1920s >> 1923 >> no-231-november-1923

By the way

“Many working-men who voted Socialist would be the last to wish to see Socialism enthroned.”— (Dr. Macnamara, “Daily Sketch,” 24/9/23.)

A not unusual method of the capitalist vote-catching tout is to flatter and cajole the worker under the pretence of appealing to his “sound common sense,” his “level headed reasoning,” his desire to preserve his “hard won liberties,” all of which he unfortunately hasn’t got. We presume the pedantic doctor refers to those workers who voted for the reform programme of the Labour Party in the belief that they voted for “Socialism.” Those who did so were deceived and sold again, as they so often have been before, by Liberal and Tory frauds. The full realisation of the programme of the Labour Party would still leave the workers propertyless in the means of life, and consequently slaves to their masters. They (the workers) do not want to see Socialism established because they do not understand it. Dr. Macnamara is a defender of capitalism, and would have you believe that your continued toleration of that system is the outcome of your own power to reason. Our claim is that the workers’ support of capitalism, with the inevitable social misery it brings upon them, is not due to their calm and careful conation, but to the slavish ideas inculcated by their master’s education.

Have no fear of bogeys styled “Socialism,” but critically examine our position, apply the intelligence you so often use in your master’s interests, and then, with your new-born understanding, join us. Time and truth are on our side, but we can achieve our objective through you, our class organised –

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”Do you want a bigger salary?” “Do you want to get on?” “Why not climb above the sloughs of unemployment?” Such are the inferential questions addressed to the salaried proletariat by various schools and colleges claiming to supply the neces-qualifications. The Pelman Institute advertising their course through the medium of Baroness Orczy state (Tit-Bits, 22/9/23) : ”There are millions to whom it would mean just the difference between a life of mediocrity and one of prosperity.” What glorious news !—almost brings tears to the eyes to think that there should be so many millions, who, it might appear, are living drab, uneventful lives out of sheer perversity. But even the capitalist press reveals a different state of affairs and shatters the fulsome promises of those whose business it is to trade in a particular form of knowledge required by the masters of to-day. Like the mass of the working class the products of the higher education must come into the labour market and compete in the merciless struggle that our present social system begets.

“During the next few months some thousands of young men from Oxford and Cambridge will be looking for work in an inhospitable world. ‘The truth is that there is less and less room in modern life for a liberal education,’ said a former undergraduate (who had somehow found a job since ‘coming down’ last summer) sadly to a ‘Daily News’ representative yesterday. The most fortunate of these young men—that is those who have not absolutely got to earn a living at once—will drift to the Bar, with comparatively little prospect of briefs. The less fortunate will become schoolmasters, most of them with neither aptitude nor enthusiasm for their work. And there will still be a lot left over. These will scramble for odd tutorships—an occupation which is usually quite as fatal a ‘blind alley’ as that of a telegraph boy—and try to become free lance journalists. Perhaps some lucky ones will get jobs on the films.”—(“Daily News,” 28/6/23.)

Perhaps ! and more than likely, some unlucky ones will join the ever-growing army of the workless. The capitalists themselves will see that the quantity and quality of so-called educated workers is forthcoming for the purposes of their own profit, and,, like the rest of the working class, their supply exceeding the masters’ requirements, their price upon the labour market (salary or wages) consequently falls. We too seek to educate the workers, not as trained machines, producing and distributing wealth for the enjoyment and leisure of others, but to understand their usefulness and importance, using that knowledge to establish society upon a basis that will allow them to enjoy the results of that usefulness in increasing physical and mental comfort. Such education is indeed worthy of the name, for it has for its objective a higher social order, in which productive human effort will be in conformity with the greatest good of all.

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“A railway carriage which used to take six weeks to construct, can now be completed in six days.”—(“Sunday Chronicle,” 23/9/23.)

Certainly a splendid item of information—but not for the railway coach builders, their labourers, or for other sections of the workers for that matter. Small wonder that the above is

“viewed with the natural suspicion of workers who are afraid that machinery will rob them of a living.”—(Same report.)

Not a suspicion indeed, but a reality— as many workers in other industries could testify, and as other items from the same report bear evidence, for instance :—

“A railway wagon loaded with timber runs in on ordinary metals and stops beside an inclined conveyor. On the conveyor the planks are thrown. Formerly ten men carried the deals away on their shoulders, the conveyor and two men empty a wagon in 15 minutes. . . There is a bolt machine, for instance, which can turn out 40,000 bolts a day ; its predecessors output was 1,600.”

No doubt the displaced workers will be able to ruminate upon the wonders of labour saving- machinery they and other members of their class invent, produce, and operate —in their master’s interest. What insanity ! All the means to make life easier, all the possibilities of reducing work to a minimum, but under capitalism only to serve the idle few, the owners of those means. The cause of your uncertain and insecure existence is plain to see, it becomes more obvious as the years go by, and means greater insecurity, increasing monotony of work, and an ever growing army of unemployed. The docker, the sailor, the cotton operative, all alike serve as wage hirelings for the purpose of profit and dividend, and all must eventually seek the same way out, the abolition of the privately owned means of life, supplanted by communal ownership by and through their own class concerted action. It is the only way.

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Speaking as a delegate to the Congregational Union at Northampton, Dr. A. R. Henderson said (Westminster Gazette, 3-10-23) :—

“In many cities and towns there were housing conditions which made decency impossible . . . in these slum areas a morally satisfactory social life was impossible. The separation of employers and employed into hostile groups eager to gain an advantage over each other was one of the most sinister facts of our social life. . . . Two courses were open to the Churches. They could so improve the conditions of the present system, that it shall give a fair opportunity to all, or they could abolish it in favour of some form of Socialism.”

It is not uncommon to-day to read such outbursts emanating from people, partly from a sincere desire to alleviate such misery, and partly from the increasing difficulty of explaining away the existence of such conditions as being merely temporary inconveniences that will vanish in future as the outcome of wise legislation, or the contrition of a once callous master class. Dr. Henderson inclines toward the latter thought. He says : “Employers knew very well what was wrong, and how to set it right if they would.” What these more or less well-meaning people fail to understand is the cause of these conditions, and their relation to the s) stem in which they are an inseparable part. William Morris once aptly observed that : “The workers are poorly housed because they are poor,” and it would be equally true to say that they are poorly fed, clothed, educated and entertained, by the very fact that they are members of the working class ; a class who at present are content to fashion a perpetual panorama of pleasure for their idle masters, whilst themselves remaining content with the crumbs ; and why—why in the name of common sense—should the capitalists, even were it possible for them to do so, be expected to modify their system so as to “give a fair opportunity to all,” a system admitted by Dr. Henderson to rest upon class exploitation, and class oppression. Years and years of reforms have not prevented a worsening of the workers’ condition, neither can it be shown how reforms of the future can remove the cause of those conditions, they would not fundamentally alter the relation of Capitalist and wage worker, and if masquerading as a form of “Socialism,” could only be in such guise to delay the advent of Socialism a system in which class domination would cease to be. Only the working class themselves, understanding Socialism, and organised for its establishment, can end capitalism. It is their task, not their masters’.

MAC.

(Socialist Standard. November 1923)

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