Showing posts with label William Morris. Show all posts
Showing posts with label William Morris. Show all posts

Sunday, March 30, 2014

William Morris and Socialism

The Socialist Party’s vision of a stateless, wageless, moneyless society is very close to anarchists like Peter Kropotkin in terms of both principles and practice, in the matter of how to organise and maintain a decentralised, collectivised, steady state, ecological society, in which both social responsibility and personal freedom are given equal emphasis, and guaranteed. It is also closely akin to the aspirations of William Morris.

The steady state economy forms a complete contrast to the capitalist economy in which, as Marx wrote, accumulation is Moses and all the prophets. The accumulative logic of capital ensures an endless ‘growth for growth’s sake’, turning finite needs into infinite wants to keep human beings trapped on a ceaseless treadmill. Once human needs are understood as finite, then the absurdity of the capital system is exposed.  In a steady-state economy, production is geared towards the satisfaction of needs rather than making profits through the inflation of wants. There is also the need to replace and repair the existing stock of means of production, both raw materials and instruments of production. The result is an economy which is geared to the satisfaction of people’s needs as opposed to blindly, endlessly accumulating more and more means of production in order to facilitate further accumulation. Such a system is a nihilism, endless, pointless – accumulation for the sake of further accumulation. A communist society would build thestock of means of production up to this level, and gear it towards the satisfaction of needs. At this point, accumulation, and even the further expansion of the stock of means of production, would cease and production levels stabilized. Economic growth – endless accumulation for the sake of accumulation – is unsustainable. Socialism is where economics and ecology are reunited,  based on a sustainable relationship of human society with the rest of nature, a life-affirming system of production which is in balance with the capacity of the biosphere to renew and replenish itself after supplying human with all they need.

“Free men … must lead simple lives and have simple pleasures: and if weshudder away from that necessity now, it is because we are not free men,and have in consequence wrapped up our lives in such a complexity of dependence that we have grown feeble and helpless." - William Morris,
The Society of the Future

The socialist society of the future will be characterised by simplicity but we should not confused simplicity with poverty or drabness for variety of life was as much an aim of socialism as equality. factories – ‘banded workshops’ as William Morris described them- may well be necessary, either to conserve energy through collective enterprise or to produce an article on a larger scale. In such collective workshops,individuals combine to work together to produce, for instance, metal (which needs smelting), and pottery and glass (which need large kilns) but the minerals will be extracted with as little pollution as possible with  widespread use both of wind and water power, and energy generated by renewable resources. Socialists envisages a free, unstratified distribution of goods. Whilst no-one is prevented from taking less than they desire, people learn to take no more than they need, since a scaling back of wants has redefined abundance beyond artificial scarcity.  Production for needs as against for profit thus produces a sufficiency which is able to satisfy the requirements of society, whilst also eliminating waste. Socialism as a society is able to lessen its deleterious impact on nature – and on human beings - by abolishing the production of waste, production geared to profit and false wants. By transforming the nature of work, the eco-socialist community of the future is able to reduce its use of energy and conserve natural resources, slowing down the rate at which productive human activity converts them from the ‘raw’ state to waste. The result is a changed relationship between individuals in society and between society and nature.

Socialism is a community of equals, in which each and all would have full and free access to the means of production, which would be used to produce useful things for the satisfaction of individual and collective needs of the community. In a socialist society, production for use would replace production geared towards buying and selling on a market with a view to making profits for a privileged owning class. In socialism  all associating and cooperating individuals are able to satisfy their needs, freely and fully; they do not have to pay for the useful things they need but take them from the stores according to a self-assessment of their own needs. It is a society which has abolished buying or selling as well as money, and  there is free access to goods and services according to self-defined needs. The means of production, owned by no individual or sectional group, but used by all according to need. An intrinsic feature of the socialist society is constituted by cooperative decision-making arrangements powered from the base upwards. In asocialist society, the coercive functions of a central state would no longer be required, whilst any administrative activities would be devolved to local communities, groups of producers and federation of local and industrial organisations. All men and women will have a share in the responsibility of the administration of things, whether in a commune, or a ward, or a parish, small scale units being desirable so that the greatest possible number of persons might be interested in public affairs. General assemblies  of all the members of the community would be the decision-making body in these communities and decisions would be based on consensus, with majority vote only required as a last resort. A participatory socialist democaracy society will be voluntary in the sense that all people will agree in its broad principles when it is fairly established, and will trust to it as affording mankind the best kind of life possible – i.e., due opportunity free to everyone for the satisfaction of his needs.  A local community could not be, or would want to be, self-sufficient, and will be inter-linked with other communities for specific purposes. These links would be established on a federal basis, so that the political power of centralised states would be dissolved into independent free communities living in  harmonious federation with each other, managing their own affairs by the free consent of their members. The regional bodies would be made up of delegates sent by the local communities. Just as the basic unit of political administration would be the local community, so the basic unit of the economy would be the local workers council. Those in the same trade or industry would organise themselves into abody for the purposes of controlling production in that particular branch. In like manner to the local communities in politics, these industrial bodies would federate on a national and a world basis. Production would be primarily for local use, supplemented as necessary by transfers of essential materials and products not available everywhere between regions arranged by co-ordinating centres at regional and world levels.

It is something of a misnomer to argue that socialism is based on the common ownership of the means of production. In truth, with socialism the means of production are owned by no one,neither individual nor group, and certainly not the state; socialist society is a system of non-ownership. The concept of property has given way to production solely for use, with property rights in the means of production being replaced by commonly agreed and adhered to social arrangements which allow free access to the means of production for use according to need

This concept of socialism is often labeled ‘utopian’  but if the definition of ‘utopian’ is the pursuit of an end or an ideal in abstraction from the means of its realisation, the Socialist Party deny the charge. Ours is not an ideal social system which is the product of the imagination, but  connected to the means of its realisation – the creative political agency of the working class. We are a political party that possesses a clear vision not only about the basic features of the future society - common ownership in place of private property, production and distribution according to need and use as against buying and selling for exchange value – but about the means of reaching that end. We advocate the class struggle in a class war against the plutocracy. Revolution is  a process whereby workers learn to organise themselves and develop the ability to administer their own affairs in their own collective interest. Part and parcel of the revolution is that, in struggling to change society, workers also change themselves. The socialist revolution does not arise simply when a sufficient number of workers have had their otherwise empty heads filled with socialist propaganda. Rather it is that, through their own experiences of struggle, first within capitalism and ultimately against capitalism,workers come to understand not only how to fight but also what it is that they are fighting for. Discontent is not enough, though it is natural and inevitable. The discontented must know what they are aiming at.

Through their possession of the means of production, capitalists compel the workers to sell their labour power for wages which are less than its true value, the surplus value being appropriated by capital. This exploitation is the basis of class struggle. We argue for human co-operation to replace the system of class exploitation and commercial competition but we are well aware that such co-operation was possible only on the basis of certain social relations. The prerequisite for human cooperation is the establishment of a classless society. Conflict is endemic to the capital system.  You cannot have profit-making without competition, individual, corporate, and national; but you may work for a livelihood without competing and you may combine instead of competing. A system of exploitation and domination is incapable of generating the conditions which promote the flourishing of human life. In such a system, labour ceases to be the creative means of human self-expression and merely becomes the means to making money and profits. The result is dehumanisation and degradation. The privilege enjoyed by the capitalist class has nothing to do with talent and ingenuity but is but the privilege of the robber by force of arms.

Attempts at social reform can end up ameliorating the workers’ condition at the expense of the workers freedom, independence and initiative. The workers remain workers within an oppressive, exploitative and alienated system. Political changes is  are done not for  the workers but by them. There is little point in the workers exchanging one form of class rule for another.regardless of how  rational and well-meaning it claims to be. The workers remain workers, with all that that entails with respect to the dehumanisation of labour.

William Morris summed up our task:
 “ The real business of Socialists is to impress on the workers the fact thatthey are a class, whereas they ought to be Society...The work that lies before us at present is to make Socialists, to cover the country with a network of associations composed of men who feel their antagonism to the dominant classes, and have no temptation to waste their time in the thousand follies of party politics...” (Socialism and Politics’, 1885)

“I say that our business is more than ever Education…It is too much to hope that the
whole working class can be educated in theaims of Socialism in due time, before other surprises take place. But we must hope that a strong party can be so educated. Educated in economics,in organisation, and in administration. To such a body of men all the aspirations and vague opinion of the oppressed multitudes would drift, little by little they would be educated by them, if the march of events would give us time…We must be no mere debating club, or philosophical society; we must take part in all really popular movements when we can make our own views on them unmistakeably clear; that is a most importantpart of the education in organisation.Education towards Revolution seems to me to express in three words whatour policy should be..”

Without an organised political party embodying a theoretical consciousness of socialism, any spontaneous revolt would dissipate its energies and fall to the counter-revolution. The task facing socialists is to aid the conscious attacks on the system by all those who feel themselves wronged by it. The real business of socialists is to instil the aim of the workers becoming the masters of their own destinies and of  their own lives. The socialist objective is to form a vast labour organisation of all the workers who have awoke to the fact that they are wage-slaves and the purpose  of this labour organisation is the overthrow of capitalism and the achievement of socialism, its weapons would be those of solidarity and cooperation; the strike and the boycott.

But Morris understood the limits of socialist agitation and once again emphasised that
 “Our business .. is the making of Socialists, i.e. convincing people that Socialism is good for them and is possible. When we have enough people of that way of thinking, they will find out what action is necessary for putting their principles in practice. Until we have that mass of opinion, action for a general change that will benefit the whole people is impossible. Have we that body of opinion or anything like it? Surely not… Though there are a great many who believe it possible to compel their masters .. to behave better to them, and though they are prepared to compel them … all but a very small minority are not prepared to do without masters. They do not believe in their own capacity to undertake the management of affairs, and to be responsible for their life in this world. When they are so prepared, then Socialism will be realised; but nothing can push it on a day in advance of that time.” (Commonweal, November 15th, 1890)

A socialist party has a twofold task, to provide the theory of the struggle in order to give direction to the spontaneous movement of the workers, and to participate alongside the workers in the class struggle, whatever form it takes.

Abridged and adapted from a paper by Peter Critchley that can be found here

Sunday, November 25, 2012

William Morris Again

News from Nowhere is an account by William Morris of a socialist returning home from a branch meeting of the Hammersmith Socialist League to fall into a deep sleep. When he awakes, he is in the socialist future. People are living in equality, and there is no money, no government, no marriage and no politics. The people live in harmony with nature, and work because they enjoy it, take pleasure in crafts, and have few conflicts with one another. Morris’s vision echoes Marx’s idea that under communism people would be able "to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner."

William Morris could be so easily dismissed as utopian if it were not for the amount of time, effort and money he expended on what he called ‘practical socialism’: printing newspapers, leaflets and pamphlets, organising meetings, giving lectures and building socialism as a political force. . He called himself a ‘dreamer of dreams, born out of my due time.’ Yet he was also every bit as much a political organiser as Keir Hardie. His socialism was imbued with environmentalism and an understanding of the brutalising nature of the modern city. He railed against pollution, the destruction of ancient buildings, shoddy goods and poor design. He was a ‘green’ long before the term was invented.  His vision is inspiring. His politics are uncompromising.

Socialist Courier suggests the following for further reading, an article by Colin Skelly written for the Morris Society.

A Revolutionary Socialist by Adam Buick
A critique of Paul Meiers biography of Morris by Adam Buick

Stephen Coleman,
 "The Economics of Utopia: Morris and Bellamy Contrasted."
 "What Can We Learn from William Morris?"
"William Morris and 'Education Towards Revolution': 'Making Socialists' versus 'Putting Them In Their Place.'"

Saturday, November 10, 2012

William Morris in Scotland (3)

Socialism Militant

Commonweal, Vol 4, No. 117, 7 April 1888, p.106-7

Since a year may make a good deal of difference in the position of a party, even when it is being carried on by quiet propaganda, I give a brief account of my lecturing tour in Scotland and my impressions of the position of Socialism there. On the 21st March I lectured at Kilmarnock, a not very important town on the edge of the mining district. The chief industry in the town itself is that of the railway works — a tolerably good indication, by the way, of labour being cheap in the neighbourhood; accordingly I was informed that the iron-miners in the neighbourhood are earning about nine shillings a-week working four days a-week, and that the coal-miners in the neighbourhood are not much better off. I spoke in the church of Mr Forrest, my inviter. The audience was fair as to numbers; they were not demonstrative, and it was found impossible to get them to ask any questions; they were, however, very attentive, and showed their interest in the subject by buying over 10s. worth of literature. A large proportion of the audience seemed to me to be of the middle-classes. A branch of the Scottish Land and Labour League has just been formed here, but I was told that the town was hard to move.

The following Friday produced a failure. Our Edinburgh comrades had taken a large hall for my lecture in Leith (not being able to get a smaller one), but only five persons turned up besides the branch, who showed up well; so the money was returned and we gave it up. However, seeing plenty of people hanging about in the street as we went homeward rather sadly, we started an open-air meeting, and got together upwards of 200 persons, who listened for an hour and a half to me and some of the members of the branch, though the snow presently began to come down fast.

The next day I went to West Calder, a mining village some half-hour’s railway ride from Edinburgh. We did not expect much of a meeting on a Saturday evening in such a place, especially as a very moderate amount of advertising had been used; but some of our Edinburgh comrades got down there, and did their best to get an audience by beginning in the open air; the bell-man — or rather, the bell-boy — was sent round also, and we got together some sixty persons, all work-men, into the room, which was thought very good considering the circumstances. They made an excellent audience as to attention and spirit. In the ensuing discussion, one person put forward as an objection a point which I see is made the most of by a well-known hand in To-day — to wit, that Socialism will produce wealth so abundantly and easily that we should not find work enough to do, and should deteriorate in consequence. The audience, mostly miners, obviously thought that this was an objection which might be passed over for the present, and were much tickled by the objector’s persistency in his threats of a life of ease.

The Edinburgh Whig rag, the Scotsman, by the way, paid me the compliment of publishing a paragraph on this meeting, which implied that I could not get an audience and came away with nothing done; and when I wrote to contradict its statement, favoured its readers with an explanation which was a model of the suppression of truth and suggestion of untruth. It is a matter of course that this journal goes out of its way to treat our friends unfairly.

On Sunday I went to Glasgow; and here I had every reason to damn ‘the nature of things’ as heartily as Porson did when he hit his head against the doorpost; for it came on to snow at about one o'clock and snowed till the time of meeting harder than I ever saw it snow, so that by 7.30 Glasgow streets were more than ankle-deep in half-frozen slush, and I made up my mind to an audience of fifty in a big hall; however it was not as bad as that, for it mustered over 500, who passed nem. con. a resolution in favour of Socialism. Owing to the weather, our comrades could not attempt the preliminary open-air meetings which they had intended to do; so I passed the day with them in their rooms in John Street, very much to my own pleasure, as without flattery they were, as I have always found them, hearty good fellows and thorough Socialists. All political parties in Glasgow have been depressed of late, they told me, and the Socialists have partly shared in this depression, though not as much as other bodies; but the knowledge of the movement and sympathy with it have grown very much, and our comrades are in good heart about it. The first novelty of the subject has worn off, and those who attend the meetings now are those who look upon the matter seriously. This is the view taken by our comrades wherever I went, and from all I could see I thought it the accurate one.

Perhaps the next day’s meeting (Monday) at Edinburgh tended to show this. It was a miserable night again, and we did not expect an audience of dilettanti — and did not get it. It was about as numerous as I got last year under better circumstances, but differed from that in having scarcely any middle-class persons in it. As to quality, it was one of the very best audiences I ever spoke to, and missed no point in the lecture. In fact in Edinburgh at least I seem to have exhausted the sympathies (?) of those who came at first to amuse themselves over the eccentricities of a literary man, and only those are left who really want to take counsel about the one question worth considering — how to free our minds and bodies from capitalistic tyranny. We had the usual treat afforded us by one Mr Job Bone, who attends and opposes all meetings, and who used to be thought a nuisance, but is now accepted as a convenient shoeing-horn to a discussion, and whose malicious folly is useful in drawing out the lecturer to explain matters that might otherwise remain unnoticed.

The next day I went to Dundee, where I had much the same kind of audience, except that there were more middle-class persons amongst it, who made themselves useful by asking questions easily answered, but (I hope) in a way not satisfactory to them, though very much so to the working-men present. One of the questioners was the sub-editor of the Radical paper, and I answered an unfair question of his with some warmth, so I was not surprised at getting a very curt report next morning; whereas the Tory journal reported us fairly and well. The audience was very hearty and appreciative. There is a branch here of the Scottish Land and Labour League, manned by energetic workers, whose work, however, is difficult, because ordinary party politics run high in Dundee, and the Radicals there have not got further than the Gladstoneite programme, if it can be called a programme.

From Dundee I went to Aberdeen, where I found another branch of the SLLL, including some energetic and intelligent men, a good deal kept down, as might be expected, by the ordinary Radicalism of the place, and some of whom, I think I may say consequently, are rather eager to try parliamentary agitation. Another stormy and wretched evening made me expect a thin audience; but the hall, which was a small one, was filled. The audience was mostly middle-class here, and rather heavy to lift, though attentive and not disposed to carp. The press reported the meeting carefully and well next morning.

If I could have, I would have visited Carnoustie, a mere village between Aberdeen and Dundee, but which has a good branch; but time was getting on, and I had promised to assist at a social gathering of our Edinburgh comrades on Thursday evening. I had a pleasant and interesting evening with them; and so finished what I came to do.

On the whole, in spite of some poor audiences (though the weather largely accounts for that), I was very favourably impressed by the outlook for Socialism in Scotland. There can be no doubt that much progress has been made since last year, in the teeth of great difficulties. As aforesaid, the novelty has worn off; respectability is beginning to see what Socialism really means, and doesn’t like the look of it at all; the press is deadly hostile, and not ashamed of any meanness in its treatment of the movement those who are dependent on ‘employers’ need expect no mercy from them if they are spotted as Socialists; the traditional puritanism of the country throws additional obstacles in the way of propaganda, — and with all this the movement is gaining ground steadily, and has an appearance of solidity about it which is most encouraging. I saw most of our Edinburgh comrades, and they seem to me to have entered on a new stage of the movement, and to promise to be as staunch as may be. The progress they have made since last year is remarkable.

Friday, November 09, 2012

William Morris in Scotland (2)

The Sequel of the Scotch Letter

 Commonweal, Vol 2, No. 26, 10 July 1886, p.114

On Sunday 27th June I lectured on the ‘Political Outlook’ at the Waterloo Rooms, Glasgow, the same place where my Thursday’s lecture was given; this was under the auspices of the Branch, and our comrade Muirhead took the chair. There was a larger attendance than on the Thursday; howbeit several got up and went out almost as soon as I began: it seems there was some mistake as to my subject, as there was a religious meeting elsewhere on the premises, and some of the proper audience thereof had wandered into our hall. Moreover I suspect that some found themselves ‘caught’ by my title, and expected the lecture to refer to the present election instead of the wider subject which it dealt with. The audience was over 600, I should think, and was attentive and sympathetic. Instead of the cut-and-dried, meaningless vote of thanks, our comrades arranged to try the effect of a resolution, which was thus worded: ‘That all political action which does not aim at placing the entire means of production in the hands of the community, to be used by it for the equal benefit of all, is totally inadequate to raise the present labouring classes to the level which they have a right to claim as human beings.’ Comrade Glasier put this resolution in a very able speech, and it was seconded by Mr Cunninghame; and to my surprise no one proposed an amendment, or spoke against it: some half-dozen hands were held up against it; the rest, for. We afterwards appealed to the audience to make their resolution good by joining the League, and got some names at any rate. Mr Bennet, once editor of the Radical, who said he had come in late by misadventure, made a sympathetic speech at the end of the meeting. The literature sold well.

The last lecture was on Monday 28th, at Bridgeton, the east end of Glasgow, and to speak plainly a most woeful abode of man, crying out from each miserable court and squalid, crowded house for the abolition of the tyranny of exploitation. But here we did not score a success. There were election meetings going on all about us; and I fear that our audience was just not that which we wanted — to wit the poor folk of the district, who, if they only knew it, do so sorely need showing what it is that has doomed them to their special form of hell-upon-earth — one of the worst forms in existence, I should think. The audience was about 200, in a large hall, but entirely on our side. The monotony of acquiescence was only broken by an eager religionist, who turned his question-time into a kind of sermon addressed to us, which the audience listened to rather impatiently. A clergyman who elicited from me the answer that service as well as actual production of commodities conferred the title of good citizenship upon a man, seemed satisfied that this admission safe-guarded his craft in future society; but as he did not openly champion that position, it was not discussed. Comrades Glasier and Greer moved and seconded a resolution, the wording of which has escaped my memory, but which was rather more complete in its Socialism than the one of Sunday, and no hand was held up against it. Several names were taken for the Branch before we left the hall.

This was the end of my work; but I should mention that I had a long conference with the Branch on the Sunday, and must say that though circumstances prevent their propaganda from being showy, it is sound, and especially that there seems every chance of their developing the sale of Commonweal. I must add that the Branch of the Social Democratic Federation is on very friendly terms with them, and that they co-operated heartily in trying to make our meetings a success; and the members that I came across were very cordial to me.

Altogether the condition of opinion in the Scotch towns that I have visited is encouraging. It must be remembered that it was a bad time of the year for the kind of work I had in hand; to which must be added the much more important stumbling-block days of the most exciting election time of our days and yet the halls were mostly well filled, and the audiences more than attentive — almost enthusiastic — and as above said, two of them passed Socialist resolutions. In short, not to make too much of outward tokens, one could not help feeling that the ideas of socialism are taking hold, and that people are beginning to feel the hollowness of that kind of politics in which all reforms pass by those who need them most. Nor will the attachment to puritanic religion, which has been held up as such a bugbear to us, be a very serious barrier to Socialism; the one or two appeals to it which were made in my hearing were received decidedly coldly. The Scotch, it seems, no longer care to mix religion with their politics, whatever influence genuine feeling, or habit, or respectability may have on them in the matter. I was told that when Henry George appealed to their old puritanic feeling on the occasion of his last visit, it fell very flat indeed; and I was not surprised to hear it, after my own small experience herein. Here, then, is good hope of harvest, and once again the labourers are few. Let us hope that will mend before long, and that Scotland will not be the last in the Revolution.

William Morris in Scotland (1)

William Morris (1834-1896)

A Letter from Scotland

Commonweal, Vol 2, No. 25, 3 July 1886, p.105-106;

On Tuesday 22nd I found myself at Arbroath, a pleasant stone-built town of some 20,000 inhabitants on the German Ocean, the original of ‘Fairport’ in Scott’s ‘Antiquary’, the remains of a magnificent church and abbey dominating the homely houses. The industry practised there is sail-cloth making, and it is in a very dismal condition at present. There was much suffering there in the past winter. In a walk that I took with my host (a Free Kirk minister and a Socialist), we got into conversation with a field-labourer who was resting from his job of harrowing at a field’s end. I should premise, for the benefit of our English readers, that Scotch field-labourers are hired by the half-year, and receive their ‘meal-and-milk’, lodging in a ‘bothy’ — or a not too luxurious pig-sty — and a sum of money. This friend, who was a brisk and intelligent young man, told us that wages were low, and that he was now receiving £9 for the half-year, instead of £12, which he used to receive. He also told us, perhaps unnecessarily, that he could not save out of this splendid salary. I was told afterwards that wages had fallen back to what they were ten years ago, at which time they had risen suddenly. A foreman, a friend told us, was now getting £28 per annum, which used to be the wages of a full private labourer.

In the evening I lectured to an audience of upwards of 600 very attentive persons, mostly of the working-class. They cheered me heartily, and took up the points well. There was a goodly attendance on the platform of the committee who had organized the meeting, and who were chiefly co-operators. Questions being asked for, I only got one, from the irrepressible temperance champion, which was received with some laughter. In fact, the meeting was rather huddled up at the end, as there was no gas and the light began to fade into the mid-summer twilight, which is all the darkness of those northern regions at this time of year. A fair amount of literature was sold.

On the 23rd I lectured at Edinburgh, in the Oddfellows’ Hall, for the committee which is the fag-end of the Industrial Remuneration Conference of last year. We expected but a poor attendance, as there were several meetings of parliamentary candidates going on in the city; but after all it turned out well, the attendance being better than at any previous lecture. Again the audience seemed sympathetic — nay, enthusiastic. I asked for questions in writing, dreading the meandering speech which usually accompanies spoken questions. I got quite a pack of cards of them; and the answers were well received. A clergyman was in the chair, another (our friend Mr Glasse, who made a Socialistic speech) moved the vote of thanks, and a third seconded it. This last gentleman poked some heavy ecclesiastical fun at me, interlarded with buttery compliments. Once for all, I must ask our comrades to forgive me for receiving votes of thanks, on the ground that I could not help it. The sale of literature was good. I had a short but pleasant interview with the members of the Branch afterwards. They seemed rather depressed; lack speakers, and so find it difficult to make much way; but are getting a few new members, in spite of the slackness of their propaganda. They told me that a branch of the Social Democratic Federation started, apparently with good prospects, early this year or late last (I forget which), had quite disappeared after a few weeks’ existence. One comrade said that in talking to fellow-workmen they would agree with everything that he said in favour of Socialism, but could not be brought further than this passive adherence. On the other hand our comrades are making most commendable efforts to push the Commonweal, and with much success. The news-shops take it and sell it, too, and they are also getting newsboys to sell it; so that propaganda of some sort is going on, only our comrades feel the want of public and obvious propaganda. I should add, the University Society, who have a good deal retreated from their position, at all events in appearance, are starting a kind of progressive debating society, appealing to trades’ unionists and co-operatives to join it, which our comrades intend to use for their own and other people’s education.

The 24th I gave the same lecture at Glasgow. A wet evening, meetings of candidates throughout the town, and again apprehensions of a failure; but again a good audience, perhaps rather more in assent than at Edinburgh; a somewhat overwhelming amount of questions, the answers to which were very well received. A sprinkling of Ruskinians were there, somewhat inclined, I fancy, to take exception to the roughness of the opinions: indeed, the mover of that (terrible) vote of thanks said as much, and was somewhat cheered.

I may here remark that it seems to me that the Scotch are much given to ‘lion-hunting’, and that therefore it is necessary for a Socialist who wants to get at the facts to discount a certain amount of the enthusiasm with which he is received, if he happens to have any reputation outside Socialism. Still enough remains in these cases to show that there were many in the audience who really agreed. At Glasgow there was a good sprinkling also of Land Restorers; but these, I think, are beginning to see out of the narrow close in which Henry George has hedged them.

The 25th I lectured at Dundee and had much such an audience as at Glasgow, only that they lacked the instruction that our Branch has, with all drawbacks, given to the Glasgow folk, and therefore did not seem so ready to take up the points. Trade is very slack at Dundee; the jute business nearly gone, Indian competition having destroyed it. I was told that there are few places where the difference between the classes is more felt than it is at Dundee. I much regretted that I could not stop there and get to know some of the workers. Our comrades here (Glasgow) ought to make a push to get up a branch at Dundee.

I meet the Branch to-day, and in the evening lecture again. Tomorrow I lecture at Bridgeton, a suburb of Glasgow. But I send this off to be in time for the current number, and will give an account of whatever else happens next week.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Re-writing the past

Salmond will launch the SNP's campaign for  independence later this month claiming he is on track to win secession following last week’s local government elections. The Alpha and Omega for the SNP is the Scottish Saltire fluttering over a fully independent parliament. Lets not make any mistake, the cause of Scottish suffering is not the Union with England but the fact that the means by which Scots must live are in possession of a class which will not allow the people to use these means unless they accrue profit to that minority parasite class. Socialist Courier has shown that the Scottish capitalist class obtained their possessions by theft, that in the process of the thievery thousands of workers’ lives have been sacrificed.

Our allegation that capitalism was built upon the robbery and murder of the workers is fully justified yet the nationalists receives them with welcoming open arms, ignoring the fact that the patriotism of the master class, like their pretences of kindness, generosity, and magnanimity, is sheer hypocrisy and cant. The capitalist’s love of his country withers before a fraction percent on the yield of his capital. He has no scruples in displacing the Scot's worker with machinery, directly he can save wages by so doing or by exporting jobs and investment abroad if the returns prove greater.

Scots sing of Bonnie Scotland and its purple heather covered hills. Its not their Bonnie Scotland, nor their heather hills. A typical Scot could scarcely fill a flower-pot with the land he owns in Scotland. Its the bosses' Scotland. It is their hills. The government acts as their factor, serving their interests.

All nationalism is based on mythical history and have to create their ideologies from whatever scraps come to hand, and the Scots version is no exception.  But perhaps luckier than most with its many tales of romance.  But we should not  ahistorically give to a medieval mind the sensibilities of a later, modern age. Such as the idea of Wallace was an early exponent of “democratic patriotism”. Wallace never fought for an abstract “people” or even “nation”, but always in the name of a legitimate power of which he was but the temporary protector or “Guardian”  -  the disposed king, John Balliol. It was William Wallace's sole aim to restore Balliol to the throne of Scotland. And those medieval signatories to the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath were no more than feudal  barons asserting their claim to rule and lord it over their own tenants and serfs, not leading any  "liberation struggle". In fact, John de Menteith, who turned Wallace over to Edward of England put his seal to the Declaration of Arbroath.

Little known fact!
Edinburgh branch of the Socialist League was launched with a meeting of 500 in 1885. In 1887 William Morris writes in the Socialist League's Commonweal "In Edinburgh which is the most bourgeois town in Britain, we are able to get our halls filled Sunday after Sunday with the very best of workmen.They mean business..." Between May 1887 and May 1888 40 open air meetings and 29 indoor meetinhgs were held.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Vision of Socialism

Not looking forward to the Queen's Christmas message , then why not download and listen to one of the Socialist Party talks that Darren has upload.

Stephen Coleman discusses William Morris and his Vision of Socialism . Download from here .

Friday, November 23, 2007

Reforming Child Poverty

Child poverty in Scotland once again is in the news .

A charity has launched a campaign aimed at eradicating child poverty in Scotland. Save the Children said almost one in every 10 children in Scotland was living in "severe poverty" and that the problem was a "national disgrace "

Save the Children classes the worst deprivation as that which forces families to live on £19 a day, after paying housing costs. Previous research by Save the Children revealed that 90,000 children in Scotland live in severe poverty.

"Parents are being forced to make impossible decisions between such basic provisions as providing an adequate meal or putting on the heating..." said Save the Children's programme director for Scotland .

Yet , as always and as before , the solutions offered by the charity are aimed at only alleviating child poverty through tinkering with the system - more government money (£4 billion) , helping parents back to work, and a new scheme to give poorer families seasonal grants of £100 for each child in summer and winter - remedies that Socialist Courier place no hope in .

"The palliatives over which many worthy people are busying themselves now are useless because they are but unorganised partial revolts against a vast, wide-spreading, grasping organisation which will, with the unconscious instinct of a plant, meet every attempt at bettering the conditions of the people with an attack on a fresh side. " - William Morris .

We have seen many times how after all of the reforms obtained by "worthy" reformers who sought welfare aid for workers, the system simply creates new dimensions of poverty which undermine whatever apparent progress the reformers made. Capitalism as a social system cannot be humanised by reforms .