Aphorisms of Socialism: III



This antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working-class from the domination of the mastera-class, by the conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

The arguments which were used to support the previous clauses really left little to be said to establish this. It having been shown that the antagonism of interests arises from the ownership by the master-class of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, it follows that until those means and instruments cease to be possessed by the capitalist class the antagonism of interests must continue to exist.

So long as the means of life belong to a class, that class must be in a position of privilege; and its interests as such must necessarily be different from, and in opposition to, the interests of the class who are without privilege. The reason for this is that the privilege is based upon the possession of something which is vitally necessary to all.

It is this necessity upon which the whole social structure, in its present form, hangs. The only way open to the non-possessors to live, so long as the privately owned means of life are adequately guarded, is by selling their energy to the possessors. To enforce such sale is the object of the private ownership of the means of living by a section of society, and this necessarily places them in antagonism to those whom they coerce into wage-slavery.

It is quite clear. then, that if we wish to abolish the antagonism of interests and the class struggle existing in society to-day, we must remove the condition which gives rise to it. We must reduce the varying and opposing interests to a common and identical interest.

This cannot be done by making the interest of the workers the same as that of the master class, for that is an exploiting interest, and then there would be no one to exploit–in other words, we cannot all be employers. Neither, of course, can we all be employees. So the only way is to find a new position for both classes.

The way out of this is, according to our aphorism, by the conversion of the means of production and distribution into the common property of society.

This would at once strip from the capitalist class all their privileges, and at the same time strike from the workers’ limbs the shackles which bind them to their slavery. It would equalise, in all matters relating to the enjoyment of the social wealth and services, all the units of society.

To-day the vast majority of men must work for wages because they have no other opportunity of gaining a livelihood. If they go unbidden into the fields to dig, or into the factories to spin and weave, they are charged with trespassing or worse. But take away from the possessing class the ownership of the means and instruments of production and distribution, make them the common possession of the whole community, and immediately they become accessible to the whole community. The avenues of life then are open once more to all those who are willing to pay the natural price of existence – the cost in effort, in expended energy, of the means of subsistence.

But it does more than this. When it sets the workers free from the necessity of selling their labour-power it extinguishes utterly the opportunity of the capitalist class to live without working. No longer can they lock, bolt, and bar the gates of the world against a section of society. So, being unable to purchase labour-power, and unable, from lack of means of production, to exploit it even if they could purchase it, they could have only the same means of living open to them as to the rest of society – they will have to work.

Make no mistake about it, when you strip the capitalist class of their possessions you blot out every vestige of class distinction between them and the working class. Such class distinction does not attach to them as human beings but as owners of property. It is an attribute of property, not of humanity. Even to-day we see that when one of the master class loses his property he loses his class distinction and his class privilege. And if he loses his wealth to his butler or his gardener, his class distinction passes with his fortune to his menial.

So the conversion of the means and instruments of production into the common property of society will not only emancipate the working class. It will also dethrone the ruling class and make them one with their erstwhile slaves. With the abolition of classes the antagonism of interests ceases to exist. Standing upon the common ground of undifferentiated units of society, the interests of all must prevail. That interest, on the economic plane, will be to satisfy as many social needs as the general opinion holds to be worth the cost. This, of course, resolves itself into the economical expenditure of labour power. This, then, would become the common interest of all the members of the community, displacing the antagonism of interests which prevails in society to-day.


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