All members of the working class who ever attended school will, no doubt, remember their mentors’ eulogistic references to the “birthright” which is the proud heritage of everybody who had the great good fortune and common sense to get themselves born in Great Britain. The meaning of this great blessing has somehow always managed to elude the writer—certainly, a “birthright” during the last three or four decades seemed a very obscure and intangible possession, except, of course, for the master class, who by reason of their ownership and control of the means whereby all goods are produced, enjoyed a very real “birthright” in the wealth accruing from the sale of those goods. The extravagant opulence of their lives was accepted as the natural order of things, as was the fact that the workers were poor, and therefore had to make the best of the meanest dwellings, shoddiest clothes and food of little or no nutritional value. An odd sort of “birthright” in the second case, you say? But, nevertheless, it is the only one the workers can expect under the present system, capitalism. And we are grateful to the editor of Reynolds News (8th January, 1950) for his magnanimity in publishing the fact. He begins an optimistic leading article on “Why Labour Will Win the Election” by asserting:—
“Because Labour is the only Government in Britain’s history that has accorded to every man his birthright of work and wages.”
Thank you, Mr. Editor, for your information, but it may interest you to know that there are quite a number of workers who look forward to attaining a very different and more concrete birthright than Labour’s offering, i.e.. Socialism.
Inherent within the quotation there is the erroneous assumption that the interests of all men are identical. Socialists, however, realise that present-day society, not only in Great Britain but all over the world, is divided into two classes—the capitalists or owning class, controlling all the means of wealth production and distribution, and the workers who, by reason of their propertyless status in relation to the means of living, are compelled to spend the best part of their lives in their masters’ factories, mills, mines or shops, etc., producing and selling goods. In short, the whole complex business of present-day society is run from top to bottom by members of the working class who, in return for their services, receive wages. You, fellow worker, do not need us to tell you that whatever the amount in your wage-packet, it is never quite enough to, colloquially speaking, “make ends meet.” In fact, in a great number of cases, workers are born to and live a life of direst poverty.
If every man and woman should enjoy such a birthright as just described, the capitalists would not be at all anxious to claim it. We feel sure that they would not consider it worth while leaving their villas in Nice or hotels in the Bahamas to stake their claim. They know and like too well the luxuries which the working-class make possible for them. We seem to hear murmurs of: “How is this possible if we barely get along on a standard of living far below theirs?”
This, then, is where a little simple economic illustration is called for. It is known to Socialists as the theory of value and surplus value and can briefly be depicted thus: A worker is paid the rate for the job at which he is employed but that sum will be much smaller than the values he will create during working-hours. This difference is known as surplus-value, and is the source of the capitalists’ income. For an excellent insight into this aspect of Socialism we would recommend Karl Marx’s “Value, Price and Profit,” in which this question is ably dealt with in a very interesting discourse.
To conclude—Socialists do not want the birthright which the Labour Party acting for capitalism offers. Instead, we want our children, and children’s children to know and accept the birthright of a world wherein labour and wages will not exist. Work will then be the happy performance of some task which will benefit the community—when “Each for all and all for each” will become a fact instead of the pious and hypocritical utterance it is to-day. Wages will be an anachronism in a community where “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” is the maxim, and with the existence of common ownership in the means of wealth production and distribution which Socialism presupposes, there cannot be use for either masters or money.
Even to-day, productive powers have reached a level where it would be possible for everybody to have enough—even to-day, it would be possible were it not for the capitalist class who control not only their factories, mines, etc,, but our very lives as well.
Are you going to allow this state of affairs to continue?
Are you going to vote once again for the system which enslaves you?
Or are you, fellow worker, going to join our ranks and help in the historic mission of the working-class —the overthrow of capitalism and the realisation of our real birthright—Socialism?
D. E. A.