"It is necessary to suffer to achieve wisdom"
While class consciousness often shows up in some form or other in the class struggle, the class struggle, in the main, is singularly lacking in class consciousness. Socialists cannot but draw attention to and participate in the class struggle until such time as capitalism is defeated
The working class, in fact, is not only all-important but, with education and organisation on class-conscious lines, will ultimately be all-powerful. The workers, as a class, know not yet their own colossal might. Alone producing all the wealth of the world, the very fabric of society is maintained by their active energies of mind and hands. A section of them strike, and the withholding of their labour frequently disorganises industry. Many sections strike concurrently, the wheels of production cease to revolve, and a serious crisis is precipitated. Labour has not yet learnt its strength.
As time goes on, the class struggle itself, in which the workers are involved, inflicts suffering through the inevitable evils of capitalism — pitiful wages and chronic poverty. At the mercy of their exploiters and profiteers, they frantically turn this way and that to cope with the evils of capitalism, and try futilely to set things straight. But the SYSTEM that produces their sufferings they do not dream of attacking. They see neither a definite goal nor the way to it.
Yet a small minority there is who, by experience, thought, and study, is clear-sighted enough to see the way before them. These are the class-conscious and revolutionary proletarians. They know that no palliatives or tinkering reforms of any kind will, or can remove the blighting effects of the present system or emancipate their class from wage slavery. Only the destruction of capitalism itself, and the establishment by the workers of the socialist commonwealth in its place ever can.
We have seen an accentuated and ever-increasing class struggle, growing out of the essential antagonism between the wealth-producing workers and their exploiters. And that conflict of interests produces an increased class consciousness in some, whilst it illuminates and reveals for others the essential clash of the classes that is the outcome of the capitalist system, and of which they probably had not been otherwise aware. Also, the development of a predatory and ruthless system of capitalism automatically not only produces its antagonists but drives them to combat it. And the result is that weapon after weapon will be tried and discarded—because they are no good.
At best, the function of the trade unions is simply that of collective bargaining for a better price for their members’ labour-power, and better conditions, not to abolish the system under which they are daily robbed. It all finally reduces down to the matter of class consciousness—an exact knowledge of their position, importance, and potentialities, on the part of the workers AS A CLASS in relation to society as a whole, and especially to to the capitalist class, to whom they stand as propertyless, wealth-producing slaves. Class consciousness must be the basis of all revolutionary political action, and it is a tremendous driving force, wherever it is developed. It germinates from a mixture of experience and the study of Marxian economics. Without class consciousness as arriving force all the varied activities of the proletariat to better their conditions must necessarily be weakened in power.
Our exploiters, the capitalist class, hold and will continue to keep as long as they can, the whole edifice of society as a means to conserve and further their own class interests. It is only because they have the POLITICAL POWER that they wield such force as they do. It is obvious, then, that no action whatever on the part of the long-oppressed proletariat will emancipate the workers from wage-slavery other than the capture of political power for the purpose of overthrowing capitalism and establishing socialism.
An unbreakable sense of working-class solidarity can only spread at the same rate as socialist understanding develops among all sections of the workers. The Socialist Party constantly attempts to foster this unity in its work of analysing capitalism and its class structure and presenting the socialist alternative to present society. Now so long as the working class think that socialism is impossible, then it is impossible. And as they accept the very existence of capitalism, and the priorities and fundamentals of the system, as evidence in favour of keeping it in being, they continue to think that socialism is impossible, undesirable, insane