November is the month of fogs and fireworks. Why fogs and fireworks should keep such close company it is beyond me to discover, but without doubt there is some underlying and elusive link between the two, not only in the physical world, but in the mental world also. About the time of the November elections the fires of “revolutionary Socialism” are kindled in all directions, and there is a great show of smoke and yellow flame, and sometimes even a spark of red. Gorgeous wheels of fire revolve on the “revolutionary” flagstaff, and the workers, who are told, “this is revolution,” regard them with awe; noisy Jack-in-the-boxes spit out spiteful things about the Mayor’s blue nose and the Deputy-Mayor’s whiskers, and call it “class-war” ; a rocket swishes skywards with a fiery train like nothing so much as the tail of the Great Comet, and having soared gracefully up somewhere near the moon—the far-off moon that Socialists are reputed to be always crying for—hangs a moment and bursts in the face of that splendid jewel, and Oh! outshines it, obscures it with a profusion of richer gems. There is “Day Nurseries for Children,” pale and blue and tender as the turquoise ; there is “Free Meals for School Children,” bright and burning as a woman’s tears, and just about as efficient in improving the condition of the workers ; there are “Work for the Workless,” “Farm Colonies,” “Municipal Milk Depots,” and a galaxy of other glittering gems which bejewel the sky—for a moment. And few of those eyes upturned to watch the baubles fade mark the poor little spark of red that hurtles down with the falling stick—while as for the moon, why, that is as far off as ever.

It is the prevailing fashion among those who treat the workers to this confusing and befogging spectacle, to point the finger of scorn at the members of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, what time they pipe, “What are you doing for Socialism?” And as there is some misconception concerning our attitude toward this mysterious form of “Socialist” activity which those who so fondly embrace it speak of as “political action,” it might be not altogether inopportune to review the situation at this juncture.

The answer we give to those of our critics who approach us with the question “do you believe in political action ?” is, emphatically, yes. And anticipating from experience the complementary query, “then why don’t you bring your actions into line with your belief?” we proceed to show that our present line of activity is in strict accordance with our pledge to work for the capture of the political machinery. It is too often forgotten that, since the science of politics is the science of government, all propaganda directed toward the enlightenment of the people in those causes which doom them to be governed, and in the only means by which the yoke of government can be thrown off (political means), is political action, and political action of the most essential character. We maintain that there can be no political success for the workers save it be built up on a knowledge of the futility of any measures short of the Social Revolution : anything else is mere electioneering success. There is no more common fallacy than to suppose that the man who is elected to place is the power of which the ruling-class are afraid or by which the workers can wrest anything from the oppressors. The true power lies in the quality of the vote which placed him in the position he fills.

It is the undoubted tendency where men fall under the influence of any particular school, whether in art, politics, philosophy or other sphere of intellectual activity, for them to become mere pedantic partisans ; let us, therefore, in order to guard against this tendency, consider the position calmly and dispassionately, as befits men with the judicial mind.

I claim it as a fundamental truth, that the objective of every Socialist, as a Socialist, is the realisation of Socialism alone. As a husband, as a father, as a human animal, he has many other interests (I had almost written duties) but in his Socialist capacity none. As a man he may favour palliatives, the feeding and clothing and comforting of the destitute and suffering, but as a Socialist such matters are of interest only so far as they affect the attainment of his objective. That it is impossible to effect any other than an abstract separation between the man and the Socialist I do not deny, but it is necessary to make the distinction, to reduce ourselves to pure, abstract, Socialist atoms, blind to all suffering, dead to all emotion, as absolutely heartless as capital itself, in order that, we may pursue our discussion without passion, and from the Socialist standpoint. To the scientist there is no such thing as expediency.

From the Socialist point of view the ultimate object of electoral action is the wresting of the executive and administrative power from the ruling-class, in the interest of the working-class, and the ultimate object is the immediate object also. As contributory to this object there are the matters of propaganda and testing the strength of the Socialist party.

With regard to the ultimate object—the seizure of the machinery of government in order that it may be used for the purpose of overthrowing the present system of society and setting up a Socialist system in its place, I take it that we are all agreed upon the necessity of this, since this machinery is the means by which each system of exploitation is enabled to outlive its period of social expediency, to indulge its tendency to resist the evolutionary processes and to stem economic progress until only revolution can remove the obstruction. As Socialists we can desire the capture of the political machinery for one purpose only—the revolutionary purpose of achieving Socialism. I submit then, that as Socialists we must insist that every step taken towards assailing the stronghold of the capitalist-class must be taken upon tested and sure Socialist ground.

Let us suppose a typical election campaign—there has been none other that I am aware of in this country up to date. A candidate is put up by a reputed Socialist body, and immediately there is a feverish desire to “get our man in” : what can equal an election—as a sporting event ? Literature is poured out, promising a whole host of palliatives and reforms, and the enthusiasts work like Trojans from door to door, urging people to vote for that which they know nothing about. With such a splendid array of palliatives they tickle widely divergent palates, even if they have not the skill to offer something to everybody. But the question that concerns us as Socialists is, does a man elected by such means stand upon safe ground as a Socialist ?

It is clear that a vote given for a palliative is not a Socialist vote, nor is a vote given to Socialism by one who does not know the object of Socialism. And it seems reasonable to suspect the safety of the position of any elected candidate standing for Socialism, who, without non-Socialist votes would have fallen. The representative who cannot stand on his Socialist vote alone, whatever his position may be as the champion of reform, certainly is not the representative of Socialism, as will be discovered directly he takes Socialist action.

Into the power of such representatives to obtain palliatives, or into the efficiency of palliatives when they are obtained, we are not at the moment enquiring. We are dealing with this question as Socialists, chemically pure, if I may be forgiven, and as such we are concerned, not with amelioration, but with revolution, therefore, not with the obtaining, or the efficacy, of reforms, but with the effect of their advocacy and realisation in speeding or retarding our ideal.

The scientific Socialist realises that the return to labour, that is the total wage, is not arbitrarily determined, but must be subject to some general law. This law is admitted to be the law of supply and demand. Therefore any palliative which has the effect of increasing the supply of labour-power (we presume other things remain constant) must necessarily result in a fall in wages ; and anything decreasing the supply of labour-power must have the contrary effect of raising wages. To deny this is to deny that the law which decides that the return to labour shall bear relation to the cost of subsistence is the law of supply and demand.

According to this law it would seem that all those reforms which aim at improving the material conditions of the workers must be rendered inoperative by their very own effect—other things remaining the same, of course—upon the competitive labour market.

Putting aside for the moment the question of how far other things would remain the same, we will consider which of the palliatives would have the immediate effect of improving the material condition of the workers.

All those measures which make for the better health of the people must, other things remaining unaltered, eventually result in the increase of the commodity labour-power in the labour market, there to struggle for recognition as a use-value, as all excess commodities have to struggle, and so doing compete wages down till the fall balances the advantage conferred by the palliative. The excess labour-power, in spite of every human effort that leaves the competitive labour market untrammelled, and suffers the law of supply and demand to ordain that the return to labour shall bear a certain relation to the cost of the production of the labour-power, must meet the fate of all other commodities that are in excess of the effective demand—must lose its use-value, and with it its exchange-value. Having no exchange-value and being a “perishable” commodity—it must perish.

No Socialist can blind himself to the fact that men, women, and little children of the working-class are dying in masses, employed and unemployed alike, not only from lack of food, but from want of pure air also, and of clean streets, parental ignorance, and many other causes, but primarily and fundamentally because capital can never recognise them as human beings, but only as present or future receptacles of the commodity, labour-power, which, being in excess of the demand, it refuses to support. Neither can Socialists, who, in the face of this, must recognise that the human intellect is strong only to destroy the capitalist system, and not to circumvent the laws upon which it rests, logically urge that the palliatives which would have a first tendency towards amelioration, can have any other fate than to be defeated and rendered inoperative by their very own effects.

All this, of course, is conditional. We have presumed for the sake of clearness that other things remain as before, but before we can finally decide whether the “palliatives” will palliate, and therefore what effect their advocacy and attainment will have upon the realisation of the Socialist ideal—the only respect in which they interest us in our Socialist capacity—we must enquire how far other things may alter or be altered, and how any possible change may affect our argument. This might be fittingly done in the next issue.


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