Sunday, November 10, 2019

How Labour Helps Capitalism (1959)

From the February 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Bang the drum
As the date of the General Election approaches, the Labour Party girds its loins. The constituency parties are told to hurry on their preparations. A glossy party statement makes its appearance. Transport House tells of the special efforts being made in marginal constituencies, and reveals that the fighting fund is swelling to record proportions. The Labour Party prepares for battle.

The uniforms are smart, the drums exciting, the banners promise the earth. All is well until you read the accounts of the last campaign. What have the Labour M.P.s who were returned at the last General Election, after claiming working-class support, been doing to justify their claims to be Socialists ?

Brass tacks
Mr. George Strauss, for example, the Labour M.P. for Vauxhall and a former Minister of Supply. Late last year he surveyed the world scene—the exploitation of the working class by capitalism, the colonial bloodshed, the wars and the threats of wars—-and then he kicked up a great fuss in Parliament about . . .  the way the London Electricity Board disposes of its scrap cable (The Times, 5/12/58). He was afraid the Board might not be getting enough money for it. Mr. Strauss supported the reorganisation of electricity supply as a State capitalist industry, and is desperately anxious to show that State capitalism can make just as big a profit as private capitalism.

Unfortunately for the Labour Party, workers who see that the entire profit system must be ended are not likely to be excited by Mr. Strauss’s activities.

Or take Mr. J. Callaghan, the Labour member for South-East Cardiff. Mr. Callaghan is worried because he thinks the Foreign Office is preventing British shipyards building warships for the Indonesians to kill each other with. In the Commons he alleged that shipbuilders here could have got orders for sixty million pounds' worth of warships but for the Government’s interference. “It has always been our policy to supply other nations with warships,” he said (Manchester Guardian, 13/12/58). Some of the orders, he said, had now gone to Italian firms.

Indonesia is now in a state of civil conflict and rebellion, and any warship which the Indonesian Government gets would first be used to crush opposition among the islands. The last moments of a dying Indonesian rebel would be made doubly bitter if he thought he had been shot by an Italian-built warship, when he could have been killed by a genuine British product.

British shipbuilding firms will appreciate Mr. Callaghan's concern that they should have full order-books, and, consequently, fat profits. Mr. Callaghan said that “our people were being put out of work by the present Foreign Office policy,” so no doubt he would claim his prime concern is for the shipbuilding workers. But under the capitalist system, that is like demanding that more food shall be provided for the rich men, since the poor people will also benefit because of the few more crumbs which will then fall from the rich men's tables.

In any case, if Mr. Callaghan were successful, and these orders for warships went to British yards instead of to the Italians, what about the Italian workers? If Mr. Callaghan thinks it would be an advantage to the British workers that these orders should be placed here, he must also agree that it would be a corresponding blow to the Italian workers, and to their wives and families, if the orders were withdrawn from the Italian shipyards. No, Mr. Callaghan: if you want to benefit the working class, you won’t do it by juggling about with order-books, so that one group of workers, instead of another, are kindly allowed to be exploited full-time.

Arms and the Labour man
Mr. R. Mellish, the M.P. for Bermondsey, is another Labour member who keeps a wary eye on armaments. In Parliament he asked the Secretary for War what progress had been made with the development of the medium tank, and if he would give its approximate weight and speed and armament (Manchester Guardian, 18/12/58). He was much displeased with the answer that the tank would be ready for development trials towards the end of 1959. He put a subsidiary question:
  “Surely you will be aware that your predecessor in 1956 decided on a policy of manufacturing the medium tank ? Are you telling us now that these trials are not going to take place till 1959 ? Why this enormous delay?”
The British ruling class will be heartened to think there is such a good watchdog in Parliament as Mr. Mellish: sufficient arms to protect their interests in a third world war will not be lacking if Mr. Mellish has his way.

Presumably the electors of Bermondsey in the coming election will be invited to “Vote for Mellish and better tanks.”

Apart from these recent activities of the present Labour M.P.s the Sunday Express (14/12/58) has reminded us of an Act passed by the Labour Government in 1949 which must thrill the hearts of all the party’s supporters.

Lady Mountbatten revealed in 1949 that her net income, because of taxation, had fallen to only £4,500 per annum. So Lord and Lady Mountbatten had to scrimp and save on an income of only £90 a week, plus, of course, Lord Mountbatten’s pay as an Admiral and any other income he might have. A shock of horror ran through the country. I remember it well—protest meetings of dockers and miners, housewives weeping in the streets, old age pensioners offering to contribute. The Labour Government took swift action. It was at the time when they were endeavouring to enforce a wage freeze on the workers, but they realised immediately that the Mountbattens were in a different class. A Bill was introduced into Parliament—the Married Women (Restraint upon Anticipation) Bill— which enabled Lady Mountbatten and other heiresses in the same position, to borrow in advance on future income, and thereby save a considerable amount in surtax. The day was saved. But the incident had enabled the Labour Government to demonstrate its practical sympathy towards the sufferings of the people or at any rate of one of them.

Another vote for Labour
Why has the Sunday Express brought all this up now? Well, it appears that the 1949 Act was only an emergency measure, as it were. New moves, we are told, have started which will enable Countess Mountbatten to draw still more money from the trust fund she inherited from her grandfather. After all, her husband's income as an Admiral of the Fleet is only £100 a week. The exact nature of the new moves is uncertain. If they have not been successful by the time of the next General Election, and if Labour is returned to power as it hopes, no doubt a new Labour Government would come to the Countess's rescue as chivalrously as the last one did. But the workers had better not expect the same generous attitude, or they will be disappointed.
Alwyn Edgar

Enterprising I.C.I. (1959)

Film Review from the February 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

All the Old Fallacies
On Sunday, 14th December, a most interesting film was shown at Head Office as part of our winter propaganda series. The film was called Enterprise and was made by the Imperial Chemical Industries about itself.

Although the film ran only for 22 minutes, it must have been quite costly to make, since it was entirely in cartoon form and in colour. As an attempt to justify the profit motive, from a Socialist point of view it was an elaborate waste of time. All the time-honoured catchphrases and phoney ideals, so dear to the hearts of the Capitalist Class, were put over with the most subtle propaganda technique.

Of course, one major weakness in films which set out to “sell” Capitalism as the best system possible is, that if it was really so good and in the best interest of everyone, it would not be necessary to “plug” it all the time. If the set-up existing between employers and employees, the owners and non-owners of the means of living, was so in accordance with man's nature that there was no antagonism or conflict of interest, there would be no need to keep turning out expensive sugar-coated propaganda.

What we are expected to swallow by the film is that giant concerns like I.C.I. exist for the purpose of doing things “for us.” We are told, via the commentator, that the Capitalists “risk" their money in a community-minded spirit to “produce for our use.” It is with heartfelt desire to serve “us” that the £220,000,000 capital of I.C.I. is set into motion. To produce, with the “maximum efficiency and speed the things we need” is the noble objective of the selfless Capitalist.

It is readily admitted by the film that the Capitalist makes profits, but, of course, this is his just “reward” for “risking” his money in our interest. Although the film several times makes reference to this “reward,” nothing is said about its origin. It is almost as though a good fairy recognises the kindly nature of the Capitalist and, with a wave of her wand, his “reward” materializes out of thin air. Considering that in 1957 I.C.I. made £27 million net profit, that must be some fairy. From the standpoint of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, these notions are the purest drivel. We would not waste time on such arguments except for the fact that they are expected to be, and too often are, taken seriously by members of the working class.

Another phrase used in the film was. that I.C.I. is a “community in unity.” In fact the whole commentary is made to rhyme, but we felt more as though the commentator was spinning us a yarn than reciting poetry. There is no basis for unity between the working-class and the capitalist class. It is from the wealth produced by the workers that the profits of the Capitalist arise. The words "efficiency and speed” merely try to mask the employer’s determination to exploit his wage-slaves to the maximum possible extent.

The film started by depicting an ancient potter, who not only made the pots himself but, when times were hard, also went out and found new markets for them: if through HIS efforts HE got rich, good luck to him. Then we are brought forward in time to I.C.I., and they try to make the parallel that those who get profits out of I.C.I., too, are the ones who do the work. We are shown few workers and lots of board-rooms, executives, and costings departments. The ancient potter owned the implements he worked with, but under modern Capitalist production work and ownership of implements are separated. This fact lies at the bottom of all the major social problems facing mankind to-day.

How different from all this things would be under Socialism. When the means of production are held in common by all, the word “community” will have a real meaning. In a classless system, costings departments and board-rooms will have no place. It will not be necessary to calculate costs in order to maintain profits when society is no longer concerned with monetary systems. Under Capitalism, the first consideration is ‘‘Will it sell?” "Will it be profitable?” With Socialism, the first and only consideration will be human well-being, the democratic organisation of production for use on the basis of free access.

The Stock Exchange Year Book for 1958 gives an impressive list of about 20 countries in which I.C.I. have holdings. When the competition for markets, minerals and trade-routes, etc., leads the various ruling class groups to war it is possible for workers to fight for I.C.I.’s interests in almost every part of the world.

Much is made in the film of the vast number of shareholders in I.C.I. This is another stock argument of Capitalist defenders which only shows how shallow they really are. It is as good as admitting that it is anti-social for a few to own the means of society’s living, so if they can make it sound a lot it has a better effect. As if it matters to workers being exploited whether the wealth they produce above their wages is shared by many or few Capitalists. When the official figures show that 10 per cent. of the population own 90 per cent. of the accumulated wealth, one does not need to be a genius at maths, to find out what property interests or investments the working-class has.

A fact not mentioned in the film is that it is a regular practice of I.C.I. to make large donations to Scientific Education. In one of their own publications. I.C.I. Review for 1957, we are told that the amount for that year was £300,000 The review adds that the object is “to increase the amount and quality of Scientific and Technical work in the country generally, from which the Company itself will undoubtedly benefit.”

When workers begin to understand their true position in present-day society and start to see the need for Socialism, they will not be so easily deceived by Capitalist propaganda. They will read the Press, listen to the radio and watch films and television in the light of their growing class-consciousness. The days of production for the profit of a few will then be on the way out.
Harry Baldwin

50 Years Ago: The Socialist Party and Social Reform (1959)

The 50 Years Ago column from the February 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist Party and Social Reform
In the S.P.G.B. we make but one stipulation, and that is that its members must be Socialists. The ranks of Social Reform include anybody with a pet fad who will adopt the formula: "I, too, am a Socialist, in some respects, ahem! but I think we want the Single Tax. or a paper currency, or State Ownership of the Ice Cream Carts, you know, first.” And so we find Joseph Fels, the single taxer, R. J. Campbell, the new theologian, Arthur Kitson, the currency crank, H. G. Wells, the sensational novelist, and hosts of others, representing all shades of faddism. up and down the whole gamut of puerile futility, all in the same camp and under the same many-coloured banner of “Social Reform."
— (From the Socialist Standard, February, 1909.)

• • •

The Purpose of Profit Sharing and Co-partnership
When trade is "booming" and the employer is making larger profits than usual, the “ungrateful” workman, despite the fact that he may be enjoying “plenty of work.” sometimes takes it into his head that he would like a slightly larger share of the wealth he has produced so abundantly, and taking a “mean advantage” of the employer, he threatens to strike unless his demands are granted. To have a strike to contend with means stoppage of production, and therefore, the losing of the opportunity of making those larger profits. The employer grates his teeth. Under his breath he curses the “wicked workers” who were not content . . .  to remain in the position in which capitalism has placed them. . . .
. . .  Here. then, are the two difficulties facing the capitalist—to get the “lazy" worker to speed up. and to prevent strikes taking place .at awkward moments—awkward, that is, for the capitalist’s profits. Labour Copartnership meets both these perils in a splendid way for the capitalist.
—(From the Socialist Standard, February, 1909.)

Party News Briefs (1959)

Party News from the February 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Activity and enthusiasm appear to be the key words for the start of 1959. At Head Office on Tuesdays nowadays there are many members, all working in different aspects of improving and spreading Party Propaganda. It will be obvious when the list of Branch meetings are noted in the current issue of the Standard.

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Hackney Branch, which is concentrating especially on the forthcoming election campaign, report good progress. Here is an extract from a letter received from the Branch:—
   “The following is an announcement by the diarist 'Beta’ in the  'Hackney Gazette,’ December 2nd, 1958:
   'The Socialist Party of Great Britain inform me that they will be contesting the next General Election in Bethnal Green. The candidate is Jack Leslie Read, who was one of the candidates for the division in the last L.C.C. elections.
   " 'The candidate and his organisation stand in complete opposition to both the Labour and Tory parties, and also the Liberal and Communist parties if they choose to contest the seat.
    “ ‘Our purpose in putting forward a candidate is,’ says Mr. J. Harris, the party’s Press Officer, 'to give working people an opportunity of casting a vote against capitalism, the system which we claim gives rise to all the social problems and misery of our day, and casting it in favour of Socialism, by which we mean a system of society based on the common ownership and democratic control of all the means of living and where production takes place for use instead of for profit’.”
   " 'Beta’ then added, “Local Socialists, who put their faith in Hugh Gaitskell can make of this statement what they will.”
    "Hackney Branch hopes to give local 'Socialists' during the months ahead plenty of opportunities to make what they can of the Party’s Socialist message, and look forward to the maximum help from comrades in other Branches.”
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Ealing Branch starts the New Year optimistically. The merger of the literature and propaganda activities of the Branch into one "general purposes” Committee should help to streamline Branch organisation and lead to useful economies in members’ time. This Committee is already examining the possibilities of running film shows as an alternative to lectures and discussions. A Press Officer has been appointed to deal with correspondence in the national and local Press, and a monthly Branch Newsletter has been started. This will be distributed to all Branch members and to regular Socialist Standard readers made from our canvasses. The Annual Christmas Social was a great success: over 80 tickets were sold, and Branch funds benefited by about £10.

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Bristol Group has arranged a debate, and much work has gone into preparations to make it a success. It is hoped to enlarge propaganda there during the forthcoming months.

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Edinburgh, Mitcham and Swansea Groups are holding meetings after intensive work by members of the Groups.

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Paddington Branch, in planning well ahead, are confident that the meeting to be held at Denison House. Vauxhall Bridge Road, on Sunday, March 15th, will be the first of many such propaganda meetings held. London members are urged to make a special note of the date.

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Fulham, Islington and Lewisham branches are among the London branches who have planned well ahead for meetings. Notices of these appear in this issue.

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Glasgow (City and Kelvingrove). The branches in Glasgow have conducted propaganda this winter jointly and since November have held monthly meeting in the St. Andrews Halls. A feature of these meetings has been the number of new speakers who have volunteered to take the indoor platform. This is a very encouraging prospect for the outdoor season when it is hoped new stances may be tried.

A series of classes dealing with the socialist theory have been held on the Sunday evenings when there was no propaganda meeting and these have been exceptionally well attended by party members and sympathisers. The discussion has at the classes been most stimulating and is bound to encourage study of Marxism in all its aspects.

The general feeling among Glasgow members is that so far this winter we have managed to encourage young speakers to a greater degree than hitherto and we look forward to the coming outdoor season with a great deal more enthusiasm than last year.

Details of the propaganda meeting and the classes for this month are contained elsewhere in this issue and all members, sympathisers and of course opponents are invited along.
Phyllis Howard

Some Objections to Socialism (1959)

From the February 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

The opponents of Socialism and those too lazy or too tired to think, retort that if there were no more fear of the morrow, if the material means of sustenance were guaranteed to every individual from the cradle to the grave as a matter of course, the incentive to work would also be killed. According to this, the rich who are not dependent on, and indeed would think it incompatible with their dignity to work for wages, people whose material existence is assured and who have never known want and insecurity, would long have become entirely degenerate and decrepit from sheer idleness. The propertied class, with their wealth invested in land and estate, in industrial enterprises, in transport and banks, etc., etc., yielding them rent, interest and profit, are still active: not all rich people are indulging in perpetual riotous living, as they could if they wanted to, or if they were stupid enough to do so and invite all kinds of physical troubles, and we see a large number of voluntary organisations devoting themselves to all kinds of activities without the incentive of the wages system; and who will assert that the work of the genuine amateur is less conscientious, less thorough and less fruitful than that of the paid employee?

Children also provide convincing proof that occupation is essential for happiness. They know nothing of the care for the morrow, but no one can say that youth does not want to do anything. On the contrary, they all dream in early years already of what they are going to be, whereby the question of earning money mostly does not yet arise at all. Children's longing for play is almost insatiable, and is play not physical and mental exertion, a pleasure and enjoyment, as all work will be under Socialism when all who work will know that it is directed to a social end of benefit to all.

And for what reward do the millions of mothers undertake the arduous task of bringing up and educating their children? What wages do these mothers get?

Are we work shy?
Opponents of Socialism who would have you believe that once the individual concern for the material existence is removed, man would sink into indolence, they refer to such things as the discontent and aversion to work shown by the general run of workers, their craving for escape, longing for holidays, etc. It is evident, however that just as the increase in crimes against property and general “offences and crime” is no proof of man’s inborn or increasing villainy and viciousness, but is due to a defective social organisation, in other words, just as such phenomena are only the product of Capitalist society, people’s aversion to work is due only to the CONDITIONS under which that work has to be done. It will be admitted that the conditions of work under Capitalism are anything but idyllic. Apart from the niggardly remuneration of labour, which barely suffices to keep the family from near starvation, not to speak of the denial of partaking in the loftier and nobler things of life, there are all the other brutal features of the class struggle. The end of Capitalism, and therewith of wage-slavery, will put in place of the sordid struggle for existence the healthy cooperation of all for something more than mere food, clothing and shelter, for the greatest possible perfection of physical and mental capacities and therewith for the greatest possible enjoyment of life. Men will have the possibility of engaging in such occupations as correspond to individual disposition, inclination and capacities, which will make work an enjoyment that nobody will be anxious to shirk. In the fullest sense of the word, men will work in order to live and enjoy, instead of merely living to work.

To listen to the opponent of Socialism, it is evident that he is often unaware of the fluidity of things in this world. Childish as it is, yet he seems to think that the present social arrangements with such features as wageworkers and shareholders, money, banks, dividends, and the rest, have existed from time immemorial, and will always so exist. Yet time was when there was no money, and the all-embracing rule of capital is a fairly recent development. Capitalism is the successor of feudalism, but Capitalism’s mad rush really dates from the time of the industrial revolution, from the use of steam and electrically-driven machinery, division of labour, in production and transport, and the opening of the whole world as a market.

Before Capitalism
Slave-labour, by which also the marvellous ancient temples and churches, the tombs, the pyramids, the Colosseum and other astounding edifices were erected; and chattel-slavery and serfdom, by which the medieval castles, abbeys, monasteries, etc., were built, was not wage-labour. The chattel-slave and bondsman who cultivated his master’s land, also had a piece of land for his own use, and even in the middle ages most people never saw money in their lives. The labourers were a responsibility of the then master-class who had to care for them, whereas the wage-slave of today is not a responsibility of his employer. He is only hired where and when his labour is required and he can be dismissed if no longer required, or for other reasons. The very terms in common use “giving him or her the sack.” or “to be fired” betray in all its brutality the position of the worker on the labour market and show that no sentimentality is shown towards the exploited of today.

Fact is that men have worked under all kinds of conditions and that much of the best work has in the past been done by people who did not work for wages, or, for that matter, for material reward. What incentive did the talented and genial poets and writers, the Greek and other philosophers of old, the composers of immortal music, the painters and inventors, the architects and men of science have? Did they give their labour to the world only for wages or material gain? For what reward was the great research-work in the many fields of science, for example, the life-long painstaking work of a Darwin. Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and countless others, done?

If so much of the best work has in the past been and is still being done by people who had no. or little, material reward for their labours (great numbers of them died in penury and downright poverty), is it not ridiculous to say that the only incentive to work is money?

Work and Leisure
With the ownership and control of the machinery for wealth production and distribution taken out of the hands of the exploiting class and their State, with this machinery having become the COMMON PROPERTY of the people as a whole, all work and services will at last become identified with pleasure and. enjoyment of life. As there will be no more need for huge armies of soldiers, police, prisons, lawyers and judges, nor armaments, to protect the property and privileges of a parasite class, all the people engaged in these wasteful occupations will become free to do useful work. When, thanks to the process of production being carried on solely for USE (instead of for profit), no individual will be dependent on another individual for his means of life: in other words: when no worker will be dependent for his livelihood on an employer, no woman on a man. or man on a woman, when no children will be dependent on parents, or vice-versa, when the material existence of every human being is the responsibility of society as a matter of course, man will at last have become master over, and be able to enjoy the social wealth created by. his forbears and his own hands and brains, instead of being controlled by it. The whole complicated apparatus and mechanism of buying and selling, of advertising, propaganda, insurance, pensions, sick-clubs, tax and customs schemes. welfare and charity organisations, banks, pawnshops, lotteries and pools, etc., etc., will have become unnecessary and disappear.

The disappearance of these institutions and organisations with their insane waste and destruction will free millions of men and women for useful and more dignified occupation. When, in addition to all these people, the now unemployed (rich as well as poor) will share in the process of production and distribution, one can safely assume that the work and services necessary for the material and cultural equipment, maintenance and enjoyment of all members of society can be done with an individual daily average work far less than now.

No longer will men need to tremble when physical misfortune strikes. No more tramping the streets in search of work, no more fear of losing the job, getting in debt and seeing wife and children suffer as a consequence, since no family will be dependent on the fortune or misfortune of one or the other individual member for their material comforts. Nor need people despair when natural disasters occur, earthquakes, floods, fires, tempests, droughts with resultant bad harvests, etc., since under Socialism, with all the marvellous means of transportation at hand, even masses of people can be transferred from stricken areas to other places and homes, and suffering kept at a minimum. Whereas today, under Capitalism, people affected by such natural disasters usually become beggars, dependent on charity, and are soon left to their miserable fate.

Competition replaced by Co-operation
No burden of want, no hunger whip, no struggle to keep the wolf from the door, will be required to make men do the work and carry out the tasks necessary in the interest and for the well-being of society. Moreover, no material want will drive men to commit anti-social acts, theft or murder, or suicide. With the disappearance of Capitalist competition and the fight over markets, which unleash the lowest human passions, the soil on which the commercial “virtues” of greed, jealousy, mistrust. lying, fraud, hypocrisy, corruption, adulteration and swindle of all sorts thrive, will have been uprooted. And therewith—and most important of all—the cause of wars will have been removed from the face of the earth.

There will be NO wages under Socialism; there can be no payment of any kind since money and buying and selling will have no place. The reward for your activity will be the guaranty of LIFE, a life worth living for everybody. The guaranty will lie in your own activity in co-operation with your fellow men the world over. Your reward will be free access to all means and amenities of life, including all its cultural possibilities. And what greater reward can there be for work and service, even for the exercise of what is called “genius,” than the pleasure and enjoyment derived from it by the individual, and the acknowledgment and appreciation by your fellow men? Here, indeed, in this admiration and appreciation, is room and incentive for ambition! Though never will, nor can, a modest average or minimum contribution, physical or mental disability or incapacity, whether on account of illness, accident or otherwise, jeopardize or forfeit the guaranty of material existence for any member of Socialist society.

Stripped of their commodity character as things sold for a price, all material things capable of ministering to human wants and desires will have none but use-value. Thus in determining the individual's consumption, no considerations of “cost” or “price” can play any part, since these concepts will have been relegated to the limbo of the past. There can be no question under Socialism of apportioning such and such amount to individuals by some “authority” for work done, time spent, services rendered, or such like. Whatever kind or aspect of human needs and desires there may be. whether in the domain of food, clothing, housing, education or the care of children, the sick and old. cultural aspects, hospitals, sanatoria, travel and transport, everything will be a matter only of production technique and organisation, since financial or private interest considerations of any kind will be out of the way.

“The belief in God . . . " (1959)

Quote from the February 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard
  “The belief in God has often been advanced as not only the greatest, but the most complete of all the distinctions between man and the lower animals. It is, however, impossible, as we have seen, to maintain that this belief is innate or instinctive in man. On the other hand, a belief in all-pervading spiritual agencies seems to be universal, and apparently follows from a considerable advance in man’s reason, and from a still greater advance in his faculties of imagination, curiosity and wonder. I am aware that the assumed instinctive belief in God has been used by many persons as an argument for his existence. But this is a rash argument, as we should thus be compelled to believe in the existence of many cruel and malignant spirits only a little more powerful than man; for the belief in them is far more general than in a beneficent Deity.
  “The idea of a universal and beneficent Creator does not seem to arise in the mind of man, until he had been liberated by a long-continued culture.”
The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin, (page 937.)