1920s >> 1921 >> no-203-july-1921

Short Story: Extraction From ‘The Compleat Socialist.’ 2

Being a Discourse not Unworthy of the Perusal of Most Reformers.

[Cast of Characters:] Reformer, No Party, Socialist.


Socialist.—I have promised to show you an alternative to Reform, and I mean to catechise you for it. I pray you tell me, did not you, Mr. No Party, declare these same countries which shelter so much poverty to stand among the richest ?


No Party.—That I did, sir, and this is known by us all.


Socialist.—And next you shall tell me, in what form their wealth appears ?


Reformer.—Why, sir, in the shape of commodities of all kinds.


Socialist.—True. And I would know who owns the greater part of them, since we are all very sure the workers do not.


No Party.— Your questions are easily answered, sir. It is those employers whom Mr. Reformer called “masters.”


Socialist.— I suppose then that they by far out number the workers ?


Reformer.—Nay, sir, they are but a handful by comparison!


Socialist.—And do they put all these commodities to their own use ?


No Party.—No indeed, they sell them.


Socialist.—To what uses, then, do they put those monies which come to them from the sale ?


No Party.—Oh, sir, with some they supply both necessaries and all manner of luxuries to themselves; and the residue they invest in further business of production.


Socialist.— Still you answer well; I commend you. Now, I pray, did these employers themselves create this wealth which they are so happy as to possess ?


Reformer.—Marry, no, sir: most of them created not the smallest part of it,


Socialist.—Then since wealth does not fall from clouds like rain, nor is not found upon the grass like manna, whence came it ?


Reformer.—The labour of the workers, e’en those of whom I discoursed, produced it.


Socialist.—Well said ; but you must needs show from what material, for we know that even prodigious toil cannot win steel from moonbeams or wool from the wind.


Reformer.—Sooth, bounteous Nature yields the materials.


Socialist.—Is it e’en so ! Now instruct me how the employers do continue to persuade the workers to produce for them; the which is the more amazing for that they return to the producers a share so exceeding meagre.


Reformer.— Oh, sir, you must know that the workers cannot live but by serving the employers.


Socialist.— Can they not ? Why do they not exercise their labour upon Nature’s materials for their own benefit ?


Reformer.—Because in doing this they must use tools, machines, factories, locomotives, steamships, and so forth, all of which we call means of production and transport, and these do the employers possess, Therefore the workers may by no means come near them except in serving their masters on terms specified.


Socialist.—And it is plainly to be discerned who sets forth the terms, for we know it is not pleasant to the wage-earners to receive so poor a share and to work so many hours in the day.


No Party.—Aye marry, the terms never differ but in little from what the employers offer, yet why they do not I cannot clearly perceive.


Reformer.—Oh, it is because the number of hungry workers wishing to be hired is nearly always greater than the number which the masters do wish to hire, the which I mentioned a while ago. Therefore can the masters say : “Thus and thus are the terms, and if one of you will not accept them, your fellow must.”


Socialist.—Well done, scholars mine! You answer each the other. Now I suppose at least the capitalists themselves produced the means of production, by owning the which they are able so to enslave the workers?


No Party.—Nay ! The workers produced them too.


Reformer.—Aye truly—by bringing their labour to Mother Earth.


Socialist.—Then it does not appear how they own not these !


Reformer.— Oh, the reason is that the very land belongs to the masters.


Socialist.—Then do the workers possess nothing whatsoever, excepting their power to labour ?


Reformer.—Alas, nothing.


Socialist.—And the capitalists possess everything —land, means of production, and therefore all wealth produced, above that small amount which they do grudgingly return to the workers, to reproduce in them that life and strength which they purpose to use again.


No Party.—Thus matters stand indeed.


Socialist.—Now see you not, honest friend, the very root of those material evils which you did so lament ?


Reformer.—Yes, for it doth plainly appear that they all grow from the ownership by capitalists of the means of living.


Socialist.—And do you begin to perceive in your bitter harvest of hatreds a reflection of material conditions, chiefest of which are the economic relations of capitalist production ?


No Party.—Why, I do, in so far as class antagonism is concerned : a class struggle could not but arise where the interests of employers and employed are thoroughly opposite.


Reformer.—And I have declared already how competition among workers makes them hate each other, which competition we have seen is a feature of capitalist production.


No Party.— Even so. And now I bethink me, the bitterness of the workers in belligerent lands is to be ascribed to this same cause; for I remember that each war hath proved to have been fought on questions of masters’ interests, and it is to defend these that the workers have been roused to enmity, who else had no quarrel whatsoever.


Socialist.—So much for their ideal sorrows. And what of the aesthetic blindness, which denied to so many workers any joy in art ?


Reformer.—Why, that indeed is a weed from the same vile root; for how should men and women live in such wise as workers do, and yet remain alive to those profound and subtle sensations which the artist labours to awake ? Sensitive minds in a sordid environment pay for their joys in bitter suffering.


No Party.—Besides, you are to bear in mind how the workers’ education concerns itself not at all to foster appreciation of art: such responsiveness is not necessary to an efficient typist or engineer.


Reformer.—True; and I remember how great artists very oft starve, though why our masters, who have leisure and wealth enough, neglect to reward them and enjoy their creations, I can not discern.


No Party.—I can, and that readily! For the ruling class in capitalist society is much made up of men successful is capitalist industry ; the which success pre-requires mental qualities very different from those which distinguished lovers of art and is achieved and maintained by an unremitting recognition of self- and class-interest. The only kind of “art” which seemeth to them good is that which can be made the servant of their ideas ; but the greatest art serves not one class or section, but is for all people and all times a common treasure and a link.


Socialist.—Now see how far a little thinking hath carried you ! I warrant you now perceive, Mr. Reformer, why your reforms fulfilled not your high hopes of them.


Reformer.—I confess I do. For they were directed on the one hand to changing the ideas and tastes of the workers, apart from the material conditions out of which these grew; and on the other to improving their material state while leaving the worker still enslaved to the capitalist, so that if the former should gain some small advantage to-day, the latter had but to devise some new aid to exploitation to-morrow.


Socialist.—So you have satisfied yourselves, have you not, that private property in the means of living entails the subjection of the working class, and its consequent misery ?


Reformer.—We have in sooth.


Socialist.—Wherein, then, lies the remedy ?


Reformer.—It follows straight: in the common ownership of these things.


Socialist.—And how in such case ought their use to be controlled ?


Reformer.—Oh, democratically, by the whole people !


Socialist.—The achievement of which is the whole aim of Socialists, of whom I am one.


No Party.—Why, I cry you thanks, Mr. Socialist ! I am now become so full of eagerness that I would fain know how this transformation may be brought about.


Socialist.—The matter is easily understood, scholar, and as you are so willing, let us proceed to it. You did declare, Mr. Reformer, and we all know it for truth, that the working class doth far outnumber its masters. By what means do the capitalists retain the wealth which they have taken ?


Reformer.—Why, the laws secure it them, and punish with rigorous penalties any who attack their possession. The army, navy, air-force and police are to be employed on such occasion.


Socialist.—And who make the laws ?


Reformer.—Those whom you and I and all voters do appoint to rule.


Socialist.—And who are either masters or supporters of the same I conjecture, since they do so well defend private property.


Reformer.—Truly, of these two kinds they are.


Socialist.—Yet they must be appointed by the votes of the workers, since these are in the majority.




Socialist.—In whatsoever persuasion, then, do the workers elect such rulers ?


No Party.—Oh, they do not yet understand, as I did not until to-day, sir, the source of their troubles.


Socialist.—Now, what think you? How is it possible for the working class to expropriate its masters, and convert the means of living into common property ?


Reformer.—By taking control of the powers of government.


Socialist.—By what means can this be done?


Reformer.—By electing workers pledged to Socialism.


Socialist.—Whose, then, is the task of achieving Socialism ?


No Party.—The workers’ alone !


Socialist.—And what deem you the most valuable service possible to-day to the cause of Socialism?


No Party.—To spread knowledge of its principles within the working class.


Socialist.—So think I; yet how shall we secure that Socialist action be well-disciplined and effective?


rep.—Why, as the workers grow to an understanding of Socialism they should organise in a Socialist party.


No Party.—Thus the matter appears to me also; and if more consideration confirms my present view, I promise, sir, to rank myself among your fellows, and qualify as completely as may be to bear forward the welcome teaching. I pray you, tell me if there be a Socialist party in this country which dallies not with reforms, for I am resolved that I will none of them.


Socialist.—I am so happy as to be able to name you e’en such a party, to wit, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, some copies of whose Manifesto I have, by good fortune, in my pocket. Do you both read at your leisure, and judge of the party by what you find therein.


Reformer.—I, like Mr. No Party, am become full of eagerness, but hesitate to give the like promise because I fear me that until the majority of the workers understand Socialism the time is long.


Socialist.—Marry, scholar, well urged ! And therefore as we have now reached Rugby let me re commend you to alight. I will hand you your bag.


Reformer.—What counsel is this ? My destination is Carlisle.


Socialist.—Aye, but from here to Carlisle is four hours journey. You were wiser to make the best of Rugby, which invites you here at hand.


Reformer.—You amaze me, sir ! My business can be done only in. Carlisle, and were it a twenty-four hours’ journey, I would go thither. No other town will suit my purpose.


Socialist.—Excellent, excellent! You have answered your own objection to Socialism. No thing but Socialism will suit your purpose— which is the emancipation of the working class, is it not ? Only in the Socialist Commonwealth, will vanish the ills we desire to end, and how ever long the way may be, we must go thither, Yet it may well be that the Revolution is much nearer than you have guessed. For myself, it is my hope and my dearest wish that I may live to witness the establishment in many lands of that Commonwealth, and the expanding of the flowers of human happiness in its warmth and light; if this great joy may not be mine, I wish I may keep health and strength to fight through many a year in its cause.


Reformer.—Now so say I, good friend, for my last doubt hath followed the rest.


Socialist.—Your decisions right well, content me, nor do I fear that you will ever repent them,


No Party.—And to lose no time, I propose that Mr. Reformer and I proceed now to read the Manifesto, thus allowing you to return to your Socialist Standard, which I perceive you laid aside when we began to discourse.


Socialist.—‘Tis a match.


Reformer.— A match.