1920s >> 1924 >> no-237-may-1924

By the way

The anti-Socialist tell us that under Socialism we should become a stereotyped humanity; but their use of the word “State,” signifies that it is really State Capitalism to which they refer, Socialism implying the abolition of the State, to-day a Capitalist institution. Commenting on a recent play in which the central idea is the invention of mechanical men, a writer says :—

“These robots had all, and more than all, the material efficiency of human beings, but no soul, no heart, none of those attributes which make life individual and interesting. That is what your Socialist would have you and me be like in his perfect Socialist state.”—Democrat, April 12th, 1924.

Think of your individuality when the hooter goes and you clock on at the dog biscuit factory or the soap works, think how interesting the routine of the office, the beautiful scenery viewed by a carman, or watching the beer in the brewery, calculating how much you and your pals could account for if only you had it outside. Ah ! you see you’ve a soul (!), and having one, perhaps a further item, same paper, same date «will interest you :—

“Where are these small, but important details that used to make our houses feel like homes? We do not find these things to-day. All the happiness has gone out of our houses. They are all alike, all plain and dull. For all the distinction or variation there are in them, they might be so many bathing machines or hen-coops.”

And in like manner you will find most of the “ bogeys ” of Socialism right here today.

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“There is one reasoned alternative to Socialism, the very simple yet perfectly true doctrine that small families and willing work would quickly banish poverty from our country.”—New Voice April.

This doctrine, we are told, will win the support of the wavering masses, who in desperation are inclined “to give the Socialists a trial” ; and although it contains reason, truth, work, and gutta-percha economics, we remain cold and unmoved. Smaller families mean cheaper living, and in the age of competition and sliding scales, cheaper living frequently means lowered wages. The more willing you work to-day, the fewer of you will be required for the job in hand, that means more unemployment, and therefore more poverty. The “reasoned alternative” to Socialism’ may appear “very simple,” but only to simple people.

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“The nation to-day is not producing enough to satisfy the natural human demands of the workers.. . . The demands for a decent standard of life have been increasing, but the means of satisfying them have not increased ; and to demand what is not there is crying for the moon.—Daily Chronicle, 31.3.24.

What an indictment of the present system ! In the world’s richest country the “natural human demands” for its workers cannot be met, so the Chronicle leader writer informs us, and by the naive assumption that “the Nation” would be one harmonious entity but for these demands, he attempts to conceal the cause of the contrast of wealth and poverty, and the inevitable conflict between, the propertyless producers of wealth and its non-working Capitalist owners. Even for the workers to demand a “decent standard of life” is with true Liberal cant considered “crying for the Moon.” But the idle shareholders; they evidently may smile complacently upon the earth. Take only one instance, typical of the average concern, and what a difference we find in the reward of abstinence— from the dignity of labour :—

“The twenty-second annual report of the Imperial Tobacco Company (of Great Britain and Ireland), Limited, issued last night, shows a nett trading profit for twelve months ended October 31st, 1923, amounting to £1,467,925 12s. 10d”—Daily Mail, 9.2.24.

What are the facts? Man’s power over Nature reached the stage of being able to maintain an idle ruling class in the dim and remote past; this he could only do when he could produce more than was necessary for his own individual subsistence, later in the middle ages, roughly fifteen weeks’ labour- of the year enabled a labourer to sustain a family of five for that period (Thorold Rogers), while to-day, modern manufacture with its giant machines, electricity, railways and applied science, makes production possible on a scale that could far outstrip societies’ needs. Yet the workers are poor! and the best reason the Capitalist Press can advance is a dirty lie. The invention and industry of countless generations of workers HAS increased the means to satisfy the most extravagant demands ever likely to be made upon them, BUT those means are the property of the few, and operated solely in their interests. Need we stress the point?

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“But we have yet to meet the Socialist who’s willing to learn anything from anybody without doubting the motive of his teachers.” (Democrat, 9/2/24.)

Within the Capitalist system there are thousands of “anybodies” laying claim to be the teachers of the working class.

All profess to be in deepest sympathy with the sufferings of that class, and every library is filled with their voluminous vapourings. The Socialist, however, did not obtain his understanding by blindly accepting every nostrum that was placed before him. His mental evolution has been through the stages of doubt, investigation to understanding. He does not consider his the final word in knowledge, but is ever prepared to enlarge that knowledge. Unlike the Capitalist supporting worker, the Socialist reasons from a class basis, his class interests, for it is only from that basis that he can judge the usefulness or otherwise of any teaching to his class. Through the method of discussion and critical enquiry men and women develop the power to reason for themselves. Our advice to the worker in this age of political chicanery is to trust none, but to acquire that learning that dispenses with the need for trust or doubt and enables them to test, the teachings offered, written or oral, on the touchstone of Socialist knowledge.

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“Socialism meant complete destruction of private property and individual liberty. God save England from Socialism.” (Harold Cox, The New Voice Feb.)

The worker may read the above and yet retain his composure. The property referred to is not his watch and chain or the odds and ends that often find their way to “Uncle,” but Capitalist property, the bulk of the wealth of modern society. It is usual for Capitalist apologists to speak or write of Marx as “exploded” or out of date, but how his words meet the whines of that class and their agents to-day.

“You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population ; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths.” (Reeves, Ed., p. 18, Communist Manifesto.)

The above was written nearly eighty years ago, but Capitalist development has but served to emphasise these facts. The Capitalist pretends to see in his form of private property (the ownership of societies’ means of wealth production) a form that permits of no further development without social stagnation and the destruction of what he terms individual liberty.

“The abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom !… By freedom is meant, under the present bourgeois conditions of production, free trade, free selling and buying.” (Ibid.)

The freedom to exploit and plunder a working class free only to sell their labour power—if they can. Property in its present form is but a transient form, it will undergo change when there is no further room for development within the present system. The main force generated within that system and the human factor that must bring that change, is the growing conscious discontent of the working class, who in order to achieve their emancipation must realise that the barrier of freedom and comfort for all stands in the present socially operated, but privately-owned means of life. The only possible alternative is social ownership, by which the evils of to-day will be removed and the communal form of society in which the human family was cradled for so many thousands of years restored on an infinitely higher plane.


(Socialist Standard, May 1924)

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