From the March 1949 issue of the Socialist Standard
The social atmosphere has recently been disturbed by what is described as an increase in crime. More police are called for to deal with the unsocial elements, and as the self-appointed agents of the Deity consider crime and sin as synonymous these have been particularly vociferous lately in their denunciations of our erring brethren. It is well known to the Gendarmes of God that all working class children are born with a double dose of original sin, and these pious individuals embrace every opportunity to immunise them. It goes for granted that the wage slave is naturally wicked and prone to crime but if we are to accept press reports as correct there are even some of those who make a practice of attending holy communion who fall by the wayside.
It matters not, therefore, how many times you are inoculated with spiritual vaccine you stand every chance of turning out as wicked as the rest of us.
The Archbishop of York wants a State campaign through the Press, wireless, cinema and posters against the causes of crime. He says there is confusion over moral standards. (See Daily Telegraph, January 31st):
“If public campaigns for road safety, saving, and greater production are successful, why not a campaign for honesty and truthfulness? Greater honesty would save the nation many millions of pounds, and would dry up the sources of the black market.”
The Church has its uses you see, but the conditions under which man lives and works teach him more than his pastors would have him believe. Capitalism is undermining the ghostly influence of religion even without the aid of Socialism. The wage slave is taught science and from what he acquires on the job he gradually realises when, where and how he is exploited. And when the mystery of capitalist production is laid bare the knowledge of reality causes the worker to perceive that the holy trinity is rent, interest, and profit. This is the Deity of the ruling class and the realization of this removes all religious illusions from the wage slaves’ minds.
The law is supposed to deal with the social offender hut in a society where there are classes “oft ’tis seen, the wicked prize itself buys out, the law.”
Sometimes the attempts made by the smart to buy illegally what may bring extra profit become exposed and the class conscious are entertained by the display of “moral integrity” prevalent in some ruling class circles.
The People of January 30th, 1949, published a statement by Sidney Stanley which sheds a lurid light on the morality of the capitalist world.
“Now, I’m no angel. I’ve never professed to he one. There’s no room for angels, anyway, in the sort of world of big business that has been my background for the last thirty years. And if anyone tells you different you can forget it.
“Because I know. I came up the hard way. I’m just another East End kid—and I’m proud of that title—who made the grade, from a four- shillings-a-week room in an East End back street to an £800-a-year flat in Park Lane.
“And I learned all I know in a game where if you don’t outsmart the next guy, then he’ll outsmart you.
“It’s all very well to talk glibly about straightforward, honest business. That’s okay—up to a point. But when you really get down to brass tacks it’s another story.
“No one—you can take it from me—is in business for the benefit of his health. It’s a hard, tough game where dog eats dog and you don’t want to be the dog that provides the meal!”
His statement, however, deserves comment. When the worker is called upon by big business in the next war Stanley’s remarks should he kept in mind. We can’t predict what the next slogan will be. The defence of democracy is played out, the defence of “our way of life” may fall flat; it will he hard indeed for the Labour Party to find an appealing battle cry: in spite of nationalisation we own nothing: we have little to live for, and nothing whatever to die for. Some men are more fortunate than Stanley, they win a title, and die in the odour of sanctity without committing the unpardonable crime of being found out. Engels says (p.128 “Landmarks of Scientific Socialism”):
“From the very moment when private property in movables developed there had to be ethical sanctions of general effect in all communities in which private properly prevailed, thus: Thou shalt not steal. Is this commandment, then, an eternal commandment? By no means. In a society in which the motive for theft did not exist stealing would only be a practice of the weak-minded, and the preacher of morals who proclaimed ‘Thou shalt not steal’ as an eternal commandment would only he laughed at for his pains.”
“We here call attention to the attempt to force a sort of moral dogmatism upon us as an eternal, final, immutable moral law, upon the pretext that the moral law is possessed of fixed principles which transcend history, avid the variations of individual peoples. We state, on the contrary, that up to the present time all ethical theory is in the last instance a testimony to the existence of certain economic conditions prevailing in any community at any particular time. And in proportion as society developed class antagonisms, morality became a class morality, and either justified the interests and domination of the ruling class, or as soon as a subject class became strong enough, justified revolt against the domination of the ruling class and the interests of the subject class. That, by this means, there is an advance made in morals as a whole, just as there is in all other branches of human knowledge, there can be no doubt. But we have not yet advanced beyond class morals. Real human morality superior to class morality and its traditions will not be possible until a stage in human history has been reached in which class antagonisms have not only been overcome but have been forgotten as regards the conduct of life.”
The crime wave is the problem of the ruling class: let them deal with it. If the Church wishes to admonish let its message be delivered to those responsible for the past two wars and the misery that has followed them.
There is one thing that arouses the indignation of the wage slave, and that is the smug complacency of the “holier than thou” outfit. At ten minutes to eight a.m. in ten thousand working class homes when the voice of the professor of piety comes over the radio, “Lift up your hearts,” there is one universal cry :
“Turn that b—dy thing off.”