Letters: The Socialist Forum: Socialism By Dictatorship
Mr. R. J. Freeman (Thornton Heath) writes, putting forward several points of criticism of our position. For convenience and in order to save space, these points have been extracted from the letter and numbered:—
The S.P.G.B. proposes to do nothing to ameliorate the conditions of the working class, other than press the socialist doctrine wherever possible as the only remedy.
This work of propaganda can still be carried on by the I.L.P. members outside of Parliament just as persistently as the S.P.G.B., and by their presence in the House of Commons as well, can attempt to resist encroachments on the workers’ standard of living.
I admit socialist knowledge is growing, but it is not due, as you would suggest, to the theory of the increasing poverty and economic pressure making them think . . . but because capitalism breeds it.
The industrial worker . . . has a remarkable memory for the names of racehorses, prize-fighters, footballers, etc. . . . It is extremely doubtful whether the increasing poverty of this section will ever make them socialists.
I suggest socialism is more likely to be achieved through the action of the administrative and professional section, because they will see the futility of trying to permeate the concrete skulls of the other section and would rather establish a dictatorship and so force an unintelligent majority to come into line with an enlightened minority.
1. The S.P.G.B. is obviously not in a position to “ameliorate the conditions of the working class,’’ but it can and does support useful action by the workers in their Unions to resist encroachments on their standard of living. If our correspondent knows of some other way in which the workers’ conditions can be ameliorated, will he explain why he, and those who agree with him, do not put it into operation?
2. We challenge our critic to give us evidence that the I.L.P., either inside or outside the House of Commons, is carrying on, or has ever carried on, propaganda for Socialism. As we pointed out in the January issue, every single I.L.P. member who has entered Parliament has done so on the programme of the Labour Party, a programme which Mr. Maxton describes as “an enlightened Liberal programme” (see “ Our Case,” page 11). Mr. Maxton added that if the whole of the Labour Party programme were put into operation “ we would have not Socialism but rationalised capitalism.”
We deny that this is propaganda for Socialism.
In view of the fact that prominent members of the I.L.P. have repeatedly stated that the workers under Labour Government are worse off than under the Tory Government, we would ask for evidence that the presence in Parliament of members of the I.L.P. has enabled the workers to resist encroachments. Mr. Freeman does not deny or answer our statement that upwards of two million workers have had their wages reduced since the Labour Government came into office.
3. We have never said that poverty would make Socialists. It is the whole organisation and development of capitalism, together with Socialist propaganda, which make Socialists.
4. May we point out that it is in the columns of the Daily Herald, which the I.L.P. tells the workers to read, that racing, boxing, and football news are provided?
See also answer to 3.
5. Before suggesting that the administrative and professional section “will see the futility of trying to permeate the concrete skulls ” of the industrial workers, Mr. Freeman should have told us when the professional section are going to begin to think about Socialism themselves. We have seen nothing to indicate that they are in advance of the lower-paid workers. The assumption that these people will establish a dictatorship is in line with the bumptious silliness of the so-called “middle class” themselves. In the first place, they are not “an enlightened minority”; their behaviour during the war-fever marked them out as being credulous, ignorant, brutal and unstable beyond the average. In the second place, they are a minority and, whether they like it or not, they have to shape their lives within a social framework which depends for its existence on the consent of the majority. Mr. Freeman writes glibly of dictatorship, but evidently has not observed that Mussolini and his imitators came into power because, and only because, they had been placed in control of the armed forces through having behind them a Parliamentary majority. It remains for Mr. Freeman to explain how the people he has in mind are going to get control of Parliament; and then to explain how they are going to impose Socialism on a hostile working class.