Thursday, February 08, 2024

Samson in chains

From the Socialist Standard February 1964 comes this piece from the World Socialist Party of the United States. Samson was a Hebrew mythological character of immense physical strength who was eventually captured by the Philistines, many of whom he had previously killed. They blinded him and put him to work on a treadmill. Nicky Krusher and Blastro are references to Nikita Krushev and Fidel Castro. Krushev, First Sectrary of the Russian ‘Communist’ Party, and Castro leader of Cuba following an armed revolution. At the time, both states were considered to be ‘communist’ because that’s what they purported to be but not at any point by the World socialist movement which always explained that they were in fact state capitalists.
The piece shows how the working class, Samson, has the strength to overturn its/his bosses/tormentors but is being persuaded not to do so.
(Scene: After Samson’s capture and blinding. Samson pauses on his treadmill, rattles his chains, and mumbles something about the class struggle. A runty, quick-eyed fellow stands at some distance from him, smiling jovially and fingering a barbed whip. As he begins to speak, his mien and gestures resemble those of a carnival pitchman.)

Samson, your groans are dated; what do you mean, class struggle? There’s no class struggle. Look how far I have elevated you above the abject, miserable state you were in a century ago, when I first blinded you and put you in chains. You think you have it bad now; why, without me you could never have it so good. Apparently you’ve forgotten when you trod the mill eighteen hours a day, barefoot over sharp rocks, with spikes on the inside of your collar. Apparently you’ve forgotten the bite of the lash on your back, it’s been so long since I’ve had to lay it on. Remember the bread you used to eat then? Full of alum and chalk? Remember the goads and tortures on your flesh when you raged and wouldn’t tread the mill? And look at you now, lapped in luxury; the sharp stones gone, fur on the inside of your collar instead of spikes, sandals to keep your soles from getting calloused—why, I haven’t whipped you for years. Next thing I know you’ll be wanting mink gloves and gold toothpicks. What don’t I do for you? Look at me, all kindness and benevolence. Instead of a lash I hang sweet-smelling carrots in front of your nose. Don’t you prefer them, or would you rather have the lash back?

Samson my boy, you’ve grown sleek and strong since I switched you to meat and potatoes, and you do so much more work! Do you not also have frequent rest periods, and are you not now only obliged to tread eight hours (maybe ten or twelve if we count overtime and moonlighting) instead of the former eighteen? Haven’t I given you the freedom to change your manacles every four years? Haven’t I given you the freedom to criticize the workmanship of your collar any time you want? Haven’t I given you the freedom to eat your meals on time? Haven’t I given you the freedom to worship whichever of my overseers you choose? You look so healthy since I’ve been treating you better, you may last me another hundred years. You’re a fine specimen, Samson; I couldn’t have gotten a, better commodity if I’d scrounged the labour market forever.

I throw you scraps from my plate every Christmas and let you frolic with the female slave on the other treadmills. I give you scholarships and time off so you can study treadmills and learn how to make your work easier, and all 1 ask in return is that you also make it go faster. And you don’t appreciate any of it. You just rattle your chains and growl, and stop your treadmill to ask for more scraps. Now really Samson, how do you expect me to get my grain ground when you act that way? Have a little kindness. What do you want to do, make a slave out of me?

Nicky Krusher and Blastro use the lash on their hands. It could happen here, you know.

We could get along so well if you would only stop this growling and keep your hair cut. What’s this malarkey about your being propertyless? Don’t I give you food, sandals, and hides to wrap yourself in on cold days? Don’t I supply the treadmills? Don’t you own your own chains? And what do you mean I don’t earn my living? I worked hard enough to catch you and blind you. didn’t I? It’s a day’s work just to keep you plodding around, let alone the accounts I have to keep of what you produce for me. So you think you don’t need me. huh? I’d like to know who’d keep you working for me, who’d hang up the carrots in front of your face, who’d lay on the whip when you needed it, if it wasn’t for me?

If only you would drop this class struggle thing, we could be so happy together—you making the goodies and I consuming them. I would always keep fresh carrots in front of you and throw you all my extra scraps, and if you worked hard enough I’d even sell you a gold ring for your nose. 1 tell you what, I’ll make a deal with you, a contract: a fresh bone every Christmas if you stop being angry and get to work. Straight business proposition. How about it? Don’t we have a lot of common interests?

(Samson rattles his chains and looks at his hands. What does he see? Will he ever see again? There is a good chance, if he wants to. Everything hinges on his morale, you know.)’

Stan Blake

(World Socialist Party of the United States)

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