The chief task of our times

In these times of fast communications and well-organised news services, we are given the advantages of knowing fully and almost at once what the other half of the world is thinking. We find that they are thinking very much the same as we are. They are thinking that life is very hard, and the outlook very cheerless for the human race. If they are workers they are wondering why it is so difficult to get and to keep employment; why there is food and the means of producing food alongside idle men who lack a sufficiency of it; why it is that work is so drab, tedious and exhausting when obviously it could be made very much more agreeable; why the ingenuity of craftsmen, scientists, inventors and so on is being devoted so largely to producing and perfecting weapons of destruction; why the world’s statesmen all proclaim their brotherly sentiments, but cannot translate them into the practical form of abolishing or reducing the armed forces.


These and many other questions flow through the minds of the world’s workers as they set off to or return from their employers’ factory, mine or office, or line up at the Labour Exchange or its equivalent, in New York, in London, in Tokyo and in Berlin.


Members of the propertied classes worry their heads too. They have their own doubts and difficulties. They wonder why the working-class animal is such a difficult, unaccountable creature. Why it will not accept all the soothing answers given to it by those in control. They wonder, too, why foreigners must keep on thrusting themselves into the markets, territories and investment areas in which capitalist interests are centred.


These cheerless signs are not novel, but they are more depressing for most people because many of the accustomed opiates have been taken away. It gets harder every year for an intelligent person to believe that he can safely leave the world’s intricate problems to the experts, politicians, journalists and so on. There was a time when, for the average man or woman, it was comforting, and not outrageous, to stifle doubts with the thought that the leaders know all about it — leave it to them. Confidence is a somewhat shop-soiled commodity these days, but those who set great store by it are now at a loss which way to turn. They would still like to believe, but there are too many awkward memories.


Socialists alone can look at the world without pessimism or despair. Socialists never built up false hopes, and have not been disillusioned. Seeing the world as it is we know how great the task is, but we know what can be done by determined, organised work towards a clearly-outlined goal. The world is out of joint because the social system is faulty at the foundation. The private ownership of the means of production and distribution is no longer necessary or desirable. It produces the evils of poverty, unemployment, competition, war and class hatred. It has got to be abolished. Instead of an anarchistic war of private owners seeking profit and permitting the workers to produce wealth only when profit is to be obtained by so doing, the social system needs to be refashioned on the new basis of common ownership. Society must assume possession of its means of life. The private owners must be dispossessed. Their private interests and their class privilege must not be allowed to stand in the way of social progress and the welfare of the whole community. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has taken on the great task of organising for that end. We concentrate on the one vital question, capitalism to be replaced by Socialism, private ownership to give place to common ownership, privilege to give place to equality.


Our aim is one to which the workers of the whole world can rally, ‘without distinction of race or sex’. The Socialist movement is the one movement in the van of social progress, able to face the present world troubles with understanding and confidence.


(An abridged version of an article from the Socialist Standard, December 1934.)


The September 1979 issue of the Socialist Standard was a special 75th anniversary, commemorative issue of the magazine. Hence the inclusion of both excerpts and reprints of articles from previous issues of the Socialist Standard.