Unscientific emotionalism

The widespread misery of workers in modern times has brought forward two main classes of people claiming to hold the remedy for the social evil. On the one side you have those who, horrified at the miserable conditions everywhere, preach brotherly love, a return to Feudalism, and similar things as a solution for the problem; on the other hand you have the scientific Socialists who, studying societies from the point of view of modern science, regard them as undergoing a process of growth and decay. Thus, instead of attacking the superficial relations in society, the Socialists concern themselves with the centre, the pivot on which the system turns, i.e., the method of producing and distributing wealth, the relation between the masters and the workers, because from this relation springs all the other relations that appear so prominently and make such a show.

Socialists recognise that the technical development (development of the tools) in society has made it possible for small groups to operate large masses of machinery and turn out vast quantities of wealth with a small expenditure of energy ; and that these powerful means of production, if commonly owned, could be economically used for the turning out of only just that amount of wealth required for the needs of all the members of society, and to provide the necessary new means of production for the future. This would necessitate a comparatively insignificant expenditure of energy on the part of each, and leave a great deal of leisure for the cultivation of Science, Art, and so on.

The private ownership of wealth is not only uneconomical, but, owing to the fact that the ruling idea is the enriching of the owners regardless of the consequences to the rest, so soon as the wealth of the owners does not continue to increase, production slackens down, even though this slackening down is the cause of untold misery among the workers. When the ruling idea will be the comfort of all, production will be regulated accordingly.

This view of the “social question” has been forced into the minds of Socialists by the every¬day facts of working-class life which they meet when performing their particular functions in the various industries of the world.

When our method of reasoning is applied back through history, we find that man’s thoughts have always been governed by his inherited notions and the material conditions surrounding him ; and as these conditions have centred around the obtaining of food, clothing, and shelter, so at each period of social history the more or less clear relations that were built up on this basis (the particular relations that existed at the particular time, between the various producers and distributors, of the social wealth) have been reflected in the mind in a correspondingly more or less clear manner. After the break up of the early tribal communities society was split into various classes, and history since then has been the record of the struggles of each class in its turn to control society for its own advantage. When the progress of the method of producing wealth had reached a certain point the class in society that was taking the principal part in production, found the old laws (that were suitable to the existing governing class) placed a restriction on their further development. The problem of the removal of all these restrictions therefore constantly occupies them, and it is then forced home to their minds that the only solution to the problem of the removal of these restrictions is the control of society by themselves, and the alteration of existing laws to suit the new conditions. Just as at present the spectacle of the workers doing all the work of the world forces home to the minds of men the Socialist view that, if the workers produce and distribute all the wealth of society they therefore should own it, and reap the benefit of their work themselves, instead of supporting a group of idlers and good-for-nothings. The solution of the problem is contrained within the problem itself. “Therefore mankind always takes up only such problems as it can solve” (Marx).

This matter of fact view of the question is not palatable to the “Red Revolutionists,” who like a great deal of noise (“Full of sound and fury, signifying—nothing”) ; and the soft-hearted and soft-headed, who think the problem can be solved by reverting to antiquated, out of date societies, and whose views of brotherly love cause them to raise their hands in pious horror at the misery they see among workers, and—thank God for his loving kindness in not placing them in a similar position.

The thinking human mind reasons from particular facts to general conclusions. That is to say, we form in our minds abstract pictures drawn from practical experience. The thinking faculty is an instrument for separating the world of things into groups and sub groups, according to likenesses and differences, in order to gain as complete a picture of the world as possible. For instance, the general picture we have in our minds of a horse (the idea of a horse) is derived from practical experiences of different kinds and colours of horses. Abstract ideas of all kinds are produced in the same way, by everyday experience. The difference between the scientific and the unscientific (who are typified by the emotionalists) is that the former recognise this fact and act upon their knowledge, while the latter (owing to the fact that this reasoning is done partly subconsciously in ordinary affairs) imagine the general conclusions existed first and from all time—that the “Idea” is the thing par excellence. The Socialists reason from the practical affairs of everyday life to general conclusions, while the emotionalists set out with a plan formed in accordance with certain abstract ideas true for all time (!) without taking account of the historical development of society. They try to organise society according to the Idea instead of recognising that the shape their particular ideas take has been formed by society.

The emotionalists and their followers play upon those latent ideas of equality that have lain dormant in the minds of human beings since tribal communism disappeared. Thousands of years of life under this form of society fixed in the mind of man these views of equality, and the development that followed, through Patriarchalism, Feudalism, and Capitalism, although it has driven these ideas into the background, has not eradicated them. During periods of revolution these equalitarian views are used as a bait to entice the mass of the oppressed to the side of the particular class that is struggling for supremacy. During the French Revolution these ideas gave the rising commercial class the slogan with which to arouse the down-trodden serfs to assist them in their battle. Their much-vaunted pleas for equality, however, were afterwards shewn to be the equal right to oppress, the freedom of capitalist enterprise from Feudal bonds, and the liberty of the wage workers to starve.

The emotional school, who come forth with their battle-cry of freedom and equality, are merely reproducing the old ideas of primitive tribal equality, instead of examining the constitution of present society and its historical tendencies, and thus arriving at the correct scientific standpoint. The introduction of private property broke up the old societies ; with the abolition of private property, therefore, and the advent of Socialism, these ideas of equality will again have a chance to appear on the stage—but in fact, and not merely in imagination, and in a much higher form than in the ancient societies, owing to the marvellous development in the control of natural forces, or rather, the knowledge of nature’s laws, that has taken place since those societies broke up.

The forerunners of scientific Socialism : Fourier, St. Simon, and Robert Owen—the first who attempted a scientific explanation of social problems—failed in their constructive efforts, and gave merely Utopian solutions, because (as Engels has so clearly shewn in “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific”) society had not yet advanced to that stage when it could exhibit its historical tendency, machinery being in its infancy, and steam not having yet shown its potencies for revolutionising production.

Once our way of looking at the matter (reasoning from facts and not fantasies) is recognised by the workers, they will no longer be prey for the supporters of capitalism with their metaphysical notions, but will see that there is only one hell about which to worry and that is the hell in reality, the hell of capitalist production in which the wealth producers of the world already find themselves.

Those who adopt the sentimental attitude are of all types, and their views generally are of a very noisy character. The individuals of the Industrial Workers of the World, the Anarchist, the Syndicalist, the “Daily Herald” League (or Leagues !), and similar varieties, believe that the Social Revolution will come along to-morrow or the day after, if you will only kick up a row and run your nose up against police batons, bullets, maxim guns, and such “harmless” instruments of coercion. Others follow the showy method in other directions, as, for instance, the Party that at present goes under the name of the British Socialist Party. This party, not making a great show of numbers, followed the method of changing its name, thinking to emulate the proceedings of a conjuror. This same party recently came to the conclusion (after the failure of its policy of “Swell the ranks and never mind who enters ! Let ’em all come, Syndicalists, Political Actionists, Anarchists, and any old rubbish, what matters so long as we get a crowd”) that they had better consider the advisability of joining the Labour Party (very sound conclusion !) whom they have been denouncing for so many years.

Thus do the emotionalists gain a following and safely pilot them over to the enemy.

As for us who are members of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, our ranks may not appear to grow so fast, we do not lay out our stock in fantastic and alluring drapery, but we deal with the hard facts of working-class life from the scientific standpoint banded down to us by previous workers in the same field. We know that in spite of the apparent slowness of our growth, underneath the surface our work is creating among the members of our class, the working class, a growing knowledge of their position in society, and the line along which to act to achieve their freedom. Only those who build, as we do, on the solid rock, can expect the edifice to stand. Those who build on sand will see their work continually obliterated. In any case we have every reason to be satisfied with, our work up to the present, and that knowledge,, combined with the spectacle of the continual downfalls (the re-actionary attitude of all the self-styled “Revolutionaries” on the present capitalist war in Europe is the latest manifestation) of those who sneer at our attitude, will nerve us to still greater exertions in the future.

“For while the tired waves vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent flooding in the main.

“And not by Eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light ;
In front, the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But Westward, look, the land is bright !”

G. McC.

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