Monday, February 15, 2021

Hero Worship: A Conversation With a Visitor from Mars. (Part 9) (1928)

From the August 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard 

"Spartacus and Tyler are examples of 'good' leaders, men of courage, sincerity and ability; but history records far more examples of 'leaders' who have betrayed their followers. Indeed, the ruling class in all ages have employed agents to obtain positions of dominance in revolutionary movements that it might be warned of all plans and be prepared against sudden outbreaks. The movements of the Luddites (the name taken by a 'secret' organisation which sprang up when modern machinery was being introduced, its objects being to smash the machines which deprived them of their living as handicraftsmen) and the Chartists were made largely ineffective by such laudable stratagems. The last words spoken on the scaffold by Brandreth, one of the boldest of the Luddites, were: 'I have been betrayed by Oliver the Spy.' This same Oliver, by the way, was also instrumental in causing one of the best organized risings of the Chartists to be abortive. But the supreme tragedy of the Chartist movement, imbued with ideas of the necessity for leadership, was in the support given to its worst enemies—the liberal capitalists— lured by some of its followers by the latter’s promises to gain for them their objects.

"In more recent times, Marty, it has been shown that often the most violent 'leaders' of secret revolutionary organizations are in reality secret police agents. Before the Bolshevic Revolution in Russia, many such agents were proved to have urged bomb outrages against ministers and even to have committed such deeds themselves. The infamous Father Gapon, who led the Russian workers to the terrible shambles at the Tsar's palace in St. Petersburg, Bogrov, who shot the premier Stolypin dead, and Azeff, one of the most influential of the 'social revolutionaries,' were proved to be such 'agents provocateurs.'

"So much for 'secret' movements and the part of 'hero-worship’ in the disintegration of them, whilst for the workers this rule may be formulated: The penalty of trusting to others to do what can be done by themselves has been and always will be the same—trust and you will be 'trussed.'

"I have already pointed out, Marty, how capitalism has weakened the hold of genuine 'hero-worship,' and I now come to a factor which is tending to destroy the idea of 'leadership' in the workers' movements. The growth of industrial and political organizations professing to promote the interests of the workers has led to a wild scramble for 'jobs’ in these bodies. Consequently, we see would-be 'leaders' seeking to shift the old well-entrenched 'leaders' by every kind of denunciation of their words and actions. Thus 'leader' succeeds 'leader' with bewildering rapidity, and the logical outcome of this sordid struggle must be the realization by the workers that all 'leaders’ are equally useless to them in their march to emancipation. The use of 'catch words' and slogans many times repeated has become so familiar as to breed, if not contempt, at least a desire to see something resembling 'results.' Even oratory fails to convey the 'herd-thrill' to the same degree as in the past, and the old 'leaders' are retained only from sentimental feelings of attachment as one keeps an old pair of boots or a threadbare coat. These are hopeful signs, Marty, but only the realization by the workers of their slave position and the knowledge of the means to escape therefrom can finally dispel any fears as to their ability to dispense with 'leaders’ and themselves organize for their own emancipation, which wilL involve the emancipation of all mankind by the setting up of the Universal Classless Republic wherein all will be free to enjoy (without the sanction of 'great' men) the entire bounty of the earth."

I had hoped that this peroration would have ended our conversation, but Marty has the tenacity of a bulldog and the curiosity of a jackdaw.

"When Socialism is finally established and 'hero worship' no longer exists, what ideals do you conceive will produce the effects formerly obtained from personal idolatry—will sincere, able men continue to inspire others less endowed by Nature? ”

“Your question, Marty,’’ I replied, "is like that of the patient to the doctor: 'You have cured me of smallpox, what do you propose to put in its place?’ However, assuming the role of the prophet, I shall attempt an answer. Under Socialism the people will be not only the producers of wealth but the owners of it. At the present time we are told by 'advanced’ capitalists that in firms which allot a portion of the profit for division among the employees, the men work more eagerly, knowing that each will receive a large bonus if the 'common product’ is increased, and become more vigilant and interested in their work. (Although, of course, these capitalists do not point out the fraud of the 'beneficial innovation,' the cheap increased output of the masters, the impaired health of the workers, the speedy glutting of the market and the resultant unemployment.) Also the experiments of Leclaire and Godin show that inventiveness receives a stimulus by this supposed share in the common product. If a zeal is created by participation in a minute fraction of the 'common product,’ how great a zeal will be inculcated in the independent-minded men who will possess in common the entire fruits of their labours —freed from the dominance of the master class. No longer in fear of losing their livelihood, no longer forced to toil the whole weary day in a frantic effort to secure the bare material necessities for sustaining life, each will have the opportunity to develop himself (or herself), physically and mentally, as a member of the Classless Republic. The increase in leisure will lead to a higher level of culture, while the desire to excel, then no longer necessary to be indulged at the expense of others, will be directed towards the betterment of the community. As to your question whether able men will still inspire men of less ability, the answer is that great deeds and thoughts will be acknowledged with approbation by the community, but reverential awe or idolatrous glorification must needs be absent in a Commonwealth based on equality and not privilege."

At this point the Martian arose. "Thank you for your patient explanations," he said, "but I must now return for a season to my planet as the strain of your climate is too much for my Martian constitution." "Look me up when you are down here again," I replied. "For the present, bon voyage, and mind the skylight as you go out!"
W. J.


Hero Worship: A Conversation With a Visitor from Mars. (Part 8) (1928)

From the July 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

As the ‘magical’ rites performed by the 'medicine-man' are deemed indispensable to the prosperity of the tribe, our 'hero' gains great influence and repute, and often acquires the rank and authority of a chief or king. Later the time arrives when this position is made hereditary, and soon the 'magician's' wand becomes the sceptre of 'kingly authority'! And so we see, Marty, that the exalted origin of kings and emperors—the 'divine right of kings'—is the plausible, shrivelled-up impostor thought to be so powerful by my ancestors, but whose best performances to-day would scarcely attract the notice of a street audience.

"But, however bad the institution of monarchy has been for the human race, its effects have been negligible compared with the terrible superstitions called religions, which have grown up out of the 'magical’ rites performed by the medicine-man. The old mimicry and flapdoodle of these rites are still the stock-in-trade of our religions, but all the arts of civilisation have been called upon to gratify the senses of the devotees, to dignify fraud, to sanctify humbug and implant superstitious beliefs in the minds of the masses, and so resist the effect of revolutionary ideas engendered by the economic conditions endured by the enslaved majority. But happily the wide spread of knowledge, which the capitalist class has been compelled to facilitate, is steadily weakening the hold of religion upon the community.

"In enumerating the effects of this primitive 'hero-worship,' however, one must bear in mind that, as the antidote is never far from the poison, so the experiments of the witch-doctor with herbal concoctions mark the beginnings of medical science, his 'magical' rites led to the development of many arts and crafts, and his pretended study of the stars led (via astrology) to the science of astronomy. That is to say, the eradication of superstition led to honest enquiry.

"It may be relevant here, Marty, to comment upon another phase of 'hero-worship,' which appears to have been in being in the earliest stages of social development. Age seems to have been the first privilege to creep into society. In early communities we find the membership of the Council of the tribe was confined almost invariably to men of advanced years. This deference paid to old-age (perhaps originally due to some savage association of ideas connecting whiskers with wisdom!) went to ludicrous lengths during the Patriarchal stage, but although capitalism has brutally reversed old conceptions regarding senility, the old tradition is often hypocritically used by members of the ruling class and their agents as a valuable aid in the task of bemusing the minds of the workers. With what tragical frequency, for instance, does it happen that when some venerable ancient holding high office in a Trade Union, after years spent in beguiling and tricking the members, is exposed and denounced for his flagrant treachery, the members are deterred from taking salutary (and summary!) action by reminders of his past services. Such phrases as 'Be not hard on one who has grown grey in the Movement ’ or 'Do not forget that Wheedler has sacrificed the best years of his life in your interests,’ etc., ad nauseam, are repeatedly showered upon the duped men in supplicating tones, whilst the fact that Wheedler has also grown affluent and corpulent is not mentioned. The curse of whiskers . . .”

"Enough!” Marty imperiously exclaimed, at the same time fondling his really superb golden beard, "do not deteriorate into childish prattle. You have touched upon a subject which is interesting to me—the question of leadership. Now can you impart some information as to the effects of 'leadership' upon the various subject classes you have mentioned? And ”—here Marty winced perceptibly— "leave whiskers alone ! ”

Thus rebuked, I changed the trend of my remarks. "You may be surprised to learn, Marty, that it took centuries of the experience of chattel-slavery before the idea of 'leadership' was conceived. Tribal society was often engaged in warfare, but the military commanders were warlike men who received delegated authority from the tribe. During peace time such persons reverted to their ordinary occupations, and were without any special privileges. But although the idea of 'leadership' (as differentiated from delegated authority) arose out of the habits of obedience enforced under chattel-slavery, you must not suppose that the slaves themselves tamely submitted to their lot. On the contrary, the great empires of Chaldea, Egypt, Greece and Rome were at times seriously threatened by slave revolts. Thus in Rome (B.C. 73) a Thracian slave called Spartacus gathered a large body of followers and ravaged Italy from end to end, and defeated several Roman armies, until he was at last slain. Undoubtedly, Spartacus was a great leader of men, and the obedience rendered grudgingly by the slaves to their masters was willingly given to him. Accordingly, the slaves, having put all their hopes in the keeping of one man, these hopes perished with the death of the man, and the capable army became a mere rabble and was easily conquered. The bloody vengeance of the ruling class upon these rebels against slavery has no parallel in history—save, perhaps, the massacres after the Paris Commune. The terrible lesson of this vengeance was ever in the minds of the slaves, and no further revolts on such a gigantic scale occurred; and, as there was apparently no earthly saviour, they eventually succumbed to the teachings of the divine-man saviour (Jesus), later encouraged by their masters, who saw its usefulness in instilling earthly contentedness.

"In the history of my country, Marty, the rebellion of the peasants, led by Wat Tyler (1381), provides another example of the senselessness in placing all one’s trust and hopes in 'leaders.' The revolt was highly successful until Tyler was murdered, and then his infuriated followers were eventually mollified by the young king, who promised to be their leader and redress their wrongs. Of course, when the peasants had returned home, the ruling class opened its campaign of vengeance, and desisted in its slaughter only when it realized that it was reducing the number of wealth makers so grievously that any further 'displacement' of labour would send wages soaring.
W. J.

(To be continued).

Hero Worship: A Conversation With a Visitor from Mars. (Part 7) (1928)

From the June 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

“I trust your question is not actuated by Martian impishness,” I smiled, “but it is easily answered. As a socialist, my friend, I subordinate the influence of any one person to the mode of production prevalent in society, but I am not insensible to the fact that men obviously differ in ability and talents. I do not deny that Newton had a great brain, or that Beethoven was a musical genius, and I endeavour to appreciate their work—the heritage not merely of these isolated individuals, but of the influences and reactions of the society in which they lived. The healthy thing to do is not to idolise these men and prostrate oneself before them in awe, but to take the trouble to hear what they have to offer, build up upon it, and recognise (as a fellow being, not as a superstitious slave) the fact that they have given of their best to mankind. As Alexander Pope says, ‘The fool admires, the man of sense approves.’ "

“And now, Marty, I must try to outline to you the effects of ‘hero-worship’ on human history, but time and the very magnitude of the subject compel me to be as brief in my descriptions as an English summer.

“Early in my remarks I mentioned the ‘witch-doctor’ or ‘medicine-man’ of primitive societies, and left you to draw the obvious inference that this individual affords the earliest example in recorded history of a ‘hero.’ To the savage mind, my friend, all objects that are strange, powerful, vast or invisible arouse feelings of awe and dread, and are thought worthy of veneration. Sooner or later, however, there arise men who are capable of relegating natural happenings to natural causes, and these men, alone in this knowledge, are able to take advantage of the ignorance and superstition of the tribesmen in order to obtain for themselves power, wealth and comfort. Originally working among his own circle of friends (distributing charms against ‘evil’ or personal enemies, and love potions, etc.), the witch-doctor—known to various tribes as the Mulgarrodock, Shaman, Biraack, Bodio, Nepu, etc.—develops into an important functionary, who administers ‘magical’ rites for the supposed benefit of the community. You will readily believe, Marty, that when this stage has been reached, the position becomes one of extreme danger to the holder, and only the wily impostor, experienced in the arts of trickery and fraud, utterly unscrupulous and ruthless, is able to keep the confidence of the tribe in his power to avert ‘evil,’ to bring rain or sunshine, or to act as mediator between the tribesmen and their gods,”
W. J.

(To be continued.)

Hero Worship: A Conversation With a Visitor from Mars. (Part 6) (1928)

From the May 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

 “Now it is on the economic basis of society, Marty, that the political, legal, religious and aesthetic superstructures are reared—’the mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political, and spiritual processes of life.’ [From Marx’s Critique of Political Economy] Some fine illustrations of this fact are provided in the great work, ‘Ancient Society,’ by Lewis Henry Morgan, the American ethnologist. The passage I will now read to you is in itself sufficiently convincing :—
  In its relation to the high career of mankind, the invention of the iron tool must be held the greatest event in human experience, preparatory to civilisation. When the barbarian, advancing step by step, had discovered the native metals …. and produced iron from the ore, nine-tenths of the battle for civilisation was gained. Furnished with iron tools, capable of holding both an edge and a point, mankind were certain of attainment to civilisation. The production of iron was the event of events in human experience . . . . Out of it came the metallic hammer and anvil, the axe and the chisel, the plough with an iron point, the iron sword; in fine, the basis of civilisation, which may be said to rest upon this metal. The want of iron tools arrested the progress of mankind in barbarism. There they would have remained to the present hour, had they failed to bridge the chasm.
“As I have already outlined to you, by the change from the Ancient World to Feudalism and from Feudalism to Capitalism, the industrial relations of men come into conflict with the ever-changing material productive forces, and thus, instead of helping, begin to hinder production. Then comes social revolution, a new economic foundation, and corresponding political, legal, artistic, and religious forms. Consequently, the history of mankind, Marty, in its broad outline, is a series of class struggles. At the present time, there remain but two classes in society — the workers, who produce wealth, and the Capitalists, who own the means of producing wealth and accordingly appropriate it when produced. The latter class, though small, is now dominant, but even as the members of this class eliminated the old feudal nobility, so the other class of society (the workers) will eliminate them. Accordingly, classes will cease to exist; the producers will then also be the possessors; in short, social ownership of the means of social production (or Socialism) is the next stage in society’s development.

“This theory of history, formulated by Marx and Engels, based on the economic structure of society, is called the ‘materialist conception of history,’ and completely shatters the view that society depends entirely upon court intrigues and the endeavours of ‘great’ individuals for its development.”

As I said these words, the Martian’s eyes roved around my bookcase, and at length he remarked, “How is it then, holding this view of history, you yet treasure such books as ‘Plutarch’s Lives,’ ‘Autobiography of Herbert Spencer,’ ‘Life of Danton,’ and ‘Marat’?—works dealing exclusively with particular persons.”
W. J.

(To be continued). 

Hero Worship: A Conversation With a Visitor from Mars. (Part 5) (1928)

From the April 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Although,” remarked the Martian, “you have certainly illustrated the fact that the ‘great man’ is not the dominant factor in history, you have not yet given me any definite theory which explains the progression of changes and development in human society.”

“Many apologies for the omission, Marty, old man,” I replied, “but if you will lend me your esteemed ears for a while —figuratively speaking, of course—I will endeavour to acquaint you with the two main theories opposed to the Carlyle conception of history. Buckle, the nineteenth century historian, [In 'History of Civilisation'] stresses the importance of ‘climate, food, soil, and the general aspect of nature’ as the great factors in determining the course of social development. Certainly, in the infancy of a race, these factors are of primary importance in deciding, for instance, whether society should be pastoral or agricultural, nomadic or settled. But this theory does not account for the successive changes in the social and economic basis of society in the countries where these physical agents have remained constant for centuries; the America of to-day, Marty, is radically different in its social and economic structure from the fatherland of the Last of the Mohicans, despite the fact that ‘climate, food, soil, and the general aspect of nature’ have remained virtually the same (although, perhaps, Buckle would have ascribed this transformation to the change in the people’s food due to ‘adulteration’s artful aid !’). Also, the same systems of society have sprung up in countries which bear no resemblance at all in their physical characteristics. Thus, I fear, our historian comes somewhat unbuckled ! Where, then, must we turn for the true explanation? Late in the 18th century Franklin made the pronouncement that man differed from other animals by the fact that he was the sole tool-maker; but Franklin did not realise that therein lay the key to historical development.

“To satisfy the needs of society, Marty, men enter into certain relations with each other in order to produce wealth in the most efficient and convenient way. These industrial relations correspond to the stage society has reached in the development of its productive forces, while the sum of these industrial relations constitutes society’s economic structure. Now, allow me to indicate to you the three great economic structures of society known to European civilisation in order to illustrate the fact that the industrial relations of men vary according to the state of society’s productive forces.

The principal industry of the ancient world, Marty, was agriculture, and the system of production was chattel-slavery, which was exceedingly efficient, as men themselves were still the main instruments of production, while world-peace (Pax Romana) made this human property secure. With the advent of the breaking up of the world-market (as known to the Ancients), however, land became the main means of subsistence, and war was always imminent; the system of production then became one based on serfdom, which conveniently combined the utility of the slave and the reliable fighting power of the ‘free’ man. Now in modern times, my friend, the machine is the great factor in production, and thus the value of employees, in the eyes of the owners of the means of production, is far less than was the value of the slave or the serf; while their dogs and horses in old age are well cared for, the men who have created their wealth are regarded, in the main, as mere human sponges, to be wrung dry of their labour power, and when ineffective through sickness or age, to be flung upon the industrial refuse-heap. In other words, we still endure the obsolete and increasingly-disastrous Capitalist system of society.
W. J.

(To be continued).

Hero Worship: A Conversation With a Visitor from Mars. (Part 4) (1928)

From the February 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

While I had thus enlarged upon my theme, the Martian had been nodding in an acquiescing sort of way, but now his face clouded and he exclaimed, “How, then, do you account for the interest attached to the persons of pugilists, film stars, labour leaders, and other adventurers whose exploits fill up so much space in your daily papers?”

“The interest awakened by nonentities such as sheikhs of the screen,” I replied, “may be termed a farcical and spurious ‘hero worship.’ These worthies (except by a few hysterical individuals) are not—as the Daily Gossips would have us believe—regarded with adulation at all, but are looked upon, in the main, with feelings varying from mild interest to sheer contempt. It is evident to Socialists that these “heroes” are mere puppets paraded before the workers in an endeavour to keep their thoughts off vital social problems; if one’s mind is occupied with an account of Charles Chaplin, comedian, it cannot, at the same time, be concentrating on the motives of Mr. Golde-Baggs, financier. The worker, wearied with the trials of this world of hard reality, can thus rid himself of his worries by escaping —via the Screen or Press—into the ‘wonderland’ of romantic swashbucklers and pseudo-gallants, and can, moreover, shirk the safeguarding of his interests by putting his trust in ‘leaders.’ Capitalists, in fact, take advantage of the tradition of ‘hero-worship,’ which still lingers on (for ‘traditions die hard’), for the dual object of concealing their plans, and keeping the working class in a state of confused and dazed thought. But it is in times of stress and of peril to their existence, that the ruling-class exploit this tradition most. Thus at the commencement of the recent war, dunderheaded old soldiers suddenly became brilliant military geniuses, and clap-trap orators were regarded as ‘heaven-sent’ statesmen. But their glory has been short-lived ; the ‘wizard from Wales ‘ has fallen from his pedestal, and the generals have crept back into oblivion. There is no doubt, Marty, the war-time ‘great men’ were simply marionettes made to jig and dance at the bidding of the master class. They fulfilled the purpose of arousing the ‘patriotic’ passions of the people to white heat, and by stuffing them with spurious ideals made them protectors of property not their own, and tools for gaining fresh territories and resources for their masters. Even to-day, my friend, in two European countries, a pair of ”great men’—the octogenarian Hindenburg and the former demagogue, Mussolini —are vested with the semblance of supreme power; but their rule is simply an example of the way in which predatory financiers, and the like, exploit the tradition of ‘hero-worship’ by hiding their class oppression under the gestures of these showy ‘personalities.’ There exists now a mere superstructure of exploited traditional ‘hero-worship,’ instead of the basic ‘hero-worship’ of earlier communities.
W. J.

(To be continued.)

Hero Worship: A Conversation With a Visitor from Mars. (Part 3) (1928)

From the January 1928 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Under modern conditions,” I replied, "‘hero worship’ is no longer a vital factor in social life. Capitalist society has the semblance of stability, and the devastating elements of feudal times, war, plague and famine, rarely shatter its equilibrium. The members of capitalist society, therefore, are, in the main, more calm and reflective than men of previous and more unsettled times; reason tends to curb sentiment, and personal fascination has, in consequence, little hold. Moreover, this apparent stability rests on a system of Democracy, which is not conducive to ‘hero worship.’ The present ruling class (the capitalists) are few in number, and with the development of their economic system, their numerical strength is constantly decreasing relatively to the other class in society (the workers). The stability of the capitalists’ system depends, therefore, on the consent of the majority of the community. The workers consequently are invested with great potential power; they are beginning to realise vaguely that the ‘masters’ are not omnipotent, but rely upon their support, and this realisation tends to create assertion and shrewdness—qualities which spell death to ‘hero worship.’ In the words of De Toqueville, Marty, ‘all men who live in democratic ages . . , are apt to relinquish the ideal, in order to pursue some visible and proximate object.’ (From “Democracy in America.”)

“Also, the tremendous populations in industrial countries have rendered government by a few individuals impossible ; thus the committee system of government and administration has evolved, and this tends to check the undue prominence of any one particular man, and personal magnetism is subordinated to avowed principles. Thus, too, the members of the community, generally speaking, no longer vote for individuals but for political parties and the principles they enunciate ; men vote, for instance, not for Mr. Spellbinder as an individual, but for Spellbinder as a member (for example) of the (alleged) Labour Party, and if Spellbinder joined the ‘Land of Dope and Glory’ Party he would speedily lose his old adherents and receive the support (possibly) of men holding Conservative views. It is evident, therefore, that apparent stability, extensive population, and Democracy, have all contributed to the death-blow of the ‘heroic ideal.’ But, like a small boy who keeps back the best portion of his dinner to the end, I likewise have reserved the most powerful reaction till now. Lafargue, in his ‘Origin of Abstract Ideas,’ points out that the barbarian social environment engendered by war and loyalty within the clan, stretched the heroic qualities—physical strength, courage, and moral stoicism—to their limit, whilst the capitalist environment, based on private property, has destroyed the ‘heroic ideal’ and has made egotism, intrigue, and cunning, cardinal virtues. The driving force of bourgeois society is the desire to make profit, and so (except in close personal relations) men unconsciously regard their fellows with favour or disdain in proportion to whether they think they can get little or much out of them. Likewise, the motives of even the most disinterested people are suspect; the opinion that ‘so-and-so has an axe to grind’ is, I believe, one of the most potent barriers to ‘hero worship’ at the present time. Incidentally, Marty, it is interesting to know that Marx and Engels, the first exponents of ‘scientific’ socialism, were probably the first men to recognise this fact that bourgeois society is incompatible with the heroic ideals, for in their Communist Manifesto they state ‘the bourgeois has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage labourers.’ “
W. J.

(To be continued.)

Answers To Correspondents. (1927)

From the December 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Truthseeker (Hanley).—We note your reference to the local Labour M.P., Mr. MacLaren's continual advocacy of taxation of landowners, but as we recently dealt with the matter in this journal cannot give more space to this threadbare capitalist reform.

Denmark, the choice example of the land taxer's paradise, is, as you rightly state, a country of increasing unemployment.

E. Wright.—Your letter advocating money reform covers points already recently dealt with in S.S., and we cannot therefore deal with the matter again at present.

F. S. Harvey (Wandsworth).—Your letter about the “ Slave of the Farm " will be dealt with in next issue.

Party Activities. (1927)

Party News from the December 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard  

A well-attended debate took place with the Battersea Conservatives at the Town Hall on October 9th, when Comrade Fitzgerald easily disposed of the “arguments" of his opponent. Sales of literature and collection were good. Another debate took place at Stratford Town Hall with the Economic League on November 13th. Comrade Hardy took up every point of Major Gillespie and showed the emptiness of the Capitalist case.

Battersea (Lower) Town Hall was filled at the lecture on November 6th on “Socialism and Dictatorship," and the questions and opposition of Communists and others were well dealt with.

A good attendance was made at Friars Hall on November 20th, at Comrade Fitzgerald’s lecture on “Anti-Parliamentarism.” The case for political action was amply stated, to the discomfiture of our critics. Lectures at Bethnal Green Library and the Engineers’ Institute, Stratford, have also been carried on. °

Some future lectures are announced in this issue.

Hero Worship: A Conversation With a Visitor from Mars. (Part 2) (1927)

From the December 1927 issue of the Socialist Standard 

“However, Marty, I think Wells hits the right nail on the head when he explains Napoleon’s amazing popularity with his troops by the fact that they never saw him save on a few theatrical and emotional occasions, and that his soldiers idolised not Napoleon, but 'a carefully fostered legend of a little pet of a man, who was devoted to France and to them all.’ Napoleon, it seems to me, was both 'the child of the Revolution’ and the embodiment of the reaction against it. Society in the 18th and 19th century was crying aloud for 'reform,’ but was not ready for a system of society based on common ownership. Napoleon represents the rejection of the theories of Anacharsis Cloots and the beginnings of the Capitalistic State; whilst the French bank, the University and the 'Code Napoleon' were the result not so much of his 'original genius,’ as of the evident social and economic need for them.”

"There must have been, I suppose, in your planet’s history,” remarked the Martian, “many 'great men’ who have attempted to change the course of social or economic development. Have any succeeded?” "Well,” I replied, "I do not know of any individual who has changed the course, but a few have stemmed it for a while. In Roman history, Sulla attempted to re-establish the lost power of the Senate and to crush the rising Equestrian order, which consisted of wealthy traders. To effect this he framed a constitution. In a few years, however, his constitution was practically disregarded, and all that remained of his labours were his administrative and judicial reforms, which, although secondary considerations with Sulla, yet satisfied the social need for better organisation, and thus endured. Strangely enough, Marty, a comic-operatic 'Sulla,’ is operating in Rome to-day, and with the puffed-up pride mediocrity fondly hopes to achieve the success denied to his more illustrious predecessor. How truly Marx interpreted history when he wrote, 'Great historicaL facts and personages appear twice—once as tragedy and again- as farce.” (From 18th Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.)

Many more examples, however, could be given, Marty, of men whose desire and aims have been thwarted by economic conditions, but time prevents me from doing anything save naming a few, such as Cromwell, Charles XII of Sweden, and (possibly) Lenin of Russia. Spencer has ably summarised the conclusions just arrived at in his essay, "The Social Organism,” portions of which, with your permission, I will “inflict” upon you:—
  “It is not by the 'hero as king’ any more than by collective wisdom that men have been segregated into producers, wholesale distributors, and retail distributors. The whole of our industrial organisation, from its main outlines down to its minutest details has become what it is not simply without legislative guidance but, to a considerable extent in spite of legislative hindrances. . . .  By steps so small that year after year the industrial arrangements have seemed to men just what they were before—by changes as insensible as those through which a seed passes into a tree; society has become the complex body of mutually-dependent workers we now see.  . . . The failure of Cromwell permanently to establish a new social condition and the rapid revival of suppressed institutions and practices after his death show how powerless is a monarch to change the type of a society he governs. He may disturb, he may retard, or he may aid the natural process of organisation; but the general course of this process is beyond his control. . . . Thus, that which is obviously true of the industrial structure of society, is true of its whole structure. The fact that constitutions are not made but grow is simply a fragment of the much larger fact that under all its aspects and through all its ramifications, society is a growth, and not a manufacture.”
“Well,” said the Martian, I have learned a great deal from your discourse; in the first place my conviction that human societies are not jig-saw puzzles, the parts of which have been contributed by 'great men,' but are living and ever-changing organisms in which both 'great' and 'little' men play their respective parts, has been doubly strengthened, whilst it seems evident that 'hero worship’ varies in its form and function according to the state of the community in which it exists. Thus, I gather that, early man was too self-occupied and practical to be carried away by sentimental personal idolatry, and individual control was sanctioned simply because it was the only positive control known. Later, with the evolution of abstract ideas and ideals, moral civilization came into being with the resultant glamour that attached itself to the governing members of society. In the past, my friend, ‘hero worship' seemed to have fulfilled at least one useful purpose—it provided a control over what would be, I assume (compared with your present machines for mass production), crude and strangely miscellaneous instruments of production; that is to say, society, fearing anarchy, submitted to the subordination of efficient individuals. But what of the utility of 'hero worship' at the present time?”
W. J.

(To be continued.)