Monday, January 16, 2017

The Wealthy Socialist (1921)

From the November 1921 issue of the Socialist Standard

The general attitude of the worker towards those possessing wealth is amusingly paradoxical. It is the heritage of serfdom, together with his present servile existence, that engenders the attitude of respect he will always adopt. Yet let him learn of a member of the bourgeoisie who has taken up a stand on behalf of the workers and displayed a knowledge of working-class conditions, and he will regard him sceptically, as who should say: “He’s got money; how can he know anything of us who haven’t? ” Although that very same worker, and this is where the paradox comes in, refuses to think any other way than with the bourgeoisie. He reads and quotes the propaganda they disseminate in their press. He prefers to vote for a candidate who is of the master class, because he feels that such a candidate, being educated and well endowed with the world’s goods, must be, necessarily, better able to represent him in Parliament. It is still quite common to regard M.P.'s in the same category as "toffs,” and a little high-sounding rhetoric and an Oxford accent is a good deal more than half the battle at election time.

A grand example of the falsity of such a position is brought home to us when we consider the life and work of Frederick Engels. Engels was bourgeois by birth and environment, and died worth a considerable amount of money, yet no man, perhaps not even Marx himself, understood the proletarian psychology better. He was the son of an affluent Manchester merchant who needn’t have bothered a bit about the working-class had he chose. But the very fact that his studies and investigations had discovered to him the workings of the social system, forced him, being honest, to write the monumental works so invaluable to the student of Socialism, in spite of his wealth.

This must not be confused with the Fabian argument that the emancipation of the Working Class can only be accomplished by the ” intelligentsia ” of the middle class. The emancipation of the working class must be the work of that class itself. All that is necessary is that it shall become class-conscious and organise to capture the political machinery at present in the hands of the capitalist class. The slum workers and social reformers of the middle class do not understand the economic forces which dominate Society. If they did, they would not waste time in patching up a system which is rotten right at the roots.

It is not necessary to go down a mine, to understand that miners are exploited, nor is it impossible for. a millionaire to know that his millions come from the blood and sweat of a robbed proletariat. There is. nothing, save, of course, a misunderstanding of the. Socialist philosophy, to prevent any member of Society, of whatever social standing, proclaiming himself a Socialist and joining the Socialist Party to work for the emancipation of Society itself; The working class must take the trouble to think for themselves, not waste time wondering whether a man with unsoiled hands really can know anything about factory hells and slums, analyse their position, form their own conclusions, and act upon them, then the day of capitalism will close upon the horrors and terrors it has given birth to, and the morrow will, dawn brighter and happier for the whole human family.

1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

Forty plus years later David Ramsay Steele signed his articles 'S' for the Socialist Standard. This was a different 'S'.