Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Socialism and Human Nature. (1922)

From the April 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

Among the many objections that have been levelled against Socialism, the one concerning human nature strikes the writer as providing not only a lop-sided view of human nature, but at the same time an indictment of capitalist society unconsciously made by our opponents.

We are informed that "human nature being what it is, Socialism is quite impossible," or, as it is sometimes put, "you will have to change human nature."

This remarkable point of view was formulated in another way only a few days: ago by the Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill, who, in a speech delivered in Loughborough Town Hall, stated :—
  "A great mistake the Socialists make is that they follow a lot of logical and symmetrical theory, and forget all about human nature."—Sunday Express, 12/3/22.
Far be it from us to suggest that Mr. Churchill follows any theory that could be called either symmetrical or logical, or, when commenting upon his famous "gamble" at Gallipoli with the lives of thousands of our fellow-workers, that he had forgotten about human nature.

However, we are not so much concerned here with Churchill as we are with those of the working class who seriously entertain the objection stated above. Before proceeding to deal with this objection, we will state what the Socialists have to say of existing society, and how their theory corresponds to reality.

We assert that present-day society is based upon the private ownership of the means of living by the capitalist class, with the consequent enslavement of the working class, by means of whose labour wealth is produced. It follows, then, that, as the capitalist class do not work, they must obtain their wealth from the workers; in other words, they steal it from the working class. Of course, the means, employed are not the same as those of the common thief or burglar, which are quite illegal, but by virtue of their "legal" ownership of the means of life, which is secured to them by their being in control of the political machinery, including the armed forces of the nation. To illustrate this point.

Let us assume that a small body of workers decided to "take and hold" some of the machinery of production for their own benefit, we should at once witness the operation of the power that is in the hands of the capitalist class. The police force, in all probability, would be the first to appear on the scene, and, if this was not sufficient, the Army and Navy would be brought to bear upon the takers and holders, to teach them that "Britons never will be slaves," and in every large industrial dispute this armed force is ready at hand to teach the workers the lesson taught the school-child, "You must not touch; it isn't yours."

The armed forces are controlled through Parliament, for, though they act in the immediate upon the instructions from the Government Departments, such as the War Office and the Admiralty, they are ultimately under the control of the majority in the House of Commons, as this majority is responsible for the conduct of the various Departments. But the capitalists have not voted themselves into Parliament. The workers outnumber them by millions at the ballot-box. The tragic irony is, that the workers have handed over to the ruling class the very power by which they art kept in subjection. What follows as a consequence of the working class, being a subject class is that the workers must operate upon the various tools of production to obtain a living. But the wealth, when produced, does not belong to them, but to the capitalists, who hand back a fraction of this wealth in the form of wages to the workers, to enable the latter to renew their energy, and thus repeat the performance of producing wealth. In modern society, on account of man's triumph over the forces of Nature, there is produced all over the civilised world an abundance of wealth sufficient to ensure a comfortable existence for all. But, as every worker is painfully aware, poverty and insecurity of existence is the lot of his class. We have to record the fact that, in spite of the productive power of to-day, we witness the anomaly of starvation in the midst of plenty. The Socialist, after analysing society and viewing all this, proposes to the workers that they should organise into a political party for the purpose of obtaining political power in order to change society from Capitalist to Socialist; that is, alter the basis of society from one of private ownership into one of the common ownership of the means of life, to be democratically owned and controlled by the whole community.

This being the proposition of the Socialist, we ask, What is there about it that in any way conflicts with what we know of human nature ? The objection of our opponents merely begs the following question : What is human nature ? The answer, that, in the opinion of the present writer, covers the ground fairly well, is the one met somewhere in his reading as "the manifold activities of man in general." This definition should meet with the approval of our opponents, for when they use the phrase "Human Nature," they generally refer to the actions of certain persons as a proof of their position.

A glance at history will show that the activities of man have changed with every alteration in the form of society, for, just as there has been change within the domain of the biological world, so there has been changes in the forms of society. At a very early period of man's history cannibalism was very often resorted to as a means of food supply., and was thought no more objectionable than eating the flesh of an ox or a sheep. The sex relationship of primitive man, although being quite in conformity with the current morality of the age, would shock the civilised person, and if anybody proposed their revival in modern society, either a prison cell or a lunatic asylum would greet their efforts. But, while there is a vast difference between the primitive savage and civilised man, the distinction lies in the fact that, while the former had but crude implements at his disposal to obtain the means of sustenance, the latter has inherited the results of the accumulated experiences of man's long and painful journey from savagery through barbarism to civilisation.

But, while the outlook and surroundings of modern man are different from those of his primitive ancestor, nevertheless, as far as the qualities that make up human nature are concerned, there is a similarity between both. For instance, we eat when we are hungry, and roar when we are angry. We seek the greatest amount of pleasure, and avoid pain and discomfort as much as possible, and the same qualities characterise the savage. The difference lies in the means employed to procure the food and the kind of pleasure sought; consequently, viewing human nature from this angle, we say that there is a sense in which human nature changes and a sense in which it is always the same. The change of conditions, whether it be a change in the form of society or a change in the conditions of existing society, does not change the man , they only direct his natural qualities of adaptation into a different path. To illustrate this, we may take the recent war. Here we find the "peaceful citizen," who, while he shudders at the mention of a social revolution, because to him it means bloodshed, was converted from a man of peace into a man of war, and the greater the amount of blood of his opponents he shed, the more his conduct was commended.

The worker may notice how, when one of his mates has fallen upon more evil times, the helping hand of the shop-mates has been extended towards the victim. In the most poverty-stricken slum the same factor of mutual aid can be observed in various directions. The daily Press reports frequently the news of some gallant act performed without hope of reward. It is a fact, as Kropotkin says in his book, "Mutual Aid," page 292 :—
"Neither the crushing powers of the centralised state, nor the teachings of mutual hatred and pitiless struggle which came adorned with the attributes of science, from obliging philosophers and sociologists could weed out the feeling of human solidarity, deeply lodged in men's understanding and heart, because it has been nurtured by all our preceding evolution."
As we have already indicated, human nature is a complexity of qualities that can either be expressed harmfully or beneficially ; it depends upon the conditions of its existence; and, as we have shown, that, with the change of conditions, there takes place a corresponding change in man's activities, we assert that with the change from Capitalism to Socialism, those various qualities which go to make up human nature, will be directed into different paths, and the workers, free from capitalist bondage, will thus enjoy the fruits of their labour and live a life of security and happiness.
Robert Reynolds

"The Japs in Siberia." (1922)

From the April 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

The above is the title of a leaflet published by the "National 'Hands off Russia' Committee."

It contains an introductory foreword over the signatures of Robert Williams, Ben Tillett, M.P., John Bromley, Neil Maclean, M.P., J. E. Mills, M.P., and Robert Smillie. The leaflet points out how the Ruling Class of Japan are endeavouring to obtain a foothold in Siberia by means of their armies and navies for the purpose of furthering their imperialistic ambitions. The leaflet describes that in the process, however, atrocities are being perpetrated by Japanese, which bring to mind the mediaeval torture chambers.

We think there is nothing particularly unusual about these methods; they are merely typical of the long line of atrocities which have been inflicted by one capitalist power after another in their respective endeavours to monopolise markets and extend their fields of exploitation and plunder over the backward countries. Needless to say, in these adventures it has been the working class who have done the fighting ; it is working-class lives which have been thus offered up as sacrifices in the interests of International Capitalism. Organisations like the "Hands off Russia" Committee may continue to publish leaflets like the above to the extent of millions of tons, but it does not touch the root of the matter ; it is merely trifling with the effects of a particular system of society known as Capitalism. The mission of the Socialist Party, however, is to lay bare the general trend of Capitalist development; to point out unceasingly that, so long as the system lasts, atrocities will be repeated; that they are effects which spring from the very roots of the Capitalist system, because they are grounded in the soil of competitive rivalry for world's markets, trade routes, etc. The only remedy is to remove the cause, capitalism, and replace it by the International Co-operative Commonwealth.

Therefore, when the above-mentioned well-known Labour leaders write as follows in their introductory note to the leaflet—
  "As Internationalist, we would urge the workers of Europe, America, the British Colonies, and the world generally, to do all that is possible to apply a boycott of all things Japanese until the Japanese troops are completely withdrawn from Siberia."
they are only confusing the issue by suggesting impossible things as remedies for a rotten system. Fancy the workers, of the countries referred to boycotting Japanese articles ! The workers will always endeavour to obtain the best value for their money. It is one of the guiding principles of the Capitalist system to strive for the best value obtainable in the ordinary course of exchange—i.e., buying and selling. If applies equally to the workers as it does to the capitalist. The worker receives wages and expends them to the very best advantage—i.e., in the purchase of the best value in the shape of the necessaries of life. It matters not to him whether the goods he buys are Japanese, German, or Chinese— he seeks the best value for his money. He is bound to do this, or his power to work will deteriorate, and with it his chance of a job.

The capitalist seeks the highest degree of labour power which the labour market can produce; he wants the best value also.

Pious suggestions like the above melt in the air when they come into contact with the force of the facts mentioned.

But here is the cream of absurdity in the introductory note above referred to :—
"The workers of the West should spend tens of thousands of pounds in an active and well-directed propaganda amongst their fellow workers in the East, in order that the necessary and salutory pressure should be brought against the Eastern over lords of land and industrial capital."
We wonder what the millions of unemployed wage slaves of the Western world will have to say to this. Faced as they are with conditions which mean a scanty, meagre, semi-starved existence, to collect "tens of thousands of pounds" from the workers is a suggestion grotesque and impossible under the circumstances. These Labour leaders are either fools or liars.

Once again, therefore, we tell the workers that they must overthrow the system which makes possible such misery and suffering to their class, which causes wars and the horrors arising therefrom, famines, atrocities, starvation in the midst of plenty, and all the countless evils which beset the worker to-day.

Further, we claim to have found the remedy. We say it consists in ceaselessly striving to acquire an understanding of the forces at work, and the economic laws which govern the capitalist system.

Fellow-workers, as a counter-blast to the above-quoted confusion, get down to the solid work of understanding your class position, which Socialist knowledge alone makes clear.
W. I.

Editorial: The Engineers Lock Out. (1922)

Editorial from the April 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

For nearly two years there has been a rapid and persistent worsening of the conditions of life of the working class. In every industry there have been large reductions of wages, often accompanied by the extension of working hours. So enormous has this fall become that Dr. Macnamara stated (Daily News, 17/2/1922) that wages had fallen in 1921 by £6,000,000 per week. That is over £300,000,000 per year ! Geddes looks small beer alongside this, for while his Committee were trying to reduce Government expenditure by £100,000,000, the employers succeeded in "saving" more than three times that amount from wages.

Naturally the employers are feeling jubilant. The only serious attempt to stop this landslide in wages and conditions was the threat of the Triple Alliance last April in connection with the Miners' lock-out. The foul treachery of J. H. Thomas, Robert Williams, Frank Hodges, and the rest of the official crowd, who study so strenuously the interests of the masters when any dispute occurs, saved the situation for the employers, and prepared the way for further drastic reductions in wages on every hand.

Finding the workers in retreat on all fronts, the masters have now decided to try a "big offensive" in certain selected industries, with the deliberate intention of continuing this "offensive" in every industry till the standard of the workers as a whole has been forced far below the 1914 level.

For this purpose they have chosen to attack the Engineers directly, and allied industry of shipbuilders indirectly. The point of attack on the Engineers is on the matter of overtime that had been the subject of agreement in September, 1920. To talk of the need for "overtime" when millions are vainly seeking work is not Gilbertian, it is drivelling idiocy. Even the employers seem to recognise this, for they are stating that the issue is : —
  "We are going; to know where we are. We are going to manage the shops, or the shops are not going to be run. We are going to make it an absolute condition of employment for all hands" (Employers' statement, Daily News, March 20th, 1922.)
In the House of Commons Mr. A. Henderson quoted from a document the following instruction :—
  "Men will have to resume work on conditions that we will lay down" (Daily News, March 21st, 1922).
The employers trot out these statements pompously and endeavour to convey the impression that it is a brand-new discovery they have made. In their bone-headed ignorance they have no idea that their argument is as old as the institution of private property in the means of life. In the antique civilisations and, centuries after, in the cotton fields of South America, the slave-owners claimed the right to do "as they liked with their own"—in these cases the chattel slaves. The Feudal barons bewailed the few manorial and guild restrictions as interfering with their liberty to do "as they liked" with the serf. And the early capitalists, Christian and Atheist alike, fiercely denounced any interference with the "liberty of the subject" when they dragged children of three years of age and upwards into the hell of mill and mine.

The employers certainly have logic on their side so far. All the wailing about the "cruelty" of the employers, in choosing a time suitable to themselves to enforce such conditions, is waste of breath and ink. Grant the right of private ownership of the means of life or of persons, then one cannot deny the "right" of the owner to "do as he likes with his own." But let us carry the argument a step further.

Upon examination it will be found that the employers only rely upon this "right" so long as the workers accept it meekly. If, under the stress of want, the workers were to attempt to use the means of production for their own benefit, the masters would drop talking of "right" and would openly use the might they control. They would at once call in the forces, of the State, and machine guns, aerial bombs, tanks and troops—à la the Rand—would be launched against the unarmed workers. Like so many other things to-day, "right" will be used by the employers as far as it suits their interests. When it fails to do this, then, like "humanity," "brotherly feeling," "mutuality of interests," and numerous other catchwords and phrases, it will be kicked aside with contempt.

Yet with all the present and past facts around them in overwhelming quantities to prove the truth of this point, the fakirs like Brownlie, Thomas, Clynes & Co. chatter about conciliation and the "duty" of the Government to intervene. Neither they, nor Sir Allan Smith, need turn a hair on this point. If the capitalists fancy their property is in any danger, then the Government will intervene with the speed of greased lightning.

Is the situation then entirely hopeless ? To answer this question it is necessary to grasp clearly what the situation is. Despite the empty-headed rant of the Communist Party and of J. C. Gould and Sir Allan Smith, there is no disposition on the part of the mass of the workers to-day to "control production." The most demanded by the workers is that they shall have some say as to the details of the conditions under which they are to work. The situation then is one of conditions of employment. Once this is understood it becomes a matter of discussion as to what hope exists. On the one hand there are some firms outside the Masters' Federation. Sir Allan Smith and J. C. Gould may be taken as extremists of the latter organisation, but if the workers make a real attempt to put a brake upon the landslide that is taking place in the worsening of their conditions, there may be sufficient members of the Federation who would rather call a halt than face a real fight.

For one thing stands out clearly : Even if the masters win all along the line, if unlimited overtime is allowed and wages are reduced further, these things of themselves would not bring a single order into the shops. In reference to the Shipbuilders' case, the Daily News, 9/2/1922, says :—
  "It is not contended that the proposed reduction in wages will restore that part of the demand which has disappeared, because of the abnormal rate of world building since the Armistice, the operation of the reparation clauses requiring the handing-over of German ships, and the general slump in world trade."
How can the situation be tested ? There is only one way. The organised workers must take united action to hold up industry. It is not a sectional question. The whole of the workers are involved, and if they remain divided, they will be attacked, and beaten, in detail by the employers. If the workers are prepared to stop the wheels of industry for the purpose of putting a check on this attack they must grasp the facts before them.

First, the stoppage must not be allowed to drag on indefinitely. If it does not effect its purpose in a short, sharp action, then it will have failed and the men must accept the inevitable for the present.

Second, it must be carried out peaceably. Any attempt at riot or destruction must be sternly repressed, as it would at once give the signal for the use of the armed forces against defenceless men. All nonsense about "taking possession of works, etc.," must be repudiated or ignored, as that way leads to disaster.

Third, the decisions to come out and to go back must be in the hands of the rank and file. No power should be given to leaders—revolutionary or otherwise—to decide these points.

Such action would cause practically no increase in the misery that already exists, and it would be a real test of the situation. And the hope of success within the limits laid down is at least such as to make the effort worthwhile.

But should this effort be successful, even then the workers would still have to realise that they are only fighting effects, while the cause of their troubles remains unaltered. That cause lies in the private ownership of the means of life—the land, mills, mines, factories, railways, canals, etc.—and the resulting enslavement of the non-owners, the property-less workers. This enslavement is maintained owing to the masters' control of political power whereby they can use the armed forces to protect their property. But this political power is placed in the masters' hands by the workers when at each election—whether general or bye-election—they vote the supporters of capitalism into Parliament. It does not matter in the least whether that supporter be Sir Allan Smith or J. H. Thomas, Lord Devonport or Ben Tillett, the result is the same.

Not until the workers understand the above facts and organise to gain control of political power for the purpose of establishing the common ownership of the means of life, will the days of strikes and lock-outs be over.

An Old Man in a Tub. (1922)

From the April 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard
  "Mankind must either look for salvation from within or without. Hellenism and Christianity bid him look within. The Marxian Creed bids him look without and expect regeneration from the agency of material conditions." From Editorial, Daily Telegraph, January 7th, 1922.
Once upon a time there was an old man who lived in a tub. According to the most reliable reports got from almost totally unreliable historians, that strange old man didn't want much of the stuff of the earth. In the middle of a market he would some times stand still, look blandly upon the good things of Greece, and melodramatically exclaim, "Good Lord ! how many things are there in the world of which Diogenes hath no need." Then he went again to his simple old home.

That is all I know of Diogenes, and all I care to know. He has always struck me as being a rather silly gentleman. Others seem to think him to have been a wise boy, and say (as Viscount Milner did in his address to the Classical Association, as the "Telegraph" did in its editorial comments on Milner's address) that it we were wise as he, Old Tubby, we wouldn't rush about on the earth for lamb chops and green peas and wines to wash 'em down, and clothes to keep ourselves warm, nor yet for houses . . . but instead we would get hold of a damned good book, soak our minds in sentimentality, forget almost we have bellies, and thereafter be content with plain living and high thinking.

That way of thinking won't do for us. Philosophy can help us a fair amount when we are in the thick of the natural and inevitable tragedies of life. Ordinarily, the human needs, physical needs, must be satisfied first. You may be idealistic; you may start life on oatmeal and water, and keep your pockets full of books; you may feed on an abundance of moonlight and music and a minimum of boiled rice; you may sit out the nights over Plato, Socrates, and the rest of the old crowd of chatterers; you may be Godly, Philosophic, Poetic; you may do all that and be all that—for only a short time. At the end of 12 months your anatomy will be distinct as a tree in winter. You will probably get the sack for being slow, and perhaps in the end you will have to look out for an old tub. And I think I should laugh to see the wind whistle through you as it does through a bare tree.

Far as I can see, the old man in the tub was wrong. And Milner is wrong, and even the "Telegraph" is wrong. We can't successfully ignore the facts of our place in the scheme of the universe, nor the character of our particular make-up. Before we can enjoy anything—the fresh air, the colours in skies or in fields, human companionship or any sort of books done by wise or passionate men—we must have a certain amount of flesh on our bones.

Nowadays thousands of people are far too thin. They are too thin to think. They are hungry, ragged, haggard, and full of bitterness ; but they are too thin to think. I will not now go into the sickening history of the workers. Those who suffer ought to know all about it. The awful curse of Capitalism was upon them from the first.

They have sweated in the pits and at the furnaces, and been heroic upon the seas. They have done weaving and made engines and ships. They have put numberless big buildings all over the country, and they have made some pretty good guns. But the people who have done all this are poor. And the monocled sensualist who would do anything to recover his youth, "except get up early in the morning, take exercise, or become a useful member of society," represents the class which, by its agents in Parliament, controls the guns which control you.

I haven't much more to say now.

Rub out all you have heard about politics. Try to get your second wind. If you don't, then the years will pass on as before —the shadow of Capitalism will be upon us all—the hate and sin and sorrow of this social system will go on, and millions of workers, will be needlessly crushed and treated worse than the beasts of the field. If you want to laugh then you will have to get blind drunk.

Our way is the best way. We want all people to be free and happy. Our Object and our Principles are printed plainly as possible on the back page of the "S.S." If you won't trouble to read them and thoroughly consider them, I may as well dry up, for you won't be bothered with anything I say here. If you think the "Telegraph," Milner, and the Old Man in the Tub to be right, if the affairs of the world are nothing to you, then you will let the capitalists still own and control all the wealth and all the sources of wealth.

If you think Tubby's philosophy to be wrong,

H. M. M.

That aforementioned back page from April 1922.

The Mantle of the Prophet. (1922)

From the April 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

''Yes! but shall we ever see Socialism in our time?" This is the finish of many a long discussion, when difficulty after difficulty has been met, when conviction is in escapable, the other chap wraps the diminished shreds of his prejudices about him, and says, sceptically : "Do you think we shall live to see it ?" A simple, laconic "Yes" will obviously fail to carry conviction. He wants some details. He wants some reasons for the faith that is in us, and prosaically, perhaps, he wants to know if he will be there when the prizes are distributed. We beg to say, therefore, that unless Fate has marked us down for an early call, in our belief, Socialism is within measurable distance. These are our reasons.

First, let us have some definitions. The system of society with which we are familiar is called Capitalism. Its essential feature is the social tool, or machine, with which great numbers of human beings co-operate to produce that which humanity needs. These tools, or machines, are the property of a comparatively small number of individuals, who, by virtue of such ownership, take the whole of the product, returning to the labourers, on the average, just sufficient of the proceeds to enable them to support life and continue to work. The wealth produced to-day is produced for the market. When the home markets are filled up, the capitalist looks abroad for markets for the surplus.

It becomes, therefore, the anxious concern of those who own the social machinery —the capitalists—to obtain markets, for this surplus. This is done by the partial interchange of products between capitalist countries in varying stages of development, by conquest and colonisation, and by the encouragement, often forcible, of non-capitalist nations to become customers for their goods.

Now, obviously, the continuity of a capitalist concern depends upon its ability to obtain and hold markets. Without markets it dwindles and dies. And, like a highly developed living organism, there is no standing still. It is either going for ward of back. If it goes forward, it carries its own Nemesis with it; for among the products it must export are the very machines that will in turn make the market first self-supporting, and later into a competitor. If it go back, it automatically condemns to idleness, starvation, and possible insurrection the source of its own riches, the workers, without whom the whole of its machinery is so much scrap-iron.

It remains, then, but to consider how far Capitalism has travelled along that fatal road when its effective markets (not necessarily its possible markets) are saturated, and it stagnates for very surfeit. Here is where our questioner comes in, not too bored, let us hope, to follow but a little further, and not too exacting to ask us the precise date. One can only give indications and make rough approximations. Consider these facts. During the last ten years probably a hundred millions of people have died as a result of war, famine, and pestilence (influenza). Add to these the millions of unemployed in every capitalistic country. Think of the loss in productive capacity of those millions. Think of the loss as consumers. And yet, according to Chiozza Money, "our exports in January, commonly alleged to be desperately low, were as great in quantity as in 1900, a record year of boom trade thought remarkable not long before the war." ("New Statesman," February 25th.) He also mentions that in the two years 1919-1920 new capital issues amounted to £691,000,000.

We are told this is a period of bad trade, of depression, of decreased productivity, of poverty-stricken markets. What will it mean when Capitalism gets going again; when trade revives; when France is "restored" and Germany gets on her feet; when India, China, Japan, and possibly Egypt come into the ring ? C. E. Turner pointed out recently that one industry at least that is doing phenomenally well is that engaged in manufacturing textile machinery. Not for Lancashire. It is being shipped to France (for restoration), India, China, and Japan as fast as it can be produced. This is but an indication. What is the only possible inference from all these considerations? What other than that the present slump will be succeeded by a brief period of feverish bustle of prodigious production, of tremendous effort, and then— and then, what ? Markets choked, production stopped, unemployment colossal, and slump abysmal.

These things will gradually awake the worker to a knowledge of his position. As the water wears the stone away, so the disappointments and sufferings will eventually wear away the workers' support of capitalism. In our opinion, human society is ripe for Socialisation now, immediately. It wants but a working class ready, willing, and, above all, organised, to take the means of human life out of the hands of those who now use them for individual gain and convert them into instruments for the common well-being. The opportunity arises at each General Election ; for, as the capitalists conserve their power by their hold on the machinery of government, so, with the accession to power of a majority of workers' delegates, backed by an organised working class, can the people achieve that social ownership of its own means of life, which we call Socialism. This can be achieved in our time. This is within the compass of the present year. There is no need to await the brutal bludgeoning of the next slump, or the one after that. The first requisite is understanding; the next organisation; and then a realisation that they are best combined by joining the Socialist Party—now.
W. T. Hopley

Alas! Those Prophets. (1922)

From the April 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard
  “If the left wing analysis is sound, the clash between the capitalist powers in August, 1914, marked the opening phase of the world revolution, The events in Russia during 1917-1918 were characteristic of a revolutionary crisis. None of us can tell how soon the forward march of the revolution will be resumed; but for the present we are marking time, and the capitalist system is making awkward efforts to reconsolidate itself. Russia, too, is no longer ‘in the rapids of revolution.’ Despite the dictatorship of the proletariat, her policy is in a large measure dictated by the peasantry—a reactionary class constituting four-fifths of the population.” (Italics ours.)—E. and C. PaulCommunist Review,” March, 1922 (page 390).

How "Ability" Directs. (1922)

From the April 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

How often are we working men told that we have not the intelligence to "direct" industry ; and that society would crumble to pieces were it not for the individuals who possess a wonderful faculty called by our masters Directive Ability? We are also assured that those possessing this marvellous—and very mysterious !—gift are only found within the ranks of the capitalist class.

Now and again ugly and awkward (for the capitalist) facts come out in connection with the running of particular concerns. At such times the capitalist directors (the alleged possessors of "directive ability") hasten to disown responsibility for any of the irregularities charged against the company, and plead ignorance of its internal mechanism. On such occasions officials of the company (wage-slaves) are saddled with the whole of the responsibility.

A case in point was provided during the inquiry into the celebrated Putymayo Rubber atrocities, some years ago, in which Sir Roger Casement gave evidence. On the board of directors of the company, whose treatment of the natives formed the subject of the investigation, there were four English directors. When interrogated as to the company's doings these brainy gentlemen denied all knowledge of its operations and asserted that they did not even know the language in which the business at the meeting of directors was carried on !

However, even this direct information is not necessary to anyone who will give a few moments' thought to one side of the question—and a glance now and again at the company reports and prospectuses regularly printed in the papers. From the latter it will be noticed that the same individual's name appears on the boards of numerous companies. It will further be discovered that some of the companies are gigantic concerns with tentacles stretching out all over the world, and producing varieties of articles a knowledge of which requires training and specialisation to a very high degree. This being so, it should be obvious that an individual who was connected with such concerns could take a very minute part (assuming for the sake of argument that he does take a part) in the work of these companies.

The writer of this article has before him a cutting from the "Daily News" (14/2/22) relating to the case of the City Equitable group of companies whose affairs are creating a financial stir at the present moment. From this cutting we learn that Mr. Gerard Lee Bevan, who was the chairman of the City Equitable Fire and the City Equitable Associated Companies, was also on the boards of the following companies :
Agricultural Industries, Ltd. ; Burton Son and Sanders, Ltd. ; Chilian Stores (Gath .and Chaves), Ltd. ; Clarke, Chapman & Co., Ltd. ; H. and C. Grayson, Ltd. ; Harrods (Buenos Aires), Ltd. ; Leyland Motors, Ltd. ; South American Stores (Gath and Chaves), Ltd.; Southern Brazil Electric Co., Ltd
The capital of two of the above companies (Agricultural Industries, Ltd., and South American Stores) total round about £5,000,000. It will be observed that one of the above companies is connected with Agriculture, another with Petrol Motors, another with Electricity, and so forth. A man would need to be indeed a many-sided genius to handle such vast concerns ! No wonder the poor fellow has made a mess of things and cleared out !

The truth of the matter, however, is that all the direction of  industry performed  by these self-styled directors concerns the direction of  the profits into the appropriators pockets.

The whole of industry, in all its ramifications, occupies in the actual production and distribution of wealth only those whose title gives the key to their social position―the working class. How are they rewarded ? Perhaps the following; quotation will form a fitting conclusion to these few remarks (taken from the "Daily News," 10/2/22) :
  "A case which has been resumed at intervals for the last 30 years has been brought once more before the First Paris Court of Appeal.
  M. Eugene Turpin, the inventor of melinite, and of many other contrivances, is endeavouring to recover damages from all persons who have used his invention. M. Turpin is still a relatively poor man, although since 1881 he has brought out at least 40 inventions."
The above inventor can take his place with the galaxy of inventors (including General Shrapnel, who died in poverty in the early stages of the war) who have made possible the rapid expansion of wealth which has brought with it intrigue and wire-pulling (misnamed "directive ability") of the wealthy financiers.

Knowledge is Power: — If. (1922)

From the April 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard

We often hear the above remark indiscriminately used by people claiming to be teachers in certain branches of knowledge. To the Socialist, however, accustomed as he is to viewing things according to their relative value to his class, the above phrase taken alone would not be likely to arouse much enthusiasm; for the first question he would probably ask would be, What kind of knowledge? One has to watch the roadway of a great bridge rise and fall, to stand beneath a mammoth ocean liner slowly creeping away from the quay, to see the wheels of production and distribution in motion in any large manufactory, to realise that the worker, who alone operates and makes possible this fabulous wealth, MUST POSSESS KNOWLEDGE, and of many distinctive and technical kinds, too, and yet he is a slave—cap in hand, often begging permission to be allowed to bring into being these very things. Obviously, there is some other knowledge he requires, for to what purpose is his knowledge if it but fetters him with chains of slavery? As William Morris wrote :—

"Faster and faster our iron master, 
The thing we make for ever drives, 
Bids us grind treasure and fashion pleasure, 
For other hopes and other lives."

The knowledge necessary to set in motion or harness Nature's most terrible forces, merely obtains for the worker, upon the average, subsistence for wife and children, and not always that. The power such knowledge confers upon him is the power to produce and distribute the wherewithal upon which society has its being; luxury and affluence for a set of parasitic idlers; want, anxiety, and premature death for millions of his own class. NO ! there is yet one part of his mental equipment that is lacking, and that is the knowledge that he is a slave. The fact that he is no longer a bonded, but a wage or salaried one, does not make his servitude any the less real and complete, and honest introspection would compel admittance of this fact. It may or may not be true that "a little learning is a dangerous thing"—certainly as far as the Socialist is concerned, if that knowledge be CORRECT, he sees anything but danger to the working class, especially when it is consciously directed towards their ultimate goal—Socialism.

Every member of the Party commenced with a relatively small amount of knowledge, usually dearly bought in the hard school of working-class experience; but he knows that such a step inevitably leads to the desire to study and enlarge that knowledge. Unfortunately, the convert to Socialism is often inclined to enthuse over anything that is supposed to call for working-class activity and support; he is fired with zeal and interest in matters which, a later and clearer perception will teach, are about as much to do with the Socialist objective as the programme of the Labour Party or the constitution of the I.L.P. is. It by no means follows that he should not endeavour to understand each and every phase of political activity, but a clear understanding of his Socialist position IS FIRST NECESSARY to enable him to analyse and explain the uselessness of such and such a movement to his class. No member of the Labour Party could show that even the realisation of the whole of their programme would confer the slightest permanent benefit upon the workers; they can only impress and delude the politically ignorant. Mere eagerness to do something without an objective, which is the result of scientific deduction, may even be in a direct line to perpetuate decadent capitalism. All reforms are a standing example of such waste of effort as far as Socialism is concerned. The writer well remembers his association with the working-class movement before coming in contact with the principles of the S.P.G.B., and his support then of the Suffragette movement and certain reformist parties. He remembers wasting much time, and with great patience atttempting to assimilate the spurious economics of Marshall, Jevons, Shaw, etc., with other voluminous works not of first importance to student of Socialism, without, at the time, being fortunate enough to have had put in his way pamphlets and writings of Marx and Marxian Socialists.

It is often easier to instruct and help members of the working class in obtaining real Socialist knowledge who have NOT imbibed some half-baked unscientific notions of the so-called "Communist" and other organisations, seeking the support of the workers, than it is with those who, though professing Socialists, are confused, and, in reality, unconsciously enemies of the working class. Before one can lay any claim to the name of Socialist, it is essential that an understanding be based upon a scientifically drawn-up foundation; only then can the worker discard false conceptions and avoid the errors so common to the pseudo and the sentimental reformer.

That foundation is to be found in the principles of the Socialist Party. There, in simple, working-class language, is the guide to action. Once understood, no matter how brilliant the oratory or rhetoric, or how touching the appeal may be that is. made by people who claim that their heart bleeds for the worker—he will know that there is one way, and ONE WAY ONLY, to working-class emancipation, and that is. the way of class-conscious concerted action by the workers themselves. That is the knowledge that will enable the workers to obtain the power to wrest, by their political supremacy, the means to the glorious heritage that awaits them. Without that knowledge, however much skill and dexterity they may possess as workers, they remain slaves, by reason of the ignorance of their position in society. Once a majority obtain that knowledge, the advent of ibe Socialist Commonwealth is at hand. Fellow-workers, join with us; the smallest effort helps to speed the day.
W. E. MacHaffie