The essence of socialism

The Socialist Party is out for Socialism. Before Socialism can be attained the people must be converted to Socialism. Therefore the S.P.G.B. is out to make Socialists.

This in itself is no easy task, but it is made the more difficult by the existence in our midst of parties and individuals, talking in the name of Socialism, who are merely reactionaries and place-seekers. Hence, not only have we the task of converting the workers to Socialism, but also the more difficult work of clearing from their minds the rubbish instilled into them by the capitalist and pseudo Socialist parties.

The intelligent worker will naturally ask : If that which other parties claim as Socialism is not such, what, then, is ? This we shall set ourselves to answer, hoping that those interested will follow the question further.

It has been well said that the essence of Socialism springs from two laws—an economic and a sociological law—the law of exchange value and the law that man is a tool-using and tool-producing animal. Let us consider the meaning of the law of exchange value.

In present-day society (known as capitalism) the wealth produced takes the form of commodities, i.e., articles produced for exchange. Now the value of commodities is determined by the time socially necessary to produce them. If less time is necessary to produce boots than was the case before, the value of boots will sink ; if it is necessary for society to spend more time in producing a given number of boots, the value will rise. By new processes in production, e.g., by the introduction of machinery, division of labour, speeding up, etc., the value of commodities falls. If a manufacturer cannot produce in the given social time he will be crashed out of the market, because he will not be able to sell at the cheaper rate that society demands.

It is plain that those capitalists with the most costly and perfect machinery will be best able to compete, and those with old-fashioned tools will be crushed out. For the former can cheapen the price of articles by producing in less time, while the latter can not.

The sociological law means that human society could not exist if man did not produce and use tools. Karl Kautsky puts it that the essential difference between man and the other animals is that man produces tools and the other animals cannot do so.

Mankind, then, are dependent upon tools, which, when developed and complex, are known as machines. Other animals are limited to the use of their bodily limbs, but man has developed artificial limbs, so to speak, with which he has been able to kill off the animals most dangerous to himself, including his own kind, and thus secure the world for his own advantage. Let there be no mistake, then—through the aid of machinery man, by his energy, has produced all the good and evil things of society.

From these two laws we find that present-day society must possess tools of a highly developed kind. It is obvious that, owing to the absolute necessity of machinery of a costly nature, those who do not own such machinery will be the slaves of those who do. Hence in the present system of society there are two classes—a class that owns the means of production and a class that possesses nothing but the power to labour—in a word, a master class and a subject class. How came this to be ?

Biologists tell us that man is the youngest of the animals, being developed from a kind of anthropoid ape. Primitive man, like the ape, lived in the forest, subsisting mainly on wild fruits ; but when he left the forests for the open he obtained his living largely by hunting and fishing. In such circumstances man enters into relationships with his fellows. These relationships, arising out of the necessity of earning their livelihood together, formed them into a society, and they became more complex as society developed.

The first known form of society is called primitive communism. Under this system land was the chief factor in production. This was held in common by the members of a tribe or clan, and these tribes composed society.

When labour became more productive, instead of prisoners taken in war being killed, they were put to labour. Thus there arose a class of idlers and a class of chattel slaves.

This state of society developed until the idlers or chattel slave owners lived in riotous luxury, and the slaves in utter misery. With the spread of conquest and the annexation of lands, a larger armed force and body of officials were necessary to keep the slaves in subjection and to gather the taxes respectively. This economically injured the small land and slave owners, who could not afford it. So with the increase of these plebeian land-owners a revolution was effected, and feudal society was established.

In feudal society there were the feudal lords, with the king at their head, who held economic and political power over the serfs. The latter were forced to work so many days for their lords, being free to work for their own subsistence on the remaining days.

By the side of an agricultural class there arose a manufacturing class, who were hampered by the laws of the lords. These laws had to be abolished, and to do this a complete revolution was necessary. This was effected by the manufacturing class with the aid of the workers—in the French Revolution of 1789 and the revolution of 1832 in England. With the abolition of feudalism we enter into capitalist society.

Under capitalism we find society divided into two classes—a class who own the means of production and a class who own nothing but their power to labour. The latter, owning no means of production, cannot employ themselves, therefore they must hire themselves out to the owners of these means.

The masters pay in wages, sufficient, on the average, to enable the worker to reproduce his labour-power. This amount the worker replaces in, say two hours a day, but he goes on working eight, ten, or twelve hours longer. All this time he is producing surplus wealth for his master. Can this be changed ? Not in capitalist society, for the government is in the hands of the masters, who have thereby the power to enforce their demands with the aid of the military and police forces.

We have seen that society has changed from primitive communism by way of a system based on chattel-slavery to feudalism, and then to capitalism. Will capitalism give way to another social order ?

Yes, for it is a law that when a class becomes useless and a hindrance, society, in order to exist and develop, must remove that class, just as in biology, when an organ becomes useless it will become defunct. This has been seen in the case of the chattel-slave owners aud the feudal lords. It will be the same with the capitalists. Why ?

With the opening up of a world market through the discovery of America and the Cape route to India, the capitalist class were needed to stock the markets with goods. For this they are no longer necessary. By present-day methods of production the markets can be overstocked very quickly indeed. Hence there arises at certain intervals industrial crises, causing the smaller capitalists, who cannot last over the period of stagnation, to be thrown into the ranks of the working class. Thus as capitalism develops the bulk of the wealth of society falls into ever fewer hands, enhancing the power of the idle capitalist class over the working-class population.

Through blind production of wealth these glutted markets and crises appear at ever closer intervals. Only the extension of the markets has staved off capitalist society from complete incompetency; but the markets of the world are limited. With the development of capitalism its insufficiency becomes more apparent, and the forces for revolution consequently stronger.

It is evident that capitalism is doomed. What system of society is to take its place ?

A glance at the society of to-day will convince anyone that it is not for want of producing enough wealth that the workers are living in veritable degradation, but, owing to the machinery of production being owned by a few, production is being carried on for the benefit of those few. Clearly, then, if society is to change to a more economically developed society, it must change to a system wherein the land, factories, machinery, mines, etc., shall be owned by the whole community.

Then, instead of having a class of parasitic idlers with their hangers-on, e.g., military, police, and menials, all shall take part in production, and so reduce the time of labour of all workers and allow opportunity for educational and recreative purposes for all. This is Socialism.

It may be claimed that other parties besides the S.P.G.B. say they stand for the same thing. That may be so. But saying they are out for Socialism does not prove that they are earnestly and honestly endeavouring to attain Socialism. If it can be proved that these parties are playing into the hands of the master class that will be quite sufficient to brand them as pseudo-Socialist.

The British Socialist Party, who are no other than the S.D.P. disguised, have played the traitorous role times out of number. Putting aside their old record, we find many of their executive thinking more of the safety of capitalist society than of Socialism, and advocating more armaments, and so on. As if the army and navy are used in any other interest than the masters’ ! For fear of injuring the circulation of privately owned papers (“Justice” and “The Clarion”) they fear to publish an official organ, thus keeping the public In the dark as to the nature of their organisation. So topsy-turvy is the B.S P. that Mr. H. Quelch appeals, in “Justice,” March 28, to its members not to allow the Anarchists in the Party too much rope !

The Fabian Society and the Independent Labour Party can be taken together, for there is really no difference between them. Bossed by “middle-class” men and place-hunters, these parties are preaching a spurious Socialism in the form of nationalisation and municipalisation. The small “middle class,” recognising that they can no longer compete successfully against the giant capitalists, realise the chance of obtaining safe national and municipal posts, hence their advocacy of these undertakings.

These parties, through their leaders, will compromise with and openly support the master-class parties, for the purpose of gaining the favour of the capitalists. The man is of poor stuff indeed, who thinks that the Fabian Society and the I.L.P. are Socialist parties.

The Socialist Labour Party is another party that doesn’t know where it is. First being indistinct from the Social-Democratic Federation, it wobbled into a state of anarchy, and now, by its tactics of rubbing shoulders with all and sundry, it has become the laughing-stock of all. One of its chiefs is asking that we support Messrs. Leonard Hall, Smart, Grayson and Gaylord Wilshire—all reactionaries. Another shining light of this party says : “I don’t know two of these men, but George Lansbury will beat the lot, for look how he supported the women.” It is needless to say more of this party, for their chief scribe declares : “The S.L.P. is on its last legs and is about dead.”

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is the only Socialist party in this country. Recognising the need for political and economic action by the workers, it has at all times kept clear of compromising and shady tactics. Knowing that if the workers are to be free they themselves must strike the blow, the S.P.G.B. is out to educate the workers in their position in society.

When the wage-slaves understand what this position really is, they will organise themselves into class-conscious political and industrial organisations for the purpose of overthrowing the capitalist class and their system. Then the misery and poverty of capitalism will be replaced by the contentment and grandeur of the Socialist Commonwealth.


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