During recent weeks sensational newspaper reports have told us of the recent increase of attacks with violence. Our sentiment is appealed to when we hear that young girls and old women are beaten up and robbed of a few shillings. Judges say that flogging should be introduced, and women write hysterical letters to the press.
Everything is done to whip up mass hysteria and exaggerated fear to impress us with horror at the vicious adolescent attackers.
As much as any, we regret these violent attacks by young thugs, but, unlike most who have voiced their horror recently, we are consistent in our opposition to violence of this kind.
Those who cry loudest have, however, a strange morality. Few Judges or parsons complained of the brutality and cruelty inflicted by our soldiers during the war—that was a matter of course—they only raised their hands and voices when the enemy were brutal.
These sensitive people are not shocked that workers are compelled by necessity to work out their lives in occupations which permanently harm their health and in many cases eventually kill them. We hear very little outcry about the thousands of workers who are killed or crippled in the course of their work due to insufficient protection from machines. At any time, the number of workers killed or injured because their employer would find it less profitable to introduce safety measures beyond the letter of the law, far exceeds the number of cosh victims.
These adolescent gangsters are victims of Capitalism as much as are the people they attack. During their childhood and early adolescence they were raised on patriotic films, stories of what a hero their father was, out there killing Germans, those in large towns were bombed, seeing the dead and wounded and learning not to be shocked or surprised at blood and horror. They are later encouraged to join army cadet forces, are then conscripted and trained in the best methods of self-defence and murder.
These young people are disillusioned early. They see quite a bit of life and they realise that no worker ever gets rich by working hard. They look at their parents, old before their time with work, dreading the slump that is already on its way. The boys know it’s not work that makes you rich—they don’t know why—but they use their eyes. They see the brutality, cruelty and injustice of Capitalism at work and they try to get rich quickly by the violent means that society has taught them.
And they are bored. At work, doing a useless or monotonous job, longing for the adventure that their fathers wanted in their youth and never got. Once more youth determines to succeed where the previous generation has failed.
Thus they rebel against society.
But the difference between the rebel and the revolutionary is that the latter has knowledge. The rebel is doomed to defeat, for he beats his head against a wall that he doesn’t understand and eventually he is smashed by it.
The revolutionary understands the workings of Capitalism and realises that the violence, cruelty and misery of life under this system cannot be removed or mitigated within society as it is. A complete change is necessary.
There won’t be any cosh boys under Socialism. Private property society that denies workers access to the things they need will be abolished: Socialism will be democratic with common ownership in the interests of everyone, not—as at present—a society based on force. To-day, the cleverest, most unscrupulous, vicious and most lucky, sometimes get to the top—provided they exercise these characteristics legally.
The rebel is bound to be broken by society, but the revolutionary intends to change it. And it is Socialist knowledge that makes the revolutionary.