Why the Workers are Sold. The Only Antidode to Treachery

Representation Necessary
There could be no question or need of representative in situations when every free man of the Germanic tribes could take part in the deliberations of the assem­bly around the sacred tree, and personally share in the control of his social organisation. Poli­tical society, indeed, has developed apace since the days when every citizens of Athens directly participated in the deliberations and government of his city-State. In common with progress in all forms of life, the social organism, from being small and simple, has become vast and complex ; and the methods of ancient democracies have become in consequence impossible to-day.

Just as the general economic trend is toward specialization and the division of labour because of increased efficiency, so the complexity and vastness of modern social life demand the delegation of most deliberative, administrative, and executive functions to more or less carefully chosen representatives. In the main this is inevitable, but only the charlatan and the bureau­crat seek to force the principle to its wasteful and most dangerous extreme. Such work of social direction as can be done efficiently by the general body of workers must be done by them directly, and only where geographical, physical, or technical difficulties bar that way, should the work be done through representatives.

In trade-union and working-class organisation, therefore, true delegateship—or representation—will of necessity play a helpful and important part. But quite often owing to the present mentality of the masses, the representative is such in name only. He is allowed to assume the role of leader or boss, and is in a position to sell out his following. Why is this ?

Let us face this seeming danger, and we shall see, more plainly than in most cases, that here it is literally true that knowledge is power.

Admittedly, then, one of the vexed questions of the day amongst the rank and file of working-class organisations is. “how can we guarantee that our elected representatives will not play us false ?”

The pessimist—too fired to think—says despairingly that if new men are put in office they will be just as bad as the old ones, and there­upon he retires from the fray.

But is such an attitude entirely justified ?

Can Fidelity be Guaranteed?
There is certainly little justification for the attitude of the hero-worshipping optimist who fondly imagines that by the election of his hero for the time being, the world will be regenerated.

Nevertheless the pessimist, were he not too tired of the whole business to think, would soon see that if the constituents are unchanged in knowledge and aim, it cannot be expected that the mere change of a representative will bring about a revolution. Something more is required. What is this something more—this guarantee against treachery ?

This question arises both in trade union and political circles, and far from being more urgent owing to Parliamentary treachery, the workers have had the question driven home to them by the numerous examples of glaring treachery on the industrial field on the part of trade union officials. Certainly the matter is of urgence in both political and trade union circles, and merits attention.

Can the fidelity of the official or delegate be assured by compelling him to take a pledge, sign a contract, or forego his salary? On the other hand, are not all those who rely on such artificial guarantees leaning on a broken reed ? Are they not ignoring the only guarantee worth having, the only one that can always be effective ; in other words the guarantee constituted by the awakened interest and knowledge of the work­ing class in general ?

Ignorance Tempts Traitors
What are the facts regarding the present economic and political labour movement ? We are battened on politically, via the Labour Party, by a collection of time-serving bible-bangers and job-hunters. And a precisely similar gang batten on us in trade unions also. They all regard delegateship as office, and since both the political and eco­nomic fields offer at present abundant opportu­nities for selling the workers, so in each corrup­tion is about equally rampant. But is not the remedy the same in both cases ? In neither case is technical safeguard, be it contract, promise, signed condition, control of salary, or what not, of any real use so long as the elementarv safeguard is lacking.

That safeguard is SOCIALIST KNOW­LEDGE.

Take illustrations from actual life. They are too numerous to need particularisation. A nominal Socialist is elected as Parliamentary representative or trade union official. His constituents are not in mass Socialists at all. They do not understand the essentials of Socialist action, that is, the conflict of interest between capitalist and labourer, the class struggle and its necessary culmination, and the vital need of avoiding like poison any alliance, compromise, or confusion with any other party. Such an elected person cannot in such conditions be a Socialist delegate. The attempt at genuine Socialist policy, indeed, would offend and alien­ate the bulk of his supporters. And when he sells the workers his treachery is scarcely recognised, owing to the ignorance of working-class princi­ples among his constituents. It is ignorance, vague sympathy, and hero-worship that are the forcing beds of such treachery, yet these are deliberately fostered by pseudo working-class organisations. When a delegate so elected is “bought” by the ruling class, it is, of course, the ignorant electors who are sold, and whose purchase price is the plum given to the “leader.” This is precisely what repeatedly happens, and by no means least often in trade union affairs. The rank and file are sold simply because they are blind, and follow “leaders.”

Social Action the Remedy
The obvious remedy is to open the eyes of the former. Hence the Socialist Party starts at the bottom. The education of the workers in the principles and policy of Socialism is the sole groundwork upon which the Socialist Common­wealth can be surely built. These principles are easily grasped, once the worker’s interest and intelligence are awakened. They are being slowly grasped. But no constituency or trade union is as yet ripe for Socialist representation. The majority are at, present unaware that their lives and happiness are the stakes that are played for in political action ; and they have not comprehended distinctly the hopelessness of everything short of SOCIALIST political action. They do not, in fact, realise either where they are or whither they are going ; and for that precise reason they can be led and sold like sheep.

But as they come to understand they cease to be sheep. As they learn the broad outlines of working-class policy they learn also to recognise and condemn every infraction of that policy. They will require their delegate to conform to these understood principles, and if he refuses, if he deserts, then the delegate alone is bought by the enemy—not the rank and file—and the traitor is branded : his career as a working-class representative is ended, His election again becomes impossible. He is replaced at the earliest opportunity.

Spread the Light
The mere individual in such circumstances ceases to be worth much to the capitalist class, and the temptation to treachery is reduced with every step forward in proletarian class conscious­ness. The more clearly the future is shown by working-class knowledge and organisation to be with the workers, the more will their goodwill and support be worth to the delegate as against the blandishments of the exploiters.

Technical safeguards of various kinds may, and probably will, be used also, but they are not worth discussing beside the overwhelm­ingly important and sufficient guarantee in the workers’ knowledge and organisation.

That this elementary fact is so often over­looked is no mere accident, The charlatan prospers best amidst obscurity and ignorance.

For the rest, any constituency, political or other, gets in the main the representation it deserves. Only a Socialist constituency can have an effective Socialist delegate, since it alone can choose, understand, usefully support, and intelligently control such a representative.

Consequently, in revolutionary working-class politics, the education of the workers in the elements of Socialism is the surest and safest guarantee for the fidelity of their representatives—in fact it is the only sure and safe guarantee. It is, moreover, impossible for the Socialist society of the future to be realised until this task of elementary Socialist education has been accomplished.

F. C. W.

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