Happiness is a condition that almost defies the definition. Millions have sought it; in fact, it might be described as mankind’s chief pursuit.
Of those who claim to have been successful we are in grave doubt. Some have seen in the amassing of worldly goods the clearest road to happiness. Having achieved it scores of them tell us it was not worth the trouble.
Others have held that happiness consists in making the fewest possible demands on life; on limiting one’s needs to the most frugal necessities. This view is always suspect. One always wonders if they are cutting their philosophic coat according to their very material cloth.
Others speak of a middle road, perfectly level, and only mildly eventful. From its even surface one benignly surveys the unhappy rich on the surrounding heights, burdened with great possessions ; and one gazes pityingly into the valley below, where struggle the millions not so burdened.
Philosophers, teachers, orators, and preachers, all down the ages have counted their lives well spent in telling mankind how to be happy.
Yet humanity is not happy.
First, being living beings, it is essential to happiness that primary necessities should be available for all. These prime needs are self-evidently food and shelter.
Food, the first physical requisite of life, is adulterated, and of doubtful quality.
What of shelter? Our civilisation cannot properly house its people. It simply refers to their sorry condition as a “housing problem,” and speaks of gradually overcoming it in some 30 or 50 years.
It is in this “market”system where lies the trouble. Obviously instead of goods being produced to supply human necessities, this can only be done through the medium of a sale. And if a sale cannot be effected the goods remain where they are and the would-be recipient goes without. Evidently, therefore, it is not sufficient for the farmer, the fisherman, the fruit-grower, the cattle-raiser, to know that hungry humanity needs their produce. The builder will not build simply because people want houses. These needs must exist, certainly, but their satisfaction depends entirely upon a sale taking place. But is this not a reasonable state of things?
We say a better system of supplying ordinary physical needs can be evolved than the one that introduces deprivation as a consequence of plenty. Than one that compels the producers of wealth to hire out their one possession—their power to labour—for the cost of their upkeep. Than one that condemns them to starve in the midst of the plenty they have created because they cannot buy back the whole of their product. We say that human society could be and should be a coherent whole. That all should take part in the necessary work of production, and that all should share in the common result. Can it be done?
Let us view our earth as a common heritage. Let all take part in the sharing the wealth from Mother Nature’s storehouse as the result of co-operative mutual effort. Let us banish slavery, poverty, ignorance and wretchedness to the limbo of forgotten things.
Our fellow-workers cannot fail to be confused by the multitude of disagreement between those who are all apparently claiming to be socialists. An attempt is usually made to dismiss the differences as a question not of principles but of policy and method, and of only minor importance. “We are all,” they say, “bound for the same place, but we travel by different roads.”
Yet this explanation is not by any means true, for the Socialist Party’s opposition is not concerned merely with method, but is one of basic principle. We have to reject offers to sink our differences and join forces because we travel by a different road to a different place. The success of the left would mean defeat for us, and we can get what we want only after defeating them.
If there exists this clash of aims, no good purpose is served by minimising it, or ignoring it; hence our assertion that those on the left-wing are not deserving of working-class support. We cannot prevent our opponents from calling their politics “socialism” however much they differ from our own. The importance lies not in the name but in the thing, what it is and what it does for the workers, not what it is called. The Socialist Party and the left both come before you to tell you the cause and the remedy for your poverty and insecurity. What we want you to notice is that their explanations and their remedies differ from ours as chalk does from cheese, in spite of an apparent similarity in the use of words. There are people who think that the left and the Socialist Party are both wrong, but what you ought to avoid at all costs is thinking that we can both be right. If we are right, then the left-wingers are wrong and vice versa. We ask you to examine our principles and choose between us.