From the April 1970 issue of the Socialist Standard
Think before you act
Socialism is concerned with justice. Capitalism is concerned with law and order. They are not the same thing. Capitalism’s law is based on social injustice and its order is merely the preservation of peace or waging of war in accordance with the economic needs of the system.
Socialism is based on the assumption of the common ownership of wealth by the whole of humanity and the employment of such means to provide the basis of a full and happy life for all.
Capitalism is the assumption or ownership of all the resources of nature by a minority class, the capitalists. That ownership does not only extend over the land, the sea and the air but, also over such means for producing and distributing wealth as have been devised by the hand and brain of Labour.
All law within capitalism is firmly based on the premise of ownership and control of wealth, and the means of producing wealth, by the capitalist class. Where Law affects public order and the rights of the individual within capitalism, its purpose is still simply to maintain conditions, real or illusory, that make acceptable the capitalist condition of things and allow the system unhampered freedom to fulfil its exploitive function.
When it is otherwise, when the power or privilege of capitalism is threatened, when its property is endangered, when the ‘peace’ or ‘order’ it needs to carry out its extraction of profits from the labour of the working class, then . . . capitalism becomes our armed thug !
In such circumstances the whole power of the capitalist state can be used against the working class without compunction. The friendly “bobby” can become a club-wielding fiend; the children’s party-giving soldiers can become cold machine murderers.
You have seen this to some extent in Northern Ireland already and if you ask the friendly khaki-clad boys that roam our streets with their machine pistols at the ‘high port’ where their various regiments have been over the last decade you will find they have attended on many situations where capitalism was in bloody mood. Be warned! Those rifles are not always at the ‘high port’ position! Remember that the capitalist state will justify slaughter here with the same excuses which you accepted for Malaya, Palestine, Cyprus, Aden . . . Be warned!
All the portents of further religious strife lurk in the shadows of Belfast and Derry. Think before you act! Think about your problems—your working class problems; ask yourself whether or not the action you contemplate can ease or eradicate those problems.
As Socialists, we despise capitalism’s ‘law’ and are revulsed by the hypocrisy of its ‘order’ but, because we have no illusions about the mercy of the forces arranged against us or the strength of such forces, because we are concerned with the lives of our fellow-members of the working class, irrespective of their religion, we entreat you to refrain from any action which could ignite the bomb in our midst. Our plea is not even prompted by the thought of more working-class dead, maimed or homeless, but by the utter futility and senselessness of sectarian warfare.
You may say that such a plea is no different from that made by those new political species in our midst, the ‘moderates’. As far as it goes, this is true . . . but, we go further.
We affirm that it is you, the working class, Catholic, Protestant, atheist, or what have you, who have agreed the claim of the capitalist class to ownership of the means of wealth production. That it is you, who by giving this right, have allowed capitalism to create the political and economic conditions in which working class poverty and frustration is canalised into religious bigotry, racialism or some such area of easy identification for the priorities of misery. That it is you who have given the capitalist state the power to pass laws for the protection and maintenance of capitalism and the suppression of your political afterthoughts.
We do not, then, merely warn you not to partake in sectarian violence or any action that may lead thereto: we also warn you of the need for action now to revoke your mandate to capitalism and of the need for you to actively participate in building a real Socialist organisation that will wrest control of the State machine, by the majority action of a Socialist-conscious working class, in order to create a Socialist system of production for use— a system of society in which the material conditions for bigotry and violence could not arise.
— from the World Socialist Party of Ireland Bulletin.