1920s >> 1925 >> no-250-june-1925

A look round



When we read that “it is from among the population of ‘can’t works,’ and ‘won’t works,’ and ‘ca-cannys’ that we are chiefly recruiting our population,” we anticipate the superior person with the chemist shop economy :—

“Ignorant people and paid agitators talk of “change of system,” when what we really need is “change of individuals”—health, strength, character, these will allow us in future to increase slowly, but for the moment we need a drastic operation to stop the cancer of poverty which is slowly degenerating our fine nation.”— (Bessie Drysdale, New Generation, March.)

Not understanding what it implies, the birth controller thinks it ignorant to talk and organise for a “change of system.” To suggest a change of “individuals” while retaining a system that enslaves and degrades the masses, is as meaningless as the Christian talk of “Change of Heart.” Apparently the writer is ignorant of the fact that even in the days of chattel slavery human labour power produced considerably more than was needed to maintain the producers. The machinery and applied science of to-day has laid the foundation of a society in which (when capitalist ownership is abolished) all could enjoy luxury with a minimum of effort. Did the workers’ conditions improve after the great slaughter of 1914-18? Have the Malthusian advocates never heard of wheat burnt as fuel, or fish given away as manure in order to inflate market prices? Don’t they know that capitalist statisticians admit that an idle few take nine-tenths of the wealth the workers produce to-day? The Socialist seeks through the self-interest of the workers to change the system because that system is run in the interest of those who are parasites on the social organism. If urging the producers of wealth to gain the comfort for themselves that they make possible for others is an ignorant proposal, then the sooner the workers become ignoramuses the better.

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Experience has taught us that our opponents’ claim to be able to show the fallacies of Socialist principles never materialises in written or oral debate. It is easy to impute to Socialists a travesty of Marx’s teaching. When equal opportunity to state their case is allowed to those whose principles are based on such teaching, those scientifically based principles win easily. This fact was given emphasis in a recent debate with one of our comrades at Leyton. Despite our opponents’ claim to be able to show Marx’s Labour theory of value unsound, his efforts merely resulted in a lengthy discourse upon the nationality and exile of Marx, coupled with a number of puerile contradictions. The former cheap sneer relies upon that virus of Nationalism. A clerical gent, whose intellectual offerings in an anti-Socialist journal are on a level with the flat earth theory, has also something to say on the matter. Let it speak :—

“England is no land to change her generous ideals for the enslaving and destructive principles of a German Jew who rewarded her kindness to him in his exile with an unquenchable hatred.—(Prebendary Gough, New Voice, Mar.)

Think of some of the generous ideals capitalism generates for the workers—wars, poverty, prostitution, filthy slums, and the hopeful outlook of the scrap heap. How sad it would be to abandon such ideals for the constructive proposals embodied in the life-work of Marx. That work is summarised in our principles. Their application would abolish the cause of such anomalies by the establishment of the Co-operative Commonwealth.

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What solicitude our opponents profess to have for the future welfare of the people with talents. Under Socialism, they tell us, ability would decline owing to lack of incentive. An interesting sidelight on the treatment meted out to-day to those who show any ability above the average is contained in the following. Out of a list of pensions (15) granted during the year ending March 31st, 1924, under the provisions of the Civil List Act, 1910, totalling £1,190, we quote the following average cases :—

“Mr. William Poel, in recognition of his services in connection with the advancement of dramatic production, £100. Miss Charlotte Mew in recognition of the merit of her poetic works, £15. Mr. Robert Dunlop in recognition of his services to historical study, £15. Dr. Alice Lee, D.Sc., in recognition of her services to the cause of scientific research, £10.”— (Whittakers, 1925.)

What silent commentary upon present-day incentive ! Scarcely a week passes but we read of enormous sums changing hands in the buying and selling of the dolls of the wealthy drones. A glaring headline informs us that it cost “£30,000 to dress a Venus— 2 fur coats £12/100,” etc. (“Star,” 13/3/25). For the labours of those who render some useful service to posterity— an amount truly indicative of our masters’ canting pretence for the welfare of ability. Socialism would encourage excellence in every branch of human activity. Freed from the uncertainty of the future, and with the best conditions prevailing for all, those who may excel will not be relegated to obscurity on a capitalist pittance. They will merit something infinitely greater, the approbation and respect of the whole of society, whose interests will be their own.


(Socialist Standard, June 1925)

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