Violence and the Social Revolution
It is customary for our opponents to represent the Social Revolution as an orgy of bloodshed. They profess to believe that violence, in various forms, is its essential feature. Thus Mr. Arthur Henderson, Secretary of the Labour Party, in an article in the “Daily Herald” (November 19th), refers to “the odour of blood and hatred, etc, which clings to the idea of the Social Revolution.” He wishes this “odour” to be dissociated from the programme of “fundamental economic transformation” proposed by the Labour Party, and expresses the opinion that the Party has suffered from some of its adherents talking about the “iniquities of the capitalist class,” and “the class war.”
Before proceeding to examine this conception more closely, it is worth noting that the above Mr. Arthur Henderson was for some considerable period a member of a Government which, among others, was officially responsible for the slaughter of millions of members of the working class. Apparently Mr. Henderson’s aversion to blood and hatred does not prevent him from helping to carry on a war in the interests of the ruling class.
The same remark applies to numerous other members of the present-day “party of peace.”
Another point which calls for comment is the fact that none of the proposals of the Labour Party which have found practical legislative shape involve any “fundamental economic transformation.” On the contrary, every one of these proposals has always recognised the legality of the ownership by its present proprietors of the mass of wealth which we refer to as the means of living, that is the land, railways, factories, etc.
An economic transformation could only be fundamental if this legal right of the owner-class was abolished, through the conversion of the means of life into the common property of the whole community. The dispossession of the master-class by the wage-slave class, that is alone a fundamental change since it upsets the very basis of the existing social order; and that is precisely the essential feature of the social revolution. Any violence there may be will be entirely incidental, and will obviously depend upon the nature of the resistance offered by the master-class to the abolition of their privileges. So long as the master-class control the political machinery and along with it the major force in society it is clear that a revolutionary organisation is not in a position to use force with any chance of success, and consequently has no interest in doing so. On the other hand, once the revolutionary party has conquered political power the force it will exercise to carry out its object will then be “constitutional,” i.e., the act of established authority.
The Labour Party along with their Communist supporters encourage the idea that revolution and political activity along peaceful and legal lines are in some way opposed to one another. The Socialist Party denies such opposition. With the social revolution as its avowed object it proclaims the necessity of the workers becoming organised consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government (see Declaration of Principles) as the means of accomplishing that object. Its activity consists in endeavouring to convince the workers of the need for Socialism, which consequently brings it into conflict with all parties which seek to persuade them that some other object is worthy of their support.
In conducting this activity we are guided by the fact that the interests of the workers and their masters are opposed to one another. The established order is responsible for poverty; it is therefore to the interests of the workers to abolish it.
At the same time the present basis of society provides the few with wealth. We need not be astonished then that they defend it. This elementary fact is continually being obscured by reformers of every description.
They profess to be able to harmonise class interests and see no harm in exchanging political support with the parties of the masters. Thus the Labour Party held office by consent of a majority of Liberals and Conservatives in the late Parliament. Such a position would be inconceivable in the case of a Socialist Party. Acting in the interests of the workers, it would oppose the parties of the masters at every step, and would consequently meet with their opposition in return. Such a party can only exist and develop as a result of an increasing mental grasp by the workers of their own position.
Mr. Arthur Henderson and his associates fear such a development. Hence their aversion to any discussion of the class war. The fact of such a conflict in society, evident throughout every section of economic life, must be kept apart from political issues to suit their ambitions to be successful statesmen. But economic evolution is no respecter of personal ambitions.
The class war continues and becomes more intense in spite of all efforts to hide it.
The question is not fundamentally one of morality. The Socialist Party does not talk of the iniquity of the master-class. They, like ourselves, are the creatures of social development. Consequently we do not howl for their blood. Candidly, it is their property we want, and if they are determined to die rather than yield, die they must; but we do not imagine that social evils are due to their sins or that any altered outlook on their part will remove these evils. The system is the cause of these evils, and the system must be abolished. Instead of abolishing the system the Labour Party proposes to camouflage it by turning shareholders into Government Bondholders. They simply propose to paint Capitalism red (like a pillar-box) and call it Socialism.
The social revolution is the only logical outcome of the existing struggle between the classes. The master-class cannot exist without a slave-class and that class in its turn cannot exist except as a result of a continual conflict with its masters for its means of subsistence.
Strikes and lock-outs are not the results of mere differences of opinion. They proceed from an antagonism of interest. In order that the masters make a profit, wages must be kept as low as will allow the worker to produce that profit. Both sides realise this in practice, however little they grasp its implications in theory; but it is not the workers’ interest that the masters should make any profit out of them. Hence their struggle over wages questions.
Wages, however, become more and more insecure; unemployment increases and wages fall. What outlook, then, has the wage-slave? No hope, certainly, under capitalism.
Emancipation from want can only with the abolition of class-ownership of the means of life, i.e., in the social revolution.
The common ownership of the means of life, with production carried on in a socially-organised manner for the provision of food, clothing and shelter for all, that is Socialism, the object of the Socialist Party, the party of the Social Revolution.