Whenever there is an election the ordinary person, the man in the street—the working class voter—becomes suddenly very popular. Any number of political parties are anxious to please him and to make him all manner of tempting promises, if he in his turn will agree to vote for their candidate. Election time, in other words, is the time when there is an enormous hunt for Votes—for your vote.
The bait which is used in this hunt is largely made up by promises. All the other parties offer this bait, and the generosity of their promises is usually in inverse proportion to the likelihood of their getting power. The Labour and Conservative Parties cannot be too extravagant; the Liberals can be a little more wild; the Communists can promise almost anything. And so on.
Most of the promises in this election are about things like modernisation, housing, education, pensions, wages and prices, war and peace. To read the literature of the other parties, it seems that all that has to be done to solve overnight all the problems connected with these issues is to vote for their candidate. They will all, it seems, bring British industry up to date, replace all the slums with new houses, give everyone a fair chance of the best education, increase pensions, keep prices stable while wages increase, banish war from the earth.
These promises sound very fine and in one election after another millions of working people vote for them. And presumably, when they do so, they think that they are contributing to the solution of our problems.
But let us stop and think about it.
Firstly, it is obvious that election promises are not a new thing. Political parties have been making them for as long as anyone can remember—and always about the same sort of problems.
Now what has been the result of all this?
The housing problem remains with us; despite repeated promises to deal with it, slums are developing faster than new houses are being built. For the workers, who depend on their wage to live, housing is still an aspect of their general poverty.
The sort of education we get is governed by the financial standing of our parents. Even if a working class lad wins his way to university he is only studying to become a different type of worker—one with a degree behind him.
Millions of old age pensioners are living on the tightrope of destitution—and it only needs something like a severe winter for many of them to loosen their precarious hold on life.
Prices continue to rise, as they have done steadily since the war. No government has yet given a free rein to the level of wages—they have all tried to restrain them. And whatever the respective level of prices and wages, we always find that our wage packet only just covers our food, clothing, entertainment and whatever else goes to keep us ticking over.
War is just as much a universal problem as ever. At the moment there are only comparatively minor incidents, punctuated by more serious clashes such as Cuba and Berlin. But over it all hangs the threat of another world conflict, this time fought out with nuclear weapons.
It is not accidental that the politicians make so many promises and that they have so little effect upon the ailments they are supposed to cure. The world is full of chronic problems, but this is not because political parties have not thought up reforms which are supposed to deal with them nor because their leaders are not clever or knowledgeable enough.
The fact is that the problems persist whichever party is in power—and this suggests that their roots go deep into the very nature of modern society.
We live today in a social system which is called capitalism, The basis of this system is the ownership by a section of the population of the means of producing and distributing wealth —of factories, mines, steamships, and so on. It follows from this that all the wealth which we produce today is turned out with the intention of realising a profit for the owning class. It is from this basis that the problems of modern society spring.
The class which does not own the means of wealth production—the working class—are condemned to a life of impoverished dependence upon their wages. This poverty expresses itself in inferior housing, clothes, education, and the like. In the end, it expresses itself in the pathetic destitution of the old age pensioner—a fate which no old capitalist ever faces.
The basis of capitalism throws up the continual battle over wages and working conditions with attendant industrial disputes. It gives rise, with its international economic rivalries, to the wars which have disfigured man's recent history.
Every other party in this election stands for capitalism, whatever they may call themselves. And whatever their protestations, they stand for a world of poverty, hunger, unrest and war. They stand for a world in which no human being is secure.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain, alone, stands for Socialism. We stand for a world in which everything which goes to make and distribute wealth will be owned by the people of the world. Because Socialism is the direct opposite of capitalism, it follows that when it is established the basic problems of capitalism will disappear. There will be no more war, no more poverty. Man will live a full, abundant life; we shall be free.
But Socialism cannot be brought about by promises. It needs a knowledgeable working class who understand and desire it. They alone can establish the new world order.
That is why we have a candidate in this constituency. He does not make you any promises; he does not try to convince you that he will do anything for you; he does not even seek your vote. What he—and the party which he represents—are offering you is the case for a new social system. We are seeking to spread the knowledge of Socialism and to give as many people as possible the opportunity of voting for a world of abundance, peace and freedom.