New Year Resolution
On the first of January each year, mankind is afflicted with an attack of a mild epidemic. It breaks out in a rash of New Year Resolutions. It views the soiled and speckled pages of the past and, stricken with remorse, resolves that the clean white page of the future shall incur no blots whatever. Usually some pet affliction is selected for treatment and the penitent resolves that henceforth in that respect he will be blameless. Alas ! Usually in less than a week, the strong chain of habit has settled down into its accustomed place, and the “victim” feels more comfortable. The result is not necessarily a dead loss. He will at least have had the satisfaction of making the resolution, and the added satisfaction of breaking it. There is just the further possibility that if the effort of retrospection is long enough, and intense enough, a train of thought is started that may profoundly modify one’s habits, especially of thought. Most of us are content to let the past sink as rapidly as may be into oblivion, and let that portion of the future that we daily call “the present” flow over us in the easy channels of habit. And yet, consciously or otherwise, we have continually to refer to the past, for it is the past that has made our habits, and it is only there we find experience. It is only by comparing the past with the present that we become aware of change. It is only by this comparison that we discern the lines of change and endeavour to use them to our advantage.
The farther we go back in the past, the greater is the contrast with the present, and the more we examine the interval the more are we made aware of the linked nature of the sequence of events we call history. The uninformed, unimaginative man, the mere creature of habit, is unaware of this process. He views the changes around him as mere waves that at one time seem to tower above him, the next to sink below him, the net result leaving him much at the same level. Events seem disconnected and unrelated. He is the sport of his fears and the slave of the power of suggestion. Change disturbs him and the unfamiliar has simply to be described to him as hurtful, and he flings judgment to the winds and gets panicky. Witness the present use of the words “Moscow” and “Bolshevism.” But had he information and imagination, together with the habit of thought we call judgment, he would not be afraid of foolishly used names. He would discern that events were not simply up and down movements of waves on a surface. He would discover they had direction, a current, a definite line. It is this progression, this linked emergence of the present out of the past, that we call Evolution.
It is not the purpose of this article to go over the events of history and shew their inter-connection. That, however sketchily done, would require a book. In its briefest form, it is doubtful if it has been better done than in our little pamphlet “Socialism,” a miracle of condensation. Here we would simply direct attention to a few events of the past year. It may not be altogether inapplicable to start with an occurrence at the Lord Mayor’s banquet in November, 1925, when A. Chamberlain drank from the “loving cup” with the German Ambassador. Though not in itself an “event,” it was an indication of the point we wish to emphasise—the speed with which contemporary history is moving. Only seven years previously the Germans were so abominably vile as to be outside the pale of all civilised intercourse. At that time the only good German was a dead one. A phrase like “never again” was the least adamant of the slogans for the future. And yet within seven short years Mr. Chamberlain and the “Huns” have their noses in the same trough. Then followed Locarno, a subject we dealt with in our May issue. Perhaps the most significant comment on Locarno from a Capitalist standpoint was contained in the Financial News of October 23rd. It said :
“But the ultimate aim of German producers has been to draw other European countries into international agreements to prevent ruinous competition for the reduced world demand. This aim blossomed out after the Locarno treaties had given the stamp of respectability to agreements between former enemies.”
Particularly note that last sentence. Locarno was the first time it was considered expedient the general public of Europe should know how intimate the relations of international capital had become.
Possibly the General Strike was the next in order of sequence, when the workers once more demonstrated the futility of fighting capitalism with the weapon of passive starvation. But next in order of significance was the formation of the European Steel Trust. This was followed by the meeting—the very secret meeting—of German and British capitalists at the house of Colonel Wilfrid Ashley. Or did the meeting precede the Steel Trust? However, it does not matter much, for the £65,000,000 chemical combine was the next thing to occupy attention, followed by the huge newspaper deals of Berry Bros, and the incorporation of the White Star Line in a huge Shipping Trust.
We submit that these huge agglomerations of capital, and especially those of international capital, are intensely significant. Their most significant feature is the speed at which they are being consummated. We suggest that it is a possible indication of the fact that capitalism is entering upon its last phase. Pursued far enough it can have but one effect upon the international working class. The same or a much greater quantity of goods can be produced with a less expenditure of labour-power. This will mean an intensification of the unemployed problem and, as was shewn in our article on “Mass Production” last month, a worsening of working class conditions generally.
As we have indicated, the present is the child of the past, and, as the Financial News says in the issue mentioned :
“The Cartel movement must be regarded as the economic expression of a tendency that is at work also in politics and social matters : the tendency towards international co-operation.”
Naturally the Financial News means capitalist co-operation. After mentioning that Great Britain is inextricably bound up with the Continent, it says :
“In any case, this country must hasten the centralisation of the organisation of her industries. This is essential, whether we co-operate or compete. Happily, there are signs that our industrial statesmen realise the necessity. In some cases British industries have taken the lead in forming agreements with the Continent; examples are the International Explosives agreement, brought about by Nobels, and the artificial silk agreements between Courtaulds and the Glanzstoff Fabriken. The British chemical combine may soon be included in a Continental agreement.”
Now, to the working class, the lesson of all this should be clear. Unless they organise to take and control these great social forces, they will soon be the hopeless serfs of gigantic monopolies embracing whole continents. The huge numbers of them that still find employment through the waste of competition will be slowly relegated to the more or less permanently unemployed.
What are the workers doing about it? Here are their masters swiftly but calmly organising into larger and still larger combines, nationally and internationally. They speak quite refreshingly of the growing hindrance of tariffs and frontiers. They pause in their task of unveiling war memorials to their slaughtered serfs, and have a friendly little chat with their late enemies as to sharing the loot. We are faced with the greatest aggregations of capital the world has ever seen. It is here, now, growing with a speed that yesterday was thought inconceivable. It is for the workers to decide, and at once. This New Year they must make a resolution that they will break at their peril. The peril will be there even if they do not make the resolution. They must resolve that Socialism is a live issue, to be decided now, in the immediate present. They must drift no longer. Those who are convinced of the truth of our position must realise that there is but one place for a logical Socialist—inside our ranks. Only the direct reasons should prevent him joining us. If Socialism is worth anything, it is worth the utmost we can give it. If we only acutely visualise the world this can be under Socialism, we shall count nothing we give, no service we render, too great a sacrifice, if it serves our glorious aim. We have but to imagine our present world, intensified by the events foreshadowed, to nerve ourselves for the task. Come, then, the cause is worthy. Who will help?
W. T. H.
(Socialist Standard, January 1927)