Harry Young

Socialism or Capitalism

Source: Election communication, February 1950.
Transcription: Socialist Party of Great Britain.
HTML Markup: Adam Buick
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Socialist Party of Great Britain Candidate in EAST HAM SOUTH

2nd February, 1950.

Fellow working men and women,

The message of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is fundamentally different from, and is opposed to, that of all other parties in this election. It urges you to understand and struggle for Socialism, which is the only solution for the problems from which you suffer.


At the last General Election a majority of you voted a Labour Government into power. Are you satisfied with what you did ? What have you really gained from Labour Government? In their election programmes Labour Candidates promised you "Real Peace, a Good Home, a Good Job, Good Wages, a Chance for the Children, Rising Standards of Living for the Whole Population" and they stated that "Public Ownership—the organisation and control of the Nation's wealth and resources for the benefit of the Whole Nation—is needed to give our people a Better Britain." Do you remember these promises, or is your memory so short that you have forgotten them? Look up the old Labour programmes again and then compare the accomplishments with the promises.


Real Peace, a Good Home, Rising Standards of Living; what a cruel disillusionment you have suffered! The armaments race is in full swing in preparation for another and more terrible war. The "good homes" have vanished in face of a greater housing problem than you have ever experienced. Your standards of living are going down as prices go up and the Government is appealing to you to give up demands for higher wages. It is also throwing its weight against you just as Liberal and Conservative Governments did in the past, when you come out on strike, seeking to improve your conditions or resist the worsening of them. Some large industries have been nationalised—has this meant a "Better Britain" for you? In them workers have been penalised for not working hard enough. In all of them there is discontent and workers are either on strike or threatening to strike. Where an industry has been nationalised your bonds are tighter; you have only one employer and if you get the sack you are done for in that trade. Miners have already learnt this to their cost.

Labour Government is fundamentally no different from Liberal or Conservative Government; each of them, in fact, governs on behalf of, and for the benefit of, the capitalist class—the class that lives on incomes from bond and shareholding.


The Conservative Party has no better future to offer you than the Labour Party; their past record should be bad enough to satisfy you about that, and their present programme only differs in minor details from that of the Labour Parry. They stand for the existing order of society which gives luxury and security to the Capitalist class and want and insecurity to you.


Do not be misled by promises of Full Employment. Already the markets of the world are being flooded with goods, the "Export Drive" is running up against obstacles, production of some goods is being limited and there are ominous signs of another world crisis which will bring in its train a swelling unemployed army. No government can solve this problem except temporarily by war, and the problem would be greater than it is now but for conscription and employment on preparations for war. What a senseless alternative!


The Communist Party cannot rid you of your problems either, as they have nothing but the old threadbare reforms to offer you. Their changes of policy are so bewildering that you do not know from one day to the next where they stand, except that it is in a quagmire. They tell you that Russia should be your model. When you look at Russia you find that the same problems flourish there as here—poverty for the working class and plenty for the privileged class. In addition there is intolerance, political suppression and the prison camp or worse for those who raise a voice in protest against oppressive conditions.


Before you voted last time the Socialist Party urged you to think very seriously about what you were doing. You did not do so. Instead you swallowed the hoary old promises that were so often broken. Your present bewilderment and apprehension in face of a world moving steadily towards another catastrophe is the logical result of the vote the majority of you cast at the last General Election. This time give up trusting in promises and look behind promises to facts. Here are some of the facts.


Within the last fifty years the means to produce and distribute the things you need have been vastly improved and expanded. So prolific have been these productive powers that, repeatedly, steps have had to be taken to curtail production, and even to destroy large quantities of things that workers needed but had not the money to buy. During the same period a relatively small section of the world's population has been enjoying unprecedented wealth and luxury, whilst the vast mass of the people have been living on or near the poverty line, harrassed by the dread born out of insecurity, and suffering most when the shops were glutted with the things they needed but could not buy.

During these fifty years the world has been torn by two devastating wars, bringing death, disablement and misery to millions of people, as well as diverting the energies of a large part of the world's population to production for war purposes—that is, production that simply makes and feeds implements of destruction. Neither Conservative, Labour, Liberal nor Communist Parties can find a solution to the problem of war. You, who are workers, produce the munitions of war and give up your lives on the battlefields as well as behind the front lines. What have you gained by your sacrifice? Nothing! After the first Great War unemployment and insecurity reached dimensions never known before. After the second Great War the housing problem has reached a pitch that is staggering and, allied with the scanty housing is the scantiness and soaring prices of needful things. No, you have gained nothing from war but misery.


All the arts of "leaders," diplomats and governments are incapable of abolishing war because war is rooted in the present social order which is concerned with the production of goods for sale at a profit. Capitalist sections come into conflict over the sale of goods and war is the temporary solution of this conflict. Wars are waged for plunder; the source of this plunder is the wealth you produce above what it costs to keep you and your families on varying standards of living.

You are told by Conservative and Labour leaders alike that these are difficult times and you must curb your demands for increased wages because the war has left the world short of necessary goods. Yet, since the war, fortunes have been left by those who live on your work; banquets are given by the wealthy and Continental resorts still thrive out of their visits. If you had the money you could buy anything anywhere as the wealthy do. There is no shortage for them. Have you asked yourselves why your class must pull in its belt whilst the wealthy class can thrive in luxury in a devastated world? After all it is you who produce the wealth upon which they live.


Capitalism, the social system in which you live, is based upon the ownership and control of the means of production—land, factories, railways, and so on—by a privileged, property-owning class—the capitalist class—that lives out of the incomes from investments of capital. The means of production and distribution are operated by you, the working class, who are compelled to sell your power to work for wages or salaries in order to live. They can live without working but you must find employment in order to live. Your interests, that is the interests of the working class, are opposed to the interests of the capitalist class. The incomes of the capitalists come from what you produce above what it costs to enable you to live and raise a family. It is, therefore, to the interest of the capitalist to make you work as hard as possible for as low a real wage as possible, whilst it is to your interest to do the opposite. Hence their appeals to you to tighten your belts and accept wage freezing, and your tendency to rebel against this.

The goods you produce must be sold by the capitalist before he can reap his surplus. Out of this fact comes the struggle for markets, the periodical crises, unemployment and wars.


The trade rivalry in the search for markets and sources of raw materials has helped to bring about a high state of development of the means of production and, at the same time, has brought about a division of labour within large factory units and within the world as a whole. A ship, a railway, a loaf of bread involves the use of materials from all over the world and the cooperative labour of workers doing different kinds of work. Capitalism has made the world into one vast whole, each section depending upon the others. The spread of modern conditions to all parts of the world is rapidly bringing the people of the world up to one level of development. Modern machines, modern methods and modern ideas are making headway everywhere. The primitive customs of the head-hunters of Borneo, the old land culture of India, the ancient wall of China, are all alike dissolving in face of Modern Capitalism with its machine industry and all that this involves. Yet the result of it all is the world in which you live with its antagonisms, its poverty problems, its insecurity and its barbarous wars. Problems for which there is no solution whilst the present system remains.


Socialism will abolish the antagonisms that are rooted in the class ownership of the means of production; it will dissolve the disharmony that hinders the enjoyment of the full fruitfulness of world unity and co-operative labour. Socialism is a system of society in whch the means of prroduction and distribution will be- commonly owned and will be used to provide all mankind with the things necessary for a secure and comfortable life. There will be no privileged class. Each member of society will give according to his capacities and take according to his needs, If the productive capacity of to-day were used reasonably there would be no difficulty in meeting the reasonable needs of all. Once the majority of you understand this and work for it the problem of the future will be solved. The movement for Socialism is directly in your interest and it is therefore you who must bring about this social change.

If you have read carefully what has been set down here and really grasped its meaning you will realise that the policy of replacing Capitalism by Socialism is the only practical way to solve the problems of to-day. Leaving the world to race on to disaster is the opposite of practical.


Under Socialism the whole of the people of the world, in free association, will control the conditions of existence and the aim will be to make that existence as pleasant and satisfying as human ingenuity can contrive. Work will be done under the best conditions that can be devised and harmful occupations will be abolished; people will be prepared to do without those few things that can only be got at the cost of evil consequences to the producers. Educational facilities will be of the best, freely open to all, and not clouded by the necessity of learning what is necessary to find the elusive road to employment and social security. When all the evil influences that make working unpleasant to-day have been cleared away it will be possible to enjoy working. You enjoy working when you do what you like to do; what you dislike to-day is not work itself but the conditions under which you have to work. Just think for a moment of the evils that will disappear with the disappearance of Capitalism. As there will be no buying or selling and therefore no production for profit money will no longer be needed and hence no one will sell his self-respect for it; when bread and other things are as free as the air we breathe no one can become a thief; when each takes part equally in arranging social affairs there will be no servility or dictatorship; when the avenues to happiness are open to everyone no one will gain by bribery or corruption. And so one could go through the evils that have a corrupting influence to-day and lead to social misery.


As you are the people who will organise and run Socialism you must understand and want it before the change can take place. In order to bring it about you must first of all send delegates to Parliament mandated for this sole purpose. The powers of Government are centred in Parliament and before you can take away from the capitalists their ownership of the means of production you must take away from them their control of the powers of Government. That is why the Socialist Party of Great Britain is taking part in this election and why I, as a member of that Party, am offering myself as your mandated delegate to help on the work of establishing Socialism.

Yours for Socialism,