening into war. Thus, on the one hand, capitalism, in its development, widens the gulf between the active workers and the non-producing capitalists, increases the difficulties of capitalism to dispose of its product, and drives the capitalist states irresistibly towards war.
At the present moment the difficulties of capitalism are increasing in every country in Europe. In the generation previous to the war a great change took place within capitalism. The free competition of individual capitalists competing for the market gave way more and more to the formation of trusts and combines. These trusts and combines commenced to fight each other, not merely by lowering their prices as in the period of free competition, but also by securing to themselves exclusive monopolies of the raw materials of industry. Hence a scramble all over the world for control of oil fields, iron ore deposits and sources of supply of all kinds. The result of this scramble was the war. When the war was over, it was found that capitalism had been shaken to its very foundations. Countries which had formerly been in the very forefront of capitalist “progress” were now almost ruined. New countries which had formerly been dependent upon them, such as Japan and America, had thrown off their dependence and were entering upon a period of expansion. American capitalism particularly attained hitherto unheard-of heights of capitalist prosperity, but only at the expense of the capitalist countries which were declining, a fact which our Labour leaders and capitalists who ask us to imitate America somewhat conveniently forget.
Europe particularly, in this period, lost a considerable amount of its former predominance. Its share in world production, trade and commerce declined.
While recently conditions in Europe have somewhat improved as a result of huge American loans, European capitalism has by no means solved the crisis into which the world has plunged it. At the present moment, as was shown by the Economic Conference at Geneva, world production has vastly outrun the seeming power of the world markets, and this is resulting everywhere in an intensification of competition, which European capitalism is finding increasingly difficult to meet.
No country is feeling the effects of these changes more than Great Britain is, because the whole structure of British industry is built on -the assumption of an expanding world market, whereas at the present moment the development of new countries, industrially, is leading to the expansion of production beyond the absorbing powers of the market. Under capitalism this state of affairs naturally leads to intensification of competition, and in no country are the capitalists worse equipped to meet this competition than in Great Britain. The great basic industries of Great Britain on which its former prosperity have been built, iron and steel, shipbuilding, coalmining, the cotton and wool textile industry, have fallen technically behind the industries in the newer countries, which are able to start with the latest methods of production. The consequence is that in these industries a chronic crisis has raged for the past seven years.
This is affecting the international position of Great Britain. In order that a capitalist country is able to function smoothly, it must, in the long run, produce and export capital, consumable goods or services to the value of those which it imports. At the present moment, however, British exports are only 50 per cent. in money values above pre-war, whereas British imports are twice the money value of pre-war. (These figures are from “Principal Features of the World Economic Position” — League of Nations, 1927.) This means that what is called the balance of trade is going against Great Britain, a fact which affects the future of Britain as a capitalist industrial country very much indeed.
In such a situation, the capitalists have only one solution of the difficulty, i.e., the increased exploitation of the working class. There are two ways in which the capitalists can increase this exploitation: (1) to reduce the wages of the working class, and (2) to speed up the working class while continuing to pay them the same wages. These methods are not mutually exclusive. Very often both of them are adopted by the same body of employers, one after the other.
One of the sharpest divisions of opinion existing in the Labour movement to-day is that concerning the attitude which ought to be adopted towards this capitalist attack on the wages and conditions of the working class. The reformist leaders of the Labour movement hold that capitalism, as a result of the war, is not in a “normal” condition. If wage reductions will help in getting capitalism back to “normal,” then the majority of the Labour leaders hold that these wage reductions ought to be agreed to by the working class. They have pursued this policy, not merely in theory, but in action when, during the General Strike, the whole weight of the Trade Union leaders was thrown into the endeavour to induce the miners to accept lower wages in order to help capitalism back to “normal.” We will see later that this policy of calling upon the workers to make sacrifices in order to help capitalism back to normal, runs through the whole policy of the reformist Labour leaders at the present time.
The Communists contend, on the other hand, that the growing difficulties of the capitalist system are not due to some abnormal accident which has befallen capitalism. The war and the effects of the war are due to the normal development of the capitalist system itself, and no amount of concessions by the workers can do more than meet the immediate difficulties which the capitalist class are faced with. Sooner or later new difficulties will arise in the development of the system, and the capitalists will call upon the workers for further sacrifice. The Communists, therefore, call upon the workers to resist all attempts to lower their standard of life, to unite their forces industrially and to make their resistance as widespread and as united as possible, and having beaten off the capitalist offensive by a united resistance, to come forward from that to an attack on the capitalist system itself. This is one of the fundamental questions dividing the reformist Labour leaders from the Communists. The struggle between the reformists and the Communists is not, as is sometimes pretended, merely a quarrel as to whether force should be used in obtaining the demands of the workers. The dispute between Communists and Labour leaders extends to every aspect of the working class policy. In the sphere of wages, the reformists stand for concessions to capitalism, in order to help capitalism to get back to “normal,” while the Communists stand for a resistance to the demands of the capitalists and the preparation for a decisive struggle against capitalism.
The reformist policy of concessions to capitalism can be seen in other spheres than that of wage reductions. At the present moment there is passing through the House of Commons an Unemployment Insurance Act which definitely reduces standards of unemployment relief hitherto given to young workers, and which worsens the conditions under which an adult worker can remain on Unemployed Relief. This Bill of the Tory Government, worsening the conditions of the unemployed, is based on the Blanesburgh Report, which was signed by three Labour leaders — Miss Margaret Bondfield, Mr. A. E. Holmes, and NIr. Frank Hodges. Amongst the large number of contradictory excuses put forward by Miss Bondfield for signing a report which advocated the reduction of the scales of relief of young workers, was the excuse that if the Labour leaders had refrained from signing this report, and had issued a Minority Report of their own, the capitalists would have issued a Majority lkport recommending more drastic cuts in unemployed relief than was done by the Blanesburgh Report, and, therefore, in order to prevent the capitalists recommending too drastic cuts in unemployed relief Miss Bondfield signed the Blanesburgh Report, which advocated some cuts in unemployment relief. Miss Bondfield’s policy was not repudiated by the joint conference of Labour Parties and Trade Unions which met to consider the Blanesburgh Report in April, 1927, and was so much in harmony with the general policy of the bureaucracy that she felt genuinely amazed and hurt at the idea that anyone could protest against it.
The whole of the present policy of the reformist leaders in the Trade Unions is based on the assumption that capitalism is sooner or later going to get back to a condition of expansion, similar to that which it experienced in pre-war days, and that our first task is therefore to help the capitalists to get the system back to normal and then insist on pushing forward the demand of the workers for higher wages and for better conditions. The Communists declare that the crisis in capitalism is a chronic crisis, that while slight improvements in trade are not impossible, they are extremely unlikely, and if they come about at all they would only be of short duration. The workers cannot, therefore, the Communists maintain, adopt the policy of the Labour leaders, which consists in helping the capitalists to chase after illusory prosperity in the hope that when that prosperity comes the workers may be able to resume their old methods of Trade Union struggle. When the reformists try to excuse their policy by declaring that the workers cannot struggle effectively against the capitalist class in a period of trade depression, the Communists declare that the trade depression is permanent, and the workers must learn how to struggle in this period of trade depression or go down into conditions of barbarism and slavery.
For this struggle against the capitalist offensive in a period of trade depression, the widest possible unity between the employed workers and the unemployed workers is necessary. The whole policy, however, of the leaders of the Trade Union movement is towards the desertion of the unemployed. We have already referred to the case of the signing of the Blanesburgh Report. Another case equally as significant, was the attempt of the General Council of the Trade Union Congress to prevent the miners’ march to London, in spite of the fact that the demands of that march were demands which had been endorsed by the whole Labour movement from time to time. In spite of the detailed opposition of the Labour Party to many clauses of the Unemployment Bill, based on the Blanesburgh Report, that party remains without a definite policy in regard to the unemployed at the present moment. Thus the one effective way in which the workers can struggle in a period of trade depression, the unity of employed and unemployed, is being sabotaged by the reformist leadership at the present time.
The same refusal to organise a struggle in accordance with new conditions is observable in Trade Union policy. In spite of the fact that the workers’ forces are still hopelessly disorganised between the hundreds of competing unions, the General Council at the last Trade Union Congress brought in a recommendation to the effect that it was impossible to elaborate a plan of Trade Union reorganisation, and that therefore amalgamation and unification of the Trade Union Movement should be left to the initiative of the various unions themselves. This, under present conditions, amounts to a refusal to exercise leadership and to help forward the unification of the working class in the factories and in the industries. In effect, it involves the weakening of the working class in face of the capitalist offensive, which is still continuing.
The refusal of the reformists to create the conditions for a united struggle on the part of the employed and the unemployed against the capitalist offensive, the refusal to use the whole forces of the working class during the General Strike, the betrayal of the General Strike, and the refusal to use the weapon of direct action as a means of combatting the Trade Union Bill, the break with the Russian Unions, have all led to heavy working-class defeats. The miners have been crushed, the Trade Union Bill has been placed on the Statute Book, and now the prediction of the Communists with regard to the attacks on the miners being the preliminary to the attack on other sections of the workers is proved to be correct. At the present moment, the wool textile workers and the cotton textile workers are being threatened with attacks on their wages and conditions of life. In the cotton trades particularly, the forty-eight-hour week, one of the most cherished gains of the working class from their post-war struggles, is being menaced by the employing class. Yet, in spite of the humiliation that they have suffered at the hands of the capitalist class, in spite of the attacks on the miners and the impending attacks on other workers, in spite of the fact that the Trade Union Bill is on the Statute Book, the Trade Union leaders have no policy except that of appealing to the employing class who have crushed the miners and who propose to crush other sections of the workers, to kindly co-operate with them in a project to realise peace and prosperity on the basis of capitalism.
One can hardly understand the mental processes of individuals who as Trade Union negotiators have been unable to persuade the capitalists to refrain from attacking the wages of the workers, but now, after a series of such attacks, are entertaining (or, worse still, pretending to entertain) the fond delusion that by getting together with the same wage-cutting employers in an “industrial peace” conference they will not only be able to create a regime of industrial prosperity but will be able to win higher wages for the workers without the necessity of a large-scale industrial struggle.
The whole idea underlying this “industrial peace” stunt is well expressed by Mr. William Straker, the Secretary of the Northumberland Miners’ Association. Mr. Straker is the miners’ leader in a district where wages have been cut to the barest possible minimum compatible with existence and where terror and victimisation have been systematically applied by the employers against the workers.
The brutal attacks of the employing class have not engendered in Mr. Straker a spirit of resistance, but, on the contrary, have filled him with the milk of human kindness.
In his monthly circular to the members of the Northumberland Miners’ Association, Mr. Straker, welcoming the new “Industrial Peace” Conference, says, “So I welcome any movement which has for its object the bringing of men representing different interests in the industrial world together for the purpose of hearing each other’s views on what is the best thing to be done in order to restore industrial prosperity.” One would imagine that Mr. Straker had heard the mine-owners’ views on that question often enough both in the lock-out of 1921 and the lock-out of 1926. We must welcome, however, Mr. Straker’s naive argument for the “industrial peace” conference. The capitalist management of industry, it appears, has not created prosperity, but if a few Trade Union leaders meet a group of leading capitalists, then, according to Mr. Straker, they will be able to talk things over, and as a result of this talk, prosperity will be won for the industry without the vested interests of the capitalists being affected in any way. It is a pity that Mr. Straker did not expose his ideas to, the mine-owners during the two lock-outs which we have just named. They would doubtless have been pleased to know how to restore the industry to prosperity without reducing wages and without giving up any of their claims on the profits of that industry.
It is quite clear from what we have quoted from Mr. Citrine in another part of this pamphlet, that the whole policy of “industrial peace” is based on the capitalist rationalisation of industry. In the speeches of the advocates of “industrial peace” we are told about the backward condition of British industry, how it is not trustified on as great a scale as the industries in other countries which are competing with us; how it neglects to utilise the latest machinery and the latest methods of securing a full output from the workers, such as the running band associated with the name of Henry Ford, and the stop-watch associated with Taylor, and the other scientific management experts.
We are told by the advocates of rationalisation and “industrial peace” that surely no intelligent person can object to the scientific rationalisation of industry resulting in a greater output per man. We have got to remember, however, that we are living in capitalist society, and when we talk about rationalisation under capitalism, we have got to ask ourselves who is carrying through this rationalisation, and in whose interests is the rationalisation conceived. If the capitalist class is left in control of industry and carry through the rationalisation on their own lines, then obviously such rationalisation will serve the interests of the exploiting class and not the interests of the workers.
This can be seen more clearly if we examine the phrase “co-operation between the Trade Unions and the capitalist class.” As we have seen in the earlier part of this pamphlet, the workers are co-operating in industry to produce wages for themselves and profits for the capitalists. Every day the worker co-operates in the workshop with the representatives of capitalist management. In what way can the Trade Unions (under capitalism) make this co-operation more effective in producing wealth than it is at the present time? In one way alone. The workers have, in the course of a long struggle to obtain a decent standard of life under capitalism, built up certain customs and rules which they endeavour to apply in the workshop. Certain classes of work are the monopoly of certain classes of workers, and the capitalists, in the union shops, must employ those workers on the job and no others. Certain trades having had long experience of piece work and of the habit of the employers of cutting piece prices, place definite restrictions on piece work, and in some cases oppose it altogether. Other bodies of workers, knowing the effects of the introduction of new machinery on their standard of life, try to get prior consultation with the employers before the new machine is introduced so that the terms on which the new machine is operated will be such as will maintain their accustomed standard of life. All those Trade Union restrictions and customs, built up to defend the workers’ standards against an hostile class, are, to a certain extent, barriers against the most intensive utilisation of equipment and labour power by the capitalists, and the capitalists, particularly in the engineering trades, have always tried to break them down. The only way in which Trade Union leaders can cooperate with the capitalists is restoring “prosperity” (i.e., increasing production) is to induce the workers to forgo their customs and restrictions, allow the capitalists a freer hand in utilising the labour-power which is available to them in order that an increased product may result. The Trade Union leaders will, of course, point out to the capitalists, as they have done in Germany, that this increased production requires to be marketed, and that the employers ought to ensure a stable home market by increasing the workers’ wages as fast, if not faster, than the increased production. They forget the employing class is anxious to introduce those new methods because of a desire for a greater profit, and is not concerned with ensuring a market for his goods through the increase of wages and the reduction of his own profits, and therefore he looks not to a home market made prosperous by the increase in workers’ wages, but to the foreign market where he can rely on a maximum possible profit.
It must further be realised that this policy of rationalisation is bound, if widely applied, to increase the unemployed army enormously, so that when the division of the increased production comes up for consideration, the workers will be hampered in their efforts to get a share of it by the mass of the unemployed existing outside the factory gates and by the persistent refusal of the Trade Union leaders too organise the unemployed alongside, the employed.
Thus, even if the workers were to agree to facilitate production by abandoning their safeguards, there is no guarantee that they would get a share of the increased production. The division of the increased product would be settled like the division of the product to-day, by the relative economic strength of the workers on the one hand and the employers on the other. Thus, the “industrial peace” proposals for rationalisation, whilst offering the capitalists the certainty of increased profits, hold out no hopes to the workers at all.
The idea that by so improving production the capitalist class, can overcome the crisis which they are in, is stupid. Great Britain is not the only country where the capitalists are proposing to rationalise industry. All capitalist countries are engaged in the same work. The only result of this rationalisation under capitalism is a growing crisis in the world market, a growing scramble for colonies and for markets, and the bringing nearer of a new world war. Thus the Trade Union leaders who are leading the workers to believe that a far-reaching improvement in the workers’ wages and conditions of life can be got not by overthrowing capitalism, but by co-operating with the capitalists to make their system more efficient, are simply surrendering to the capitalist class, misleading the workers, and creating conditions which will inevitably make the rich richer and the workers poorer.
The economic struggle against the capitalist offensive inevitably raises the question of political power, because in every large-scale struggle the capitalist class mobilises all the forces of the capitalist state against the working class. They have placed on the Statute Book the Emergency Powers Act, which suspends all Constitutional guarantees during a state of emergency, and gives the Government of the day power to do anything it pleases with the Labour movement. They have further placed on the Statute Book the Trade Union Act, which prevents the workers in one industry coming to the assistance, with industrial action or with finance, of the workers of another industry engaged in a trade dispute, though no law which could possibly be framed would be effective in preventing the capitalists of one industry from helping the capitalists in another industry during such a dispute.
The more the workers unite their forces and commence to struggle against the capitalist offensive, the more the struggle becomes a political struggle, not between the workers and any group of capitalists, but between the workers and the capitalist state representing the capitalist class as a whole. Every section of the Labour movement, therefore, believes in the necessity for capturing political power.
The present Labour leadership preaches occasionally that political power can be captured by securing a Parliamentary majority, and this Parliamentary majority will enable the workers to transform society from capitalism to Socialism in a peaceful, painless fashion. We sometimes hear the supporters of this point of view declaring “I do not believe in the physical force methods advocated by the Communists. I believe that we can get all that we want through the medium of Parliament.” The workers have to remember, however, that what we are faced with is not a question of belief, but a question of fact. Are the facts which we see unfolding themselves before our eyes every day of such a character as to induce us to believe in the possibility of a peaceful democratic transformation of capitalism?
It has long been the contention of the Communists that underneath the democratic pretence of Parliament the actual political power of the country is in the hands of the small capitalist class who direct policy in their own interests. So long as this small capitalist class is able, by using its economic power, the control of the Press and of the sources of information, to secure a democratic majority in Parliament or in local government agreeing with this point of view, it loudly proclaims its belief in democracy. If, however, the democratic vote should begin to go against the interests of the capitalist class, it will not hesitate to smash the democratic pretence and establish an open dictatorship. We see the proof of that to-day in local government. The Boards of Guardians in this country were appointed by law to look after the interests of the poor. So long as those Boards were in capitalist hands and the poor, whether infirm or able-bodied, were treated with the utmost callousness and contempt, those Boards of Guardians were allowed to continue their democratic ways undisturbed. Immediately, however, Labour majorities began to appear on those Boards and began to utilise them in the interests of the working class, the capitalist government immediately restricted their powers through their Board of Guardians Default Act, and in cases where the Guardians were recalcitrant, superseded them by nominated commissions. Exactly the same thing applies to local municipal bodies, which are now prevented from utilising their powers in certain directions by the Local Authorities Audit Bill.
The same process is taking place in Parliament itself. At the very moment when the Trade Union leaders were telling the working class to wait till the next election and use their votes in order to repeal the Trade Union Act, the Tory Government was considering a scheme of House of Lords reform which would enable the reactionaries of this country to practically bring to a standstill the work of any Labour Government seriously intent on improving the condition of the working class or of removing the restrictions, such as the Trade Union Act, which the Tory Government has recently placed on the Labour movement.
Even if these barriers were broken down, however, there are still other barriers to be overcome by the Parliamentary Labour majority seriously intent on fighting for the working class. The bureaucracy in our State Departments, the key posts in the Army and Navy, are held by the big men of the capitalist class. These people would not permit the gradual elimination of capitalism from our social life. They would resist and sabotage, and would be supported by the immense financial resources at the disposal of the capitalist class. A Labour Government reahy intent on fighting for the worker would therefore either have to call on the working class to break this resistance by direct action and proceed to transform itself from a Parliamentary Government to a Government resting on the organisations of the working class, or it would have to abandon the struggle against capitalism.
When people talk about the Communists advocating bloodshed they have got to realise that all indications go to show that the present possessing class will defend itself by force, and the people who are asking for bloodshed are not the Communists, who point out this fact to the working class, but those who tell the workers that they can get everything by the vote. If the capitalist class is going to resist the workers, then their resistance is likely to be of short duration if the workers are prepared beforehand, if they are thoroughly organised in industry, if a resolute Communist Party has carried out a propaganda in the Army and the Navy. on the other hand, if none of these things is done, then not only is bloodshed certain, but the defeat of the working class in consequence of this bloodshed is, also extremely likely.
There is, however, another body of opinion which says to the Communists, “We agree that the capitalist class will resist by force, but if this is so, surely at any rate it is desirable for the workers to get a Parliamentary majority behind them before attempting to forcibly overthrow the capitalist class. Is it not a fact,” they say, “that much of Cromwell’s success in the struggle against the monarchy was due to the fact that he had Parliament behind him?” We have got to remember, however, the difference between the capitalist revolution and the workers’ revolution. The capitalist class grew up within the framework of pre-capitalist society and became an economically powerful class without any revolution. Their revolution was designed to secure for them such political control as would enable them to break down all restrictions and secure the fullest possible development for their industry and trade which they already controlled. With them economic power preceded political power. The workers, on the other hand, cannot get economic power without first, by a political revolution, breaking down the capitalist state machine, building up their political power in the form of a workers’ state, and on that basis proceeding to secure control of the economic forces of society.
The question of whether the workers should attempt to seize power before or after obtaining a Parliamentary majority is entirely a question of time, place, and circumstance. The workers are engaged in a struggle with the capitalist class and cannot determine their policy without reference to the policy of their capitalist adversaries. Capitalist society is continually creating crises in the course of its development, such as the revolutionary crisis which seized all Europe in its grip at the end of the world war. It is the duty of Communists to prepare the workers to utilise such crises for the overthrow of the capitalists, whether the workers have a Parliamentary majority or not.
The immediate situation we are faced with in Great Britain, however, is not that the capitalist class will resist the Labour Government seriously intent on achieving Socialism, but that the next Labour Government will make no serious attempt to achieve Socialism at all. Since the experience of 1924 Labour Government, the dominant leadership of the Labour movement had been working gradually to weaken and modify the already very weak and moderate reformist programme formulated by the Labour Party in 1915. The capital levy which was advocated by Labour in the three General Elections has now been dropped in favour of a proposal called the surtax. This is how Mr. MacDonald explains why the capital levy was dropped: —
“Some years ago we proposed a capital levy. It was, not an income tax, and was not in the nature of an income tax. It was a call upon capital, and no one who knew anything about economics would have suggested that the revenue from such a call could have been used for anything except paying off of the national debt. We wished to reduce the national debt for reasons which were theoretically sound and industrially advantageous, but the country did not allow us to proceed. The levy was the most businesslike way out, not the only way, and so we adopted another.”
Nothing can be more false than the suggestion that the country, that is to say, the mass of the electorate, did not allow the Labour Party to proceed. The capital levy was a popular part of Labour’s programme, and at each successive election when it was brought forward increasing votes were registered for the Labour Party. The capital levy was dropped not because of the opposition of the country, but because of the opposition of the big banks, a fact tacitly acknowledged in the Labour Minority Report of the Colwyn Committee, which considered the question of the capital levy. In spite of all talk about the surtax, no substitute for the capital levy has been adopted by the Labour Party. The surtax is simply a tax on unearned income, and that was already a part of Labour’s programme at the moment when the capital levy was advocated.
In its Blackpool resolution on Unemployment, the Labour Party has deliberately eliminated even the suggestion of Socialist proposals which were incorporated in the resolutions of previous conferences, and has watered down its policy to a few vague phrases.
With regard to the nationalisation of the mines, while the policy of nationalisation is retained as a pious aspiration, a resolution was passed at Blackpool which will give the Labour Government an opportunity and excuse for introducing not nationalisation, but unification and trustification on the lines of the Samuel Memorandum. More and more Labour Party policy is being adapted to the needs of capitalism.
The conflict between the Communists and the reformists leadership of the Labour movement is not merely a conflict between one body which believes that force may have to be utilised for a realisation of Socialism, and another body which believes force is unnecessary for this purpose. It is becoming increasingly a conflict between the Communists standing for a Socialist working-class policy and the reformist leadership who have neither hope nor desire to realise Socialism peacefully or in any other way, but are bent on adapting all Labour policy to the necessities of capitalism.
Nowhere is this rapprochement of the Labour Party to the capitalist parties more apparent or more dangerous than in the sphere of foreign policy. This can be seen in the attitude towards the Tory Government break with Soviet Russia.
Every impartial person on the Continent of Europe recognises the fact of the persistent hostility of the British Tory Government to Soviet Russia, and of its repeated attempts to form a European bloc against Soviet Russia. In breaking with Russia, Sir Austen Chamberlain clearly showed himself to be the aggressor. In spite of his talk about the impossibility of maintaining normal diplomatic intercourse with Russia we have the fact that most other capitalist states are able to maintain this intercourse. The break with Russia was preceded in Great Britain by an intense campaign preparing the way for the break. In this campaign, the great oil interests, being competed out of their high profits by the Socialist oil industry of Russia, took the lead, and with them were united all the capitalist elements who feared Russian influence in China, and amongst the oppressed peoples generally. The Labour leadership made a feeble and half-hearted protest in Parliament against the Tory diplomatic break with Russia, but immediately after proceeded to help the Government by protesting against the execution of twenty “White” conspirators for counter-revolutionary activity in Russia. The Labour resolution which was passed condemning those executions led it to be inferred that the executions were not for counter-revolutionary activity, but were a mere act of revenge for the assassination of the Soviet Ambassador in Poland. This lie was even defended at the Labour Party Conference, when Geo. Lansbury said:
“That the reason he supported, and the Executive supported, this resolution was, first of all, because the Russian Soviet authorities themselves issued a statement that these men were executed owing to the murder of the Russian Ambassador to Poland. (Dissent.) Yes, and he was prepared to supply any comrade, if he would write to Eccleston Square, with the authority for the statement he had just made, and that they were being executed in order to stop the terrorism that was arising abroad and in Russia itself. That was the first ground. The next ground was that the Labour movement of this country, ever since he had known it — and he had known it a number of years, long before the Party was started in this country — had always stood against execution for political offences.”
There is no truth whatever in the statement that these men were executed for revenge, and not because of their counterrevolutionary activity. Yet when this is called attention to at the Labour Party Conference, the Chairman of the Labour Party repeats the lie, and adds to it the lie that the Labour Party has always been against execution for political offences. The Labour Party did not fight against the execution of James Conolly or Sir Roger Casement for political offences during the war.
Further propaganda against the Soviet Union was emitted at the same Congress, when Mr. MacDonald said: —
“He would say to those who were always talking about defending Russia, that the most effective way of defending Russia was not to give Russia excuses for having a wrong international policy. They were told that Russia had done this, that, and the other thing. It was not true. Russia had taken no effective steps whatever to get into relationship of neighbourly union with the other States of Europe. Again and again that question had been raised, and it had been pressed upon the Russian Government, but no satisfactory answer had been given. Until the Russian Government made its relations perfectly clear with the Third International, that desirable step could never be taken. It was no use talking nonsense about it. They knew perfectly well that every time a move was made to get an understanding with Russia it was upset by the political propaganda of an organisation which was destroying goodwill towards Russia on the part of millions of people who really desired to show their goodwill.”
Here we have an attempt to put the blame on to Russia for the international situation at the present day, and the implication that after all, that if Chamberlain has made some mistakes, the Russians have to a great extent provoked him by their unwise policy. This anti-Russian attitude, which is an obsession with Mr. MacDonald, was further developed in the article in “Forward.” Referring to the Russian offer of disarmament at the League of Nations, Mr. MacDonald could scarcely avoid sneering at the proposals which were rousing the enthusiasm of the workers everywhere. He said: —
“Meanwhile, the Russians have thrown their bomb shell into the midst of the Disarmament Commission. It is big and comprehensive. It belonged to the type of ‘the whole hog.’ But, will it burst? Or, is it only a Christmas cracker with its finger at its nose? Whatever it is, it is there in the offices of Geneva, and will have to be taken into account, and when it is being examined I hope the Russians will be present to give some detailed information about it. It certainly begins at the wrong end, and may only result in prolonging what has already become a criminal waste of time. If the Russian method is the right one, then God made the world, and especially man, all wrong, for there is not a nation, except a few small ones, that will pursue it. Some of my friends want examples of nations throwing away their arms, and I shall do everything I can to help them. May one, therefore, appeal to Russia, as it has set down such a high standard on paper, to proceed to carry it out in practice, whatever happens at Geneva. I fear that nothing of the kind will happen.”
In other words, Mr. MacDonald is suggesting in the last sentence that if the Russians do not agree to completely disarm themselves before a hostile capitalist world, after that capitalist world has rejected their proposals, then those proposals for simultaneous disarmament were absolutely insincere.
An even more glaring example of Labour Party support of Conservative foreign policy is to be found in the recent Labour Party attitude towards the Indian Commission. Every schoolboy knows that Great Britain entered India not to civilise the Indian people but to seize the country by force of arms with a view to increasing the profits of British capitalists. In fact, during one half of its existence under British rule, India was governed not directly by the British Government but through the medium of a trading company, the East India Company. Our motive in entering India was profit; our justification for remaining in India is the sword.
Recently the Tory Government appointed under the Government of India Act, 1919, a Commission to go to India to inquire to what extent the Indians were fitted for a measure of self-government. To anyone who is capable of getting outside of the Imperialist prejudice created by the capitalist class, such a Commission was an insult to India. Here is a Government, unable to solve its own unemployment problem, unable to solve its housing problem, unable to prevent unnecessary infantile mortality, unable to create: the conditions of a civilised life for the majority of the people in Great Britain, sending a Commission to India to discover whether the Indians are fit for self-government.
The whole basis of this Commission lies in its responsibility to the British Parliament. In the last analysis it is the Parliament of the Imperialist conquerors which is to decide how far India was fit for self-government.
The Labour Party knew that such a Commission was going to be appointed, and at the Blackpool Conference they passed a resolution affirming the right of the Indian people “to full self-government and self-determination” and declaring “that the Commission to be appointed under the Government of India Act should be so constituted, and in the method of doing its work so arranged, that it will enjoy the confidence and co-operation of the Indian people.” Immediately the composition and scope of the Commission became known in India it was plain that the Commission would not evoke the confidence and co-operation of the Indian people. In spite of this fact, the Labour Party supported the Tory Government against the protests of the Indian people and allowed its members to go on the Commission. Mr. Hartshorn, a representative (?) of the miners who were so brutally treated by Birkenhead’s Government last year, becomes the agent of Lord Birkenhead in maintaining the enslavement of the Indian people. It is true that the Labour Party declared that they were in favour of an Indian Commission being set up alongside the Commission composed of Britishers and have declared that they will fight for the report of this Commission to be accepted by the British Parliament.
In any case, however, the arbiter of the destinies of the Indian people, the body which will discuss the Commission’s reports, will be the British Parliament. In other wards, the Labour Party has reduced self-determination for India to mean the right of the Indians to make a report to the British Parliament, which that Parliament can accept or reject.
The Labour Party has striven desperately to explain its position, but nothing can conceal the fact that it supported the Tory Government against the Indian people and that while it is suggesting that the Tory plan should be modified by the appointment of an Indian Commission alongside the British one, it is the Tory plan and not the Labour Party’s which is operative to-day. In any case, the Labour Party’s plan is merely the Tory plan camouflaged in order to mislead the Indian people.
Thus the Labour Party, which begins by co-operating with the capitalists on the home front in order to bring capitalism back to normal, co-operates with capitalism in foreign policy. Such co-operation in times of peace is the prelude to co-operation with capitalism in times of war.
The Communist Party, on the other hand, declares that the Indian people fighting for independence, are fighting the same enemy as the British working class here at home and that therefore the British working class must form. a united front with them in the struggle to overthrow British Imperialism. The present policy of the Labour Party is therefore leading away from Socialism towards the rebuilding of capitalism, towards the intensified enslavement of the colonial peoples and towards war.
In these circumstances, if the British working-class desire to beat off the capitalist attacks on their present standards, avoid the danger of war and carry out a resolute struggle to achieve their emancipation through the overflow of capitalism, they must fight more and more within the Labour movement against the reformist policy of co-operating with capitalism.
The necessary preliminary to carrying on an effective fight against the Reformist corruption of the Labour movement is the building up of a strong Communist Party. Unless the active workers who see the. dangers of this reformist policy get together and build up a revolutionary Communist Party their influence in the Labour Movement will be reduced to nothing by the weight of the reformist machine in the Trade Unions and in the Labour Party which is in the hands of men who are deterrkined on co-operation with capitalism at any price.
The Communist Party is alone equipped to fight reformism, the bulwark of capitalism in the Labour Movement, because the Communist Party alone has an alternative outlook and policy to that of the reformists. Its views as to the tendencies of capitalist society, its predictions as to the development of the struggle between Capital and Labout in Great Britain, have been borne out by the events of recent months. The Communist Party is therefore equipped to guide the working class in the struggle. It is not afraid to tell the working class unpopular truths or to risk temporary misunderstanding. It knows that the experience of the working class in the struggle will more and more convince them of the correctness of Communist policy.
Only such a political party can aid the workers in reorganising the Trade Union Movement on more efficient and scientific lines. The old leadership of the Trade Unions wedded to obsolete methods, fighting in defence of vested interests, must be eliminated and replaced by a new leadership pursuing a new policy. Such a policy would be based on the freest possible democracy within the Unions and the elimination of all forms of administrative waste which are common in a number of Unions at the present time. It would pursue the task of welding together the scattered Unions of the present day into powerful industrial Unions, linked up under a General Council of the T.U.C., cleansed from faint hearts and traitors. It would organise the unemployed and bring the unemployed organisation into close permanent association with the Trade Union Movement on a common policy. Above all, in view of the drift towards the rationalisation of industry, it would seek to develop powerful factory committees which can, backed by the Trade Union Movement, fight against such forms of capitalist rationalisation as are calculated to reduce the standard of life of the works, and from that, build up the strength of the workers in the factories for the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism.
Within the Labour Party, the members of the Communist Party will work with all progressive left-wing workers in fighting against the capitalist policy of the Labour leadership for a Socialist policy, not only by putting forward on every possible occasion, an alternative left-wing policy to that of the Labour leaders, but in struggling for a change in leadership of the Labour Party and also a change in the personnel of the House of Commons, changing those M.P.’s who have ceased to express the workers’ point of view, for those who are prepared to act in the House of Commons as the spokesmen of the struggling masses outside. The Communist Party will, of course, maintain its independent struggle as a Communist Party endeavouring through elections to create a powerful Communist group in the House of Commons expressing the mass struggle outside the House and acting as a spur to the left-wing within the Labour Party.
Whilst pursuing this policy, the Communist Party will help a Labour Government into office, not because it believes that a Labour Government composed of the present leadership will emancipate the workers, but because it believes that such a Government will expose to the working class the futility of reformism and Parliamentarianism and compel them to go forward to the complete overthrow of the capitalist class.
The development of the Communist Party means, therefore, not merely the ultimate victory of the working class, but means success as opposed to surrender in the daily struggle of the workers. All workers who are tired of the half-heartedness and compromise of the Labour leaders, their desertion of Socialism, their co-operation with the capitalist class, should join the Communist Party and help forward the struggle for complete working class emancipation.