The Western Socialist
Vol. 29 - No. 227
No. 3, 1962
He stepped up to the rostrum, adjusted the "mike" and swallowed some water from a glass. "Good old Tommy!" a voice echoed from the back of the hall. He smiled broadly, confidently, as he surveyed the packed hall. This was going to be a good meeting. The prominent men of the community, solid business men, were giving their support by being present on the platform. He had arranged with the chairman that there would be no questions. He wanted no voice of protest from some lone rebel. He took another glance at the expectant, careworn faces of the audience and: "Ladies and gentlemen," he began, "my opponents can leave for they do not come under this category." This raised a laugh. He adjusted his spectacles and joked, making his listeners feel on intimate terms with him. Another "good old Tommy!" came from the back of the hall. "If we are to preserve our free society, our way of life, our democratic society, this America . . . we must.. . . blah, blah, blah... blah... blah . "
The rest of his speech was almost lost to me, for I was familiar with these same well-worn platitudes and had heard them many times in England, Canada and the States. I looked around at the audience and wondered what effect it was having on them. Some of them did not look too enthused, for they must have also heard it all before. "Our way of life." "Our democratic society." How often do we have pompous politicians repeat again and again these glib phrases? It seems that they are not only persuading and conditioning their audiences but have themselves become the victims of their oratory. A lie or a half truth repeated often enough is accepted without question by the gullible and most people, today, come under this category. The self-styled leaders' lives are cluttered with broken promises and excuses yet they still keep their power and prestige. What is important to them is that Parliament or Congress remain in the hands of the ruling class. For the politicians of capitalism must administer the profit system and are subject to the dictates and needs of the capitalist class — the section of society that lives from profits. One party's in, the other one's out. It makes no fundamental difference. Workers still must grub along, week in, week out, expending their energies on the job producing the profits for those who own the jobs. As some of us grow older and wonder how much longer we can stand the pace, a fresh generation grows up to take our places at the machines. Will they, unlike their parents, see through the glib phrases and double talk of the politicians and act in their interest as workers?
"We live in a free society." What hypocrisy! Just about everything today is a commodity, produced to be bought and sold on the markets. The only thing that is free is air, and that is contaminated with the belching of civilization! Just try taking a loaf of bread when you're hungry and haven't the price. Contrary to popular opinion, commodities are not produced to be used or consumed but to realize a profit . . . even though society has reached the stage where all can have their material needs satisfied. If the satisfaction of human needs is not conducive to human happiness, what is? The lack of them certainly makes the world a vale of tears for the non-owners.
Are we really living in a "democratic society?" What do these politicians know of democracy? These people condition our minds to an acceptance of their power and privilege and, when necessary, ruthlessly use the coercive powers of the state against us. These people who prate about democracy, whose genial smiles hide their nefarious intentions. These capitalists and their sycophants .. .
They know they can win you over with their appeals to democracy. It is something you hold dear, but cannot define, nor do these gentlemen intend to enlighten you . . . even if they know.
Democracy is only possible in a classless society. There can be no democracy when a tiny minority owns the means of wealth production, when the overwhelming bulk of the wealth is concentrated into the hands of an insignificant fraction of the population and the majority have to suffer insecurity and privation. What is democratic about a system in which the majority of the population is kept in subjection and brain-washed into accepting a status of wage-workers?
What then, is the key to an understanding? Is it not to understand that there are two classes in our "democratic" society, the working class and the capitalist class? This fundamental truth is understood by a mere handful but until it is grasped by the mass of society, and until those who produce and distribute all the wealth today begin to act in the interest. of the whole of humanity, "our way of life" will continue to be one of economic servitude, a poor way of life, indeed!
But how can we, the producers of all this wealth, take action in the interest of humanity? When the majority of us understand what has to be done we can capture the central organ of power by political means, by organizing into our own party, the party of socialism. We can then introduce a classless society wherein goods are produced for one reason only — for use and consumption, and not to be sold on the market.
True, within capitalism there are traces of democracy — parliamentary democracy. But even this has not been handed us on a silver platter — it has been struggled for over the years by our forebears. Workers have won the right to elect their socialist representatives, and this they can do wherever genuine socialist organizations exist. When they have acquired the knowledge and understanding to put an end to the humiliating, worrisome, and oft-time despairing conditions which some call living,the workers can build a new world — the world of socialism, a world in which democracy for the first time will become a reality . . .
I was awakened from my reverie by the chairman's gavel, "and that concludes the meeting."
"Mr. Chairman," I found myself on my feet, "in the name of the 'democracy' which the speaker says he holds so dearly, I would like to put a question."
"Sorry, there is no time," says the chairman. "Throw him out" shouts a voice at the back of the hall.
I walked home alone, and the stars winked knowingly. The world of ideas plays its part and the economic forces are driving people forward to socialism despite their present lack of comprehension.
S. W. CATT