Dear Sirs,—With reference to J.C.’s well-reasoned article in this month’s “S.S.” entitled “Parliamentary or Direct Action,” has he not omitted to state what are the agencies which will cause the bulk of the workers to arrive at a complete understanding of their position, which understanding, he says, is necessary before Socialism can come ?
The average worker unquestionably gulps down whatever ideas are pressed upon him by school, press, parson, etc. Further, he likes to to think and feel exactly what everybody else in the herd thinks and feels. He is not worried in the least as to the possibility that popular ideas and emotions may be untrue, or may tend to repress life.
In point of volume, Socialist propaganda cannot be compared with capitalist propaganda. Nor, indeed, are the advocates of the former such accomplished psychologists as are the advocates of the latter. The worker’s thoughts and feelings are the results of this capitalistic ideological bombardment; and in this bombardment there is no cessation.
Therefore, if the coming of Socialism depends upon the enlightenment of the majority of the workers, and their enlightenment depends alone upon Socialist teaching influencing them, it looks as though our hope of a better life is about as rosy as was the early Christians’ hope of the “second coming.”
G. T. Foster.
Reply to G. T. Foster.
The last paragraph in Mr. Foster’s letter contains the essence of his question when he asks if the enlightenment of the workers depends ALONE upon Socialist teaching. Nowhere does the Socialist state such a position or make such a claim. Socialist propaganda is only one factor in the process of enlightenment. Far more powerful is the economic development with its growing insecurity of life for everyone who lives by selling his or her services to an employer. It is this great factor that usually forces workers to listen to Socialist propaganda.
In all directions, despite the denials and lies of the capitalist agents, combination among the capitalists, with its concentration of wealth, into fewer hands, continues all over the world. Price associations, cartels, federations and amalgamations, finally reaching the stage of trusts, are found in every large industry. The combinations in oil, steel, cotton, and Tobacco are known to everybody, and almost as notorious is the great combination in the banking world.
A combination is formed to increase profits. This may be done by eliminating competition and so saving the portion of surplus value previously used in that direction. Result, unemployment of travellers, advertisement printers, etc. Another way is to combine like plants or branches under one control with its necessary reduction of staff, thus giving a similar result. Or the combine may decide to force either longer hours or speeding up on the workers, with the same monotonous result—unemployment.
The class division between workers and employers is more clearly shown in the case of a company than of an employer who is known personally to his workpeople. It is shown more clearly by a combination, and most clearly of all by a trust. No wage slave is sure of his job under this development, and even the lordly bank clerk and the respectable, snobbish teacher have been forced to form organisations of a trade union character to protect themselves against the worsening of their economic position and the growing insecurity of life.
Long before the Socialist propaganda will reach the majority of these people the growth of the contradictions in capitalism will have forced them to examine various supposed ways of escape, and they will be compelled to take up the study of Socialism as furnishing the only solution to these problems.
Nor is it a question of the comparative psychological accomplishments of the capitalist and Socialist propagandists, for the first merely repeat the stale tales and nostrums that are already in the workers’ minds—an extremely simple thing to do—while the second have to divert the minds of the workers out of their old, well-worn grooves—a task of much greater difficulty.