Evolution and State Capitalism
In a society based upon private property—-one in which the people of property have become a minority monopolising the means of life, and running the property State to exploit the people of no property, one rather expects this latter class to see that all political changes made in the property State must be changes to increase and render more efficient and persistent the exploitation of the worker.
But not so to-day decide the working class, the people of no property. Rather they believe that while the other class continues to hold the means of life and control the powers of State, they may yet, by sending to Parliament plausible reformers who have never troubled to sift the laws of Capitalism, cause the capitalists to forget their business, and force them to allow reforms inimical to their own interest and to the advantage of the workers. They overlook the fact that it is the capitalists themselves who initiate the changes in the details of capitalism which are called reforms, and that these working-class reformers are easily bought over, and made to dance to the capitalist tune.
We are told that to believe that no changes of capitalism can improve the economic position of the workers is to fly in the face of evolution, but what on earth is meant by the term?
Since Darwin propounded his theory of the unfolding of plants and animals from a few simple life forms, and of the increase of these by the natural selection and preservation (on the basis of the survival of the fittest in the struggle for subsistence) of favourable variations from the common stem, a theory which became popularly known as “evolution,” we have been confronted with this word in every domain of knowledge—by people who know as much about it as the old lady knew about “that blessed word Mesopotamia.”
Accepting Darwin’s theory that Nature’s way of unfolding is by variations from a few life forms, selected through the struggle of the Ego with its environment, this affords us no clue as to the purpose of Nature in her unfolding, or evidence that there is any purpose.
Yet from the moment the theory was formulated, all the cranks have rushed in to explain Nature’s mystery. The religious and ethical cranks say her purpose is to produce a very high moral and religious humanity. The intellectual cranks of the Bernard Shaw type declare the purpose to be the production, of the “Superman”—out of the bald-headed, near-sighted, toothless monstrosity of civilisation. The reformers of the I.L.P. and S.D.P. say the object of Nature is to evolve unseen (“as a thief in the night”) a society of free men out of capitalism.
However, despite the cranks, capitalism pursues its own line of evolution, a line which is determined by the social basis. That basis is private property in the productive instruments. The evolution is the evolution of capital, and with each stage is more capital, more exploitation and more degradation of the workers.
After this, by what process of reasoning our army of reformers manage to make out that stages of capitalism which bring more unemployment, more insecurity, lower wages and higher priced rations are inevitable stages in the evolution of freedom we are at a loss to discover. They do not dispute the facts. Keir Hardie himself admitted at the Portsmouth Conference of the Labour Party on Jan. 27th, 1909, that “the wages of the working class had declined by £1,300,000 a year since the opening of this century,” whilst “the income of those who paid income tax had increased by 147 million pounds.” How, then, in the face of this fact, does Mr. Hardie manage to conclude that things are improving with the working class, and that his party is making steps toward Socialism? Rather are not the steps which he and his reform party are helping the capitalists to make, steps in the evolution of capitalism? and is not the fact patent that every turn of the capitalist wheel makes harder the condition o£ the workers?
This being the stern truth, let all who realise it as such proclaim it to the workers as the stern
truth. Let them tell the toiling masses that they are face to face with a system which will drive them from bad to worse; tell them that so long as the system is there its laws must operate, and that therefore it is their business to leave the capitalists alone to make what they can of capitalism, while they, the workers, organise themselves to capture political power, overthrow the system, and establish Socialism. Anyhow, the day is not far distant when the workers must discover the facts from their own hard lives, and they will demand from the Hyndmans and the Quelches and the Hardies, the reason they have been played with so long.
Capitalism is nearing the last stage of its evolution. In that stage State Capitalism will in all probability have a large share. We may expect to see industries one by one gathered up into the capitalist State. In this stage greater economies than ever can be effected, much waste eliminated, and the system of exploitation perfected. The railways will be taken over. In the place of many railways run by many competing companies with many staffs of workers, there will be the State railway, run by one efficient staff and worked in every way to yield the greatest amount of profit. The system may well be extended in certain other directions, where competition, overlapping and other forms of waste can be eliminated, and workers consequently displaced, pitched neck and crop into the flooded labour market, to beat wages lower.
Before the workers cast any more votes for this thing which the Independent Labour Party calls Socialism, or a step toward Socialism, and which even Hyndman and the S.D.P. advocate as a step toward Socialism, we invite them to face the facts and do a think.
Capitalism evolves through the stages of small competitive capitals into large, monopolistic capitals. The private firm, the Joint Stock Company, the Combine, the Trust, the Merger: such is the order of its evolution. And we hear on all hands the cry —”Let the State own the Trusts!” This being interpreted without qualification means, “Let the capitalists collectively own the trusts.” But what difference is there between the trusts owned by groups of capitalists and trusts owned by the whole of them? In either case the worker is face to face with one employer, to give offence to whom is to court starvation, since there exists no other employer in that industry. In either case the worker is exploited by the most up-to-date machinery and methods, and bullied and dragooned into subservience by an army of officials within and an army of unemployed without. The difference between the officialdom of the private trust and the bureaucracy of the State-owned industry is nothing to the victims of both. Loudly as the Quelches and Hyndmans may proclaim the “Socialistic” nature of the latter, it is merely a breath which ruffles the upper layers of the social ocean where the social sharks disport themselves, but leaves unchanged and undisturbed the depths where the smaller fish swim or crawl.
In the initial stages of capitalism, before trade unions had evolved, the worker bargained with his master individually, as man to man. He didn’t get much this way. Why? Because his master owned the means of life, while he, the worker, possessed only his labour-power—a commodity which must be sold quickly or it perishes, and with it its possessor.
Later the workers bargained collectively with their masters, through their trade unions. Still they got little, and for just the same reason. In addition they now had leaders, who, knowing their sheep, and being often corrupt, sold them. Anyhow, all the way the masters have waxed fatter while the propertyless have worn thinner. For the latter it has thus far been unceasingly a losing game. What hope have they, then, of faring better by bargaining with State Capitalism, with all its organised forces of law, army and police arrayed against them?
Fellow workers, Capitalism and Socialism are as far as the poles asunder. Evolve it ever so long and through ever so many forms and stages, the former can never evolve into the latter. State capitalism, as other forms of capitalism, has its root in private property ; Socialism must be rooted in common ownership. The change of the property condition from private to common the one essential for the betterment of the workers’