The Vital Question

All men and women, whether they happen to be rich or poor, capitalist or worker, whether they are ot much, intellectual, physical, and social merit or are but poor fools devoid of all the graces, at some time or other come face to face with what is, did they but know it, the greatest and most important crisis of their lives. I mean that moment when they are forced to ask them­selves the questions : “What am I doing ? what am I ? where am I going ?”

This moment of self-interrogation comes to everyone, brought about, it may be, by some­thing they read, but however coming, compel­ling them to “take stock” of themselves. The majority of people burk the question—cannot or dare not attempt to answer. Especially at the present time, when social conditions are ten­ding to breed a class (the working class) whose whole outlook on life is one of physical and mental supineness, and, on the other hand, a class (the capitalist class) which looks on life as a period of gross and violent pleasures, of brutal indifference to anything but its own well-being, this supremely important question is put on one side by almost everybody.

It is an inconvenient question, an ugly ques­tion—the kind of thing that keeps one awake at night, that creeps between us and the pleasure we are taking or the work we are doing; and so it is easier to endeavour to forget it than to answer it, to shelve it until we have time from our pleasures or rest from our work to think about it. We are, most of us, cowards—the worker as well as the capitalist—frightened of life, drifting downward to destruction on the current of present-day degeneration.

There are, however, some—we at least who are Socialists—who, having been brought up against this dead wall of self ignorance, realise how imperative it is that it should be stormed and broken down. We realise that this ques­tion of our present position and future activi­ties must be answered, and answered correctly, for on the answer we give rests not only our existence as individuals, but the existence of the human race.

The capitalist class is hopeless. The uselessness of expecting help from such a class becomes every day more and more apparent. (Not that Socialists ever expected or wanted help from the capitalists.) If society is ever to be established on a basis whereon the great potentialities of life may have a chance of fruition, then it is, and can only be, the working class who will thus establish it.

To expect the capitalist class, with their nar­row vision, their lack of imagination, their callous indifference and their unctuous self-satis­faction ever to engage in any task other than the conservation of themselves as a class, would be absurd. The absurdity becomes even plainer when it is remembered that the inception of the Socialist basis of society implies the total elimi­nation of the capitalist class.

The future of mankind depends upon the strength and wisdom of the workers. But the pity of it is that the workers, who are strong enough and wise enough to produce all the world’s wealth, are still so ignorant of their po­sition in society, of their position as wage-slaves, as to render nugatory the energy they expend on the economic and political fields. They will run after every will-o’the-wisp, will flounder in every economic and political quagmire, before discovering the only road that will lead them to their emancipation from their present slave-position.

Liberal and Tory politicians, labour leaders, priests, and pressmen, social reformers, Anarchists and Syndicalists, cranks and charlatans of every description, dangle before the eyes of the workers the false lights of their particular nos­trum, in their endeavour to beguile the unwary. Bewildered by the multitudinous clamour aris­ing from the army of misleaders, can we wonder that the average working man (or working woman) is unable to think out for himself the problems that confront him, such as his relation to his fellows and to society as a whole ?

It therefore becomes the task of the Socialis—who has realised his class position as a wage-slave, who clearly understands what is necessary to alter that degrading position, and whose whole activities are focussed upon the change in society necessary if freedom from wage-sla­very is to be accomplished—to try by any and every means to concentrate the minds of the members of the working class on the things that matter. We, as Socialists, understand too well what we are ! We realise—and we want every other of our fellows to realise—that we are units in a vast multitude of men and women, working day after day, often far into the night, for what is the bare necessary amount of food, clothing, and shelter to keep us fit to continue this un­ending round of toil. We are the products of a system that gives us the worst food, the shod­diest clothing, the most meagre shelter. We live in an atmosphere of physical and mental squalor. Art and literature are to us practically non existent. The greatest work of art gives forth no message; the noblest literature is so many empty words. The natural beauties of the world are not for us. We have not the time nor the opportunity, not even the inclination in many cases, to study them. We are the workers ; our life’s business is to work so that our masters may enjoy (!) life. We are the slaves of a class composed of men and women who are, in a sense, themselves the slaves of the present social sys­tem of capitalism. Can there be a greater de­gradation than to be the slave of slaves ?

But the difference between us and the working men and women who do not yet understand their class position is that we are not content to remain as we are. To be free, as far as freedom is possible in a social sense, is the goal towards which we are striving. And we know that only by the complete overthrow of capital­ism, the destruction of the present system of private ownership in the means of life and the establishment of the common ownership by the whole people in the means of life, can the slaves of capitalism throw off their shackles and be free men and women.

We know, moreover, that only by the co-oper­ation of the working class in its entirety can this be accomplished. The emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself. We, for our part, believe and hope that that co-operation and help we ask for will be forthcoming, and to obtain this help and co-operation is the object of our propaganda.

Every day it is becoming more evident to the workers that they are slaves and nothing more. However objectionable the term may be to many the facts of everyday experience are proving this to be the case. The question as to what the position of the worker is in society needs little answering. But the question which every mem­ber of the working class will sooner or later be compelled to answer, the question as to whether he or she is going backward or forward, onward to a time when life shall be free and full and joyous, or to an atavistic period when the chains that bind the slave shall gall even more than now, when freedom shall be a forgotten dream, when life itself shall be a hell darker than any Dantesque vision—this question still awaits a reply.

It would seem, indeed, that the wheel is come almost to full circle. Men and women of the working class, it is for you to answer your own question ! Whither goest thou ?


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