1920s >> 1929 >> no-294-february-1929

Imagination

The year 1929 is the most tremendously important year the world has ever seen. Perhaps that is an over-statement. It could be the most profoundly momentous year the human race has experienced. This year that portion of humanity which inhabits the British Isles will be asked to decide whether it wishes the reign of King Capital to continue or that it should come to an end. The preliminary call has gone forth, and those who say it should end and a saner system established have banded themselves together in an organisation called the Socialist Party.

We cannot, honestly speaking, say that the response has been overwhelming. Had it been of sufficient magnitude, the year 1929 could have been the most epoch-making year in the history of mankind. It has been said that the discovery of fire was the greatest event in human affairs. The invention of printing has also been described as a tremendous human achievement. A similar claim has more recently been made on behalf of wireless telephony. Now, without indulging in the fascinating discussion of these highly interesting topics, we can agree that they had one feature in common, a feature which marks them off from the great discovery of Socialism. Each of them was demonstrable by their discoverers to a less favoured or less imaginative audience. For, one must confess, the quality of imagination is comparatively rare.

Even nowadays, when we are surrounded by the fruits of human imagination and inventiveness, the response to an imaginative appeal, unless purely emotional, is usually disappointing. Even in a comparatively small event, like the Daylight Saving, one has to admit that vast numbers of one’s fellows had to be kicked into acquiescence. Those who have read Elia’s “Dissertation on Roast Pig” will remember that the discoverer of that delicacy was viewed with great disfavour—until people had tasted the new dish.

One can imagine the original discoverer of the uses of fire having a most unpleasant time, denounced as a trafficker with unclean spirits, as a dealer with mysteries, as a wizard, and what not, until his more stolid contemporaries were convinced by personaI trial that there was “something in it.” Coming nearer our own time, one remembers the scorn which greeted the first bicycles, the first motors, the first aeroplanes, the first wireless. It was not until repetition and perseverance had made these things familiar that mankind in general accepted them. But here, as in everything so far, demonstration was possible for the conversion of the unimaginative many.

The profound difficulty with Socialism is that it cannot be demonstrated. It is a complete system of human society to which a new principle is to be applied. Many enthusiasts with an insufficient knowledge of their subject have endeavoured to found little communities, run as they thought on Socialist lines. All have failed, for Socialism can only be applied to a highly organised community, and on a large inclusive scale. It is not a principle applied to simple forms, such as Monarchism or Republicanism. It is a complete change in the basis of society.

It is therefore impossible to show samples, as it were, of a complete and fundamental change.

Socialism and Capitalism are mutually exclusive, although, curiously enough, each deals with the same things. Railways would still run, factories still work, power stations still function, the soil still be tilled, under Socialism as under Capitalism. The great difference would be ownership, and therefore control.

Instead of being operated by the whole people, for the private benefit of private owners, they would still be operated by the whole people, but for the public benefit of the communal people. Private owners only employ just so many as they can profitably make use of. Private owners only allow their plant to produce wealth when a profit is to be made. In short, private owners of the means of wealth-making only allow their machine to run for private ends.

But with social ownership the outlook is entirely changed. There would be no idlers of any sort, rich or poor, for it would be to the interest of everyone that there should be abundance of everything. There would be no slack times and semi-starvation because too much wealth had been produced, as at present.

If, under Socialism, too much wealth were produced, it would be, first, the signal for a real holiday, and, second, for an enquiry into why the Statistical Department had not properly adjusted supply to public needs. There would be no rubbishy boots, shoddy clothing, jerry-built houses and adulterated food. The market for trash would go the way of all markets. It would follow poverty and ignorance into the limbo of forgotten Capitalism.

But if the workers are waiting to be shown a working model of the proposed new system they are waiting for the impossible. A picture of society under Socialism can only be constructed by the imagination aided by an analysis of our present condition and a knowledge of human history. Clever men have performed both of these latter tasks, and references to them and their works are frequently given in our columns. Imagination they cannot give you, but they can stimulate it.

A useful primer is our little pamphlet called “Socialism,” forty-eight pages packed with information for twopence. If after reading that you decide that Socialism is desirable and practicable, do not fold your arms and wait for something to happen, but do the only logical thing—join our organisation and help get it. Then when, as in a few months’ time, the question is again staged, “is Capitalism to go on or go under?” be prepared to answer : “Under !” And being organised, you will be able to put Socialism in its place. What have you to lose? Nothing but your chains. To win? The whole world ! You have a world to win. A world to win.

W. T. Hopley