Friday, May 15, 2020

From slaves to wage slaves

We in the Socialist Party are men and women who belong to the working class; we share the same experiences of exploitation and fear of economic insecurity; we know what all this means because we live the part. But we claim to have studied the problems of the workers' lives at their foundation. As a result we are able to declare that the solution has been found. We know, and can prove our case, that the wealth of the world is produced by the workers. We know, and can prove it, that what the workers can do so efficiently for the capitalist class they can do even more effectively for themselves.

To extract from nature the food, clothing, shelter, and all other things which serve to make life worth while only two elements are essential. These we have at our disposal, namely, Mother Earth and our mental and physical capabilities. How often have we Socialists illustrated this point of view by asking whether any sane man or woman would expect coal to work itself up from the depths of the earth by merely placing money, or what is called “capital," at the top of a coal-mine. Would any of the things, apart from natural conditions that minister to human wants, exist but for the hand of labour?

Yet there are many millions of our class who still cling to the belief that we cannot do without capital or the capitalist; that we cannot dispense with the power of money. Because workers living to-day have not experienced the production of goods without capital or money the really vital elements indispensable to all human existence are forgotten. That the workers are blind as to the actual truth of the position is, of course, not to be wondered at. The modern workers, the wage- slaves of civilisation, are much like the feudal serfs of the Middle Ages and the slaves of old. They are largely dependent upon those who benefit from the proceeds of their exploitation for their knowledge of things. They have been taught and trained to look up to their masters as though these people owed their social position to some divine right or to some special endowment of nature. What has passed under the name of education has been in effect little more than propaganda aiming to secure the continuance of capitalist-class control of the means of life.

Socialists have revealed the fallacy of the ideas which helped to keep capitalism going. Class domination has its roots in the possession of the ownership and control of such things as the land, mines, mills, factories, ships, railways, in fact, in all those means of producing and distributing the essentials of life. That is the basis of the class division and not any superior mental or physical power on the part of the ruling class. This class possesses money or capital to-day through the operation of historical, economic and social causes. The vast possessions of the modern capitalist class have behind them a record that is largely associated with past murder, piracy, spoliation and robbery, rather than with any mark of superior intellectual ability. In fact, the history of class divisions from very early times is directly connected with conquest, plunder and enslavement. Read its history and it will reveal the facts only too tragically.

Capital is wealth, the result of past labour, used to obtain profit. This in turn is but the unpaid labour of the workers. The profit motive is behind all capitalist production. The bread we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses in which we live are not produced for their use, but for profit. Unless there is a profit, or the prospect of it, capitalist production ceases, in fact it would not be started. This will explain, apart from other considerations; why millions of our class are unemployed, are forced to a demoralising idleness: the capitalists can find no profitable use for even the goose that lays the golden eggs. Yet for thousands of years, for by far the greater part of human history, capital was unknown to the human race. Even the extensive use of the precious metals marks but a late stage in human development. The predominance of money as a factor in economic relationships is, in fact, not more than a few centuries old. The point we wish to emphasise is that there is nothing intrinsically indispensable about the great “god" money. The "yellow, glittering gold" of capitalism, apart from its various uses to the present system, is in reality of much less real use to human needs than many of the baser metals. In a really healthy and sanely-organised system of society, wherein profit was absent—could not exist, in fact—there would be no need of such things to facilitate the distribution of the products of labour. Therefore, we of the Socialist Party stand for the abolition of capital because we stand for the abolition of capitalism. The immense productive powers of to-day must be converted into the common property of the community; they must be democratically owned and controlled, through which they would be operated for use instead of for profit. There is no other way out for the working class. The capitalist class must be dispossessed of their control of the means of living, and this can only be done by divesting them of their political power. Those who represent the varied interests of the capitalist class in Parliament are elected there by the workers themselves. Under the guise of specious promises to effect this or that social reform the Conservative, Lib-Dems nationalists and Labour Parties obtain the political support of the workers to administer capitalism. Not even the Labour Party proposes to abolish capitalism, despite its frequent use of the word “socialism" ; it seeks to carry it on in the form of state ownership, with the capitalist receiving interest and compensation under the direction of the State. This is not socialism, but state capitalism.

The message of the Socialist Party,  therefore, that they must organise with us for socialism. We stand for the working-class capture of political power by the only method available to-day, namely, through democratic election to parliament to abolish capitalism and establish socialism. This is the first and foremost plank in our programme; anything short of this will not do. We neither advocate nor ask capitalist governments for social reforms. Like millions of other workers, we would like to see the end of the means test, unemployment pay increased, schoolchildren well fed, and many other of the demands of the workers met, but the fact remains that, with things as they exist now, capitalism would still be with us, demanding removal. Working-class action must be revolutionary, not reformist.

This is no wild Utopian dream. The material conditions of its realisation are here now, awaiting the understanding and action of the international working class.

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