A Short Story
WILL: (to George, who is discovered reading the Daily Distress): Hello! looking for a loser?
GEORGE: No. I’m reading about those confounded aliens. Those foreign bakers are allowed to come over here and they immediately start agitations and strikes as though the country belonged to them. Taking the bread out of our mouths, I call it.
WILL: Why, you’re a funny chap. You grumble if they work cheaply, and you grumble of they try to better their lot. I suppose the fact is you hate them, and they could do nothing to please you.
GEORGE: Who can help hating the beggars when they take our jobs away from us. Why don’t they go back to their own country?
WILL: Look here, George, the foreign workman has no more a country of his own than you have: his native land, like yours, is the property of a master class and the worker has not even burial space of his own.
GEORGE: That’s an old tale.
WILL: But can you deny its truth?
(George does not answer)
WILL: Do you know that the number of English who are abroad is much greater than the number of foreigners in England; so would you not be much worse off if all the English came back to compete with you in place of the foreigner? Your policy for every man to be compelled to remain in his native land is suicidal on that score alone.
(George scratches his head).
WILL: And are you aware that in history the unmixed races, those people who are cut off from the world as you would have us to be, remain primitive or become degenerate; while the mixed races, those roaming wide areas, are vigorous and progressive?
GEORGE: But why is it, then, that there are so many unemployed and pauperised in England of the alien is not the cause?
WILL: My dear fellow, they’ve got unemployed and paupers in every capitalist country: and they exist, not because of aliens, but because of capitalism.
GEORGE: I don’t see that.
WILL: But you ought to. Let me make it plain. In the first place each western nation is divided broadly into two great groups or classes. One group owns the land, railways, mines, factories, machinery and buildings – in fact this class own all the means for producing wealth. The other group or class, on the contrary, do not own property, all they possess is their power to work which they must sell to the owners of the means of production, or else starve. The propertied, ruling section we call the capitalist class: the propertyless, enslaved section we call the working class. Is that clear?
GEORGE: Oh, yes. I know which is my lot!
WILL: Good! Now this capitalist class want to get as much labour as they can out of the workers with as little expenditure of wages as possible. Hence a conflict of interests. Hence the capitalist class will employ Chinamen or even gorillas if they are cheaper and can work as well as their own countrymen. Hence the propertied class are ever seeking and introducing new inventions, machines and methods by means of which more can be produced with less spent in wages. You can now see, George, that the master class, being able to supply the markets and get their profits with the aid of proportionally fewer employees, cut down their wages bill and create the unemployed. Hardly a day passes without some new invention or process displacing some of the wage-earners. It is not the alien that causes the unemployed, but it is the ownership of the means of production by a class who use every improvement in them against the workers. The more wealth can be produced today, the fewer workers do the ruling class need to employ. The wealthier the country under capitalism the poorer and more miserable are the workers in proportion. Capitalism, by making the workers disinherited and outcast in Society, is the cause of unemployment and pauperism, whilst the despised alien is in reality simply a fellow sufferer and a brother.
GEORGE: But how would your Socialism alter that?
WILL: Socialism would alter it by making the working class the whole nation; by using the working class capture of the political power to turn all the means of production into the collective, democratically controlled, property of the people. Improvements in production, new inventions, or an increase in the number of workers would then, instead of, as now, throwing numbers of the working class out of work to starve, increase the wealth and decrease the toil of all. The workers will have come into their own and be no longer outcasts in the world their labour has created.
GEORGE: I see. A co-operative commonwealth. That certainly is worth working for.
WILL: It is, indeed, the only thing worth striving for. and I hope you’ll join us: always remembering, though, that the foreign worker is really our brother, for our interests are the same, and our enemy is the same. We have not to fight one another, but to aid each other in conquering the common enemy, the capitalist class of all countries. With the ruling class, patriotism is the mask of self-interest: with the working class it is the brand of utter ignorance. Let us be international.
F. C. Watts