The Socialist has great difficulty in propagating the principles of Socialism, inasmuch as the mass of the people look at political and economic affairs from a personal point of view.
Evidence of that is obvious enough when the people take part in a general election. The general election of December 14th 1918 was acclaimed as a victory for Mr. Lloyd George— and so it was.
The workers, or at least the majority of them, wanted Mr. Lloyd George to be Prime Minister, and their will prevailed. Mr. Lloyd George and his Coalition party went into Government with flying colours —and the workers’ choice of persons was settled.
Strange to say, the workers’ action on the industrial field has been a complete contradiction of their hopes and expectations. Their “good men” have missed fire. The workers thought that so and so would try to improve working-class conditions. There are thousands of men and women unemployed, and the increased cost of living makes the unemployed workers more dangerous and worrying, more anxious and poverty-stricken. Mr. Lloyd George and his party are in power, but are powerless to improve the position of the working class.
Strikes took place soon after the General Election and have continued up to the present. Mr. Lloyd George was not asked if he approved of the workers striking. Why not ? Mr. Lloyd George was sent to Parliament to govern the country. Why were the workers so fickle-minded? One would have expected such a “great man” to be consulted. Strikes make it rather awkward for the right honourable gentleman. The workers keep him busy organising schemes to beat the strike, when he might be playing golf or composing a speech about downing the Lords and giving heroes a chance to have a lick at a decent life.
In spite of it all—the winning of the war, the winning of the railway strike, the winning of votes from the working class—Mr. Lloyd George has nothing to give you but promises. Why ? Because the right honourable gent upholds the capitalist principles of private ownership and the consequent exploitation of the workers to enrich the owners of the means and instruments of wealth production. He has promised to make this country fit for heroes to live in !
The Socialists expect no more than that, because we know that personality has never yet improved the workers’ life. There is something greater than personality, and that is principle.
Principle is defined in a dictionary as “fundamental truth, original cause, motive, rule.” The system under which we live is dominated by the capitalist class, and consequently is and must be run on capitalist principles.
Wealth, which includes margarine, dud food, dud drink, dud clothing, dud houses, and perhaps in the near future monkeys’ glands, is produced fundamentally for profit, and not as a rule for use. The motive of the capitalist class is to get as much wealth as possible with as little expense as can be in the producing of the same. Therefore it is not strange that the workers are poor in the midst of plenty.
Capitalist production and distribution make the worker strike and in other ways show his discontent. Personality is best suited for the capitalist class, for their system is established and in working order. For them a choice of persons is quite correct. Whether Mr. Lloyd George or some other person shall be at the head of their administration is logical from a capitalist point of view. The working class are not organised for the establishment of a system suitable for them. So, when they are voting for a Person they are not minding their own business. The persons whom the working class vote for must work for capitalist interests, for the simple reason that the workers are not against the capitalist system. Their votes are for or against a Person or Persons, with the idea that some are for working-class improvement and others against.
A remarkable example of a minority of persons who have usurped political power is to be seen to-day in Russia. There you have a body of men and women who determined to establish society on communistic principles. It has turned out to be a failure, because the majority of the people were not mentally fit for a system of common ownership, and because the economic conditions were not ripe. The Bolsheviks were compelled to compromise with the capitalist class, who own and control the world’s means of production and distribution.
Therefore as long as the majority of the world’s workers are not prepared and organised to institute the Socialist Commonwealth, they will have to suffer poverty in the midst of plenty, wholesale slaughter, and a future black with the hovering clouds of war and unemployment, strikes and so forth.
In spite of sending ” jolly good fellows” to Parliament this chaos must ensue, and the workers only exhibit their ignorance of political and economic affairs in so doing.
Thorold Rogers in his book “Six Centuries of Work and Wages,” tells us (p. 398)
“What a husbandman earned with 15 weeks work in 1495, a whole year’s labour would not supply artizan or labourer with in the year 1725 throughout Lancashire. I have protested before against the complacent optimism which concludes, because the health of the upper classes has been bettered, and appliances, unknown before, have become familiar and cheap, that therefore the country in which these improvements have been effected must be considered to have made, for all its people, regular and continuous progress, I contend that from 1653 to 1824, a conspiracy, concocted by the law and carried out by parties interested in its success, was entered into, to cheat the English workman of his wages, to tie him to the soil, to deprive him of hope, and to degrade him into irremediable poverty.”
Many “great men” since 1824 have been elected to Parliament—with great enthusiasm. Yet to day the workers are worse off than in 1495, and for a very good reason. The masters have reaped all the benefit of the vast strides made in the improvement of the instruments of labour, and have even succeeded in turning the very fertility of his labour against the wage labourer.
And to-morrow, if a so called Labour Government were elected, capitalist interests would prevail, because the workers are not organised for common ownership.
Salvation from poverty in the midst of plenty cannot be obtained by voting for Persons. The only way is to organise and vote for the principle of the common ownership of the meang and instruments of wealth production.
Until the time of working-class enlightenment and consequent control of our lives and destiny, we must suffer the evils of private ownership and “great men” with tongues of promise.
(Socialist Standard, September 1920)