Socialism & slavery

G. K. Chesterton affords a signal example of a man who, for lack of knowledge of basic principles, is ever hovering around the truth without hitting its centre ; playing bob-apples with the Fruit of Knowledge, to the amusement of the unthinking and the grief of the wise. The warping of intellect, whether as a result of bad education, of crusted prejudice, or of servile surrender for a living, is one of the saddest of the many sad phenomena which attend capitalist society. Chatterton, in his last garret-sleep, symbol of society-strangled genius, is hardly a more pathetic figure than the literary monkey skipping to the tune of the Press barrel-organ.

In an article entitled “Slavery,” in the Daily New (Feb. 25), G. K. says : “Nobody sees the largest danger of our age. It is simply that the rich are slowly enslaving the poor, partly by industrial despotism, partly by scientific benevolence, partly by State officialism.” The curious jumble of truth and error contained in these few lines is typical of the whole article.


persistently proclaims, not merely that the rich are slowly enslaving the poor, but that the very fact of society being founded upon private ownership of the means of life involves wage-slavery for the dispossessed class, and that, therefore, that class is already enslaved. “Blood-drinkers,” “Devil-worshippers,” S.P.C.C. reformers, railway directors, country magistrates bent on preserving game and their class privileges—all these figures distastful to Mr. Chesterton, together with other vermin which feed fat on the-body politic, are bred by capitalist society. They are as characteristic of the present regime as are cunning of priest, snuffle of philanthropoid, and job-lust of Labour member.

The tilt at “scientific benevolence” and “State officialism” by one who carries the lance of laissez-faire, is doomed to futility. Beelzebub will not cast out Beelzebub. “Scientific benevolence” and “State officialism,” are but additional heads to the foul monster guarding the capitalist hell. Possibly a desire not to hurt


induced G.K. not to mention also “industrial benevolence,” as typified by the enterprising family who exist to manufacture profits by the (benevolent) exploitation of their employes, and who turn out cocoa as a bye-product.

The article in question refers to the “almost supernatural fact of the parent sometimes hating the child,” of “such hatred of one’s own flesh” being “mysterious and unfathomably shameful.” The Socialist sees nothing “mysterious,” still less “supernatural,” in the fact that parents have sacrificed, and are sacrificing, their children to “Moloch, horrid king,”—whether Moloch be the reflex of religious mental perversion or of economic necessity. Does G.K. remember the fate of Don Juan’s tutor? The shipwrecked crew that washed the portly pedant down with salt water were neither better nor worse than an average boatful of Fleet-street scribblers. In similar circumstances, with G.K.C. on board, there is little doubt the Daily News would be the first to be one contributor the less. Hunger is a primal passion, and for one Fantine who sacrifices her teeth, her hair, her all for her child,, there are scores of Jewish mothers who, under stress of famine-born delirium at the siege of Jerusalem,


who, in normal circumstances fill the horizon of their whole being.

Capitalist society has consecrated child-selling. None may escape. The Divorce Court tells its own tale for the bestialised exploiting class. “Religious” scruples vanish when pursy Rothschild meets haughty Rosebery ; aristocratic exclusiveness melts away before the bright beams of the Yankee dollar.

One would imagine that G.K.C. knew nothing of child-selling, literal or otherwise, that has been, and is, one of the corner-stones of capitalist society. Let him consult Engels’ “Working Class in England in 1844” ; let him consult anyone with a working knowledge of the “half-time question” in the manufacturing North today. Does G.K. know who were, and are, the chief opponents of the abolition of half-time ? Lacking information upon this point he may be enlightened by the Senior Labour Adviser, D. J. Shackleton, sturdy defender of child-labour and of the rights of parents. Engels wrote: “Even children from the workhouses were employed in multitudes, being rented out for a number of years. They were completely the slaves of their masters, by whom they were treated with the utmost recrklessness and barbarity.” O.K. agrees “with the Socialists about things like the nationalisation of railways.” Let. us state, here and now, for the benefit of new readers, that “nationalisation of railways,” dear to the hearts of reformers, self-styled Socialists or otherwise, is


of the Socialist Party. That programme is simple but all-embracing. Carried out, it obviates the necessity for “reform” to the capitalist class by abolishing that class, and so abolishing “classes ” altogether. “Reform” implies continuance of the present system of society ; Revolution (the policy of the Socialist Party) implies the destruction of that society, based as it is upon the selling of working man, woman, and child—as so many units of labour-power—and the substitution of a system of society based upon the ownership of the means of life, and the effective control of those means of life by all.

That is the programme of the S.P.G.B. In a word—


Nationalisation of Railways is simply one of the many devices which economic development will render necessary to the bolstering-up of the State, and will enable the “economic superiors” of the porter (for whom G.K. affects concern) to “control him” still more effectively.

“I quarrel with Socialism because it quarrels with the passion of the peasant for his field.” The most charitable thing to do with this extraordinary statement is to assume that G.K. has a certain reputation to sustain for “brilliance,” for “paradox,” and other qualities which are demanded of the unfortunate writer whose bread and butter depend upon his grinning through the literary horse-collar.

“The passion of the peasant for his field” !—The platonic affection of Giles for “his” insanitary cabin ! The yearning love of the quill-driver for “his” top-soiled, clay-soddened back yard ! The burning attachment of the one-roomed dweller for “his” (hire-purchased) little ‘ome ! The touching bond of sympathy between the muck-raker and his rake ! !—The only quarrel the Socialist has with his fellow-worker, carter or coalheaver, farm-slave or factory-slave, wielder of pen or of hoe, is on account of that fellow-worker’s


From those chains Socialism alone is able to deliver. And that that deliverance may not come too late to save G.K. from sealing for ever his undoubted ability to the interests of the class to whom he is now selling, peradventure even that the blinding light of reason may send the dazzled Saul to seek guidance from the Socialist Simon, to emerge a better, wiser Paul, is the wish of


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