Saturday, February 27, 2016


From the July 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

The story is told of Ibn-As-Sammak, a professional tale teller of Bagdad, that he one day asked his slave girl her opinion of one of his discourses. She replied it would have been good but for its repetitions.

"But,” he said, "I use repetitions in order to make those understand who do not."

"Yes,” she commented, "and in making those understand who do not, you weary those who do.”

I wonder if there are many among our readers, who are weary of our repetitions; weary of seeing the same old tale tricked out in different words; of observing month after month the same old call monotonously sounded :—you know the phrase—"we therefore urge the working class to organise as a class, and capture the political machine, etc., etc.” Yes, it's a desperate business, this saying the same thing a hundred ways, a desperate business, only saved from becoming a weariness to the writers, or degenerating into a jargon, by their varying individualities; by each superimposing whatever he may have of wit, or style, or knowledge, upon the original truth. But after all, what would you! What else is there to do! One cannot tell the truth too often. The Capitalist press is never tired of telling the opposite. Purely as a mechanical task this spectacle filled Carlyle with amazement.

"The most unaccountable of all ready writers,” he said, "is the common editor of a daily newspaper. Consider his leading articles; what they treat of; how passably they are done. Straw that has been thrashed a hundred times without wheat—how a man, with merely human faculty, buckles himself nightly with new vigour and interest to this thrashed straw, nightly thrashes it anew, nightly gets up new thunder about it; and so goes on thrashing and thundering for a considerable series of years; this is a fact remaining still to be accounted for in human physiology.”

It is indeed a thing to marvel on, particularly when as Carlyle puts it, it is "straw that has been thrashed a hundred times without wheat.” Critical readers of our modern Capitalist press, must admit there has been little alteration in that respect since Carlyle's day. When one pauses at the end of a week's, or month's reading of daily newspapers, and endeavours to gather some definite mental picture of the period, it is then one appreciates the absence of "wheat.” What screaming posters, what heavy, lurid headlines, what "news,” what easily flowing, sweetly reasonable articles. But no wheat. All straw, friends: not a grain of wheat in a thousand tons. The one thing that matters is never mentioned. The fact that you are a slave class, ruled economically and politically by a small parasitic class, is never hinted at, other than in terms of ridicule. The overwhelming fact that you spend the bulk of your waking hours in the service of a master, in return for a pittance is again scarcely mentioned, unless it be to assure you that your poverty is essential to national prosperity. Why national prosperity should involve penury and hardship to those who produce it, is another fact that will elude the crowded columns of the master's press.

It is here the Socialist press enters the field. It endeavours to show that modern Capitalist society is broad, based upon one central fact—the dominance and enslavement of the many by the few. It says further that this enslavement is conserved and continued by the grip of the few upon the machinery of government. It follows with the inevitable conclusion, that if the mass of people want to end their slavery, they must gain control of the machine which holds them down.

This is the Socialist position. Not all of it, but its essence. The reason we have to repeat it many times, is because the bulk of the working class have never heard it, and of those who have, but few are moved to action.. At the risk of wearying those who do understand, we have to iterate and reiterate the one central truth that matters. Our task would be easier if those who do understand, in all cases squared their actions with their belief, and did the logical thing— joined the Socialist Party. Socialism is essentially a creed of action. Action, and organised intelligent action at that, is vital to its achievement. And yet, there must be thousands of workers, perfectly convinced of the desirability, and of the inevitability of Socialism, who have never lifted a finger to bring it nearer. This is a greater physiological puzzle than that of Carlyle, and for us even more unfortunate; for though his editors’ thrash ever so madly, nothing but straw rewards their efforts, whilst we have a harvest that waits but the labourers. It is these who are weary of our repetitions, but they should reflect, it is they who help to make them necessary. Let them take the first step that renders repetition unnecessary so far as they are concerned. Let them cease to wait for the "other chap” to join, but be guided rather, by logic, and show the “other chap” that you at least are a logical person.

And there is so much one can do. Get your pal interested. Take him along to our meetings; they are all open to the public. Get him to ask questions. Suggest questions to him. To keep him interested, make him order the Socialist Standard regularly Then start on another pal. Do you know, we owe dozens of members and several branches to chance copies of this journal. That should tell you what to do with the extra copies you buy. But above all, and this is a repetition we insist on, if you are convinced of the truth of the Socialist position it is your duty to yourself and your class to join the Socialist Party and help to bring it about.
W. T. Hopley

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