From the April 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard
Many years ago, many thousands of years ago, when a man was hungry he took what he required and nobody interfered. Travellers' records are full of strange accounts of the native who, when on a long journey, walks into any hut met on the way, takes his fill from the pot on the fire, and takes himself off without anyone (except the civilised traveller) questioning his right to do so.
To-day, in any civilised country, if a hungry man takes what he requires (takes and holds!) he will be thrown into prison for taking what does not belong to him.
What a long and tortuous period of development lies between these two social stages! And yet how simple and natural and reasonable it appears to take and eat when one is hungry.
Why does the wielder of the baton stand between the hungry man and the food he requires? Because the hungry man would take what is not his to take—ah! there’s the rub!
The problem that would puzzle a savage is—Why does food, one of man’s principal requirements, become somebody’s property; or why do things in general belong to particular sets of people, as, for example, ease and luxury to the masters, work and poverty to the workers? Why do mine and thine play such important parts in present-day affairs?
When a worker chances to put such questions he is belaboured with ponderous statements about foreign trade, supply and demand, wages of abstinence, cost of production, and hundreds of other things which he is solemnly assured are far above his capacity to understand and must be left to be worked out and settled by fat-headed highbrows whose sole aim in life is to attend to the well-being of the worker.
And yet it is really all very simple at the bottom. Thousands of Johns and Micks and Sams and Fritzs are all toiling in mines and factories, on the railways and on the seas, to obtain, fashion, and transport the things man requires in order to live. But these obtainers, fashioners, and transporters must not take the smallest fraction of their product, but must pass over all they produce to a set of idlers. This set of idlers only return to the producers what will keep some of the latter alive, fit to work, and reproduce their kind. Why? Because many, many years ago the forerunners of the present set of idlers obtained, by various means, the right to privately own the land and practically all that is on and in the land —in a word, private ownership of the means of production. And this latter state of affairs still exists because the average worker accepts it as something divinely given or a law of nature
Science, though aided with microscope and telescope, has been unable to find any divine law-giver or any room for his operations. Nature is bountiful and gives to no individual the right to privately monopolise anything. Man builds up these rights and man can abolish them.
The idle class are able to monopolise the wealth produced by the millions of toilers because the toilers accept as eternal the manmade laws of mine and thine.
Just as the air is free to all, so will the products of man’s toil be free to all when the producer wishes it, as the means to accomplish this wish are at hand.
Delve deeply into this matter, fellow-worker; do not leave it to your self-appointed guides and guardians. It is your problem, and in its solution lies your social salvation.