Mr. T. Rennolls again


Sir,—Socialism suffers the ignominy of having itself interpreted by a motley assortment of thoroughly earnest and conscientious dogmatists, whose self satisfaction with their own verbal and inspired platitudes is a replica of our education system, both in religion and politics. If Socialism is anything at all, it is something to US, something of imminent worth —only most of us don’t know it. There is contained within its teachings and interpretations a live principle of action that consists in the revolution itself, and which opens wide the door to the primary and definite growth of the social order implying Socialism. This principle of action, and the pointer indicating its residence in one of the commonest teachings of Socialism, has hitherto been encumbered and hidden with the rags and wrappings and insignia of the ambiguities, abstractions, and meaningless phrases, the latter of which I instanced in my last letter to you, which were taken from the programme of the S.P.G.B., and which are as plain as a pikestaff to any open-minded Socialist. Such things reduce Socialism to a Sociological hereafter, whereas it is of vital consequence and importance to the. immediate future, an affair of OURS here and now. Having failed to make it this ; having neglected one of its first principles, which meant the loss of this vital active force in Socialism, it is up to us to retract and to make good the waste of energy that constitutes the trail of our progress.
Socialists have had the effrontery on their public platforms to tell their audiences who were rightly, logically and naturally interested in the “hows” of Socialism, i.e., “How can you get it?” “What must be done to attain it?” that that matter must be left to the people who, at some probably distant date, have made up their minds to have it. Or they have put it down to poor old Evolution, that seems to have to answer for all our difficulties, much as Christ is supposed to answer for all our “sins.”
These answers illustrate the bankruptcy of the Socialist propaganda. And to tell the people that we must “seize and hold,” “take over,” or “transform,” or “convert” private into public property, or “nationalise” this, that and the other, also illustrates the fact that these Socialists, the S.P.G.B. included, cannot answer the question, have no answer to it and simply don’t know. All these terms explain nothing ; there isn’t a ghost of a “how” in it, and until you can answer that question properly the capitalist has a walk over.
What guarantee have you that some other generation will know better than you “how to set about the revolution,” except through the lead you give them gratuitously, that you don’t know yourself ?
To confess that you cannot answer this question is a step in the right direction. To desire to be able to answer it is another. To bolster up your non-activist platitudarian Socialism w personal accusations of your critic’s “inability to comprehend what he reads,” his “deplorable form of second sight,” his “excessively imaginative mind,” his “slipshod method,” and his “twists and inversions,” simply won’t do. They may pass for slashing attacks with people who only too commonly construe personalities for arguments, but times are too serious and momentous for such indulgences, and Socialism has to pay the penalty all the time.
Socialism has depth as well as breadth. Analogically it is more the padding than your pancake.
In it there is something for every man and woman to do, undelegated and without the “you leave it to us business,” or the “wait till the clouds roll by,” “get-out.”
I call this “how” question an essential one. Disputation arises mostly upon it. People will agree about the Broad principles while disputing the Depths. And no wonder, when they see Socialists out of their depths in it. These disputations eventually give rise to the final neglect of Socialism as a FORCE, and the “new member,” passing through, in addition, the polemics of “Branch business,” routes of processions, prices of concert tickets, the seven categories of Capital, water on the Sahara or the price of eggs in 1844, disappears into the throngs of Blackfriars Bridge at twilight, only to find that “getting his living” must resume its former place in his mind, accompanied with strong indifference toward a Socialism that first tempted him, but afterwards left him bereft of hope, and a permanent instrument of capitalist slavery for him and joy-rides for them.
The slow growth of Socialism can be traced to the persistency of platitudes and palliatives (I don’t know which is worse), to the permeation of passivism (wait and see Socialism), and to the want of recognition of Activist Socialism—the thing I am driving at.
Let me put my “essential” question another way with the intention of making it more forceful and making its inner meaning stand out.
Question: What would be done to-morrow morning by all the people, if all the people were like “F.F.,” or you, Mr. Editor, or any member of the S.P.G.B., were like you in conviction, determination and understanding, were like you, class-conscious, revolutionary Socialists, what would you all do to-morrow morning ?
The answer to this question will jolly soon find out what Socialism is to YOU, and what you are to it.
Let us have a “slashing attack” upon this question ; an eye-opener answer.
It will find out and measure the amount of practical force, vim and activity impressed upon you as a result of your understanding of Socialism and its worth to you, the individual. It will indicate on its test dial, and on yours, whether Socialism sleepeth in you or is an active, vital, kinetic force, prepared with revolution and reaction proof.
The solution of this question lies in that simple Socialist teaching: Labour-power produces all economic wealth.
Thanking you for an answer to this question, I propose in another letter and with your permission to answer it myself, as if it were put to me.
—Yours fraternally,


In this second letter from Mr. Rennolls there are three things he has done and two he has left undone.

1. He has repeated the wild charges he made previously without proving or even attempting to prove them, then or now.
2. He has repeated his accusation re “ambiguities and abstractions” in a long letter composed from beginning to end, of abstractions, indefinite and ambiguous phrases.
3. He has repeated the lie that he built up his case on quotations from the “Socialist Standard.”

What has he left undone ? .
1. He has not touched upon a single point I raised in my reply.
2. He has failed to show any error in the details, principles, or general policy of the S.P.G.B.

In my first answer I showed that he had misquoted the Declaration of Principles, picking out words and half sentences, and generally making abstractions in one sense, that he might charge us with the use of abstractions in another sense. If he were practised in missing word competitions and such-like amusements it would be an easy matter for him to re-arrange all the words in the Declaration of Principles to make them read the exact opposite of their present meaning. But if, after having done so, he asserted that it was our “programme,” that would be a lie. On the other hand it is permissible for a critic to take a sentence or paragraph for his purpose, so long as it is complete and is an expressed opinion or judgment.

What Mr. Rennolls did was to drag half sentences from their context in order to give a false impression of the whole, though, even apart from it, they might teach him something; for surely Mr. Rennolls—with his professed knowledge of Socialism— cannot be ignorant of the meaning of such a term as “The conversion into the common property of society of the means of production and distribution, etc.”

For “abstractions and ambiguities” let the reader note that portion of his letter commencing “If Socialism is anything at all it is something to US.” He appears to be impatient with us, because “the live principle of action that consists in the revolution itself,” in other words that mean exactly the same, the revolution itself, is not here. In spite of his impatience, however, the revolution will only be achieved by arduous and steady propaganda. Socialism is something for us—to work for. Meanwhile, the evolutionary process continues, that process of development that characterises every form of society : the growth and modification that goes on continuously from the revolution in which it was born to the revolution that ends it, to give birth, phoenix like, to yet another system.

Capitalism of to-day, with its collossal machinery of production and distribution, has evolved from a beginning in which the greatest mechanical powers known were the water wheel and the windmill. Capitalist evolution is that process of growth or development that must continue while capitalism lasts ; it can only cease with the establishment of Socialism. Evolution is a process, and when Mr. Rennolls finds the SPG.B. ascribing to evolution “difficulties,” or anything else, that will be the time for him to jeer at us ; but let him find it first.

Mr Rennoll’s repeats again and again in his second letter, the question he asked in his first, and which was answered in the Declaration of Principles before he asked it. His “essential’ question as he terms it : “How?” “If all the people were class-conscious revolutionary socialists, what would you all do to-morrow morning?” The solution to this question he says lies in that simple Socialist teaching : “Labour-power produces all economic wealth.” That is no solution : but it intimates one possible answer to the question. As we live by the consumption of wealth, some of us would have to get up, dress and get on with the production of it. Even when asking questions, Mr. Rennolls’s imagination leads him into absurdities.

IF all the people–IF, as though some subtle essence from the tail of a comet could open the eyes of the workers and give them an understanding of Socialism ; make Socialists of them all without the labour of educating and organising. “If all the people were Socialists” to-night could anything be more impossible or absurd ? We, at least, do not look for miracles, nor do we expect to see nor do we think lor a moment that anyone in the future will see, such a position as he outlines in his question : “all the people Socialists, capitalism still triumphant, and the people, i.e., the workers, not organised to capture the political machine as the first, and most important step to the establishment of Socialism. In the modern political State it is the majority that rules. The ruling class, smaller in numbers than the workers, make up a majority from the unclass-conscious material among the latter. With the growth of the Socialist Party this will become increasingly difficult and finally impossible. When the Socialists are in a majority over all other parties they will be able, through their representatives, to control the political machine ; this will place in their hands the power to take whatever steps are necessary to establish the new order. What these steps may be will depend upon the circumstances and conditions that apertain at the time. Depend upon it, a working-class organisation built up to a majority in the face of all capitalist parties and methods of opposition, will possess the knowledge, ability, determination and courage to carry through the revolution in spite of every obstacle flung across their path by reactionaries and capitalist poli­ticians. Without the power they will acquire through control of the political machine, the workers can change nothing. They must either submit to capitalist rule or revolt and be bludgeoned into submission by the agents and tools of the class that controls the political machine. Political control is the key that unlocks the door of the new order; to-day it is in the hands of the capitalist class—hence their power. The accomplishment of the revolution is dependent on the knowledge and power of the working class ; the Socialist Party imparts the knowledge, control of the political machine will give them the power.

F. F.

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