Monday, February 6, 2017

The World and the Vegans (1951)

From the May 1951 issue of the Socialist Standard

On the 1st of March in the Daily Mirror, appeared an article on the Vegan Society, a body of people described by the writer, Eric Wainwright, as a “red-hot splinter group” which spun away from the vegetarian movement in 1944. According to the article the main object of the Vegan Society is to live without exploitation, and a number of instances are given where this 600 strong group go without or find substitutes for some of life's necessities, on the ground that to be produced, somebody, human or animal, has had to be exploited. Eggs, milk, silk, wool, coal, rubber and leathers are some of the things deemed wrong to use by Vegans because in their production someone is being exploited. The thing which struck us as rather stranger was the fact that nowhere in the article do they tell us what exploitation is, or how it takes place.

Of course to take the argument literally would be impossible, because to avoid exploitation they could not stop at eggs, coal, rubber, etc., they would have to give up living in houses or wearing any clothes, stop sending or receiving letters, walking on roads or anything else produced by social labour. Even the plastic substitute for leather, although it may stop the slaughter of animals, would not stop the workers from being exploited in the production process. It must then be understood that these well-meaning people cannot stop exploitation just by seeing it as something undesirable in life and seeking to isolate themselves from it. Surely exploitation, in common with all other social problems such as poverty, hunger and war, can only be abolished when their cause is understood. It is of little use to tinker with effects whilst the cause remains untouched and unchanged due to the fact that those who tinker with the effects are ignorant of the cause. When, and only when, a majority of the world's workers understand that ownership by the world capitalist class of the means and instruments of producing and distributing wealth, means perpetual poverty, shortages and wars for those who have to humble themselves for wages, will they be able to replace class ownership with common ownership, produce goods for use instead of profit and see that people receive in accordance with their needs instead of the limited confines of their wages packets.

To turn our eyes away from a problem is no solution, for the problem still remains. A leader of the Vegan Society is quoted as saying they are “a group of persons who have come together in response to. an intuitive stimulus which has not yet crystallised into words." Well, when it does, we hope they will let us know because we socialists have the answer to man’s major social problems. Exploitation takes place whilst workers throughout the world are earning wages for themselves to exist on, and profits for their masters to live on, and unless they see that their interests can only be served by unity on a basis of understanding they cannot put the solution Socialism into practice.
Harry Baldwin 

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