A few comparisons


It has been said that mere comparisons do not appeal to the workers in general. So accus­tomed are they to their poverty and the posses­sion and display of wealth by the class that exploits them, that to merely point to such a fact, or even to draw comparisons of the extremes of wealth and poverty, conveys nothing to them. It does not appear at all extraordinary to them that a class performing none of the useful work of society should possess fabulous and ever increasing wealth, while they who produce all the wealth of society should remain always in abject poverty.

This is not because the worker lacks the power of observation or comparison; but rather because he has seen it all his life, has become accustomed to it. Just as he expects the night to follow the day or the day to follow the night, and accepts both as unalterable; in the same way he looks upon society as being of necessity made up of two classes, rich and poor. Natural and social phenomena are in the same category for him—things that have always been and always will be.

This is scarcely to be wondered at, for almost from the cradle influences have been at work shaping in his mind this idea as to the fixed character of social institutions. All those he comes in contact with show by their actions daily and hourly that they do not question the elementary rules upon which society is based, however much they may squabble over the de­tails. The average worker, therefore, regards his class as helpless and inert, though he is himself a unit and a fair sample of all the rest. Even if he understands Socialism, or claims to, he overlooks the power that can be attained by an organised movement, and the paramount importance of maintaining such a movement by individual effort, consequently he does nothing. That, together with the incessant struggle for a bare existence, is the explanation of apathy among the working class.

The result of apathy is disastrous, not only to the working class as a whole, but to the individual. Those who are quiescent not only strengthen capitalist domination, but are continually throwing away what opportunities remain to them of becoming men and women in the real sense; for nothing can be more con­temptible than to wear chains without making an effort to throw them off ; while persistence in manly actions makes men.

Socialists, like others of the working class, are compelled to sell their energy in order to live. They cannot escape from wage slavery, but they have already escaped the effects of one of capitalism’s worst weapons, the deliberate propaganda of ignorance and confusion. Without Socialist principles that make his class position clear, the worker cannot discriminate, his brain does not function as the organ of thought, but becomes the receptacle of all the ignorant twaddle that is purposely served up to him through the Press, platform, and pulpit.

Correctly speaking, ignorance is lack of knowledge, but it does not follow that ignorance is purely negative. Ignorant persons can babble, fraudulent labour leaders can make social re­forms appear plausible to those who do not think for themselves. The clergy by their trained eloquence keep alive superstitions that no longer exist in the minds of intelligent men and women, because science has long ago explained their origin and growth and shown eir absurdity.

Where ignorance speaks the loudest, how­ever, is in the dissemination of falsehoods with regard to the function of capital. Those who own the most capital are everywhere extolled as the most desirable citizens. Yet when one of these desirable citizens dies, the function of the capital he leaves behind goes on without interruption, though it may be left to a child or a lunatic. Whatever that function may be it is obvious that it does not need any special ability in its owner in order to function ; an extract from “Harmsworth’s Popular Science” illus­trates this.

“But many a modern shareholder of means resembles a French nobleman of the old regime. He knows personally nothing about the work­men who help to earn the dividends on which he lives. All that be knows is that when they strike for higher wages they are striking for a reduction in his income. He often knows no more about the manner in which the income on his capital is obtained than he does about the manner in which the animal from which his meat is sliced was bred and slaughtered.”

The great mass of the wealth of all capitalist countries is owned in this way by shareholders, who may know a little or a great deal about their concerns, but who certainly take no part in any of the necessary operations of production. This fact is borne out by a superficial examina­tion. When “the heads” do come down to see us at work they are blissfully ignorant of the meaning of it all, and have to be shown round and have things explained to them. They really have no time for the understanding of things industrial or economic ; the pursuit of pleasure absorbs the whole of their useless lives, as Lady Troubridge says in an article in the “Royal Magazine.” “The pursuit of pleasuie by society has been brought to a fine art, and almost every week has its own special gaiety and dis­traction . . . The real fact is that the London season is but the culminating point of a year’s ceaseless round of gaiety and sport, every month of which is mapped out so as to seize the greatest amount of pleasure that it is possible to obtain.” When is their boasted directive ability exercised if they chase pleasure all the year round ?

“What do these men and women know” says the same writer “of the monotony of long, grey days, broken only by tedious work and the weariness of accustomed sights. To them the glittering ballroom with its rose wreathed pillars, its haunting music, its flower-decked tables heaped with dainties, are exchanged before they have time to pall, for the white deck of a yacht, or the moors or uplands of breezy Scotland, and later on for the hunting field and the luxurious country home ; and all the time society is preparing for the great cul­minating burst of gaiety that comes with the flowers of May.”

On the one side is all luxury, gaiety and sport, on the other want and misery. The World’s workers are robbed of the wealth they produce and then insulted with the hoary tale that if there were no demand for luxuries poverty would be still more widespread—almost sufficient in itself to proclaim the rotteness of the capitalist system. The very fact that they have a superabundance proves that there is no need for anyone to lack the necessaries of life, but to claim indulgence as a virtue and give themselves credit for making work, is pure hy­pocrisy, and should cause every worker to think. In fact, on every hand we find contradictions, inconsistencies, and comparisons that should rouse the workers to thought. Modern society is full of them. Fashionable women spend in­calculable sums on dress and “Swaddle their dogs in costly blankets and spray them with priceless scents,” while, according to Mr. J. J. Mallon, Secretary of the Anti-Sweating League: “The vast majority of women workers in this country earn less than ten shillings per week.” An American millionaire, Lieu. Com. Spofford, bestows one hundred pounds per week on his baby, and Mr. E. McClean’s child is known as the twenty million pound baby, while the Rev. J. E. Roberts says that in Lon­don alone 122,000 children are underfed. Mr. Lloyd George once told a large audience “that he knew twelve men whoso income during the worst days of depression would suffice to keep fifty-thousand working-class families in comfort for one month.”

These are a few comparisons taken at random for the thoughtful reader to reflect upon; they should arouse tho deepest indignation and the desire to eradicate them. Those who believe in tho permanence of the capitalist system can only suggest social reforms of one kind or another, that are easily shown to be impossible or absurd. The very fact that there are no remedies possible of application within the sys­tem, proves that the system is responsible and we have to look to that for the cause.

The system of society we live under to-day differs from feudalism and chattel slavery, though like it, both these were forms of slavery. Under feudalism the worker owned the land he tilled and his took, but was forced to give up a portion of his produce and labour-time. Under chattel slavery the workers were bought and sold like cattle. Under capitalism they are stripped of everything in the nature of property and forced to sell themselves.

Under all these systems the workers produced all the wealth of society, yet may only retain, or have returned to them the barest necessaries of life. Under each of them they are forced to labour to add to the luxury of a ruling class, while they remain poor.

In Oriental countries where the needs of the workers were scanty and easily supplied, they were forced to labour to add to the luxury and grandeur of their rulers. In capitalist countries it is the same; the more thrifty and efficient the working class becomes, the greater the affluence of the master class.

The merchandise character of labour-power is also a condition that breeds and develops anta­gonism ; the germ of the class struggle. This struggle cannot continue indefinitely, though it is bound to go on while labour-power is mer­chandise ; obviously, then, the struggle will cease only when the conditions that engender it come to an end. So-called economic action is useless to this end, because in the main it agrees with the wages system by asking for more, while when it endeavours to be revolutionary it simply challenges armed forces with which it is unable to cope.

The working class have to learn that man frames his system according to the means and methods of producing and distributing wealth, and that they can and must change the system to make it harmonise with the changes that have taken place in these means and methods. That change must be from the present private and class ownership to the common ownership and democratic control of all the means of life.

This is Socialism—the only remedy for poverty in the midst of plenty. In its establishment the working class will receive no assistance from the class above ; on the contrary, every obstacle that can hinder the movement will be flung across the path of the revolutionary working class. The workers must therefore preserve their indignation and hatred of the crimes of capitalism. They must be wary of cant and hypocrisy, suspicious of social reformers, and above all, watchful and critical of those who profess to be their friends. In a word, every worker must understand Socialism for himself, then no one can deceive him.

It is part of the policy of the rulers in every country to encourage those who deceive and confuse the workers as to the meaning of Socialism. One section is telling us that Christianity is Socialism, another that the State must own the means of life, another that we must buyout the capitalists. These are easily seen through; the worst frauds are those who lull the workers into apathy by telling them Socialism will come by evolution, and that even now we are in the transition stages.

Socialism can only be established by the deliberate and conscious action of the working class utterly disregarding the interests of those who oppose them. Before they can arrange or control the details of their own lives they must own and control the means of wealth produc­tion. To gain possession of these, they must first control the physical power that protects the capitalist class in their ownership. This is only possible by means of a working-class organisation that will control the political machi­nery. When the armed forces, through the machinery of government, are controlled by the working class, they can enter into possession of the means of wealth production without bar­gaining or compensation.

Of the details of the future system we say nothing, content to leave them in the hands of those who control—the people. Lady Troubridge, in the “Royal,” says: “Truly this world is a pleasant place for the rich and the gay. . . . Those happy ones whose hearts dance to as merry a tune as the fashionable rag­time music of Cassano’s famous band.” With modern methods of production and a sane sys­tem of society, slavery and poverty would be a thing of the past, and all hearts might dance to whatever tune they pleased.

F. F.

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