1920s >> 1920 >> no-194-october-1920

A Fugitive Colour

From an account of an interview with a Shoreditch councillor published in the “Hackney and Kingsland Gazette,” Sept. 6th, 1920, it would appear to the reader of that paper that a revolution was likely to commence in Shoreditch, to be followed by a “Soviet System of Government.” Having been elected to the Council as a “Labour member,” this gentleman thinks that although he has “turned Communist” he is still entitled to keep his seat on the Council, and is apparently of the opinion that as he has changed his views, the views of the electors have changed also. He therefore contends that Shoreditch has “gone red.”


He tells the representative of our contemporary that he “refused to have anything to do with a local ‘Council of Action,'” and denounced all councils, yet he is in favour of still more councils (“Soviets”) and a seat on the Council (Shoreditch Borough Soviet) although this Soviet “can do nothing.”


This Councillor has yet to learn that it requires something more than “to get elected” to any body, whether it be local council or House of Commons, in order to accomplish anything in the workers’ interest.


It requires knowledge on the part of the electors and their continued support.


The local Labour Party was returned at the last election in a large majority, but has not attempted to deal with the huge amount of poverty, the great shortage of houses and other questions that face the workers in Shoreditch as elsewhere. They have fought among themselves for PLACE AND HONOURS, and while the Mayor stated that his Council would refuse to pay the police rate, police are still to be found in that borough, and the bailiffs are not yet in the Town Hall.


These councillors are afraid to move in any serious attempt deal with the working-class questions because they might lose their seats at the next election. Any party could out-reform them at reforming in the same way that they reform—that is by promising. So they merely hold tight, sit and attempt to look wise, with no more idea of which way to turn to set about the task they were elected for than they have of refusing the plums of office that fall from the rich man’s table.


Friend Councillor,—The workers do not require “soviet systems of government.” They have had and are getting enough government. What they require is Socialism, but they don’t know enough about it yet. Socialism does away with government and brings administration. Government implies a class that cannot administer, and so must be governed by another section of society ; it also implies that the present system of production for profit shall continue and the continuance of the present system of private ownership in the means of life.


So before any section of the workers “turn red ” they must understand that this system of private ownership in the means of wealth production and distribution is the cause of their poverty and misery, that they are poor because they are robbed as a result of being compelled to sell their labour power to the class that own.


They must learn, further, that the interests of the working class, and of the non-working, employing, and owning class are opposed ; that the struggle which the workers carry on with the masters for better conditions, fewer hours of employment, etc, arises from the propertied and propertyless condition of the two classes, and the attempt of those classes to live out of the wealth produced by the working class, each class struggling to obtain as big a share as possible.


The masters take advantage of all the means at their disposal to compel the workers to, not only increase the total wealth production, but to accept and be content with, the smallest possible part of the total that will suffice to keep the workers alive and able, or fit, to continue wealth production.


Soviets or councils are but part of the governmental machine, and the masters have long since understood that the class that has control of that governmental machine are in the position of governors. So they seek always to capture control through their political parties, and to swing the workers’ votes to their assistance to that end. It does not matter what label the party has, if its policy is to continue capitalism ; they can control the machine through all such parties. The reforms that are the planks in the programmes of these parties can be used, not only to content the workers, but to run the system more economically.


The workers must learn a lesson from the masters and build up an organisation for themselves ; and as only a change from the system of private, to the common ownership of the means of life, can alter the poverty conditions of the workers (that should be the object of the workers’ party and that only) they should control their organisation and its members and seek to capture the governmental forces to aid them in their struggle against the capitalist class.


In so doing they take away the power that the capitalists have and add power unto themselves. The workers should not only elect their members to local and national bodies, but should also control the policy of those elected and see that a change in the opinions and policy of those elected is also followed by a change in the delegate and not a change in the opinions of the electors.


Then and then only can and do the workers “turn Red” and colour-blindness disappear.