Socialism Made Easy
by James Connolly
SECTION I - WORKSHOP TALKS
SOCIALISM IS A FOREIGN IMPORTATION!
I know it because I read it in the papers. I also know it to be the case because in every country I have graced with my presence up to the present time, or have heard from, the possessing classes through their organs in the press, and their spokesmen upon the platform have been vociferous and insistent in declaring the foreign origin of Socialism.
In Ireland Socialism is an English importation, in England they are convinced it was made in Germany, in Germany it is a scheme of traitors in alliance with the French to disrupt the Empire, in France it is an accursed conspiracy to discredit the army which is destined to reconquer Alsace and Lorraine, in Russia it is an English plot to prevent Russian extension towards Asia, in Asia it is known to have been set on foot by American enemies of Chinese and Japanese industrial progress, and in America it is one of the baneful fruits of unrestricted pauper and criminal immigration.
All nations today repudiate Socialism, yet Socialist ideas are conquering all nations. When anything has to be done in a practical direction toward ameliorating the lot of the helpless ones, or towards using the collective force of society in strengthening the hands of the individual it is sure to be in the intellectual armory of Socialists the right weapon is found for the work.
A case in point. There are tens of thousands of hungry children in New York today as in every other large American city, and many well meant efforts have been made to succor them. Free lunches have been opened in the poorest districts, bread lines have been established and charitable organizations are busy visiting homes and schools to find out the worst cases. But all this has only touched the fringe of the destitution, with the additional aggravation that anything passing through the hands of these charitable committees usually costs ten times as much for administration as it bestows on the object of its charity.
Also that the investigation is usually more effectual in destroying the last vestiges of self-respect in its victims than in succoring their needs.
In the midst of this difficulty Superintendent Maxwell of the New York Schools sends a letter to a committee of thirteen charitable organizations which had met together to consider the problem, and in this letter he advocates the method of relieving distress long since initiated by the Socialist representatives in the Municipality of Paris. I quote from the New York World:
Contrast this solicitude for the self-respect of the poor children, recognized by Superintendent Maxwell in the plan of these 'foreign Socialists' with the insulting methods of the capitalist 'bread lines' and charitable organizations in general.
But all the same it is too horrible to take practical examples in relieving the distress caused by capitalist society from pestilent agitators who wish to destroy the society whose victims they are succoring, and mere foreigners, too. The capitalist method of parading mothers and children for an hour in the street before feeding them is more calculated to build up the proper degree of pride in the embryo American citizens; and make them appreciate the benefits their fathers and brothers are asked to vote for.
Read this telling how hungry children and mothers stood patiently waiting for a meal on the sidewalk, and whoop it up for pure ecstasy of joy that you are permitted to live in a system of society wherein a great metropolitan daily thought that the fact of five hundred children getting a 'hearty luncheon' was remarkable enough to deserve a paragraph:
WELL, I AM NOT INTERESTED IN INTERNATIONALISM. THIS COUNTRY IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME.
Is that so? Say: Are you taking a share in the Moscow-Windau-Rydinsk Railway?
'No, where is that?'
My dear friend, where that railway runs has nothing to do with you. What you have to do is simply to take a share, and then go and have a good time whilst the Russian railway workers, whom you do not know, working in a country you never saw, speaking a language you don't understand, earn your dividends by the sweat of their brows.
Curious, ain't it?
We Socialists are always talking about the international solidarity of labor, about the oneness of our interests all over the world, and ever and anon working off our heaving chests a peroration on the bonds of fraternal sympathy which should unite the wage slaves of the capitalist system.
But there is another kind of bond - Russian railway bonds - which join, not the workers, but the idlers of the world in fraternal sympathy, and which creates among the members of the capitalist class a feeling of identity of interest, of international solidarity, which they don't perorate about but which is most potent and effective notwithstanding.
You do not fully recognize the fact that the internationality of Socialism is at most but a lame and halting attempt to create a counterpoise to the internationality of capitalism. Yet so it is.
Here is a case in point. The Moscow-Windau-Rydinsk railway is, as its name indicates, a railway running, or proposed to be run, from one part of Russia to another. You would think that that concerned the Russian people only, and that our patriotic capitalist class, always so ready to declare against working class Socialists with international sympathies, would never look at it or touch it.
You would not think that Ireland, for example - whose professional patriots are forever telling the gullible working men that Ireland will be ruined for the lack of capital and enterprise - would be a good country to find money in to finance a Russian railway.
Yet, observe the fact. All the Dublin papers of Monday, June 12, 1899, contained the prospectus of this far away Russian railway, offered for the investment of Irish capitalists, and offered by a firm of London stockbrokers who are astute enough not to waste money in endeavoring to catch fish in waters where they were not in the habit of biting freely.
And in the midst of the Russian revolution the agents of the Czar succeeded in obtaining almost unlimited treasures in the United States to pay the expenses of throttling the infant Liberty.
As the shares in Russian railways were sold in Ireland, as Russian bonds were sold in America, so the shares in American mines, railroads and factories are bought and sold on all the stock exchanges of Europe and Asia by men who never saw America in their lifetime.
Now, let us examine the situation, keeping in mind the fact that this is but a type of what prevails all round; you can satisfy yourself on that head by a daily glance at our capitalist papers.
CAPITAL IS INTERNATIONAL
The shares of Russian railways, African mines, Nicaraguan canals, Chilian gas works, Norwegian timber, Mexican water works, Canadian fur trappings, Australian kanaka slave trade, Indian tea plantations, Japanese linen factories, Chinese cotton mills, European national and municipal debts, United States bonanza farms are bought and sold every day by investors, many of whom never saw any one of the countries in which their money is invested, but who have, by virtue of so investing, a legal right to a share of the plunder extracted under the capitalist system from the wage workers whose bone and sinew earn the dividends upon the bonds they have purchased.
When our investing classes purchase a share in any capitalist concern, in any country whatsoever, they do so, not in order to build up a useful industry, but because the act of purchase endows them with a prospective share of the spoils it is proposed to wring from labor.
Therefore, every member of the investing classes is interested to the extent of his investments, present or prospective, in the subjection of Labor all over the world.
That is the internationality of Capital and Capitalism.
The wage worker is oppressed under this system in the interest of a class of capitalist investors who may be living thousands of miles away and whose very names are unknown to him.
He is, therefore, interested in every revolt of Labor all over the world, for the very individuals against whom that revolt may be directed may - by the wondrous mechanism of the capitalist system - through shares, bonds, national and municipal debts - be the parasites who are sucking his blood also. That is one of the underlying facts inspiring the internationalism of Labor and Socialism.
BUT THE SOCIALIST PROPOSALS, THEY SAY, WOULD DESTROY THE INDIVIDUAL CHARACTER OF THE WORKER. HE WOULD LEAN ON THE COMMUNITY, INSTEAD OF UPON HIS OWN EFFORTS.
Yes: Giving evidence before the Old Age Pensions Committee in England, Sir John Dorrington, M.P., expressed the belief that the provision of Old Age Pensions by the State, for instance, would do more harm than good. It was an objectionable principle, and would lead to improvidence.'
There now! You will always observe that it is some member of what an Irish revolutionist called 'the canting, fed classes', who is anxious that nothing should be done by the State to give the working class habits of 'improvidence,' or to do us any 'harm.' Dear, kind souls!
To do them justice they are most consistent. For both in public and private their efforts are most whole-heartedly bent in the same direction, viz., to prevent improvidence - ON OUR PART.
They lower our wages - to prevent improvidence; they increase our rents - to prevent improvidence; they periodically suspend us from our employment - to prevent improvidence, and as soon as we are worn out in their service they send us to a semi-convict establishment, known as the Workhouse, where we are scientifically starved to death - to prevent improvidence.
Old Age Pensions might do us harm. Ah, yes! And yet, come to think of it, I know quite a number of people who draw Old Age Pensions and it doesn't do them a bit of harm. Strange, isn't it?
Then all the Royal Families have pensions, and they don't seem to do them any harm; royal babies, in fact, begin to draw pensions and milk from a bottle at the same time.
Afterwards they drop the milk, but they never drop the pension - nor the bottle.
Then all our judges get pensions, and are not corrupted thereby - at least not more than usual. In fact, all well-paid officials in governmental or municipal service get pensions, and there are no fears expressed that the receipt of the same may do them harm.
But the underpaid, overworked wage-slave. To give him a pension would ruin his moral fibre, weaken his stamina, debase his manhood, sap his integrity, corrupt his morals, check his prudence, emasculate his character, lower his aspirations, vitiate his resolves, destroy his self-reliance, annihilate his rectitude, corrode his virility - and - and - other things.