1930s >> 1938 >> no-411-november-1938

Editorial: What of the Future?

Socialists have always and rightly resisted the blindly optimistic reformist view which can, against all experience, hope that things will right themselves and life become progressively better without a fundamental change in the basis of human society. That means hoping that the capitalist leopard will change its spots, and we know it will not. But the people who at one time can hope for impossible benefits from a Labour Government are the same people who, at the present time, are paralysed with fear because they believe the worst about the future of the civilised world. German expansion is on the march and in their eyes it is an avalanche which will gain power and momentum until all is destroyed. They see Germany victorious and greatly increased in population and resources, but they fail to realise the basic instability of capitalism everywhere, dependent as it always is on finding markets for its abundant products. A useful corrective is to consider the position of the victors in the last war. In 1918 Britain, France, Italy and U.S.A. had won history’s greatest struggle. They had the defeated Central Powers at their mercy, and the world at their feet. Yet within a few months British troops with steel helmets and tanks were marching in Glasgow streets to overawe striking engineers. Within a year miners, railway, iron and steel workers and many others were fighting bitterly against the employing class. After a short trade boom in 1920 the sudden oncome of depression in 1921 had forced unemployment up to a level not reached again until 1932. France was faced with similar struggles, and Italy was on the verge of civil war. Internationally the Allies were at each other’s throats over the division of the spoils.


Those who run away with the idea that there is something in the German character which explains the present aggression forget that capitalism everywhere produces its would-be aggressors. Only 40 years ago Britain was devouring the Boer Republics. As recently as 15 years ago France was represented to be the bully of Europe, and the late Arthur Henderson could get up at a Labour Party Conference and speak of war with France as a reason why Britain should not disarm. The Franco-Polish treaty was not directed against Germany, but against Russia. Another year or two may see Europe in still another capitalist grouping, brought about in answer to the present preponderance of German capitalism.


True, the Dictators have perfected a technique of terrorism which makes open resistance by their own populations seemingly impossible for all time, but history shows time and time again that as discontent becomes widespread the apparently all-powerful oppressors prove vulnerable. Bismarck, after 12 years of brutal repression of Social-Democrats and Catholics, had to admit failure, and capitalism to-day even more than half a century ago cannot fail to go on producing discontent among the workers.


The duty of Socialists is, therefore, not to give up the task as hopeless, but remember that economic forces, as well as human reason, are on our side against the brutal power of the propertied class and their agents.