1910s >> 2018 >> no-96-august-1912

The Need For Organisation

Outside the Socialist Party there are undoubtedly very many men and women who, while agreeing with the fundamental principles upon which the Party is based, yet, for one reason or another, cannot see their way to come inside and help within the organisation itself. Some, it may be, remain aloof owing to reasons of caution with regard to their position as as wage workers; although, for that matter the present writer does not see why any man or woman, however fearful he or she may be in this respect, should not be able using every discretion in word and deed in outside affairs—to join with us to help in the internal business so necessary in the strengthening and building up of the Party. Apart altogether from the joy of knowing that any assistance, however small, is invaluable in the great work in which we are engaged, there is also the question of the value to the individual of having a medium whereby the interchange of ideas on the problems of life now confronting the workers can be made, as well as the closer binding together of the working class by means of friendly discussion and debate, all of which, it is obvious, must have a great and far-reaching educational value.

But there are many workers who, while theoretically agreeing with the aims and methods of the Socialist Party, yet refuse—even when they have no reason to fear economic disaster by so doing—to take a practical interest in, or to enroll themselves within the ranks of, organised Socialism. Often there seems to be an idea—an entirely erroneous idea in the writer’s estimation —that as capitalism (or at least the present phase of capitalism) appears to be drawing to a close, the next step must inevitably be the establishment of Socialism in its stead. There is, therefore, no need, so it is considered, to do anything more than sit with folded hands, waiting for the downfall of capitalist society and the springing up, full-armed, of this new system of society.

The outcome of this fatalistic attitude, if adopted in all spheres of life, would be the stultification of life itself. Why not wait for manna and quails to come down from heaven instead of going out every day—as at present—to work for a wage ?

It does not actually follow that Socialism will be the outcome of present-day capitalist society. If you have a discontented people, poverty-stricken, degraded by continual toil and suffering into mere human machines, ripe for any change from their present existence of physical and mental penury, you have within that people all the possibilities, not so much of an elevation to a higher type, but rather toward an atavism even more degrading physically, more destructive intellectually, than at present.

The essential thing is, of Course, that there should be implanted in the minds of the workers knowledge of the fact that their position as workers must be altered from the present state of slavery to a state wherein they shall he free to order their lives as they may best determine. But this knowledge once having been attained, it then becomes quite as necessary to know how to live. After all, life is not only the eating of good food, the wearing of good clothes, the sheltering in good houses, with a minimum of work and a maximum of leisure. All these things are, or should be, simply the means to an end in themselves.

At the present day the power possessed by members of the working class to express their individuality in art, or science, or literature, or even in the matter of everyday affairs, is almost nil. The scholastic education now given is one that has for its object simply the development of the faculties necessary in a wage-slave. To teach docility and obedience, to impress the capitalist slave-morality upon the rising generation of working class men and women : these are the aims of the scholastic and religious teachers. Something is wanted to counteract this. The working class requires, perhaps more than anything else, self-confidence, self-knowledge, self control. From this point of view the close binding together of the workers in a specific organisation is of the utmost importance. Meeting as they would on common ground, all dominated by the fundamental idea of economic freedom, it would be possible to tackle every problem of life in the light of the Socialist philosophy. Each individual, necessarily differing in temperament and taste from his fellows, and also to an extent as a social unit, would be able to contribute whatever knowledge he might possess on any question, whether of economics, politics or science, or on such subjects as art and literature. There should be then developed a degree of intellectuality which, it must be admitted, is largely lacking among the working class to-day.

There is a danger of our developing into beings whose sole idea is how to lessen hours of labour, how to obtain better conditions of life, and not much more. Something more than this, however, is needed. We have to keep in mind that we are to be the dominant—indeed, the only—force in the next stage of society. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that we should cultivate such faculties as will enable us, when Socialism does arrive, not only to organise the necessary work of society (i.e., the production and distribution of the necessaries and comforts of life) but also to give to our own generation at the time, as well as to leave behind us for the coming generations, at least an advance on whatever culture the past generations have given us, however small that amount of culture may be.

 
But if we are to be in a position to do this we must even now not fail to develop within our ranks as high an intellectuality as is conceivably possible. It is useless, as we know, to expect any help from capitalism in such a task, so it follows that this intellectual emancipation—as well as the economic emancipation—must be the work of the working class itself.
 
So it can be seen that the necessity of organisation becomes doubly imperative Firstly, in order to build up a body of men and women whose main idea shall be the ending of capitalism and the establishment of the Socialist Commonweals. Secondly, that the men and women thus organised may have the opportunity of keeping themselves in touch with every phase of life, thus forming, indeed, an educational centre in the real meaning of the word education.
 
This economic and intellectual emancipation can only become possible through the driving force possessed by men and women bound together by the fundamental principles that lie at toe root of the Socialist philosophy.
 
Individually, no two human beings will have exactly toe same outlook on life. But the basic idea underlying all individual differences must be the knowledge that only through the harmonious relation of every social unit to every other social unit can the human race advance beyond what it is today.
 
In conclusion, the writer would appeal to all men and women in sympathy with the aims and methods of the Socialist Party to join in the fight against the powers of inertion and decadence and in our equally strenuous fight for Socialism and the upward movement of life, remembering that a little active help is worth a great deal of passive sympathy.
F. J. Webb