There are many parties, both large and small, appealing for your support to-day. Some of them do so with the claim that they are Socialist parties, but you have no touch-stone to guide your judgment. You are bewildered by the multitude of parties who all claim that their object is to help you. In fact, there is only one way out of your dilemma—to help yourself by gaining a little knowledge of the society you are living in; its basis, its capacities, and its contradictions.
In a story of the life of King Edward VII., that is printed in the Evening Standard (4/4/1956), we are told that he lived in a "glittering world of wealth and privilege, from one end of Europe to the other." That referred to the first ten years of the present century, when the majority of the people, the workers, worked for wages that only gave them a precarious existence and a large proportion lived in slums. While the glitter was still there the world was plunged into devastating war that brought misery to minions of people.
In the issue of the Evening Standard that prints the above there is also a reference to the recent death of F. Jay Gould, the American multi-millionaire, from which we learn that, according to his second wife, “Those were fabulous days. He built a villa for us at Maison-Raffite." Later they took a chateau with 100 rooms, where they lived throughout the 1914-1918 war. The hunger matches of the twenties and the crisis at the beginning of the thirties permitted him to wallow in his millions. Now his relatives are fighting over the division of the spoils he has left behind him.
Thus, throughout the present century, a relatively small number of people have lived in a glittering world of wealth and privilege whilst the vast majority have lived in a world of toil and penury. Why are there these two worlds? Must it always be so?
Man is spoken of as being a social animal. He associates with others of his kind—forms part of a society. A society is a group of individuals bound together by a common principle. The larger sense in which the word society is generally used refers to the common principle of obtaining a living. Whatever is referred to as “social" concerns man in his connection with other men. Thus when we say a thing is socially produced we mean that a number of men produce different parts of an article and their combined efforts produce the finished article. That is the way almost all we eat, drink and wear, is produced to-day, and workers from all over the world produce different parts of the final product. No Capitalist need spend an hour in this work, and very rarely does. But by reason of their ownership of the means of production the Capitalists, as a class, own the products. Thus the products are socially produced but privately owned.
You are living in a society to-day in which the things produced, and the tools by means of which they are produced, are privately owned: that is, owned by one individual or by a relatively small group of individuals—either a single Capitalist a small group of Capitalists, or the Capitalist investors in a State concern. The aim of the Socialist is to make these things social property; to convert these privately owned goods and tools into goods and tools commonly owned by the whole of society. He who acts in such a way as to bring this state of affairs into being is a Socialist: he who acts in a way that hinders progress to this end is evidently not a Socialist, no matter what he may call himself.
Owing to the private ownership of the means of production the majority of the people of this country are unable to obtain the things they need except by working for those that own them; the Capitalist class. These two types, owners and non-owners, masters and workers, broadly speaking make up modern society. They form two distinct classes, one of whom depends for a living upon working, and the other upon owning what is produced.
You, to whom we address these lines, belong to the working class. Whether you are paid wages or a salary, you depend for your living upon selling your mental and physical energies to an employer. Between you and your employers there exists a constant struggle over the destination of the wealth you produce. By wage-claims, strikes, or threatened strikes, you struggle to obtain as large a share of the wealth you produce as possible. It is a share you think of, you don*t think of obtaining the whole, because you think of and argue about a “high” or a “low" wage. Your thoughts are bound up with the wages system. The employers on their side resist your wage claims and try to pay you as low wages as possible. This struggle over the division of the wealth you produce is an expression of what the Socialist calls the class war. In spite of the so-called full employment it has been carried on unceasingly since the end of the second Great War. All the time wages were chasing rising prices, and the process looks like continuing indefinitely.
As long as you accept the present class ownership basis of society there is no hope of a fundamental improvement in your conditions. Wars, slumps, bad housings and the other evils that are a permanent feature of your lives will continue, no matter what political party is in power. There is only one road to salvation—the establishment of Socialism. When the wealth produced, and the tools by which it has been produced, have been made into the common property of society there will be no more war, nor will anyone lack either food or shelter. Each will give to society of his best and receive in return the best society can give, regardless of age, sex or occupation.
We are members of the working class, and we want you to join us and help us to carry on the struggle for Socialism. Why are we anxious for your aid? We are in the same mess as you are, and we cannot get out of the mess except by the same way as you. We want Socialism because it offers us the only means of leading secure, healthy and comfortable lives; but we cannot get Socialism until you want it. Therefore we want you to want Socialism and to join with us in the struggle to obtain it: then we will all have an equal opportunity of enjoying the best that life can offer.