The Futility of Opposing Socialism

It has been pointed out in the columns of the SOCIALIST STANDARD that the anti-Socialist organisations which in our Declaration of Principles are described as “avowedly capitalist” (as distinct from those designated “alleged labour”), always fail when they endeavour to make out a case against Socialism. Hence they confine themselves almost entirely to knocking down the various reform and palliative nostrums of pseudo-Socialist organisations. Only once or twice has an anti-Socialist organisation, forced to save appearances, debated with a representative of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. As a rule anti-Socialist parties fight shy of the S.P.G.B., but they are always prepared to actually provoke pseudo-Socialist parties like the S.D.P., the I.L.P., and the Fabian Society, to public debate. With regard to these parties, the anti-Socialists are able to demonstrate the utter absurdity of their so-called Socialist position, in so far as it stands for the mending of a system that “theoretically” they profess to exist only to end. But when these same champions of capitalism tackle Socialism, they can only cloud the issue with a tissue of deliberate lies and misrepresentation.

When the defender of capitalism meets a pseudo-Socialist in debate, the former’s triumph is a foregone conclusion, as neither leaves the Utopian standpoint—the capitalist because he dare not and cannot tackle the scientific issue ; the other because he is anxious to make his “Socialist” arguments appear


to all comers.

In face of the hopelessly futile pseudo-Socialist arguments that continually find expression against the professional defenders of capitalism, it cannot but dispel the confusion in the minds of many workers seeking enlightenment, if the reasons why it is futile to combat Socialism are once more simply expounded.

Friedrich Engels, in “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific” (p. 44), says : “These two great discoveries, the materialist conception of history and the revelation of capitalist production through surplus-value, we owe to Marx. With these discoveries the teachings of Socialism became a science.” And the Socialist Party may well add the clauses of their Declaration of Principles laying down the hostility of interests between the master class and the working class, and accentuating so strongly the


Taking any of the principal definitions of the word “science” given in the standard dictionaries (“Systemised knowledge” ; “Truth ascertained” ; “Knowledge arranged under general truths and principles”) there is ample evidence to support the claim that Socialism, as a teaching, is a science.

According to the materialist conception of history, the production of the means of human subsistence (including their distribution and exchange) forms the basis of all social structures. From this standpoint all social changes and political revolutions are due to changes in the mode of production, and not to “superior ideas” or “a better conception of eternal truth and justice.” It follows that a system of society cannot be and


until the economic conditions demand a change in the social order, and until they have produced the means of getting rid of the old system and of replacing it with one in keeping with the prevailing economic conditions. The revelation of the secret of capitalist production through surplus value has shown that the wealth producers in capitalist society are robbed of the greater portion of the wealth they produce by the owners of the means of production. And, as is stated in the Declaration of Principles of the S.P.G.B., there must be deadly hostility between exploited class and exploiting class until the former is abolished, and a common interest with regard to the ownership of the means of production and the labour products is established an society. Finally, as also is stated in the Declaration, the emancipation of the working class from wage-slavery must be


Now the anti-Socialist organisations and their spokesmen either deliberately ignore the scientific principles stated above, or, if for once they face a Socialist opponent, fail hopelessly to refute our contention that a Socialist system of society is necessary, and also possible as soon as a majority of the working class are prepared to establish it.

In the principal text-book used for the training of anti-Socialist speakers (“The Case Against Socialism,” with introduction by A. J. Balfour. Published by the London Municipal Society), the “Socialist” organisations in this country are divided into “evolutionary” and “revolutionary.” The Labour Party, I.L.P., Fabian Society, and Clarion Scouts are dubbed “evolutionary”; the S.D.P. “revolutionary”; and the S.P.G.B. is mentioned as the second of the “revolutionary” Socialist parties—and this in spite of the long programme of reforms and palliatives of the S.D.P. reprinted in the book.

The reason is not far to seek. Pages of that book are devoted to smashing up the reforms and palliatives, and the S.D.P. is pulverised, and it suits the anti-Socialists to link the S.P.G.B. with the S.D.P. and claim that in drubbing the last they


An amusing protest is made in the book against the attempt of the evolutionary “Socialist” parties to prove that the anti-Socialists are opposed to reform, and that they are satisfied with the present system. In order to give the lie to this outrageous charge, a whole sheaf of reforms are given later in the book, which it is claimed the anti-Socialists are “determined to obtain for the workers.

The task of showing the necessity of the development of capitalism and its passing away ; and the fact that the economic conditions are ripe for its being replaced by Socialism ; and that the accomplishment of this change awaits only the growth of revolutionary class-consciousness among the workers, is by no means a difficult one. But, as will be seen, it is


for the anti-Socialist to challenge. Hence his continual fight against the reform position of the pseudo-Socialist—on the pretence of “knocking the bottom out of Socialism.”

Let us, therefore, give the anti-Socialist Press and platform another chance of an open, straight fight against the “overwhelming enemy,” Socialism. Let us again show why Socialism must of necessity be the next social system—unless society is to perish altogether.

Reviewing the various methods of wealth production that have succeeded one another in the different epochs of history, the necessity of social evolution and revolution is demonstrated. There is no gainsaying the fact that capitalism is the inevitable result of evolution and revolution that have proceeded from primitive communism in various forms, through chattel-slavery and feudalism (with serfdom) to the present method of production.

The primitive communist method of production is based on labour socially organised according to a simple plan or system, and necessitates the common ownership of the means of production and labour products. Only such portion of the labour products are distributed among the members of the community as are


This method of production passes through several stages : the tribal stage (mainly supported by hunting, fishing, and cattle raising), the village community (with agriculture as the chief activity), and the patriarchal family stage (characterised by the family producing all its requirements).

Primitive communism gives way to chattel-slavery,—which, of necessity, is based on the private ownership of the means of production. Under that system the chattel-slave is personally owned by, and can be bought and sold by, the slave-master, and produces the sustenance of his owner, and incidentally his own rough livelihood.

Feudalism, based upon serfdom, supersedes chattel-slavery. The serf is not a personal slave but is attached to the soil, with which alone he changes hands. He produces on the soil of his feudal lord the wealth on which the latter exists, and he is of necessity permitted to devote part of his time to producing his own sustenance.

Under feudalism, handicraft—the production of wealth by individual application, with tools and raw material individually owned—comes to its full development. Handicraft represents the purest form of simple commodity production (producing for exchange and not for the use of the producer), as under it the producer himself


he uses, and hence owns his product.

The next form is capitalist production, with both agriculture and industry based upon wage-labour. The old conditions disappear altogether with the development of capitalism, and the ownership of the means of production passes into the hands of non-producers—the capitalists. At the same time the workers become property-less producers, compelled to sell their labour-power at a price determined by its cost of production and by supply and demand.

Marx has proved that the origin of capital (wealth used for the exploitation of the workers) can be traced to robbery with violence, in which process the boasted “thrift,” “abstinence,” and “directing ability” of the possessing class have been “conspicuous by their absence.”

The contradiction between the mode of production and the method of appropriating the labour products becomes ever more glaring with the advance of the socialisation of labour. For on the one hand there are the capitalists—idle, non-producing, yet enormously consuming—on the other hand there are the workers—the only producers of wealth, yet poverty-stricken and wanting in material security, and becoming more degraded in proportion as the wealth taken from them increases.

And the causes of the rapid growth of wealth and poverty under capitalism are easily explained. The fertility of labour is


by every new invention, every labour-saving implement, every improvement in the means of production. The result is simplicity itself. There is continually more wealth produced by an ever decreasing number of workers. The consuming capacity of the working class steadily declines and causes a gradual lowering of their standard of comfort in proportion to the ever increasing physical and mental strain of their work.

The present system works in every direction to the advantage of the exploiter and against the exploited—the producer. Under primitive communism, where the social products of labour are taken possession of and distributed by society, the share of each member increases with the growing productivity of labour ; under handicraft, where the individual producer is able to dispose of his labour-product for his own benefit, any increased labour fertility either improves his standard of comfort or extends his leisure.

But under capitalism, where labour-power itself is a commodity, its value, like that of every other commodity, declines as the productivity of labour increases. Hence the more easily wealth is produced, the


of the worker.

And this ever widening chasm of economic antagonism between exploiter and exploited must of necessity find a commensurable reflexion in the political struggle between the working class and the capitalist class. Only ignorant persons or professional perverters of truth can see, in the economic development, the need for solving the poverty problem of capitalism by a compromise (in the shape of economic and social concessions) between the workers and the shirkers, or by a return to the handicraft method of production.

Once the fact of the contradiction between the methods of production and of appropriation is understood, there seems only one solution possible, namely, the producers of wealth must also be enabled to own and control that wealth. And that is possible only when they own and control


That common social ownership of the means of production is the only aim of the Socialist movement, as expressed by the Socialist Party of Great Britain—which organisation calls upon the workers to conquer political power for that purpose and that purpose alone.

Let the anti-Socialist organisations consider exhaustively the foregoing facts and accept the challenge of the S.P.G.B., to show that the social and economic development of all history does not bear out the correctness of these allegations to the full.

H. J. N.

Leave a Reply