Asked & Answered

D. A. CONROY writes :
I have read your article entitled “Might is Right.” To me it was a regular “stunner.” I fail to see what good can come of such views. They seem to vitiate all the aims of Socialism. If what you say is correct, why trouble at all about your fellow-wage-slaves? They are hopeless and helpless, and provoke only cynicism or pity. “Might is Right.” Those on top are only there because they are mighty—on your own showing they have every right to rule. “Down with the meekling,” so be it. It is only just and natural that the weakling and the meekling should go down and be kept down, You can’t make a giant out of a jellyfish. Take the lowest types of physical and mental degenerates one meets in the streets by the million—is the new democracy to be evolved from such human wreckage? Is this dull-brained human herd fit to assimilate revolutionary ideas, much less act upon them? Or is the task of emancipation to be achieved by those amongst us who are of a fairly high order of intelligence ? If so, it will be a very incomplete democracy. You would still have the rule of a class, the intellectual class.
Can you help me out of this dilemma ? What has become of skill and cunning as factors in the struggle for survival and supremacy ? You seem to have left them out of account.


My critic’s letter has been handed to me to reply to. There is a suggestion of poetic justice about the editorial command. Having thrown friend Conroy into the frying-pan, it serves me right that I am ordered to get him out again. Haply I may not drop him into the fire.

The first question is : “What good can come of such views?” “Such views,” as set forth in the article criticised, are that man has no other right to live than that based upon his ability to do so ; that the only right he has to exist, therefore, is the “right of might.” Is this correct or incorrect ?

In the first place, the possibility of the view that man has a God-given right to live was admitted, and it was pointed out that such a view commits one, logically, to the conquest of the means of life by the whole of the people. The Socialist, however, who has no place for God in his philosophy, cannot admit any God-given right to live. If there is no intelligent force outside the human (or animal) race, then there can be no other source of man’s right to live than man himself—and man can give himself no more than the right to live if he can. This is nothing but the right of might.

Does Mr. Conroy go so far with me ? If he does not, he must be clinging to the hem of some metaphysical garment, for the external and the internal are the whole, and the external intelligence (if such exists) is God, and the internal, man.

Now if man gives himself the right to live if he can, he must also give himself the right to live as well as he can. Between such miserable, attenuated existence as is not worth living, and the full flush of riotous luxury which can only be possible to a very small number, there is no place where the logical man can put a mark and say : “Here ends the right of might.” Even the plea that the right of might ends where exploitation begins—that men are justified in using their might to secure all that they produce, but not to obtain more, is shattered by the facts of history, for exploitation was in the direct path of human development. From the communism of primitive man, with its intimate dependence upon the capricious hand of Nature, to the fuller communism which it is yet our task to achieve, there was but one way to travel— through the robbery or exploitation of the wealth producers. How, then, can it be maintained that the right of might ceases on the border of robbery 7

“Those few on top,” then, have all the justification they need. They are there, as my critic puts it, “because they are mighty.” And, by the same token, they are there because the many underneath are weak.

So it becomes apparent “what good can come of such views.” The weakness of the underlings lies primarily in their ignorance, hence it is quite in accordance with Socialist aims to teach them that there is no special Providence watching over them; that there is no Justice, even ever so blind, and with ever so rusty a sword, holding a balance between the weak and the strong ; but that the only hope is strength, the only right—might.

If I showed that the strong few “have every right to rule,” at least I pointed out that the right ceases with the power. “It is just and natural,” says Mr. Conroy, “that the weakling and the meekling should go down, and be kept down.” Why, then, should we not say so ? It might lend the weakling strength, and the meekling combativeness ; it might put vertebra into the jellyfish, and make a giant of it.

And it is quite as “just and natural,” when the weakling has lost his weakness, and the meekling his meekness, for them to rise and overthrow those who have kept them down—a fact my critic seems to overlook.

As to who are to achieve the emancipation of the working class, the answer is : the working class itself. Not “the lowest types of physical and mental degenerates,” nor “those amongst us who are of a fairly high order of intelligence,” but the working class. And Mr. Conroy’s fear of being ruled by an intellectual class may be set at rest by this comforting assurance—there is no intellectual class.

Finally, it is difficult to understand why my critic distinguishes between the mighty and the wise. Might may proceed from wisdom, or from “skill and cunning”—which I am supposed to have forgotten.

And now, after the “finally,” a “lastly.” I desire to express my appreciation of the compliment so delicately conveyed in the words “those amongst us who are of a fairly high order of intelligence.” I am quite sure Mr. Conroy was thinking of me first and (to return the compliment with that delicacy my friend’s modesty demands) of himself second.

A. E. J.

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