From the December 1917 issue of the Socialist Standard
American Pseudo-Socialist Manifesto Criticised.
One great difference between the master class and the working class is the clear grip that the former have—despite their scientific and sociological ignorance— of the insecurity of their position as a ruling class. The workers in a large number of cases, have not even grasped the fact that a ruling class exists, and so are quite puzzled at the various social actions going on around them, the effects of which they feel without understanding the cause.
But a certain number—a minority at present — are beginning to understand that there is some connection between the evils they suffer from and the fact that they have to work for a master. This understanding is confused and even vague with many at the moment, but its existence is beyond dispute, and causes a good deal of uneasiness among the masters.
To meet this spreading understanding, that contains at its core a number who clearly grasp the fact of their being slaves under this system of society, and which number grows as the vague understanding increases, the masters use various agents and agencies to mislead the workers, to hide the facts of the case or to strenuously deny them, and to endeavour to increase the confusion of thought existing among those who are beginning to have a faint glimpse of the truth.
By far the greatest danger the masters are faced with is the steady spreading of the knowledge of the class struggle that must exist in a society divided into masters and slaves. The great work of Marx and Engels in laying the foundations of this social truth has always excited their hatred, and they have attempted in various ways to minimise the effect of this work. At first it was ignored in the hope that silence would kill it. When this failed it was derided and jeered at. At a later stage attempts were made to meet the Marxian case by pretended arguments and serious replies. The tricky journalist W. H. Mallock tried several explanations of the phenomena of surplus-value, each contradicting the other, ending with his claim, without the slightest evidence to support it, that the increase in wealth production was due to the marvellous mental ability of a few individuals who have only begun to appear on this planet during the 19th century.
At the other end of the scale we have professors like Bohm-Bawerk, who, flatly contradicting the Mallock theory, claim that surplus-value is due to a future estimate of a present good.
But Bohm-Bawerk's views are embodied in large and expensive volumes beyond the reach of most workers ; Mallock's laboured case is also out of the worker's way, being more often met with in high-priced journals than in the ordinary newspapers. Moreover, the facts of social and industrial development began to drive home to increasing numbers of workers the truths of the Socialist case.
The cleverest of the master class began to look for new methods to meet this danger and started a scheme far more misleading to the workers than any of the misrepresentations of Mallock or the slimy shuffles of Bernard Shaw.
They and their agents began to popularise the term "Socalism" by tacking it on to every little reform or collective action taken through the Government or Municipal bodies.
The world-war has given them numerous new opportunities for this misuse of the word. It has brought to the front in clearer light than before, the fact that men passing as Socialists, such as Barnes, Stanton, Parker, Roberts, Henderson, Hyndman, Thorne, Tillett, and so on, were all the time merely agents of the master class who used their positions and influence to mislead the workers on the question of Socialism and the truths it embodies.
Vigorous attempts hare been made to trick the workers into believing that Socialism meant taking part in the quarrels among the capitalists over markets, etc., even to the workers slaughtering each other by the million, while the capitalists look on and laugh at their amazing folly.
How similar are the methods employed by the capitalist class the world over is shown by the Manifesto of the Nationalist "Socialists" of America, published in the November issue of this journal. For over two and a half years America refrained from official participation in the war. No sooner does she announce her intention of taking part in the mammoth slaughter than certain capitalist agents masquerading as Socialists issued the manifesto referred to in order to show how the war is justified in the interests of "Socialism." A criticism of that precious production will be found to apply generally to the similar effusions issued in the countries of all the belligerents on this war.
We are told first that—
there is a difference even from the point of view of revolutionary Socialism between democratic and autocratic governments.
The value of this statement depends entirely upon the meaning given to the word "difference." This is given a little further on, when it is said—
We believe that liberal institutions have their value, as making it possible to agitate for Socialism, and to progress towards Socialism without destructive internal conflict.
Let us examine this statement in the light of the facts. The only possible deduction from this sentence is that the "Allies" are countries with "liberal institutions" "making it possible" "to progress towards Socialism without destructive internal conflict," while the "Central Powers" are nations in a condition quite the opposite of this. Thus we are to suppose that the shooting down of workers at Chalon, Roubaix, Lyons, Paris, etc. in France, at Featherstone, Belfast, Llanelly, Tonypandy, Dublin, and so on in the British Isles, and at Pittsburg, Colorado, Gold City, Homestead, San Francisco in America, are not instances of "destructive internal conflict," because only working-class lives were destroyed ! The "liberal institutions" with their "bloody Sundays" and "pogroms" existing in Russia when the war began, were no doubt wonderful factors in the "progress towards Socialism without destructive internal conflict," and were worth maintaining at the price of the slaughter of the working-class in the opinion of these "Socialists."
It is quite true that similar instances can be quoted from the records of Germany and Austrio-Hungary; but this would only show that the actions of their "autocratic governments" are practically indistinguishable from those of the "All lies."
By their own definition of the word these so-called Socialists have failed completely to show any difference between the belligerent countries worth the sacrifice of a worker's little finger, let alone his life.
Secondly, it is stated that—
If we could have the full revolutionary Socialist program tomorrow, we might be called upon to defend it against nations which were organised for oppression under military and aristocratic rulers.
Lovely logic ! Leaving aside the absurdity of supposing one could have Socialism in a country where a large majority of the people are opposed to it, note the "if "and the "might" given as reasons for the workers taking part in the appalling slaughter of the present war. And on whose behalf? England, a short time after the war began, and America, immediately following her declaration of war, took military and autocratic measures unparalleled by any of the "aristocratic" rulers engaged on the other side. The introduction of conscription—that is the compelling of men to become murderers of their fellow men with whom they have no quarrel—without consulting the mass of the people in any way, shows a brutal ruthlessness in the two most "advanced" countries, which are supposed to possess the most "liberal institutions," that has not been surpassed in any of the other nations.
Obviously, then, the workers are not being called upon to defend their own interests, but to fight on behalf of a ruling class whose actions are of the same kind and on the same level as those of the ruling class of the Central Powers.
This hypocrisy on the part of these "Socialists" is further emphasised in section three, where we are told that—
the proper aim of Socialist world politics at the present time is an alliance of the politically advanced nations for the defence of the democratic principle throughout the world.
The "democratic principle" that forces men to slaughter without even consulting them on the matter !
To say that they are "willing to fight for democracy" is more hypocrisy, as neither the present war nor the aims of the Allies is for democracy, but for plutocracy.
The stale old nonsense of a "citizen army" which we have heard here for so many years is trotted out in section six, where it is said : "We believe that there is no danger to democracy in a citizen army and navy controlled by the people." What clap-trap! Who are "the people" ? In America, as in every other capitalist country, "the people" consist of two classes, the capitalist class and the wage slave class, that is, of two classes whose interests are in violent antagonism. Which of these classes would control the "citizen" army and navy while capitalism exists ? As we have shown in every issue of the Socialist Standard, it would be the capitalist class. Then the "citizen" army would be used to shoot down the wage slaves in the interests of the masters in America and elsewhere, just as the "citizen" army in Switzerland has been used.
Paragraph eight, that declares for the "democratization of the military service" under capitalism is another specimen of cant, as the merest tyro in Sociology knows that one cannot have democracy among masters and slaves. The statement about the "spirit of comradeship which is found in the trenches" is a deliberate lie, for no more in the trenches than in the training camp dare a private speak to an officer without permission, nor can he even take shelter in the same dug-out, except in special circumstances. The few accounts of the treatment of the men by their officers that have leaked through the rigid censorship give a significant picture of the "spirit of comradeship" to be found on the battle front.
It is, however, in the ninth paragraph that we find the truth revealed in the utmost nakedness. Here we are told :
Our military training should be made the physical culture part of our public school training. It should be begun in childhood thru the work of the Boy and Girl Scouts.
Not only are these "Socialists" in favour of conscription for men, but they wish to extend it to children, boys and girls alike, and to instil into their plastic minds the sordid brutalities of militarism in the interests of the master class. This carries militarism beyond anything yet attempted by the Germans.
The people who were boasting of their willingness to "fight for democracy" now demand the most reactionary and degrading system of training it is possible to establish, and would attempt to foul the name of Socialism by stating that their treacherous proposals are items in a Socialist programme. This is further added to when in paragraph ten they say: "A vital military system should be an organic part of the national life." This is exactly what the Allies claim exists in Germany to-day, and which they declare it is their aim to crush! "Even if Germany were willing to make peace," it is said, "we must go on till the Prussian military system is destroyed." While a militarism even more foul and brutal is to be established in the "advanced" countries with "liberal institutions." What a huge lesson in the hypocrisy of the claims about the war aims of the Allies is given by this document!
So far is it from removing "Prussian militarism," that one great result of the war will be the establishment of the same militarism in the "advanced" nations who were previously lacking in this particular brand. This result was not only foreseen, but was deliberately worked for by certain of the capitalists in these countries because they realise how insecure is their position to-day and wish to guard against being overthrown. In America, as in Europe, they have found willing helpers in the slimy lickspittles, some of whose names are given above, and whose colleagues signed the document which was printed in the last issue of this journal. Their claims to speak as Socialists are as false as they are foul, but it is a tactic to be expected and it can only be met by constant exposure of these frauds and the persistent Propaganda of the class struggle existing, whose ultimate conclusion will be a world order of peace under Socialism.
[Just as this is being sent to the printer the papers announce that Parliament has decided by a majority of 38 to disfranchise the conscientious objector to military service. The question may come up again before the Bill becomes law, but the passing of this amendment tears away one of the last pretences that the war is for "freedom"and "liberal institutions," when the "freedom of opinion" so long boasted of as an Englishman's birthright is now openly and officially trampled upon, as it has been in more or less unofficial ways all through the war.