1920s >> 1921 >> no-200-april-1921

Editorial: The Master Builders


  “We are the men who do constructive work,” said the labour-“Socialist” canvasser. “We don’t just talk Socialism.”


The value of constructive work depends on what it is you construct. There was a maniac once who built a fly trap with oak beams and concrete. He fractured his skull and caught no flies, but he had constructed something.


Now the Labour Party may justly claim to have done abundant constructing, at Westminster, on local administrative bodies, wage boards, governmental commissions, and what not. A galaxy of practical measures stands to the credit of its initiative or support ; unemployment insurance, infant welfare arrangements, rent restriction, old age pensions, with all their compeers ; and pious resolutions urging voluntary fetters upon our masters, as thick as broken promises about the heels of capitalist statesmen.


In face of these brilliant operations the work of the S.P.G.B. is modest indeed. It is merely busy constructing the only thing of worth to the cause of Socialism — a body of intelligent working-class opinion. Perhaps even this is too sweeping a claim, for it does no more, in this particular direction, than sow the seeds of knowledge, which of themselves grow and bring forth, “some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundred.”


In measuring the significance of your activities, the attitude of the ruling class is to be noted. When the enemy approves of the work of your engineers it is time to suspect that he knows better than you whither the mine is running. The recitation delivered by Mr. Lloyd George on March 23rd well indicates which kind of attack his masters fear. Do you think they have so long contemplated Labour propaganda with equanimity, belatedly to find it dangerous ? Or do you rather think this anxiety is occasioned by something more than Labour propaganda ? In what do they see the menace to their rule ? In this same constructive work of the Labour Party, with its practical master-builders in the House of Commons; or in the teachings of Socialists based upon “the subversive doctrines of Karl Marx” ? In the reformers who, being returned to power, will “go about redressing these little grievances,” or in the Socialists who “will say …. ‘These grievances are not due to governments or individuals; they are due to the system’ “? By making Marxian teaching the butt of their offensive they have betrayed what alone alarms them: the growth of Socialist thought, which cannot be beguiled into losing its way by taking “steps in the right direction.”


Ah, these labour leaders, whose Premier awards them the testimonial that in disputes they have never given him trouble ; and these so-called Socialists who have a hundred things to do more important than preaching Socialism ! Their work is indeed constructive—of elaborate camouflage for enemy operations; but utterly destructive of the clear vision and purpose without which the army of the workers cann’ot advance.


If the mere building of something is itself commendable, let us have a wall round Windermere, a pound for lost principles, or a moving stairway from the Labour benches to the Cabinet ; but if our aim is toward Socialism, then the path of our advance lies in that very phrase used by our labour canvasser. “Talk Socialism,” until working men and women cease to content themselves with any amelioration of capitalist conditions, and organise for their twofold task : to destroy the system that binds them to toil, and attain to freedom by building anew.