In a few short weeks, you will again be invited to attend at various schoolrooms and public buildings labelled: "Polling Booth," and there inscribe against the name of some individual or other a little cross. Quite a simple little process, and one which, in our dull world, becomes every now and then invested with an air of excitement and festivity. Some of you will be voting for the first time in your lives, most will have voted at several previous elections. The great majority will feel that the occasion is such a rare one, and the excitement so general, they must, if only from a sense of duty, affix their little cross upon the ballot paper.
There will be no lack of advisers. Bill-boards will have posters calling your attention to the policies of the parties and to tell you that a vote for the other is a vote for catastrophe. Halls will be hired, street corners and market squares will be commandeered for speeches and soundbites, raining tales their opponents' rascality and proclaiming the saintly purity of themselves. The media will join in the voting fever.
Why all this public clamour and excitement with hectic and repeated appeals for your vote? Very briefly, it is because they want to GOVERN you with tremendous emphasis on that word "govern." Time was when people were not asked to vote for a government. They got it, hard and heavy, and they knew it. And when it hurt too much, rebellion was born, and riot, insurrection, and discontent. Now, after generations of struggle, you have gained the right of being asked whom you wish to govern you. But notice, in particular, you are still to be governed. You should ask yourself, "Who are the governors, pray, and who are the governed?" and "Why Government at all?"
A look around should supply you with the answer. The governors are the rich, those who hold the keys to our means of life. The governed are the poor, those who have to hire themselves for wages to the rich and powerful. The rich govern the poor, that is, they keep you in order and stamp upon any sign of revolt or discontent, and by long experience, they have found that the way of retaining their power to govern you is by getting your assent to its continuance. So they arrange themselves into two or three groups, whose opinions differ upon trifling administrative details, and represent themselves to you as dire and bitter antagonists and ask you to choose or the other for the master. Now, in theory, this is a dangerous proceeding, for you might see through the trick and say "A plague on all your houses." In practice, it has worked out very satisfactorily for the rich, for as they own the press, the pulpit, the schools, the media, and your means of livelihood, any alternative opinion is heavily handicapped. But in spite of all, no monopoly can be complete, or eternal. The little blog you are now visiting right now is a proof of that.
The system in which a small rich class owns the means whereby all live, and a large class has to hire themselves for wages in order to live, is called capitalism. It is the system in which we are living to-day. The Socialist Party suggests as an alternative that the means of living should be taken away from the small parasitic class at present owning them, and commonly owned and administered by the whole people. That alternative is called socialism. You will be asked some day to vote for the one or the other. That question will not be asked of you at the next General Election. What you will be asked is: "Do you still want to be governed; do you still believe in capitalism? If you do, it will not matter to capitalism whether you put your little cross against the Conservative or the Labour candidate. They will have secured your voluntary assent to the continuance of capitalism, and your willing acceptance of the fact of being governed. That is all that matters to them. If, where a Socialist Party candidate is not running, you write the word "world socialism" across your ballot paper, your vote is spoiled. True, but at any rate you have not signified that you are a willing supporter of capitalism.
The best thing, of course, is to join the Socialist Party. The class war is not over and will continue for as long as we have capitalism. It is impossible to deny that ideas are conditioned by people's material experience, but this is a long way from suggesting that workers discontent and industrial struggle will, in itself, automatically produce socialist consciousness. Demonstrators who take to the streets are not preoccupied with the abolition of the wage labour and capital relationship and its replacement with free access, and no amount of protest can conjure these concepts out of the air and into the majority of heads. Spontaneity is of no use when attempting to dispose of capitalism. The ownership of the means of life cannot be settled at the factory gate or on the barricade because such methods leave the coercive state in the hands of the owning class. When workers are sufficiently class-conscious to capture the political machinery for socialism, they will have already used their knowledge to bring their workplace organisations to a similar state of development. They will talk not of mines for the miners or factories for the factory workers, but of the democratic control of the world's resources by the whole community.