Hyndman as confusionist

He of this sketch was a fine specimen of the men from Erin’s Isle. He had the physique of a Fitzsimmuons and the latent brain capacity of a Mirabeau. As you looked at the great eye-orbits, big forehead, and strong chin, you found yourself speculating as to the big things a man like this will do in a community that lays itself out to grow men, instead of mere labour-commodities for capitalist profit.
“Oi’ve listened to Hyndman,” he said in his fine Irish brogue, “from that No. 3 platform yonder, and I’m jiggered if oi aint quite flabbergasted. Hyndman, look you, on the platform with that strange mixture. Bless me if ’tisn’t enough to confuse a St. Patrick.”
“Indeed,” 1 said.
“You see,” he proceeded, “according to Hyndman’s point of view (if I understand him aright, and I think I do), it’s no more use to go on talking against drink and gambling and sweating, and low wages and high prices, and pauperism and lunacy, and physical deterioration and starving children, than it is to go on picking maggots off a piece of rotten meat or killing-cockroaches in a damp cellar. As soon as you’ve done for one lot of maggots you’ve got another, and as soon as you’ve settled one lot of cockroaches there’s another arrived. It’s the meat that’s wrong. It’s the damp cellar that’s wrong. And so Hyndman says it’s capitalism that’s wrong, and so long as you have capitalism you must have drink and gambling and sweating, and lunatics and starving children, and slums and unimployed- and more on ’em every day ! ‘
“Well, I’ll leave it to you,” I said, “as to how nearly that describes Hyndman’s position. But, anyhow, I think it’s the truth, don’t you ? ”
“Yes. And Hyndman thinks that too. For instance, he says he spoke in this town twenty-five years ago, and they were then demanding the same little pottering political reforms that they are demanding still, and they are further off from getting them than ever. And the capitalists are taking more of the wealth every year. And the conditions of the workers are going worse every year. And the unemployed are increasing every year. And long spells of bad trade follow short spells of good trade quicker and quicker, so that for sure you may correctly say ’tis bad trade all the time. That’s what Hyndman says ! ”
“Well?” “So that it means that things for the workers go from bad to worse, and that so long as there’s these capitalists on your back, and they sucking like leeches by what they call their capital, there can’t be no improvement for the worker—no progress—no reform.”
“It looks like it, doesn’t it ?”
“Sure, it does. Because, as these capitalists get more capital, they must suck Labour more, and there’s no preventing them, so long’s there’s the system. They can laugh at all your reforms. And so long as they’ve their system they’ll have their full pound of flesh. And that’s what oi’ve heard Hyndman say.” .
“Well, what’s your difficulty ?”
“Just this : If Hyndman believes that before we can have any betterment we must organise ourselves, and go for the overthrow of the system, what does he want to be on the platform with these Labour fellows, who are simply helping the capitalists to mend the system., They don’t mean abolishing capitalism; they simply mean making it a little better. They’ve never examined the system—devil a bit have they. There was one fellow there who talked a lot about temperence, and he seemed to think all you’ve got to do is to make the people teetotal, as if that’s any good so long as there’s capitalism. Then he was followed by a woman who seemed possessed with the holy desire to get the half-time kiddies out of the factory, though how that would advantage the kiddies if they had to come home to an empty table, and how the capitalist was to be made to keep the table full, were matters she was not very clear about. Then another suggested that the capitalist might feed the children through the capitalist State. But if the capitalist does anything for us through his State, I reckon he’ll secure his pound of flesh by buying our labour-power cheaper in return. Then there were other pills for earthquakes. One man seemed to think that an eight-hour day would absorb the unemployed. Another was big on municipal and state capitalism, and he seemed to think that if you could only get the capitalist to rob the worker in a collective way, through the municipality and the capitalist state, instead of in the old way, through his private, factory, that this was going to advantage the worker. The fool ! The post-office here, and the state railways elsewhere, ought to teach him that these things can make no difference to the wage-worker. In fact, so long as the worker is a wage-worker, and the capitalist buys him as he buys anything else, and so long as there’s plenty of unemployed making his price his mere living, whether the state buys him or the master buys him it’ll be all the same.”
“Yes,” I replied, “if you get anything in the way of reform for the worker, so long as there’s capitalism, you simply make him a cheaper commodity for the capitalist, and the capitalist sucks it back again.”
“That’s so,” said my Irishman, “and Hyndman sees that. And I want to know what he wants on the platform with these reforming Johnnies. If Hyndman believes that the system is wrong, then why doesn’t he help you chaps to draw the working class away from all this political reform-mongering which, mind your he himself admits has brought us nothing during the last twenty-five years ? Why doesn’t he educate and organise the working class, to prepare for the overthrow of capitalism, and leave the capitalists and these reform fools to mend their system—if they can ?”
“Looks like a new form of the great game of how not to do it, don’t you think so ?” I said.
“How ? Which way ?” he demanded.
“Well, hearing Hyndman keeps them from understanding what the other chaps mean ; and then hearing the other chaps keeps them from understanding what Hyndman means, and so at the end it keeps them much where they were, Hyndman’s presence and talk makes the great British Public believe that this trade union and Labour gang are a very revolutionary lot, and the presence of the good, solid, practical, level-headed gentlemen on the same platform with Hyndman, makes the same B. P. believe that Hyndman and the S.D.P. are quite judicious politicians, after all.”
“Well, but all this is confusing the workers!” roared my friend.
“Or educating them,” I suggested.
“Educating, be d——d (his language got very strong). I say it’s confusing them !”
“Well, well,” I said, “both words mean much. the same thing applied to the wage-slaves. The educated of the other class don’t lecture the working class to stimulate and enlighten them, but to chloroform and confuse them.”
“Be gorra, and it seems so,” he said. Then after a short silence, still meditating on the issue, he exclaimed—
“Can a man be both a reformer and a revolutionist ? ”
“No.” I said, “But he can pose as both until the people find him out and force him into one camp or the other.”
“And is Hyndman posing as both ?”
“Well, there are the facts. What do they say ? ”
“They say he is. He’s preaching revolution, and he’s on a reform platform. But what is he at heart ? Is he a revolutionist ? ”
“No, I don’t think so. Hyndman’s desire has always been to be the big man, with the big following, who could show the capitalists how to run their system in a proper, up-to-date, scientific way, don’t you know.”
“It looks like it.”
“Well, take the facts. Lately, Hyndman has been pointing out to the British capitalists, their danger of having a war with the German capitalists. Now what revolutionist cares a tinker’s anathema about who the British capitalist goes to war with. Certainly, if the German capitalists invaded England tomorrow they might lay rough hands on the property of the English capitalists, but they could take nothing from the English wage-slaves, seeing that the English capitalists have cleaned them out too well already. So that no evil can happen to the workers from any invasion, and no capitalist war is worth their thought. And yet here is Hyndman writing yards of this stuff in conjunction with that other fool, Blatchford, in working-class papers, and trying to get the workers interested in it. Then again, Hyndman has written a lot in Justice lately about “Capitalist Secret Diplomacy.” Now why should the worker watse one thought upon “Capitalist Secret Diplomacy” ? Surely our business ought to he to cultivato opportunities to oust the capitalist.”
“No, it’s no use our watching the capitalists, how they play the game to filch the wealth they first steal from us, from each other; we must organise ourselves to stop the robbery at the root.”
“I say, old man, when are you going to join the Socialist Party of Great Britain ?”
“Oi’m watching you,” he replied, “but oi must be careful. Life is short, and oi can’t afford to waste any more of mine with reformers.”
“Well,” I said, “if you think there’s danger, come in and help to keep us straight.”
“That’s a thought oi have,” he replied, “oi attend your meetings, buy your STANDARD, and drop my penny in the hat.”


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