James ConollyView on Google Maps
LET US BE PRACTICAL. WE WANT SOMETHING PR-R-RACTICAL.
Always the cry of hum-drum mediocrity, afraid to face the stern necessity for uncompromising action. That saying has done more yeoman service in the cause of oppression than all its avowed supporters.
The average man dislikes to be thought unpractical, and so, while frequently loathing the principles or distrusting the leaders of the particular political party he is associated with, declines to leave them, in the hope that their very lack of earnestness may be more fruitful of practical results than the honest outspokenness of the party in whose principles he does believe.
In the phraseology of politics, a party too indifferent to the sorrow and sufferings of humanity to raise its voice in protest, is a moderate, practical party; whilst a party totally indifferent to the personality of leaders, or questions of leadership, but hot to enthusiasm on every question affecting the well-being of the toiling masses, is an extreme, a dangerous party.
Yet, although it may seem a paradox to say so, there is no party so incapable of achieving practical results as an orthodox political party; and there is no party so certain of placing moderate reforms to its credit as an extreme – a revolutionary party.
The possessing classes will and do laugh to scorn every scheme for the amelioration of the workers so long as those responsible for the initiation of the scheme admit as justifiable the ‘rights of property’; but when the public attention is directed towards questioning the justifiable nature of those ‘rights’ in themselves, then the master class, alarmed for the safety of their booty, yield reform after reform – in order to prevent revolution.
Moral – Don’t be ‘practical’ in politics. To be practical in that sense means that you have schooled yourself to think along the lines, and in the grooves those who rob you would desire you to think.
In any case it is time we got rid of all the cant about ‘politics’ and ‘constitutional agitation’ in general. For there is really no meaning whatever in those phrases.
Every public question is a political question. The men who tell us that Labour questions, for instance, have nothing to do with politics, understand neither the one nor the other. The Labour question cannot be settled except by measures which necessitate a revision of the whole system of society, which, of course, implies political warfare to secure the power to effect such revision.
If by politics we understand the fight between the outs and ins, or the contest for party leadership, then Labour is rightly supremely indifferent to such politics, but to the politics which centre round the question of property and the administration thereof Labour is not, cannot be, indifferent.
To effect its emancipation Labour must reorganise society on the basis of labour; this cannot be done while the forces of government are in the hands of the rich, therefore the governing power must be wrested from the hands of the rich peaceably if possible, forcibly if necessary.
In the phraseology of the master class and its pressmen the trade unionist who is not a Socialist is more practical than he who is, and the worker who is neither one nor the other but can resign himself to the state of slavery in which he was born, is the most practical of all men.
The heroes and martyrs who in the past gave up their lives for the liberty of the race were not practical, but they were heroes all the same.
The slavish multitude who refused to second their efforts from a craven fear lest their skins might suffer were practical, but they were soulless serfs, nevertheless.
Revolution is never practical – until the hour of the Revolution strikes. Then it alone is practical, and all the efforts of the conservatives and compromisers become the most futile and visionary of human imaginings.
For that hour let us work, think and hope; for that hour let us pawn our present ease in hopes of a glorious redemption; for that hour let us prepare the hosts of Labour with intelligence sufficient to laugh at the nostrums dubbed practical by our slave-lords, practical for the perpetuation of our slavery; for that supreme crisis of human history let us watch, like sentinels, with weapons ever ready, remembering always that there can be no dignity in Labour until Labour knows no master.
WOULD YOU CONFISCATE THE PROPERTY OF THE CAPITALIST CLASS AND ROB MEN OF THAT WHICH THEY HAVE, PERHAPS, WORKED A WHOLE LIFETIME TO ACCUMULATE?
Yes, sir, and certainly not.
We would certainly confiscate the property of the capitalist class, but we do not propose to rob anyone. On the contrary, we propose to establish honesty once and forever as the basis of our social relations. This Socialist movement is indeed worthy to be entitled The Great Anti-Theft Movement of the Twentieth Century.
You see, confiscation is one great certainty of the future for every business man outside of the trust. It lies with him to say if it will be confiscation by the Trust in the interest of the Trust, or confiscation by Socialism in the interest of All.
If he resolves to continue to support the capitalist order of society he will surely have his property confiscated. After having, as you say, ‘worked for a whole lifetime to accumulate’ a fortune, to establish a business on what he imagined would be a sound foundation, on some fine day the Trust will enter into competition with him, will invade his market, use their enormous capital to undersell him at ruinous prices, take his customers from him, ruin his business, and finally drive him into bankruptcy, and perhaps to end his days as a pauper.
That is capitalist confiscation! It is going on all around us, and every time the business man who is not a Trust Magnate votes for capitalism, he is working to prepare that fate for himself.
On the other hand, if he works for Socialism it also will confiscate his property. But it will only do so in order to acquire the industrial equipment necessary to establish a system of society in which the whole human race will be secured against the fear of want for all time, a System in which all men and women will be joint heirs and owners of all the intellectual and material conquests made possible by associated effort.
Socialism will confiscate the property of the capitalist and in return will secure the individual against poverty and oppression; it, in return for so confiscating, will assure to all men and women a free, happy and unanxious human life. And that is more than capitalism can assure anyone today.
So you see the average capitalist has to choose between two kinds of confiscation. One or the other he must certainly endure. Confiscation by the Trust and consequently bankruptcy, poverty and perhaps pauperism in his old age, or
Confiscation by Socialism and consequently security, plenty and a Care-Free Life to him and his to the remotest generation.
Which will it be?
BUT IT IS THEIR PROPERTY. WHY SHOULD SOCIALISTS CONFISCATE IT?
Their property, eh? Let us see: Here is a cutting from the New York World giving a synopsis of the Annual Report of the Coats Thread Company of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, for 1907. Now, let us examine it, and bear in mind that this company is the basis of the Thread Trust, with branches in Paisley, Scotland, and on the continent of Europe.
Also bear in mind that it is not a ‘horrible example’, but simply a normal type of a normally conducted industry, and therefore what applies to it will apply in a greater or less degree to all others.
This report gives the dividend for the year at 20 per cent per annum. Twenty per cent dividend means 20 cents on the dollar profit. Now, what is a profit?
According to Socialists, profit only exists when all other items of production are paid for. The workers by their labour must create enough wealth to pay for certain items before profit appears. They must pay for the cost of raw material, the wear and tear of machinery, buildings, etc. (the depreciation of capital), the wages of superintendence, their own wages, and a certain amount to be left aside as a reserve fund to meet all possible contingencies. After, and only after, all these items have been paid for by their labour, all that is left is profit.
With this company the profit amounted to 20 cents on every dollar invested.
What does this mean? It means that in the course of five years – five times 20 cents equals one dollar – the workers in the industry had created enough profit to buy the whole industry from its present owners. It means that after paying all the expenses of the factory, including their own wages, they created enough profit to buy the whole building, from the roof to the basement, all the offices and agencies, and everything in the shape of capital. All this in five years.
And after they had so bought it from the capitalists it still belonged to the capitalists.
It means that if a capitalist had invested $1,000 in that industry, in the course of five years he would draw out a thousand dollars, and still have a thousand dollars lying there untouched; in the course of ten years, he would draw two thousand dollars, in fifteen years he would draw three thousand dollars. And still his first thousand dollars would be as virgin as ever.
You understand that this has been going on ever since the capitalist system came into being; all the capital in the world has been paid for by the working class over and over again, and we are still creating it, and recreating it. And the oftener we buy it the less it belongs to us.
The capital of the master class is not their property; it is the unpaid labour of the working class – ‘the hire of the labourer kept back by fraud’
— from Socialism Made Easy