Saturday, February 1, 2014

Let's Get Political

Editorial from the February 2014 issue of the Socialist Standard

We all need to get more political. Not in the sense of supporting one of the major parties (definitely not, in fact), but the sooner people realise that it’s useless complaining about price increases, unfair spending on this and that, and job losses, and get to the heart of the problem – class-divided, money-based society with a small, powerful, increasingly rich elite ruling the roost, supported by governments – the sooner we’ll get to a real solution.

If you're not one of the rich ruling elite, who, supported by the state, collectively own and control the vast majority of the world's wealth, then economically and politically you're in the same class and you have a common interest regardless of all the other financial and sociological differences, and regardless of where in the world you live. What wealth you have in reality is small fry compared with the elite.

It doesn't matter whether you're a doctor, a nurse, an IT specialist or a cleaner, or whether you live in Burnley or Burma. Unless, of course, you also own, say,  a factory or two and employ a couple of thousand workers to carry on producing your wealth. Rather than dwell on how much better off the family down the road or in the next street is, we should be giving thought to abolishing class-based society altogether because, by and large, it only serves the interest of the ruling elite. They, not asylum seekers or people claiming benefits down the road, are the real scroungers of this world and will continue to shaft us as long as we let them.

If you are looking for scroungers , you should direct your spleen at the really rich – the top five percent or so of the world's population who own far, far more than the rest of us ever could, and through their ownership and control of the world’s major resources severely restrict what the rest of us can and can't do. What the likes of the working class and the so-called middle class spend on their hobbies and interests is by comparison a drop in the ocean.

We are only shoved around because we let ourselves be. When it deems it necessary, the state promotes violence through its armies to achieve its ends, and tries to persuade people that it’s the natural thing to do. So it's hardly surprising that people get conditioned into thinking that the existence of armed forces  is both necessary and natural and pass this attitude on to their children.

Wars and preparations for war are to be condemned, but we should think a bit further and look to address the basic cause of violent society instead – minority, class-based ownership of the world's major resources, to the exclusion of the majority, and backed by the state with force. This inevitably leads to armed conflict between competing powers. Such conflicts are never in the interest of the peaceable majority, who should not let themselves get hoodwinked.

We should not waste time complaining about the symptoms of capitalism; rather, we should work to get rid of it, along with money itself, and replace it with worldwide common ownership of resources.

Intolerance (1919)

From the July 1919 issue of the Socialist Standard

The charge is often levelled against Socialists that they are "intolerant." It is said that they are not prepared to find excuses for anybody or anything and that they are bigoted to the exclusion even of justice. If it is meant that Socialists are not tolerant of society the label is justified; but our detractors do not mean that alone.

They go on to say that we let our distaste for society manifest itself in every personal action. That, perhaps, is again true up to a certain point. A Socialist should not allow any occurence to pass without applying to it his Socialist reasoning. Thus it follows that a Socialist must place a different construction from the ordinary man on the majority of things that occur in the daily life of the world. To take one instance, a man might object to a strike in any particular industry because it affects his personal comfort. He knows nothing of the economic war, of the laws which govern capitalist society and produce strikes and "industrial unrest." But the Socialist, though his personal comfort may also be affected adversely, is forced by reason of his knowledge of the forces that work in society, to take up a different attitude. Therefore, since at present the great majority of mankind is not Socialist, it follows that the views of a Socialist must be unpopular views. And since there is precious little that happens to-day that a class-conscious worker could condone or approve of, he earns from his fellows the epithet "intolerant."

When a jingo fanatic on the eve of war assassinated Jaures and was placed on trial he was acquitted, but when a young Anarchist shot at—and failed to kill—Clemenceau, whom he considered the enemy of the working class, he was sentenced to death. Surely this could be called intolerance? Again, all the obstacles that the capitalist class place in the way of the advancement of the proletariat towards their emancipation, all the slime and mud that they cast at advanced thinkers, all the ridicule that they attempt to heap on Socialist thought, indicate that they are intolerant also. It therefore appears that the Socialist and the capitalist are intolerant of one another. This leaves only the worker who is not class-conscious, tolerant. And what does his tolerance do for him?

It makes him accept his slavery, degradation and insecurity of livelihood almost without a murmur. It reconciles him to slums, bad food, and a monotonous life relieved by no real pleasure, and burdened with sorrow. It blinds him to his sordid environment and makes him deaf to his children's cries. It keeps him docile and makes him willing to produce wealth that his masters shall enjoy, stultifies his imagination of what life should be like, and stifles his desire to improve his condition.

Thus it is only intolerance that will serve the turn of the working class. Not only the intolerance that disgruntles, but the intolerance that makes one long to be up and doing something to make things tolerable.

Until the working class decide upon intolerance, therefore, they will not better their slave condition. When they do achieve intolerance they will not be far from achieving as well their emancipation.
Stanley H. Steele