The weapons of capitalism

In considering any phase of life, no matter whether it happens to be political, economic, scientific, moral or artistic, it is primarily necessary that a definite standpoint shall be taken from which such particular phase shall be examined.

Before it is possible to criticise, one must have a standard on which such criticism can be based. Before a true conception of any phenomenon is possible one must possess a clear-cut and unassailable philosophy of life.

“Know thyself” was the advice given by the Greek philosopher, Thales, nearly three thousand years ago, and this advice still holds good. Indeed, without self-knowledge a man might have pretty nearly all the learning possible on any subject, yet remain a mental dyspeptic, quite unable to assimilate the results of his studies. One has only to think of the many professorial pedants, prominent within their own narrow circle and yet utterly divorced from the realities of life, to realise this truth.

The Socialist philosophy gives, or should give, to its adherents this clearly defined outlook, this power to see life steadily and see it whole, without which all criticism becomes undynamic and therefore useless, all effort negated. Knowing exactly where he stands, always keeping in view the fact that his aim in life is the hastening of the disintegration of capitalism, and at that disintegration to be in a position to do his share in establishing the Socialist Commonwealth, the Socialist should be quite competent to examine on its merits, every fresh phase of life as it arises, and should, moreover, be capable of assimilating into his philosophical outlook whatever his examination tells him is beneficial to his career as a Socialist, rejecting that which is harmful cr merely superfluous.

Keeping this in mind, it will be seen that there is really nothing that can be said to be too unimportant to go through the fire of Socialist criticism. Any new movement in, say, Art, or Science, or Politics, that may arise, although superficially seeming to be only of interest to those choice spirits within capitalist circles and to have little or no bearing on the working class position, will assuredly be found suggestive to the Socialist as a reflex of the development of capitalism, and also in its reacticnary effect on Society as a whole, ergo, on the larger part of Society—the working class.

The increase in motor traffic or the “post-impreesionist’ craze ; the land-tax agitation or the presidential address at the recent scientific conference at Dundee; the proposed opening of theatres and music-halls on Sunday or the Mental Deficiency Bill, all have their significance as being the outcome and reflex of capitalist development, as showing the trend of that development, and, as aforesaid, in their reactionary relation to Society in its entirety.

The expensive monthly and quarterly reviews (which can mostly be seen at the pubic libraries) no less—rather more if anything—than the ha’penny morning and evening newspapers; the advanced (!) drama no less than the popular melodrama or music-hall performance ; the meetings held by scientific and philosophical societies no less than the Lloyd-Georgian or street-corner assemblies, have their importance for the Socialist, as well as for the non-Socialist, worker. Indeed, it is the very things that are generally supposed by members of the working class to be of no significance to them that are often the most significant.

If it were possible, for instance, for some of us carefully excluded workers to obtain access to a meeting of the Privy Council, or some secret meeting of the capitalists and their hangers-on, we should probably there learn more about the methods by which we are held in our slavery than by attending dozens of publicly called political meetings—certainly if such meetings were held under Tory and Liberal (including “Labour,” of course) auspices.

What we Socialists have to do it to get hold,, as far as is humanly possible, of whatever in the way of politics, or science, or literature, is sought to be withheld from us ; to obtain a. knowledge of what we are not expected to know. We have thrown to us the worst of food, the worst of clothing, the worst of shelter. And, in “literature,” we get such offal as is provided by “The Daily Express,” “The Daily Chronicle,” “Tit-Bits,” “Answers,” and such-like vile and ennervating stuff. In “art” what more do we want than that poster, scattered broadcast by the Liberal Insurance Committee, showing some of the million mothers who will benefit to the extent of 30s. under that marvellous piece of legislation, the Insurance Act ?

We want to understand capitalism in its complexity and the movements of capitalism, and to do this we must get in amongst the capitalists themselves, know what their point of view is, read their papers and reviews, get to understand their political moves, their view of economics, their literature andtheir art. We shall have to take and use for ourselves in the warfare we are waging, any and every weapon. If the capitalist weapons, meant to be used against us, are better and more powerful than any we can hope to forge (more often than not they are) it is our business to endeavour to take and wield for our own advantage any such as can be wrested from them. Yes, we want to understand all about these enemies of ours, to find out their weak spots, so that, when the time is ripe, we may strike at the least expected and most vulnerable points. If we are going to win we shall have to give up kid-glove methods. It is rather foolish to attack on opponent with a battle-axe (kindly provided, possibly, by the opponent himself) while he is cleverly defending his position with a Gatling-gun.

The present writer urges, therefore, the necessity for the Socialist to use every effort to obtain access to whatever the capitalists contend is not meant for him ; to pick the brains the capitalists themselves possess or have managed to buy, even as they (the capitalists) exploit the brain and muscle of the workers in the mill and factory. It is the business of us who are Socialists to find out everything, even when it appears to have no direct message for us, and an examination in the light of the Socialist philosophy will very soon show us what to reject as useless, or merely inane, and what to retain for the use we may be able to make of it.

And then—we shall perhaps, some of us, look-back on the struggle when Socialism has at last been attained, and realise that the intellectual weapons, possessed, or bought, or stolen by the capitalists and thought to he used only for the furthering of their own cause, have actually contributed to their system’s downfall. Some of us, it may be, will even find a good deal of satisfaction—ironical, but very human—in such, a realisation.


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