50 Years Ago: Why Socialists Oppose Leadership

There is a group of people who propagate the view that the working class are an ignorant lot, incapable of deciding what form of society is best for them, or, in the event of a new form of society coming into existence, running such a society in a proper businesslike manner. This group of people proclaim that it is necessary for a few intellectuals to apply their cultured brains to social problems, tell the workers what must be done, prepare the framework of a new society, and occupy all the important posts under any new arrangement of social affairs. To such people leadership is an essential idea, as democracy is supposed to be incapable of managing its own affairs.

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The weakness of the intellectuals’ position is apparent once we look at the matter with a little attention. Let us take the case of a man we are entrusting with the carrying out of certain work. How can we judge of the capabilities of such a man unless we ourselves have a fair knowledge of the work he is to do and the results he is to achieve?

Knowledge is the only safeguard for the workers against trickery and false advocates, and it is also the only doorway through which society can pass to a society based upon common ownership. If the mass of those who seek a new arrangement of social affairs do not possess knowledge of what they want and how it is to be attained, then a new society can only be a new chaos, be the leaders of the people as cultured as they may.

(From an unsigned editorial in the Socialist Standard, December 1925.)