That Evergreen Travesty
The ‘‘Daily News and Leader” in a recent leading article asks:
“What would be gained by ‘mobilising’ labour as it is called—that is, putting it under military law—if the organising faculty at the top is not present? We should have destroyed the best asset of this country, the free, willing service of the people, in order to set up the machine of Prussianism without its driving power. The corollary of military law for the worker would be the abolition of capitalism in the workshop, for it would be manifestly impossible to hare forced labour to earn private dividends. Are our compulsionists prepared for such a vast experiment in Socialism?”
The portion of the above which has been italicised should be carefully noted. It is one of the commonest and most absurd of all the errors that are purposely advertised by the agents of the capitalist class that Socialism means the State ownership and government control of any or all of the means of wealth production. Those who advocate the State ownership of mines or railways or any other industry are dubbed Socialists and accept the name.
Mr. Lloyd George was evidently — or seemingly, at all events— under the impression that this was the meaning of Socialism when he said in one of his munition slanders:
“They have great trade unions in France ; as the matter of fact they have a Socialist Government, and the gentleman who is organising the munitions supply in France is a young Socialist.”
The Bishop of Oxford writing to his sheep said:
“It is strange to find ‘The Times and the ‘Spectator‘ advocating Socialism—for the period of the war— that is, that the State should take over the industries which go to supply munitions, and that all alike — employers and employed, should henceforth be employed by the State till the war is over.”
The Straw Men.
When the true definition of Socialism, which is the Object of the Socialist Forty of Great Britain (the establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community) is quoted to any of these “State Socialists” they have two replies. First that it is impossible, which, of course, only means that it would not suit them, because it involves the abolition of capitalism the world over, and not merely the substitution of State for private control in the workshop; and secondly— the reply which is met with more frequently— that there are recognised authorities on the subject who say otherwise. But recognised by whom?
Fortunately, Socialism does not depend upon the utterances of any individual or number of individuals, however illustrious or prominent they may be. No man can be an authority on Socialism unless his statements are backed by evidence and his deductions and opinions will stand the test of common sense. It is mere bombast for men like Mr. George Bernard Shaw to construct elaborate theories, laying stress and emphasis upon them and dressing them up to look like essentials, when an intelligent examination shows them to tie unimportant and unsound—as he does with his theory of rent, which has no bearing whatever on the problems that face the working class— or as he does with his theory that the exchange-value of a commodity is fixed by supply and demand, an error that was exposed by Marx before Shaw espoused it. (The latter, apparently, is still unacquainted with Marx’s suggestive and searching question, “What fixes the price when supply and demand are equal? “)
There are many writers of this type whose works receive friendly notice in the columns of the capitalist Press. The leader-writer and the politician accept them as standard works, refer to them and quote them as authorities on Socialism. But that does not make them such. On the contrary, the very fact that a so-called Socialist work has been received by the capitalist Press even in a spirit of friendly criticism should be sufficient to awaken the suspicion of those workers to whose notice it is brought.
They Deny the Class Struggle.
The main characteristic of all such works is that they deny the existence of the class war — possibly because the mass of the workers have not yet consciously engaged in the struggle. But they never attempt to disprove the fundamental antagonism that exists, nor can they deny that the capitalist class consciously enlist all the available forces, knowledge, and ability at their command in a continuous effort to keep the workers a slave class.
The fight put up by the workers is limited because of their lack of knowledge. Trade union organisation, strikes, demonstrations, and enrolment in pseudo-Socialist parties, together with a growing antagonism and suspicion against the ruling class constitute the sum total of their activities, but limited as these activities are they testify to the deep-seated causes that are bound to produce, and increasingly develop, hostility.
The growing suspicion of large sections of the workers is, perhaps, the most significant of all the factors, and is recognised as such by members of the Government. Mr. Lloyd George, in particular, had to admit, with sorrow, that the munition workers would have nothing to do with Government guarantees, preferring to hold fast to the trifling privileges they have gained by a policy of ca’canny, though they risked being charged with want of patriotism.
A Very Genteel Illustration.
Working-class resistance takes these particular forms because the nature of the struggle is not yet understood by the workers. To deny the existence of the class struggle because one side fights with full knowledge and up-to-date methods and the other side merely kicks and yells is paralleled by saying that there is no antagonism between the tramp and the insects that feed on him. because he is too tired to actively combat them, or is unable to afford the luxury of a bath with the necessary disinfectants.
When Mr. J. Ramsay Macdonald jeers at the ‘‘class war dogma,” and Mr. G. B. Shaw denies the class war’s existence, they range themselves on the side of the master class, whose wish that there should be no class war is father to the thought that there is none. Every labour hack inside and outside the House of Commons respects that wish and proclaims that the interests of the only two classes in society are, in the main, identical. For that reason they are pro-capitalist. because the emancipation of the working class depends upon their recognition of the antagonism of classes and the fact that they are enslaved for enslavement is in itself a calculated. pronounced, and continuous act of hostility. Consequently, Socialism can only be established as a result of the antagonism of classes and the successful prosecution of the class war by an enlightened working class.
For all the confusion that exists as to the cause of poverty and the meaning of Socialism we have to thank those who pose as the friends of the workers, and in many cases describe themselves as Socialists. These wolves in sheep’s clothing propound their heresies and absurdities in sentimental and plausible language, to be taken up by the ignoramus and the trickster and scattered over the pages the workers read ; hence their confusion and ignorance.
Blatchford’s Bally Balderdash.
It is the business of capitalism to produce commodities for the world’s market. It is a characteristic of the system that scarcely any of these commodities are what they seem or what they are guaranteed to be. How, then, can we accept the capitalist’s statement that periodicals like the “Clarion” and the “Labour Leader,” for instance, are Socialistic? Periodicals such as these are the organs of confusion produced by professional confusionists. countenanced, and often assisted by, the master class.
The latest issue of the “Clarion
” which is no exception to every number that has preceded it, by the way—contains a rehash of the old lies that have done service for the capitalist class for so long. “If the Government were to take over the mines that would be an act of pure Socialism,” says Robert Blatchford
, and again, “Socialism means the collective ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange.”
Whether Blatchford and the rest of his kidney publish those errors through ignorance or as acts of enmity against the working class I, not being conversant with their “inner consciousness,” am unable to say, nor have I time to waste in so vain a speculation. They are errors, and Socialists can only denounce the authors of them, pointing out at the same time to the workers where they are false, and inviting them to use their intelligence that they may speedily understand Socialism for themselves— when the confusionist will disappear because there will be no market for his adulterated, distorted, and injurious commodity.