Socialism. What it is and the Conditions for its Realisation

In spite of the arduous years of propaganda—or perhaps because of them—of Socialist ideas and Socialist thought there exists an immense amount of ignorance of what Socialism really implies. Constantly during the last few weeks of political strife I have met with “Socialists” who have had not even the remotest idea of what really constituted Socialism; “Socialists” whose entire end and aim was the taxation of ground values ; “Socialists” who saw in Tariff Reform and a general support of Tory candidates, the surest method of furthering their ends ; “Socialists” who recognised that politics was all a farce, but must need canvass for Liberal Candidates; members of “Socialist” organisations who ran as “Labour” candidates, and members of “Socialist” organisations who ran as Liberal candidates ; “Socialists” of the S.D.F. and the I.L.P., of the Fabian Society and the Guild of St. Matthew : such were and are some of the causes of the confusion of what Socialism really is which exists among the working class to-day.

What these men cannot see is that for a rapid acceptance of Socialist principles a clear expression of those principles is required. The believer in Socialism must go to the working class and tell them the underlying ideas of Socialism ; must show them that Socialism is a distinct political and economic aspiration, capable of being explained in a manner at once brief, clear, and lucid, and remarkably fitted for practical adaptation to present-day needs ; must show that as the Liberal works for Liberalism, the Tory for Toryism, and the capitalist for his own individual gain, so too must the Socialist work only for Socialism, must support those candidates only who are pledged to Socialism and run as avowed Socialists on a Socialist platform, and so must the working class work in its own class interest.

To do this, however, clear thinking is expedient and, alas ! the gentry who form the membership of such bodies as the S.D.F., I.L.P., and the Fabian Society are seldom guilty of thinking clearly where the subject matter of their thought is Socialism.

I am forced to these remarks by the astounding spectacle which has been witnessed during the recent change in the personnel of our government bureaucracy. Men of all shades of “Socialist” opinion have been carried off their feet, and have been found openly and avowedly supporting the candidature of members of that party “which is in no sense more likely to do anything for the working class than is the Tory Party.”

One thing stands out clearly in the mind of the average worker, and that is that any “Socialist” who wrorks for Liberalism or Toryism or in aid of the candidature of any member of either of the capitalist parties, might as well not be a Socialist for all the practical good he is to The Socialist movement. To those of us who are members of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, who have never in any measure compromised our Socialism, they stand condemned as not merely useless to the Socialist movement, but a constant and increasing danger to it.

With every fresh day comes a furthering of the industrial development of capitalism, comes the hastening of that perfection of the capitalist system which means its downfall. It therefore behoves each and all of us who have the cause of Socialism at heart to avoid any confusing of the issues in the minds of those whose suffrage we seek. And this can only be done by keeping aloof from any party, movement, or tendency which is not, clearly Socialist.

The real reason why the members of the S.D.F. and the similarly constituted I.L.P. are not clear as to their methods of realising their avowed ideal is that they have never clearly grasped the meaning of what constitutes the class struggle. A lip homage they have given, and nothing more. A nominal adherence to the teaching of Marx they give, but a clear knowledge of Marx’s teaching they have not. Having failed to base their political policy upon the sound principle of the class struggle they have been at the mercy of every political current and thus, failing to understand their own position, they have failed to make others understand it.

We are all agreed that the ultimate end of Socialist propaganda must be the establishment of a Socialist regime through the common holding and common control of all the products of labour. This is to be secured by wresting the means and instruments of production and distribution from the possession of the present holders and utilising them for the common good.

To secure this end it is, of course, necessary that a very large proportion of the people must be iu favour of the change, whereas to-day a very minute proportion of the people of this country are thus favourable. Hence it isnecessary to propagate our principles in such a manner as to induce their acceptance by those who are now hostile or indifferent to them.

To ensure such a change of opinion it is essential that the differences between the Socialist position and every other position should be emphasised rather than minimised. We are something more than merely advanced Radicals, something more than Co-operators seeking cooperation in distribution. These latter are seeking to palliate present day conditions while conserving the present industrial basis of Society, whereas we strive to revolutionise the entire structure of Society by changing its economic basis. We are qualitatively as well as quantitatively diverse from every other political organisation.

At the same time that the preaching of our ideal is necessary we are fully aware that we have the economic forces of industrial capitalism ranged on our side, helping us to fight our battle for Socialism. The enforced introduction of improved machinery, through the operation of free competition ; the development ot a complicated credit system ; the lessening of distance between manufactory and market owing to’the betterment of means of communication ; the internationalisationi of industry and trade : these among other causes lead directly to the throwing of men and women out of employment; more frequently occurring trade crises; and monopolies with their control of wages, prices, and the government of the nations.

All these economic changes, while making life more insecure as wealth increases, generate a seething mass of discontent which the Socialist must organise and educate. So, too, the changes towards monopoly are changes in the direction of greater social co-operation among the workers—a co-operation which leads to a constant interchange of ideas. Again, under the monopoly an entire industry is often worked by one organisation for the capitalist’s private gain, whereas the worker is being taught to see that it might as easily be worked in. the interests of the entire community.

It is needful, then, to understand that Socialism is a change from capitalist individual ownership to common social ownership, that the believers in this change must combine in an organisation for educational and political purposes so as to engineer the capture of the political machinery as a preliminary to taking over the economic.

Unfortunately the acceptance of the principle of common holding and common control of the instruments of wealth making does not involve the recognition of the necessity of forming a political organisation absolutely independent of every other. It is so very tempting to think that perhaps something may be done now by utilising the present political parties. Many men, indeed, have thought that they could permeate one or the other of the two political parties with Socialistic ideas. Bernard Shaw and his Fabian Society have endeavoured to secure the Liberals while Maltman Barry has made a similiar attempt with the Tories. All such endeavours have failed as they were bound to fail. The political divisions are along class lines. The reason why to-day the lines of demarcation between Liberal and Tory are fading is because the two elements of the capitalist class are fast merging. The aristocratic landed class no longer exist as a separate class from the moneyed capitalist class. Money weds with title and divisions are blotted out. Not so with the working class. Here the line of demarcation is exceedingly clear and the economic division of class must evolve and be reflected in the capitalist division of party.

Marx, in his famous “Communist Manifesto,” contends—and rightly so—that all history is a history of class struggles. Not only this, but the political power in modern nations is being constantly wrested from the hands of prerogative by a class economically inferior which absorbs the class economically higher.

Thus in this country the last century saw the political power taken possession of by the moneyed capitalist class, and the dispossession of the titled landed aristocracy who formerly held it. This new class, with its pride of position, drew towards it the former ruling class, with whom it has gradually merged its identity. They twain have become as one flesh.

Over against this new composite ruling class is the working class, which is slowly asserting itself as an economic and political class. The struggle of to-morrow is between capitalist class and working class, and as the latter is numerically much stronger than the former, and being more in touch with the realities of production possess men of stronger brains and brighter intellects, there is no doubt as to who will ultimately prove the victor in the struggle.

The worker must win, and in his winning wall absorb the capitalist class in his ranks, thus procuring by his political emancipation the final abolition of all class. But this abolition of class can only arise through the removing of all class advantage and class privilege. And the removal of these mean the identification of all wealth as social wealth—the abolition of all private holding of commodities. Thus it is plain, that the final political and economic emancipation of the working class can only arise from the establishing of a Socialist Society.

The deduction I wish to draw from this is that an independent working-class party may start with whatever views it likes, but it must ultimately adopt and fight its battles on a Socialist platform. Its destiny must be to work along the same lines as The Socialist Party ot Great Britain-—lines of uncompromising Socialism.


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