Friday, April 24, 2020

Wage Slaves All

There is fundamentally only one way in which capitalism can be administered—the capitalist way. While social reforms can alleviate particular evils arising from capitalism for a time, it is unquestionably better that the responsibility for running the capitalist system should be left to the avowed supporters of capitalism. The workers should struggle to raise or defend their standard of living, but not attempt the impossible task of administering capitalism, or put their trust in the parties which do this. One harmful notion widely believed at present is that now for the first time the government and public opinion are aware of poverty and undernourishment, and therefore something will be done. In every country it has now become a truth demonstrable to every unprejudiced mind, and only denied by those whose interest it is to hedge other people in a fool's paradise, that no improvement of machinery, no application of science to production, no contrivances of communication, no new colonies, no emigration, no opening of markets, no free trade, nor all of these things put together, will do away with the miseries of the industrious masses; but that on the present false base, every fresh development of the productive powers of labour must tend to deepen social contrasts and point social antagonisms.

The Socialist Party stands on its recognition of the class-struggle and urges the working class to take enlightened political action to get rid of present-day society and bring about common ownership of the means of wealth production. We subscribe to the principle known as Historical Materialism which briefly holds, as Engels put it, that the way in which mankind organises to produce and reproduce the means of living is fundamental in determining the political and religious ideas. This view sees men and women as the motive force in their own social activity and as the instruments for changing society. Socialism arouses the workers' will to struggle, it appeals to their understanding; it demands their knowledge and confidence. We refute religion, because the working class cannot move forward to a better society while their minds are in the chains of religion.

The need of our times is a working class which refuses any longer to trust to capitalist promises, and determines to take action for its own emancipation. Basing itself firmly upon the Marxian analysis of capitalist society, with all its implications, social and political, the Socialist Party formulated its Declaration of Principles. For the first time in the history of the working class, a Party was formed which staked everything on the UNDERSTANDING of its class. We have often been at pains to teach the fairly obvious truth, that the private ownership of the means of production under capitalism divides the community into two antagonistic classes, but unfortunately there are still quite a number of people afflicted with the snobbish obsession that they belong to some superior body of beings graded somewhere above the working class, but not, of course, actually capitalists; it is probable, indeed, that they still call themselves the “middle class.”

We are accustomed to having pettifogging reforms, or irksome regulations of state operated enterprises, condemned as socialism by people who are ignorant of what the term implies. On the other hand, we have individuals equally ignorant, who commend these things as examples of socialist achievement. Exchange would not exist in socialism, because wealth would be owned in common and distribution only would be necessary. 

Let us take a brief survey of the economic conditions of human existence.

In the first place we know that the world is inhabited by several billions of people, with a variety of tastes, habits, and so on. Further, out of this number there is an overwhelming proportion who have something in common. It is that they are compelled to work in order to live.

The capitalist system of wealth production has stretched out its tentacles over the whole world, so that almost everywhere we find these teeming, struggling millions, who not only have to work, but are compelled to work for someone else.

Unless the units of this vast army of workers can find work—someone to employ them—they are cut off from the means of life and must starve, as thousands are doing to-day.

So this vast mass of the world's workers, like the dogs in the picture, have this common character—they are dependent upon someone else. They are dependent upon someone who will employ them, in order to get the common necessaries of life.

These "someones," these employers, who are they ? Clearly they occupy an entirely different position from that of the workers. They are the ruling class, the possessing class, the idle class. They have no useful function in society, but live a life of luxury and ease upon the fruits of the labours of the working class—they are parasites on the body politic.

These are the two classes into which society is divided. Let us now examine a particular section of the working class, that section who usually refer to themselves as "brain workers," but are often referred to as the "white collar workers."

This particular section is made up of types who are dignified and respectable, because they come into close daily contact with their employers. It is their specific function to assist the capitalist class in the direction of keeping their accounts, in order to show exactly how the exploitation of their fellow workers is progressing. The docile humility and faithfulness which distinguishes this particular type of slave seems now to be developing into something like impudence.

One can easily appreciate that it would seriously disturb the atmosphere of dignity in which employers of brain workers have always endeavoured to cloak their slaves, to permit them to organise themselves like common worker—or like common masters for that matter, for they all do it—for the protection and furtherance of their economic interests. 

Economic forces are no respecters of persons. They grind slowly but surely, compelling even the most stiff-necked to forgo their dignity and examine their conditions of daily life. Therefore it only proves the correctness of the Marxian method when the super-respectable find it necessary to organise for the defence of their economic interests

After all the pains which the ruling class have taken to impress a certain section of the working class with the respectability of their collar and ties and the dignity of their calling, and to isolate them from the "lower orders," they have to recognise that their policy of divide and rule is nearly played out.

To salary slaves the lesson should be clear. They must understand that whether they have to work in suits or overalls they belong to the working class. When they grip this fact they will know the worth of the high-sounding phrases about respectability, gentility, dignity, and the rest of the flattering notions with which their masters keep them in subjection.

The working class are compelled to grovel on the floor of the industrial kennel, and if some of their number assume dignity they are but taking on a pose which ill fits the degrading nature of their existence. Their remuneration, whether it is called wages or salary, is determined by what it costs to keep and reproduce their kind. Like carrots, their energies are bought and sold, and the wage or salary is the price. It may sound undignified, but, nevertheless, it is an economic fact which has to be firmly gripped.

Finally, organisation on trade union lines, no matter how well disciplined the rank and file may be, and necessary as it may be to-day, in order to resist the pressure of the employing class, will not emancipate the workers from the wages system. To achieve this end they must organise into a political party conscious of their class interest, and equipped with the necessary knowledge.

That political party already exists—in the Socialist Party of Great Britain. Study its Object and Declaration of Principles, and then—ACT!

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