Capitalist Opposition to Socialism
In the February issue of THE SOCIALIST STANDARD we answered a question asked by a correspondent (D.G.D., of Clapham) regarding the measures Socialists would take after they had gained political power. D.G.D. put forth the view that Socialism would be born out of conditions of chaos, his actual phrase being “the crash.” In our reply we stated: “This is a mistaken view. Chaos could arise, and does arise, when a minority seizes power and tries to introduce more or less fundamental changes against the wishes of the majority of the population, or when the majority are apathetic and lack understanding of what is being done. But the inauguration of Socialism implies . . . the support and understanding of the majority of the population.”
A new reader, L. H. Tickner (N.13), writes to give his comments on our reply. He suggests that there may be a crash when the working class has gained political power, owing to the violent opposition of the capitalist class.
He says: “It appears to me that … a certain amount of force in the initial stages of the transition (from capitalism to Socialism) will be essential to suppress the property interests, arms-mongers and financial magnates, unless I over-rate their power to-day.”
The question he asks is the following: “Do you really think that capitalists will be eliminated in a simple manner, without a big fight on their part not to give up their power to the workers ? … It will have to be a fight—even (in the extreme) to the death, will it not?”
We would point out to our correspondent that the capitalist class (including the sections of it he mentions) possesses power to-day because it has control of the machinery of government, including the armed forces. Not always has the capitalist class been so powerful. H was not able to become the most powerful class in the State until it had wrested from the feudal aristocracy a share in the control of the machinery of government.
To-day, the capitalist class still controls the machinery of government. But this is due only to the fact that the working class is immature. The workers still believe their problems can be solved within the framework of capitalism. Consequently, at each election, they send to Parliament and to the local councils members of the capitalist class, or other people prepared to uphold the capitalist system of society. Thus do the “arms mongers and financial magnates” get their power.
When the workers realise that they constitute a slave class and that their slavery and all its accompanying evils will remain as long as capitalism itself, then they will become Socialists. They will cease to give their votes to the supporters of capitalism. Instead, they will elect Socialist delegates to Parliament and to the local councils. Since the working class forms the majority of the population, nothing but its lack of political knowledge prevents it gaining control of the machinery of government for the purpose of carrying out its own wishes.
The power of the capitalist class will have vanished.
Whether the capitalist class will be foolish enough to attempt to fight to maintain their then hopeless position is a question we cannot answer categorically. We do know, however, that were the attempt to be made, it would be impossible for them to put up serious resistance. They would, of course, be rebels in revolt against society, and by rebelling they would make their already hopeless position still more hopeless : their unconstitutional action would cause many waverers to support the Socialists—the side of law and order. The puny efforts of the rebels would be met by the highly developed and organised might of the armed forces.
Our correspondent’s question, then, boils down to this : “Would a small number of capitalists try to retain power by fighting, when they would be met by the bulk of the population in control of the armed forces?”
It is obvious that such a question need detain us no longer. Certainly no “crash” of society could result from such an incident.