To Wives, Mothers and Others.
A few months ago I promised to show you how you could improve your conditions of life by using your vote in the right direction. Now, in order to carry out that promise I intend using one particular instance, the remedy for which applies also to other troubles that arise from the present mode of living—that of only being able to obtain necessities if you have the money, although you have worked harder than those who have the luxuries. Apart from the everyday worry of providing food and clothing, the housing problem is a special worry at the moment—even to those who have the other necessities.
So we will see about the whys and wherefores and the way in which we can put things right.
Most of us are, or have been, faced with the difficulties of the housing problem, and instead of insisting that houses be built because they are urgently required, we take no organised action in the matter, but hope some day things will be better.
While we are putting up with antiquated and insanitary houses, we see all around us business premises being extended, garages and cinemas being built and old houses giving place to non-residential buildings, even though they be more commodious than those we live in, and still we are the silent sufferers and cast longing eyes and hope.
Much has been made of the housing problem at election times of late years, and at such times, if at no other, you manage to attend meetings or read circulars promising to alleviate your housing and other financial troubles.
The candidate who puts the case most plausibly gets your vote, then you leave him to carry out his promises and forget to notice whether he does so or not.
At the next election you do likewise, but somehow things seem just as bad as ever. You still find it a struggle to make ends meet, but the reason does not strike you, except, perhaps, that you put it down to your husband not getting enough money or that there are not enough houses built.
It is not that there are not enough land, building materials and workers to build houses (or materials for making clothes and food), but because there is not much profit to be made from building houses for the vast number requiring them, so that only those things are done which do produce a profit, this being the natural result of living in a system of society which is run on profit-seeking lines.
The various governments which have been in power since the war—the starting point of the present housing shortage—have done little to remedy the shortage. They have given the builders subsidies (which shows the power they can use) to encourage them to build, and the councils have made some effort to provide accommodation for those who could not afford to pay the market price. Does it not seem strange to you—if you will ponder a moment—that the obtaining of such important items as decent housing conditions, good food, etc., should depend, not on the needs of the people who do most of the work, but upon the profit-making of the few?
Now we come to the question. How and why is it that the majority of the people are worse off than their employers—the few? Mainly because the workers do not realise that their vote plays so important a part in influencing their conditions of life.
Let us remember that whatever government has been in power its influence has been used, for instance, in deciding industrial disputes, even to the extent of using the police, soldiers, etc., and don’t forget that those who have to work for a living are those who have the majority of votes and are themselves responsible for having elected the governments which have used their power against the workers.
Think what could be done if those who required houses, etc., organised together to get those needs fulfilled, recognising that one can do little by oneself.
What might take place is this :—
A candidate is elected to Parliament by the majority of voters in a particular locality. Since he (or she) represents the majority he could be made their servant— as it were—to carry out the wishes of that majority. He could be made, when attending the Central Organisation (Parliament) to put forward and endeavour to carry out the wishes of his electors.
Now most of you are quite clever at making a 1/- do the work of 2/- in various ways, saving, cooking, etc., but you might go on with that struggle for ever and your children likewise, if you do not try to devote at least a little of your time to thinking of how you can abolish that terrible nightmare of trying to make ends meet. Like the other jobs you are doing, it only requires practice and you will soon get the hang of it.
What is taking place in this country is, generally speaking, taking place in other up-to-date countries—therefore mothers, wives and others are faced with the same thoughts and problems and have similar methods of cure, too, if they only knew how to use the remedy. We are all in the same boat.
Under a more reasonable arrangement of society, if the majority decide that more houses or corn, clothes or fuel are required, then it would be easy enough for that majority to see that the factories, etc., are set to work to provide the necessary goods, whereas now the very goods the workers pile up for their masters they must very often go without until such time as the goods have been disposed of to somebody else.
The method of production and distribution under which the people freely use the goods that they make in common by common agreement, we call Socialism and those organised for that purpose are Socialists. This method of common ownership can be carried out successfully only when the majority vote in that direction and put their candidates forward to change the present system of a few owning all, to ownership by all, that is by society as a whole.
The rather hard lesson we all have to learn is that our everyday bread and butter questions can only be solved in what looks at first a roundabout method. To make our homes worth living in and to make our lives themselves more worth living, we have got to get together in a political organisation —the Socialist Party—for the purpose of gaining control of the key which will open all these closed doors. That key is Parliament. Parliament carries out the wishes of the majority. But if the majority have no decided views or are divided, the Capitalist minority will go on as now, running the world in the way which is very comfortable for them, but not for us. We tell you the way out, and we are sure that if you think about it you will sooner or later agree with us.
You have tried Conservative, Liberal and Labour. We ask you to try Socialism instead. But you must first understand what Socialism is and how it is to be attained.
When we ask for your vote it is not with the idea of promising to do something for you, but with the idea of getting you to join us in building up a system of society in which all will co-operate to produce and distribute the things needed by all. It is not a question involving bloodshed or violence. It only requires a majority of convinced Socialists to take organised political action through Parliament. We are workers just as you are, wives, labourers, clerks, bricklayers, managers, salesmen, shop assistants and unemployed, etc. Our needs are the same as yours. Help us to satisfy
(Socialist Standard, June 1929)