Editorial from the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard
At the commencement of another year it may be expected that we should send out to our fellow workers the Customary New Year message. It is, however, one of the penalties of advancing years in the life of a journal that it becomes increasingly difficult to find anything fresh to say upon the recurrence of such a monotonous event as the birth of another year, or to put pen to paper upon such an unsuspicious occasion without dropping into platitudes. But to-day “ye gods” are kind—ye gods for the moment being those very honourable and proper personages, the Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
These gentlemen have issued a New Year’s Message to “Our Fellow Citizens of the British Empire," and as luck would have it, their opening sentence fills the aching void for this year, at all events—provides a sort of text for a New Year sermon.
Says their bigbugships: “The war, in shaking the very foundations of ordered civilisation, has driven all thoughtful men to examine the bases of national and international life.” Well, let us assist in that examination.
Ye gods, as might be expected, find that the “hope of a 'brotherhood of humanity’ reposes on the deeper spiritual fact of the 'Eternal Fatherhood of God,’” and declare that “In the recognition of the fact of that Fatherhood and of the Divine purpose of the world, which are central to the message of Christianity, we shall discover the ultimate foundation for the reconstruction of an ordered and harmonious life for all men.” That is their message—now for ours.
If anything has become clear “both through the arbitrament of war and through the tests of rebuilding a life of peace” (as the Premiers say), it is that all the goodwill and spirit of brotherhood in the world go down before the force of economic interests. It must necessarily be so. Take the case of two men struggling for one job. Does the spirit of brotherhood dictate that one should stand aside for the other? Then what of the men’s children? No, the divergent interests of the two men dictate that they fight it out to the very last gasp. To fail to do so is death, and not very heroic death either.
The “real foundation for the ordered development of the world’s life,” therefore, is the unification of their material interests. Not while one class lives on the toil of another class can there be harmony; not while the wealth produced is the subject of a struggle between those who produce it and those who do not can there be peace. The only way is to make the interest of all the same. How can it be done?
The reason of the conflict of interests in the society of to-day is that the people are on two different economic planes. One section own the means of life, the other section own only the means of operating those means of life—their labour-power. It is dear, then, that those who do not own the means of living must either wrest those means of living from the owners or sell their labour-power to those owners for the means of subsistence. This means of subsistence is part of the product of their labour.
There must, then, always be, in the first place, a struggle over the division of this product of the workers’ toil—this struggle is the wages struggle. And in the second place there must be a struggle for freedom on the part of the enslaved workers.
The ground is clear enough now. Harmony can only be established by destroying the private ownership of the means of living. This is the Socialist remedy.
The "ultimate foundation for the reconstruction of an ordered and harmonious life for all men" we declare, in contradiction to ye gods the Six Premiers, lies in making the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth the property of the community, and using them to produce wealth for the use of the community, instead of for sale.
That is our New Year message. To that consummation, which will open a way to a harmonious life for all men and women by harmonising the economic interests of all men and women, we urge all members of our class to devote their attention in the new year that has come upon us. So shall we find emancipation and happiness in years to come.