What did Welford Say?

Poverty : its cause and cure. A Reply to Dr. G. F. Welford’s “Socialism.” By. A. E. Peters and A. W. Kersey. The Palmerston Press, Tiverton. 1d.

The opening sentence, of this pamphlet says : “the writers are both young men in their early twenties,” so the Editor decided to hand it to a young man also in his early twenties to handle in THE SOCIALIST STANDARD. We are unfortunate, however, in not having seen the statements to which it is a reply; for however good it may be as a reply to Dr. Welford, it is most certainly not a good exposition of the principles of Socialism, nor is it by any means an adequate statement of the cause and cure of poverty.

We are left to imagine the circumstances that called it forth, but we glean something like this. Dr. Welford, of Tiverton, fulminated against Socialism, although whether in the Press or on the platform we are not told. Two young men in the district with socialistic tendencies take up the cudgels in defence. Hence the pamphlet under consideration which bristles with points we should be inclined to challenge, and which propounds some flagrant heresies in the name of Socialism.

In discussing the causes of poverty, these are placed under the heads of Insufficient Production, Waste, and Unequal Distribution, and the poverty at present prevailing is attributed to all three. To us the last is alone sufficient to explain our poverty problem, for poverty does not afflict Society as a whole but only a portion of it. And this class nature of modern capitalist society is entirely overlooked by our authors, with the result that the class-struggle, the central guiding factor of the Socialist movement, is ignored. The poverty of the working class is not due to insufficient production, nor to waste, but simply and solely to robbery. The workers produce too much and glut the markets and never get the chance to waste anything to set the market free again. Neither of these factors then can be the cause of their poverty.

The most important portion of the pamphlet, however, is that which explains how Socialism will be established, and here the situation is very imperfectly grasped. The idea of a Socialist government being able to socialise all industries is characterised as absurd, and the counter-idea is put forward that each industry will be socialised by the government getting a fresh mandate from time to time. To us the return of a Socialist government would mean the expression of a majority of opinion in favour of the abolition of capitalism, i.e., the abolition of private property in the means of living; and the work of a Socialist majority would be to carry out that mandate. That a majority of opinion would be in favour of Socialism and at the same time in favour of Capitalism is incomprehensible. The difficulty of our authors, I suspect, is the same as that of the so-called “Socialists” in the Labour Party, who do not represent a majority of opinion in favour of Socialism in their constituencies.

The class-struggle is openly repudiated when they say “the method of Socialism is not to try to force the will of one class upon another class.” The method of Socialism must be, and can only be, the working class expressing its determination not to be exploited any longer, and it is extremely doubtful that the exploiting class will agree with them. The working class is in opposition to the capitalist class and cannot be successful until it has educated itself and organised its forces to be powerful enough to overthrow the political representatives of capitalism and force its will upon them.

The final portion discusses the outlook for Socialism, and we observe the Labour Party is included among the list of parliamentary groups of various nationalities as representing Socialism. Again we should not agree. The Labour Party is most emphatically in no way representative of Socialism, and it is quite untrue to say that each of the workers they represent is a worker for Socialism. We should be more inclined to agree with the actual conclusion if it were correctly quoted, as follows: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working men of all countries, unite!”


(Socialist Standard, May 1908)

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