Sunday, May 28, 2017

A Modern Parable (Short Story 1948)

A Short Story from the May 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

There once lived a man, Proletarius by name. He had a bicycle, which was old and therefore had many faults. Whenever Proletarius rode it, he crashed and suffered considerable pain in consequence.

These mishaps induced him to try to solve the problem produced by the faulty nature of his bicycle. He saw a friend, Socialist by name, who knew something about bicycles. He explained to Proletarius that it was old and would not stand much more wear and tear. Socialist said he was unable to do anything himself and explained to Proletarius the need for a new machine. He added that only Proletarius himself is in a position to select his new bicycle and must therefore acquire a sound knowledge of them.

But Proletarius, although he worked very hard for his employer and was always ready to help his wife at home and spent hours toiling arduously in his back garden, was mentally lazy. He was unwilling to acquire new ideas and to get a new bicycle.

So he called at “ Reforms Cycle Repairs Co., Ltd.,” whose proprietor was called Leader. Leader said to him, “Entrust your bicycle to me and I will give it the general overhauling it needs. It will run well enough after I have straightened the front wheel and tightened the screws." After a week Proletarius called for his bicycle, paid Leader the price he charged and found his machine running fairly smoothly.

Soon, however, the screws began to fall out again. Proletarius weighed the matter up and thought, "I have chosen the wrong shop; they cheated me. 'Pseudo-Communistus,' who owns the 'Left-wing,' is a kind man and I trust him to do the job properly for me." He had new screws fixed on and the bicycle ran fairly smoothly for a few days. Meanwhile the brakes had become rusty and failed to perform their function. So when he went down hill his brakes failed; he crashed and broke his neck.

His brother, “Revolutionary," inherited his bicycle. But he knew something about bicycles and realised that the machine he had inherited was too old and worn out for further use. He heeded the lesson he learned from his brother’s experience and realised the need for a new bicycle.

And the various bicycle merchants heard of this and offered him the various makes they had in stock. They offered "Jingoism and Red Herrings, Unlimited," "Demagogy" and "Superstition." They used the press, wireless and the screen to advertise their wares.

But “Revolutionary" examined them and realised they were extremely cranky machines. Knowing something about bicycles, he did not need anyone’s advice, and selected his new bicycle himself, in accordance with his wishes, which coincided with his requirements.

Henceforward he had no bicycle troubles.