1920s >> 1929 >> no-297-may-1929

The Uses of Hate

The word hatred describes an emotion with which we are all familiar. Like all such “emotional” words it is habitually overworked, and is used to describe all the variations of dislike, from a mild indignation to a maniac’s obsession. A dividing line is difficult, but it should obviously be confined, in human affairs, to describing a dislike that is intense and long continued. Like all emotions, it is ephemeral, unstable, and erratic, and if too intense, or too protracted, either burns itself to ashes or becomes a form of lunacy. That is why it is so completely untrue for the enemies of Socialism to describe it as a doctrine of hatred. We need not, and do not, worry because they say that, for they will continue to use all forms of abuse so long as they are deemed effective. A somewhat different aspect of hatred is given by those—Communists and others—who say we do not infuse enough hatred into the workers; those who view hatred as a formidable serial factor; those who contend the working class will be drawn into a revolutionary struggle for power through a growing hatred of their masters. The answer to both criticisms is a brief one. As already stated, hatred is merely a feeling, an intense and prolonged dislike. Action can follow, and often does follow, as a result of the feeling, but as the emotion is an unstable one, the action is more than likely to be equally erratic. Passion may burst a way through a wall, but one cannot build a wall on it. Hatred may be A factor, it cannot be THE factor. Socialism has but small use for it. Whilst we depict the cruelties and infamies of capitalism in order to rouse the indignation and fix the attention of our fellows, we should be worse than fools to build a movement on mere indignation.

 

In our perusal of history, in our observation of the world around us, there is always enough to keep our indignation alive, but we do not peruse history or look at our world for that. We study these things that we may understand how our society has come to be as it is, and how it may be made to serve human happiness more perfectly. We may perceive that malice, ignorance or sheer perversity may have added to human misery or may have diverted the results of communal effort into private channels, but indignation will not remedy it. Neither will action based upon mere hatred of the human agents involved. Socialism has little use for hatred. We prefer to concentrate on knowledge, for with knowledge comes understanding, and from understanding proceeds intelligent, definite action. This is one great difference between the Socialist Party and the Labour Party. The latter—and this is not a mere jibe—specialises in sob-stuff. Its Press and its political representatives are absorbed in the appeal to sentiment. They appeal constantly for your tears for the orphan, the underfed, the widow, the aged, the out-of-work, the casual labourer, the poorly housed, the “ex-Service man,” and dozens of other categories of poverty. And being a mere sentimental appeal, and further, being without the correct knowledge and understanding, they invite you to get the Government to give a pension to this one, increase the pension to that one, feed the children of the other one, and so on. They assure you that this kind of thing is “practical Socialism,” and implore you to give them the keys of power so that they may dispense the appropriate plaster for each social sore. The appeal is purely sentimental; a fatal basis upon which to build an effective party. People may respond more quickly to an appeal to their feelings, rather than their reason, but, action based upon reason will go further, make fewer mistakes and get there, long before sentimentalism has exhausted all the possibilities of error. Perhaps a couple of recent examples will illustrate the point. Lansbury is an incorrigible sentimentalist. He is one of those many critics of our Party who say : “Yes, the object of your organisation is quite good, but it is useless to oppressed and starving men. What we want is something practical: something now.” He is one of those who have alternatively called forth the workers’ anger against their oppressors, whilst addressing heart-stirring appeals to the oppressors to be just, charitable, equitable and what not. In our twenty-five years of existence we have consistently demonstrated the utter futility of the “something now” policy, and the rank and dangerous absurdity of the mere appeal to righteous indignation. In the “New Leader” of April 19th, Lansbury writes :—

   “Small measures of reform are of no use. Tories and Liberals will all the time outbid us on them. We have reached the end of our journey along what might be described as the Palliative Highway.”

What a pity it should have taken him half a lifetime to learn what we have been saying for a quarter of a century. We wish we could think he meant what he was saying. And then there is A. J. Cook, another sentimentalist. Full of appeals to feeling, to hatred, to indignation and anger. According to the “Sunday Worker,” April 21st, he is alleged to have said in 1926 :

 

  “If ever you read of me dining with Royalty, you workers can say Cook has deserted you.”

And yet in 1929, only the other day, Mr. Cook is lunching with the Prince of Wales. Dearie me! More apropos of the point under discussion, he contributed an article to the “Evening Standard” of April 20th, bulging with the most sentimental, inept twaddle that journal has published for some time. It was called “The Prince of Wales.” Apart from its rather fulsome eulogy of the Prince as an individual (quite possibly true) phrases like the following occur. “I never met a man with such a rigid conception of fair play.” He has been “a good democrat.” “When the Prince went to Durham he was horrified. He said so; and when he told what he had found, he cut clean through old controversy —economic and every other kind.” “That man had no use for pomp and formulae. He was not concerned with theory. It was, it is, men, not manners, that concern him; conditions, not conventionality. ”

 

These are a few of them. And what do they all mean? How far do they take us? What problem is solved? None! For none is stated. We are even told that the sound of the Prince’s voice over the wireless, reduced him to tears and caused him to empty his pockets for the Miners’ Fund. That is the worst of emotion; its victims alternate between raving hatred and slobbering affection. Their only stability is a pause between absurdities. Cook records in the article that a woman, also listening to the Prince’s wireless appeal, cried out wonderingly, “Why, Arthur, it might have been you or Bob Smillie appealing.”

 

When Cook has dried his eyes, perhaps he will take another look at that remark. Just as Lansbury has found out that Tories and Liberals can outbid Labour on palliatives, so Cook should reflect that the Prince of Wales can do what he and Smillie are doing, quite as effectively, possibly more elegantly, and certainly with no more danger to Capitalism. To return to the heading of this article. Hatred, auger, indignation, are not enough. Socialism is a practical, scientific proposition, to be applied to existing society. It will not be brought” into operation by angry men, for anger is a bad counsellor. Socialism will be resisted, even when economic necessity has made it imminent, by desperate, powerful interests, and those who would lead the workers against those forces armed with nothing but indignation and a sense of wrong, are criminal lunatics. Hate is ephemeral, knowledge eternal. Anger is warping, science is certain. He who feels is the creature of his feelings. He who knows is superior to them.

 

W. T. Hopley