There is one fact that impresses an observer of social life in the 20th century very forcibly, amidst all the gigantic progress of Science evinced in the harnessing and utilisation of the forces of Nature. This paramount fact is the active power and potentialities of the proletariat. The working class, in fact, is not only all-important, but, with education and organisation on class conscious lines, will ultimately be all-powerful.
The workers, as a class, know not yet their own colossal might. Alone producing all the wealth of the world, the very fabric of society is maintained by their active energies of mind and hands.
A section of them strike, and the withholding of their labour frequently disorganises industry. Many sections strike concurrently, the wheels of production cease to revolve, and a serious crisis is precipitated. Labour, the mighty Samson, has not yet learnt his strength.
For the truth is that though the scales are slowly falling from his eyes, he still suffers with dimness of vision—is, in fact, a purblind Sampson !
The working class, indeed, is made up of those whose political and economic vision varies very considerably. Very many are as yet blind to the realities of the capitalist system; they do not understand that they are wage-slaves to those who own the mean’s of life of society; they do not see that they are robbed by means of the wages system of most of the wealth they have produced and continue to produce. Not understanding the essentials of capitalist production, they fail to understand Socialism, or even the need for it. In fact, with docility and diligence they “mark time” for their masters like automata.
As time goes on the class struggle itself, in which the workers are involved, is performing a wondrous operation upon them, for they are suffering through the inevitable evils of capitalism—unemployment, pitiable wages, and chronic poverty. At the mercy of their exploiter sand profiteers they frantically turn this way and that to cope with the evils of capitalism, and out of unwisdom try futilely to set things straight. But the SYSTEM that produces their sufferings they do not dream of attacking ! They see neither a definite goal, nor the way to it.
Yet a small minority there is who, by erperience, thought, and study, are clear-sighted enough to see the way before them. These are the class-conscious and revolutionary proletarians. They know that no palliatives or tinkering reforms of any kind will, or can remove the blighting effects of the present system or emancipate their class from wage slavery.
Only the destruction of capitalism itself, and the establishment by the workers of the Socialist Commonwealth in its place ever can—and it inevitably will. And this they know can be proved by a series of irrefutable facts—a perfect arsenal of scientific proofs, historic, material, economic, and political.
We have seen, during the last few years particularly, an accentuated and ever-increasing class-struggle, growing out of the essential antagonism between the wealth-producing workers and their exploiters. And that conflict of interests produces an increased class-consciousness in some, whilst it illuminates and reveals for others the essential clash of the classes that is the outcome of the capitalist system, and of which they probably had not been otherwise aware.
Also the development of a predatory and ruthless system of capitalism automatically not only produces its antagonists, but drives them to combat it. And the result is that weapon after weapon will be tried and discarded—because they are no good.
Syndicalism, Direct Action, Industrial Unionism, etc.—what are these but names of various forms of pathetic futility ?
Co-partnership is a childish scheme in that it does not even aim at the abolition of the exploitation of the worker, and only increases his servile relationship to his “altruistic” employer. The Trade Unions are used by the capitalist class as instruments by which, through treacherous and lying Labour “leaders,” the clamour of their members for better wages and conditions of labour can most effectively be suppressed.
At the best the function of the Trade Unions is simply that of collectively bargaining for a better price for their members’ labour-power, and better conditions, not to abolish the system under which they are daily robbed.
It all finally reduces down to the matter of class-consciousness—an exact knowledge of their position, importance, and potentialities, on the part of the workers AS A CLASS in relation to society as a whole, and especially to to the capitalist class, to whom they stand as propertyless, wealth-producing slaves.
Class-consciousness must be the basis of all revolutionary political action, and it is a tremendous driving force, wherever it is developed. It germinates from a mixture of experience and the study of Marxian economics.
Without class-consciousness as arriving force all the varied activities of the proletariat to better their conditions must necessarily be weakened in power.
Our exploiters, the capitalist class, hold, and will continue to keep as long as they can, the whole edifice of society as a means to conserve and further their own class interests. It is only because they have the POLITICAL POWER that they wield such force as they do.
Shorn of that, their parasite-hold on society at once relaxes—they are hurled from their position of dominance.
But whilst they are in possession of the political means of “Law and Order” they not only make the laws in their own class interest, but will have them enforced if necessary by the Army, Navy, and Police.
It is obvious, then, that no action whatever on the part of the long oppressed proletariat will emancipate the workers from wage-slavery other than the capture of political power for the purpose of overthrowing capitalism and establishing Socialism. All else is blind battling with temporary evils, and a mere beating of the air.
Labour, the purblind Samson, uses but a tiny bit of his strength. At present he lacks vision. Education in Socialist principles, political and economic experience will act as goads. Then,
organised on the economic field, and on the political field for the capture and control of the
machinery of government, he will use his Titanic power for the overthrow of capitalism and the upbuilding in its place of the Socialist Commonwealth. He will have been the slavery of his class and all that he is robbed of; he will see that SOCIALISM is the only hope of the workers, and he will not be satisfied till it is established.
(Socialist Standard, June 1920)