1920s >> 1926 >> no-258-february-1926

Henry Dubb—and his brother

Readers of the “Labour” Press are familiar with that vacant-faced individual who is supposed to typify the Tory variety of working-class ignorance. Henry’s weaknesses—his fondness for a drop of beer and a bob on a horse and a certain disinclination to think for himself have all been dwelt upon ad nauseam.

The weaknesses of his brother, Jimmy, are less often dealt with. Henry is, in the main, of a cheerful disposition; in fact his “good natured” tolerance lies at the root of much of his readiness to accept things as they are. Jimmy, on the other hand, is a taciturn, unsociable cuss whose chief object in life appears to be the airing of his “superiority” to Henry and his pals and the meddling with their habits. He is possessed with an all-absorbing itch to put them “right” in matters of faith and morals. Politically he is by tradition a Liberal, though of recent years he has taken to calling himself a “Labour” man, and even professes a leaning towards Socialism. So far, however, his leaning has done nothing to support its case and a good deal to lessen Henry’s disposition to consider it as a remedy for the evils of which he is dimly conscious.

Henry, in spite of his obvious slowness, is not altogether dense. He has, for instance, a somewhat cynical disbelief in Jimmy’s “idealism,” so glibly vaunted.

He distrusts his own class on the ground that a boss who has risen from the bottom makes a harder taskmaster than one who is born in that position. Hence he views with disfavour all the “ranters” and “wind-bags’’ whom he shrewdly suspects of an ambition to exploit his support.

Jimmy, on the other hand, betrays an almost imbecile tendency to place absolute confidence in each and every would-be political climber, every man or woman with the gift of the gab and a professed desire to “help” the workers. He is a fanatical believer in the “intelligent minority,” and has little use for the “drink-sodden” democracy except as voting cattle for his favourites.

Another point, rather in Henry’s favour than against him, is his lack of enthusiasm for Jimmy’s pet obsession—increased State control. Whether it relates to the “pubs” or the mines, railways, etc.. Henry can see nothing in this proposal but a greater extension of official dominance, of the petty vexations, tyranny, inextricably associated with the modern bureaucracy. Needless to say, Jimmy’s feeble plea that the State is the people, leaves him cold. He knows otherwise, from everyday experience. This, again, strengthens his conservatism. The fact that all “progressive” proposals appear to involve State action induces in him a stubborn distrust of all progress.

The Socialist, taking a scientific view of social change, can regard the wordy struggles between Henry and his brother with some amusement, tinged at times with impatience at the blindness of both sides; but he further sees the relentless economic development which cuts the ground from under the feet of both. Increased State control. for instance, of industrial and social affairs, is the outcome, not of some Utopian theory, but of the increase in the size and social character of the productive forces, and the intensified antagonism which that increase begets in social relations. State regulation is the only means possessed by capitalism to preserve itself, the only means by which it can control the internal conflicts within the capitalist class on the one hand, and the greater conflict with the workers on the other. In other words, Nationalisation, etc., will proceed in accordance with capitalist requirements irrespective alike of the opposition of Henry and the support of Jimmy.

The extent of this development may be debatable, but one thing is certain. To whatever extent it proceeds it will not solve the social problem; it will not rid society of the struggle between the workers and their exploiters. Wherever State ownership exists there exists also the necessity for Trade Union effort to maintain wages and conditions at subsistence level. The State represents, everywhere, the interests of the exploiting class against the workers. Neither Henry nor Jimmy realise this. Each of them in turn put in power one section or another of the numerous political flunkeys of that class. They do not see behind the labels of these sections or parties Liberal, Labour or Tory, all alike, recognise and uphold the legal right of the owning class to their property, no matter with what fine phrases they may disguise their intentions.

All alike accept the exploitation of the workers and are prepared to use the forces of the State to maintain the system based thereon. This is their main function; their pet schemes are merely incidental efforts to further especially the interests of the particular section of the capitalist class on whose support they rely.

What, then, is there to choose between the Dubbs, Henry and Jimmy? Each allows himself to be duped in the interest of some section or other of the master class. Neither gains anything as a result of his political activities. As workers, they have as little to hope for in “reforming” capitalism as in “conserving” it. Its existence in any shape or form means misery and subjection for the workers. For the one, therefore, to deride the other, is merely an example of the pot calling the kettle black. The Socialist Party invites both of them to drop their mutual distrust and abuse and to study Socialism, confident that understanding will breed conviction.

Eric Boden