Friday, June 3, 2016

To a New Reader (1938)

From the January 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard

The journal which you are now reading is published each month. For many years it has appeared as surely as night has followed day. Just as surely, each month a copy drifts into the hands of many who have not read it before. This copy has drifted into your hands for the first time, maybe at a street-corner propaganda meeting, from one of the all-too-few newsagents who stock it, or from one of the enthusiastic workers who sell it in the streets and at railway stations. It would be fair to assume that you are an anti-Socialist or non-Socialist; that you bought the “S.S.” because a particular article caught your eye, or because some question dealt with by a speaker interested you. Probably you did not buy it because you wanted to learn about Socialism. You “know” all there is to be known about that, don’t you? And yet, fellow-worker, you are reading a journal you have never seen before, describing itself as the official organ of THE Socialist Party, which claims to be the only party in Great Britain organised for Socialism. Moreover, you will find in these columns the opinion implicitly and openly expressed that the reason for workers not supporting the Socialist Party is because they do not understand Socialism. Your reactions we can imagine. It is the first time you have read the "S.S.,” and, after all, you did think you knew about Socialism. You think us arrogant? And our claim to be the only party organised for Socialism just advertising ballyhoo, as it were. To call attention to our wares. Fellow-worker, our claims are not arrogant; we are not engaged in ballyhoo. Workers organised in this party are THE Socialist Party of Great Britain and the only workers organised for Socialism.

You, fellow-worker, “know” all about Socialism, don’t you?

You “know” that Socialism means “share and share alike,” that is to say, that you should share your belongings with your neighbour. And knowing your neighbour, you decide against Socialism. You “know” that Socialism means some vague mush about “loving your neighbour,” and again looking at your neighbour you feel uninspired. You “know” that Socialism means the destruction of initiative and inventiveness, and being young (or not so old) and ambitious you feel that the present order of things should not be upset. You “know” that Socialism means that woman would occupy a degraded position in the social arrangement. For hasn’t the Morning Rail often turned your stomach in its description of the free love of the Socialists and the nationalisation of women. You ”know” that Socialism has | been tried in different parts of the earth. After I all, the self-styled “Socialists'' have said so.

Quite bluntly, fellow-worker, you know little or nothing about Socialism. In truth, if Socialism did mean the things which these mangled ideas try to express then the working men and women who are organised in the Socialist Party would turn to some other more intelligent pursuit.

Socialism does not mean sharing out either goods or income. Such a conception implies a fixed amount of social wealth, out of which each took an equal share. Socialism means something fundamentally different from that. It means the social ownership of the means for producing wealth. Consider for a moment the factory in which you work. Each worker, out of perhaps many thousands, has his particular job to do. Yet no one worker produces the finished article, which the factory, as a whole, produces. Each worker plays his part, but the product is the result of the indispensable work of all. Production is a co-operative process. As in the factory, so in society generally. The work and life of the community is carried on by the workers as a whole. No one worker or group of workers is independent of the rest. One worker can play his part in steering a ship, but the labour of many thousands is required to build it. The worker who steers the ship could not do so without the builders. Production is social.

Yet outside the productive process is the class who own the means of production. It takes no part in social production and is unnecessary to it. Socialism means the social ownership of the social means of production. This will eliminate the owning class. Quite a simple proposition to conceive, but profound and revolutionary in its implications. Far from Socialism meaning the sharing-out of some imaginary fixed quantity of wealth, social ownership will release the powers of production from the fetters of private ownership. It will bring into productive activity an enormous number of workers now engaged in unproductive labour. Production will expand to correspond to the people's needs. The people will take from the social store as they have need. Initiative and inventiveness will have the chance to thrive, instead, as now, of being dependent on the ability of the worker to sell his abilities to a capitalist. Cut-throat competition for jobs will no longer exist and the mushy sentiment of brotherly love will have an opportunity to acquire real meaning.

So we could go on, stating and answering the common objections to Socialism. But we want to do more than that. We want your interest. Whilst we tell you that you know nothing about Socialism your interest is perhaps not easy to obtain. But be patient. Ask yourself what time you have devoted to a study of the question. Is your conception of Socialism the result of independent thinking, or has it acquired shape from the influence of biased or coloured sources more interested in misrepresenting it? Think that out and be wary. Perhaps you have not had the time to study Socialism. However, you are reading the “S.S.," and we assume that you want knowledge, and want to assist in removing the social evils of capitalism if you knew how. We know that only Socialism will solve these problems. We know that Socialism will come. Make up your mind about that. More, the time will come when there can be no ordered intelligent living, no progress, no harmony in social relations; national or international, without Socialism. The lessons of the Socialist message will be learned through the experience of bitter struggle. That struggle can be eased and shortened by the spread of Socialist understanding. That is our responsibility. Yours is surely to examine our case. And that is what we ask you to do.

In the course of years we have answered all known objections to Socialism in the “S.S." We can let you have back numbers if you wish. Read the “S.S." for the next twelve months and you will be much nearer an understanding of our position than you are to-day. One issue may modify some popular misconception in your mind, but it would be insufficient to convince you of the soundness of our case. One prejudice we are certain will disappear—that working men and women cannot understand the meaning of the apparently complicated events around. They can. You can. We have. And we lay no claim to more than average brains. But we have devoted many years to the study of Socialism. We know something about it. You know little. Quite naturally; we should be in a similar position regarding a subject to which you had devoted long study. We are not of superior intelligence. We do claim, however, that we have found ourselves on the road to Socialism (perhaps, in the first place by accident) and that you would be with us with a little guidance. We are workers drawn from representative occupations, miners, mechanics, carpenters, busmen, clerical workers, artists, house-wives, and so forth. We have a case—the case for the social ownership of the means and instruments of production. Study our case and we are certain that you will soon be in the fight for Socialism.
Harry Waite

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