1920s >> 1928 >> no-291-november-1928

Letter: Was Capitalism A Mistake?

Forest Gate, London.

To the Editor, Socialist Standard.

Sir,—As a working-class mother and a student of sociology, I certainly think that “for thousands of years the human race has been straying from the correct path of development, and that the whole of human history, since the breakdown of the earliest tribal communism and equality has been a ghastly and avoidable mistake.” Thank you for putting the case against the Coercive State in such a small literary compass. The development of the “castes” you mention—”military,” “priestly,” etc., was a “mistake” and a “crime” and an “act of tyranny.” Thank you again for the phrasing.

Whoever would have thought that the Socialist Standard could constitute itself an apologist for the “class” or professional governments kept in power by a combination of cruelty and a gross misinterpretation of the facts of human existence in particular and the cosmos in general, the fatal opiate of “post-mortem happiness” stifling the spirit in its struggle for happy existence. Well, well, all this agony of human existence (over and over again described by the Socialists) for what? In order that “ Industry” might develop along certain lines, and—what lines?

Mass production and yet more mass production of what is for the most part rubbish. “Production” that disintegrates the human mind, devitalises the human body, degrades the primary human relationships and eliminates the primary joys. Industry must be made to fit man, not man to fit Industry. The truth of this era of perverted industry is that human kind has been temporarily diseased through the disorder caused by the loss of social balance. In short, by this outrage of class or parasitic Government. For, unless every unit of a body is “doing its bit” in the matter of government, it becomes unbalanced, disordered and diseased.

No, the soldier with his Church, and later the moneylender with his more numerous institutions—factories, hospitals, press and schools—have been neither inevitable nor necessary to the development of Life. The state of life itself during this historical aberration of industry is sufficient condemnation. The natural driving force has been, and must be, the production of life. Life for Life’s sake is the religion of the universe, and industry, one of its activities, unless directed to this major end, no longer produces wealth—a state of well-being—but merely property. It is too late to preach the doctrine of inevitability in the matter of suffering, and necessity in relation to coercion and governmental usurpation.

The conviction that life should be enjoyed and not merely endured, has now too strong a hold on the modern mind for the politician to succeed where the priest has failed in deceiving the people with a doctrine that is the veritable prostitution of philosophy. Government and Industry could, and should have been, on quite different lines. Determinism in these activities is as false to eventual reality as it is in others. “LIFE.”

Our Reply.

Our correspondent says that the whole of social development “since the breakdown of the earliest tribal communism ” has been an “avoidable mistake.”

It is therefore for her to explain why human society made the mistake and how it could have been avoided. She explains the original “mistake” by saying that “human kind has been temporarily diseased through the disorder caused by the loss of balance.” This “explanation” in fact explains nothing.

If society was then on the correct path, how did it come to lose its balance? At different periods different human communities have decided to have military caste, in preference to having every man a jack-of-all- trades, including that of soldier. Our correspondent denounces this, but gives no evidence that this division of labour was in fact a disadvantage. She goes on to say that society is unbalanced “unless every unit of a body is doing its bit.” On what ground does she dispute the claim of the soldier to be doing his bit when the tribe needed military protection? Similarly with other such divisions of labour.

She denies that factories, hospitals, press and schools have been necessary to the development of life, and goes on to use a slogan, “ Life for Life’s sake.” She avoids, however, explaining what she means by “life” in this connection. If she means merely the quantity of human beings alive, it is certainly to the point to observe that the pressure of population on the means of subsistence under primitive conditions was a cause of war and of the development of a military caste.

If she means what is, for want of a better term, called the “quality of life,” she appears to be committing herself to the view that life without any of the inventions and discoveries of machines, processes and methods of industrial organisation, is better than the life of the savage without the aid of this accumulated power over natural forces.

In conclusion, our correspondent should notice that the original article did not in the least propound the view that everything that has existed and does exist is inevitable and must be endured. On the contrary, the Socialist Party continually insists that the abolition of Capitalism in industrially developed countries, and its replacement by Socialism requires the conscious and deliberate action of the organised workers and can come in no other way.

Edgar Hardcastle