50 Years Ago: The “Great Man” Fallacy

When I read the history of Greece I am not impressed by the oratory of Demosthenes or the statesmanship of Pericles. But I note that Corinth alone contained slaves by the thousand dozen, and I ask: what was the economic condition of this class? What did they know of science or art or literature. Dickens has spoken of men and women who all go in and out at the same hours, to do the same work; people to whom every day is the same as yesterday and tomorrow, and every year the counterpart of the last and the next. These are the people history should speak to us about, and not the depraved parvenus and braggart buffoons of royal descent. Then I say to every working man and woman: before you read the life of Cicero or Aristotle or Julius Caesar; before you become immersed in trivial biography, study well the conditions of life and labour of your social ancestors in Greece, in Rome, in the Middle ages. The proper study of a working man is working class conditions.

Socialist Standard, June 1909