A General Election is coming and all parties are using their resources to the utmost in the effort to persuade the workers that one or other of the programmes put forward will meet the difficulties that face the workers to-day. These difficulties are not new; they are simply intensified as time goes on.
Leading advocates of the two older parties, Liberal and Tory, admit the difficulties, but claim that they are an inevitable and unalterable consequence of civilised society. For this reason these two parties seek only to remedy the most glaring evils whilst leaving unaltered the present basis of society. Each of the two parties have had turn and turn about in supreme control of social affairs in this country, and each in turn has failed to develop any line of attack that made, or would make, any appreciable difference in the poverty, unemployment, and general insecurity and misery of the workers' lot.
The Labour Party, now the Opposition in Parliament, plead for time to carry out their ever-lengthening list of reforms. Their leading advocates claim that they are eminently practical people and repudiate the charge that they aim at revolutionising the basis of society. Their conduct, during the short period of Labour Government gave a clear indication of their intention to follow in the footsteps of the two older parties where matters affecting the basic organisation of society were concerned.
An examination of the programme of any one of these three parties leaves the worker bewildered with the mass of intricate matter concerning taxation, banking, etc., of which he must acquire an accurate knowledge if he wishes to correctly estimate the more or less usefulness of one programme against another, unless he is prepared to take one or the other at its own valuation. And yet the position is a relatively simple one when not deliberately overloaded with useless and cunning statements and arguments.
Wealth (food, clothing, and so forth) is produced as a result of the application of human energy to natural resources in one form or another. To produce this wealth, the means of production (land, machinery, and the like) and human energy are needed. At present the employers as a class own the means of production, and the workers as a class supply the human energy, mental and manual.
In return for their labour the workers receive, at the best of times, little more than represents the food, clothing and so forth necessary to keep them in fit condition to go on working and bring up a family to replace them in the workshops. At the worst of times, the wage is inadequate for even the bare needs of life, as the condition of large masses of workers have given pitiful testimony; for instance, the position of large sections of land-workers at different times and the present position of the coal miners.
The land the workers work upon, the machinery they use, and the articles they make do not belong to the workers, but belong to the employers who pay the wages. The difference between the value of the wealth the workers produce and the value of the wages they receive back in payment for their work represents a surplus of wealth which enables the employers, who take it, to live without working.
Broadly speaking, the whole of society is made up of the two classes—Employers and Workers. The worker, on the average, owns nothing but his power to work; the employer owns everything. When a worker sells his working power to an employer he is in effect selling himself, as he must work on the conditions laid down by the employer or lose his employment. Without employment the worker, with few exceptions, is without the means of living and must die of starvation or allow himself to be put in jail under some pretext. However thinly it may be disguised, the ultimatum the employing class present to the working class to-day is “ Work under the conditions we lay down or die.” The workers are therefore slaves. They are slaves to the employing class who determine how, where, and why they shall live.
The object of production to-day is to sell goods for profit so that the employers may have a surplus to take. The markets of the world for the sale of goods are limited. New machinery and improved methods of production fill these markets ever more rapidly as time goes on. When markets are filled production slackens and workers are thrown out of employment. While production is for the market unemployment will continue grow to even larger dimensions. The million and a half that have been unemployed in this country for years are still awaiting the constantly promised return of prosperity, which, like the thaw we were waiting for during the recent frosty spell, keeps taking the wrong turning. In spite of this the Blue Train and the First Class Liner still carry their cargoes of people able to enjoy the best of life.
Apart from unemployment, which is the direct outcome of the conditions mentioned above, the employers are interested in always having on hand a large body of unemployed in order to keep down and defeat the workers’ demands for an improved standard of living by dangling before individual workers the fact that there are other workers waiting at the factory gate wolfishly waiting to take their jobs. This explains the reason for the regularly organised campaigns to induce the workers to bring into the world large families and the spasmodic interest of the State in child welfare, during these times of widespread unemployment.
To present society the name of "Capitalism” has been given because every complete process of production commences with the investment of capital—wealth invested for the purpose of profit. It has at its root the acceptance of the private ownership of the means of production as the normal and unalterable basis of productive operations. While this condition remains present evils in the mass must continue and flourish. Capitalism, therefore, and all parties that accept its basic condition, has no solution for the workers' troubles. It can only dabble here and there with some of the minor evils.
To the workers who read this article we would address ourselves in a more personal manner.
Are you satisfied to let things go on in the same old way? You are slaves to-day because you allow your masters to own the things you produce and thereby control in the main your lives.
You associate together to produce all things, the good and the bad. Your masters take no part in production, yet they take what you have produced. In return for the labour you spend in the field, the factory and the workshop you receive, at the best of times, only a beggarly pittance that does little more than keep you alive and enable you to bring up children to replace you in slavery. Even when in work you are always watchful lest, through no fault of your own, you lose your job. Out of work, your lot is miserable indeed—often a more or less rapid journey to the grave through insufficient nourishment. In numbers you are the overwhelming majority of the nation, and yet you hand over to a relatively small group of masters the product of your work.
There is no absolute law of Nature decreeing that one man shall have and another shall not have. The land of this country was never given by Nature, nor by any mysterious power, as a free gift to anyone. Those who hold it to-day inherit what their forerunners had taken. And those who hold the means of producing wealth obtained possession in a like manner though the possession is sanctioned and sanctified by legal forms.
There is no common interest between you and your masters within the present social conditions. It is their interest to extract from you as much wealth as you can produce for the lowest outlay in wages, as by this means they wax wealthy. It is your interest to obtain possession of the means of production with which you produce wealth in order to produce wealth for your own benefit, letting the idler and parasite go to work for his bread.
It is your class who organise the whole of production to-day—those who get a living by selling their mental and manual energies to the capitalist class. It can be organised to-morrow for the equal benefit of all by the same class that organises it to-day—your class.
Do not heed the smooth-tongued orator who would tell you to work in harmony with your masters for your mutual benefit. The capitalist lives by the exploitation of the worker. Between exploiter and exploited there can be no harmony of interest. When exploitation as a system is done away with, then there will be neither exploiter nor exploited.
Between you and the possession of the means of production stand the laws of capitalism, and behind these laws stands the State—the organised oppressive power of the ruling class. Before you can obtain control of the means of production you must, as a first step, capture the State power. This State power is centred in Parliament and the group in a majority in Parliament has the power to control society.
In the evolution of capitalism the capitalist has gradually relinquished one after the other the functions he once performed, and has therefore been compelled to delegate these functions to officials he pays. Along with this the size and complicated nature of modern society have compelled him to concede to the workers facilities which place within their reach the means of ousting the capitalists from their privileged position if and when the workers wish to do so.
Circumstances therefore compel you, if you wish to get out of slavery, to send delegates to Parliament to capture the control of affairs.
In choosing your delegates, you must remember it is servants you want, not masters nor leaders.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain is a political party of working men and women organised together for the purpose of getting control of political power in order to introduce Socialism. Its Parliamentary candidates arc selected as fitting tools for the job. Its members control the party throughout and determine, by majority decisions, the policy of the organisation. This policy is set forth in all the literature the party publishes. The party is, controlled entirely by its members and is not at the beck and call of either a place-hunting individual or a group of self-seekers.
If you are tired of the chains of slavery, join the party and thereby give us your aid in the work of speeding out of existence the system that oppresses us all.
The earth and its fullness is for no man's private possession. Let the workers of the world determine that it shall be for the equal benefit of all.