1940s >> 1944 >> no-481-september-1944

North Africa, Italy and Capitalism

Because the Socialist Party of Great Britain is composed of members of the working class who, like most workers, are tied down to the place wherein they sell their labour power, we have not been able to do much to propagate Socialism directly to peoples of other lands. But altuough we have continually stresed the capitalist evils existing in this country, it does not follow that the S.P.G.B. is blind to the stultifying effects of capitalism in other countries. Indeed, those who have studied our case know that we have always stressed the universal nature of capitalism. Go wherever you will, you will find on one hand a privileged class that, without the necessity of working, can enjoy every luxury and comfort, and even dodge many of the worst effects of war, and, on the other hand, a far larger class composed of those who are forced to work to gain the bare necessities of life. Go where you will and, side by side with the wealth of those who produce nothing, you will see the poverty of those who produce all wealth—the workers.

With this fact in mind, the present writer would address those men and women who have been drawn into some branch of the Services and eventually sent abroad.

Possibly for the first time in your lives you have seen the sordid and nauseating effects of capitalism in countries other than England. You have, perhaps, been to North Africa and seen the dire poverty, squalor and hunger rampant in that vast terrain. You have seen disease-ridden Arabs dragging out an existence on tracts of land where the soil produces nothing that is edible. You have possibly wondered, with science at its present advanced state, why chemical fertilisation of the soil has not been undertaken. To the Socialist the answer is simple : Capitalism does not think such a step profitable.

Side by side with the poverty of the Arabs you have seen the wealth of Continental parasites, who can live in palatial, comparatively hygienic houses that are protection against the flies, mosquitoes, and stinks that beset the major part of North Africa’s population.

Possibly you have been to Italy and witnessed there the abject poverty and hunger of the many and the wealth and plenty of the few. You have seen the Naples slums—and maimed men and women begging in the dusty streets. you have learned, perhaps, that when Mussolini rose to power he ordered the patching up of these slums and the arrest of all beggars seen upon the streets. Thus to the tourist and casual observer slums and beggars did not exist in Italy. The grand facade of brightly coloured house exteriors and streets without beggars did its work in advertising what Fascism had done for the workers, yet merely hid the filth, insanitary conditions and destitution that actually existed.

By learning this, perhaps, you have realised that a Fascist administration, by a ruthless eradicating of visible signs of poverty and squalor, may give a grand exterior to capitalism, but can do nothing towards actually curing the evils inherent in the social order.

You have seen, perhaps, Italian workers too poor to buy the food that will give them proper nourishment. You have seen shops that, through the background operations of prospering, well-fed “black-marketeers” are able to sell, at prices beyond the reach of the. workers, a bountiful supply of food, clothing, and other necessities. You have seen the rich satisfy their wants by paying the prices asked. You have seen the poor, half-fed and in rags, because they are unable to buy.

Fellow workers, many of you have seen these things now. Is it not obvious that the poverty-stricken, stultifying, disease-breeding conditions of the workers are not confined to Britain, but exist in every capitalist country? Does not the magnitude and far-reaching nature of this outworn social order convince you of the importance of abolishing it, with all its contradictious, anomalies and insanities ? Are you not convinced that capitalism should be replaced by a social order wherein all co-operate in producing and distributing the needs of society—wherein there is no master class exploiting a slave class—wherein the whole of society has free access to the products of society ?

Workers! what are you going to do about it?


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