Will Gallacher 1917
Source: W. Gallacher “Revolution,” The Call, 28 December 1917, p.4.
For many long years Socialist agitators pleaded with the workers to org-anise and take over the entire means of production and distribution. Books, pamphlets, leaflets and periodicals of all kinds were freely circulated, with scanty result. Heedlessly the workers moved along, chilling the heart of the most enthusiastic advocate of revolution by their blank indifference to questions of supreme importance.
Now, they are aroused with a vengeance. Highly developed capitalism has taken a fearful plunge and dragged Europe into a veritable maelstrom of slaughter. The awful tragedy enacted in the past three years can never be described, but from the lips of every sane man and woman breaks forth the cry, “Never again! Never again!” This must be the last war, and with ever-increasing force the fact is being- borne home to the minds of all that if war is to be ended – Capitalism must go. From out of the weltering chaos streams the clear, strong light of revolution, showing the way for the toil-Workers to the only hope of the world, the Socialist Republic.
Even so the revolution is working itself out, and the crisis is drawing very near. In every large industrial centre it is discussed, and all that is wanted is a clear, well-thought-out method of bringing about the desired change in an effective and orderly manner. It is not a question of condemning Capitalism; Capitalism condemned itself. The onus is on the Socialists of demonstrating in a way that can be understood by the workers that the theories they have so long expounded can be translated into a practical method of producing and distributing the wealth of the nation in such a way as to end for ever the exploitation of the many by the privileged few.
Can we do this? It is just here our trouble begins. Those who favour politics say, Yes, let us capture Parliament, and then – well, what then? Let the politicians settle down to a study of this question. What will they do when they capture Parliament, and how will they carry through a revolution that will take us out of Capitalism into the new world of Socialism? If they are not clear on this, if they have not got a sure, well-understood, positive policy, is it worthwhile expending so much time and energy building up an organisation that may, after all, be only chasing a will-of-the-wisp. Then there is the Industrialists. Yes, say they, we can do it; all we have to do is to organise and capture the industries. Again, may we ask, what then? What is to happen to the gun-shops, torpedo factories and various other industrial institutions that are essentially capitalist in character? And the wages system. If wages are abolished with the taking over of the industries, what form of organisation, for the purpose of distributing the necessities of life, do they propose should take its place? Have they ever thought of working this out, or are they, too, groping blindly in the dark?
Let every rebel concentrate, for at least a few minutes on this proposition. If we can get a clear conception of the new method of production and distribution, then we can put that conception in contrast to the present method employed by Capitalism, and challenge and obtain the support and organisation of the workers to put it into practical operation. The industries are already in the hands of the workers, but the strength of the employers lies in the fact that they control and direct the product.
Take, for instance, the question of coal. Let there be no misunderstanding, it is not suggested that one industry can be taken over and the others left; all our industries are interdependent, and it must be all or none. Rather is it suggested that if the problem of distribution can be solved in the case of one commodity, it has been solved for all.
The coal mines are at present worked and controlled by miners and engineers, but the product – coal – is directed by the mine-owner, through his agents, and conveyed as they determine by railwaymen and others to the different centres, where it is taken over by a series of merchants, who distribute it throughout the various communities, not in accordance with the need of the people, but in proportion to their ability to pay. The defects of this method can easily be demonstrated; it has, in fact, been done time and time again. What is wanted now is to show that we can carry on the distribution without feeding the hungry maw of these, more or less, useless parasites, who are waiting at every turn to squeeze a profit out of us.
Let me suggest, then, instead of mine-owners’ agents taking control of the coal, that it be handled by agents of workers, in the form of a District Committee. This committee will not only deal with the distribution of coal, but will be of such a character that it will obtain from similar committees, covering the other industrial districts of the country, all the raw and finished products that are necessary for the building and maintaining of a healthy community. In each district a central coal depot will be established, and each community in the district will draw from it as they require. In return they will send on to the mining districts the materials they can most favourably produce: Food, clothing, building material, engineering plant, etc. This, of course, is very crude, and anything but new. .But surely if we gave it the attention that it deserves, we could work out a method that would make us masters of the situation. We have the capitalist class at a serious disadvantage. Their method must always give them an extortionate profit, and if we are quick to grasp this fact, then the food they live on will be the death of them.
When the Leeds Conference -was convened, great hopes were held of the work to be accomplished by the committees set up all over the country. Unfortunately this very promising organisation has apparently expended all its vitality in the issuing of a few’ political manifestoes. If it is possible, let us have it roused into new life, not to resurrect a dead House of Commons, but, aided by the Workers’ Committees that are now so active in every industrial centre, carry through the revolution by taking over the control and direction of all that goes to make up the life of the nation.