Another year with all its opportunities gone. Another year with all its possibilities opening upon us. And—”a happy new year” comes lightly from the tongue in conventional salutation. “A happy new year”—and doubtless behind the greeting there is still some measure of real concern for the materialisation of the wish in the person addressed. “A happy new year”—why not ? Why should not happiness be in the constant experience of all? Why should not happiness be the normal condition of everybody? Why should it not be as natural for everybody to exult in the joys of living as it is for them to breathe—why is it not ?
Because—happiness is conditioned by the available supply of the necessities of life. Deny these to a man and he cannot be happy. And the barest of these necessities are unobtainable (upon capitalist authority unobtainable) by at least a third of the people of this, the most prosperous of nations, while the rest of its working population—the population that builds up the “national” prosperity—only just manage, with infinite labour and anxiety, to maintain themselves in a condition of working efficiency.
That is the reason why happiness is not the normal condition of the working population. That is why they have not been happy in the dead year. That is why they cannot be happy in the year just commenced. To wish them “a happy new year” which we know they will not get is therefore rather dreary humour and about as useful as wishing the moon were green cheese.
The Might Have Beens
And yet—it might have been otherwise had capitalist development been a few more years advanced. We might have given our new year’s greeting to our neighbour from out of a glad certainty that the happiness we wished was easy of attainment to every worker—had economic conditions ripened a little more rapidly. For between the working class of all countries and those things upon which their happiness depends the barrier is weak enough to-day to be broken through with ease and swiftness. All that is required to-day is an understanding by the working class of their own strength and the fragility of the opposition set against them no more than that. Economic development has reached a point when, for all practical purposes production, is being carried on by associated wage workers exclusively, with a minimum of waste. The capitalist has served his purpose in the concentration and organisation of industry, he is now merely the recipient of the wealth produced and is only able to maintain his position by virtue of his ownership and control of the machinery of production and distribution. The working class have but to understand that and determine upon the appropriation for themselves of the wealth, they produce themselves and their happy new year’s greeting to one another partakes no longer of the grotesque.
The Work Before Us.
Well. The important thing seems to be to emphasise that single, simple fact. We can do no more. To pretend that we can would be to delude and confuse; just as it would be a confusion and a delusion to affirm that a happy new year is possible to the working class before they have eliminated the capitalist. As the organ of The Socialist Party of Great Britain, it has been our purpose to drum into the minds of our fellows of the working class the simple fact referred to. We claim that we have done that consistently, refusing to permit the introduction of any element calculated to weaken the effect of our insistence or confuse the object of it. We can do no more in the new year and we will do no less.
We start with the same enthusiasm that has carried us on from the commencement. We have no new resolutions to make, no new leaves to turn over. We have no delusions for ourselves or for others— and as the British wing of the International Socialist Army we shall continue to relentlessly fight all those, however they may label themselves, who attempt to delude or whose work has that effect. We know that we are right, that our methods are sound ; that our cause must triumph, and we are content.
Sodom and Gomorrah and the Rand
Great consternation in London town. Conformity shocked. Nonconformity staggered. The national conscience stirred. The Oriental vices of compounded Asiatics have, under conditions of celibacy, broken out, and who’d have thought it, cries Conformity; and just what we expected, answers Nonconformity ; and—something shall and must be done affirms the national conscience ; and—leave it to us says the government ; we will do everything that should be done, on our honour as a government we will.
Such agitation ! Yet this grossly abhorent form of sexual excitement is bound to manifest itself where men are herded together under penal conditions and excluded from the society of their women folk. And this was quite well known both to the Conservatives who now protest that “they never did and hadn’t the slightest idea,” as well as to the Liberals who knew all the time don’t-you-know— and issued licenses for 16,000 more Chinese to be imported into the same conditions.
Lust and Luxury
Nor is the vice peculiarly Asiatic, as the distinguished gentlemen who make our laws and fill our newspapers for us would have us believe. It is not the special affliction of the heathen Chinee. It is far more widely practiced among the decadent whites of Western civilisation than our pastors and masters are prepared to admit. It is not unknown even in the most exalted circles of good old England. It is a flourishing product of that low moral caste, the accompaniment of unbridled luxury, which continually seeks the gratification of its sensual lusts and finds it only in the grossest of sensations.
The Chinese under normal conditions are a singularly moral people in a rather more ample sense than that word is usually used and their deterioration generally commences with their association with the capitalist method of more “advanced” nations. The faculties which they possess in a remarkable degree of absorbing new influences and assimilating new ideas may have resulted in those of them who have had the misfortune to be translated into the atmosphere of modern commercialism, acquiring the evil practices of their new conditions. But an argument of that sort is very much a two-edged weapon. The evils must have existed to be absorbed.
Morality and Profits.
But all this apart, the consequences as we say, were well known and they were deliberately burked because Rand capitalism demanded cheap labour in order that large profits might be scooped. The Tory Party have the credit of introducing Coolie labour into South Africa. The Liberal Party got in largely by their outcry against conditions of “slavery under the British Flag.” Swearing they would never consent to the degradation of “the national honour” they consented. Swearing a new oath that they had never said the conditions under which the Chinese were being imported were conditions of slavery,—that the use of that phrase was a terminological inexactitude—they maintained a continuity of policy and were directly party to the intensification of the evil to the extent of nearly a score of thousands additional licenses. And now that by an unlucky chance the murder is out they are endeavouring to shuffle out of their responsibility by pointing the finger of contumely at the Tories and saying, I told you so.
Cant and Humbug
All of which, however, is simply part of the Party game. The central fact is that powerful capitalist interests demanded cheap Coolie labour and capitalist governments, Liberal and Tory, satisfied the demand. Now that the moral fester has broken and spurted its purification abroad it may happen that pressure of the “national conscience” deftly played upon by other capitalist influences may effect some alteration. But whether such alteration will be any less hypocritical than the grotesquely farcical steps which the Liberal Government took to relieve any “heathen Chinee” of the obligations of his contract, is a moot point to be determined by the quality and quantity of the opposition aroused by the—at present—suppressed Bucknill Report. But whatever happens one thing is sure—facilities for obtaining the necessary supply of cheap labour, white, black or yellow, for capitalist purposes, will always be given by capitalist governments, and although it may be possible to suppress some of the more repulsive manifestations of the workings of the profit monger, it will not be possible while capitalism lasts to clear out the cesspool of iniquity which is the profit monger’s inevitable accompaniment. Only by the eradication of Capitalism itself and the substitution for it of that system of Society connoted by the term Socialism will that be possible. The disease is directly traceable to the impoverishment and enslavement of the many and the riotous luxury of the few made possible by the private ownership of the means of wealth production. For Asiatic vices so-called as well as all the other unsavory products of the present system, Socialism alone is the remedy.
(Editorial, Socialist Standard, January 1907)