Thursday, November 30, 2006
Hell's Alley , A 2-Act Play
A Two Act Play
by Larry Tickner
( Dramatization of events preceding to , and from “Bloody Saturday” , June 21 1919 , arising from the Winnipeg General Sympathetic Strike )
Note: I have taken a few liberties with the events of this time in order to best condense the events and feelings of the times . For example :Secretary of the Seattle Trades and Labor Council , James Duncan , had actually made his address a couple of weeks earlier. And those of the Central Strike Committee as were arrested had been arrested days earlier . So Sam Blumenburg , soldier Bray and Helen Armstrong would not be present . However , Helen did take lumps on occasions and is useful in conveying sentiments of Strike Committee . The Socialist , Blumenburg , was actually a dry cleaner but rates being written in , not just for his classic (genuine) one-liner but to show problems of “enemy aliens” . The secret police reports are of various times and sometimes condensations of more than one report to give the idea of the hysteria and paranoia that existed in some official circles . Like wise with government officials . The beating is as nearly accurately reproduced as possible. There is some controversy as to whether the workers did or did not destroy some of the interior of the streetcar , so I left it out . They did not , as some historians have claimed , tip over the streetcar. They tried , but it was too heavy. So are a lot of things . Larry Tickner
ex-Gen. Sec. S.P.C.
Cast , in order of appearance :
COMMENTARY: Relates happenings and statements of others away from the scene. As he gives wide cross-section of views of various elements it is important that his face not reflect conflicting emotions and should be blanked out with makeup . It is occasionally necessary that he be able to call on a booming voice that will shake the rafters .
“WORKERS”: All somewhat a-political , reflecting the general situation of the time . The common headgear of workers , at the time , was the bowler hat. But as such is not likely to carry the desired impression upon today’s audiences it is perhaps better that wear tweed or cloth caps .
WORKER 1: Generally more than average social awareness . Experienced . Knows he is in a tough fight but prepared to hang in there no matter what .
WORKER 2: Considerably less aware , but not lacking in courage . Slight foreign accent.
WORKER 3: Probably would have given in at the first blush if not carried by the tide of determination amongst his peers.
WORKER 4: Highly idealistic ( more than the others). Still retains the original religious fervour. Prepared to act first and think later.
( Soldiers all in uniform )
SOLDIER BRAY: Active supporter of the strike.
OTHER SOLDIERS: As many as can be comfortably accommodated on stage.
An attempt to attain an approximate balance between them and workers .
HELEN ARMSTRONG: Wife of socialist and carpenter union organiser George Armstrong. A socialist speaker in her own right. A proud upright woman. Femininely attractive enough , but dressing in such a manner as to neither hide nor exploit the fact .
SAM BLUMENBERG: Socialist , slight Jewish accent , but quite articulate. Fellow metal worker with Russell.
JAMES DUNCAN: President of Seattle Labor Council . He is not unsympathetic to groundswell of need for industrial unions but is attempting to achieve it by reforming the American Federation of Labour (AFL)
( Open Set )
Market Square , opposite Winnipeg City Hall . Center stage is a raised platform suitable for speakers. There are a few chairs on the platform for the speakers . At extreme left and extreme downstage stands COMMENTARY . He holds a scroll before himself . He can use it for cues , but it is preferred that he memorize his lines. He remains still when not speaking and when he speaks the “participating players” freeze as , except where otherwise noted . (Note: All entrances and exits are made from amongst the audience.)
COMMENTARY: Saturday morning , June 21st 1919. Market Square , opposite Winnipeg City Hall . The war to end all war is over . Wartime restrictions are still in effect . The Social Democratic Party has been declared illegal .The journal of the Socialist Party of Canada has been banned , as has the works of Marx and Darwin , and some of the plays of Gilbert and Sullivan. The men who fought four years for a “glorious new world” return to find it the same one they left- widespread unemployment , with all too familiar grinding poverty, aggravated by rampant wartime inflation . Nationwide discontent reflects itself, in Winnipeg, in the form of a six-week General Strike .
[ Enter WORKER 1 . He briefly shuffles around at the base of the platform until he is joined by WORKER 2 ]
WORKER 2: Where’s the Strike Committee?
WORKER 1: Don’t know . Guess we’re a bit early.
WORKER 2: Storm bother your place much ?
[Enter Worker 3 ]
WORKER 1: Blew off a few shingles . Fixed them. But I sure don’t want to see a storm like that again [ others nod in agreement ]
WORKER 3: Blew a big piece off the roof of the Children’s Hospital . What the hell ? Strike or no strike we don’t want to see children suffer . Me and a mate offered to fix it . Hospital Director said he’d roast in hell first .
WORKER 2: What the hell’s the matter with them ? Why do they hate us so? Don’t they see all we want is a decent living ?
WORKER 3: Don’t know . Say we’re all Bolshevik or Reds or something . Whatever that is . Enemy aliens getting German gold to ruin the country .
WORKER 1: That’s nothing . Been saying things like that about us for 20 years. Longer. Far as I can remember . Anything to keep our wages down. Been through it three times now . Try to get a union , decent wages. Each time, they use the police and scabs to break our strike - Courts to fine and imprison our union leaders . Forced to go back to work , at worse conditions. Alongside scabs [Spits]
WORKER 4: But this time it is going to be different . We are better organised now. All workers together striking for each other . Worked last year . Got three wage settlements by threats of general strikes .
COMMENTARY : With the workers properly organized there is nothing they may not successfully demand from the capitalist , by means of a general strike .
WORKERS 2: But without a general strike the metal masters beat the workers down within a month . That’s why we had to support them this year . Make things better for all of us , too.
WORKER 3: But maybe we should not have gone out . It’s been 6 weeks now and things are getting bloody tough . Don’t know if there will be enough food for my family .
WORKER 1: Don’t lose heart , brother. The Strike Committee says that as long as there is one crust of bread amongst us we’ll share it . We must be strong to win
WORKER 2: Why do the metal masters hold out so long? Even they admit the men cannot live on their present wages . Why can’t they see the justice of our case.
WORKER 1: We don’t even get the minimum conditions just laid down by the League of Nations .
COMMENTARY: I worked hard to establish my businesses .As a logger .In he sawmills. Worked to get my an engineering ticket . I alone am best qualifies when and whom to hire and fire and how much an employee should be paid. And no bloody Red is going to tell me different.
WORKER 4: [In almost dreamy nostalgia ] Remember , six weeks ago, when we came out? Labor Council called on all unions to support the Metal Trades . Eleven o’clock in the morning , as arranged, I took off my apron, put on my hat and left the job. The streets were full of people . ‘Twas like a Roman holiday . Not just union people either. As many without unions came out in support of the metal workers’ cause . Even soldiers changed over to our side .
WORKER 2: Even the Strike Committee was surprised . In the afternoon went to their favourite restaurant . It was closed . [All laugh ]
WORKER 4: Even police voted to come out .
WORKER 1: Agreed with the Strike Committee though. Stayed on to keep order. Even said they’d bust our heads if we got outa line. Never needed it though . Strike Committee cooperated to see everybody kept calm.
WORKER 3: [Apprehensively] But now they have fired all the police for being sympathetic to the strikers . Replaced them with boss’s goon police
WORKER 4: Dumb buggers are no good for anything anyway .Just say boo and they fall off their horses . Think we should sun ‘em outa town . Worse scab herders yet .
COMMENTARY: Sawing, sawing , sawing .What the hell we sawing up these old oxen yokes for anyway? We hire on to be policemen , not bloody woodcutters [Pause] Don’t care. For six dollars a day I’ll do anything . Don’t need oxen yokes no more anyhow. Got tractors now .
[ Immediately enter Soldier Bray . He is readily recognised and accepted by the workers. As he steps upon the platform other soldiers begin to mingle with the crowd]
BRAY: Comrades , the soldiers are with you in your demands for collective bargaining . We also demand an allowance for returned soldiers.
WORKER 1: How can we trust soldiers? You have not always been with us .
BRAY: I know what you mean .Last winter some of us did act against workers . Beat up foreigners Even destroyed the Socialist Party’s headquarters. We know we were wrong .But we have been misled by newspaper nonsense that screamed about enemy aliens , red menace and such .Strikes financed by German gold .
COMMENTARY: Secret Police Agent 57, reporting from Vancouver BC . There is reason to believe Bolshevik agents have landed on our shores .5,000 of them training under arms in Canada and the United States . They have violet rays and know how to use them to blind people .
BRAY: [Continuing] The Union members convinced us your interests are our interests . That is why we are here today , to stage another parade . When soldiers support is shown the justice of our case will be seen and we will win .
[Most of the crowd obviously restless and leaning towards action]
WORKER 1: [As he speaks Helen Armstrong mounts the platform] But the mayor has forbidden more parades . And the Strike Committee says we should avoid confrontation [Quoting the Strike Committee] The best thing to do is nothing. Go to the beach . Make love.
HELEN: That’s right Comrades , I beg you wait for the advice of the Strike Committee. They should have been here by now . I was to have met my husband …
WORKER 4: We can’t wait any longer. It’s been six weeks now .
HELEN: Wait. He comes Sam Blumenburg [As Sam mounts platform] He’s on the Strike Committee.
SAM: I’m late. I was bringing a visiting speaker but he didn’t show up .
SOLDIER 2: [in a badgering manner but the rest not too sympathetic with him] You sound like an enemy alien . How do we know the papers aren’t right? How do we know you ain’t gettin’ German gold ?
SAM: [Not in any way intimidated , scoffingly laughs] What is this enemy alien ?And German gold ? Workers see damn little gold of any kind . In my country it was very bad- very poor . Then the Canadian government says , Come to Canada , Land of Big Opportunity . Shows a poster, Woman with a nice white apron , waving to husband coming in from field. So I come. What do I find? All the good land gone . Even farmers , who have it can hardly make a living. Long unemployment lines. Miserably low wages . Then I get a job with Bob Russell. He says he wants to make a union that gets good wages for everybody. Not just craftsman. I think , maybe this is the big opportunity government talks about .
SOLDIER 2: Russell’s a socialist . How do we know you are not using the strike to make a revolution , like the papers say?
SAM: You crazy? Socialism could never happen that way . Sure Bob wants a new society . Me too. One with no money, no wages , everything free. But it can only come by majority action. Right now all we want is enough wages so we can live to see that day .
SOLDIER 2: Hah , what country do you come from?
SAM: [With all the confidence of someone who has dealt successfully with the question many times before]…It is not necessary to ask where I come from. My face is the map of Palestine and my nose is Mount Zion. [All laugh and that ends the matter]
[Enter James Duncan. He takes to the platform as he is welcomed by Blumenburg]
SAM: Here is the visiting speaker was to meet .James Duncan of the Seattle Labor Council.
[A lot of booing and hissing from those in attendance. But sentiment not shared by Bray ,Blumenburg or Helen Armstrong]
WORKER 4: Yankee Craft Union Snob.
BRAY: Wait . Lets hear what the man has to say . [All quieten]
DUNCAN: Brothers and Sisters . I am sorry I am late . Got a bad time from the border guards .Said if I’d been a day later they wouldn’t have had to let me through at all.
COMMENTAARY: Honourable gentleman of the house . The legislation before you will permit us to scourge the country of the enemy alien red menace once and for all . It will permit us to deport any of them. Reds of any kind, even British born reds, without trial. And once again make our country free. [Speaking rapidly] House of Commons : First Reading - all in favor say aye .Second Reading: all in favor say aye. Third Reading: all in favor say aye .
Senate: First Reading - all in favor say aye.
Second reading: all in favor say aye.
Third Reading: all in favor say aye.
Signed by the Governor-General
Total time elapsed 40 minutes
DUNCAN: I understand your sentiments . They are not unlike my own .[As he speaks the crowd begins to warm to him giving each other nudges and nods of approval] We have just had a general strike in Seattle for almost the same reasons as yours - low wages and refusal of the employers to recognize joint industrial bargaining . I am now on my way to the AFL Convention .[Boos and hisses]. If I cannot get them to reform their organization to embrace all workers I will join with you to help found one big union to represent all workers. [Enthusiastic cheers from all and applause from those sharing the platform] I wish I could stay longer and help your strike but I am late and must go to the AFL Convention . My heart is with you [Exits to applause]
BRAY: Hear that ,comrades .Our case is just. Workers everywhere are sympathetic to us Many are striking in support for us .
COMMENTARY: Secret Police Agent 98 reporting from Ferni,B.C. You do not have to worry about the union leaders becoming revolutionary. They don’t want to lose their soft and cushy jobs.
BRAY: Vancouver is out . Calgary is out . Lethbridge, Edmonton -
COMMENTARY: Dear Mr Prime Minister , as your Minister of Labour I must respectfully advise that , this is not an opportune time to make a declaration in favour of the principle of collective bargaining as it would be grasped as an excuse by the strikers to claim they had forced the government and thereby proved success of the sympathetic strike.
BRAY: Saskatoon is out. Regina , Prince Albert , Brandon , Port Arthur , Fort William , Toronto.
COMMENTARY: Edmonton out two weeks- Vancouver a month
WORKER 3: [Apprehensively.] But there is talk of getting scabs to run the streetcars. If that happens the strike is broken.
WORKER 4: Don’t worry Comrade [ He uses this address for the first time reflecting the increased pitch of anxiety] We know how to look after scabs.
COMMENTARY: Secret Agent 67, reporting from Calgary : What the new union policy will be , will depend on how dangerous things may be to their personal liberty. Already their fear is making them hesitant and , as far as possible, they will tone down their program. I recommend reformed labour laws , which would meet with the approval of the Conservative labour element ,aiming at the elimination of basic grievances and a satisfactory settlement to the returned soldiers and simultaneously the deportation of alien trouble makers . Decisive and concerted arrest of the leaders , a quick trial with a sentence making release or confinement dependent upon their future policy .
BRAY: Comrades , it is time to begin our parade.
HELEN: No , no . Wait for the Strike Committee [Blumenburg nods , in agreement]
COMMENTARY: [Continuing] Unionism , rightly organized , is the very basis of national unity and strength. Especially will this be proved with the inevitable international complications ensue . With regard to this new movement , only two courses are open - either crush it ruthlessly or reform the labour laws of the country .[ while Commentary is finishing a boy messenger hands Helen a note and hastens nervously away]
HELEN: [Upon reading the note shrieks ] God! They’ve arrested my husband. They’re arresting the whole Strike Committee .[In her sobbing grief she wakens to the danger to Sam] Oh , Sam , they’ll be after you too . You have no family to hold you . Run!
SAM: No , I must stay with my comrades and help the strike .
HELEN: [Bray and the crowd showing sympathy and anxiety for Sam] Don’t be a fool . You’re the only one on the Strike Committee without an English background . They are deporting foreigners who didn’t even have anything to do with organizing the strike . You can’t help us from jail or deported . Run…run! [Hesitantly and reluctantly Sam exits to the well wishes of the crowd]
COMMENTARY: Sam Blumenburg escapes to the United States where he is active in Socialist and labour organisations for the rest of his life .
BRAY: Now the soldiers are in charge. We will begin our parade .[Steps from the platform to take his place at the head of the forming parade ]
HELEN: No! No! Wait!
WORKER 4: [They are all in an ugly mood ] I’m bloody tired of waiting .[Helen runs beseechingly from one to another . Her helplessness is symbolised by the lack of dialogue. Each pushes her gently but firmly aside]
WORKER 3: Look! Here comes the mounties . [Note: the ensuing confrontation with the police is somewhat pantomimed . Crowd begins mocking and jeering . Mockingly hold their backs upright , stiff and hands in front as though holding horses reins. As the mounties “go though” the crowd turns in unison to watch them pass 9 a bit of choreographic talent needed here). Helen , and to some extent Bray , are not out of agreement with the sentiments expressed but their apprehension shows as things begin to get more and more out of control]
WORKER 1: Bloody mechanical men!
WORKER 2: Can’t you understand the workers’ needs?
WORKER 4: [As they pass through] Bloody scab herders!
[All looking down the street]
BRAY: [In relief] They’re gone . Now we can begin .
COMMENTARY: [In a voice that rattles the rafters] COMPANEEEE! Fall in! [Following lower volume but with military precisioness]. Ninetieth Winnipeg Rifles ready for action at a moments notice , Suh! 100th Winnipeg Grenadiers , ready at a moments notice , Suh! 106th Infantry ready at a moments notice , Suh! 79 Cameron Highlanders ready at a moment notice , Suh! Twenty machine guns on mobilized units . Ready at a moments notice , Suh!
HELEN: [Looking in direction of mounties] Wait , they’re turning. They’re coming back . [Crowds all jeer as they part ranks as though horses going between them .As the eyes of the crowd follow the mounties away Worker 4 picks up a rock and makes ready to throw it after the mounties. Helen tries to stop him but is brushed aside . The others aghast , at first , but then start picking up rocks and hurling them after the mounties . All except Helen and Bray , curse the mounties as they pass]
BRAY: [As things get out of hand] Let’s not lose control of ourselves. Lets be orderly
WORKER 3: [In relief] They’re gone
WORKER 2: Here comes a streetcar.
[ They all crowd around . Helen and Bray are quite helpless now. Worker 4 jumps as though to grab the trolley line]
WORKER 4: I’ve got the trolley cord .Its stopping!
[Helen and Bray have the same feeling toward the scab but do not take part in what follows , for slightly different reasons. The crowd make actions that indicate pulling the scab out of the streetcar . They make a cordon , ironically similar to the one the mounties passed through. They in turn take a punch at the scab and shout obscenities at him as he runs the gauntlet and runs away . There is a great amount of noise from the crowd]
HELEN: Listen! The mayor’s reading something.
WORKER 3: Who can hear ?
WORKER 4: Who cares anyway . Bloody boss‘s stooge.
COMMENTARY: In the name of the security and protection of the King all herein assembled are instructed to disperse …[Drowned out by the noise]
HELEN: The mounties are returning. They have their revolvers out
COMMENTARY: [Military voice] At the READY…AIM…FIRE! [Pause] [regular voice] One bystander is killed instantly.
[All paralyse looking in direction of Worker 2 as he holds his leg in pain. Hal crawling to extreme stage right where he lies own dying Remains there for remainder of scene]
WORKER 2: Hide me . No , do not call the doctor. I am foreign born. They will deport me. [Dies]
COMMENTARY: Dead of gangrene .[Now all begin to jerk and fall as though being shot and clubbed and trampled by horses . Helen goes to help a half-dazed worker ]
HELEN: Here Comrade. I’ll help you [Screams in pain as head jerks back from clubbing. Arises from momentary unconsciousness ] Run !… Run !
[As Commentary speaks all in unison go through a slow motion act of running .First stage front then left , then right , raising their hands in horror at what they “see” in each street]
COMMENTARY: Blockaded across each street are the special police . In the right hand of each is half an oxen yoke . In the other hand some have revolvers.
[All go through action of being clubbed , being shot ;falling getting up; stumbling in every direction]
HELEN: [Half dazed] Come Comrades. Hide in this alley. We’ll be safe here .[ All go to centre stage and crouch as though hiding]
COMMENTARY: Mommy . Why do people call that little street Hell’s Alley ? Come along dear. Don’t ask such things.
[In a few moments that are startled by something at stage left]
ALL: The goon police !
[They all retreat to stage right but again confronted ]
COMMENTARY: At each end of the alley cordons of special police , clubs in hand
[They all go through action of being beaten]
WORKER 4: [Going through action of fighting back] Fucking bastards!
[But he is clubbed from one side and then another . Crumples unconscious, as they all do , in tortured heaps .]
COMMENTARY: Scourge the streets! Find them , find them! .Punish ! Punish! Punish! Beat! Beat! Beat! Law and Order! Law and Order! [Slight pause]
[As strikers begin crawling off stage helping each other , carrying the unconscious and the dead workers , Commentary continues.]
We return to work like whipped dogs . Work alongside scabs, Lose seniority . Pensions . Sign allegiance oath. [With vengeance] Sign! Sign! Sign! [ Some exiting workers resentfully go the through the action of signing. Some spit in hatred] . Some are permanently blacklisted . [Slight Pause ] Troops arrive to take over the streets …trucks with mounted machine-guns patrol back and forth . But the streets are empty of strikers . Bloody Saturday is over.
COMMENTARY: Same qualifications as Commentary in first act [could be same performer but recommend the part be divided.]
JUDGE: Complete with those mysterious robes they are prone to wear
[Commentary 2 assumes position as Act 1 The judge is at his bench fiddling with papers as Commentary speaks.]
COMMENTARY: History books will largely by-pass the participants in the events of these days. Worse. Some will write in heroes who had very little to do with the struggle. This is not to say they were not key martyrs and heroes . There were. And their bravery and suffering matched any. But the genuine ones would not have had it that they were so heavily written in , nor that the rest be so easily passed over.
JUDGE: [Forcefully banging his gavel] Order in Court !
COMMENTARY: Many “aliens” have been deported. The vast majority of them are unknown to the strike leaders . Those of British backgrounds get a trial. As to fairness ? The trial is by jury. The jurists are mostly farmers with little in common with the accused . It is doubted by many , that a similar jury could be found anywhere else in the country .
JUDGE: The seven of you : A.A. Heaps ; Reverend William Ivens ; R.E. Bray ;George Armstrong ; John Queen ; R.J. Johns ; W.A. Pritchard , have been jointly charged on six counts of seditious conspiracy which we have spent these many weeks reviewing but may be briefly summarized here :
Count 1: A general form of seditious conspiracy to bring hatred and contempt to excite disaffection against the government , the laws and the constitution and generally to promote ill-will and hostility amongst the people and between classes.
Count 2: Seditious conspiracy in overt acts; in the calling of seditious socialist meetings and distribution of seditious socialist literature; Participation in the founding of the One Big Union with syndicalism objectives ; The prosecution of an illegal strike , to discommode and inconvenience the inhabitants of Winnipeg and paralysing of all industries and business in Winnipeg and endangering the lives, health , safety and property of said inhabitants .
Count 3: Seditious conspiracy to carry into effect a seditious intention to endanger human life and to cause serious bodily injury and to expose valuable property to destruction and serious injury .
Count 4: Seditious conspiracy to organize an unlawful combination or association or associations of workmen and employees to get demands by unlawful general strikes which were intended to be a step in a revolution against the constituted form of government in Canada .
Count 5: Seditious conspiracy to undermine and destroy confidence in the government . Laws and constitution . To persuade workmen to form unlawful associations for the purposes of obtaining control of all industries and of obtaining the property rightfully belonging to other persons.
Count 6: Seditious conspiracy to unlawfully bring about changes in the constitution and to enforce the “Soviet” form of government in Canada through means similar to those used in Russia.
Count 7: Committing a common nuisance by use of unlawful general sympathetic strike in which various employees walked out illegally and which endangered the lives , health , safety , property and comfort of the public and obstructed the exercise and enjoyment of rights common to all His Majesty’s subjects .
COMMENTARY: In making his charge to the jury the judge makes it clear that he believes in the guilt of the accused. The defence protests the method of choosing a jury and the prosecution attorney confides to a colleague that with any other jury in the country a conviction would be unlikely . Upon reconvening the jury renders its verdict.
JUDGE: I have the jury’s verdicts before me .[Pause] A.A. Heaps. Not guilty on all seven counts .
COMMENTARY: A labor alderman in the City of Winnipeg . Member of the Strike Committee . Upholsterer by trade . Only one of the seven to be acquitted on all seven counts Defended himself . His address to the jury took all of one day.JUDGE: Reverend William Ivens. Guilty on all seven accounts . Sentence: one year in Manitoba Prison Farm .
COMMENTARY: Had been ousted from the Methodist church for his pacifist views .S subsequently founded a labour church in the Winnipeg Trade and Labor hall. At the time of his arrest was editor of the Western Labor News . Defended himself. His address to the jury took 14 hours . While in prison , elected to the legislature for the Independent Labor Party , where he served 16 years.JUDGE: R.E. Bray. On six accounts of seditious conspiracy , not guilty. On the charge of committing a common nuisance , Guilty. Sentence: six months in the Manitoba Prison Farm.
COMMENTARY: Soldier . Member of the Strike Committee. Representative from the Soldiers Committee. Philosophically a pacifist. Only joined the army to get work. Subsequently becomes an organiser for the newly-founded One Big Union. Spends his reclining years in Vancouver growing gladioliasJUDGE: George Armstrong. Guilty on all seven accounts . Sentence: one year in the Manitoba Prison Farm.
COMMENTARY: Member of the Strike Committee . Member and one-time organiser of the United Brotherhood of Carpenter and Joiners of America. Prominent lecturer for the Socialist Party of Canada . While in prison elected to the Manitoba Legislature on a reformist ticket .Subsequently returns to write and speak for the Socialist Party in relative obscurity.
JUDGE: John Queen. Guilty on all seven accounts . Sentence: one year in Manitoba Prison Farm.
COMMENTARY: A silver-tongued labor orator. Alderman of the City of Winnipeg. Advertising Manager of the Western Labor News . While in prison , elected to the Manitoba Legislature and subsequently re-elected the rest of his life. Serves terms as the mayor of Winnipeg.
JUDGE: R.F. Johns , Guilty on all seven accounts .Sentence: one year in the Manitoba Prison Farm.
COMMENTARY: Railroad machinist. Active member of the Socialist Party of Canada . During entire strike was in Eastern Canada involved in other union activities . His imprisonment results in undue strain on his wife causing him to drop all Socialist activities. He returns to school to become a machinist teacher and ultimately the Manitoba Director of Technical Education.
JUDGE: William A. Pritchard. Guilty on all seven accounts . Sentence : one year in the Manitoba Prison Farm.
COMMENTARY: Vancouver organiser for the longshoremen’s union. In Winnipeg on a four-day visit as executive representative of Vancouver Trades and Labour Council. A prominent speaker for the Socialist Party of Canada .
His address to the jury , two days , from 10am to 10pm each , becomes a classic in judicial circles . Pressures from his imprisonment have tragic effect upon his family . He is subsequently the Reeveof Burnaby and is a key factor in the founding of the reformist British Columbia CCF Party. For this latter act some of his fellow socialists never forgave him . In 1979 three years before his death at the age of 93 , in his home in Los Angeles he wrote “had the government carried out its initial move there would not have been any trial …Andrews , principal counsel for the crown went one evening to the Penitentiary and announced : By tomorrow you will all be deported to Britain - wives and children to follow…But Armstrong at once called out: Hey Alfie ! What are you going to do with me ? Send me to Alaska ? He was born in York , Toronto. This put the kibush on the hurriedly devised scheme.”
COMMENTARY: Two others are tried separately.JUDGE: F.J. Dixon. For your part in writing and circulating articles in the Western Labor News you are hereby charged with seditious libel.
COMMENTARY: A labor member of the Provincial legislature, undertook the publication of Western Labor Newswhen the others were arrested . Made a stellar performance of conducting his own defenceand despite hostile charge from judge , after 40 hours the jury rendered a verdict of not guilty.
COMMENTARY: R.B. Russell is charged on six accounts of seditious conspiracy and one account of common nuisance .
JUDGE: R.B. Russell. Guilty on all seven accounts . Sentence: two years in Stoney Mountain Penitentiary .
COMMENTARY: Secretary of Canadian Railroad Machinists. Esteemed to be leader of the strike. Prominent member of the Socialist Party of Canada for which he runs while in prison . He is narrowly defeated by fellow strike supporter , Dixon, on the count of a preferential ballot .Labor throughout the world demands a pardon for him as far away as Glasgow , Scotland threaten a general strike if he is not released . He is pardoned. Upon release , he becomes secretary and main organizer for the newly founded One Big Union. It is Russell’s expressed intention to fight for workers on the industrial field., while at the same time educate them in socialist ideas for the ultimate abolition of capitalism. For a while the OBU makes an impressive impact on the labour scene ; its presence being felt in a wide spectrum , including Nova Scotia miners, textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts , New York and San Francisco and amongst western lumber workers . For fifteen years it publishes a weekly journal with union business interspersed with socialist theory. But the writing is on the wall. The OBU has to fight on too many fronts: employers with an understandable mutual antagonism ; government ; police; and with other unions - first there is the international craft unions , then the international industrial unions - and the Communist Party , whose worm-within and Moscow obedience policy is corned by the OBU. Ultimately the OBU withers to a mere Winnipeg base . After 43 years ,a t the founding of the Canadian Labor Congress in 1962 what remained of it is officially disbanded . On Labor Day 1964 , four years before his death , Bob Russell is officially recognised as the father of labour in Manitoba . A school and a wing of a children’s hospital are named after him. [pause]
In the words of Pritchard at the time
“... in my own mind I rest assured the historian of the future will drive the knife of critical research into the very bowels of the bogey that has been conjured forth out of the imagination of certain luminaries of this city; and placing everything in proper position will appreciate at their worth each fact and each factor ; and will appreciate at their proper worth all those persons who have become part and parcel of what has been conceded to be the greatest case in the history of Canada”
Hells Alley is an inconspicuous alley Between Market Avenue and James Avenue, which consists a series of old loading doors and two old rail tracks peeking out from under the gravel.
The Winnipeg General Strike, W.A. Pritchard.
The Impossibilists, Larry Gambone
Address to Court , J.S Woodworth ,
Transcribed from World Socialist No.5 Summer 1986 by ajohnstone
One World , One People
Harmondsworth Immigration Detention Centre in Middlesex -
It was not meeting any of the major tests and more than 60% of detainees said they felt unsafe
44% of detainees claiming they had been victimised by staff, compared with a national average of 28% .
Detainees described custody officers as aggressive, intimidating and unhelpful.
The report also criticised the management's over-emphasis on physical security and their strict control of all movements. These measures went as far as banning detainees from keeping nail clippers.
Staff were unaware of a special plan to prevent suicides. An "action plan" designed to minimise suicide attempts, drawn up after an earlier incident, had not been shared with the centre's suicide prevention team. "It was purely a bureaucratic exercise which had had no impact" concluded the inspectors.
"This is undoubtedly the poorest report we have issued on an immigration removal centre. "
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
"These findings raise concern that these types of video games are having some sort of effect on the brain and likely an effect on behavior as well," lead researcher , Dr. Vincent Mathews, professor of radiology at Indiana University School of Medicine .
It may have not gone unnoticed by the US Army . Not only simply investing in video games for simulation purposes to train personnel which the US armed forces have a past history of doing , the military machine are now using video games to acquire new recruits .
The US Army now finances and distributes for free from recruiting offices , a shoot-em-up video game called America’s Army : Operations , classified with a "T" rating by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. (A "T" is on par with a "PG" rating for a movie. Games carrying that rating are meant for players ages 13 and older and may contain violent content, mild or strong language, and/or suggestive themes.) . It and its companion game "America's Army: Soldiers," that shows the near limitless career paths a soldier can take cost $7 million to design . Cheap at the price . Given the high cost of persuading teenagers to join the Armed Forces, Lt. Col. Casey Wardynski, director of the Army's internal consulting team figures the expense will have been worth it if an additional 300-400 enlist as a result of the game.
It has been followed it up with a new video game called Future Force Company Commander .
Defense contractor Science Applications International commissioned the game for $1.5 million.
"It's a great game and a really good training tool that creates conditions for learning, teaches strategic thinking and tactical thinking, and it's got really cool weapons," says Susan Nash, an e-learning expert and associate dean at Excelsior College in Albany, New York
Yup , war is just only a video game to some people to condition young minds into the real slaughter of real people in the real world.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
The World Commonwealth
Another depiction of how socialist society could be organised and this time an extract from a 1940s book which was re-printed in World Socialist No.4 Winter 1985-6 .
Money Must Go
This was the title of a short book published in 1943 . Written by two sympathisers of the Socialist Party who used the name “Philoren” ( from their names Philips and Renson ) , it was an attempt to expound the case for socialism without using conventional jargon which they considered to be an obstacle to the spreading of socialist understanding . The book had its limitations , but can generally be regarded as one of the finest political documents not to have come out of the World Socialist Movement . 5000 copies were printed and sold but as the book is now out of print these are some selected passages from it to show the clarity of its ideas .
Professor:- I am not proposing the abolition of money alone , nor a return to barter . In fact , the abolition of money alone , would solve no problems and undoubtedly create many difficulties. But what I do propose is , that the whole system of money and exchange , buying and selling , profit-making and wage-earning be entirely abolished and that instead , that instead community as a whole should organise and administer the productions of goods for use only , and the free distribution of these goods to all members of the community according to each person’s needs.
Since money would not exist , and wealth could not , therefore , be measured in terms of money , no person could say that he owned a share of such-and -such value in the people’s means of production. In fact all the world’s means of production such as land , factories , mines , machines, etc , would then belong to the whole of the people of the world who would co-operate in using them .
The main features of the World Commonwealth are really quite simple , so I’ll proceed to sum them up for you in a few sentences .
Firstly , the new social system must be world-wide . It must be a World Commonwealth.
The world must be regarded as one country and humanity as one people .
Secondly , all the people will co-operate to produce and distribute all the goods and services which are needed by mankind , each person willingly and freely , taking part in the way he feels he can do best .
Thirdly , all goods and services will be produced for use only , and having been produced , will be distributed , free , directly to the people so that each persons needs are fully satisfied .
Fourthly , the land , factories , machines , mines , roads , railways , ships , and all those things which mankind needs to carry on producing the means of life , will belong to the whole people .
Suppose that the new social system were to start tomorrow ; the great mass of people having already learnt what it means , and having taken the necessary action to bring it about.
Everybody would carry on with their usual duties for the time being , except all those whose duties being of an unnecessary nature to the new system , were rendered idle : for example , bank clerks commercial travellers , salesmen , accountants , advertising and insurance agents etc. These people would , in time , be fitted into productive occupations for which hey considered themselves suitable . Periods of duty would then be regulated so that over-production would no ensue . Some sort of shift system would be necessary in some countries to begin with , and it would be as well to add that duty periods could not be reduced very much at the beginning.
George:- Why not Professor ?
Professor:- Obviously , George , because there would be need for an immediate increase in the volume of production of many kinds of goods to relieve those people who were suffering from the evil effects of the old system and to supply the needs of those who were in the process of transferring themselves from obsolete to useful occupations . For example , it would be necessary to produce lots of clothes of all sorts to be distributed to the millions of poverty-stricken people who always lack them nowadays . The agricultural parts of the world freed from the restraints of the present “money-based system” would pour out the abundance of health-giving foodstuffs to feed the half-starved populations of the world ; not , as often happens nowadays , to be burnt , thrown into the sea , or otherwise destroyed because they cannot be sold at a profit . For the first time , the conditions would exist for turning into reality the beautiful plans for housing people in real homes instead of the sordid slums or dull cities which the present social system has called into existence . These plans exist today - on paper - and will remain so , while it is necessary to have money to get a decent home .Released from the “money” necessity , architects , builders , designers , artists , engineers , and scientists would be enabled to get together to build towns , homes and work-places which would be a joy to live and work in , a job at which even today their fingers are itching to get .How long this period would last depend on the size and mess left by this “precious” system of ours . Personally , I don’t think it would take very long since we have seen how quickly even the obstacles of the present social system , backward countries can be developed by modern industrial methods . It should not , therefore , take very long for those parts of the world which are already highly industrialised to turn out enough goods to make the whole of humanity tolerably comfortable as far as the fundamental necessities of life are concerned .
Well , having got rid of the worst relics of the old order , production would then be adjusted so that enough is turned out to satisfy fully , the needs of everyone , making , of course , due provision by storage for the possible , though ,infrequent , natural calamities such as earthquakes .
Having produced all that is required , all that is necessary is to distribute it to the people so that each person’s needs are fully satisfied . In the case of perishable goods it would merely be a matter of transport from factory or farm direct to the local distributing centres , and in the case of other goods to large regional , county or city stores or warehouses . From there it is but a step to the local distributing stores which would stock the whole range of necessary goods - a kind of show-room or warehouse - and from which goods could be delivered to the homes of people , or , of course , collected by them if so preferred . After all , George , the daily , weekly , and monthly needs of any given number of people in a district are easily worked out , even nowadays - take , for example , the distribution of milk - so it should not be very difficult to find out what stocks the local stores would require .
We wont want boundaries and frontiers in the World Commonwealth , nor the hundreds of rules and regulations that go with them . The World Commonwealth rule will be “fitness for purpose” , and it will be solely that , whether it be man or mankind with which it is concerned . Just as the man most fitted for as certain duty will do it because he wants to , and not through bureaucratic compulsion or unfortunate necessity , so will these regions of the world most suited for the production of certain goods be used for their production , because it would be stupid to do otherwise . In the World Commonwealth goods will be “distributed” not “exchanged” , neither “exported” nor “imported” ; just as if the whole world’s goods were pooled and then each region were to draw what is required .
When I say that production will be planned , do not make the mistake of imagining some super- bureaucratic organisation or World State imposing such a plan . This would not be necessary as the process would be so simple . The average requirements of a person are known : say X pounds of this , Y pounds of that ; multiply by the number of people in that locality concerned , and you have on an average the total amount necessary to be “shipped” to that place for local distribution . Now , isn’t that , though in a difficult and complicated way , exactly what’s being done now ? Doesn’t Mr Brown , the wheat importer , know almost exactly , how much wheat he can distribute to his factors and doesn’t he import accordingly ? Why should things be different in the World Commonwealth , tell me that ? Though perhaps I’m being somewhat hasty . Things will be different , but only in a small way. Whereas now you have dozens of importers for wheat , eggs , butter , and so on , in the World Commonwealth there will be a food control or administration -
George:- There is nothing new about that , Professor , it’s the usual thing in war-time .
Professor:- Quite , George , but with this difference . The function of such a control in war-time is a rationing of supplies due to the possibility , or the actual existence , of a shortage . The World Commonwealth control will have no need to concern itself with rationing or shortage . Rather the reverse . Its function will be to organise production so that there is no excessive surplus , and that distribution so that the demands of the people are satisfied.
I was saying that production will be planned ; I should have no need to add , it will be planned for plenty .The food control in each region will arrange for the satisfaction of the needs of that region , and will in addition plan for distribution of its own products in excess of its needs , to other regions . There will no doubt be need of a central world organisation - probably a statistical body - to control the whole output of the World Commonwealth , but I can foresee few difficulties in that direction .I believe I have already explained how distribution would proceed from this point . From place of production to distribution depot , and from there to local depots . From the local depots there would be daily delivery of perishable goods , such as we have today for milk , and possibly weekly and monthly deliveries of other foods .
Clothes and other goods not required frequently or regularly , would be obtained at large stores somewhat similar in layout , I should imagine , to present-day Selfridge’s or Gamage’s , These will be placed at points in the various localities according to the needs and convenience of the local population . At these stores people will do their “shopping” without money , much as they do today with ; but of course with this difference . Whereas they would be able to obtain all their requirements without money , most people nowadays are unable to do so because their purchases are limited by the amount of money they get as wages .
That’s all , George . Simple , isn’t it ?
George:- It is , truly , and not very different technically from nowadays .
Professor:- That’s the point , George . Its shows quite clearly we are not planning a Utopia . We are taking the people of today and the world of today and simply changing the methods of working , the organisation - for use instead of for money-making .
It was a pleasnt surprise for me to come across in a socialist journal a few of D.H. Lawrence's more biting political poems originally published in 1929 in a volume called Pansies .
O! Start A Revolution
O! start a revolution , somebody !
not to get the money
but to lose it forever .
O! start a revolution , somebody!
not to install the working classes
but to abolish the working classes forever
and have a world of men .
Kill money , put money out of existence .
It is a perverted instinct , a hidden thought
which rots the brain , the blood , the bones , the stones , the soul.
Make up your mind about it all:
that society must establish itself upon a different principle
from the one we’ve got now.
We must have the courage of mutual trust.
We must have the modesty of simple living.
And the individual must have his house , food and fire all free - like a bird.
Money is our madness, our vast collective madness.
And of course , if the multitude is mad
The individual carries his own grain of insanity around with him.
I doubt if any man living hands out a pound note without a pang;
And a real tremor , if he hands out a ten-pound note.
We quail, money makes us quail .
It has got us down , we grovel before it in strange terror .
And no wonder, for money has a fearful cruel power among men .
But it is not money we are terrified of ,
it is the collective money - madness of mankind.
For mankind says with one voice : How much is he worth ?
Has he no money ? Then let him eat dirt , and go cold -
And if I have no money , they will give me a little bread ,
So I do not die,
but they will make me eat dirt for it .
I shall have to eat dirt , I shall have to eat dirt
if I have no money
It is that I am afraid of .
And that fear can become a delirium .
It is fear of my money-mad fellow-man.
We must have some money
To save us from eating dirt .
And this is wrong.
Bread should be free ,
shelter should be free ,
fire should be free
to all and anybody , all and anybody , all over the world.
We must regain our sanity about money
before we start killing one another about it .
It’s one thing or the other.
How Beastly The Bourgeois Is
How beastly the bourgeois is
especially the male of the species -
Presentable , eminently presentable -
shall I make you a present of him ?
Isn’t he handsome ? isn’t he healthy? Isn’t he a fine specimen ?
doesn’t he look the fresh clean englishman , outside ?
Isn’t if god’s own image ? tramping his thirty miles a day
after partridges , or a little rubber ball ?
wouldn’t you like to be like that , well off , and quite the thing ?
Oh , but wait !
Let him meet a new emotion , let him be faced with another man’s
let him come home to a bit of moral difficulty , let life face him with
a new demand on his understanding
and then watch him go soggy , like a wet meringue .
Watch him turn into a mess , either a fool or a bully.
Just watch the display of him , confronted with a new demand on his intelligence ,
a new life-demand.
How beastly the bourgeois is
especially the male of the species -
Nicely groomed like a mushroom
standing there so sleek and erect and eyeable -
and like a fungus , living on the remains of bygone life
sucking his life out of the dead leaves of greater life than his own .
And even so , he’s stale , he’s been there too long .
Touch him , and you’ll find he’s all gone inside
just like an old mushroom , all wormy inside , and hollow
under a smooth skin and an upright appearance .
Full of seething , wormy , hollow feelings
rather nasty -
How beastly the bourgeois is !
Standing in their thousands , these appearances , in damp England
what a pity they can’t all be kicked over
like sickening toadstools , and left to melt back , swiftly
into the soil of England .
The wages of work is cash .
The wages of cash is want more cash .
The wages of want more cash is vicious competition.
The wages of vicious completion is - the world we live in .
The work-cash-want circle is the viciousest circle
that ever turned men into fiends.
Earning a wage is a prison occupation
and a wage - earner is a sort of gaol-bird
Earning a salary is a prison overseer’s job ,
a gaoler instead of a gaol-bird .
Living on your income is strolling grandly outside the prison
in terror lest you have to go in .And since the work-prison covers
almost every scrap of living earth , you stroll up and down
on a narrow beat, about the same as a prisoner taking his exercise .
This is called universal freedom
Why have money?
Why have a financial system to strangle us all in its octopus arms?
Why have industry?
Why have the industrial system ?
Why have machines , that we only have to serve?
Why have a soviet , that only wants to screw us all in as parts of the machine?
Why have working classes at all , as if men only embodied jobs?
Why not have men as men , and the work as merely part of the game of life?
True , we’ve got all these things
industrial and financial systems , machines and soviets, working
But why go on having them , if they belittle us ?
Why should we be belittled any longer?
The Mosquito Knows
The mosquito knows full well, small as he is
he’s a beast of prey.
But after all
he only takes his bellyful ,
he doesn’t put my blood in the bank.
Building Profits versus Building Homes
Building Profits versus Building HomesHousing is one problem of capitalism which has been a constant source of difficulty and is part and parcel of working class life. Few members of our class escape some aspect of housing trouble .Whether it is the complete crisis of homelessness , or the stress involved in keeping our homes through paying rent or repaying a loan . Most members of our class live in relative poor housing , some of which is within the bounds of adequacy , while the rest reflects the worst in living conditions .
Our quality of housing acts as good guide to the degree of suffering associated with the many other problems inherent in our class position such as bad health , poor nutrition and inadequate education . We can therefore accept that the problem of housing reflects the problems of capitalism . Accepting this , it is logical to assume that the solution to the housing problem is only attained through the solution of the problem of capitalism .
In the beginning an investigation into housing difficulties , one simple observation should help us overcome our surprise at the absurd nature of our findings : that production under capitalism , not least the production of buildings , is based on he ability to achieve a profit and not to fulfil human needs.
Housing Shortage ?
The first fallacy to dismiss is the belief that “housing shortage” is the beginning and end of the problem. As it so happens , there is currently in some areas of the world severe “housing shortage” and this has been the case at different times throughout history . This is not however the source of the problem , because if it were it could be logically assumed that there was some intrinsic inability of society to meet the housing needs of its populus . It has had plenty of time and resources to do so , so this is clearly not the full story .
The problem in the economically developed parts of the world is one of “allocation” . In other words , how best the housing stock is to be distributed to meet human requirements . A scant observation shows that the ability to pay is the deciding factor in gauging the standard of housing to which you are entitled .A walk around the slum areas of your city will tell you that it is the elderly , the mobile poor and the immigrants who are concentrated in the poorest housing stock. It is no coincidence that these lowest financial groups live in the poorest housing conditions ; housing conditions which least meet their needs - the elderly with no care facilities , and young children in high-rise flats . It is also important to realise that this group and others such as the homeless , mental patients and ex-prisoners - those who make the poorest section of our class - have little chance of housing themselves , and must accept “ being housed” . The limitation on their freedom puts them in a more degrading position than the urban poor in the shanty towns of Latin America and elsewhere who have at least built their own homes, even though living in the most incredible poverty.
No inherent inefficiency
Another fallacy which tends to cloud our conception of the issue is that which suggests that the housing problem has its basis in the inefficiency and lack of organisation of the building industry . It is true that this industry is not generally well organised in relation to output and the workers employed there; it is also true that at times it can operate in an inefficient manner . The fallacy is however that this is a cause of the housing problem rather than , like the housing problem itself , an effect of an inefficient and unrealisable social system. How can the construction industry possible be efficient when it is subjected to the demands of profitability in a system which produces an uneven flow of work , conflict between employers and employees , and most importantly , the fact that buildings which create the greatest profit in construction are usually the least socially useful and therefore take preference over housing ?…
No way out within capitalism
The relationship between the housing problem , the building industry and our economic system has hopefully become clearer. The facts tell us the industry suffers many problems which have been related to one thing : the contradictions and conflicts of the system of capitalism . It is us as members of the working class who best know the problems we go through in order to acquire and keep the place we live in and the standard of accommodation we are subjected to. From this experience it is abundantly clear that the provision of housing is not related to our needs . The facts also inform us that capitalism prevents this from happening because of the economic obligation forced on those who do the building . No one decides we should live in slums .
If our slums are a product of the inability of the building industry to supply to us the type of housing we want , then this is because the building industries are clearly responding instead to the realities of capitalism . That reality is he profit motive and the cost is that human needs will not be met . This will continue for as long as this system continues and you will suffer your housing conditions and be aware of the housing conditions of the rest of our class as long as the system continues
Housing reform and the profit motive
Housing is probably the one basic need which , were it properly satisfied , would be the most conductive to good emotional and mental health . It is , surely , very pleasant and soothing to relax among pleasant and agreeable surroundings .
The fact remains that such a happy situation only applies to the small to the small minority of the population who have the means to buy beautiful homes . The vast majority suffer a housing problem of one sort of another , whether it be living in slums or near slums or being plagued by the fears and insecurities caused by trying to pay off a mortgage .
Governments do initiate various housing reforms to try to solve these problems , but these always fail . Why is failure so total , especially when the materials , know -how and labour power exist to adequately deal with the problem of providing decent housing for all ?
Is it because of stupid or corrupt politicians ? Many people believe so and view a particular governments shortcoming’s in light of the various abilities and characters of its leading members . But in actual fact these factors play a very subsidiary part and make no fundamental difference . Some politicians and civil servants , assigned various tasks , may be very well-meaning and in some respects efficient , but in the final analysis fail because they cannot succeed .
Under capitalism all production , government-initiated or not , is with a view to profit , not the satisfaction of human needs , material and recreational . Since the profit motive is the very life-blood of the capitalist system , it logically follows that government housing programs will also be introduced with a view to providing a profit for some capitalist group or other . Whether or not the politicians involve be good guys or con-artists is immaterial , because the financial institutions putting up the money for these reforms want a return ( sometimes a large on ) for their investment …
When socialism is established
When socialism is established it will be necessary to set up councils at local , regional and global levels for the administration of social affairs in every aspect of productive activity . Also there will have to be councils whose functions will be to co-ordinate the work of the various specific councils . The majority of the people in a local area will make decisions affecting that area specifically , the people in a certain region will make decisions for that region and everyone will make global decisions .
This will mean that everyone must have access to vast amounts of knowledge , concerning what each area produces , where it is stored , how what is needed can be got from one place and moved to another . All this knowledge can be stored in computers which can be hooked up to the TV system , so that people can receive whatever knowledge they wish by pushing a button.*
When it comes to voting on specific issues people need go no further than their living room . Even today TV stations invite viewers to phone in their verdicts on alternative programs The results , which depend on what the number is dialled , are quickly computer translated and announced in only a few minutes . If this is possible under capitalism , one can imagine the tremendous advantages that can be made in a socialist society when people will be able to utilise the technology built up under capitalism as well as improve on it .
People could , if they wanted to do , check and see how a certain project was progressing by tuning into a computerised -TV-News media , so that whatever was happening could be under the constant scrutiny of society as a whole .
First priorities for housing
When socialism is established it will have two important projects concerning housing . One will be to find homes for the millions throughout the world who have none . The other will be to clear the world of the horrible slums and shanty towns in which so many of its population live . Therefore an enormous world-wide reconstruction project would begin which would involve the democratic participation of nearly everyone , in one way or other
It would have to be decided , what region and what local area requires houses, how many , what type or style , what materials they will be made from and how much of each is required . Obviously , with this will go the many and various decisions concerning town planning , roads , recreational facilities , shopping centres ( though we may not call it shopping then ) . Though the work involved may require many people , they will be forthcoming from all the occupations made redundant by the overthrow of capitalism , such as production for war and anything concerning finance , advertising , etc. Schools for training and re-training people in the various skills will be set up , and as far as the productive work goes they will have the machinery capitalism created plus whatever advances on this the first members of socialist society will make .
People with specific skills related to housing , or those who wish to learn them , can give their names and lists o skills to an administrative office similar to present man-power or labour exchange offices and can be notified where their skills can be used .
In the longer run: an end to urban crowding
After socialism has solved the initial task of clearing away capitalism’s rubble in every respect ( feeding , clothing , housing , educating , clearing away the pollution curing curable diseases ) , then it will be apparent that the change in society will be more than just production for use instead of profit , but will entail vast changes from top to bottom in every part of society . Nowhere will this be apparent more than over how we group in communities . Cities as we know them to day will probably no longer exist as people won’t want or need to be condensed in a particular area .
When starvation has been stopped and when every human being has a roof over their head , then socialist society can turn to satisfying people’s needs in a more sophisticated way , and this will certainly be the case in housing .
Whenever there is a need for a new type of house , a town or a building for the use of the community , architects will submit plans and models which can be voted on by the community as a whole in a given area . Though there may be competition between the various architects and planners , it will be from the premise of who can best beautify the locality . One can be certain that there will be new types of dwellings . Along with the disappearance of cities as we know them will also go the high-rises , those up-turned shoe-boxes where people are crammed in like sardines, to be replaced with buildings where people can at least live like humans .
With whatever changes in the family structure the new social conditions will create will also come a need for new types of homes ; there may be a type of communal home . And it may be that the design of a building will be determined by its functions , its given physical environment and the materials to be used .
Whatever the case , people will be able to choose their home to suit their own particular needs concerning physical comfort and recreational requirements .
Who would not want such a society ? So why not organise politically for its speedy establishment .
Ray Rawlings* The article , written in 1984 , anticipated the rise of the internet and the home computer and the promise of E-democracy
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Music To Rebel By
My two particular favourites happen to be his light-hearted but pointed criticisms of differing but very familiar political activists .
The Party vanguardist
The life-style anarchist
And for those who find YouTube videos appealing , why not watch and listen to his Saint Patrick's Battalion , a 19th Century Irish "International Brigade" who fought for Mexican liberty .
Or to his song commemorating those exploited females in the cotton mills in 19th Century America .
And , of course , Henry Ford Was A Fascist and so he was , as well as , a virulent anti-semite
Friday, November 24, 2006
How Socialism Can Organise Production Without Money
From World Socialist No2 Winter 1984
How Socialism can organise production without money
1. Labour-time accounting or calculation in kind ?
In 1920 Ludwig von Mises published an article “Die Wirtschaftsrechnung im sozialistischen Germeinwesen” , which was translated into English in 1935 as “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth” and published in Collectivist Economic Planning: Critical Studies on the Possibilities of Socialism edited by Fron Hayek. His basic argument was that socialism would be impossible because , without money and prices fixed by the market , society would not be able to do economic calculations rationally. Or , as he put it , “ where there is no free market there is no pricing mechanism; without a pricing mechanism, there is no economic calculation”.
Von Mises defined socialism to mean any system in which the ownership of the means of production by private individuals was entirely abolished. His definition thus covered total State Capitalism as well as socialism. This makes some of his arguments, in so far as they were meant to be arguments against socialism irrelevant, but in arguing against the possibility of a moneyless society he was also arguing against socialism.
Von Mises accepted that socialist society would be able to decide what it wanted but denied that it would be able to work out the most rational way of meeting those wants :
“ It would be evident, even in a socialist society , that 1,000 hectolitres of wine are better than 800, and it is not difficult to decide whether it desires 1,000 hectolitres of wine rather than 500 litres of oil. There is no need for any system of calculation to establish this fact: the deciding element is the will of the economic subjects involved . But once this decision has been taken, the real task of rational economic direction only commences , ie , economically , to place the means at the service of the end . That can only be done with some kind of economic calculation . The human mind cannot orientate itself properly among the bewildering mass of intermediate products and potentialities of production without such aid. It would simply stand perplexed before the problems of management and location. It is an illusion to imagine that in a socialist state calculation in natura can take the place of monetary calculation . Calculation in natura , in an economy without exchange , can embrace consumption-goods only: it completely fails when it comes to deal with goods of a higher-order. And as soon as one gives up the concept of a freely established monetary price for goods of a higher-order, rational ownership of the means of production rational production becomes impossible . Every step that takes us away from private ownership of the means of production and from the use of money also takes us away from rational economics .”
He did not deny that “labour-time” could theoretically provide an alternative unit of economic calculation , but argued that in practice it would be impossible to establish an accurate labour-time unit because of the difficulty of measuring the intensity and skill of different peoples’ labour . The only possible unit of economic calculation , he concluded , was therefore money .
This was a powerful criticism which caught the Social Democratic and Bolshevik thinkers - both defenders of a total state capitalism rather than socialism , it is true - unprepared . There were three possible reactions to Von Mise’s criticism:
1. To accept that money would have to continue to be a unit of economic calculation in “socialism”;
2. To argue that labour-time could be a unit of economic calculation “ in an economy where neither money nor exchange were present “;
3. To argue that in socialism “calculation in natura [in kind] can take the place of monetary calculation”
The Social Democrats , including the Bolsheviks ( who were of course Social Democrats up to 1917 ) , tended to have a technocratic conception of “socialism” which in practice , as we have already remarked , made them advocates of state capitalism rather than of socialism As a result discussion on what should be the unit of calculation in socialism was largely a discussion of what should be the unit of calculation in state capitalism . This meant in fact that the outcome of the debate was predictable from the start : the partisans of retaining money , as Kautsky advocated in 1922, as “ a measure of value for accounting purposes and for calculating exchange ratios “ were bound to win since , in the long run , this was the only solution compatible with the operation of the capitalist system which they wanted to continue, even though in a statised form. The partisans of accounting in labour-time and those of accounting in real physical quantities were never more than marginal and by the end of the 1920s had disappeared both amongst the Social Democrats and amongst the Bolsheviks .
A labour-time blueprint
Calculation in labour-time was defended by the Social Democratic writer , Otto Leichter , in his Die Wirtschaftsrechnung in der sozialistischen Gesellschaft ( Economic Calculation in Socialist Society ) published in Vienna in 1923. , in which he argued that this was perfectly feasible as it was already applied under capitalism by accountants to fix prices and by time-and -motion experts. Money , he argued , could therefore be abolished in socialism (= state-capitalism) , even for the distribution of consumer goods , which could be distributed directly to consumers in kind in amounts fixed by nutrition and other experts .
Otto Neurath ( later prominent as a logical positivist philosopher ) argued that even labour-time accounting would be unnecessary in socialism ( state capitalism) . In an “administrative economy” production plans could be drawn up and executed directly and solely in ral physical quantities:
“ The theory of the socialist economy knows only the single economic agent -society - which without profit-and-loss accounting, without monetary circulation -whether metallic money as now or labour money- and on the basis of an economic plan , organises production without using a unit of account and distributes the means of subsistence , according to socialist principles”. ( O Neurath ,Wirtschaftsplan und Naturalrechnung , Berlin ,1925, p84 )
As the last part of the passage indicates , Neurath too argued that consumer goods could be directly allocated to people in kind .
An attempt to present an alternative to what they called the “State socialism” of both the Social Democrats and the Bolsheviks was made by a group of Dutch “Council Communists” in their Grundprinzepien kommunistcher Verteilung un Produktion ( Basic principles of communist distribution and production ) published in Berlin , in 1930 . The “Council Communists” were a group which had supported the Russian Revolution , really believing it to be what , in its propaganda , it said it was , namely a soviet ( the Russian word for “council”) revolution . Within a few years , however , they realised their error and that Russia was heading rather for state capitalism . They called themselves “Council” Communists to distinguish themselves from the “State Communists” such as Lenin , Trotsky and Stalin .
The Grundprinzipien outlined a plan for organising the production and distribution of wealth without money but on the bais of accounting in units of labour-time . They followed Otto Leichter here , but totally rejected the technocratic structure in which he has seen labour - time accounting replacing monetary calculation . In its place they proposed a federation of workers’ councils .But when this plan is stripped of its socialist terminology , it turns out to be a scheme for a sort of self-regulating exchange economy in which money as we know it today would be replaced as a currency by a “labour-money” ; in other words , the money-prices-wages system would continue to exist but would be run by workers councils and without exploitation . But to believe that an exchange economy could function in the interests of the workers if labour-money and labour-time accounting were to be used in place of the coins and notes and monetary calculation we know it today is to completely misunderstand how capitalism works and to fall into the purest currency-crankism.
Calculation in kind: the right answer
In the end , then , it was Otto Neurath , with his view that socialist society could organise the production an distribution of wealth directly and solely in kind , who was on the right track . The only other personality in the Social Democratic and Bolshevik movements to take this view was Amadeo Bordiga , but not until the 1950s and in a quite different context to the so-called “economic calculation” controversy sparked off by Von Mises in 1920.
Bordiga had been the first leader of the the Italian Communist Party but was eased out of his post in 1923 for his leftist views ( which had already been denounced by Lenin in his famous pamphlet Leftwing Communism - An Infantile Disorder) and was eventually expelled from the Party altogether in 1930 . Although he himself dropped out of political activity till the fall of Mussolini in 1943 , his brand of “leftwing communism” continued to be propagated by a group who came to be called “Bordigists” . Bordiga did not begin to reflect seriously on the nature of socialism till he was faced with the problem of explaining , after the war , to his followers why Russia was state capitalist and neither socialist nor a “workers’ state” . Thus , after commenting that planning in Russia wasn’t socialist because the plans there were drawn up in money terms as well as physical quantities and that in fact , just like in capitalism analysed by Marx , these physical quantities had to be converted into money before the productive cycle could begin again , Bordiga went on:
“ If there is accumulation in socialism , it will take the form of accumulation of objects , of materials , useful to human needs , and these will have no need to appear alternatively as money , nor to undergo the application of a “moneymeter” allowing them to be measured and compared according to a “general equivalent” . Thus these objects will no longer be commodities and will no longer be defined except by their quantitative physical magnitude and by their qualitative naure , what the economists , and Marx also , for explanatory purposes , express by the term use-value” ( A Bordiga , Structure economique et sociale de la Russia d’aujourd’hui , Paris , 1975 pp191-2) .
Elsewhere , he pointed out that:
“In post bourgeois society , therefore , it will not be a question of “measuring value by labour-time “ , as fools believe , but of finishing altogether with the measurement of value .” (Quoted in J Camette , Capital et Gemeinwesen , Paris , 1976 , pp213)
“ The rational relationship between man and nature will be born from the moment when these accounts and these calculations concerning projects are no longer done in money
But in physical and human magnitudes .” ( Quoted in J Camette , Bordiga et la passion du communisme , Paris 1975 . P23.)
This is undoubtedly the correct position . Calculation in socialism can only be done directly in physical quantities without the need for any “general equivalent” or any general accounting unit , certainly not money but not labour-time either.
Basically , socialism does not need any general equivalent . Such a universal unit in which all goods can be expressed is only necessary in an exchange economy where all goods have to be produced to some common denominator as a means of determining the proportions in which they exchange for one another .
Economic calculation and capitalism
Capitalism is in fact not just an exchange economy but an exchange economy where the aim of production is to make a profit .This too requires a general equivalent in order to be calculated and measured . Profit is the monetary expression of the difference between the exchange value of a product and the exchange value of the materials , energy and labour-power used to produce it , or what Marx called “surplus value” . Similarly , the cost of production of a good is the exchange value of the other goods ( including labour power) used up in its production , while its selling price is the monetary expression of its exchange value .
Since , as the classical economists and Marx showed, the exchange value of a product depends on the amount of socially-necessary labour incorporated in it from start to finish , the question arises of why calculations cannot be done directly in labour-time rather than in money. It is this reflexion that is behind all schemes for labour money and labour-time accounting .
The reason why it is not possible to use labour-time as a general equivalent in place of money is that the exchange -value of a product does not depend on the actual amount of labour incorporated in that product in the course of its production from start to finish but on the amount of socially-necessary labour incorporated in it , which is by no means the same ( otherwise an inefficient worker would , because he took more time , produce more value than an efficient worker , but this is not the case).
While the actual amount of labour spent on producing a good could theoretically be measured , what labour is socially necessary is a social average - taking into account average techniques , average productivity , average intensity of labour , etc- that can only be established through the social process that is the operation of the market price whose price changes reflect the changes which are continuously taking place in the various factors we have just mentioned which determine the average . In other words , it is an average that can only be established after a good has been produced .
This was why Von Mises was right to say that - under capitalism of course- the only possible unit of economic calculation is money not labour-time , but this point had already been made by Marx when he discussed , and dismissed , various schemes for labour -money in 1859 in his A Critique of Political Economy .
No exchange value to measure in socialism
If calculation in labour-time is impossible under capitalism , it is simply unnecessary in socialism since socialism will have no place for a concept of “exchange value” of which both money and labour-time are proposed as units of measurement. In socialism goods will not be produced for sale , they will not be commodities and so will have any exchange value or price . They will simply be useful things capable of satisfying some human need , or as Bordiga put it “materials useful to human needs”, use-values. While capitalism is only interested in the exchange value of goods - capitalism is in fact an economic mechanism geared up to the accumulation of more and more exchange value - socialism will only be interested in their use-value . Socialism will be a society entirely geared , in the field of wealth-production , to turning out the specific useful things which people have indicated they want to live and enjoy life
Under these circumstances calculations concerning the production and distribution of wealth will of course be necessary , but these can be done exclusively in units to measure specific amounts and kinds of different goods - units such as kilos , litres , square meters , watts , even hours . There will be no need for any general equivalent by which to measure and compare all goods . In other words, calculations in socialism will not be economic but technical . In socialism calculations will be done directly in physical quantities of real things , in use-values , without any general unit of calculation . Needs will be communicated to productive units as requests for specific useful things , while productive units will communicate their requirements to their suppliers as requests for other useful things . How this might work is outlined in the following article .
2. Economic calculation versus production for use
Defenders of capitalism never seem to ask themselves the practical question about what the critical factor determining a production initiative in a market system , and moreover , what is the function of a cost/price calculation in relation to that initiative .
The answer is obvious from everyday experience . The factor that critically decides the production of commodities is the judgement that enterprises make about whether they can be sold in the market .Obviously , consumers buy in the market that they perceive as being for their needs . But whether or not the transaction takes place is not decided by needs but by ability to pay . So the realisation of profit in the market determines both the production of goods and also the distribution of goods by various enterprises .
In the market system the motive of production , the organisation of production , and the distribution of goods are inseparable parts of the same economic process : the realisation of profit and the accumulation of capital. There is no choice about this . Commodity production is organised within the constraints of the circulation of capital .This capital can accumulate , maintain its level or become depleted . The economic pressure on capital is that of accumulation , the alternative is bankruptcy . The production and distribution of goods is entirely subordinate to the pressure on capital to accumulate .Therefore the practical , technical organisation of production is entirely separate from the economic organisation of the accumulation of capital in which cost/price , value factors play a vital part.
The economic signals of the market are not signals to produce useful things . They signal the prospects of profit and capital accumulation , If there is a profit to be made then production will take place ; if there is no prospect of profit , then production will not take place . Profit not need is the deciding factor .
The real function of economic calculation in the market system is not to facilitate the practical , technical organisation of production ; it is ultimately about calculating the exploitation of labour .
This market system , involving the circulation of capital , generates commodity values which are brought into a relationship of exchange in the market , so that value , surplus to the value of labour-power , embodied in commodities is realised through sales . When enterprises calculate costs as a relationship of labour-time to output this is not with a view to passing on socially useful information about the organisation of production . They are calculating costs plus the average rate of profit .
Through the exchange of labour- power for wages , capital is invested in the power of workers to produce goods . It is with active labour functioning as deployed capital that capital expands . Labour-power generates more values than it consumes . These surplus values belong to the enterprise in the material form of commodities which are then sold on the market . This is where capital realises its self-expansion and thereby accumulates . The market price of commodities produced must exceed the price of the materials and labour-power required to produce them . This is what costing is all about , it has nothing to do with the practical organisation of production In its overall effect the subordination of useful production to the accumulation of capital distorts and constrains social production .
The market is at every point in the system a barrier of exchange between production , distribution and social needs . The circulation of capital confines useful labour within a self-enclosed system of exchange . Labour is activated by an exchange of labour -power for wages and this is determined by the capacity of the market to provide profit through sales .
Economic calculation is not part of the technical organisation of production ; it is an indispensable part of the accumulation of capital whether this takes place within the free market or under the system of state capitalism .
What socialism will establish is a practical system of world production operating directly and solely for human needs . Socialism will be concerned solely with the production , distribution and consumption of useful goods and services in response to definite needs . It will integrate social needs with the material means of meeting those needs , that is to say , with active production .
Under capitalism what appear to be production decisions are in fact decisions to go for profit in the market . Socialism will make economically-unencumbered production decisions as a direct response to needs . With production for use , the starting point will be needs .
Quantities of material things
Socialism will not depend on calculations of labour-time or conversion of these into costs since production will not be generating exchange-values for the market . Production for use will generate useful goods and services directly for need, and this will require not economic calculation but the communication of quantities of materials throughout production . This will result from the change in productive relationships . The use of labour in a market system begins with an exchange of labour-power for wages , which is an economic exchange between individual workers and invested capital . This will be replaced by direct co-operation between producers to satisfy social needs in the material form of productive activity .
Modern production embraces activity across the world as a network of productive links. It consists of decisions and actions by individuals , small groups and large organisations . Many of these dispersed activities interact with each other and alter the pattern of the whole .Modern production can only operate on the basis of particular production units being self-adjusting to social requirements in response to information being communicated to them .
Socialism would take over existing world production which is generally structured on three scales. Socialism could rationalise this world structure on a decentralised basis which could operate in the most efficient way through a world , regional and local structure .
Extraction and processing of basic materials such as metals , oil , coal and some agricultural products, etc could be organised as world production with distribution to regions and localities .
These materials could be taken up the regions for the production and assembly of component parts of machinery , equipment and goods for distribution to localities within a region .This regional organisation could include the extraction and supply of those materials which could be contained within that region . A regional tractor -producing plant could take its materials from world supply and then distribute tractors down to the localities within that region .
On the smallest scale , but nevertheless extremely important , local production units could be producing local goods for local consumption and use .
This need not be a rigid arrangement , but an adaptable skeleton structure operating in these three , world , regional and local scales . These would represent the general scales of productive organisation , through which required quantities of materials and goods could be communicated between production units .
Direct responses to needs
Production for use could work with the basic structures as outlined above . It would operate in direct response to need . These would arise in local communities expressed as required quantities such as grammes , kilos , tonnes , litres , metres , cubic metres , etc , of various materials and quantities of goods . These would then be communicated as required elements of productive activity , as a technical sequence, to different scales of social production , according to necessity .
Each particular part of production would be responding to the material requirements communicated to it through the connected ideas of social production . It would be self -regulating , because each element of production would be self-adjusting to the communication of these material requirements . Each part of of production would know its position . If requirements are low in relation to a build-up of stock , then this would an automatic indication to a production unit that its production should be reduced . If requirements are high in relation to stock then this would be an automatic indication that its production should be increased .
The register of needs and the communication of every necessary element of those needs to the structure of production would be clear and readily known . The supply of some needs will take place within the local community and in these cases production would not extent beyond this , as for example with local food production for local consumption .
Other needs could be communicated as required things to the regional organisation of production. Local food production would require glass, but not every local community could have its own glass works . The requirements for glass could be communicated to a regional glass works . These would be definite quantities of required glass . The glass works has its own suppliers of materials , and the amounts they require for the production of 1 tonne of glass are known in definite quantities. The required quantities of these materials could be passed by the glass works to the regional suppliers of the materials for glass manufacture . This would be a sequence of communication of local needs to the regional organisation of production, and thus contained within a region .
Local food production would also require tractors, and here the communication of required quantities of things could extend further to the world organisation of production . Regional manufacture could produce and assemble he component parts of tractors for distribution to local communities .These would be required in a definite number and , on the basis of this definite number of final products , the definite number of component parts for tractors would also be known . The regional production unit producing tractor would communicate these definite quantities to their own suppliers , and eventually this would extend to worl production units extracting and processing the necessary materials .
This would be the self-regulating system of production for need , operating on the basis of the communication of need as definite quantities of things throughout the structure of production . Each production unit would convert the requirements communicated to it into its own material requirements and pass these on to its suppliers . This would be the sequence by which every element of labour required for the production of a final product would be known .
This system of self-regulating production for use is achieved through communications . Socialism would make full use of the means communications which have developed . These include not only transport such as roads , railways , shipping etc. They also include the existing system of electronic communications which provide for instant world-wide contact as well as facilities for storing and processing millions of pieces of information . Modern information technology could be used by socialism to integrate any required combination of different parts of its worl structure of production .
In whose interest ?
Defenders of the market such as Von Mises and Hayek appear not to understand the system which they represent . But this is not simply a matter of them putting forward fallacious assertions as a matter of ignorance . Their position is based on a crude defence of the privileged interests which do benefit from capitalism . In arguing in favour of these interests , it appears that any nonsense which defies the reality of experience will do . Their more honest position would be that the market system does work , but for those who monopolise the means of living and therefore economic calculation of the exploitation of labour is indispensable in pursuit of that interest .
The interest which socialists pursue is fundamentally different . Socialism stands for the interest of all workers , the wage and salaried working class on whose skills and energies the material running of society depends . But we also emphasise that the political victory of labour over capital through socialist action will result in a society which will work in the interest of the whole of mankind without distinction of race or sex
1. The Alternative To Capitalism
The final chapter from the 1986 book, State Capitalism: the Wages System Under New Management
by Adam Buick and the late John Crump
2. Socialism - As a Practical Alternative
Socialist Party pamphlet
3. Why we don’t need money
4. The “Economic Calculation” controversy: unravelling of a myth
By Robin Cox