1950s >> 1957 >> no-633-may-1957

Emptying the sea by bucket

For those misguided people who like going in for marches, demonstrations, signing petitions and lobbying M.P.s. Capitalism sees to it that they are kept busy, even if they achieve nothing.

The fact is there is so much wrong, so many objectionable things taking place all the time, that the marching enthusiasts are bound to miss quite a lot. Apart from this they suffer from two fatal faults, first the objects of their marching are only effects and do not touch the fundamental cause, secondly, the fundamental cause being the class ownership of the means of production, marching is not the way to remove it.

It must not be taken from the above that demonstrations can serve no purpose of importance to the working-class. As a means of rallying support for wage claims, drawing attention to grievances and mustering a certain amount of solidarity during strikes they are useful. But we are concerned here purely with demonstrations as a means of altering the course of capitalism or eradicating one at a time the problems which arise because of capitalism; even in the sphere of wages etc., the effect is short-lived for the conflict between exploiter and exploited goes on interminably and will do so until the exploited understand Socialism.

One of the many things which happen every day under capitalism was the announcement that plans are being made to make troops carry a drug kit to infect themselves against “the latest poison gases” (Daily Express, January 30th, 1957). How are the reform marchers to approach this particular piece of capitalism’s ugliness? It is their way to take it in isolation from the system as a whole, this is the reformist approach to everything, i.e., to seek solutions within capitalism, to housing problems, high rents, redundancy, slumps, poverty and wars each on its own without bothering to find out that all the problems have a common cause and can only be solved not bit by bit, but altogether, by the removal of this cause. Faced with the drug kit as an isolated proposition, would they march for it or against it or would there be a division in their ranks—some marching for, some against? Considering the proposition more closely we find these are the points to be taken into account. First, there is no challenge to the existence of capitalism, so they all accept the need for armies. Then, since it is a fact that nerve gases have been stockpiled, which do they prefer, troops to go unprotected against these deadly gases or do they submit to the need for soldiers to carry “a dangerous dose of the drug belladona?” Of course, outraged by our criticism, our marching reformers might shout “ban the gases and the drugs” (there’s a nice slogan for them), but what of the efforts to ban the “A” and “H” bombs? The turbulent sea of capitalism floods in upon them. If this or that weapon were “banned” there is no way of guaranteeing it would not be used, for the politicians who can “justify” their production can surely “justify” their use on any number of pretences. And even without “A” and “H” bombs and nerve gases the workers of the world could have a glorious time slaughtering each other by millions with “conventional” weapons of all kinds.

Within capitalism what can be done? The answer is bluntly that, squirm as they may, while the world remains under the present system, the workers will continue to bear the brunt of it.

While cancer and polio research still rely on voluntary contributions, scientists like Penny are designing “H” bombs, and Dr. H. Cullumbins, one of the chief scientists of the Chemical Defence Station at Parton, had this to say about the effects of the drug injections: “A large proportion of the men may collapse and the military efficiency of the remainder may be negligible, especially in hot conditions. But that is preferable to death from nerve gas poisoning.”

From our standpoint as Socialists, taking the interests of the world working-class as our guide, there is no proposition which simply involves re-arranging capitalism that can make one arrangement “preferable” to another. Whatever the arrangement, the workers are going to continue being exploited for the profit of an idle class, insecurity will continue to be the lot of the useful, crises will continue to arise while commodity production, world markets and profits remain, and wars with all this bestiality will continue to arise. It therefore remains that the one object of any real use that the world’s workers should devote their efforts to, is the establishment of Socialism. This means they must understand that capitalism cannot be made to work in their interests by adjustments here and there. From this understanding they must build the political organisation to send delegates to Parliament for the task of making the means of production common-property so that society can then proceed from this basis of a classless world to organise production for use and eliminate all wasteful and harmful production, so that mankind in peace eternal be able to enjoy the fruits of their labours to the full.

H. B.

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