We are all Socialists now
It was back in the 1880’s that the Liberal politician and sometime Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir William Harcourt, coined the phrase “We are all Socialists now.” It has proved a shrewd blow in the defence of capitalism.
If Socialism meant solving capitalism’s administrative and taxation problems, Harcourt’s Finance Act stepping up death duties and his plan to unify the government of London, qualified him to call himself a Socialist. But as Socialism did not and does not mean anything of this kind the phrase is untrue, absurd and misleading—particularly misleading because it prevents clear thinking about Socialism.
It had a surprising success, being instantly blessed by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII. Like many habits and fancies of his, it became the fashion. It helped the Tories and Liberals to give a new slant to their propaganda and deceived many simple-minded “Labour” reformists into thinking that the capitalists were being won over to Socialism.
While the phrase is no longer used, the idea behind it has spread all over the globe and all countries now have their politicians trying to protect capitalism while calling it Socialism. Apart from the U.S.A., where some politicians still defend capitalism under its own name, it has become almost the universal rule for capitalist parties and leaders to clothe themselves in Socialist-sounding slogans. Marx wrote that one country should learn from another, but instead of the workers of the newly formed countries learning from the older ones how to guard against the deceits of capitalist propaganda it has been the leaders of the new countries learning the trick of capitalist propaganda to mislead their own followers. In gratitude they ought to put up statues to Harcourt who first thought of it.
So as capitalism digs itself in in the old countries; or struggles for world supremacy in the case of State capitalist Russia and China; or progresses towards industrialisation in Africa, India, and Asia; more and more it is done under the leadership of men falsely claiming that they are building Socialism.
Of course, it has its variations of detail and emphasis. The new President of Syria declared that the new Syrian way of life was to be “conservative Socialism.” He had just thrown out the troops of another “Socialist,” Colonel Nasser. Nasser doesn’t have to descend to vulgar disputation about the merits and demerits of Syrian “conservative Socialism” because his own variety of capitalism called Socialism traces back to Mohammed. “The State established by Islam and founded by Mohammed was the first Socialist State. Mohammed was the first to apply the policy of nationalisation in those days.” ( Daily Worker. 24/7/61.)
Nkrumah of Ghana is another “Socialist” who clings like a leech to capitalism. He promised “new, challenging, bold and dynamic” measures to build “complete Socialism” and rather outshines Nasser and the Prophet because he has got himself known as the “Messiah” already. Of course, the “complete Socialism” is only eyewash for the voters, and according to a report in the Observer (2/7/61) the so-called “Socialism” towards which Nkrumah is moving was “defined by one of his most brilliant lieutenants as ‘Roosevelt’s New Deal’.” What a laugh Roosevelt would have had at the thought that his masterly strokes to keep American capitalism functioning tolerably were really designed to do the opposite and destroy it!
One of the absurdities of those who seek to represent capitalism as Socialism is to say that nationalisation—which is State Capitalism—is not capitalist but Socialist. So every politician who ever sponsored governmental interference in business or nationalised an industry to help capitalism generally, from Disraeli to Attlee and Bismarck to Kemal Ataturk, thereby becomes a “Socialist.”
If this were really so, the brotherhood of capitalist “socialists” can get ready to welcome a new member, because it is reported that Franco’s government is going to nationalise the Bank of Spain.