A Reader Who Does Not Read Very Well

[We have received from a reader the following letter. For some reason he also sent it to Forward, but added a covering note that he was willing, if we liked, to type it out again as being addressed to us. His references are to two articles in the April SOCIALIST STANDARD, “What Holds us Back?” and “The Complex Loaf of Bread.”— Editorial Committee]


To the Editor of the Forward
Sir,—It is now some time since I abandoned all politics. But I still read the Forward and the Daily Herald, and I subscribe to both the SOCIALIST STANDARD and the Freedom. I gave up all politics because of the prejudices, prevarications, misrepresentations and downright lies disseminated by all Parties alike, and in the current number of the Standard I find ample justification for all my aversions from politics. In this issue of the organ of the Socialist Party of Great Britain it is admitted that they have made little progress, but, in the true Party manner, the blame for this lack of headway is laid on others. We are told, “If all those who have fallen out had remained in the movement what a strong movement for Socialism we would have now.” This is Joshua and the sun again. Truth can no more be commanded to stand still than can the sun. Christianity was in existence a long time before the S.P.G.B. was heard of, and Christianity has crumbled to what is left now for the sole reason that it is not true, and has made no real attempts at correcting its untruth. Members have left and will continue to leave the S.P.G.B. because—they do not believe in it A bitter pill, but it has to be swallowed or the patient will perish.
But the prize in this precious number goes to the contributor who, writing about bread, quotes an “unknown author” who, after enumerating the many triumphs of mankind, goes on to say. “Man is indeed an ingenious animal. But when confronted with one problem he retires defeated. Show him six men without money and six loaves of bread, and ask him how the six men can obtain the six loaves?” Our contributor comments cockily on this, “It is possible that you, the reader, can provide the answer. The Capitalist system cannot.” This is how politics can dope and hypnotise ordinary intelligence. The circumstances posed by the “unknown author” have not existed for at least 50 years. For at least 50 years it has been possible for six hungry men without money to get six loaves of bread. And this under Capitalism. Due in some measure to Labour Party influence it is easier to-day than ever before, but the Labour Party is not a Socialist Party and we are still under Capitalism. The Labour Party has made Capitalism work better. This is a jibe the S.P.G.B. is fond of flinging at the Labour Party. But, when political expediency calls for it, the S.P.G.B. can forget the Labour Party has done even that. Thus faithfully does the politician worship truth!!
Yours sincerely,
David MacConnell.


Our critic attacks us on two counts. One is that we are alleged to want to avoid admitting what, according to him, is the real reason the Socialist movement makes only slow progress. He says it would be a bitter pill for us to have to admit that members have left the S.P.G.B. because they they do not believe in it. We can only say that our critic, who claims he is a reader of the Socialist Standard, must be a very careless or inattentive reader. In the first place the article he criticises did not seek to explain the slow progress of the Socialist movement wholly or mainly by the dropping out of disheartened members. What it did say was that the Socialist movement has made slow progress because the great majority of the workers have not been won over to Socialism. As this is what the S.P.G.B. has always said our critic ought to be familiar with it, and ought to know that we have always ridiculed the silly notion held by some reformist organisations that the mass of the workers are already Socialists. The reference in our April issue to those who have dropped out because of disheartenment emphatically did not say that all who have dropped out have done so for that reason. It was prompted by the fact that the letter to which we were replying was written by an ex-member who indicated that he still agrees with the S.P.G.B. case. (In a subsequent letter he wrote applying for re-admission to the S.P.G.B.)

So much for our critic’s first mare’s nest.

His second is even more illusory. He tears out of its context a passage about Capitalism’s inability to provide articles to those who need them except on the condition that they have the money to pay. He reads a short quoted illustration about six loaves of bread and six hungry men and falls to see the very obvious fact that this was an illustration of the general nature of Capitalist distribution. It was a correct illustration. Under Capitalism you do not have free access to loaves of bread, or to unsaleable motor cars, or to anything else simply by taking them without price and without having to get somebody’s permission. Free access would be the condition under Socialism; it is not the condition under Capitalism. If our critic is so naive as to believe that it is, he has only to try it by walking into a shop and taking what he wants. He will be able to tell us how he got on some time later—when they let him out.

Of course he has in mind that under Capitalism in this country, as “improved” by the Labour Party and others, the hungry man, subject to certain conditions and after going through the degrading process of applying for Public Assistance, can get niggardly financial aid, as indeed he could long before the Labour Party was thought of. In the Middle Ages such charity was dispensed by the Church and Monasteries.

But what a petty point anyway, when measured against the gigantic evils and hardships of Capitalism’s peace and war to-day! And what a purblind attitude, to approach the problem as if it concerned only the workers in this country! Actually, as the article “The Complex Loaf of Bread” pointed out, it is a fact that at the present time America has fantastic stocks of unsaleable wheat while large numbers of the world’s population go hungry. United Nations inquiries have indicated that a third or more of the world’s population are undernourished.

Let our critic deny this if he can and let him tell us what solution there is apart from Socialism. As he tells us that he has long since “abandoned all politics” he must believe he knows a non-political solution unless, perhaps, he believes that the social problems of the human race have already been solved.


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