The Hoary Illusions of Youth

Mr. Jack Edwards, Chairman of the League of Youth Advisory Committee, in an article in the Daily Herald of September 21st, 1933, states the case, as he sees it, for youth.


He says: “Modern youth is in fact better, brainier and more inquisitive.” He ascribes the terrible effects of war upon the mothers of that period as being due to “The blunderings of a generation tied to antiquated traditions.” He goes on to say that youth now is different, opposes war and, instead of marching off to the next war, will pause and ask why!


He says: “The more whys we ask, the more unsatisfactory becomes the answer.”
“We do not believe that there is no work amidst such want. Given the opportunity now we would free the world from the misery, want and suffering caused by uneconomic management and bolstered up by armed force. Peace is our object.”


He suggests a world parliament, where “Men of heart and will, men and women of knowledge, doctors, teachers and mothers,” could all come together and thrash out the world’s problems. Then as to practical measures for settling these problems, he suggests that if youth had the power, it would do the following:—


   “A drastic cut in working hours, without reduction in pay; wider and greater opportunities in education; a new and adequate pension scheme; compulsory retirement from industry for those on pensions; directions to local authorities to speed up housing and public works, with public finance to aid them; Government control of the banks and the closing of the Stock Exchange, the establishment of a national investment board to direct money into the channels most advantageous 1o the community.”

This seems a tall enough order, but Mr. Edwards then airily says: “These are but some of youth’s plans to grapple with poverty at home.” To plan seems the only indulgence which the L.L.Y. is allowed. It is not allowed representation on the E.C. of the Labour Party at the moment, and much as its members resent this, their “plans” certainly prove that they will need to ask more whys and get a sounder understanding of the position before they can be given serious consideration.


From the point of view of soundness, however, the parent body can certainly not teach its child anything worth knowing.


The rest of the article is devoted to obvious facts of the capitalist system which need not be repeated, but it is rather amusing to hear Mr. Edwards cite the civil servants as being those who work for OUR common good, and deploring the fact that THESE should be subject to wage attacks.


Why these any more than any other worker, and if they are workers for the “common good,” how about all the rest of us, who are producing all the necessaries of life, not for use, but for the profit of our masters ? Mr. Edwards evidently has not asked enough whys yet.


It is now time for us to ask a few whys of Mr. Edwards.


First of all, then: Why does he give us a rigmarole about antiquated traditions being the cause of war?


Economic conditions are not antiquated traditions. They are the natural workings and outcome of the existing system of society. The economic conditions of capitalist society are such that production for profit, which is commodity productions, demands an outlet for the goods produced. When a market cannot be obtained through ordinary trade treaties, etc., then the capitalists have to engage in war in order to put their rivals out of action on the productive field, and so that the agreements after the war can be arranged advantageously for the victor; which, of course, they hope to be themselves.


Disarmament Conferences, to which Labour politicians can be invited, are the scratching grounds upon which the capitalists can sort out the tit-bits. The Labour politicians give the assemblies an air of realism and serve to keep the workers quiet. When war occurs during a Conference, such as the Chino-Japanese affray recently, the family gathering breaks up to allow the fight to continue; when it is over, the naughty children are scolded and the happy family is once more reunited. No, we are not dealing with antiquated traditions, but the very much up-to-date methods of modern capitalism.


Why is it that there isn’t employment for some workers under capitalism? Mr. Edwards proves clearly why, later in his article, when he says “Youth bids its elders no longer to tolerate a world in which people cannot buy bread because there is too much wheat; where crops from the tea plantations must be restricted, while people cannot buy tea ”; etc., etc.


We Socialists do not cry out for more work. Many workers do far too much, and needlessly unpleasant work; become, in fact, merely beasts of burden, knowing nothing of the delights of living. Art, music and literature are only fine-sounding words to them.


Mr. Edwards only states a half-truth in the previously quoted passage.


It is not only because there is too much tea, wheat, etc., but because the goods produced are privately owned. Unless they can be sold at a profit, further production is stopped or restricted; hence unemployment. This is the necessary outcome of capitalist society, and neither Mr. Edwards, with his youthful demands, nor the Labour Party can abolish it without first of all abolishing capitalism, which is the cause of it.


But this Mr. Edwards does not want to do. Otherwise there is only need for him to advocate one policy instead of the many plans laid down by him and previously quoted. That policy is Socialism.


Let us examine his plans.


First of all, then, who pays the wages? The capitalist, obviously.


Higher wages with less hours means a reduction in capitalist profit, unless output per head can be increased. This gives the capitalists an added inducement to speed up production, and instal labour-saving machinery.


Who advances the money for the State to take over or nationalise the essential services? The capitalists. In other words, people with money to invest, would-be bond holders. Who is it who runs the Stock Exchange? The same people. We see, then, in order to do any of the things which Mr. Edwards suggests the first thing to do is to dispossess those who now own and control the wealth. This is the only measure that needs enforcing. It is, in fact, the key to the situation. Although Mr. Edwards gives lip service to this idea, he goes on to deal with all the ramifications of capitalist society. Why, when the workers are in control and the capitalists dispossessed, Mr. Edwards still wants a National Investment Board is beyond us.


If Mr. Edwards thinks that the workers and the capitalists can work together advantageously to both, then there is no need to render lip service to Socialism. He is quite in order in trying to get support for his plans to rejuvenate capitalism, but he and other confusionists do the cause of Socialism incalculable harm by tacking its name upon their projects.


The point which stands out clearest in the whole article is Mr. Edwards’ lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of Socialism. The end of the workers’ troubles must and will come with the dawn of Socialism.


Socialism means the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production and distribution that goes with investment boards, public finance, Government control, money, in fact, everything which Mr. Edwards has taken such pains to impress upon his Daily Herald readers that they must build up under youth’s guidance.


As Socialists, we know that our job is to teach Socialism in every possible place and way we can. We can only do that when we understand it ourselves, and we can only get it when the majority of the workers understand it and are prepared to work for it.


Mr. Edwards is either a very muddled thinker or a deliberate confusionist.


May Otway