1910s >> 1915 >> no-128-april-1915
Editorial: Our Eleventh Conference
The 11th Annual Conference of the Socialist Party was held in circumstances unique in its history, the delegates meeting to review the work of a year in which the task of spreading Socialist knowledge has been greater, whilst the tendencies of the capitalist system of society have probably been made clearer, than ever before. It may be objected that the main tendencies of the capitalist mode of production and the present system of society have been quite well understood long before the outbreak of that system’s latest horror. Let us explain, therefore, to whom those tendencies have been made clearer. It is to the apologists of modern civilisation, and to those who have been misled by those apologists.
The idealistic opponents of Socialism and the peace prophets who knew that no more great wars would be fought have had their lesson, which will serve also as a useful example for their colleagues who maintain that revolutions in society belong only to the past, and for those who would persuade themselves and others of capitalism’s power to live for ever. In fact, had we less experience of our opponents, we might expect to hear from them in the future rather less about the stability and adaptability of the system of society that is responsible for— that demands as a condition of its continued and full development—the slaughter of its only useful units on the scale that has recently obtained. After all, there is a limit to human endurance, and the reaching of that limit by the working class is a powerful inducement to thought and action—those deadly enemies of working-class enslavement.
One of the most striking phenomena brought into prominence by the world-conflagration now raging is the utter confusion existing among the apologists of modern civilisation as to the cause of the war, its probable results, and economic phenomena in general. This confusion is of first-rate importance to the Socialist, and is brought out in greatest relief when compared with the clarity of vision and well- defined attitude of those workers who have understood the Socialist criticism of the existing régime. These latter are, admittedly, few, and the number of those who still follow the capitalist apologists many. But the confusion of these apologists grows always greater, and always the number of their working-class followers becomes smaller, with the increasingly difficult nature of the task before them—the defence of the existing order. And it is the every-day facts of proletarian existence that are responsible for that increased difficulty: the ever more hated, because ever greater, insecurity of employment, resulting from the introduction of more efficient machinery; the consequently tighter hold of the master class on the workers and greater strain on the latter in resisting their encroachments; and, last but not least in importance, the growing number of recorded failures of measures alleged by the dominant class and their “labour” hacks to have been aimed at the betterment of the conditions of working-class life.
The economic development, then, makes harder the task of those agencies which would support capitalism by attempting to show identity of interests between masters and workers, and by endeavouring to show an improvement in proletarian conditions of existence.
But the recognition on the part of the workers on the falsity of these claims; the increasing discontent at their own impoverishment and their master’s enrichment: these alone do not indicate a remedy ; do not not of themselves point out the path to freedom. More is necessary: a knowledge of the great generalisation that human society evolves, and that the existing social order will no more be the last than it was the first; the realisation that the proletariat is today the only class that fulfils a useful function in society; the recognition that the means of production have already reached a stage where their manipulation is capable of supplying fully the necessaries of life for every member of society ; and the understanding of the means by which the dominant class of to day maintains its ascendancy. The rise to power of the working class and the establishment of Socialism become possible only after the acquisition of this equipment, this knowledge of its own strength and of the prize to be won—to supply which equipment must be in large part the work of the Socialist Party.
And although, as stated, our Conference met this year in unique circumstances, to review the work carried on during a particularly difficult period, we are safe in recording that its determination to carry on that work is as firm as ever. This was shown by the enthusiasm of the delegates, their reports of our members activities in so many directions, and the sales of our literature, particularly the Socialist Standard,