Publisher: Lawrence & Wishart, Ltd., London
Printer: The Curwen Press, Plaistow, E. 13
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Copyright: Lawrence & Wishart, Ltd. © 1943. Published on MIA with the permission of Lawrence & Wishart, Ltd. Marxists Internet Archive (marxists.org) 2008.
IN Marxism and the Working Class, William Gallacher, Communist Member of Parliament for West Fife, a renowned son of the working class, describes the science which has inspired and directed his own political life. For over 30 years a Socialist, he was never one of those ‘sham Marxists’ who ‘sat around the stove-pipe waiting for capitalism to collapse’ (p. 31).
Born in Paisley in 1881, he left school at twelve and after two years as errand-boy served his time as an engineering apprentice. He gained his first knowledge of Marxism through the Social Democratic Federation, which he joined as a young engineer. Unemployment drove him to sea as a ship’s steward in 1909; shipwreck and consequent loss of pay on his first voyage was only one of many experiences which increased his knowledge of capitalism in the next years, when he also visited America and worked in Belfast.
Returning to Glasgow in 1914, just before the war, he was soon recognized as a leader of men, first in his workshop (the Albion Motor Works) and union (the Brassfounders’ Association), and then in the great strike struggles on the Clydeside when he was chairman of the Clyde Workers’ Committee. After 18 months’ imprisonment (1916-17) he returned to the struggle and was again imprisoned in 1919 after the ‘battle of George Square’, Glasgow, during the engineers’ strike.
Gallacher was a member of the British Socialist Party, which developed out of the old Social Democratic Federation and was merged into the Communist Party at its formation in 1920. In that year he attended the Second Congress of the Communist International, where Lenin, in personal discussions, showed him the importance of participating in the work of Parliament. Lenin’s arguments against Gallacher are embodied in his book, Left Wing Communism, but he also expressed more than once his high appreciation of Gallacher’s loyalty to the working-class struggle.
Since 1921 continuously a member of the Communist Party Central Committee, Gallacher was arrested with his eleven fellow members in 1925, before the General Strike, and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment. Immediately after his release he threw himself into the miners’ struggle. After first contesting West Fife in 1929, he was returned for the constituency in 1935.
In the House of Commons, that ‘ice-box’ for ardour, his principles have never been put into cold storage, although he has often had to stand alone. His was the solitary voice raised on September 28th, 1938, against the great betrayal of Munich. He has become known to thousands in this country, in Ireland, India, and China, among Arabs and among the Jews, as a bold and steadfast champion of the workers and of all oppressed peoples. His daily work is concerned not only with fundamental political questions, but with scores of cases of individual hardship, as well as with every immediate issue of united action in the fight for victory over Fascism.
Many writers who readily ‘explain’ Marxism have never once thought seriously of it in relation to themselves and present social reality, or applied it to the solution of a single problem of action. But for Gallacber the ‘science of the liberation of the proletariat’ cannot exist apart from the living struggle in which it is realized and advanced. When he speaks of dialectics or historical materialism he is not airing his learning, he is viewing neither a dead past nor a misty future, but the very heart of the present.
Hence his object has not been to give a ‘complete account’ of Marxism—Marxism as a living science is never complete—but to show how man can rise to higher mastery over his so-called ‘fate’: to higher stages of freedom.
The Communist Manifesto
WITH the publication of the Communist Manifesto, the path the workers had to travel, the war they had to wage, was clearly set before them. The challenge it contained brought on Marx the envenomed hatred of the bourgeoisie. Every cheap-jack ‘economist’ and ‘philosopher’ was used to misrepresent and discredit him, while the popular Press carefully excluded his teaching from its columns. For had he not exposed and prepared the destruction of the gods so beloved of capitalist Society? The Aristocratic God, with his attenuated Ancestor worship, so fawned on by the bourgeoisie: the Bourgeois God, into whose Mammon kingdom every petty-bourgeois was urged to seek an entrance: the Intellectual God, so worshipped of himself—these were cast down from their borrowed pedestals and their worshippers, to their horror, had presented before them, as the one strong, progressive creative force—the working class. How they raged at such presumption! But their rage was a reflection of their dismay.
Quacks there were in abundance ready to mislead the workers. These we have always with us. Always they can rely on the blessing—and the cash—of the ruling class.
The Communist Manifesto gave a clear, direct lead to the workers, while at the same time providing them with an understanding of their own class interests and the methods of conducting the class struggle that in itself guards them against quacks and their quackeries.
No longer would the workers be subject to the ‘guidance’ of the liberal bourgeois master—or the power of ‘gilded’ Tory Aristocrats. More and more conscious of themselves as a class, and as the decisive class, they would march and fight under their own banners and gather strength as they worked.
Press, platform and pulpit were used to persuade the workers that Communism was of the devil. It was absurd to suggest that the workers could run industry and the country without the guidance of the Captains of Industry, without the experience and inherited flair for administration of our ancient aristocracy. The most amazing lectures were given and arguments used—natural and supernatural—all directed towards proving that our social gods could not be dispensed with, that it was utterly impossible, utterly unthinkable, that the ill-educated, ill-clad and poverty stricken workers could ever take on the task of organizing a new and higher form of society, that they could and would become the liberators of humanity from exploitation, poverty and want.
Yet that was what Marx saw as the road the workers would travel. Marxism is ‘the science of the liberation of the proletariat’ and because of its class basis and character, its freedom means freedom for all humanity.
Ninety years have passed since the publication of the Communist Manifesto. These ninety years have been a brilliant verification of the work of Marx and Engels. In valiant struggle the working class has advanced towards its goal. But the advance is never in a straight line and not always are the same forces in the vanguard of the fight. No country has a greater record of hard, bitter, proletarian struggle than this country of ours; no country had a more widespread socialist movement in the latter part of the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth century than Germany; there was no country where the workers suffered such oppression as in Tsarist Russia. Yet there in Russia, Marx had his greatest disciples in Lenin and Stalin, and there, for the first time in history, the workers took power into their own hands and proved to the world how well the workers could build.
In the chapter of Capital dealing with The Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation we read:
‘The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated’.
There Marx puts the dialectical proposition—the ‘negation of the negation’—in its positive form: ‘The expropriators are expropriated’. All the opposition of the petty-bourgeois ‘Socialist’ philanderers was directed against this formulation. It was so unnecessary and it sounded so harsh. But harsh sounding or no, it was put into operation so soon as the workers took power, the ‘death knell’ of the capitalists was sounded in Russia ‘the expropriators were expropriated’, the path of Marxism was the path to victory.
But not only victory over the capitalists. Because of the character of that victory, it had a much greater and wider meaning. Here is how Engels forecast it in ‘Anti-Dühring’:
‘The seizure of the means of production by society puts an end to commodity production, and therewith to the domination of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by conscious organization on a planned basis. The struggle for individual existence comes to an end. And at this point, in a certain sense, man finally cuts himself off from the animal world, leaves the conditions of animal existence behind him, and enters conditions which are really human. The conditions of existence forming man’s environment, which up to now have dominated man, at this point pass under the dominion and control of man, who now for the first time becomes the real conscious master of Nature, because and in so far as he has become master of his own social organization. The laws of his own social activity, which have hitherto confronted him as external, dominating laws of Nature, will then be applied by man with complete understanding, and hence will be dominated by man. Men’s own social organization which has hitherto stood in opposition to them as if arbitrarily decreed by Nature and history . . . will then pass under the control of men themselves. It is only from this point that men, with full consciousness, will fashion their own history; it is only from this point that the social causes set in motion by men will have, predominantly, and in constantly increasing measure, the effects willed by men. It is humanity’s leap from the realm of necessity into the realm of freedom.
‘To carry through this world-emancipating act is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. And it is the task of scientific socialism, the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, to establish the historical conditions and, with these, the nature of this act, and thus to bring to the consciousness of the now oppressed class the conditions and nature of the act which it is its destiny to accomplish’.
‘To carry through this world-emancipating act is the historical mission of the modern proletariat.’ Read that again and again, for in it lies the essence of Marxism. Dialectical materialism and, arising out of it, historical materialism, point the same lesson.
In the Short History of the C.P.S.U.(B) we read:
‘ . . . Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that internal contradictions are inherent in all things and phenomena of nature, for they all have their negative and positive sides, a past and a future, something dying away and something developing; and that the struggle between these opposites, the struggle between the old and the new, between that which is dying away and that which is being born, between that which is disappearing and that which is developing, constitutes the internal content of the process of development, the internal content of the transformation of quantitative changes into qualitative changes. . . .
‘The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development from the lower to the higher takes place not as a harmonious unfolding of phenomena, but as a disclosure of the contradictions inherent in things and phenomena, as a “struggle” of opposite tendencies which operate on the basis of these contradictions’.
Is it not clear that capitalism represents the decaying side of society? It has a past but no future. The class pulsating and vibrant with life is the working class. History is with us. The rapid development of the forces of production obliged the capitalist class to cut them down, to close shipyards and factories; but now, despite their efforts to hold them back, the forces of production have been given a new and terrific impetus as the result of the impact of war. The working class must see to it that never again will the capitalists be able to hold them back. The only hope for humanity is for the working people of other lands, in line with the working people of Russia, to carry out their ‘world-emancipating’ task. But for this there must be leadership: leadership such as Lenin and Stalin have given to the workers of Russia. Firmly basing themselves on Marxism, their faith in the working class was unbreakable. How else could they have weathered through the heavy storms that accompanied and followed the revolution, or carried out the mighty achievements that have astounded the capitalist world? For the first time, man was truly free. No class oppressions, no racial hatreds. With the forces of production in their hands they were capable of surpassing every other, even the most advanced countries.
Faith in the working class—that was what made it possible. Enemies of the Soviet Union, enemies of the Bolshevik Party of the Soviet Union, have fabricated lies and slanders of all kinds against Stalin and his colleagues. ‘The Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ was corrupted by these enemies into foolish twaddle about Stalin being a ‘dictator’ in the Bolshevik Party or the Bolshevik Party being a dictatorship over the workers. Lenin long ago dealt with these and condemned in the strongest language anyone who sought to see such differences in the leadership of the Party and the workers. Yet these enemies persist and, like the Nazi and Japanese agents who parade under the name of ‘Trotskyists’, even use the name of Marx to bolster up their anti-Marxist slanders.
But the refutation of these poisonous lies is contained within the lies themselves.
Marx makes it clear that all oppression is ‘class’ oppression. With the abolition of classes, oppression goes and man for the first time is free.
Every slander of the Trotskyists is an ignorant contradiction of Marx, an attempt to break the faith of the workers in the great ‘break through’ of the Soviet Union. But the workers of the Soviet Union, led by men who had taken Marx as their guide, did make a clear break through the chain of capitalist fortifications and have effectively consolidated their gains. For a time the ravages of war will hold back advance on the field of production; will destroy, has destroyed, much of what they have built, but at the same time the achievement of the Soviet Union has forever confounded the slanderers and given new proof of the far-seeing vision of Marx and his absolutely correct interpretation of history.
For in the Soviet Union, with the abolition of classes, there is demonstrated before the eyes of the world the might of a people free and united. Never in the world before have there been such deeds of heroism, such unshakeable faith, such iron and resolute unity. Seventy years ago the Communards of Paris held power for two months. It was a glorious page of proletarian history. When the Commune fell, the bourgeoisie of France wreaked a terrible vengeance on the Communards. They were shot down by the thousand. Thiers and Co. thought that was the end; so did the bourgeoisie of Europe. But Marx passed on the lessons of the Commune to Lenin and Stalin. They understood the successes of the Communards, they also understood their weaknesses. The lessons of the Commune were an important factor in the victory of the proletarian revolution in Russia.
Now the proletarian army strikes back blow for blow: Leningrad, Moscow, Sebastopol. One after another, these have thrilled mankind throughout the world. Stalingrad! What words can express what this name means! It expresses all that is mightiest and best in human effort. Great and glorious Stalingrad! Shattered and broken, there it is, a monument that remains forever in the minds of men; a monument to the men and women, in uniform and out of it, whose unbreakable unity made its historic defence possible.
The Communist Manifesto, the Commune of Paris, the October Revolution, the Defence of Stalingrad, these are great landmarks in the history of the proletariat. They are a crushing demonstration of the genius of Marx and the unassailable evidence of the correctness of Dialectical and Historical Materialism.
Faith in the proletariat as the progressive, constructive force in capitalist society, that is the kernel of Marxism. But it is faith based on a thorough understanding of the different forces operating within that society, and of the laws governing it and the world around it.
From the earliest days the question of the existence of the material world has been a subject that has agitated the minds of scholars and philosophers. What is this world of ours and what is the driving force that keeps it going? Fire, water, these and many other guesses were made as to the character of the original ‘first cause’, while as against these there developed the idea of a great spirit or spirits, hovering outside the world but responsible for its existence and for the life force that ran through it.
From these trends of thought developed the two schools of philosophy—materialism and idealism.
The idealists maintain that the material world has no existence and that only ideas are real. To simplify this let us take an idealist into a room with a table: he will explain to you that what you call a table has form, colour, hardness, stability—but what are these? They are sensations. Take away these sensations and what is left? Nothing. It’s as easy as that!
Suppose we take our idealist into Room A, which is bare. He has no sensations but of a bare room. We then take him into Room B, where there is a table. He has sensations then of colour, form, hardness and stability that constitute a table. We take our idealist outside, leave him there and re-enter the house. We lift the table, of which we have only sensations (we feel it as we lift it) and we take it from Room B and place it in Room A. Once again we introduce our idealist to Room B, where he had ‘sensations’, but now he hasn’t got any. We take him to Room A, where he had no ‘sensations’; now he sees a table; his sensations are working again. Is it his ‘sensations’ that are responsible for the table or are his ‘sensations’ mental images of the table, which exists apart from his ‘sensations’?
This latter represented the view of the materialists. But their presentation of the case for Materialism was mechanical and left so much unexplained that it provided a wide field for the speculations of idealistic philosophy.
The greatest of the idealists was Hegel, who was the first to grasp the significance of the dialectic. This word is taken from the Greek ‘dialego’, which means to talk, discuss or argue. The early Greek philosophers and scholars developed the theory that in order to get at the truth, a proposition should be stated, then contradicted, and out of the ensuing discussions a ray of truth would emerge.
Hegel following up this method, realized that truth was not something distinct and separate from untruth, that good was not something separate and distinct from bad, that life was not something separate and distinct from death. He saw that these were phases of the same phenomena. He postulated the ‘unity of opposites’ and the contradiction arising therefrom as generating progress in the form of higher concepts. For to Hegel it was the concept that mattered and for him the dialectic operated within the concepts. For instance, an idea may have very wide acceptance and institutions may be founded on the idea. But within the idea itself is its opposite, and sooner or later the inherent contradiction will force a readjustment of the idea and of the institutions which have been based on it.
Marx, while he recognized Hegel as the greatest of German philosphers and the Hegelian dialectic as the most comprehensive doctrine of development, was at the same time a materialist, who set himself the task of ‘lifting Hegel off his head and placing him on his feet’. In other words, he saw that the dialectic was absolutely correct when applied to the processes of the material world.
As distinct from the metaphysicians, who saw the world as a series of separate phenomena, Marx saw that all phenomena were related and operated according to the same laws. Engels wrote: ‘Motion is the mode of existence of matter. Never anywhere has there been matter without motion, nor can there be.’ He further says, in Anti-Dühring: ‘Marx and I were pretty well the only people to rescue conscious dialectics . . . and apply it in the materialist conception of nature. . . . Nature is the test of dialectics, and it must be said for modern natural science that it has furnished extremely rich and daily increasing materials for this test, and has thus proved that in the last analysis nature’s process is dialectical and not metaphysical.’ Since Engels wrote that, natural science has provided an abundance of further proof.
Let us take one outstanding phenomenon that affects us all and consider if we can treat it in isolation: the Nazis and their unspeakably bestial cruelty. It is not correct to say that the German people are all Nazis—all bad, all deserving of condemnation. There are heroic men and women in Germany giving their lives on the executioner’s block, as a testimony of their political faith, while some of those who make wholesale condemnation of the German people have ‘waxed rich and fat’ by adapting their political faith to every favourable current. If we would understand the phenomenon of the Nazis, we must take into account at least the recent history of Germany and its relations to the countries around it; the demoralization of the middle class (from which the leaders of the storm troopers come) during the period of inflation, and the enormous power and opportunity the same period gave to the big monopolies; the advance of these monopolies in bitter competition with rival monopolies here and in America, in face of continually contracting markets; and, besides all this, the great advance of working-class power in the Soviet Union and the inspiration this was giving to the workers of all other lands.
While it is necessary to destroy the Nazi beast, we must take into account all the factors that produced it; if we treat it as an isolated phenomenon, then we can make the same mistake as was made after the last war, and leave a legacy of hatred and strife for the children of the future.
Materialist views which are not also dialectical ultimately lead to idealism or at any rate provide an avenue for the advance of idealism. If phenomena are treated in isolation, it is impossible to account for the process of change that takes place in them. This leaves a gap in the explanation of experience, and attempts to fill this gap result in the conjuring up of mystical, supernatural explanations’ which are incompatible with the materialist outlook and lead straight to idealism. Of course in practice people do not act according to the metaphysical conception, although many claim to guide their lives by it. As a matter of fact, they actually go on the more dialectical assumption which obtains in the well-known jingle: ‘There’s a bit of bad in the best of us and a lot of good in the worst of us.’
Not only so, but I suppose it will come as a shock to those who profess the Christian faith to be told that the dialectic is so obviously the process of nature that even they accept it without understanding it.
Hegel presents the ‘unity of opposites’ and the resulting contradiction in the form of the ‘thesis, antithesis and synthesis’, the good and the evil, the advancing and the decaying, with the one negating the other and in turn being negated, ‘the negation of the negation’.
It is well known and accepted by all scholars that Christmas and Easter were old Pagan festivals celebrated long before the Christian era.
Christmas was celebrated at a time when death had spread its cold and icy hand over all the earth. What had been but a few short months before a happy smiling landscape was now a wilderness of snow and ice. The celebration was a gesture of defiance of death and with it a hope for the speedy renewal of life. Death had negated life; but deep underneath the covering of frozen snow, in the midst of decay and death, within the womb of that which was decaying, new life was struggling to express itself. With the coming of spring, it manifested itself. New life had negated death. ‘O death! where is thy sting, where, grave, thy victory?’ It was the negation of the negation.
Always this new life expressed itself in its brightest hues around the spring Equinox, so the celebration of the resurrection, the negation of the negation, took place immediately following the first full moon, following the spring Equinox. So it does today. That is why it is a variable date, sometimes in March, sometimes in April.
But it must not be supposed that the dialectic simply repeats the stages already passed. It does repeat them, but in general on a higher basis—by leaps, catastrophes, revolutions, through what is known as the ‘transformation of quantity into quality’, and not always in the same way with the same phenomena. The process of change may be slow or rapid, but sooner or later the ‘leap’ must be taken or decay will conquer. If the advance fails in one direction, however, it will express itself in another. Volney’s Ruins of Empire tells a tragic story of glory that was, but is now vanished forever. The past civilizations failed to make the ‘leap’; the sands of time now cover their ruins. Elsewhere the leap was made, and in a new direction the advance goes on. So we can say that the bed of the ocean was once a continent of dry land, but also that the mountain tops were once the bed of the ocean. The struggle goes on; the powerful impulse given by the contradictions ensures continual change and with it continual advance.
No better example of this could be given than the remarkable advance of science since Engels wrote his Dialectics of Nature. There, in the course of a chapter on ‘Electricity’, he says:
‘The discovery of the galvanic current is approximately 25 years younger than that of oxygen and is at least as significant for the theory of electricity as the latter discovery was for chemistry. Yet what a difference obtains even today between the two fields! In chemistry, thanks especially to Dalton’s discovery of atomic weights, there is order, relative certainty about what has been achieved, and systematic, almost planned attack on the territory still unconquered, comparable to the regular siege of a fortress. In the theory of electricity there is a barren lumber of ancient, doubtful experiments, neither definitely confirmed nor definitely refuted; an uncertain fumbling in the dark, unco-ordinated research and experiment on the part of numerous isolated individuals, who attack the unknown territory with their scattered forces like the attack of a swarm of nomadic horsemen.’
Now today thousands of men labour, a mighty dam is constructed. Huge generators are built close by. Great volumes of water are trapped, then the sluice gates are opened. Down the sluice-way pours the crashing torrent. The turbines hum and with their humming the ‘leap’ is made. Water power becomes electric power and lights the homes and drives the industries throughout the land. It is a transformation of quantity into quality. It is a striking evidence of the dialectic in nature and of something more: man as a part of nature has the advantage of understanding the processes of nature. If, therefore, he gives up the foolish practice of treating nature outside of himself as nonexistent, except as concepts, in his mind, and studies how to harmonize himself and his affairs with the dialectical process, he will save himself much suffering and acquire much quicker the means of securing his own freedom and thereby of determining his own history. For man, while subject to the dialectic, has the ability to adapt himself to its processes in such a way as will direct these processes to his advantage or his hurt.
We can understand this better when we consider the dialectic as it affects the life of man and the society in which he lives. In formulating the ‘materialist conception of history’ Marx was bringing the science of society into harmony with the general processes of nature.
No one will deny that slave society had quite different social relationships from feudal society, just as feudal society had different social relationships from capitalism. This despite the fact that each new stage carries over certain phases of the stage that has gone before. But whether in slave, feudal or capitalist society, the processes of production could not be kept constant. One man here, one man there was finding an easier way to do the job, or someone discovered a new method or anew tool, and through a leap, or series of leaps, the forces of production came into conflict with the hitherto, more or less, satisfactory social institutions.
To anyone who has studied the subject of the industrial revolution, the contradiction between the greatly accelerated forces of production and the narrow, restricted social relations is at once obvious. All kinds of barriers surviving from the feudal period had still to be broken down before trade could be freed, and a new advance in social relationships take place and a new legal, political and religious superstructure be provided for society.
The new forms of society which the coming growth of capitalist production was demanding required a religious and moral sanction. Every robber form of society requires it. The feudal, system had a dogmatic religion eminently suited to the class relations of feudalism. It was replaced by another, but still rigid, religion. The new forces arising from the further growth of capitalism wanted freedom from all restrictive influences. Barriers between town and town, between one area and another, had been broken down earlier—barriers that prevented the easy and even flow of trade and the profits that went with trade. But much of the superstructure remained, throttling capitalist production. The capitalists became, therefore, the great protagonists of freedom, and first of all they had to destroy the religious and moral sanctions which still held them back, so that the fight in the first instance took the form of a violent onslaught on the existing Church (which had itself come into being as a first step against feudal Catholicism) with the demand for a ‘free religion’. Every man has a right to make his fortune in his own way. This was the steady roar of the new machinery, and the religious sanctions for such a desire were obvious. Every man has the right to go to hell in his own way. The old forces try to hold back the flood, but in vain. Changes that had been slowly (very slowly) at work, through a thousand years of feudalism, suddenly burst all bounds, the ‘leap’ was made, quantity was transformed into quality, and a great new advance in the process of production was assured.
But as Engels points out, the capitalists of Britain did not complete the job. They were servile worshippers at the altar of Aristocracy. They were the original ‘appeasers’ and were content to lick the boots of those they ought to have kicked out of existence. So we have with us today the incubus of a heavy and costly carryover from the past.
Throughout the period of capitalist expansion, the latter part of the eighteenth and the most of the nineteenth centuries, freedom was the watchword of the capitalist class. But freedom for the capitalists, not for the workers. It was the period when science with giant strides was conquering one field of research after another. When the intellectuals were soaring up to high heaven with dreams of the future, when Liberalism and the Liberal Party were triumphantly leading the era of progress and a multitude of ‘Free’ Churches were pouring out their blessings on the new ‘Makers of Destiny’—the Captains of Industry. Read of the horrible, almost unbelievable conditions imposed by these ‘Captains of Industry’, not only on men and women but on helpless young children, all in the sacred name of profit, and you will understand what ‘freedom’ meant in that period.
But the Liberal Party has almost vanished from the scene and the churches are mostly empty. What has happened? The productive forces have continued to develop. From small one-man industries with small machinery, they have grown into enormous undertakings with huge costly machinery. The day of the ‘free’ industrialist has gone, and his place is taken by the powerful monopoly. The big monopoly does not want competition. The Liberal watchword ‘Competition is the life of trade’ is heard no more in the land. The big monopolies do not want freedom. They crush out anyone who attempts to run a ‘free’ industry. They want concentration and that means centralized economic power. The complement of centralized economic power is centralized political power and for this they are continually striving. The advantage of limited democracy, such as we enjoy in capitalist society, is that it provides us with the opportunity of gathering our forces for the ‘leap’ that will break the power of the monopolies and release the forces of production for a great new advance.
Because of disunity in Germany, the monopolies succeeded through the Nazis in destroying the democratic institutions and the organizations of the workers and thereby brought about the centralized political power the monopolies desired. No free trade, no free politics, no free religion, no freedom of any kind and no need even for a Liberal Party, that is what the toleration of monopoly capitalism means.
Undoubtedly we must make the ‘leap’ or there is no end to the suffering that monopoly capitalism will impose upon us. The forces of production have now reached a stage when they must be taken out of the hands of private owners and made common property. Only by this means can they be put to proper use—the well-being of the people.
Changing the World
‘A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Communism.’
If the opening words of The Communist Manifesto were true when they were written ninety years ago, how much truer are they today! Ellen Wilkinson woefully lamenting the difficulties that beset our path, warns the Tories of the dangers of Communism; while another Labour M.P. writes a letter to The Times explaining how necessary it is for the Labour Party to go out among the people, and appealing to Sir Patrick Hannon to believe that they are doing it to save Sir Patrick from the Communists. The I.L.P., for long enough the soiled handrag of the Tory Party, not wishing to be outdone in its own particular field, urges the Tory Party to save Germany from ‘crude’ Communism or otherwise ‘crude’ Communism will sweep through Europe.
Yet what a changed, a happier world there would have been today had Communism swept all over Europe following the last war. And it would have done had the workers of this country and the workers of Germany understood Marxism and followed Lenin’s application of Marxist teaching in Germany when the contradictions had reached an acute stage; the forces of decay were in retreat, and their powerful State and social institutions were threatened with destruction. In 1918 the advancing proletarian forces were already setting up their own workers’ councils. They were getting ready for the ‘leap’—the leap that would have transformed quantity into quality. Bourgeois State Power (the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie) would have become Workers’ State Power (the dictatorship of the proletariat). But the leaders of Social Democracy were panicky and afraid. They had long ago deserted Marxism and a ‘leap’ to them meant a leap in the dark—as it does to all those who profess Socialism without Marx. To them the future is black and terrible and they strive with all their puny efforts to keep things as they are. In the threatened ‘leap’ in Germany, the leaders of Social Democracy could only see confusion and anarchy. They could not see the great constructive forces breaking down economic, social and ideological barriers and thereby opening up the way to a greater advance than the world had hitherto witnessed, so they shackled the limbs of the workers and prevented the ‘leap’ that would have saved the world so much suffering and sorrow. The new life was denied the right of birth, and misery and death were re-established in power.
Then came the period of terrible realization for the people of Germany. Through inflation the monopoly capitalists got everything into their own hands. Decay and death were in complete ascendancy. Wholesale slaughter of the people of Germany, of the people of Europe, was now an essential feature of bourgeois policy. For this purpose the bankrupt, declassed, petty-bourgeois, deprived of all faith and hope in the working class, and the lumpen proletariat (the broken, demoralized and outcast) became the potent weapon. New horizons were opened before them. A new heaven on earth. A middle-class paradise with work for all. But first the Communists and Jews (they were told) must be destroyed. Kill, kill, kill, this was the constant urge of the monopoly capitalists. Many agencies were at work on this ghastly programme, but gradually they all merged into the organization of cultivated sadism and murder—the National Socialist Workers’ Party—the Nazis. Communists and Jews were attacked with the utmost brutality. The Socialists and progressives looked on. It wasn’t their business. Then came the turn of the Socialists and progressives. The Nazis were warming up to their work. Torture and murder became an everyday affair with them, part of the normal life.
There has been doubt expressed in many quarters about the authenticity of the atrocities perpetrated in Poland or the Soviet Union, but in actual fact none of these surpass in bestiality the fearful outrages perpetrated within Germany itself. Men, women and children were butchered in their homes or tortured in concentration camps, while the rest of the world looked on. It wasn’t their business. As long as it was confined to Germany, ‘we’ wouldn’t interfere, although we were quick enough to interfere in any country that showed signs of pushing too far ahead—of advancing towards Socialism. But as long as the slaughter was confined to Germany ‘we’ were content to let it go on. An understanding of Marx, an appreciation of the dialectic, a study of the Communist Manifesto, would have opened the eyes of such as these, and made them aware of what was really happening.
Monopoly capitalism was, and is, powerful in this country. Yet it has nothing like the power or ascendency of monopoly capitalism in Germany, nor does it control such a driving economic dynamo of energy as does its German counterpart. Even so, it was rapidly destroying this country. Whole areas were desolate and derelict. Millions of the population were surplus and schemes of all kinds were discussed for getting rid of them. This they hoped to achieve by emigration. A forlorn hope, when in the Dominions and in America the same surplus of ‘unemployables’ was manifesting itself. Sooner or later a new method of dealing with this problem would have to be found. That’s why more and more of the big financial interests were turning to Mosley and his organized toughs as the means of dealing with the surplus population.
But, while the German monopoly capitalists were thus preparing for the slaughter of the Communists and Jews, to be followed by the slaughter of the Socialists and progressives, their own position was becoming more and more acute. If the dynamo of energy they controlled (Coal, Steel, Electrical power) was to keep on throbbing and humming day and night, then every other large scale industry in Europe, including Great Britain, must close down. In Britain the centralization of industry meant that a large part of England, the whole of Scotland and the whole of Wales became derelict areas. With the much greater centralism of industry in Germany, the rest of Europe is doomed to become a derelict area. That’s the real meaning of ‘The New Order’. The only industries that could be tolerated in any of the other countries would be those that would serve as auxiliaries to the main industries within Germany itself. At present in the occupied countries, all the industries are working—to supply the German army. When the need for that is over, what will happen to them if the ‘New Order’ survives?
Has not Goering made it clear? ‘Whoever starves,’ he says, ‘it won’t be the Germans’. Food is being taken from the conquered countries to keep supplies going. In the same way, work will be taken from the conquered countries to keep the big industries of Germany employed. This means that an enormous proportion of the population of Europe will have to be wiped out.
Take Britain—the most highly industrialized country in the world, with a greater industrial population than any other country. If its industries are closed down, and they will be closed down if the monopoly capitalists of Germany are able to hold on to power, then about twenty million of its people will be surplus. They will have to go either by the sword or starvation. This is no fanciful picture, born out of an exaggerated idea of Nazi ferocity. Millions are being exterminated in Europe now. Millions of Jews. The ghastly, unspeakable outrages committed against the Jewish people are so horrible as to be almost beyond belief. The mind of the ordinary man and woman revolts against the stories that are told—they can’t believe them. But they are true and even then the worst of them haven’t been told. The recent disclosures of the Polish Underground Movement, published by the Polish Government, should shock the conscience of the world for we have watched this evil thing grow and washed our hands of it. But it will not stop with the Jews. It cannot stop there. The Jews are first only because they are the most vulnerable. But the man who can brutally murder a Jew will just as brutally murder a Gentile. And the Nazis make no difference between killing Jews and Gentiles in Germany nor in the Occupied countries. What applies to killing applies to massacre. So what we see happening to the Jews, will happen to the people of Europe as a whole, if the ‘leap’ is not made and the forces of decay and death completely vanquished.
As we have already noted, robbery and oppression must have a moral and religious sanction. So it is with German monopoly capitalism. But the reader will say: it surely cannot get a moral or religious sanction for massacring half the population?
And the answer is—it already has it. It has dug up the ancient cult of the earlier German barbarians. It sanctions every conceivable or inconceivable brutality, for are not the Germans the master race? An absurd racial theory? Rather an absolute necessity for providing a moral sanction for the wholesale slaughter of unwanted populations. Isn’t it as clear as anything can be that this ‘race’ theory is the natural outcome of monopoly capitalism? The master industry subordinating all other industries must have a master race to eliminate those who defend or depend on such industries. Often in the days before Munich, Mr. Eden told us in the House of Commons that Europe was being divided by two ideologies and we didn’t want to take sides with either. He actually thought he was saying something intelligent. One ideology was that of wholesale murder, the other was freeing productive forces so that people everywhere could live in peace and security.
Even as he spoke of the two ideologies, Mr. Eden was associated with those in the Chamberlain Government and outside of it who were not all averse from the slaughter that was going on, as the events within Germany, in Austria, in Abyssinia and Spain will testify, so long as the killing went in the direction they wanted. For the monopoly capitalists of this country must follow the same path as the monopoly capitalists of Europe limited only by the different circumstances in which they operate. But they also, if they are allowed to hold on to power, must destroy. We have already seen how they destroyed whole areas in the country, driving the workers and the middle-class professional people down into the depths of depression and poverty. With victory in the war, the range of their destructive capacity must extend. The fight for the restricted market will demand an even greater concentration of industry and the ruthless crushing of competition abroad. There will be no mercy if the monopoly capitalists get their way.
Vansittart will become their moral guide and leader. As the Nazis provide German monopoly capitalism with a racial theory that sanctions the slaughter of all others, so Vansittart provides the British monopoly capitalists with a racial theory (the Germans are an evil race) that will sanction the elimination of the Germans. Knickerbocker, who sees America as the Centre of the Master Industry and therefore of the Master race, classes the Soviet Union with the Nazis as barbarians and so provides in advance the moral sanction for America wiping out the main population of Europe. His main hatred, however, is directed against the Soviet Union. This can be understood. He is wise enough to see that the productive forces of the Soviet Union have, during the past fifteen years, been travelling at a far greater rate than the much boosted productive forces of America, and that with a few more years of peace they would have outstripped America, and all other capitalist countries. This would have meant a big advance in the standard of living, of leisure and of culture. These things he could see and he could also realize their effect on the people of all other lands, including America, so he pours out his venom in a book which is published in this country as a Penguin Special—a shameful bit of work on the part of all concerned.
While the heroes of Stalingrad, men and women, battle as none ever battled before, while the whole Soviet front holds, taking on all the forces of the Nazis, thereby leaving us in this country free to carry on our various occupations, there are those who can employ themselves in the filthy and degenerate work of slandering in the most poisonous manner, our great and heroic ally. What a rotten species of ‘loyalty’ to an ally is there, my masters! Those who can do such vile and cowardly work-is there any crime for which they will not find a religious or moral sanction?
It is necessary to insist on the importance of this because when the forces of production come into conflict with the prevailing social structure, it is always the religious and moral outlook that take the first shock of the conflict. The new forces that are advancing upset the old ways of thinking and threaten the accepted moral values. In the early days of Socialism, when Socialist agitators were advocating the overthrow of the capitalist class, the first line of defence came into operation: the Socialists were atheists, they were out to destroy religion. The Socialists were immoral: they were out to destroy the home, to destroy the sanctity of marriage and so on and so on. More and more this first line of defence will be brought into place against the Beveridge Report and the reconstruction which its operation will demand. The fight will be directed against Communism, for just as Communism offers the only solution to the contradictions of capitalism, so every serious attempt to find a way out leads surely and inexorably to Communism.
From the Old World to the New World means a change, a very great change, and those who propose to take the job in hand had better make a study of Marxism, particularly in its most advanced form, Leninism, if they wish to know how to get on with the job.
It is amazing these days to see how many and how diverse are the people who mean to ‘change the world’. Truly it is a worthy ambition if they really meant it and knew what they were talking about. But they have forgotten, in most cases they never knew, the statement made by Marx:
‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.’
Marx was speaking for the Communists and for dialectical and historical materialism. But now everyone is a ‘world changer’. It’s such an easy job apparently, to change the world. For a time there was scarcely to be heard a voice raised against those who discussed ways and means of achieving it. It seemed as though the pro-Fascist forces that sought to ‘negate progress’ had themselves been negated. Never was there such an illusion. Today they are coming out stronger than ever, sneering at those who talk of reconstruction, insisting on the maintenance of ‘private enterprise’ and ‘private profits’ and on ‘hard work’ and ‘short rations’ for the masses when the war is over.
No, the ‘world changers’ will find that they do not suddenly decide to change the world and—hey presto!—it is changed. An understanding of the forces for and against change and the necessary experience in battling against the contradictions that arise between these forces, alone can ensure success in the ultimate struggle.
No great change has ever taken place but was preceded by generations and even centuries of experiment, of trial and error. That was the case before Faraday discovered the method of generating and storing electricity, so it was before Marconi discovered how to transmit sounds across the ether. Or think of the broken bones and broken bodies as men sought to conquer the air, with wings or other contraptions attached to their bodies before the method of propulsion was found, which coming into conflict with the law of gravity created the conditions for heavy bodies travelling through the air. In these, as in all others, experiments, mathematical formulations, more experiments and more mathematical formulations—so it has gone on till one after another the conquests have been made.
Think of these and then think of the multitude of struggles and strivings between the publication of the Communist Manifesto and Lenin’s formulation ‘Soviet power plus electricity equals Socialism’. All a series of related processes. Not as the metaphysicians would have it, isolated or ‘fixed’ phenomena: Water power, steam, electricity, the Radio, the telephone, and all the thousand and one different branches of knowledge arising from these. How obvious it is that without the earlier forms and the experiments that preceded and followed them, the later discoveries would have been impossible. And it wasn’t an ‘idea’ that someone suddenly had, that water-power could be used for this or that purpose. In his struggles to live, it was slowly borne in upon man the various uses to which water might be put. To put it in its simplest form, the giant ocean liner, the Queen Mary, can trace its ancestry back to the discovery made by primitive man that a hollowed out tree trunk gave greater stability than a log. That was the start of the ‘dug-out’ and from the ‘dug-out’ through a long process of ‘contradictions’ (increasing need of travel and limited means of accomplishing it) has followed all the rest. Time and again it would seem as though they had got as far as it was possible to go in the process of development, and there would be a period of apparent stagnation. But in another direction other forces are at work, a new discovery is made, a ‘leap’ takes place and the process of development goes on again.
Now, of course, air transport is challenging sea transport and there is every possibility that in the not far distant future sea transport may be in comparison to air transport what the horse carriage is to the motor cab.
But all of these ‘discoveries’ and ‘inventions’ have followed the same general law, the law of nature, the Dialectic, the unity of opposites, the inherent contradiction and the struggle that arises therefrom, then arising from the struggle the ‘leap’, the ‘transformation of quantity into quality’. But our ‘world changers’ talk as though human society and social relations were exempt from the laws of nature. Yet any anthropologist or Sociologist will say, without the slightest hesitation, that we carry with us today, right here in Great Britain, legacies of the early civilization that was founded on the banks of the Nile three thousand years ago, and that present-day society can be traced right back there, and from there to primitive society that lies away beyond it. Frazer’s Golden Bough and Lewis Morgan’s Ancient Society are classic works in this connection, and if we follow the process of development from the banks of the Nile to the banks of the Thames, we will find the same factors at work. In early civilization, the Community was made up of slave and slave-masters (the unity of opposites), the contradiction expressing itself in one struggle after another, then as the developing forces of production, trading methods, and markets came into conflict with the existing social relations—a ‘leap’ and feudalism begins to rear its head. Then come the Dark Ages when it seems as though all progress was stopped. But within the womb of feudalism new life was being born. In pain and labour, internal and external wars, it struggled towards birth—so we pass into the industrial era—the period of capitalist exploitation and the coming into existence of a new class—the class of proletarians. But the ‘unity of opposites’ still persists. Within the Community there is no longer slave and slave-master, no longer feudal baron and feudal serf, their place is taken by the capitalist and the worker, the profit taker and the profit maker.
There are those who say, with the complete lack of knowledge of Marxism, that because wages are paid in the Soviet Union, there cannot be Socialism as wages are a feature of capitalism. But wages in the Soviet Union are simply a means of distributing among the workers the goods produced for their use. In capitalist countries, wages are a means of keeping workers fit to make profits for the employing class. Marx showed that the value at which commodities exchange in a capitalist society is determined by the labour incorporated in them. Wages represent on the average the amount of labour incorporated in the goods and services necessary to maintain or restore the worker’s power to labour, and the difference between the labour incorporated in the commodity and the labour necessary to reproduce the worker’s labour power, is Surplus Value. It is, Marx said, this surplus value that provides the employing class with their profit—their rent, interest and dividends.
There is no employer in the Soviet Union taking surplus value from the workers, therefore there is and can be no such thing as capitalism. Here, however, it goes on, and with it must go on the struggle between the opposing forces. For the employing class must always seek an increase of Surplus Value, while the workers must ever strive for better conditions and therefore for a greater return for their labour. For long enough preachers of all kinds pleaded for contentment. Their churches were built, maintained and patronized by the wealthy recipients of surplus value. Even though slums or tenements were the lot of many workers here below, a humble, contrite spirit would ensure a ‘mansion in the sky’. But all their preaching, which they would scarcely dare repeat now, was of no avail.
Men FELT they had to fight: they wanted better homes, they wanted more leisure, they wanted education and a measure of culture—they wanted to LIVE—not merely exist. So, while the ruling class is satiated and in all too many cases ‘wasting’ life, the masses of the people are seeking life and striving to reach ever upwards. Marx not only showed this process at work, but eagerly participated in this upward struggle of the workers. Not only so, but when the bourgeoisie of Germany in 1848 were fighting to break the shackles of feudal absolutism, Marx and Engels, in the interests of the working class, took part in the bourgeois revolutionary movement. More striking still was their strong support of the North against the South in the American Civil War. Of course the North was blatantly capitalist, but it represented economic and social progress in comparison to the slave States of the South. It is welt known that Marx himself wrote the Address which the Working Men’s Association sent to Abraham Lincoln.
To Abraham Lincoln,
President of the United States of America.
We congratulate the American people upon your re-election by a large majority. If resistance to the Slave Power was the reserved watchword of your first election, the triumphant war cry of your re-election is Death to Slavery.
From the commencement of the titanic American strife the working men of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class.
The contest of the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labour of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver?
When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, ‘slavery’ on the banner of armed revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great democratic republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counter-revolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding ‘the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution’, and maintained ‘slavery to be a beneficent institution’, indeed, the only solution of the great problem of the ‘relation of capital to labour’ and cynically proclaimed property in man ‘the corner-stone of the new edifice’—then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders’ rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labour, and that for the men of labour, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere, therefore, they bore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the pro-slavery intervention—importunities of their betters—and, from most parts of Europe contributed their quota of blood to the good cause.
While the working men, the true political power of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned labourer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labour, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.
The working men of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American anti-slavery war will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead the country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.
The strong criticism made by Marx of Lincoln and the North was that they did not, in the early years, prosecute the war vigorously enough. In order to ‘appease’ the ‘Border States’ (States half slave and half free—apparently for the Union but actually supporting the South; much like Spain and Portugal today) they held off attacks in many vital directions. Marx said that in order to get a speedy victory, the Northern Army should march through Georgia, cut the Confederate Army in two and thereby finish the war. Not till two years later, after the most appalling casualties and sufferings, was the step taken. Sherman marched through Georgia and completely broke the armies of the Confederacy. Critics of the Second Front campaign would do well to consider the awful price the North and the South had to pay because the former would not follow the line of strategy that ought to have been apparent to all.
But if Marx supported the bourgeoisie where they were conducting a progressive fight or waging a progressive war, how much more eagerly did he enter into every struggle of the proletariat against the capitalists. He was the heart and soul of the International Workingmen’s Association (The First International). He wrote pamphlets, he addressed meetings, he fought every type of disruptionist and confusionist. His theories were based on what he actually saw as nature’s process and his theories proved themselves in everyday practice.
The class struggle arising out of class relations was the means of giving the workers the essential experience for developing their organizations and formulating their political programmes. Only through this process of struggle could they build up forces strong enough to achieve their final aim. Defeats they have had in plenty, after bitter, long drawn out struggles. But these defeats have been followed by new examinations of their organizations, by keener insight into the character of the struggle they had to wage, and the direction their attack should take. Thus, in the beginning of the 18th century it was a fight against the Combination Laws, for the right to organize; by the middle and later part of the 19th century the popular slogans, the ‘aim’ of the movement, was ‘8 hours’ work, 8 hours’ play, 8 hours’ sleep and 8 bob a day’. Now it is clear to the mass of the workers that the ‘aim’ of the movement cannot stop short of the complete overthrow of the capitalist class.
It has been said that the army which wins the last battle wins the war. We can go forward with the struggle, sure and certain that the workers must and will win the last battle.
But those who have not accepted this process, the class struggle, as an essential experience for achieving the final aim: those who ‘admitted’ the class struggle but wanted to ‘rise above it’—who sought to gather together ‘good men of all classes’ in order to solve the problems of Society without giving hurt or offence to anyone, such men can offer no guidance amidst the storms of blood and destruction that rage around us.
They offer us a new world—when the war is over. Here is the metaphysical approach at its very worst: time is divided into two separate and distinct periods. In one we win the war—in the other we start reconstructing or changing the world. Two ‘Phenomena’—war and peace, are separated and isolated, as though the war wasn’t determined by what happened in the peace before the war, as though the peace following on it won’t be determined by the forces operating in the war and their relative strength when it is over.
Metaphysics is a trick of the cowardly timid intellectual, but it is repudiated instinctively by the workers. Without hesitation they demand the dialectical method. How with their experience could it be otherwise? Even though they don’t know the language (metaphysics and dialectics sound terrible) they know the process. ‘To hell with that’ they say when the smooth-tongued ‘metaphysician’ comes along. ‘Start now or you’ll never start’. That’s right, there are no two separate periods of time; what we can do now will determine what we are going to accomplish in the future. The workers in practice are good dialecticians. They will be really effective in so far as they have Marxian theory to guide them.
‘In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material forces of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society—the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the social, political and intellectual processes of life in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.’
Nothing Marx wrote ever came in for such wholesale misrepresentation and deliberate distortion as the general theory presented above—not only by the open enemies of Marx, but very often from those who claimed to be followers of Marx. Intellectual panderers to capitalism and intellectual ignoramuses waxed eloquent in ‘proving’ that the economic was not the only determining factor and that Marx was therefore wholly wrong with his presentation of an ‘Economic Man’. The sham Marxists, on the other hand, eliminated completely the dialectic and therefore the class struggle, and sat around a stove-pipe waiting for capitalism to collapse. Both of these are grotesque distortions of Marx, as his own active life gave abundant witness.
He was heart and soul with the workers in their every struggle. He was in continual demand for meetings and often when he was too ill to speak, his wife, Jenny, would deputise for him.
That the basic determining factor in shaping man’s consciousness is the economic, with all the other factors interplaying, no one who gives the matter the least consideration can doubt.
Man is born into a particular environment and from that environment gets his first consciousness of life and of how life should be lived. And in general, the circumstances under which he is born will determine how he will live. In some existent forms of society this is absolutely so. If you are born an ‘Untouchable’, you remain an ‘Untouchable’. But while in most forms of modern society there are exceptions, movement from one stratum to another is rare; in general the ‘aristocrat’ remains an ‘aristocrat’, the ‘worker’ remains a ‘worker’. Now how is it possible to conceive of a society composed of aristocrats, bourgeoisie, their intellectual lackeys, and the proletariat, unless on the basis of a particular form of wealth production? While it is true that the aristocrats are a carry-over from feudalism and that they had a place in feudal society which was based on an entirely different form of wealth production, the others had no place there except in the most embryonic form. Feudalism and the ‘Divine Right’ of Kings had to give way to the ‘Divine Right’ of Capital, and in this country, the ‘divine’ head of a ‘divine’ King was chopped off to establish that (to the capitalists) highly-desirable principle.
Of course morals and religion play a considerable part in determining relations in society. They can affect the course of the struggle that is going on in society. But here again it is clear that they arise or are modified according to particular forms of wealth production. This has already been dealt with in an earlier chapter, but a few further observations will not be amiss. If a child is born in India, all the chances are that he, or she, will be a Hindoo of a particular caste, or a Mohammedan. If a child is born in an advanced capitalist country, the first chance is that he or she will be a Protestant, the second chance a Catholic. If born in a less advanced capitalist country (the Latin countries), first chance is Catholic, second Protestant. In all countries, because of the rise of monopoly and the end of ‘free’ capitalism, now we find a growing percentage with no religion at all.
Contrast these highly developed religions with those of the backward nations of the jungle, whose economic security is continually threatened, with jungle storms, savage beasts, and even more savage enemy tribesmen.
Their gods or idols are of the most ferocious character, their ‘medicine men’ utterly terrifying. They dance or grovel before these in the belief that if they are fearsome to them, they will be even more fearsome to their enemies, whether these enemies be man or beast, torrential rain or howling winds. Such practices represent two closely related things—the backward character of the ‘tool’, the implements they use to maintain existence, and a complete ignorance of the general laws that direct the processes of nature. But such a ‘religion’, as any ‘trader’ or missionary (also two closely related things) will immediately testify, once firmly established, plays a great part in maintaining the form of tribal society and of preventing it from moving forward. It has to be broken down before the tribe can find its way to new methods of ensuring life and thereby to a new advance. Many of those primitive practices still survive in our midst and are a retarding factor in the class struggle. Magic, charms, astrology, are only a few of them. But they all work the same way.
When the Communist leaders were in Wandsworth prison, an Indian lad came in to serve a sentence for theft. He was over at the table where three of the Communists were cutting canvas for mailbags. They saw he was wearing a peculiar bracelet composed of string and several coloured and different-shaped stones. Asked about it, he explained that one was to bring him good luck and a happy marriage, another was to save him from accident and keep him out of hospital, and a third one was to keep him out of trouble.
When they laughed and remarked that the third one had not been working very well, he was quite earnest in assuring them that it was not the fault of the ‘charm’ if he had, with his eyes open, broken the law. That is always how it goes. If he had not been broke he would not have been tempted. If he had not been tempted, he would not have stolen and so would not have gone to prison. If he had succeeded in keeping out of prison and avoiding other trouble, he would have given the credit to the ‘charm’, but when he did get into trouble he took the blame upon himself.
But what has this got to do with the class struggle? it may be asked. Patience, please, patience, and we’ll get round to it. What applies to primitive ‘charms’ also applies to primitive ‘gods’. However fierce they might be made to look, they did not save the tribes. Calamity came upon them time and again. For the period of peace between the calamities they gave the credit to the ‘gods’ and the ‘medicine men’. For the calamity, it was they themselves who took the blame. Somehow or another they had been unfaithful to the ‘gods’ and what they were getting was their just and due punishment. Then there grew up alongside the ‘medicine men’ warrior chiefs, who in turn took on characteristics of the ‘gods’ (it came down into modern times in what has already been referred to—the Divine Right of Kings). Soon the credit for what went right went on a sort of fifty-fifty basis to the ‘gods’ and the chiefs, while the blame for anything that went wrong went 100 per cent to the tribesmen. Maybe the general body of readers may not have seen the application yet, but certainly every Scottish miner will, in the light of the Report issued by the Scottish Coal Controller, Lord Traprain, in December of last year.
For the mantle of the primitive ‘gods’ has fallen on our political ‘gods’ and the big industrial and financial magnates they represent. When things go well the capitalists grab the profit and share the credit with the political ‘gods’ they at the moment favour. If things go wrong the blame is all saddled on the workers and, all too often, too meekly accepted. It was put in its classic and unforgettable form during the last war by no less a person than Lloyd George, when, addressing the Shop Stewards in St. Andrew’s Hall on Christmas Day 1915, in an eloquent passion of anger he shouted: ‘I have promised the lads at the front to give them shells, if they don’t get them you engineers must take the responsibility’ (the blame). You can’t beat that—this peculiar method of thinking, this lopsided morality. Of course they play an important part in determining the maintenance of, or the changes that take place in, social relations, as do the reactions of the workers and particularly the revolutionary workers. Engels put it absolutely clear in the following:
‘According to the materialist conception of history the determining element in history is ultimately the production and reproduction in real life. More than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. If, therefore, somebody twists this into the statement that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms it into a meaningless abstract and absurd phrase. The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure—political forms of the class struggle and its consequences, constitutions established by the victorious class after a successful battle, etc.—forms of law, and then even the reflexes of all these actual struggles in the brains of the combatants; political, legal, philosophical theories, religious ideas and their further development into systems of dogma, also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form. There is an inter-action of all these elements in which, amid all the endless host of accidents (i.e. of things and events whose inter-connection is so remote or so impossible to prove that we can regard it as absent and can neglect it), the economic movement finally asserts itself as necessary. Otherwise, the application of the theory to any period of history one chose would be easier than the solution of a simple equation of the first degree.’
‘Yes, that may be alright, if I only understood it,’ says the confirmed ‘Free-wilier’, ‘but it seems to me that it still leaves man’s right of choice very limited.’ Surely it is limited. Very much so. A worker on his way home on a Friday night or Saturday with his pay packet in his pocket can choose to enter a pub and ‘liquidate’ most of his wages or lie can choose to pass the pub and go right on home and give the packet to his wife. He has that choice. But he cannot choose between the pub and beer, and the Ritz Hotel with a champagne dinner. ‘Free-will’ would badly boggle at that. Or when the alarm clock goes off in the morning, he can choose to get up and go to work, or if he feels tired, ‘lie-in’ (always with a thought in mind that he may get the sack, and now that the Essential Works Order operates, a term in gaol). But whatever the threats of penalties, he can make a choice—go to work or lie in bed. What he cannot do, when the nerve-racking alarm has aroused him from slumber, is to choose between going to work and going for a luxury cruise in the Mediterranean. That is far away beyond the limit the economic forces have set on his ‘right of choice’. In choosing, his early training, his ideas on morality, his religious beliefs, his temperament, any one of or all of these, may tip the balance but—the balance is already there.
After the retreat of the Axis Armies from El Agheila, the Rome wireless stated that the Axis Forces were withdrawing in good order ‘of their own free will’. Of course, they could have remained at El Agheila and got themselves buried there. They had to make a choice. They would have been quite pleased to remain at El Agheila without the necessity of having to make a choice, but their ‘free-will’ was limited. It was not simply a question of staying or going, but the much more difficult one of ‘stay and fight, or go’. They might have reasoned: ‘Well, this enemy of ours (the Eighth Army) was in full strength at El Alamein and was therefore able to knock us upside down. But stretched out all the way from El Alamein to El Agheila it might not be so strong. Maybe if we stay and fight, we may be able in turn to knock it about a bit.’ They might have reasoned thus. In fact there was a strong belief that they would take advantage of the peculiarly favourable position for making a stand. But having, obviously, taken all the circumstances into account, they made the other choice and ‘of their own free-will’ started the long retreat to Tripoli or even further.
‘Having taken all the circumstances into account’—that is the essence of the dialectic as applied to historical materialism and the class struggle. Those who, parrot-like, repeat phrases and chant shibboleths without regard to circumstances have nothing in common with Marxism. On the contrary, they are enemies of Marxism and, as has often been proven, the most treacherous of all enemies. During the American Civil War, the bourgeoisie of this country were proposing to recognize the slave-owners’ Government of the South and thereby to take sides with the South against the North. From their point of view the disruption of the ‘States’ with an America split in two would have been an advantage. It would have meant cheap cotton and a serious weakening of a potential rival in the North. The workers of this country were suffering from unemployment, poverty and hunger as a consequence of the war, and the liberal bourgeoisie did not hesitate to pour abuse and blame for this suffering on the ruthless capitalists of the North. But the workers were not deceived. ‘Taking all the circumstances into account’—the menace of slavery and the better opportunities for expressing themselves even within the limits of capitalist democracy (it was much more limited then than now)—they came out in tremendous mass demonstrations against the recognition of the Southern Government and in full support for the capitalist North. That is a great lesson for these present times and here is the high and well-deserved tribute Marx paid to the English workers (with apologies to Scottish nationalism—W.G.):
‘ . . . No important innovation, no decisive measure has ever been carried through in this country without pressure from without, whether it was the opposition that required such pressure against the government or the government that required the pressure against the opposition. By pressure from without the Englishman understands great, extra-parliamentary popular demonstrations, which naturally cannot be staged without the lively co-operation of the working class . . .
‘. . . . The working class is accordingly fully conscious that the government is only waiting for the intervention cry from below, the pressure from without, to put an end to the American blockade and English misery. Under these circumstances, the obstinacy with which the working class keeps silent, or breaks its silence only to raise its voice against intervention and for the United States, is admirable. This is a new, brilliant proof of the indestructible excellence of the English popular masses, of that excellence which is the secret of England’s greatness . . .’
Consider that, and in the light of it reflect on what happened when the Spanish people under a People’s Government were faced by a concerted attack from European Fascism. The bourgeoisie of Britain, ‘liberal and democratic’, refusing to ‘take all the circumstances into account’, decided on a policy of ‘non-intervention’ which was in effect support for the Fascist forces. The Labour leaders, with the plea of wanting to avoid war, meekly followed in their wake and became in the country chief spokesmen for this policy. The bourgeoisie’s hatred of Socialism blinded them to the real meaning of the Nazi menace that was soon to overrun and almost overwhelm Europe; the fear of the Labour Party for the class war as it was manifesting itself in Spain made them parties to the policy that was to bring on the world a war of horrors far beyond any imaginings of man. (After eighteen months the Labour Party altered its policy.)
But in Spain itself there were those who were slimy with treachery. And their treachery was perpetrated in the name of Marx. They formed an alleged ‘Revolutionary’ party and called it the ‘Party of United Marxists’ (P.O.U.M.). A shameful insult to the name of Marx. Their every act was a denial of Marx and a stab in the back of the People’s Government throughout the whole difficult period of the war against Hitler, Mussolini and Franco. ‘It is not a Socialist Government,’ they said, ‘so we’ll attack it in the rear while the Fascists and Nazi forces bomb and batter it.’ And it was these treacherous creatures who received the support of the decaying and degenerate I.L.P. ‘No support for the People’s Government. It isn’t a Socialist Government.’ Thus the name of Socialism is degraded, as Goebbels before them had degraded it, and put to the use of blocking the road to Socialism, by assisting the Fascists to overthrow the progressive forces of Spain. The I.L.P. had the right of choice: They had the chance to choose a Progressive People’s Government or a Franco Government. They made their choice—against the People’s Government, so—as there are no neutrals in the class war—for a Fascist Government.
It may be that their loud-mouthed posturings for Socialism and nothing but Socialism may have confused a few people here or there when the struggle was going on in another land, but consider it in relation to the Beveridge Report. The Beveridge Report is not Socialism, but, like the People’s Government of Spain, it opens the way for a new advance of the workers; the fight for the Beveridge Report, like the fight for the People’s Government of Spain, will be one that will in the very nature of things carry us forward a great stage on the way. While the I.L.P., under a spurious cloak of Socialism, were able to get away with supporting Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, they will not get away with it so easily, when under the same spurious cloak (‘it isn’t Socialism’), they come out as allies of the big insurance companies.
But in contrast to all of these differing forces that were arrayed against the People’s Government of Spain, the workers of the country were strong and sound in their support. The religious Press, like the pro-Fascist Press, did its utmost to arouse opposition to the widespread campaign in support of the Spanish people’s epic struggle—but their efforts were in vain. As in the case of the Civil War in America, the workers recognized that Fascism meant slavery, the People’s Government represented progress. The workers, despite all the confusion that is spread around them, are inherently Marxist and instinctively respond to the pregnant and decisive circumstances in any situation where the class struggle is involved.
Take another example. When the invasion of Finland took place, the bourgeoisie, the Radio, the Press, the Churches and the Labour leaders ‘tore a passion to tatters’. Never was there such an uproar. Morning, noon and night, never ceasing, lies, slanders and vilest abuse came pouring out about the Soviet Union. The people of the country were almost stupefied by the incessant blare and din. ‘Butcher’ Mannerheim, the bloody Fascist butcher of the Finnish workers, was held up as a shining jewel in the forehead of Democracy; Stalin and his colleagues were damned to hell for all eternity. In the House of Commons it was often like Bedlam, with the poisonous rump of the I.L.P. seeking to get cheap Tory applause by vomiting slimier filth than any of the others. But in the country, among the workers, what? True, there was some questioning (how could it be otherwise?). But no faintest possibility of a swing over against the Soviet Union.
In demonstration after demonstration, in all parts of the country, strong resolutions were passed in support of the Soviet Union, against ‘Butcher’ Mannerheim and his ardent supporters in this country.
Yes, if ever the workers demonstrated their ability to ‘take all the circumstances into account’ and not just the surface appearances, it was above all during that period. The Class War had manifested itself in a strange and peculiar form, but it did not find them wanting. Well for this country that it was so. Had we been driven into war against the Soviet Union, it would have been the greatest disaster that ever befell us. The gates would have been left wide open for Hitler and his Nazi hordes. The workers, with the leadership of the Communist Party, saved the country then; with the leadership of the Communist Party they will save and win the country in the days that lie ahead.
For always the Communist Party, with the support of the workers, was for an alliance with the Soviet Union. Such an alliance, they maintained, was the only guarantee for the safety and security of Europe.
Then on June 22nd, 1941, the Nazis made their treacherous well-prepared assault on the Soviet Union. That same evening, Churchill, as Prime Minister, spoke over the radio and declared for an alliance with the Soviet Union. Of course the Communists supported him. They would not have been Marxists had they failed to do so. Whatever criticism there might be of the man, the policy was one for which they had consistently fought. Was it the Communists, or Churchill and the Labour leaders, who made the change over? I remember very well in the bye-election that was running at the time, the Labour candidate, following Churchill’s speech on the Sunday evening, got his anti-Soviet posters out of the window of his committee rooms and got a new and entirely different poster presented to the electorate on the Monday. Then a year later came the visit to London of Molotov and the Treaty that bound both countries not only for the period of the war but for twenty years after the war.
It had become clear to the vast majority of the people, to all the people with the exception of the pro-Fascist minority, that the fate of this country in the war and in the peace that will follow depends on co-operation with the Soviet Union. But co-operation is based on confidence. Where there is no confidence there could be no effective co-operation. And confidence in our great ally has been sadly lacking on the part of our political and military leaders. When the ferocious Nazi offensive was launched it was commonplace to hear speculations about the early collapse of the Red Army and the Soviet Union. Three weeks was the first estimate, then it was extended to three months. Then came the offensive directed against Moscow in the autumn of 1941, and Hitler’s vainglorious speech in which he annihilated all that was left of the Red Army. Speculation then turned to ‘What is going to happen when Moscow falls?’ ‘Will Russia give up the fight?’ That there could be such appalling ignorance and defeatism on the part of men who were supposed to know something about international affairs is scarcely credible, but there it was—no confidence in our ally, and as a consequence, no co-operation. What a godsend to Hitler was this period of foolish speculation. In the spring of 1942, he spoke once again in Berlin; not about the annihilation of the Red Army, but about the terrible plight of the German Army following the defeat outside Moscow. ‘Our Army,’ he told the German people, ‘insufficiently prepared for winter, was threatened with catastrophe.’ What an opportunity was there for this country if only we had been capable of seizing it. If instead of melancholy forecasts we had been effectively participating in the gigantic struggle that was going on, the catastrophe might have been complete and the back of the war broken in the winter of 1941-42.
But it had become apparent to even the most dismal that the Soviet Union and the Red Army had powers of resistance undreamt of (as a matter of fact the Prime Minister used that very phrase in the House of Commons—‘the undreamt of events in the Soviet Union’) and a new appreciation of our mighty ally began to find expression.
This was particularly the case in regard to the great leader of the Soviet Union—‘that great warrior’—Joseph Stalin. One after another the political leaders of this country hastened to pay him tribute. Beaverbrook declared ‘I place my faith in Joseph Stalin’. But where did Stalin place his faith? In the great masses of the people, and guided by a thorough understanding of Marx and a complete absorption of the fundamental principles of Leninism. Those who were astonished when they discovered Stalin, had they read ‘Problems of Leninism’ or ‘Foundations of Leninism’ would have had no reason to be astonished. They would have seen how the Party and the people of the Soviet Union, under his wise guidance, had solved problem after problem which the bourgeois Press of all countries had declared to be impossible of solution. They would have understood the faith of the Soviet people in this mighty genius of revolutionary war and Socialist construction. A master of the dialectic with, as a consequence, unshakeable faith in the masses, he faces every hazard with a calm, resolute courage that nothing can break. On November 6th, 1941, he spoke to the Soviet people on the serious danger that faced their country. Of the heroism of the Red Army and Red Navy and of the great reorganization of the war. He then went on to say: ‘When preparing their attack on our country, the German Fascist invaders thought that they could certainly “smash” the Soviet Union in one-and-a-half to two months, and in addition would succeed in this short time in reaching the Urals. We must say that the Germans did not hide this plan of a “lightning” victory. On the contrary, they advertised it in every possible way. The facts, however, have demonstrated how frivolous and unreal were these “lightning” plans. These mad plans can now be considered to have finally failed.
‘How can it be explained that the “lightning war” which succeeded in western Europe did not succeed in the cast?
‘On what did the German Fascist strategists base their calculations in claiming that in two months they would finish off the Soviet Union and in this short period reach the Urals?
‘In the first place, they calculated—they seriously hoped—that they could build up a general coalition against the U.S.S.R. and draw Great Britain and the U.S.A. into that coalition. They thought that they could frighten the ruling circles of those countries with the spectre of revolution and that they would thus completely isolate our country from the other Powers. . . .
‘The Germans counted, secondly, on the instability of the Soviet regime and the unreliability of the Soviet rear, reckoning that after the first hard blow and the first setbacks of the Red Army, a conflict would arise between the workers and peasants, and a fight would begin between the different peoples of the U.S.S.R.; that there would be uprisings and the country would disintegrate into its component parts. This would help the advance of the German invaders right up to the Urals.
‘But here also the Germans gravely miscalculated. The setbacks of the Red Army not only did not weaken but, on the contrary, strengthened even more the alliance of the workers and peasants, as well as the friendship of the peoples of the U.S.S.R. Even more—they have converted the family of nations of the U.S.S.R. into one unconquerable camp, self-sacrificingly upholding its Red Army and its Red Navy. Never before was the Soviet rear so firm as now.
‘It is quite probable that any other State, having suffered such territorial losses as we have, would not have withstood the trials and would have fallen. If the Soviet system has so easily passed through this trial, and even strengthened its rear, then this means that the Soviet system is now the most stable of all.’
There is nothing rhetorical about that. There is no bombast. It is a model of quiet strength and confidence. It has in it the ring of ultimate victory, despite the heavy blows that were at that time being struck at the young Red Army. But Stalin knew his people. Knew the unity that would bear them through the heaviest trials and enable them to face every sacrifice. No other system could have stood the shock of the German offensive and come out of it stronger instead of weaker. That is something to ponder over by those who have for so long sneered at Marxism and affected to treat it as something that had no contributions to make to the higher human qualities. Science, Art, and Culture have all flourished under the Soviet system—a system based on Marxism-Leninism. Now is being witnessed universal devotion to the homeland on a scale never before seen in any country.
But Hitler and the Nazis had no understanding of this. Their own wild propaganda about Jews and Marxists had blinded themselves to the truth. They still believed in the annihilation of the Red Army and the collapse of the Soviet system. Stalin in that same speech on November 6th, 1941, answered them, and answered them in no uncertain tones:
‘The German invaders want a war of extermination with the peoples of the U.S.S.R. Well, if the Germans want to have a war of extermination, they will get it!
‘From now on, our task—the task of the peoples of the U.S.S.R., the task of the fighters, commanders, and political workers of our Army and our Navy will be to exterminate every single German who has set his invading foot on the territory of our fatherland.
‘No mercy for the German invaders! Death to the German invaders!’
That was in 1941: on February 2nd, 1943, the annihilation of the German Sixth Army, trapped at Stalingrad, was completed. But before the terrific events of Stalingrad the summer offensive of the German Army went crashing through from the Don to the Volga, and from Rostov through the Caucasus. Maikop, but not its oil, was seized in the hungry grasp of the Nazis, whose eyes were fixed on the mountain passes and the Baku oilfields that lay beyond.
But Stalingrad was the real goal. With Stalingrad in their grasp the Nazi armies would have swung round and struck Moscow from the east. But it was a plan worked out on a chess board with one set of chessmen and no opponent. ‘Stalingrad will be taken’, Hitler shouted in the Sports Palace. ‘You can be sure of that.’
But these one-sided chessmen of Germany had an opponent—the Red Army, with Joseph Stalin at its head. While Hitler ranted and raved of taking Stalingrad, from which he declared ‘they would never come out’, the Red Army was preparing the trap that was to make certain they wouldn’t get out.
On the 6th November 1942 Stalin presented the situation as follows:
‘What then was the principal objective of the German offensive? It was to outflank Moscow from the east, to cut it off from our rear in the Volga, and our rear in the Urals, and then to strike at Moscow.
The advance of the Germans southwards towards the oil districts had an auxiliary purpose which was not only and not so much to capture the oil districts, as to divert our main reserves to the south and to weaken the Moscow front, as so to make it easier to achieve success when striking at Moscow.
That, in fact, explains why the main group of German troops is now to be found not in the south, but in the Orel and Stalingrad areas.
Recently a German officer of the German General Staff fell into the hands of our men. A map was found on this officer showing the plan and time-table of the advance of the German troops. From this document it transpires that the Germans intended to be in Borisoglobsk on July 10th of this year, in Stalingrad on July 25th, in Saratov on August 10th, in Kuibyshev on August 15th, in Arzamas on September 10th, and in Baku on September 25th. This document completely confirms our information to the effect that the principal aim of the Germans’ summer offensive was to outflank Moscow from the east and to strike at Moscow, while the purpose of the advance to the south was, apart from everything else, to divert our reserves as far as possible from Moscow and to weaken the Moscow front so as to make it easier to strike at Moscow. In short, the principal objective of the Germans’ summer offensive was to surround Moscow and end the war this year.
In November of last year the Germans reckoned on capturing Moscow by striking a frontal blow at Moscow, compelling the Red Army to capitulate, and thus achieve the termination of the war in the east. They fed their soldiers with these illusions. But, as we know, these calculations of the Germans miscarried. Having burnt their fingers last year in attempting a frontal blow at Moscow, the Germans conceived the intention of capturing Moscow this year—this time by an outflanking movement and thus ending the war in the east. It is with these illusions that they are now feeding their duped soldiers . . . . How are we to explain the fact that the Germans this year were still able to take the initiative in military operations into their hands and achieve substantial tactical successes on our front? It is to be explained by the fact that the Germans and their allies succeeded in mustering all their available reserves, hurling them on to the eastern front and creating a large superiority of forces in one of the directions.
There can be no doubt that but for these measures the Germans could not have achieved any success on our front. But why were they able to muster all their reserves and hurl them on to the eastern front? Because the absence of a Second Front in Europe enabled them to carry on this operation without any risk to themselves.
Hence the chief reason for the tactical successes of the Germans on our front this year is that the absence of a Second Front in Europe enabled them to hurl on to our front all their available reserves and to create a large superiority of forces in the south-western direction. . . . . 
‘These calculations of the Germans miscarried.’ Only later did the world realize how far they had miscarried. But already at this time the Red Army was preparing its counter-stroke, a counterstroke that was to astound Hitler and the world. But they were not without warning, for following his speech, Stalin issued an ‘ Order of the Day to the Red Army’. Here is the concluding part of it:
‘Comrades, Red Army men, commanders and political workers, men and women guerrillas!
‘On your stubbornness and steadfastness, on your fighting ability and readiness to fulfil your duty to the motherland depends the rout of the German fascist army, the clearing of the Hitlerite invaders from the Soviet soil!
‘We can and must clear the Hitlerite filth from our Soviet soil!
‘To do this it is essential:
‘1.—Steadfastly and stubbornly to defend our front line, not to permit the enemy to advance further, to exert all efforts to wear down the enemy, to exterminate his manpower, to destroy his equipment.
‘2.—To strengthen to the utmost degree iron discipline, strict order and single command in our army, to perfect the military training of troops, stubbornly and persistently to prepare a ‘crushing blow against the enemy.
‘3.—To fan the flames of the popular guerrillas’ movement in the rear of the enemy, to devastate the enemy rear, to exterminate the German Fascist scoundrels.
‘Comrades! Once already the enemy has experienced the force of the blows of the Red Army before Rostov, before Moscow, before Tikhvin. The day is not far distant when the enemy will feel the force of new blows of the Red Army. There will be celebrations in our streets.
‘Long live the twenty-fifth anniversary of the great Socialist October Revolution!
‘Long live our Red Army!
‘Long live our Navy!
‘Long live our glorious men and women guerrillas!
‘Death to the German Fascist invaders!
THE PEOPLES’ COMMISSAR FOR DEFENCE,
J. V. STALIN.
Where have ever such stupendous, such world-shaking events been ushered on to the thunderous stage of war with such quiet spoken, simple words. ‘The day is not far distant when the enemy will feel the force of new blows of the Red Army. There will be celebrations in our streets.’ In November 1942 these words were spoken. Three months later, in January 1943, the celebrations took place. In all the great stretch of land from the Don to the Volga there is not a living German soldier left. The great proud army that went sweeping through the Soviet land is gone—‘fed by illusions’, it was marching not to victory but to extermination. Never in the history of war has there been such a transformation. The besiegers became the besieged. The exterminators, brutal, bloody exterminators, are themselves exterminated. But ‘new blows’ continue to fall on the Nazi forces.
Along the Eastern Front the Germans reel back. They stagger but they are not yet broken. Reserves still exist in the occupied countries as well as in Germany itself. These can all be thrown against the Red Army because of the absence of the Second Front in Europe. This is the awful dread of the Nazis, even as they battle against defeat in the East. This is the road to speedy and decisive victory.
Joseph Stalin, with the Red Army and the Soviet people, has presented the Allies with the opportunity of dealing the death blow to Hitler. It can be done; it must be done. Goering’s bluster and the trickery of Goebbels will never save the Nazi régime if effective military co-operation with the Soviet Union becomes the Order of the Day for Britain. With the end of the Nazi regime, to which they will contribute their share, the German people will find their freedom again and advance with the people of Europe to a new and better life. In this, as in the conduct of the war, Stalin speaks in language that is clear to all:
‘The war has torn off all veils and laid bare all relationships. The situation has become so clear that nothing is easier than to define our tasks in the war.
In an interview with a Turkish General, Erkilet, published in the Turkish newspaper, Cumhuriet, that cannibal Hitler said: "We shall destroy Russia so that she will never be able to rise again." That would appear clear, though rather silly.
We have no such aim as to destroy Germany, for it is impossible to destroy Germany just as it is impossible to destroy Russia. But the Hitlerite State can, and should be, destroyed, and our firsttask, in fact, is to destroythe Hitlerite State and its inspirers.
Yes, we must destroy the Hitler State, we must destroy Fascism everywhere. We can only do that if we understand the forces at work in our midst, forces that put Vichy Fascists in control of the administration of North Africa, that would saddle France itself with Vichy men against the will of the French people. Forces that will try to suppress the resurgent masses in Germany and in the oppressed countries on the Continent. We must understand if we are to wage the war in a way that will ensure a lasting and desirable peace. To do this we must follow the path of Lenin and Stalin. They made themselves masters of Marxism. Dialectical materialism was, and is, a mighty weapon always at their hand. Let every worker (practical dialectician) grasp the theory of the dialectics and we also, in this country, will astound the world. We will march forward to achievements ‘undreamt of’ by the present generation.
The Tool for the Job
When the workers once get a grasp of theory they will understand the importance of the tool and the necessity always of having a tool requisite for the job that has to be done. This, again, they know in everyday practice. Often in my own experience I have seen the care with which my workmates examined the tools before they started on a job. They had to be just so. Exact. If they weren’t, the job wasn’t started until they were satisfied. In all classes of work it operated. No steel worker would dream of discarding the drop-hammer and using a blown-up bladder, however imposing it looked, to hammer out a white-hot bar of steel.
No ordinary intelligent navvy would ever use a child’s sand spade to scoop up the earth already loosened by the pick. Such absurdities could never happen on any job outside of a lunatic asylum. It’s only when we come to the greatest job of all—hammering out a new world—that we find on the part of the most practical and capable workers an utter inability to pick out the ‘tools’ suited for the job. Why is this? It is because the fiction has been created that man and his environment are outside the operation of natural laws and what would be the height of folly in the workshop becomes heavenly wisdom outside. Every worker is a practical man and he knows he is a practical man. His experiences make that clear to him. But those who desire to keep on exploiting him are anxious to keep him a practical man and keep him away from theory.
It’s an old, old story in this country. We are a practical people. We go from precedent to precedent, from practice to practice. Of course it’s not true. We are able to carry on practice in the various industries because there have been all kinds of theorising to bring the various tools into existence. But at all costs the workers must be kept away from Marx and from an understanding of the dialectic. The intellectuals, fearful of the mighty change that is preparing in the womb of present-day society, deliberately close their eyes to the liberating force of Marxism and play about with fantasies. In a series of radio talks recently, one speaker emphasized the importance of a study of early forms of society for sociologists today. He said, rightly, that man was the weakest of the larger animals, and yet he survived. He survived, said the speaker, because of his capacity for forming groups. As though group life were peculiar to man. A suggestion that anyone who has studied the subject will immediately repudiate. Now I have no doubt the radio speaker has read very widely on the subject, in all probability he is a fount of knowledge on many aspects of anthropology and sociology. But one thing he lacked, the all-important thing. He lacked a knowledge of Marxism. He told us that it wasn’t always easy to hold the group together. Any captain of a cricket team will tell you that. He should have stopped there and asked himself a question—‘Why is a cricket team always called a cricket team? Why isn’t it sometimes called a football team, or a hockey team, or, if you like, a baseball team?’
‘Don’t be silly’, the reader will be inclined to say. But it isn’t silly, for the answer to that question is the beginning of wisdom. The answer is, a group is formed and its character determined by the implement or implements around which it gathers. That means that it is not the group that represents the peculiarity, differentiating men from the other animals, and ensures his survival, but the implement or tool that has shaped and fashioned the group. Of course, once a group gathers around a tool, the group reacts and modifies the tool, this in turn brings changes in the group, with new reactions on the tool, and so the process goes on with ‘leaps’ of one kind and another bringing ever greater and greater qualitative changes. Unless the workers understand the part played by the tool in man’s survival and man’s progress, they will not grasp and make full use of the tool that is essential for the great change which they themselves are convinced must take place.
It is generally accepted that all life has developed from the single cell through a series of slow changes and sudden jumps. When fish-like forms of life were forced to leave the water and take to land, they either developed new organisms and survived, or failed and went out of existence. Where they developed these new organisms, it was a ‘jump’ from one quality of life to another—a qualitative change. The whole process of evolution is littered with varieties of species that went out of existence because they couldn’t make the ‘jump’. Among the larger animals there are only four varieties of anthropoids that have been able to survive. Many varieties of anthropoids must have fallen by the way. The weakest of all the anthropoids and the least able to face the savage struggle for existence, particularly the ferocious attacks of the larger animals, was man. Man had to get a new organism or he was finished. That was the law of nature. He got it. He didn’t develop it, he adopted it. Man discovered and adopted the tool. Only the broken branch of a tree, only a stone that fitted into his hand. He soon found that a branch shaped in a particular way or a stone with a sharp edge was more effective than otherwise and in the dim recesses of his prehistoric mind the first glimmerings of theory began to manifest themselves. So through the ages the struggle has gone on. The struggle against storm and tempest, against the death that always lurked in the jungle around him till civilization caught him up and a new kind of struggle opened, the struggle against class oppression. Now that struggle is nearing its end. When the workers free themselves they free all humanity and for the first time man will be able to determine his own history. Then the dialectic will operate in a new direction. The productive forces, unfettered and free, driving forward at a terrific and ever increasing pace will come into conflict with man’s hitherto restricted life and will demand changes, that even the most imaginative amongst us have never dreamed of. Only then will real progress begin.
But the big job has still to be done. The change has to be made. The ‘leap’ has to be taken. And for this job, greater than any we in this country have ever tackled, it is absolutely necessary to make certain that we have the tool requisite for the job. It was in the fashioning of this ‘tool’ that Lenin, the greatest of all Marxists, demonstrated his genius. He fought for and fashioned ‘a new kind of party’. A party that had its roots in the working class and that drew its strength from the working class. A party in which every member was an active worker for the party, an active fighter for the working class. Only a party such as this, a party trained and experienced in struggle could be relied on by the workers to carry through the final struggle and lead the workers to victory and emancipation.
This conception of a party, a party based on Marxism, shocked the leaders of the orthodox parties. Their idea of a party was a group of ‘big men’ at the top and a rank and file that only became active when the ‘big men’ wanted them to be active. That happened when a ‘big man’ condescended to address a properly prepared public meeting, or when he offered to represent the people in Parliament or elsewhere. Between such events as these the ‘big men’ were never seen, not by the workers, at any rate. No, between such events they spent their lives in much more cultured surroundings than were to be found in the haunts of the proletariat. They were happy, when, patronized by the bourgeoisie, they were invited to banquets and social gatherings of one kind or another. They led two lives, a social life and a party life, and the party life was used more and more to facilitate the social life. The party was the path to a ‘career’ for the ‘big men’ and in order to harmonize the two lives, the fiction was developed ‘we can be personal friends (with the bourgeoisie) even tho’ we’re political enemies’. But personal friends can’t be political enemies and political enemies can’t be personal friends. The whole history of the class struggle gives the lie to such a preposterous metaphysical fraud.
But while the ‘big men’ and those who hoped to be ‘big men’ sought to keep the parties within such limits, the rank and file had different ideas and fought in the most valiant manner to keep the parties closely associated with the workers and for the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism. In this country, they were always uneasy and suspicious about the social life of the leaders and their friendly relations with the enemy. They had reason to be. For in the early days of the movement it was a commonplace of every propaganda meeting to hear a description of a Liberal tearing a Tory to tatters and of the Tory blasting the Liberal to hell and further. Then after their respective meetings were over, they’d meet in the same hotel and wine and dine together as bosom friends. They might disagree about how the spoil should be divided, the propagandist would say, but there’s no disagreement between them on the question of getting the spoil. Yet after this experience with the Liberal ‘Codlin’ and the Tory ‘Short’ they found their own leaders at the same game. Time and again in this country there were protests and breakaways from the main body, but with theory playing so little part, it was not possible to break the influence of the ‘careerists’.
But in Russia it was different. From their early years, Lenin and Stalin were already Marxists. When Stalin was in his teens he was organizing Marxian Discussion circles, and while so doing came into contact with Lenin, through the latter’s writings. He immediately recognized Lenin, then a young man not much past twenty, as the greatest of all Marxists—‘the Mountain Eagle’ as he called him.
Marxism was the handbook of Lenin, Stalin and their overgrowing body of comrades. With a firm grasp of dialectical and historical Materialism, they understood the nature of the job that had to be done. They had no illusions about the capitalists and the ferocity with which they would fight to hold what they had. They easily exposed the metaphysical fraud of ‘isolated phenomena’, a social life distinct and separate from a party life. The revolutionary must give his whole life to the struggle, there could be no question of a ‘private’ or social life divorced from his work as a revolutionary. That was one of the earliest truths an understanding of Marx drove home. Having that clear in his mind, Lenin then formulated the character and structure of the Revolutionary Party. It was no strange freak that enabled the workers of Russia to break new ground, to make the great historic ‘leap’ from capitalist power to workers’ power. It was the natural outcome of the fact that they had the ‘tool’ with which to do the job—the Marxist Revolutionary Party. If the revolutionary had to devote his whole life to the cause, then there could be no room in the Revolutionary Party for the gentlemen with a social life distinct and separate from the Party life. Every member of the party had to be a consistent worker for the Party, participating in one or other of the party’s various organisations, and as the party was a party of the workers with no other interests than the interests of the workers, it followed that the party comrades must be the best fighters for the workers, in the various organizations of the workers. With the best workers in the factories, the best trade unionists, the best co-operators, the best defenders of working class homes, with all these in the party, the life of the party would become the daily expression of the desires of the workers. The party would speak for the workers, the workers would strengthen and follow the lead of the party. Thus the party and the workers become one great all-conquering force in the struggle to break the power of the exploiters. This was Lenin’s great conception of a Marxist party, a party born out of the workers’ struggle and guided by a correct appreciation of Marxian theory, a party that drew its strength and existed only for the workers. How well Stalin put it when he said:
‘In the system of mythology of the ancient Greeks, there was one famous hero, Antæus, who, as mythology declares, was the son of Poseidon, the god of the sea, and Gæa, the goddess of the earth. He was particularly attached to his mother, who had borne, fed and brought him up. There was no hero whom this Antæus did not vanquish. He was considered to be an invincible hero. Wherein lay his strength? It lay in the fact that every time he was hard pushed in a struggle with an opponent, he touched the earth, his mother, who had borne him and fed him, and obtained new strength. But, nevertheless, he had a weak spot—the danger of being separated in some way from the earth. His enemies took account of this weakness of his and lay in wait for him. And an enemy was found who took advantage of this weakness and vanquished him. This was Hercules. But how did Hercules defeat him? He tore him from the earth, raised him into the air, deprived him of the possibility of touching the earth, and throttled him.
‘I think that Bolsheviks remind us of Antæus, the hero of Greek mythology. Like Antæus, they are strong in keeping contact with their mother, with the masses, who bore them, fed them and educated them. And as long as they keep contact with their mother, with the people, they have every chance of remaining invincible.’
This is the key to the invincibility of Bolshevik leadership. Such a party must be, is being, built in this country. If anyone should ask, when will the great change take place, the answer is, when the ‘tool’ is effectively fashioned for the job. The ‘tool’ will be fashioned out of the class struggle with the Marxian theory for our guide.
1. Capital. Karl Marx. Vol. I, p. 789. Allen and Unwin.
2. Anti-Dühring. F. Engels. p. 311. Lawrence and Wishart.
3. Short History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks). Foreign Languages Publishing House (1939) edition, p. 109. Cobbett Publishing Co (1943) edition, p. 98.
Dialectical and Historical Materialism. J. Stalin (Little Stalin Library), p. 9. Lawrence and Wishart.
4. This is an extreme simplification of idealism about which thousands of volumes have been written. But however long and deeply one may study the idealistic philosophy, it will be found that it is based upon sensations or concepts (the ‘idea’) being the one determining factor in the process of development. ‘Before the world was, the “idea” was.’
5. Anti-Dühring. F. Engels. pp. 15 and 29. Lawrence and Wishart.
6. Dialectics of Nature. F. Engels. p. 83. Lawrence and Wishart.
7. Manifesto of the Communist Party. Karl Marx and F. Engels. Lawrence and Wishart.
8. Ludwig Feuerbach. F. Engels. Appendix I, p. 73. Lawrence and Wishart.
9. Civil War in the United States. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. p. 279. Lawrence and Wishart.
10. Marx: Selected Works. Vol. 1, p. 356. Lawrence and Wishart.
11. One of the most touching letters ever written was one Marx sent to his friend Sorge a short time after his wife’s death. In it he said: ‘Lastly there was published on the first December last (I shall send you a copy of it) in the monthly review, Modern Thought, an article: Leaders of Modern Thought; No. XXIII—Karl Marx. By Ernest Belfort Bax . . .’ It was his first public recognition. In his letter to Sorge, he says, ‘What was most important for me, I received the said number of Modern Thought already on the 30th of November, so that my dear wife had the last days of her life still cheered up. You know the passionate interest she took in all such affairs.’ Correspondence of Marx and Engels, p. 398. Lawrence and Wishart.
12. Correspondence of Marx and Engels. p. 475. Lawrence and Wishart.
13. The Civil War in the United States. Karl Marx and F. Engels. p. 139. Lawrence and Wishart.
14. Soviet War News, No. 103.
15. Soviet War News, No. 103.
16. Stalin’s Speech. Full official text of the speech delivered on the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Soviet State. pp. 6-7. Communist Party of Great Britain.
17. Stalin’s Speech, p. 15.
18. Stalin himself drew attention to the fact that the Germans were still capable of striking heavy blows, and because of the absence of a Second Front twelve divisions were brought from Western Europe, with the result that Kharkov once again fell into their hands.
19. Stalin’s Speech, p. 12.
20. Short History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks). Foreign Languages Publishing House edition (1939). p. 362. Cobbett Publishing Co. edition, p. 332.