Why We Want Socialism
Old people tell us how lucky we are living in an age when the aeroplane and the steamer and the express train bring America as near to London as Edinburgh used to be. We see moving pictures of tigers in the jungle and natives living in uncivilised ways. We read every day in the papers of fresh marvels in the way of machinery—and yet we have to work hard, or look for work, and keep a watchful eye on a doubtful future—just as our forefathers did before the age of steam, gas and electricity.
In spite of all the marvels man has contrived, we still live near enough as of old, a life of struggle and poverty, with a little joy thrown in.
The reason for this is the same as it used to be. As of old the people who work do not own the things that they make, nor the tools that they work with, nor the land that they live on. The things that are made and the tools and the land are owned mainly by a group apart, the rich people who do not work, but live on the money they get from the shares they hold in companies. To buy enough shares in a company to be of any real use, requires a great deal of money, and as working people generally only earn enough to provide themselves with the most urgent of the things they need, the chance of a worker passing into the rich class of owners is remote.
The things that are made to-day, clothes, houses, food and so on, are not made simply because they are useful, though, of course, if they were not needed they would not be made at all. The real reason why such things are made is because they can be sold, and the company selling them make a profit. That is why we read in the papers of this or that company making good or bad profits. And that is why we read of houses falling down, accidents happening, bad food, and bad clothes being made, because the owners of the companies do not care what they make so long as they make good profit.
Now, if the only way of making things was by a rich class of people setting poor people to work, then there would be nothing to grumble about. But who gave the rich their power and their wealth? There is no law of some supernatural power that lays it down that one man shall be born rich and another poor. As the music-hall song used to run, “We all came into the world with nothing, and we can’t take anything out.”
The pictures we see at picture shows often give us views of natives who know not master and man. People who club together to make the things that are needed, and then distribute what they make to those who need. Why, then, can’t we do the same on a much larger scale? Masters are only needed where despots must be served, where there is an oppressed class to be kept in subjection. Just as an allotment holder cultivates his little plot without a master to push him or a shareholder to draw a dividend, so the whole of the people of the world can cultivate the earth in harmonious societies, and reap its fullness in community when once they make up their minds to do so.