Environment makes the man. The Anti-Socialist answered

“The Socialist tells us that environment makes the man. Why is it that the same environment breeds at the same time the fool and the intellect?”

The above question was asked by an Anti-Socialist lecturer at a recent outdoor meeting. When the Socialist, after careful analysis, says that “wealth can only be produced by the application of human labour-power to the nature-given material, and as the capitalist does not contribute labour in any form, he must obtain his wealth by robbery,” the anti-Socialist accuses him of generalising. But, at least, his generalisation is true in the main, although there are capitalists in a small way—who participate in their own business concerns.

The anti-Socialist quoted above, however, generalises on a premise that is absolutely false. The questioner assumes that the fool and the intellect are the result of the same environment. The reverse is the case—so much so that the man of average intelligence accounts, quite rightly for differences in acquirements and intelligence by referring to the training and opportunities of those in question.

From this common-sense standpoint alone it is evident that the man who is replete with knowledge must have lived in a different environment to that of the ignoramus. This may seem like reasoning in a circle, but when we find that no two individuals are alike, either physically or mentally, and when we also find that no two individuals meet with exactly the same experiences in their struggle for existence, we are justified in assuming some connection between the two.

Each individual has a separate and different environment; each individual is different and distinct from every other. The natural explana¬tion of two such platitudes is that they are cause and effect.

It is quite true that an ever-increasing number of minds are broken on the wheel of capitalist industry. It is also true that a certain proportion of the population in any given form of society are born weak minded. But these are not the products of the system, referred to in the question. The anti-Socialist would consider those men intellects who had achieved a measure of success in the industrial struggle, and those who remain poor he would regard as of weaker intellect. It is a habit of mind engendered in the anti-Socialist, and acquiesced in by the majority to credit those who have wealth, or who hold what are called responsible positions, with superior intelligence.

If the measure of success in the struggle for existence is to indicate the standard of intelligence, it is necessary to ascertain how far opportunities are equalised among the combatants.

If we intend to examine the environment of individuals for the sake of comparison, it is necessary to do so from the commencement of individual existence, which Ernest Haeckel says is “the moment of conception, when the sex cells coalesce and form a separate being.” It is plain that throughout the embyronic stage the mental and physical state of different parents will have an important bearing on the development—both doctors and eugenists insist upon the point. On the development of procreative organs depends the degree of perfection in the function itself. Custom has called this heredity, but in reality organs, functions, parents and their previous development and material conditions form the environment of the new individual, which is a microscopic speck of protoplasm—one cell out of millions, which show no difference whatever, even under the most powerful microscope.

The procees of development is purely vegetable at this stage ; even after birth every child is subjected to different conditions of treatment. As it grows it adds to and develops the ideas, prejudices, and habits of the parents which it has already inherited and which shape its character and determine its mental outlook.

An apology for education is inflicted upon every working-class child, designed to fit it with the knowledge indispensable to capitalist production, because capitalists demand, and endeavour to arrange for themselves, “equality of opportunity” in the exploitation of labour. The average child on leaving school is qualified to perform the duties connected with the simpler processes of every occupation, and possesses the potential ability and intelligence to ultimately fill the most responsible positions. But capitalism is only concerned with profits, not with the well-being or aspirations of the child.

Herbert Spencer—to quote a capitalist authority—long ago pointed out how limited was the choice of occupations for young people, how the average child brought up in the Potteries was doomed to become a potter, how the majority of Lancashire children were destined for the cotton mills, and so on over the whole industrial field. The mass of the workers have to accept ill-paid and degrading situations, because there is nothing else for them, and economic stress determines that they must be earning.

Capitalist production consists, in the main, of routine work ; the so-called brain-worker is as much a cog in the industrial machine as the mechanic or the labourer. The sphere in which he is placed gives him experience. Men do not become managers and organisers at once : they have to serve their apprenticeship in positions that qualify them for such posts. The average child on leaving school has sufficient intelligence to serve the apprenticeship and qualify for any position under the system. But the number of jobs worth having are strictly limited, and are largely apportioned by influence.

Capitalism is incapable of breeding real intel lects: it has no use for them. Further, the system is destructive of intelligence itself ; it condemns millions to tasks which can hold no interest for them, leaving them no time or opportunity for the improvement of the mind. The professions are stultified and subordinated to capitalist ideals. The scientist can only hope for success by discoveries which cheapen the cost of production, for social standing and capitalist approval by swearing on his honour that the ruore he learns the stronger becomes his belief in religion. Art has long ago succumbed to commercialism, because success is for those who record on canvas, to order, the mutton-chop whiskers, gold-rimmed spectacles and diamond studs, of a Wertheimer, Beit, or Rothschild. In literature popularity is the test and measure of success, and a servile system gives the award to neurotic productions like “Sherlock Holmes,” and “The War of the Worlds,” or to adulatory biographies of Victoria the Good or Edward the Peacemaker. The Stage is in the same category as Literature—the hall-mark of popularity is stamped on “Charley’s Aunt,” “The Miracle,” and “Alexander’s Rag-Time,” not because they display merit or power, but because popular intelligence, being circumscribed by capitalist conditions and ideals, applauds what it can understand.

The products of capitalism are, first, unbeautiful parasites exhibiting various shades of gluttony, arrogance, and tyranny ; secondly, millions of toiling slaves who’s only likeness to one another is that they do not—to quote Mr. Lloyd George—”earn sufficient to replace the energy they use up in their daily toil.” Of what is capitalism to these ?

When the best jobs are apportioned, when the plunder is shared by a robber class, nothing remains for the vast mass of humanity but the anarchy of incessant struggle with conditions and against one another for the bare necessaries of life. What can it signify to them that there are a few opportunities here and there ? The vast majority are condemned to poverty from the outset. To these we bring the message of Marx : “Workers of the World, unite ! you have nothing to lose but your chains ; you have a world to win.” Organise as a political party ; leave confusion to the confusionist, and capitalist politics to the capitalist. Aim directly at your emancipation, and by your own intelligence, determination, and courage transform this bestial environment into one that will become your manhood.

F. F.

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