Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What George Learnt (1905, short story)


 A Short Story from the June 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard


George — “You class-conscious Socialists want too much. You ought to be more reasonable.”

Frank — "Well. Socialism being justice, isn’t it reasonable to want it?”

George — “Oh, yes! But you demand the lot. I reckon that half a loaf is better than no bread.”

Frank — “Granted, my boy; but a whole loaf is better still. Besides, why ask for half when you want the whole?”

George — "Because I think you are more likely to get it. In a bargain both sides must make concessions.”

Frank — "Must they? Well, in a bargain according to your curious plan, though the article you have for sale is worth 20/- and you want that amount, yet you would make it known that you would be jolly glad to get half for it. Do you think you would stand the ghost of a chance of getting what yon want? ”

George — “Maybe not; but we would get something.”

Frank — "Would you? In any bargain with the ruling-class the workers’ claims would obviously only be respected when the workers are in a position to take what they ask for. Therefore a bargain would be unnecessary except to enable the capitalists to stave off the workers’ victory.”

George — “But wouldn’t you bargain with them? ”

Frank — “Of course I would not. Look here: the country round a certain small town in Italy was infested by a band of brigands who waylaid and robbed those who came to and from that town. The town folk were too lazy to undertake the extermination of this band, so they bargained with the brigand chief that on payment of a yearly sum his band would cease to molest them. The brigand agreed, but feeling his power, he increased year by year his demands for money, and his insolence became unbearable. The town folk, driven to desperation, organised an attack on the brigands and finally succeeded in breaking up the band. The townsmen lamented bitterly, but too late, that they had not made war on the brigands sooner, but had instead supplied them with the means of becoming more powerful.”

George — "Very pretty, and the lesson is, I suppose, that the longer we bargain with the brigand capitalist-class, the longer they will be on our backs and the harder it will be to dislodge them? ”

Frank — "Not only that. Remember that it takes two to make a bargain, and if the master class are not going to gain by it, a bargain won’t come off. In fact, the ruling class will only bargain when they know that if they don't concede a little, the people will take the lot. The people lose at that game all the time.”

George — “I didn’t think of that.”

Frank — “Besides, the capitalist-class has in its pay, and can buy, the most cunning brains in the nation, whilst the workers have, in comparison, but homely common-sense. Who are likely to get the best of bargains under such conditions? ”

George — “The capitalist politicians of course.”

Frank — “You’ve guessed right. In a game of cunning or hoodwinking, the master-class, having in its pay the lawyers and commanding by its wealth the smartest wits, will always win. The workers can't play successfully at that game. But in an open political battle, the workers have the advantage of mass and numbers, which the capitalists have not.”

George —  “I see."

Frank — “Glad you do. The workers’ advantage lies on the side of an open struggle with the forces of capitalism, for in strategy and cunning the owning-class is first every time. To urge the workers not to adopt the class struggle basis of action is to play the capitalists’ game, and to deliver the workers, ready scalped, into the hands of the enemy. Now that you understand the position you will, of course, apply for membership in The Socialist Party of Great Britain.”

F. C. Watts

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