Sixty Years Ago

Answer to a Correspondent from the “Socialist Standard”, September 1912.

It is quite true that “the power of repression was with the master classes before the workers had votes”. But material development, with the alterations in the material conditions, made the ruling class adopt a Constitution — a charter which provides for the consent of citizens to the policy of those in power. Hence it is, alas! only too true that “the murder machinery” is “put into their (the masters’) hands by the votes of the workers”, as the latter hold more than two-thirds of the voting power. You say that “power” is not a thing to be captured by votes, yet our masters spend a great deal of time and money in securing that power through getting a majority of votes. . . . How can “industrial organisation generate power”? History is very explicit on the fact that power has rested with those who commanded the political machinery, but where does history record that power has been generated through “industrial organisation”? It is a pity that our “anti-political” critics do not tell us what the power is that can be generated in this way. If they mean power to destroy, power to paralyse general industry (and themselves), then it can be granted — but that disposes of their case. For if they are unable to carry on production uninterrupted, they are manifestly powerless to take and hold the means of life. You say they will render the State impotent, but we still await information as to how that can be done. Can you render the “murder machinery” impotent? Or if not, can you control it by other means? Until you do control the “murder machinery” you cannot “control industry”.


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