Monday, March 6, 2017

Are politics worth while? (1918)

From the May 1918 issue of the Socialist Standard

Are politics worth while? One would think that such were a crazy question to ask at this time of day. Yet probably the vast majority of the working class even to-day hold politics in the most profound contempt.

The folly of this attitude it revealed as soon as we consider what the functions and purpose of politics are.

Politics, we are told, are "the science of government; political affairs, or the contest of parties for power." The workers' interest in politics as the science of government is the governed. For they are the governed. They have no lot or portico in government. not withstanding appearances. What, then, is the purpose of government?

There are two classes in modern society. one of which—the working class—produces all the wealth, tbs other of which—the master class— appropriates all the wealth. A social arrangement in which one section of society is robbed by another section of society must necessarily always be productive of social friction. The class which are robbed, however ignorant they may he of the fact of the robbery, must hare a tendency to resist that spoliation. Even if in their view there was nothing but the sale and purchase of labour-power, still must they resist the spoliation in the form of a limitless and ceaseless struggle for a higher price for their labour-power.

Obviously. the extent to which this struggle for higher wages succeeds must be determined by the force which is opposed to it. In the total absence of opposition it must proceed until there is nothing left of the workers’ product after their wage-claim has been met, and the next step must he. consequent upon the breakdown of the sale and purchase of labour-power, the utter expropriation of the possessing class.

In order to prevent things taking this course, in order to maintain their position as an exploiting class on the one band, and render their exploitation as complete as possible on the other, a controlling force is necessary. This controlling force is a complex thing, being nothing less than the whole instrument of the State. The forces of coercion, civil and military: the judiciary and its minions; the local authorities: these and many others are the components of the instrument of suppression which we call the State.

This machinery of the State, by means of which the social system is maintained upon a basis which presupposes a class living by the sale of their labour-power—a class of wageworkers—is controlled politically. Its control is the object of politics in the sense of "contests between parties for power" —the political struggle. Are politics, then, worth while?

Politics, it is seen, lie at the root of all social power. Through politics the workers are kept subject and robbed. Through politics the masters assure that all the benefits which accrue from human progress— every advance in science, every improvement in the means and methods of wealth production—go to them. Through politics they are able to throw the workers into the streets to starve when their labour has filled the warehouses with goods which they are not permitted to consume, and glutted the markets with wealth which chokes its producers. Through politics the tyrants of the universe are able to drag the workers from their homes to die in countless thousands in the trenches of the battlefield. Through politics they are able to fill the land—all lands—with widows and orphans, and with mothers mourning sons who will never return.

All these things politics mean and more. More on the side of the masters, and more, infinitely more on the side of the workers. For politics are the means which will give them control over the armed forces’. over the police and the judiciary, over every stone and timber of the structure of the State, and through these over the instruments of labour, the means of production. Through politics it shall yet be secured that the mills grind for human feeding and the shuttles fly for human comfort. Politics ARE worth while.
A. E. Jacomb

No comments: