From the January 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard
Many people who profess to agree with the first three clauses of our declaration either fail to see the logic of the remaining clauses or decline to follow that logic in practice. They assent to the statement that the workers are slaves requiring emancipation, but ridicule the notion that they will emancipate themselves by means of the political machine. Yet a little reflection should show that there is no logical alternative.
The interest of the master-class leads them to resist any attempt at changing the social order. Consequently such a change necessitates a force strong enough to overcome such resistance. It requires an organisation sufficiently widespread to supplant the representatives of the interests of capital at every salient point.
In spite of this fairly obvious fact, however, we find numerous self-styled champions of the interests of the workers who profess to be able by one means or another to inaugurate a new social order by “leading" the mass of the politically ignorant and unorganised; and who deride the idea that Socialist education in the scientific sense is either necessary or even possible within reasonable time.
Such an attitude indicates (where it is honestly held) a serious lack of knowledge or failure to appreciate the lessons of history. It is frequently alleged that previous social changes have been effected by minorities, and that is, of course, largely correct; but the point is seldom considered that the changes so effected have been in the interests of minorities and not in the interests of the mass. Thus when the Capitalist majority overthrew the feudal minority in the French Revolution, the result was that the workers merely changed their masters. They merely secured a change in the form of their servitude.
To-day we are faced with the necessity of abolishing servitude, of shattering every institution by which privilege and exploitation are upheld. Such a change implies, by its very nature, the conscious self-assertion of the mass, the workers themselves. Beneath the whole question lies the character of the productive forces at the present time. No mere minority can run the intricate industrial mechanism. That task obviously requires the active co-operation of the disinherited millions. So long as those millions are content to accept their enslaved state, so long as they are prepared to go on piling up wealth for their masters, those masters can afford to smile at the ravings of fanatics who fancy themselves as dictators.
On the other hand, once the mass awakens, once it realises its social power and importance, those same “leaders” will be swept away as chaff before the wind.
The mistake made by those who pour scorn on the educational work of the Socialist Party arises from the metaphysical habit of looking only on the resources of the propagandists as the sole force helping the Party’s work. The influence of the social environment in shaping the outlook of the class, preparing it as a soil for the Socialist seed, is ignored. The inertia of the mentality of the mass is insisted upon almost as a religious dogma. A psychological miracle is postulated. We are asked to believe that the human mind in the mass is an organism which fails to act according to the laws of its own development.
The Socialist reviewing history sees that as each class in turn has been thrust to the surface by economic evolution, that class has acquired a consciousness of its identity and interest. It has developed its own political organisation necessary to smash the institutions which stood in the way of its advance and to establish others which favoured it. By degrees the workers to-day are losing the illusions which bind them to their masters’ interests; they are groping (not for a lead as we are often told) but for knowledge which will enable them to dispense with "leaders.” It is the task of the Socialist Party to spread that knowledge.
(To be continued).