Learn about Leaders, Old and New

There are many politically uninformed members of the working class who repeat “We can’t do without a leader.” Socialists know that the political circus meetings, staged alike by leaders of both the Fascists and Communists (or rightly Confusionists), are harmful to the real interests of the working class. These revivalist meetings, with their rampant emotionalism and the cult of “leadership,” hinder the growth of a clear understanding of the nature of capitalist society. Unquestionably, the more astute of the propertied class are well aware of the value to them of these Confusionists, who turn the normal healthy discontent of the workers into the Reformist Maze. Very occasionally we see the capitalists clearly appreciating the real function of these careerist demagogues. Recently the capitalist Press mentioned the eightieth birthday of Mr. John Burns in the following headlines: “80th Birthday of the first Working Man to become a Cabinet Minister.” So, fellow workers of the younger generation, you may see that the Labour trio, MacDonald, Snowden, Thomas, were not the first to use a politically ignorant working class for their own political and personal advancement. Maybe the following paragraph, taken from THE SOCIALIST STANDARD, April 1st, 1908, will help you to appreciate the rôle played by the Pollitts, Citrines, Gallaghers and Morrisons of to-day: —


In other words, John Burns rampant. In fact, he is overdoing it.

His greatness, John Burns himself admits; but it is evident that it was not the “Great Man” himself, but the workers who followed him, who were sold to the Liberal Government for lucrative office.

And the capitalist Press is at times cynically frank in discussing the merits of its faithful servants. Thus the Observer, doing the “candid friend,” said (March 15, 1908)—

“Mr. Burns may play a strong role in the national struggle against Socialism, and we like his unstooping courage. But he overdoes the part of Boanerges belligerent. We do not want him to lose his influence over the masses. We want him to retain it; but unless he modifies his later manner his words will carry less weight with the masses than those of any man in England. Once that is seen, his present popularity with plutocrats will fade. These are not pleasant things to say, but they must be said if the President of the Local Government Board is to be prevented from spoiling his career by excess of temperament.”

Clearly, if John is not careful, he will have nothing left to sell.


(Socialist Standard, March 1939)

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