Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Circumstances alter cases (1915)

Editorial from the July 1915 issue of the Socialist Standard

Probably no newspaper carried on a more vigorous campaign against the Red Peril, a year ago, than the “Daily Express.” That the “Socialism” it attacked was, in the main, State Capitalism, is a fact which only adds piquancy to its present attitude.

Before dealing with that interesting phenomenon, however, it is necessary to point out once more that the difference between "State Socialism” and Socialism, is the difference between slavery and freedom for the workers. In the former, the elements of the new society are present, but until the workers own and control, all the benefit goes to the capitalists; overwork and poverty is the workers’ only share. Until the proletariat have fought the class war to a successful conclusion, they are still the hirelings or wage slaves of a class of parasites. That is why the class straggle is the great Socialist principle, and that is what distinguishes us from the pseudo Socialists. Thus the development of large-scale industry, whether in trust or State, is but the economic basis of Socialism. It is the means which the working class triumphant must seize and utilise for the commonweal.

The “Express," however, used to call any form of State enterprise Socialism, and it is ludicrous to find that journal advocating the very thing that it formerly branded as the end of all things.

But let it speak for itself. In dealing with the war it said on June 19th:
“All that is required is an extension of the system which was applied to the railways as soon as war broke out. The railways were immediately taken over by the State. So smoothly do things run that we probably do not realise that to day every railway employee is a State employee paid by the State, and that every passenger travels as a passenger of the State, and pays his fare to the State. . . . The same principle must be applied to every other war industry with the smallest amount of delay for the period of the war. The larger industries, such as coal and shipping and the manufacture of general munitions, and the supply of the nation’s food, must be taken over at once The smaller industries must be absorbed by the State as occasion demands— for the term of the war.”
Yet the "Express” used to say that what it now advocates was utterly impracticable, and the deadliest foe to efficiency ! It was said to be an impossibility for a government to take over and organise such vast and complex industries, yet no sooner does it become necessary to the interests of the master class than the thing is done, in the two vital industries, in the twinkling of an eye, while the “Express” barks for more. From an impracticable, hare-brained scheme it becomes an extremely practical necessity. From being a grave danger because it would inevitably foster inefficiency and cause waste, it becomes the sovereign way to increase efficiency and eliminate waste. Formerly, the absence of the vivifying breath of competition was said to mean industrial death; now competition is abolished in the vital industries because co-operation alone is life. Formerly the very basis of the British Empire was individual initiative and private enterprise; now the Empire is in danger because of the chaotic inefficiency of individual initiative and the utter failure of private enterprise—and to save the Empire these very things must be abolished in the most essential industries. Truly the right about face of the capitalist Press is remarkable, even for them. But wait! perhaps they have not yet done turning.

We used also to be told that Socialism menaced the liberty of the individual and meant the regimentation, the ticketing, the registration and State surveillance of the people. Bat even so, the objector was worrying himself unnecessarily, for it is certain that this “liberty,” so far as the mass of the people are concerned, has been interned or repatriated ages ago; while with regard to the awful charge of wishing to label, control, and register men and women, well, the free born Briton has, for the past few rears, been undergoing a Prussianisation that bids fair to leave its prototype far in the rear.

The workers were classified, ticketed, and docked, suffering pains in the pocket, in that great ninepence for fourpence swindle. Then the Defence of the Realm Act hit them below the belt. Next comes the Munitions Bill to give them a farther dig in the ribs, while close on its heels follows the National Register, with its questions, its penalties, and its precious certificate that is to certify our servitude.

It would be truly carious to find out what arguments the capitalists have left even against the bogey they label as Socialism. When their interests demand it they throw their arguments to the winds and lay bare the lying hypocrisy of their assertions. Circumstances, they urge, alter cases. Undoubtedly. And in this case the circumstances have shown that the helpless inefficiency and wasteful dishonesty of their boasted private enterprise is very much worse even than their capitalist State enterprise.

And where are those damnable frauds who professed to be opposed to Socialism because it menaced the liberty which was supposed to exist in this country, and which was dearer to these frauds than life itself? We have listened in vain for the protests against the Register, etc., by the Liberty and Property Defence League or any similar body. Those doughty champions of individual liberty in the Anti-Socialist Union who never tired of assailing us on the false ground that we advocate what the Government is now doing, are now silent and acquiescent.

The sad truth is that under cover of national necessity the chains of servitude are being fastened more firmly upon the limbs of the worker. Nevertheless there is no room for pessimism. Economic development proceeds apace. The ruling class, in the pursuit of its interests, refutes its own arguments, eats its own words, and, in very truth, helps dig its own grave. Socialism is ever more clearly demonstrated to be both possible and necessary. Every fresh phase of capitalism throws into relief the antagonism of classes, and indicates the need for the working class to become masters of the State, and use its supreme economic power for the liberation of human kind from wage slavery. And the day of that liberation may come sooner than we now dare to think.

No comments: