1970s >> 1971 >> no-800-april-1971

50 Years Ago: On Being Constructive

We are men who do constructive work”, said the Labour-‘Socialist’ canvasser. “We don’t just talk Socialism”.


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The value of constructive work depends on what it is you construct. There was a maniac once who built a fly-trap with oak beams and concrete and caught no flies but had constructed something.
Now the Labour Party may justly claim to have done abundant constructing, at Westminster, on local administrative bodies, wage boards, governmental commissions, and what not. A galaxy of practical measures stands to the credit of its initiative or support; unemployment insurance, infant welfare arrangements, rent restriction, old age pensions, with all their compeers, and pious resolutions urging voluntary resolutions upon our masters, as thick as broken promises about the heels of capitalist statesmen.


In face of these brilliant operations the work of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is modest indeed. It is merely busy constructing the only thing of worth in the cause of Socialist — a body of intelligent working-class opinion.


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If the mere building of something is itself commendable, let us have a wall round Windermere, a pond for lost principles, or a moving stairway from the Labour benches to the Cabinet; but if our aim is toward Socialism, then the path of our advance lies in that very phrase used by our labour canvasser. “Talk Socialism” until working men and women cease to content themselves with any ameliorations of capitalist conditions, and organise for their two-fold task: to destroy the system that binds them to toil, and attain to freedom by building anew.


(From an editorial “The Master Builders”. Socialist Standard, April 1921).