1950s >> 1954 >> no-599-july-1954

Leaders and Led

In capitalist society the workers may find themselves short of many things but they are never short of “leaders.” The business of becoming a leader is an art which is followed by many for reasons which range from a mistaken sense of service and guidance to those who desire power solely and consciously in their own interest. Whichever the category to which the prospective leader belongs, his actions have the same result as far as the working class is concerned. The quest for places in professional leadership circles is a cunning and often ruthless task, the accent being on the cunning and ruthless method in countries openly dictatorial in form, while in the more democratic countries the method is more varied and subtle but none the less successful. In any case, we get our leaders either born great, having achieved greatness, or having greatness thrust upon them.

Our educational system is a vital part of the machinery for maintaining the idea of the desirability of leadership. The recent conference of the National Association of Head Teachers was treated to an address by its president. Miss Armstrong, in which she waxed eloquent on the leadership idea. She states that leaders are chosen for their “ability to lead” and she extolls democracy as being a situation that opens a way for the “humblest born to attain high prominence in the State as leaders.” We cannot but deplore and condemn such a view on democracy.

Miss Armstrong believes that one of the duties of teachers is to produce leaders though she does qualify this by saying that some teachers may disagree with this view. She, however, is full of hope that “brilliant children in Grammar Schools should be educated for leadership.”

In conformity with her leadership views she clinches her argument with reference to the teaching of religion in schools and its importance in bringing about the kind of society she wants to see (obviously, the leaders and the led). In this context she does not mention those teachers who disagree.
While on the subject of leadership in the religious sense, one finds that it has gone to extraordinary lengths in that home of strange causes, the U.S.A. where, we are told, the 1936 Convention of the followers of a Mr. George Baker, alias “Father Divine,” established by unanimous vote, that he (George Baker) was God Incarnate. Since 1936 this particular God enterprise has gone on from strength to strength and is now a full scale profit making enterprise. Perhaps “Father Divine” had the good fortune to have been educated by one of Miss Armstrong’s “teachers of faith and sound conviction” ?

Finally, to come to a more “earthly” kind of conference—that of the British Legion, held recently, where once more the question of pensions arose.

Disabled ex-servicemen know more about leaders and leadership than most; they have their medals and their disablement to prove it. Sir Ian Fraser, Tory leader of the disabled, as usual raises his voice on their behalf, supported by other “lesser leaders” of Churches, T.U. branches, Co-ops’, etc.

Examples, given in the press, of the budgets of some of our disabled, are indeed heart rending. It is more so to the Socialist who finds the aim of the “great attack” against a niggardly government is to increase the present miserable amount of pension to something only a little less miserable. Our view, of course, is that workers, fit and unfit, would be better employed in struggling for a world where everyone—barring accident and natural causes—will be able to keep his health and limbs intact during his natural span of life.

To sum up: Socialists have no use for leaders; leaders imply the led. Socialists are people capable of doing their own thinking. Thinking people will not require leaders rather than administrators. Just as at the moment sons and daughters of the workers are bought and employed as administrators for Capitalist enterprises both State and privately run. This is the meaning of the Head Teachers’ leader’s plea for education in leadership—to perpetuate the prevailing system. Socialists want to change the prevailing system.

The chief reason for people supporting the continuation of Capital, even whilst grumbling at its deficiencies (as the Disabled Men’s Organizations are doing) is because they are led to believe that there is no alternative. Socialists know otherwise and want others to know too.

W. Brain