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people's own institutions. Then it is all laid out by them, to
the very best possible advantage, so that, as soon as the new
means of production have been built, they can be used to
raise the wages of the people.

In a word, under capitalism it is a tossup whether the
rich choose to reinvest the vast wealth which they draw off
from us by way of rent, interest and profit. In practice the
amount is so large that they have to reinvest a great deal of
it, because, do what they will, they cannot spend it. But they
reinvest it just according to their own sweet will and entirely
with an eye to what will give them the greatest profit. So that
often it is reinvested in things which are socially useless, like
speculation in commodities, or in foolish and even harmful

Under socialism not a penny of what the people decide to
reserve for national development is allowed to become the
private property of any individual. It is all held in trust, and
reinvested after careful investigation and thought by the plan-
ning commission to the very best possible advantage, in order
to produce increased wealth in the form of more food, more
clothes, more furniture, more houses, more motorcars and the
like in future years for the people as a whole.
^r Now we come to an important question. We

Et 7 have seen that the general level of wages in a

Equal. . . . . .

socialist society is based on the total wealth

produced; that it rises as the total wealth which the country
can produce increases. But does this mean that everyone will
be paid an equal share of this total; that, in a word, wages



will be equal? No, it does not. Under socialism it is still
necessary to pay a more skilled worker better than a less
skilled worker. It is still necessary to pay the highly skilled
fitter in the engineering shop, or the surgeon at the operating
table, or the efficient works manager, or the able administra-
tor, more than the unskilled laborer, or than the boy or girl,
whose first job it is to sweep out the factory.

Some socialists used to have the idea that it would be
possible and desirable to pay exactly equal wages to every-
body under socialism. Indeed it is often said that all social-
ists always used to propose this, and that when we now say
that this is not so, we are simply making excuses for the fact
that in the existing socialist society, the Soviet Union, they
do not pay equal wages.

But this is not so, as you can easily prove for yourself.
You have only to look up Karl Marx's pronouncements on
the subject in a book called The Critique of the Gotha Pro-
gram, to see that he was perfectly clear that wages could not
and should not be equal under socialism.

But, you may say, what about English-speaking socialists?
Did not they always say that wages would be equal under
socialism? No, that is not the case either. I was recently re-
reading Blatchford's book, Merrie England, and came across
this passage:

"You will observe that under practical socialism there
would be wages paid; and probably the wages of man-
agers would be higher than the wages of workmen; and



the wages of artists and doctors and other clever and
highly trained men higher than those of weavers or


Now Blatchf ord's Merrie England, as older readers of this
book may remember, was by far the most famous exposition
of socialism published in Britain before the war (it sold no
less than two million copies, taking Britain and America to-
gether). So there is no doubt that in establishing unequal
wages the Soviet Union has done only what every socialist
who understood socialism always said that socialists would

j., j . . "But anyhow," you may say, "even if so-

Exploitation, . _. _ J ./ . ,; . ,

j , cialists always did say that this is what they

not Inequal- _ _ _ . . ' _ n

, c . would do, is it right: What improvement is

itv, Is the Sin. , r

socialism on capitalism if people are still to

get unequal pay? Is not this almost as unjust and unequal as

Stop a minute. What is it that we principally object to
under the present economic system? Is what we principally
object to that wages are unequal, that people are paid more
for skilled than for unskilled work? No, this is not the main
thing which we object to. What we object to is that the highest
pay of all is given for no work at all. What we object to is
not inequality of pay between different workers, but the fact
that it is not the workers at all, but a class of rich owners,
who in many cases do no work at all, who get the really big

What we object to, in other words, is not inequality of pay,



but exploitation, or living off the labor of others. If you are
a better workman than I, if you turn out goods worth double
what I turn out, you do not exploit me if you are paid double
what I am paid. In the present state of economic and social
development, I have no complaint against you.

What is wrong is not this sort of inequality. What is wrong
is that, at present, you (if you own means of production) may
not turn out anything at all, and yet you may be paid, not
double, but literally thousands of times as much as I. What
is wrong is that the mass of the population is actually paid
so little that it cannot buy enough goods to keep itself in em-
ployment. That is exploitation; for it means that you are liv-
ing off my labor. The wealth that you get has got to come
from somewhere. It does not drop like manna from heaven;
it comes from my labor and the labor of millions of other

It is exploitation; it is living off the labor of others, that
socialism abolishes. A socialist community abolishes exploita-
tion wholly and absolutely, even though it may decide to pay
its most skilled workers twice or even ten times as much as its
least skilled. For it still pays for work and for nothing else.

i . j. All this throws light on the old accusation

Is Socialism . .

that socialism is contrary to human nature.

Contrary to TOr , J , .

rr Well, judge for yourselves. Is it contrary to

Ar human nature to pay men strictly in accor-

Nature? , * , , , . , ,

dance with the value of the work which they

do? No work equals no pay; simple unskilled work equals a
wage that will keep the man and his family in decency and
security. Better, more skilled work equals better pay, and



so on. Is such an arrangement as that contrary to human
nature? It seems to me that such an arrangement is precisely
in accordance with human nature. Far from providing no
incentive to work, it seems to me to provide a ten times
greater and more scientifically adjusted incentive than does
the present system.

"Ah," someone may object, "but what about the exception-
al man, what about the artist, the actor, the especially talented
man? What incentive does he have under socialism? What
about the inventor?"

Well, what about him? The artist, the writer, the actor, the
especially gifted man, are simply regarded under socialism
as specially skilled types of workers. Such a worker can, and
does, because of his superior talents, get especially high re-
wards. Why not? Such a talented worker gives a quite excep-
tional degree of service to society. Why should we grudge
him a quite exceptional reward? What we grudge are the vast
rewards at present given to those who give nothing in return.

And as to the inventor. He, too, can be, and is, rewarded
by special fees, prizes and the like, for his inventions. More-
over it is a libel on him, as on the artist, to suppose that he
will use his special talents only for the sake of special

In this connection there is a good story told about an in-
ventor hi the existing socialist country, the Soviet Union.* On
one occasion, a visitor to the Soviet Union was shown by its
proud inventor a new gadget for an improved process of re-

*See Red Virtue by Ella Winter.



fining petroleum. After examining the arrangement of pipes,
tubes and taps, the visitor asked the Soviet inventor: "But
what do you get out of it?"

The inventor, thinking his explanation had been misunder-
stood, pointed again to one of the taps and said: "You get oil
out of it, here." "Yes, I know that," said the visitor, "but
what do you get out of it?" "Why," repeated the puzzled
inventor, "you get the oil out of it."

And so they went on misunderstanding each other for quite
a time. From the tourist's point of view the purpose of the
invention was to get a personal benefit out of it for the inven-
tor. For the Soviet inventor the purpose of the invention was
to get oil out of it.

Now which attitude is true to human nature? I think the
answer is that both attitudes are true to parts of human na-
ture. It is natural for an inventor to want to get some personal
benefit out of his invention, and in the Soviet Union he does
receive a liberal money reward. But it is also part of human
nature for an inventor to want his invention to be of genuine
benefit to everybody. Socialism, quite simply and naturally,
provides satisfaction for both sides of human nature.
Is Capitalism ^h 6116 ^ 1 ! hear ^e well-known suggestion
Contrary to t ^ at soc ^ a ^ sm * s contrary to human nature, I
Human want to ask the opposite question: Is capital-

jy . p ism contrary to human nature? Is it contrary

to human nature to give the highest pay to
those who do no work at all; to give the lowest pay to those
who do the heaviest work? Is it contrary to human nature to



pay the ninety million Americans who work for wages, so
little that they cannot buy enough to keep themselves in em-
ployment? Is it contrary to human nature to keep several
million people permanently idle while they, and many others,
lack the very goods which they ought to be producing? Is it
contrary to human nature deliberately to destroy food, clothes
and many other forms of wealth, in order to render the pro-
duction of further wealth profitable again? Is it contrary to
human nature so to arrange things that the only job on which
men can get employment is building armaments with which
to kill each other? Is it contrary to human nature to send
millions of men out to slaughter each other in order to decide
who shall possess the markets of the world? Is all this con-
trary to human nature? I think it is.

And that is why gradually and confusedly, but yet ever
more powerfully, the people of the world are rebelling
against an economic system which makes them do such things
as these.
^ . , . Socialism is a particular way of organizing

. TT the economic life of the world. All the differ-

ences Us a _ . .. r . _

,0, ences between it and capitalism are founded

Chance. . . . - ..

on the fact that, under capitalism, a small

group of private persons owns the means of production, while
under socialism they are owned by everybody. It is this
change in ownership which makes it possible to get rid of
those scourges, such as undernourishment, slumps, unem-
ployment, imperialism and war, which afflict the world today.
None of these things can finally be got rid of without this



change in the ownership of the means of production, or capi-
tal, of the country.

Now socialism is not Utopia. The establishment of a social-
ist society does not suddenly make people into saints or
heroes. They remain imperfect men and women. Therefore
all sorts of troubles, of difficulties and of struggles, remain
in existence. But the point is this: Socialism gives us a chance.
What we make of that chance is still our affair. Socialism can
only make a job available for everybody and guarantee
everybody who is willing to work a decent, living wage with
the opportunity to rise to the top of his chosen vocation.
Socialism, in a word, can only abolish poverty, war and inse-
curity from the face of the earth. It can do no more, but no
less, than that. Socialism, in a word, gives everyone the op-
portunity to found a home and rear up a family in health and
security ; to accomplish those few, simple, fundamental things
by means of which we can alone fulfill ourselves as human
beings, and enjoy a measure of happiness in our short lives.

To give a chance to everyone to fulfill him or herself in this
simple, basic way is only, however, the first task of socialism.
There is no doubt that once socialism is established in any
country and has accomplished its basic task, human life be-
gins to develop very rapidly under the new conditions. How-
ever, it would be foolish to go on arguing about socialism in
the abstract any longer. After all, socialism has now been
established in one great country. No discussion of it is of any
value which does not deal with the question of what has hap-
pened in the Soviet Union.


Chapter XII

"I Have Seen the Future and It Works' 7

r . Soon after the establishment of the Soviet

It Exists

Government, a great American writer, Lincoln
and Works. ' ^

btenens, paid Moscow a visit. When he came

back he summed up his experience in the phrase: "I have
seen the future, and it works."

That is the thing to remember about the Soviet Union. The
thing to remember is that it exists. The thing to remember is
that for the first time in human history a socialist society
has been brought into existence.

That is a fact that you cannot easily get over. You can
argue for ever as to the merits of this socialist society; but
you cannot argue away the fact that it exists. You cannot
argue away the fact that 170 million people are doing without
capitalists, landlords and employers; that they are living,
working, producing their daily bread, marrying, bearing
children, rapidly increasing the population, and drastically
changing the whole nature of their country, and all without
the assistance of a single Russian capitalist. Nor is it seriously
possible to deny, however much you may criticize their pres-
ent conditions, that they are better off now than they were
when Russia was capitalist.



It has taken the Russian people twenty years to make their
community into a socialist one. For the first few years after
the revolution of 1919 Russia was only beginning to be a
socialist country. For that matter, the structure of this first
socialist society is not finally completed even now. But now,
in its main essentials, the Soviet Union is a socialist society.
As a result of twenty years of extraordinary effort on the
part of the Russian people we now know that a socialist so-
ciety can be built up. We know that socialism works. We
know that the thing can be done. That is the new fact in the
history of the world.

WhatH ^ ut> ^ course > ^ at * s on ^ v ^ e ^ rst ^ act

rp, r, about the Soviet Union. We all, rightly, want

1 hey Got out . . , .

, , p to know not only whether a socialist economic

system can be built up, but also what it is like
when it has been built up. We want to know what the Russian
people have got out of socialism. What are their conditions
of life?

Now here we come to a field of endless argument, discus-
sion and dispute. Literally thousands of books and millions
of newspaper articles have been written with the express
purpose of persuading us that the Russian people have got
nothing good out of socialism, that "really" they are no bet-
ter off than they would have been if they had left the capital
of the country in the hands of the Russian capitalists, and
gone on working for them.

It is natural for the people who own the means of produc-
tion in the rest of the world, and for those who speak for



them, to write like this. It is obviously of first-rate importance
for them to persuade us that the Russians did themselves no
good when they took the means of production from the Rus-
sian capitalists. So, when we read their stories of how dread-
ful everything is in Russia, we are bound to have our

Moreover, it is worth while remembering what the Russian
workers have undeniably got by way of benefits to themselves.
Then we can set these gains against the stories we are told, in
case some of them, at any rate, may be true!

Now no one can seriously deny that the Russian workers
have got five things out of socialism; and you will agree, I
think, that these are all of them things that are worth having.

F' S lid ** ^W ^ ave g0t r ^ ^ unem ply ment -

, Nobody in Russia need be without a job, ever.

Whenever any worker leaves or loses one job,
he is certain to receive, not one, but several offers of employ-
ment from factories, mines, offices and farms, etc., which
need extra workers. For example, when 15,000 workers were
discharged recently on the completion of the building of the
Moscow- Volga Canal, each one of them received on an aver-
age five offers of new employment. Well, that seems to me
worth something.

2. Russian workers work seven hours a day. (No need to
tell you that that is worth having.)

3. They all have holidays with pay. (No need to tell you
that that is worth having.)

4. They have a complete system of non-contributory social



insurance by which they are paid pensions if they are dis-
abled, either temporarily or permanently, by accident or ill-
ness, and when they retire from old age.

5. Their rate of wages has slowly risen over the past
years, and is now rising more rapidly. It is still below that
of many skilled workers in America or Britain, but it is above
anything ever known before in Russia.

Well, these are five definite things, each of which, it seems
to me, American workers will think worth a good deal. These
are advantages which take a bit of balancing.

rri n i Then remember that in Russia today they

1 he Heal . . .

r . are doing the job which was done in America

Comparison. . J

and in Britain fifty to a hundred years ago.

They are laying down the basic industrial equipment of the
country. They are building new railways, new power stations,
sinking new mines, building new factories everywhere in that
vast sub-continent of a place which we call the Soviet Union.
And remember what conditions were like in Britain, for
example, when we were doing that job. The truth is that we did
that job largely by means of slowly torturing to death whole
generations of women and children. When we, or rather the
British capitalists (for it certainly was not the fault of the
British workers), were doing that job, British children of six
and seven were working fourteen to sixteen hours a day in
the mills. British women were underground dragging the coal
tubs. Hours of work were, for most of the time, wholly un-
limited. There were no insurances, pensions or other social
services whatever. Wages were very low.



Well, in Russia, under socialism, they are managing to
do that basic job of industrialization with a seven-hour day;
with the labor of children wholly and absolutely prohibited;
with women prohibited from working underground or on un-
suitable work; with special arrangements made for women
on all suitable work; with no unemployment; with holidays
with pay; with the most complete system of social services
which the world has ever seen; and with steadily rising rates
of wages.

TT n Moreover when you have finished talking

The Deepest . J

D i - about industry you still have not mentioned

Revolution. J J

the most significant of all the achievements of

socialism in the Soviet Union. And that is the revolutionary
change which has come over agriculture the change from
individual peasant cultivation to cultivation in common in
the collective farms.

Perhaps it may not be easy for Americans to appreciate
quite what that change has meant. American farming is after
all conducted for the most part on a reasonably large scale.
The typical farm is big enough to use a good deal of agricul-
tural machinery and to employ a varying number of men
working together. But over practically the whole of continen-
tal Europe till about ten years ago agriculture was not con-
ducted like that. It was peasant agriculture conducted in
basically the same way that it had been conducted for a
thousand years. It was agriculture conducted on tiny patches,
or worse still, on scattered strips of land by peasant fami-
lies, almost entirely by hand and without outside help.



In a word there had been no basic progress in agriculture for
a thousand years and there could be none so long as the
peasant system persisted. And that meant that a great section
of the people of Europe were held down to the conditions of
peasant life, which is one of the hardest, narrowest, least
hopeful conditions of life for a human being.

In 1938 all this is still true of continental Europe outside
the Soviet borders. But within the Soviet Union it is true no
longer. Some eighty million men and women, the peasants of
Russia, have learned in less than ten years to live in a new
way; to cultivate the soil in common, pooling their land, their
larger agricultural machinery and their larger livestock. It
is by far the biggest change that has happened in our cen-
tury; and it is by far the best. For however rough and imper-
fect are the collective farms and as there are 250,000 of
them you may imagine that they range all the way from the
highest to the lowest level of efficiency they represent an
improvement upon peasant agriculture so gigantic as to dwarf
every other step forward which humanity has taken in our

So gigantic an advance was not made without effort and
without cost. On the contrary, the struggle of the upheaval,
the temporary chaos that was involved in this reorganiza-
tion of agriculture, which is the very foundation of human
life, strained the Soviet system to the limit. It was at this point
that some of those who had been leading figures in the Soviet
Government lost heart, turned their backs upon the attempt



to build up a socialist society, and in the end passed over into
the ranks of the deadliest enemies of socialism.

But in spite of everything the job was done. Now both
friends and foes of the Soviet Union do not deny that the new
way of working the land for the eighty million men and
women who live in the Russian countryside has come to stay;
that only a tiny minority would desire to go back. For the
new way of work has proved its capacity to give the peasants
a larger product, to give them more and better food, more
money and more leisure. This is the biggest thing which
socialism has done so far.
jjrri rj But, it may be suggested, are there not other

W tWlt 12 (IS . 1 1 1 1 1

TUI i j factors in which socialism is at a disaavan-

T> -LI o tage? I do not think there are. But let us as-


sume, for the sake of argument, mat there are.

Even then, what disadvantages of socialism could possibly
balance the gains for the overwhelming mass of the popula-
tion, which I have just set down?

Now all these solid gains of the Russian workers have been
made possible by socialism alone. It has been possible for
Russian workers to get these conditions only because they took
the means of production out of their former masters' hands.
Does anyone really mean to say that if the Russian capitalists
still owned Russia's industries, and if the Russian landlords
still owned her lands, the Russian workers would have a
seven-hour day, holidays with pay, rising wages, no unem-
ployment and a complete system of non-contributory pensions
and insurances? It is far more likely that Russia would be



going through a period in which workers' conditions would be
similar to those which existed in Britain seventy or eighty
years ago.

my r . And then people have the hardihood to say

The Fascist /

r , . that they can see no difference between the

Countries. . J

Soviet Union and the fascist states! It seems

to me that only two kinds of people can possibly make so
senseless a remark as that. Either they must be people who
know nothing about conditions in either the Soviet Union or
Germany and Italy; or they must be the sort of people who
have never had to earn their own livings.

The truth is, of course, that in Germany and Italy the same
capitalist economic system as we have in Britain is in full
existence. In both Germany and Italy the means of produc-

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Online LibraryJohn StracheyHope in America → online text (page 9 of 12)