The Revolutionary Proposition (Continued)

Our investigation has shown us that a change in tho social system, along the lines of the Revolutionary Proposition, is inevitable, and the next point of interest is, how is the change going to be established ?

It is not desirable to go into the complexities of the question as to the importance the human will bears in relation to the process of industrial development and social change ; still, it may be remarked that, as the very foundation of this development is the desire (inherent in all life) of human beings to live, the social evolution, with its necessary revolutionary phases, is not independentof the human will—the unconscious, and in a manner involuntary, “will to live.”

With regard to that development of the productive process, upon which all social advance must wait, there exist no means of holding this in check. Even were the dominant class conscious of the forces which are hurrying them on to their doom, still they could raise up no effective barrier against them.

If those who own the means of production could light upon some way of arresting the progress of the development of machinery and methods ; if they could obliterate that ingrained desire for wealth and security out of which all productive activity springs, they might, even at this late hour, materially prolong the period of their domination ; but that is impossible, and so the evolutionary process sweeps them on and down.

The fate of the capitalist, as we all know, who will not or cannot adopt the successive improvements of productive means when the powers prescribe, is obliteration. Improved methods become due directly they mean biggor profits, and those who do not take them up are quickly out-competed and supplanted by those who do.

There is that in the system itself which makes its fortunate and favoured ones contribute by their every action to the undermining of their position. They cannot move without advancing the development of the productive process, hence production cannot take place without aiding in the perfection of the means and methods by which it takes place.

Much, therefore, as the evolutionary process depends upon the human will, it is exactly as far beyond human control as is the “will to live,” and its course is the comparatively smooth course of evolution. It goes on in spite of all human effort, or rather because in the very nature of things human effort, directed by the uncontrollable “will to live,” can only result in advancing its progress.

Were this industrial development under the control of the human will it would cease to be evolutionary. It would be controlled in the interest of the strongest social faction, and if any progress at all were possible it could only be by a series of revolutionary steps, as when one class overthrew another.

This, indeed, is exactly what takes place with regard to the basis upon which the social structure is raised (private property in the case of the present system) and the laws, customs and other institutions which compose that structure.

The very desire for material wealth which urges on the development of the means of producing it, at the same time makes men intsitute, cling to and fight for every known means of retaining it; hence the sources of wealth are seized upon by the strong when they become possible means of exploitation, and a social system arises corresponding to the method of production.

We must be quite clear upon this important point at the risk of repetition. Between the evolutionary and unconscious process of development which made the sources and means of living possible instruments of exploitation, and the conscious acts of seizure which converted those sources and means into actual instruments of exploitation lies the difference between evolution and revolution. No human effort could prevent the discovery and application of the arts of domesticating animals and of agriculture, of smelting iron, and the general development that lifted human labour to such a plane of fertility as to be capable of yielding a surplus or profit. In this men were unconscious instruments. But the seizure of the labourer, the land or the means of production when this evolution had so far developed as to render their monopoly a matter of great advantage to those who could accomplish it, was an act dictated by consciousness of opposing interests. It resulted from force, and could have been resisted by force. By force it is maintained against the growing powers of new interests, and it is—within certain limits, of course—subject to the human will.

It is clear, then, that, since the property condition upon which the social system is based is not the outcome of the evolutionary process, although conditioned by it, we must not look to evolution to change it into something else. It is an artificial barrier erected against all those interests which conflict with the interests of the class which rule under it; therefore it must be swept away by the conscious effort of those whose interests it opposes—the working class to wit.

How this is to be done depends, of course, on the nature and source of the power with which the system is upheld.

Property, as we know, is protected by the police and other instruments of the law. In addition (though this fact is purposely obscured by the ruling class), the armed forces of the nation stand ready to support the police should occasion arise—as is at times proven when the workers come out on strike. These are the forces with which the present property conditions, and hence the present social system, are maintained.

These forces naturally are controlled, as are the rest of us, by those who hold their means of subsistence in their hands—the capitalist class ; and the means through which they exercise that control is the political machinery.

Fraud, and false pretence have played a great part in the maintenance of every parasitic class in its position, but it is doubtful if any previous system of exploitation made greater use of deception and shams than the present, at all events in this country. The political machinery of today lends itself to a remarkable extent to this policy of bluff, and it is stretched to the utmost to hide the nature of the capitalist State. In particular it is made to obfuscate the struggle between the classes, and, most important in the present connection, to disguise the fact that the armed forces of the nation are a coercive force apart from the people.

It appears that because the people have the vote they have control, and that all things are done in their name. This false appearance, of course, tends to keep them quiet and makes them much more easy to govern. Could they see that the police and the naval and military forces were a power of coercion apart from themselves, they would quickly begin to ask at whose behest these forces coerce and why, and who is it they coerce and again why. They would realise then that “law and order” simply means the submissiveness of the working class, and that the armed forces of the nation exist merely to maintain this state of submission. Government would then become a much more expensive and difficult matter.

That perfection of the means and methods of production ; that organisation of industry which was necessary for the new social order, has already taken place. In their time the capitalists have been a useful and necessary factor in production, and so long as any other class than the working class was necessary to production the time was not ripe for the social revolution, for only chaos could attend the abolition of any necessary factor. But to-day practically only the workers have anything whatever to do with production. The development of the joint stock company has utterly removed the owners of the means of production from the field of industry, and their places are taken by paid sarvants—who, no matter what wage they get, have to sell their labour-power, and therefore are workers. Since nobody but the working class to-day are engaged in production, the transformation could take place without a hitch, for the element to be dispossessed and got rid of is not the element which uses the means of production, but merely the class which clog their operation, and will not allow tham to be used save in their own interests.

Only the political machinery maintains the now useless capitalist class in their position of rulers and exploiters. They are bolstered up by the forms of “legality,” and the forces of coercion which political power gives into their hands. By this means they are able to maintain the private property basis of society long after the development of the productive wealth has fitted it for communal ownership.

It is clear then that the social revolution implied by the Revolutionary Proposition must be preceded by a political revolution, that the political machinery—the machinery of Government—must be wrested from the capitalist class.

The means to this end exists in the form of the ballot. The only factor missing is the knowledge on the part of the working class of their class position and their class interest. That this knowledge, this class-consciousness, should lag behind the development of productive means and methods is quite natural, and is consistent with the Marxian view that it is the economic environment which determines men’s consciousness. Men generally cannot conceive the capitalist class as useless and parasitic until they are useless and parasitic. They cannot understand the practicability of a new social system until its need has been demonstrated by the evolutionary process rendering the old system altogether inadequate.

The political revolution, therefore, must in its turn be preceded by a working-class mental revolution. Hitherto the workers have viewed politics through their masters’ eyes. While it was still the hope of every working man, the dream of every working youth to climb eventually to the ranks of the masters; until the line between the classes was clearly and definitely drawn by the historic processes and the antagonism of interests brought into the broad light of day, it was inevitable that the proletarian in politics should be a workingman with a capitalist mind, clinging like grim death to the capitalist social system. What else had he to cling to ? What other system did he know of to put in the place of the present ?

The, first work therefore, of those aiming at the realisation of the Revolutionary Proposition (which is Socialism) is to help on that mental revolution out of which alone can come the political revolution essential to changing the social base. When a man has undergone this mental revolution he needs no shepherding into a political fold—he ceases to be a sheep. His adherence on the political field is assured us. No wile or lure can entrap him ; no promise of reform or palliation can alienate him from the cause of his class. He wants the new social system, knowing that that alone will bring him one iota of benefit, and he will not vote for anything else.

On the other hand, until the worker understands his class position and class interests his vote, even if obtained, can be of no use to the revolutionary party, for a vote is merely the index of what is behind it. As the forms of legality behind which the master class shelter themselves are but the cloak of the forces that support them, so the vote is simply a record that in a resort to force “I make one.” Time was when every quarrel was referred to the sword. The superior claims of property and production have altered all that. Modern industry demands greater stability, hence the force for or against is registered by the vote. Still force is the real thing, and must be behind the vote as the gold behind the banknote.

For this reason only the revolutionary conviction can make the revolutionary vote—the only vote that will be backed up by force in support of revolutionary action. The spreading of this revolutionary conviction, the making of this class-conscious material which alone will assent to revolution, and its organisation into a political party, becomes the immediate task of those seeking to establish the Revolutionary Proposition. As that class-conscious working-class political organisation grows in strength, it must proceed to capture the political machinery, in order to decree the dispossession of the master class and the end of the reign of private property in the means of life, and to support that decree by all the forces, armed or otherwise, of the Socialist Commonwealth.

[To be Continued]


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