1920s >> 1926 >> no-259-march-1926

An encyclopaedia for twopence

There are few of us who can resist an obvious bargain. Those who take their stand in our street-markets know this little characteristic of ours, and bend all their energies into persuading us that to miss that opportunity of becoming the possessors of their particular commodity, is to achieve a lifetime of remorse. Usually one finds remorse follows, even when one purchases, so that experience makes one somewhat hardened to the cry of the huckster. The utility of a bargain depends entirely upon the use to which one can put it. This is not quite the commonplace it sounds. It is not entire tautology. One might purchase an elephant for half-a-sovereign and then not have a bargain. One may buy the Encyclopaedia Britannica for half-a-crown and have no earthly use for it. But whoever spend twopence upon our new pamphlet, will have made the investment of their lives. This is no mere tradesman’s “puff.” This is a statement of deliberate fact.

Of a size to comfortably fit the pocket, it is packed from cover to cover with vital information. It is crammed with the facts, all duly authenticated and verified. How often in an argument with a chum have you been “stuck” for the appropriate reference, just that clinching statement that leaves him without a leg to stand on? You’ll find it here.

Just look at some of the cross-headings. “Who are the working class?” Of course, you know in a rough, general sort of way, the answer to that question. But when someone points to a Capitalist who works hard, and to a workman who obviously doesn’t, and challenges you to place them, how do you reply?

With our little book you can flatten him out. What is better, you can convince him. There are no dogmatic assertions, no equivocal statements, no vicious attacks upon individuals. Just plain simple appeals to everyday experience.

Then : “The Cause of Poverty” ; “The Cause of Unemployment” ; “Is the Struggle for Higher Wages Necessary?” How often are these questions asked? Here is the answer to each of them, carefully worked out, with reference to authorities. “What is a Social System?” “The Basis of Modem Society” ; “The Basis of the Future Social System.” Here is food for thought. The pamphlet provides the meat. How the essence of Marx, Engels and Morgan has been compressed within 48 small pages, without apparent cramming, is little short of marvellous. Is there any real necessity for Revolution? The pamphlet devotes three pages to the question, “Has The Hour Come?” Six pages are occupied with the answer to that. “What are The Essentials of the Political Organisation?” Here they are all carefully reasoned out on the last five pages, clause by clause, and item by item.

For the public speaker, or for those useful little chats with one’s fellows, the pamphlet is indispensable. Filled, as it is, with scores of verbal illustrations of the points dealt with, it should be found more convincing than hours of argument. For instance, you are just arguing with a “Labour” man on the crass stupidity of his leaders, in asserting that greater production will benefit the working class. You quote him the American automobile industry. You turn to page 17 of the pamphlet and show him the figures from 1899 to 1923. You give him reference to the official report. You prove to him that in that industry the productivity of each man employed has increased 10 times in the 24 years since 1899. Unless he is entirely hopeless, you give him furiously to think. Follow up with the facts about the coal industry, the iron and steel industries, etc., and his defeat becomes a rout. You then sell him a copy.

Look at the number of times Campbell-Bannerman’s famous pronouncement that a third of the population are constantly on the verge of starvation, has been quoted. When did he say it? What was his authority? Our pamphlet gives both. Is it true that bricklayers are deliberately slower than before the war? We give the official figures given before Lord Bradbury’s Court of Enquiry in 1925. Does the adoption of machinery actually displace labour, or is it eventually absorbed by increased demand for cheapened products? (A favourite with Liberals, this.) In spite of condensation, this is convincingly dealt with. All those little “teasers” that give the novice pause are held up to the light and shown for the transparent frauds they are. If, under Capitalism, the lot of the worker is to get steadily worse, why struggle? Also, if that be true, why are wages higher in America than here; and higher here than on the Continent? Yes ! They are dealt with, too. And not only dealt with, but answered. Answered with a wealth of quotation and illustration. And so on. At the very least you will want two copies of the booklet; one for your own personal use, and one to sell or lend as occasion offers. Why not help the Socialist Party in a practical way by buying at least one copy a month, when you buy your Standard? You will be sustained by the reflection that in helping the Socialist Party, you will be helping yourself. It cannot be too often repeated that Socialism is not inevitable in the sense that the return of the Seasons, the alternation of day and night, the ebb and flow of the tides are inevitable. Socialism is the first conscious putting forth of human genius in a corcrete endeavour to make the earth a common human possession. Humanly speaking, it appears to us to be humanity’s next step. We recognise that the process can be helped or retarded. We can form but the merest estimate of the extent to which selfishness and stupidity may retard the change, but we are certain that each and every new member of the Socialist Party hastens its coming. We send out our pamphlet with the sure conviction that its wide circulation will result in a great access of members to our Party, and the speedy realisation of our hopes-SOCIALISM.


(Socialist Standard, March 1926)

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