50 Years Ago: Socialism or Palliated Capitalism?

Great has been the abuse levelled against The’Socialist Party of Great Britain because of the fact that from its inception it has steadfastly set itself against the advocacy of palliatives or improvements that “strengthen the existing system of Society.” No other party in this country occupies a similar position, and many who were once opposed to it on this particular point have been converted to its views. To those who still persist in such advocacy let us ask: “What are you out for?” Some will probably reply: “We are out for Socialism, but we know the working class cannot understand and struggle for Socialism until they are better fed and better housed than at present.” And so they concentrate on feeding, housing, etc. If there were evidence to show that all well-fed and well-housed workers were in the forefront of the revolutionary struggle, one could understand their attitude. But there is none. Does it follow that those who throw off the shackles of religion, or who secure a “clear head” by giving up alcoholic liquors become Socialists? No, in very many cases they are pronounced anti-Socialists. And is the study of Socialism taken up and revolutionary change advocated by the well-fed domestics and flunkeys or by those whose efficiency as wage-slaves is studied by such “model” employers as the Cadburys. Levers, and the like? There is no more justification in arguing that the working class must be well fed, well clothed and decently housed before they can understand and organise for Socialism than there is for the opposite attitude that it is necessary to starve and grind them down before any real consciousness of their position and determination to alter it will possess them.

[From the Socialist Standard, March, 1908.]