1910s >> 1913 >> no-103-march-1913

Editorial: A Call to Arms

The Socialist is a confirmed optimist. His optimism is the natural outcome of his conviction of the soundness of his principles and his faith in his class. Pessimism can only come from doubt of one or the other, or both, therefore pessimism is not permissible in a Socialist, and where it shows its dour visage, calls aloud for attention to the victim’s dietary, either of the mind or the stomach.
But though the Socialist’s confidence that the future is with him, reduces pessimism to a symptom of ill health, even the healthy, vigorous revolutionary may become impatient without suspecting himself of being out of sorts.
And when one thinks of the attitude of mind of the working class as a class toward our movement, of the apathy with which they receive our message, of the dull forbearance with which they accept the contemptious husks that the master class throw to them, it is small wonder that the enlightened worker sometimes grows impatient at the slowness of the pace, and curses the inertia of the proletarian mass in deep, broad and bitter terms.
Of course the Socialist knows that industrial evolution will make the working class revolutionary; but he has been used to regard himself and his Socialist principles—revolutionary products of that same industrial evolution—as the instrument through which it works, and it is here that the impatience and disappointment is bred. It is easy enough to find acceptance of our message wherever our means enable us to deliver it. Our arguments are too powerful to be withstood ; our reasoning is too close to be denied. But, after all, what difference is there between he who apathetically admits the correctness of our position and that other who passively differs from us?
Socialism does not thrive on inactivity. The passive assenter is a corpse in this act, and Socialism can only be brought in by live men and women. It is not passive agreement that is wanted, but fighters—organised workers. It is possible to carry on our propaganda without money, but without workers never.
While it may be doubted whether the apathetic believer in our principles whom this call to arms might influence is worth having at all, it might be pointed out for the edification of those upon whom the fact has never been thoroughly impressed, how completely essential to working-class emancipation is the instrument of a strong working-class political organisation. Those who assent to our position, even though the extent of their support is listening to us until the collection bag heaves in sight, concede, of course, that it is necessary to capture the political machine, through which the powers of coercion are organised, nourished and controlled, in order to disarm the master class, as the preliminary to divesting them of their privileges.
The capture of this political machine is not to be the work of a moment. It must be captured by siege, not carried by storm. Essential as organisation would be for the last method, if that were at all possible, it is doubly so for the slow tedium of the first. For where the position has to be fought for inch by inch, where the Parliamentary machine has to be captured seat by seat, the very perfection of organisation is needed to synchronise action, to sustain the attack, to guard against treachery, and to secure a sound foundation for our feet to rest upon.
The working class must proceed to its emancipation as a class. Individual acts and individual effort can never throw off the capitalist oppressor. Just as, hereafter, the individual must in all public matters be sunk in the community, so, in the fight for that hereafter, the individual must be lost within the class. Every step must be taken as a class; every battle must be fought on class lines; every activity, no matter whether on the industrial field or in the political arena, must be carried through as part of the class plan of action. What does this mean? What can it mean but organisation —organisation on the industrial field—organisation on the political field ?
The unity of aim which is so essential to the successful assault of the capitalist citadel can only be secured by setting up the fundamental principles appertaining to the cause, and founding thereon, with rocklike rigidity, the organisation for each sphere of activity. The basis then is provided for united action. The principles enshrined represent the class thought, the class intelligence, the class predominance over the individual. Each one, in joining the organisation, lays his individuality on the altar of those principles, and becomes a link in the armour, an atom in the whole machine.
Just as, without those principles there can be no sound organisation, because there can be no bond of union, so without organisation there can be no unity because there can be no control. Organisation upon basic principles is the instrument which takes the power away from the individual and vests it in the mass. When the individual joins such an organisation he surrenders himself to the organisation, to be tested and tried and controlled by the principles of that organisation.
Such a political organisation is vitally necessary to the successful prosecution of the working-class struggle for emancipation so long as it is true that that emancipation must be sought in the political field, because only through it can the working class control its own political actions, only through it can the class prevent itself from drifting, only through it can the class become superior to the individual, only through it can the class secure itself against the treachery of such as might not be able to withstand the offers of the capitalist enemy.
The importance, the prime necessity, of the working-class political organisation, then, must be admitted by all those who agree that the workers must win their emancipation through the capture of the political machinery. In the face of this what is the position of the person who, while agreeing with the principles of the Socialist Party, fails to become organised therein ? He is one failing in his duty to hie class, for he is one who refuses to make himself amenable, on the political plane, to the class conscious proletariat. He is a menace, therefore, to the principles he agrees with, and to the class he belongs to.
There is a different attitude of mind, however, to which we must now address ourselves—the attitude of mind of the unbeliever, the sceptic, the man who does not think it can be done, or does not think it is worth while.
This is the attitude of the mental loafers, the people who are too lazy to think for themselves, or to examine the plain, simple facts which we unceasingly present in these columns and from our platforms.
And what are these facts? The hard, cheerless lot of those who produce the wealth, and the life of luxurious ease of those who produce nothing. The growing productiveness of labour and the increasing poverty and insecurity of the labourer. Thousands starving because too much wealth exists — because they have filled the warehouses and glutted the markets, and are not wanted in the workshops and factories.
Strange invertions of the natural order of things, one would think. Yet they seem to have no significance to millions upon millions who should be the first to demand their meaning.
It would almost seem as if there is no manhood left in the vast bulk of the working class of the world yet it is little more than forty years since the deathless effort of the workingmen of Paris. We know, of course, that the working class still have within them the capacity to repeat that effort. The evil is not there, in the shirking of danger, but in the indolent acceptance of the status quo, and the cynical disregard of the facts of working-class existence.
It is always harder to take up such a fight as the workers to-day have before them, just as in ordinary warfare it is harder to march than to fight. The excitement of the direct attack better fits our animal spirits than the weary labour of outflanking. Yet, though all our activities in the struggle can be translated into no more attractive term than the humdrum word “work,” the battle is none the less real, none the less trying, none the less necessary, and none the less worthy of the highest in our manhood.
What workingman or woman of any spirit can think without shame of the position of the workers under the present system. Cut off from all the means of life; doomed to toil unceasingly in sordid and filthy surroundings for no higher end than to heap up wealth for idlers; constrained to crawl and cringe and fawn and lickspittle before those who cannot even produce their own livelihood, theirs is indeed a position to be hotly blushed for. Nevertheless there are those, even among the working class, who assert that the workers have not the capability to order things more to their advantage.
The idea is shameful. It is an insult, not only to our class, but to human intelligence. The wealth at present produced is sufficient to give comfort and even a degree of luxury to every member of the community. The whole of that wealth is produced by the working class. We are asked to believe that the working class intelligence is not capable of solving the simple problem of distributing that wealth among the people who produce it.
We say it is a lie; the solution is ridiculously easy. We have simply to sweep away those who stand between us and all that is good under the sun. We have to take away from them all the sources of wealth and all the means of producing wealth, and to use them for the satisfaction of our own needs. Who gave the world into the hands of these idlers, pray ?
To the work of throwing down the barriers which the masters have set up between our class and the world, of setting humanity free to produce what humanity needs without let or hindrance, we solemnly call all working people.
To Arms! The World for the Workers!