Sermons in Stone

To some people the fact that the Socialist Party has existed for 50 years is objectionable. At least, that is what they say. We suspect in many cases they would object equally strongly if it had existed one day, or even one hour. But they try to give their criticism the appearance of reason and logic by saying that the Party must be wrong because it has talked for 50 years and still very few workers are aware of the idea of Socialism.

Modern speleologists, in their delvings below ground, have discovered blind albino fish that have never seen the light because the earth’s surface interposes between them and the sun.

Many workers are like these blind fish. They cannot see the light of day because they live in a mental cave.

Our critics would have us believe that the cause of these workers’ darkness is the light—Socialism itself. They would deny that it is the reformist worker’s abject acceptance of the orthodox and conventional, without even trying to think, which condemns him to monotony.

Because the idea of Socialism has existed many years no more makes it wrong than the idea of flight, or radium or radio. All these things existed as ideas in people’s heads for several years before they were actually achieved, and most of the ignorant and stupid mob went on denying their existence for years after they had been working.

In fact the original stuff of the earth from which life itself emerged; water—has existed for ever—yet there are still those whose acquaintances with it might be described as limited.

A most striking example of a commonplace object of this kind which exists in masses almost everywhere is “The Pebbles on the Beach.” With this title Mr. Clarence Ellis has produced an utterly fascinating book—the result of an active hobby of collecting and studying pebbles, for many years.

And yet millions regularly loll and sprawl on the beaches during their summer holiday without the beginnings of a ghost of a notion that in the pebbles around their feet lie the secrets of the history of the earth, the formation of the rocks, the different kinds of rocks, the birth of rivers, the existence of ice ages and the reasons which go to produce a piece of jet in Yorkshire, basalt in Scotland or granite in Cornwall. Mr. Ellis points out what an interesting pastime this can become when one starts to make a collection of suitable specimens.

Our critics of the Socialist Party’s long existence, were they logical, would condemn the pebbles which have lain on the beach for millions of years and not the ignorance of those who take no intelligent interest in the world around them. The Socialist stands in relation to the working class as the geologist; in this case, Clarence Ellis, to the world at large.

It is the duty of those who know, to make their knowledge available in the easiest form. All that is true. But without the intelligent desire to learn the workers will get nowhere.