2010s >> 1908 >> no-50-october-1908

In The Ditch

Common Objections To—The Clarion!
Mr. R B. Suthers is a distinguished member of the Clarion staff who gives expression to his avowed desire to propagate Socialism by propagating. anything and everything (nearly) that isn’t Socialism. His style is as faithful a reproduction of Mr. Blatchford’s as he is able to make it, and his speciality is milk and water and the like, which he is fain to see municipalised. In this, he has, although he may not know it, the support of considerable numbers of capitalists, who, being quite aware, as Mr. Suthers is apparently not, that municipalisation and nationalisation of various services will not affect their interests other than beneficially, are probably duly grateful for Mr. Suthers’ work.
Recently, Mr. Suthers, out of his plentiful lack of information, has undertaken to make the crooked path straight for those who cannot see. This is chivalrous, but it hasn’t prevented both the blind man and his Quixotic but equally blind guide finishing up in the ditch. Unfortunately, Mr. Suthers, being rather badly afflicted, isn’t even able to appreciate the fact that he is off the road, and as Mr. Blatchford has all his attentions occupied in keeping touch with the German army which is mobilising somewhere or other in preparation for a descent upon our land (which we haven’t got) with the idea of doing us an injury (which we are suffering from already), there is nobody on the Clarion to acquaint Mr. Suthers of his unhappy position. This is a charitable presupposition of Mr. Blatchford’s ability and readiness to help his henchman out of his hole. As, however, Mr. Blatchford has himself pointed out, rather graciously, that he is miles in front of the rest of us, it is at least doubtful whether he would feel justified in returning, and there are those who allege that even if he did, it is extremely doubtful whether he would be able to assist. The result is that Mr. Suthers goes floundering along with his miserable charge in tow, and is so well satisfied with his efforts that he proposes to publish a full and correct report of them in book form.
At present only one volume has been issued and flounderings in article form are still appearing in the paper of “ the largest circulation of any,” etc., etc. (Mr. Blatchford sees no reason why the Daily Mail and all the other papers with largest circulations should have the brag entirely to themselves). When they are all published in book form somebody will have to come along with another book to show that it’s only a ditch Mr. Suthers has been exploring after all. In other words, Mr. Suthers’ answers to objectors to Socialism and his replies to those in difficulties, will require another answer by one who is not blind, and can see the difference between the plain high road and the dank and dreary ditch—or would require an answer if Mr. Suthers really and materially mattered.
We would turn one of our young bloods on to that book if his time and the Party money were not required for more important work. So while yet the great work is incomplete, we will just notice one of Mr. Suthers’ efforts as it appears in article form, and then drop him unless we want a little light exercise again at some future time. Let us take this one as an example. Generally speaking, the others are full up to sample. Somebody had written to say that the Clarion closed its eyes to the class struggle and Mr. R. B. Suthers spreads himself in reply, thus: — 

   This is comic. The sole reason for the Clarion’s existence is the awakening of the workers to the causes of their evil condition, viz., the private ownership of land and the means of production. Until they realise that these ARE the causes of their slavery there can be no “class’’ struggle. When they do realise the facts, and decide to remove the causes, the “struggle” will be of short duration, and of course it will be conscious.

Mr. Suthers opens well. The first three words are finely introductory to the remainder. Verily, this is comic. The class struggle cannot exist until the workers are conscious of it. (Mr. Suthers “lifted” that without acknowledgement from the comic work of his brother in affliction, Ramsay MacDonald). The man who, upon reaching home, finds that somebody has relieved him of hie purse, hasn’t really been robbed, can’t have been robbed—until he finds out he has been. The robbery did not take place half-an-hour or an hour, or whatever it was, before, but only when the man reached home and found it out. I suppose the man then shut his front door quick in case the pickpocket should get away!
Mr. Suthers has apparently never read his revered chiefs book, entitled, Not Guilty,” or he would know that every human action is the outcome of a conflict, or a struggle of forces, of which the individual is often blissfully unconscious. But perhaps Mr. Suthers does not think much of his chiefs collection of the opinions of others in the book referred to. And presumably he would say that the continual outbreaks of the working class against oppression are not expressions of the conflict of working class and capitalist class interests, because the working class do not recognise them as such.
Does Mr. Suthers admit the existence of conflict between the interests of the two classes referred to? If so, does he deny that the conflict cannot exist without struggle? Can he conceive of a conflict without struggle?—but perhaps he can. Mr. Suthers is like the most high with whom anything is possible. His arguments are like the love of the most high—they pass all understanding. That, of course, is largely due to the fact that Mr. Suthers does not understand. He hasn’t the knowledge. Which would not be nearly so serious a matter if he did not suffer so badly from the complaint of his chief —swelled head. That is fatal to his future usefulness in the working-class movement. With a little serious study he might be of assistance in the work of awakening the working class. But as he starts with the assumption that he has the knowledge he really lacks, there is not much hope for him unless something very special happens. Perhaps while engaged in blundering blindly in that ditch with his enquirer in tow, he will come a sufficiently forceful cropper to cause the enquirer to discover where he is and to lash out in indignation at the discovery. This may in turn arouse Mr. Suthers to the truth of affairs, and help him to a happier position. Or it may result in him throwing up the working-class movement in disgust at its base ingratitude and retiring to the somnolescent quiet of the Fabian Society. In either case the working-class movement stands to benefit.
James Alexander

Leave a Reply