J. T. Murphy

The Outlook

Source: The Communist Review, Vol. 1 August 1929, No. 8.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

NO event in the history of the Communist International stands out so supremely important to the working class of the world as the mobilisation order for International Red Day—August 1st. No decision was ever more urgent. It was intended as a preliminary mobilisation of the workers against the oncoming war and as a test of the capacity of all the parties of the Communist International to respond to the call of the International when it bids them muster the sum total of social forces possible against imperialist war. So rapidly is the war danger moving upon us, so loud is the beating of the war drums, so tense is the international situation that this intended preliminary mobilisation of masses against the imperialist war danger may be transformed at any moment into an actual mobilisation against war already upon us.

At the very moment of writing these lines thousands of troops and all the means of war are being rushed by the Chinese war lords to the Far Eastern frontiers of the Soviet Union. Soviet property is being seized. Hundreds of Soviet workers are being deported from Manchuria. The treaty between the Soviet Union and the Chinese Government has been torn to shreds by the Chinese warmongers. The peace policy of the Soviet Government has been interpreted as weakness. The remarkable patience of the Workers’ Republics in the face of unparalleled insults and provocations has been regarded as a licence to pile on the agony of still greater provocations. Has the moment come when, in spite of the door of peace being held wide open, even in the “ultimatum” of the Soviet Government, war is to be thrust upon the Workers’ Fatherland? It is impossible to say.

But this we do know—the deadly seriousness of the war danger is thrust upon us with overwhelming force. There is little need to bring forward statistics to prove the war danger now. We wait even as we work to hear the guns go off that are already in position to fire. Every imperialist Power is on the alert, tensely watching, wondering also whether the inescapable moment has come to transform war preparations into war itself. We hope with all earnestness that it is not. We hope intensely that the breathing space can be lengthened. The Soviet Union needs the breathing space. The working class of every country needs it. The parties of the Communist International need it. This we need, not for pacifist reasons, but to gather strength, to mobilise and rouse the masses against the war-makers, to forge the Communist Parties into real Bolshevik parties. Pacificism offers no resistance to imperialist war. On the contrary, it facilitates war preparations. It is at one with social pacifism that chloroforms the masses and subordinates the workers to the capitalist class. Instead of facilitating the destruction of capitalism, the continued existence of which makes war inevitable, it strengthens it, and saps the vitality from the social forces which alone can destroy it. The fight against imperialist war is thus inseparable from the intensification of the class war, the mobilisation of the exploited masses with their proletarian vanguard led by the Communist International against the imperialists and capitalists of the whole world. The struggle against imperialist war is thus inseparable from the struggle for the social revolution; the fight for the social revolution must perforce include the fight against imperialist war. It is this fact which links the liberation struggles of the colonial masses against the imperialists to the proletarian revolution in the metropolitan countries against the same imperialists.

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The more these things are understood the more it will be realised that the fight against the oncoming imperialist war is not simply a preparation for a demonstration on a particular day, namely, August 1st, but from now onwards is the dominating issue of every day. This was the outstanding conclusion of the Sixth World Congress of the Communist International. This conclusion was arrived at after a most exhaustive examination of the international economic and political situation. It was agreed that we are in a new period, not of capitalist stabilisation, but of increasing instability, of an increasing tempo in the development of the contradictions of capitalism. These contradictions are manifold. The forces of production have outgrown the capacity of the world market, yet because of its very nature capitalism must strive to increase its productive capacity. Every capitalist country is producing less than its capacity because of market limitations. Yet every capitalist country is engaged in a life-and-death struggle to carry through a technical revolution in its industry, to rationalise its industry, to lower the costs of production. The unequal development of capitalism of all countries and within all countries, the unequal possession of colonies, sources of raw material and market possibilities, prohibits any possibility whatever either of uniform control of production or the regulation of distribution. The more rapid the growth of capitalist combination, the shorter is the interval between its hours of crisis. And yet the capitalists cannot escape from the law of their own economy which compels them to combine, any more than they can escape the rationalisation drive and all it means.

The social consequences of these developments are as profoundly contradictory as the economic contradictions. The greater the rationalisation of industry the greater and more permanent becomes the army of unemployed workers, the more the employed masses are reduced to the level of machine-minders. The more the metropolitan countries develop their productive capacity, the greater their need for colonies, the more impelling the demand to subordinate colonial development to metropolitan capitalist needs at the expense of the colonial masses. Here are the foundations of the proletarian colonial revolutions.

When the Sixth Congress analysed the international situation and focussed these contradictions it did not base its conclusions with regard to any particular country merely upon whether its export trade was going up or down in relation to previous years’ records. It did not say that if, for example, British exports are increasing this is evidence of the growing stability of British capitalism, and if the exports are going down it is the sign of instability and impending collapse. These facts must be related to a whole series of other facts and factors in order to measure their full significance. There is not only the history of previous years to take into account but also the relation of these particular phenomena to international phenomena. It is a mistake to argue as if the case for the crisis of British capitalism turns upon a continuous decline in production, a continuous fall in exports, etc., and the evidence of British stability turns upon an increase in production and a rise in exports. Whilst these are important factors in the situation they are not the determining factors establishing the stability or instability of British capitalism in this period. Yet there is the tendency in some people’s minds to so estimate the situation, and consequently draw entirely wrong conclusions. Some people see nothing but a precipitous collapse of production as the evidence to establish the crisis of British capitalism, and others seize hold of every little percentage of increase in trade as evidence of stability and development, easing the economic crisis and also easing class relations. Both these estimates are, in our opinion, wrong. The outstanding feature of the crisis of capitalism, and which the Sixth Congress fastened upon as the key to our understanding of the present situation, including that of Britain, is the multiplication and intensification of the contradictions and antagonisms of capitalism. If this is the correct criterion for our estimate of the situation then an increase in production or a growth of export trade may prove to be, when placed in relation to other phenomena, an aggravation of the crisis rather than a sign of capitalist stability. It may also be the means of sharpening class relations rather than otherwise. For example, a recovery in the coal export trade of this country cannot help but accentuate the international coal crisis, whilst an increase of profit-making by the British coalowners must stimulate the miners to recover lost ground and lay the basis for an offensive of the miners. Again the opposite factors are operating in the cotton industry, and precipitating a clash of 600,000 workers against the cotton masters, who demand half a crown in the pound reduction in wages. While who will deny that the increase in competitive capacity of the British cotton industry, accompanied as it is with strenuous efforts of Britain to escape from the monopoly grip of America on raw cotton, is an intensification of the factors of international conflict? Those who do not grasp the fact that the crisis of British capitalism does not turn upon the question of the precipitous collapse of the heavy or basic industries, or upon a recovery based upon the rationalisation of industry but upon the intensification and development of economic and social antagonisms arising from both factors operating in the present international situation, miss the central fact of the whole situation. The Sixth World Congress recognised the general intensive and extensive development of the productive forces of capitalism brought up against the ever-sharpening limitations of the world market. It recognised the general backwardness of British economy in relation to its competitors. It recognised the efforts of the British capitalist class to overtake its competitors. Whether it succeeds or fails, and its success or failure varies from industry to industry, it cannot escape from the international mileu in which it struggles nor from the multiplication of its contradictions which flows from either line of development.

It is this fact which determines the social and political features of the new period characterised as the third period. It is this fact which sets the masses in motion and has given rise to a new wave of mass activity in almost every country. It is this fact that is giving rise to defensive and offensive struggles in Britain; struggles which are bound to increase and extend as the contradictions multiply. The advent of the Labour Government does not signalise the pacification of the working class or international peace, much as they would like the masses to slumber, and they themselves to pose as the white-robed herald angels. The third period is the period of the rapid development of ever greater contradictions at the foundations of capitalist economy, giving rise to intensified class struggles and the mobilisation of all the forces of capitalism for war.

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The six weeks of the Labour Government have enough history crowded within them to demonstrate the correctness of our case. The Labour Government has confirmed the Meerut “trial.” It has prohibited meetings of strikers in Bombay and sentenced one of the 32 Meerut prisoners to three years hard labour for a “seditious” speech that might have been delivered by any member of the Liberal Party. It has suppressed a number of Indian papers, and by dictatorial rule postponed the Indian elections. The King’s Speech declared that the Government would immediately “examine the conditions under which Great Britain would recognise the Soviet Union.” The Foreign Secretary declared later that the Soviet Union had been recognised since 1924. At the moment that the war lords of China made war against the Soviet Union, MacDonald, the prize flunkey of British history, comes forward and declares that there will be no recognition of the Soviet Union until the question is discussed in Parliament in the autumn session. The Government goes further and arrives at an agreement with the Chinese militarists to assist them in the development of the Chinese navy. The Cabinet participates in the aircraft display at Hendon, where the Red aeroplane is defeated by the Union Jack aeroplane. The Territorials are being re-equipped with 60 new first-class bombing aeroplanes for Empire service. The Labour Ministers outrival the Tories in the plea for “Empire unity.” The French Ministers put forward the slogan of the “United States of Europe excluding Soviet Russia.” The United States of America raises the Pan-American cry. But none of these latter projects can be self-contained entities. Each dominant force of these combinations must of necessity strive to conquer the others, and all are in deadly opposition to the U.S.S.R., which by its very nature, as the embodiment of the triumph of the class by whose exploitation capitalism exists, gives a mighty impulse to all the forces of social revolution.

The dispute among the Powers around the question of the allocation of reparations, the diplomatic scandals concerning naval treaties, the manœuvring of MacDonald and Dawes around the question of the relative naval strength of Britain and America, the outcry about the American tariffs, etc., are daily evidences of the fundamental differences between them, whilst the rapid development of the ring of bayonets and military forces around the frontiers of the Soviet Union, culminating in the latest outrage in Manchuria is terribly vital evidence of the universal imperialist plan to settle with the Soviet Union at no distant date.

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The rôle of the Labour Government in these developments cries aloud to us to understand the rôle of social-democracy or Labourism in this period, and to shake ourselves free from the fettering social-democratic traditions and methods of thought within the ranks of the revolutionary workers and our Party. We repeat and emphasise that Labourism or social-democracy is not an opposition to capitalism. It is the most powerful bulwark of capitalism, and the more “left” it appears, the greater the menace to the interests of the workers and the social revolution. Yet never was there greater confusion in our ranks, never was there greater need for the uprooting of this danger from our midst. It is fettering the Party at every step and preventing the Party from attracting the workers to itself. It would be easy to give innumerable examples to prove our case up to the hilt, but sufficient here to give one outstanding example, in addition to calling attention to the various articles of leading comrades appearing in recent numbers of the “Communist Review,” which illustrate the existing confusion. The treatment of the “Meerut trial” is annoying. In the “Workers’ Life” of June 28th there is a front-page cartoon depicting a demand for a trial by jury on the basis of Magna Carta. The leading article of the same issue says not one word about the demand for the quashing of the trial and the liberation of the men, and after demurring that: “This Government which talks about democracy will not even ensure for the men on trial their right to trial by jury,” finishes on the note that “the Labour Government itself is on trial.” On July 8th headlines welcome Maxton to the Meerut Defence Committee, as if this was he outstanding political event in the development of the Meerut Defence campaign, and we had had no experience of the rôle of Maxton as the safety valve of the Labour Party.

But the “Sunday Worker” goes still further to the bad. Indeed, a perusal of the issues of June 30th and July 7th would lead one to think that the “Sunday Worker” had ceased to be a revolutionary paper, and had become the organ of the I.L.P. so pronounced is its boosting of its leaders at the very moment when they had succeeded, by means of a “private deputation” to their fellow I.L.P.’er in charge of the India Office, in scotching the public deputation of the Defence Committee. Is this kind of treatment of social-democracy going to facilitate its exposure and lead the workers in a revolutionary direction? Most decidedly not. It shows most conclusively that the rôle of the social-democracy in this period is not understood, and that the rôle of the “left” social-democrats as the most dangerous enemies of the revolutionary movement is completely obscured. Indeed, the approach to the whole situation is that of a left-wing spokesman of the Labour Party, and not that either of the Communist Party or the revolutionary workers outside our Party.

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The seriousness of this situation cannot be over-emphasised, for it is not incidental but characteristic. One of the most serious tasks in conducting the fight against the war danger is the battle against these social-democratic tendencies which run through the Party and the ranks of the revolutionary workers from end to end. They have held the Party back for several years. The masses were ahead of the Party. They were leaving the Labour Party, calling for a new leadership, and we drove them back to the Labour Party and the trade union bureaucrats. The new period demands that our Party lead the masses away from the Labour Party, the I.L.P. and the trade union bureaucrats, the instruments of the bourgeoisie for mobilising the masses for war preparations. How can we do this and fight the war danger by the development of the class war without our Party itself breaks with these forces, grasps the essential characteristics of the new period and shows its capacity to lead the working class against the social-democrats? It is impossible. An integral part of the fight against the war danger and the actual mobilisation of the workers under revolutionary leadership is the complete elimination of social-democratic tendencies from our ranks and the destruction of the power of the Labour Party and its agents over the workers.

J. T. M.