1910s >> 1917 >> no-158-october-1917

Realities: Present and Future

We Socialists are often replied to by those to whom we expound oar political and economic principles and beliefs: “Yes, no doubt Socialism would be a very fine thing if it could only be brought about, but it cannot—it is only a beautiful dream.”

We accept such statements as a challenge from all those who hold those ideas. I hope in this short article to confront doubters with facts and shatter once for all their dreamy mis-conceptions of Socialism by dealing with realities. I believe they do not understand Socialism because they do not primarily understand the present system: capitalism.

The vast majority of the people in every capitalist country in the world belong to a class who have to work for their living. But a proportionately very small class are free from such necessity. Why? Simply because they can obtain all they need without work—from the labour of the workers.

These fortunate individuals who are not under the necessity of working for their living amass wealth in ever-increasing accumulation. In contradistinction the position of the wealth producers generally does not improve, in fact, it tends to become worse. December 31st of any year finds them, in spite of wise expenditure, frugality, temperance, and all the enforced wisdom of economic stress, no better off than on January 1st of the same year. And all their laborious lives are spent in wealth production, yet, as abundant statistics prove, they live and die in poverty—often as paupers. Their “earthly pilgrimage” is like nothing so much as the toiling existence of a beast of burden compelled to go round and round in the same allotted circle, grinding corn. In the fact that they receive just sufficient to enable them to perform their task, the workers are exactly like these animals They, too, are looked upon by the owning and ruling ‘capitalist class simply as wealth producers, to be exploited in every sphere of labour, and, when it is necessary, to be forced to defend their masters’ interests against those of rival exploiters, even at the cost of their lives. In fact, in a very real sense, not only the means of existence, but even the very lives of vast multitudes, are owned and controlled by this small but extremely powerful and dominant group of non-producers whom we call the capitalist class. They possess the land and all the means and instruments of wealth production, distribution, and exchange. Not only that—they sit in the “seats of the mighty,” completely control the making of the laws—which, of course, are always enacted to conserve their own class interests—and thus economically and politically are, in every sense of the word, the Master Class.

The masses have to live, and having nothing to operate in their own interests, owning no means of production, possessing only their power to labour, they are compelled to sell that labour-power to those who possess the means through which alone it can be productively used. So they must work under the terms and conditions dictated by their masters.

They who with their labour produce the whole of the world’s wealth, have given back to them on an average about a third of the amount they produce. Their portion is called wages. The remaining two thirds are appropriated by the idle capitalist class in the form of rent, profit, and interest. These latter are the means by which parasitic non producers of all kinds are enabled to live in luxurious idleness. Financiers, dividend holders, capitalists, and all who live on the labour of others, exist on the wealth they themselves have no share in producing.

The consequence is this system of wage slavery produces a host of social evils of the most appalling type, such as unemployment, sweating, prostitution, poverty, starvation, disease, and untimely death.

Consider! All the marvellous mechanism, tools, and means of production that exist to-day—means that enable wealth of all kinds to he produced in prolific abundance—have been made by and are operated by the workers. Yet we continue to see the damning indictment of the present system daily—starvation in the midst of plenty; overwork for those who starve, ennui through unbroken idleness for those who possess the world; unemployment side by side with sweating; abundant opportunities for all-round development for the favoured class, and deprivation of access to all that life should give them for the workers, whose lives are compulsorily wasted by the all-compelling exigencies of a vicious system. All the channels of knowledge, the wisdom of the ages, the finest triumphs of man in the domain of art, literature, music, and science should by right be available to them, for it is they who produce the material foundation from which all these spring.

Alas, the workers are wage slaves! The wealth stolen from them has been the means of their enslavement. The capital which is used against them to produce wealth and also yet more capital they alone produced. Now they are slaves of the machine. They are poor because they are continually robbed; they are continually robbed because this social system, founded upon their robbery, continues to exist. They are only sellers of their labour-power, enriching others at their own expense, forever sacrificing their own desires, interests, aye, existence, that the exploiters may exploit them, and the plutocrat continue to plunder them! What irony! And yet non-Socialists say it will always be so!

But will it? Let us examine the facts. We have considered the realities of the present system. Hear now the claim we as Socialists make.

We claim that we are the only people who show the workers that they hold the key of their emancipation in their own hands, that they alone can set themselves free.

The present system of production tends, as fact after fact goes to prove, to produce its own undoing. The rich as a class grow richer, the poor ever poorer. The more labour-saving machinery is in operation the more wealth is produced by a given number of workers. Consequently an ever greater number of workers are thrown out of employment through “over production.” The pressure of these unemployed tends ever to depress wages and the conditions of labour. Less successful people of the small capitalist ranks are gradually forced into the proletariat, and so capital is concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, making ever more uneven tho ratio between the exploited and the exploiters. As Capital wields greater power the conflict of class interests grows ever stronger, and Labour consolidates its forces and the struggle becomes more class conscious and bitter.

Now it will be seen that this system automatically produces it own opponents—the proletariat or propertyless working class—and also the incentive for the latter to wrest from the capitalists the power to exploit and oppress.

Now here is the crux of the whole question: how are the master class to be stripped of their terrible and oppressive power? Other things bring equal, the men who succeed best in accomplishing their purpose are those who know exactly what they want to do and how best to do it. First of all, then, the victims of the present social system must find the answer to the question, how are they to emancipate themselves from their servile position?

Clearly, since that position arises from the private ownership of the means of production, the first thing that emerges is that such private ownership must go. The only alternative to the private ownership of the means of production by the few possible to-day, with the present stage of development of those means, is social ownership—ownership by the whole community. With the means and instruments for the production and distribution of wealth owned and controlled by the whole community there can be no other object in operating them but to produce wealth FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE COMMUNITY. The means of living belonging to the whole of the people, none is outside their ownership, nor, on the other hand, can any person have ownership in these things as an individual, but only as a cell in the social body.

As a consequence of this the whole social fabric must reshape itself. The only means of productively applying it belonging to the community, labour-power must come under communal control. No man can purchase it because, in the first place, he has no means of exploiting it, in the second place, no worker would desire to sell his labour-power to another since be has the opportunity of exercising it through the communal means, and thirdly, since the whole of the wealth produced under such a system belongs to the community, there is no exchange within the community, and therefore money— the means of exchange—loses its function and its value, and becomes useless for the purchase of labour-power or anything else. The sale of labour-power for wages, then, must disappear with the abolition of private property in the instruments of labour. The whole wages system, in fact, must collapse with the change in the property condition, and a new set of relations must arise between social units, in which the relations of master and man can find no place. The class division, by which the people of every country are divided into exploiters and exploited, employers and employed, masters and slaves, rich and poor, according as they are propertied or propertyless, must vanish with the rest, giving place to a unified community of workers, socially equal because equal possessors in the economic basis of society—the means and instruments of producing the social wealth.

How can the workers accomplish this splendid end ? We claim that the fundamental means to achieve this is to capture the political machine. Capture and control that, and we capture and control the governing machinery of the State. The armed forces of the oppressing class will then no longer be a menace to the workers, but an instrument for their emancipation. The whole of the people will be ruled by the will of the people. Democracy will have become a reality at last.

Wealth will be prolificly produced for the use and enjoyment of ALL by the marvelous modern means of production, and with the minimum of effort. Thus abundance of opportunity for all-round culture and development will be accessible to all. Art will have an undreamt of renaissance. Science will no longer be slave to death-dealing purposes, but put to living, helpful useB for the human race.

Socialism is inevitable. Capitalist, exploitation forces the workers on the road toward it, and is itself a mighty means of education. But nevertheless, the need is imperative upon all who desire Socialism, to do all that they can to educate their fellow workers, and to awaken in them a like desire.