To those who depend for their knowledge of politics on the Capitalist Press, there seems to be acute antagonism between the different parties striving for power. The Coalitionists regard the Liberal and Labour parties with indifference or contempt, while the two latter parties appear to be jealous and suspicious of one another, and the noisy Anti-Waste Party attacks all three parties with equal venom. The intensity, vulgarity and violence of party strife, however, is not always a safe guide as to the importance of the issues.
When the worker examines the issues of to-day in the light of reason, he must soon be convinced that, so far as he is concerned, they are not worth wasting time over. When he examines the reforms or principles of the different parties, he must speedily come to the conclusion that there is not sufficient difference between them to warrant him taking up sides. The programme of the Labour Party, for instance, is so little different from that of the Liberals, that arrangements are frequently made between the leaders to support each other’s candidates, and the rank and file of the Labour Party vote for a Liberal as a matter of course when no Labour candidate is running.
It is clear from this that there can be no real antagonism between these two parties. The other parties, we know from experience, only contend in the political arena for control over the Parliamentary machine, with no intention of making any fundamental changes in the system. Liberals and Tories come and go, or coalesce, but Capitalism continues while they can do either. Thus all political parties prominently before the workers stand for Capitalism, their only differences being in the methods of administration.
Two things are necessary before we can pass judgment on any political party—Socialist knowledge and knowledge of the party’s actions and utterances. By Socialist knowledge we mean a clear conception of the economic dependence and the political subjugation of the Working Class, together with the class antagonism that necessarily arises therefrom, and the necessity for conscious and organised action on the part of the workers for the overthrow of Capitalism and the establishment of Socialism. To the Labour Leader
we go for information on the Labour Party’s attitude and principles. Sir Leo Chiozza Money
says (October 6th, 1921) :
“How should a conscientious Labour man, who hopes and strives for a better condition of society and a saner economic system, treat the system that is ? Should his policy be one of co-operation or non-co-operation ? Should he do his best with the tools that are, or endeavour to clog, stop or destroy the machine in order to compel the making of a better one?
“The Labour Party’s answer to these questions is a common-sense one. The proposals it has issued dealing with unemployment, for example, seek to make the best of things as they are. In the background are the voices of revolution.”
Where Sir Leo and all the birds in the Capitalist nest are doing their utmost to keep such voices ; in the background along with the Socialist knowledge that would enable the workers to understand their position. “The proposals of the Labour Party seek to make the best of things as they are.” In these words the Labour Party is summed up and condemned—by its own scribe. How is it possible, at one and the same time, to show the rottenness of a system and the need for its abolition, while contending that it should be bolstered or patched up in order to make it last longer? All they do is to raise false hopes and lead the workers away from the only solution of their difficulties. Not only so. When they join hands with Liberals and Tories and tell the workers that the only way to deal with unemployment is to capture foreign markets, they lie. Followed to its logical conclusion, that policy increases instead of diminishes unemployment, because the faster the workers throw commodities into the world’s market, the sooner they reach the goal of universal glut and stagnation.
Backed up by the Labour Party, the avowed Capitalist parties reduce wages all round, telling the workers that they cannot get more out of industry than they put in. Who stops them from putting more in? Mr. Lloyd George says the nation is producing now only 80 per cent. of its pre-war output, admits there are a million and a half unemployed through no fault of their own, and says that it is a world condition. The utter helplessness of Capitalist Governments in the face of the present crisis is apparent in every written and spoken sentence of the defenders of the system.
They are applying their minds to the question, says the Premier, but the only result from this application of great minds is, excuses for the failure of their system, accusations of ca’-canny against the workers, and schemes to get necessary work done by local councils at less than Trade Union rates of wages.
One of the greatest adepts in the art of making excuses for Capitalism is Chiozza Money. In nearly every copy of the Labour Leader, for weeks, he has been insisting that the workers must produce more cheaply and co-operate with the Capitalists to get back our lost trade, because this country is mainly dependent on exports and shipping. If his readers gave the question a moment’s consideration, they would see in this nothing but a dirty imputation that they are not doing their share in the work of production; the truth, of course, being that the workers do it all. Moreover, going slow may be possible in isolated instances when workers are in demand, but in the present congested state of the labour market must be very rare indeed. Before the Capitalists of this country can regain their lost markets, exchanges must be stabilised and European industry restored, but that is a purely Capitalist question and can only be arranged between the different conflicting groups of Capitalists themselves. The Workers have no voice in the question and cannot increase the volume of trade until they are more fully employed.
The next move is, therefore, with the Capitalists. The gentlemen who are saying that the war debts between nations should be wiped out have made this clear. The wheels of industry can only be made to revolve when exchanges are stabilised and the countries disorganised by the war resume their normal activities. Both the Premier and Chiozza Money agree that the slump is a world condition, but both of them neglect to add that every Capitalist country can produce far in excess of its own needs, and that this excess of production over national needs is the cause of slumps. Every country must find markets for its excess, and in proportion as it fails to do so, each country finds its unemployed increasing.
Restoration of trade is the only remedy, say the captains of industry, and their political agents, from the Premier to the most obscure Labour hack, repeat their cry. Birds of a feather, they all agree that their paymasters must extend their concerns. They are harnessed to the national car of industry, and serve Capitalist interests, not only against foreign Capitalists, but against the workers of their own land, whose continued exploitation and increasing poverty is thereby insured. Agreeing that the restoration of trade is the only remedy for unemployment, they differ as to the method, and gathering into little cliques they raise the very devil of a noise over causes and remedies, exhorting the workers to patience all the while, until trade begins to revive, when they make still more noise about our glowing prospects.
The Capitalist Class, with its ownership of the means of wealth-production, its claim to organise industry, and its control of political power, whether it understands the nature of the crisis or not, utterly fails to deal with it. All they can do is to wait for trade to revive, while loudly proclaiming it to be the only solution. They cannot however, escape their responsibility in that way, because the workers are beginning to see that their poverty is not due to lack of means and nature-given materials. If Capitalism, as a system, therefore, is incapable of organising except on the basis of short periods of feverish production interspersed with long years of depression, sooner or later the workers will get tired of excuses and promised reforms and will give their minds to a serious study of Socialism. It is quite plain, among other things, that while Capitalism continues, unemployment, and consequently Working Class conditions generally, must become worse; that only by the abolition of Capitalism and the establishment of a system based on production for use, can the workers’ conditions be improved; that the Capitalist Class, although unable to alleviate the growing misery, will stoop to any crime in order to maintain the system and their domination over the workers. Socialism makes these facts plain—proves them conclusively—and points to the obvious deduction, the workers must organise to establish the new order for them, in spite of all opposition from the Capitalist Class.
The ruling class sits tight over the means of wealth-production, surrounded by armed forces, and it will not allow them to be used unless they can see profits accruing to them by the process. Such a situation must already appeal to millions of workers as ludicrous. The bulk of human society, held at bay by a relatively small class who live in luxury and idleness and regard it as a favour bestowed when they permit a propertyless human being to work and produce more wealth for them in return for his keep.
This is the actual basis of Capitalist society, the class ownership of the means of life and production for profit. The workers can only live by selling their labour-power; becoming wage-slaves to the master-class. By this means they are robbed of all the wealth they produce beyond what is necessary to keep them fit for work. It is to their interest, therefore, to understand this position and organise upon the basis of their class in order to put an end to Capitalism and establish a system where freely associating men and women will produce for use instead of for Capitalist profit.
Such an organisation will be antagonistic to all Capitalist parties and will recognise the genuine Working Class parties of other lands by the similarity of their principles. They will thus march forward in a real international to capture political power in every country and wipe out the system that denies them the use of the land and means of production for the satisfaction of their material needs.
By such principles the workers will also judge those who profess to lead them. They can safely repudiate the advice of those who tell them to work harder in order to capture foreign markets, because such a course can only benefit the Capitalist. Birds of a feather invariably croak on the same notes.
We cannot, therefore, mistake the friends of the Capitalist even when they label themselves “Labour.”