Capitalism has brought the technology and the organisation of production to a point where the potential to adequately feed, clothe and house the entire world population is reachable. But the creation of abundance would end exploitation and destroy profits, so the capitalists themselves stand as a barrier to a society fit for human beings. Socialist revolution is the only solution. The very elements of socialism, however, are being forgotten by many people in the workers movement to-day. At the moment the idea is being widely spread that by an improvement in the efficiency of capitalism the workers will be able to obtain a continuous improvement in their standard of life. The idea behind this is that the more capitalism produces wealth the better off everyone will become. This is not the case.
At the present moment the difficulties of capitalism are increasing in every country. One of the sharpest divisions of opinion existing in the Labour movement to-day is that concerning the attitude which ought to be adopted towards this capitalist attack on the wages and conditions of the working class. The reformist leaders of the Labour Party hold that capitalism is not in a “normal” condition. If wage reductions will help in getting capitalism back to “normal,” then they hold that these wage reductions ought to be agreed to by the working class. We see that this policy of calling upon the workers to make sacrifices in order to help capitalism back to normal, runs through the whole policy of the Labour Party.
Socialists contend, on the other hand, that the recessions of the capitalist system is not due to some abnormal accident which has befallen capitalism. The Socialist Party call upon the workers to resist all attempts to lower their standard of life, to unite their forces industrially and to make their resistance as widespread and as united as possible, and to go forward from that to an attack on the capitalist system itself. The more the workers unite their forces and commence to struggle against the capitalist offensive, the more the struggle becomes a political struggle, not between the workers and any group of capitalists, but between the workers and the capitalist state representing the capitalist class as a whole. If the working-class desire to beat off the capitalist attacks on their present standards and carry out a resolute struggle to achieve their emancipation through the overflow of capitalism, they must fight more and more against any reformist policy of co-operating with capitalism. All workers who are tired of the half-heartedness and compromise of the Left, their co-operation with the capitalist class, should join the Socialist Party and help forward the struggle for complete working class emancipation.
Too many times we have had men who serve the ruling class and who get a good living keeping the working class divided. They start out with good intentions often as not. They really want to do something to serve their fellows. They leave the factory-floor as a common worker, elected to be officers of a union and they change their clothes from overalls and dungarees to a tie, white shirt and suit. They change their habits and their methods. After they have been elevated to official position, as if by magic, they are recognised by those who previously scorned them and held them in contempt. They find that some of the doors that were previously barred against them now open, and they can actually get their feet under the desk of the company chairman. Our common worker is now a union leader and the employer pats him on the back and tells him that he knew long ago that he was a coming man, that it was a fortunate thing for the workers of the world that he had been born, that in fact they had been long waiting for just such a wise and cautious general secretary. And this has a certain effect upon our new-made leader, and unconsciously, perhaps, he begins to change. Thus goes the transformation. All his dislikes disappear and all feeling of antagonism vanishes. He concludes that they are really most excellent people and, now that he has seen and knows them, he agrees with them that there is no necessary conflict between employer and employee. And he proceeds to betray the class that trusted him and lifted him as high above themselves. Newspapers write editorials about him and praise him as a wise leader; and the CBI and Chambers of Commerce emphasise that if all union leaders were such as he there would be no objection to labour organising. The trade unionist who is held in high favour by management is pronounced safe, reliable and honest, and the workers are appealed to to look to him for advice, for guidance and leadership. And the union leader feels himself flattered. And when he is charged with having deserted the class he was supposed to serve, he cries out that the indictment is brought to discredit him but it is those who brings the charge who are most likely to be defamed. By whom? By the capitalist class, of course; and its press and “public” opinion.
A trade union leader who is not attacked by the capitalist class is not true to the working class. If he be loyal to the working class he will not be on friendly terms with the bosses. He cannot serve both. When he really serves one he serves that one against the other.
The only way in which Trade Union leaders can cooperate with the capitalists is restoring “prosperity” (i.e., increasing production) is to induce the workers to forgo their customs and restrictions, allow the capitalists a freer hand in utilising the labour-power which is available to them in order that an increased product may result. The Trade Union leaders will, of course, point out to the capitalists that this increased production requires to be marketed, and that the employers ought to ensure a stable home market by increasing the workers’ wages as fast, if not faster, than the increased production. They forget the employing class is anxious to introduce those new methods because of a desire for a greater profit, and is not concerned with ensuring a market for his goods through the increase of wages and the reduction of his own profits, and therefore he looks not to a home market made prosperous by the increase in workers’ wages, but to the foreign market where he can rely on a maximum possible profit. Union leaders will, of course, point out to the capitalists that this increased production requires to be marketed, and that the employers ought to ensure a stable home market by increasing the workers’ wages as fast, if not faster, than the increased production. They forget the employing class is anxious to introduce those new methods because of a desire for a greater profit, and is not concerned with ensuring a market for his goods through the increase of wages and the reduction of his own profits, and therefore he looks not to a home market made prosperous by the increase in workers’ wages, but to the foreign market where he can rely on a maximum possible profit. Union leaders who are leading the workers to believe that a far-reaching improvement in the workers’ wages and conditions of life can be got not by overthrowing capitalism, but by co-operating with the capitalists to make their system more efficient, are simply surrendering to the capitalist class, misleading the workers, and creating conditions which will inevitably make the rich richer and the workers poorer.