Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What George Learnt (1905)

A Short Story from the June 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

George — “You class-conscious Socialists want too much. You ought to he more reasonable.”

Frank — "Well. Socialism being justice, isn’t it reasonable to want it?”

George — “Oh, yes! But you demand the lot. I reckon that half a loaf is better than no bread.”

Frank — “Granted, my boy; but a whole loaf is better still. Besides, why ask for half when you want the whole?”

George — "Because I think you are more likely to get it. In a bargain both sides must make concessions.”

Frank — "Must they? Well, in a bargain according to your curious plan, though the article you have for sale is worth 20/- and you want that amount, yet you would make it known that you would be jolly glad to get half for it. Do you think you would stand the ghost of a chance of getting what yon want? ”

George — “Maybe not; but we would get something.”

Frank — "Would you? In any bargain with the ruling-class the workers’ claims would obviously only be respected when the workers are in a position to take what they ask for. Therefore a bargain would be unnecessary except to enable the capitalists to stave off the workers’ victory.”

George — “But wouldn’t you bargain with them? ”

Frank — “Of course I would not. Look here: the country round a certain small town in Italy was infested by a band of brigands who waylaid and robbed those who came to and from that town. The town folk were too lazy to undertake the extermination of this band, so they bargained with the brigand chief that on payment of a yearly sum his band would cease to molest them. The brigand agreed, but feeling his power, he increased year by year his demands for money, and his insolence became unbearable. The town folk, driven to desperation, organised an attack on the brigands and finally succeeded in breaking up the band. The townsmen lamented bitterly, but too late, that they had not made war on the brigands sooner, but had instead supplied them with the means of becoming more powerful.”

George — "Very pretty, and the lesson is, I suppose, that the longer we bargain with the brigand capitalist-class, the longer they will be on our backs and the harder it will be to dislodge them? ”

Frank — "Not only that. Remember that it takes two to make a bargain, and if the masterclass are not going to gain by it, a bargain won’t come off. In fact the ruling class will only bargain when they know that if they don't concede a little, the people will take the lot. The people lose at that game all the time.”

George — “I didn’t think of that.”

Frank — “Besides, the capitalist-class has in its pay, and can buy, the most cunning brains in the nation, whilst the workers have, in comparison, but homely common-sense. Who are likely to get the best of bargains under such conditions? ”

George — “The capitalist politicians of course.”

Frank — “You’ve guessed right. In a game of cunning or hoodwinking, the master-class, having in its pay the lawyers and commanding by its wealth the smartest wits, will always win. The workers can't play successfully at that game. But in an open political battle the workers have the advantage of mass and numbers, which the capitalists have not.”

George —  “I see."

Frank — “Glad you do. The workers’ advantage lies on the side of au open struggle with the forces of capitalism, for in strategy and cunning the owning-class is first every time. To urge the workers not to adopt the class struggle basis of action, is to play the capitalists’ game, and to deliver the workers, ready scalped, into the hands of the enemy. Now that you understand the position you will of course apply for membership in The Socialist Party of Great Britain.”
F. C. Watts

The Raunds and Leicester Marches. (1905)

Editorial from the July 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

The striking bootmakers of Raunds have marched into London and have marched out again, and, thanks to the fine weather experienced, the astuteness of the Liberal Party politicians en route (who tried, with considerable success, to make party hay while the sun shone) and the fact that the capitalist press had no other sensation to write up at the moment, they seem to have had a moderately good time.

Encouraged by their example, 500 unemployed workers set out from Leicester on a similar pilgrimage. But their time was not so happily chosen, and their numbers were unwieldy. So that they were reduced to sleeping on straw after marching in rain.

That the action of both parties enlisted a good deal of public sympathy at the moment is clear. But public sympathy butters few parsnips, and already the historic marches are among the faint memories of those districts that were covered, while outside of them they have faded from most recollections.

The Conditions of Successful Demonstrations
What good purpose, from the point of view of the working-class, was served, cannot be clearly seen. Had the men set out in the full knowledge that the capitalists of London had interests in no way differing from the capitalists of Raunds or Leicester; had they commenced with no delusions on the score of the reception they would get at the hands of the representatives of the master-class in the House of Commons and Buckingham and Lambeth Palaces; had they understood that their position was the inevitable result of the private ownership of the means of life; and had their march therefore been frankly a demonstration of class-conscious workers in revolt with the object of stirring their class to revolt also, good work would have been accomplished. But to set out ignorant of their class position, and under the impression that if they were very peaceful and law-abiding and abstemious, and sang their grace before meals with becoming reverence, the capitalist-class would help them, as they appear to have done, was a folly that will bear fruit of disappointment and despondency for themselves; while by accepting the interested and much advertised hospitality of their enemies of the Liberal Party, the Raunds men have contributed materially to the confusion of their class, whose discriminating powers may not unnaturally be unequal to the task of grappling with the problem of why the Liberal Party, who helped the workers of Raunds, are not the friends, but the enemies of the workers of Raunds.

Pioneers of Confusion
How far the Raunds leader, Mr. Gribble of the S.D.F. (whose action, by the way, the S.D.F. made many pathetic attempts to exploit for their own party purposes with equally pathetic results), understood the dangers of the movement to the working-class whose interests he ostensibly serves, we do not pretend to know. Having undertaken the task of organising the march he had, of course, to find lodgment and food for the men, but if he had the knowledge that is claimed to be in the possession of all members of the S.D.F., he must have known in the first place that the appeal to capitalism in London would be as profitless as the appeal to capitalism in Raunds had been, and he must have seen in the second place how inevitably the class struggle would be obscured by apparent fraternisation with the representatives of the capitalist-class in the Liberal Party.

The Leicester leader, Mr. Sherriff, of the I.L.P. (whose action, by the way, the I.L.P. also made pathetic attempts to exploit for their own party purposes), seems to have endeavoured to make his contingent's march a demonstration in support of the Government's "Unemployed" Bill, which Mr. Burns says, and for once says rightly, is not worth crossing the street for, let alone tramping a hundred miles to support.  And Mr. Sherriff should have known that under present conditions any “Unemployed" Bill must be a capitalist dodge to rid themselves of responsibility while endeavouring to convey the idea that they accepted it and were prepared to bear the burden of it.

The Position of the S.P.G.B
We are far from desirous of creating the impression that we are out of sympathy with class manifestations of the working-class. The Socialist Party of Great Britain is a working-class party; and is therefore concerned to do everything possible to arouse the class it represents from indifference into organised action against the present form of industrial organisation to which can be traced the evils under which the workers suffer to-day, But we well know that no working-dam manifestation can he effective, no successful conflict with capitalism can be entered into except it be based upon a clear understanding of the class position. Upon this basis alone can be built the fighting organisations, political and industrial, of the working-class which by concentrating upon the conquest of political power and the substitution of the common ownership and control of the means of life for the present private ownership thereof, shall achieve the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of the Socialist Republic. And it is because we know, what apparently the Raunds and Leicester men did not know, that nothing short of Socialism can materially affect the condition of the workers, and because we know that all attempts to secure a betterment in working-class conditions that do not take full cognisance, and are not made in the full knowledge of this fact, are foredoomed to failure, and must tend to retard rather than to expedite the realization of Socialism, that we deprecate the actions of the persons responsible for the Raunds and Leicester marches.
A. J. M. Gray