Editorial from the March 1908 issue of the Socialist Standard
Some of our avowed opponents seem to have a clearer grasp of the situation than many calling themselves Socialists. Thus, whilst numbers of the latter, up and down the country, advocate the nationalisation of this and the municipalisation of that as “stepping stones to Socialism," the Daily News insists that, so far at any rate as railways are concerned, the opposite is the case. Commenting in its issue of February 12th upon the debate of the previous day in the House of Commons, it pointed out that the ruling classes of Prussia (where the railways are State property) know very well that partial nationalisation in no sense makes for Socialism, but on the contrary, when all the rest of industry remains upon the individualist plane it strengthens the existing system of Society by making it more prosperous, the balance of benefit going, in all probability, to the capitalist owners of the mines and the factories. There is, in short, it added, no large issue of principle at stake. The proposal is simply one for the more intelligent organisation of the existing system of production and distribution. A day later the Daily Chronicle wrote in a similar strain.
The view thus expressed not only represents the opinion of the Cadburys but of other equally farsighted capitalists who advocate improvements and modifications of existing methods because they recognise that their particular interests will be served by such alterations. They do not, of course, desire to interfere with the basis of capitalist industry, but to secure the removal of obstacles which prevent the full development of their businesses, obstacles placed in their way by other sections of their class. That they should be assisted in their efforts to strengthen the existing system of Society by well-meaning but short-sighted persons who claim to be out for the abolition of the very system of Society they are strengthening, in a very large measure accounts for the slow progress of the revolutionary movement.
Socialism or Palliated Capitalism?
Great has been the abuse levelled against The Socialist Party of Great Britain because of the fact that from its inception it has steadfastly set itself against the advocacy of palliatives or improvements that "strengthen the existing system of Society." No other party in this country occupies a similar position, and many who were once opposed to it on this particular point have been converted to its views. To those who still persist in such advocacy let us ask: "What are you out for?" Some will probably reply: "We are out for Socialism, but we know the working class cannot understand and struggle for Socialism until they are better fed and better housed than at present." And so they concentrate on feeding, housing, etc. If there were evidence to show that all well-fed and well-housed workers were in the forefront of the revolutionary struggle, one could understand their attitude. But there is none. Does it follow that those who throw off the shackles of religion, or who secure a “clear head” by giving up alcoholic liquors become Socialists? No, in very many cases they are pronounced anti-Socialists. And is the study of Socialism taken up and revolutionary change advocated by the well-fed domestics and flunkeys or by those whose efficiency as wage-slaves is studied by such “model" employers as the Cadburys, Levers, and the like? There is no more justification in arguing that the working class must be well fed, well clothed and decently housed before they can understand and organise for Socialism than there is for the opposite attitude that it is necessary to starve and grind them down before any real consciousness of their position and determination to alter it will possess them.