Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Need For Action (1914)

From the June 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are quite a number of people claiming to agree with the principles of Socialism who imagine that all that is necessary for the cause is to understand something of the subject, to get some idea of the future state of society, and then patiently wait for the day of emancipation to arrive.

Some are of the opinion that it is quite unnecessary to preach Socialism, believing that the purely economic conditions alone will suffice to convert the working class to our doctrines. They arrive at this erroneous conclusion from the fact that the material conditions ultimately determine the ideas prevalent in society.

But economic conditions produced the electric railway and had each individual been left to discover that by stepping on to the “live" rail be would have been electrocuted the acquisition of his knowledge would undoubtedly have proved most disastrous to him. We therefore propagate the knowledge we have already acquired and so warn people of the dangers of electricity.

The present writer recently heard one who claims to be a Socialist lecturing under the auspices of the Secular Society, of whose principles be is a prominent platform exponent. He drew attention to the fact, that an enormous amount of time and energy was being wasted in the discussion of religion, and claimed that if only people would discontinue these religious controversies they would have all that time to devote to other things. He referred to what he termed an "old chestnut” that was often put to him by Socialists: Why did he waste his time and energy lecturing for the Secular Society?- for even if the working class got the god idea out of their beads, and rejected religion as worthless, they would still have the masterclass to contend with, and the social evils confronting them; and they claimed he should devote his time to the propaganda of Socialism.

With those he did not agree and claimed to be doing good work for humanity by trying to eliminate the god idea from the minds of the people, thus preventing them from wasting their time in religious controversies, and leaving them time and energy for social improvements.

That the people who are now devoting so much time and energy in discussing these trivial religious questions are wasting their time is quite true. But simply showing people that they are on the wrong road does not necessarily put them on the right one. If there were only two roads from which to choose, then the position would not be difficult. But, unfortunately, there are many paths that may be taken, yet only one that leads in the right direction; and the chances are very remote that our mental traveller will immediately alight on the right road, while dozens of political cul de sacs may be traversed and examined before our seeker after social salvation is fully convinced that the only way is in the path of Socialism. How many become weary in their search, and abandon the task in despair!

It behoves us, then, and all those who understand Socialism, to point the way and do our utmost to guide the seeker after true freedom along the path which we know to he right, for surely there is no better way of proving to people that they are wasting their time and energy plodding the wrong road than by convincing them that another is the only way.

Let us all, then, try and do SOMETHING, no matter how small that something may be, to enlighten our fellow workers. Everyone who understands Socialism can do something. If unable to address a meeting, take the chair, write an article for the official organ or publicly sell literature at propaganda meetings, then other means are open to him. He may know of some friend who has never read a copy of the Socialist Standard; let him, then, hand him a copy and extract from him a promise to read it; or he could leave a copy where it would be likely to be read. He may be in a position to assist financially, to quietly or openly distribute leaflets or handbills, or to advertise the useful pamphlets when opportunity affords.

There is not a single Socialist but could do something to assist in making another convert; and if this view was generally adopted and practised, then the membership of the organisation would be speedily doubled.

Let us try.
H. A. Young

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