Swelled heads

To-day the capitalist class is in possession of all the means of wealth production. Some members of that class own but a small share, others scarcely realise the extent of their possessions, they are so large. Trade and commerce are always more or less of a gamble to the individual capi­talist, and in this game of hazard it necessarily follows that occasionally the small capitalist will increase his share and become a creature of some importance in the capitalist world.

Competition there is, often involving for some loss and even failure, while shrewdness, cun­ning, and good luck, always backed by some capital, will lift others into prominence and greater affluence, though such cases become more rare as the system develops. It is from such as these we get the egotistical columns of trash, cooked interviews, half advertisement and half self praise, that figure largely in the modern newspaper. “The story of my phenomenal suc­cess,” by A. W. Gammon; “Advice to young men who want to get on,” by Lord Selfrich, and such-like stories almost as wonderful as the “Arabian Nights'” entertainments.

Were some of these gentlemen afflicted with George Washingtonism—physically incapable of telling a lie—we should find them proclaiming that all their lives they had been idle loafers compared with the average worker in his every­day struggle for a bare existence.

The competition between capitalists is of an entirely different order to that between the workers. In the former there is seldom any worse penalty than compulsory economising. In the case of the worker, however, failure means slow starvation, disease and death. The penalty that awaits the unfortunate worker is constantly before his eyes; every day brings fresh object lessons, and every ragged tramp he meets reminds him of the stern necessity of a ready response to capitalist discipline.

The capitalist knows he is useless and unnecessary in the actual operations of production. He relies on managers and overseers chosen from the workers, who, because of their technical knowledge—and fear—pump the maximum of energy from the slaves. Everyone knows that speeding up increases in every occupation and that competition grows more fierce almost daily.

These facts are matter for self-congratulation to the wealthy egotist, who would like us to be­lieve that he only escaped these conditions through his exceptional ability and marvellous brain power. Sir George Birdwood, K.C.I.E., in a recent article to the now defunct, “London Budget,” is an instance of this fatuous attitude of mind. He deals with social questions from a personal standpoint and the result is a conglo­meration of platitudes, fallacies and contradic­tions. He says :

“I feel for the rising generation, seeing the difficulties before them are far greater than what faced the boys of my boyhood. There are too many doctors, and not enough patients ; there are too many lawyers, and not enough legal business ; there are too many builders, and not enough houses to build—all through life it is the same.”

Plenty of weavers and not enough cloth to weave. Plenty of bootmakers, not enough boots to be made ; and of all biting inconsistencies, plenty of pawnbrokers, not enough poor to keep them flourishing.

There is no suggestion that there is not enough land, containing the requisite substances for the production of all these different forms of wealth, while there is the bald admission that there is a superfluity of willing workers. The nature-given material is here in abundance, the workers are plentiful, the harvest is rich ; why, then, is there poverty ? Because production is not carried on for use, but to meet the demands of the market that the capitalist may realise the value existing in commodities over and above the workers’ wages, or cost of living. In a word production is not carried on for the benefit of the producers, but for the profit of capitalist non-producers.

That is why society has developed the inconsistency mentioned by Sir George and quoted above. Unemployment is the natural conse­quence of a system where the means of life are owned by a small class who buy labour-power as a commodity. Slow starvation, the result of unemployment, is therefore natural and necessary to Capitalism. Sir George says :

“What happens is that every three generations the pressure of the competition of life becomes so overpowering that, unless there are fields for emigration or wars or great pestilences, it is in­evitable that an ever-growing proportion of the population must die of slow starvation.”

In a statement which appears precise and is not, he merely admits the claim of the Socialist that under Capitalism slow starvation exists as a natural effect of the system. Not only so, but he gives us another point in our case :

“The more prosperous a country becomes the more its wealth becomes segregated in a few hands, and the more intense the pressure of life on the rest of the population.”

What could the Socialist say of Capitalism that would be more damning—the more prosperous a country, the greater the wealth of the few and the more intense the poverty of the many. A system of society where men, women and children die of slow starvation because there are too many workers and not enough work to be done, and this—is the best of all possible systems in the best of worlds. The truth will out though an army of social quacks, sky pilots and labour leaders do their best to smother it in confusion. Our “aged knight” in his dotage cannot withhold the truth, which escapes him in the simple language of second childhood.

While speaking of the actual conditions he is safe because he is dealing with facts, but when he moralises he simply babbles. “There is no adversity that happens to one which cannot be traced to one’s own fault.” His former state­ment “That an ever-growing proportion of the population must die of slow starvation” is forgotten. To be born a member of the class where competition is so fierce is surely the greatest adversity that can happen to one, yet such a calamity is altogether beyond our control.

His advice to “take life as it comes” is only fit for cowards. Submit tamely to exploitation and slavery. Believe in the divine right of a parasitic class to own the means of life. Be thankful for our own microscopic share of the wealth which we alone produce. Our shoddy clothes, adulterated food, and the reeking slums in which we fester out our lives. “Take life as it comes.” Never question the right of our masters to live in idleness and luxury ; and when members of the working class are murdered in mine and factory for profits, accept it as the will of god Capital. Though unemployment increase (as it must) ; though wages are reduced and prices rise ; though our fellow-workers tramp the streets in droves, and tiny children are used up like raw material in the factory hells, do not complain, join the P.S.A. and—”take life as it comes.”

Let the cravens and sycophants among the workers follow the “aged knight’s” advice. But those who have a spark of manhood will scorn such inaction. A knowledge of the conditions he describes transforms real men and women into rebels ; fixes them with the determination to understand the cause of their poverty and to end it. Our movement is for those who will act with us, when they are convinced.

Based upon science, the working-class position is, nevertheless, easily understood. Once understood there can be no backstairs and no wire­ pulling. Its single object—the organisation of our class as a political party to overthrow Capitalism and establish Socialism—is never obscured. Our Declaration of Principles shows the need for, and the way to achieve this object. They are clear, simple and pregnant with truth. No matter how stupendous the task may seem, it is the only way, and the working class, without guides or leaders, muet take it if they would be free.

F. F.

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