Source: Socialist Standard, August 1951.
Transcription: Socialist Party of Great Britain.
HTML Markup: D. Whitehead
Copyleft: Creative Commons (Attribute & No Derivatives) 2007 conference "Be it resolved that all material created and published by the Party shall be licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs copyright licence".
If, when the workers are told they have a "way of life," to defend, instead of just accepting it, as most of them do, they were seriously to examine the statement or when politicians reel off any of those other sweet sounding phrases such as "defend freedom in the freedom loving countries," "War to defend peace,”
"Western democracy faced with Eastern atheistic communism" and so on, what would be the result if the workers were to consciously consider what they mean Mr. Herbert Morrison is reported in the Daily Mirror (29/1/51) to have declared that "Russia under Stalin was merely a dictatorship falsely sailing under the name of communism." Perhaps now although only a few months later, as Foreign Secretary, he would like to enlarge on that statement. Workers might well wonder what freedom means to the dockers. It can't mean freedom to strike, for the strike weapon is condemned and freedom to work when their conditions are being attacked is meaningless, yet what else have they the "freedom" to do? What does the "British way of life" mean to women when the buying power of their house-keeping money is ever shrinking, largely as the result of war preparations and after queuing they sometimes have to take home as little as six pennies worth of meat? Where is the urgency to defend a "way of life" which to the working class means skimping and scraping, hire-purchase, rising prices, ever intensified shortages and just sufficient of the main necessities food, clothing and shelter, to ensure their future presence at the workshop or place of exploitation? To those many thousands on the "housing lists," "living in a rest- centre" or with relatives, do you feel as though you have an Empire at stake?
Workers who maintain and try to express the right to strike, how does it feel to wind-up in court paying fines? Do you really have to fight the Russians for your freedom, or is there someone on your own doorstep it might do more good to oppose? The masses who fight their way to and from work in over-packed tube-trains and buses, how are you surviving on promises of a brighter future? We socialists have to put up with the same discomfort, but we have at least seen through the fairy stories of capitalism's apologists. At every turn the working class get the dirty end of the deal, working like mad at an ever quickening pace they fill markets for their masters in hot competition with their fellows overseas, profits roll in all the time goods can be sold but there is always someone being squeezed out by a lower-selling rival. This means increased poverty and misery for the workers, for capitalists do not employ carcasses they can't exploit. Capitalism seems to have postponed the slump or at least to have stemmed its spread by the simple if diabolical expedient of war-preparations. It is admitted in America that many would be unemployed but for the arms drives. As the Daily Express (14/2/51) puts it, "America's Mr. Grim got a nasty shock tonight. For months he has groused over expected shortages because of Korea and rearmament. He would not get his new car, the new T.V. with the enlarged screen or all the white shirts he wants. Now he learns he can have them all—and rearmament too." If the workers don't pay for capitalism with empty bellies they pay in blood; either way the Capitalist class is the only class with anything at stake, the class which no matter how hard the slump is never reduced as a class, to the normal level of workers, and government contracts worth millions take the edge off their war-time existence. "Henry Ford has just received a £14,000,000 order for tank engines. This is on top of an £11,000,000 order for lorries. He will also make aircraft engines, and swarms of the usual civilian cars" (Daily Express, 29/1/51). For the vast mass of people all over the world who own no Malayan rubber shares or Persian oil bonds, the scales are weighed heavily against you. Millions of workers may die killing their fellows for Persian oil or Malayan rubber and in the former case, a proposed act of Nationalisation may be the spark of ignition. What would you have said if at the time the mines here were nationalised some foreign power with large share-holders there had protested or sent notes asking that their "concessions" be safeguarded, yet this is exactly the position in Persia. It only appears ridiculous to speak of some "foreign" capitalist groups owning concessions here because Britain, due to a number of reasons, was amongst the earliest capitalist countries to arrive on the scene and therefore had first choice of markets, trade routes, territories, etc.
When Labour Party leaders say they "represent the interests of all classes" what do the sweating workers in the steel industry think when their out-put targets are raised every time they are reached? Has the act of nationalisation made any difference here or in the mines where "dig more coal" is the order of the day and munitions factories get it first while domestic consumers have to wait? If all the workers want is work, no matter what so long as it's a job, it seems they have it but socialists want something more than that, nothing impossible but more than that.
If times are hard now what will they be like after, if another war comes? When many lives, much industry and raw materials have been blown up? Can no permanent halt be called to this madness?
While workers keep trotting to the polls without the necessary understanding of the world they live in all they can do is vote for war and hardships in the form of continued capitalism with labourites or tories at the head. Of course war would be the last thing they would vote for intentionally but that is the outcome of their blind action. Merely to get tired of one government, imposing shortages and to replace it with another is going around in circles getting nowhere. An examination of the life around you is essential if you are to solve the problems which confront you, no politician can do it for you, experience should have shown you that by now. Capitalist society throughout the world including Russia, means that a minority own the means by which the masses live, either privately or through the State, and it is clearly of no use workers here fighting their counter-parts in Russia to stop it, for when they return they will find victory is much the same as defeat, for workers who depend on wages. The fight must lie then not between them and their fellow-workers elsewhere but between workers and capitalists all over the world. Workers who, by accident, happen to have been born in Britain, could lay Moscow flat to-morrow, but that wouldn't give railwaymen the right to strike without being threatened. The real, in fact the only, solution to world problems lies within the grasp of the workers, but so many distractions are found to take the worker's mind off his sordid life, that as yet only a minority have understood it. It is so much easier to go to the pictures after a hard day in the sweat-shop than it is to read pamphlets and books on the class-struggle, and the capitalist class can thank their "God" it is too.
Once the workers wake-up to what is going on around them they will see the futility of sending reformist politicians to patch up the existing form of society where capitalists own the instruments of production and live lives of luxury and comfort on the backs of the producers, who alone make this position possible. If production for sale on the worlds markets for profit, provides the breeding ground for war with economic rivals, surely war is no concern of the working class of any nation, for they do not own the goods or the sources of raw material from which they are made. No matter how much wealth workers produce, all they get are wages, the price of their energies, enough to see them through from week to week, reproduce their kind and put a few coppers by for a rainy day hoping it doesn't rain too hard. As a solution to all this we hold out common ownership with production for use; this requires a complete change in the organisation of world society, so only mass understanding can be instrumental in bringing it about If it sounds fantastic when we say we look forward to a world without wages or money, employers or employees, cops or robbers, armed forces, ticket inspectors, riches or poverty, a world with plenty for all and death from old age instead of malnutrition, disease or atomic warfare. When you have examined the evidence you will be even more amazed at how easy it really is. There can then be only one result conscious political action to overthrow capitalism arid establish Socialism.