Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 11 October 1919
It sometimes looks as if the working class culture, so far as propaganda is concerned, was being choked by big words. On the other hand, the scientists tell us that no one understands a question until he has learned the terms or language peculiar to that study, that is to say, that while one is getting the ideas he is also getting the terminology.
Be that as it may there is such a thing as popularizing a science or making an easy introduction to it. This process is like stepping down a high voltage current to render it safe for light duty purposes. The terms Surplus Value, the Materialistic Conception of History and The Class Struggle in themselves, contained but small hints of the special meanings applied to them by the intellectuals of the working class movement. However, the terminology in which these principles of working class study were clothed was a stimulus to the studious, while the lazy and the careless, who would have only confused any question, were repelled from any consideration of the matters at issue. The once esoteric learning of the intellectuals is now, through a thousand channels, coming to be soundly apprehended by the rank and file of the workers.
The Class Struggle produces class consciousness. Loyalty is an inherited instinct, part of the native endowment, or human inheritance, which is the heritage of every human being. This loyalty must have some subject on which it may rest. In the savage group it was the consanguine family; during barbarism it rested on the gens, the tribe or the confederation of tribes. Since the advent of civilization the territorial division known as the state or nation has been its foundation. In the new culture, it goes out and rests on the class of workers alone, and finally when classes are abolished, the inherited loyalty will cover the whole human race. Loyalty involves its necessary component or opposite hatred or dislike of all outside its own class. At the present time no one can be called class conscious who had any vestige of loyalty to the nation or state. Such a one is a scissor-bill.
When Marx wrote on Surplus Value the prevailing handcraft notions of economics, made it possible that the new theory has spread so rapidly over the world and has brought the workers so sharply against its stern rule in so rude a manner that few illusions from the old handcraft culture have any chance of retaining their validity among the actual workers in the plants. The workers do the work and must be secured in their livelihood or they cannot perform their tasks. The owners take the product of labor because they are owners. The worker will be on the pay roll when the boss can make a profit but at any other time his only right is to starve to death. When he has any part of the pay left he has rights as a professor of wealth but, the moment his pay is all spent, he is a vagrant and a hobo with laws made and provided for his prompt and rigorous suppression. Should the workers in any particular number cease work and thus upset the social order, as is inevitable when capital (owners) is not receiving the profits that might be in sight for the time being, they must be imputed to be rebels against the social order and criminals both in fact and in law. The code as written may not so class them but the law as construed must so treat these recalcitrants. The worker who thinks that he possesses any rights, which come as a hold over from the codes of the days of the handicraft laws, is also a scissor-bill.
The Materialistic Conception of History was presented to us from Marx and Engles [Engels] in a somewhat confused and inchoate form. The miracle of their presentation was, that, with the sources of information and the state of the social sciences so backward, their generalizations and their applications of the principle were so sound. Little wonder, however, that so many people found it impossible to make an interpretation of what was meant and that so much fog and confusion was the result. At first a socialist doctrine, it has come to pass that the bulk of the development along its lines has been made not by socialists, but by scientists seeking knowledge for itself. After Marx, Morgan made the first substantial contribution in his great work, Ancient Societies. Then came Lester F. Ward, followed by the whole school of archaeologists, ethnologists, psychologists and sociologists, all of whose contributions of any value have been made in this present century. The American Journal of Sociology, from time to time, contains the sum of the new discoveries. Europe has followed but tardily; Freud, the Austrian Alienist, has been a notable exception to the self-sufficiency of that effete continent, which was only beginning to discover the American school, when the war broke out and threw that continent back for decades. The proof that one understands the Materialist Conception of History is his ability to make the application of the principle to the numerous changes in the social world as they occur. The purpose of the theory is to enable its students to understand human behavior insofar as it can be called conduct. The beginning of wisdom in this regard is to be able to tell what is native endowment or heredity, and what is cultural, or the use and wont, or habituation. If one has not learned to make the discrimination, he also is a scissor-bill.
Anarchists and Anarchists
The philosophic anarchists have well defined ideals and a constructive philosophy of social life and while we may differ from these people, they at least are entitled to the respect which goes to all who hold steadfast to their opinions and ideals.
The word anarchist has come to carry an exceedingly ugly and sinister meaning, simply because it is applied, generally, to all those who refuse to submit to social control and who refuse to comply with the laws by which society enforces its conclusions.
The Citizens’ committee, always an illegal and law-breaking organization, is purely an anarchistic creation in the worse meaning of the term. It is there purely as an engine to incite to mob violence, and whenever the mob spirit is made to flame up to capacity, there are no limits to its activities. Battle, murder, and sudden death; evil speaking, lying and slandering; envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness, are its fruits.
The press tells us, with apparent gusto, of the Sarnia and Windsor brand of this sinister bunch of moral degenerates at their hideous pastime, the Rev. Wm. Ivens being the subject of their regard. We apologize to the confessed anarchists for mentioning them in the same column with these Ontario human perverts.
Page revised: 27 July 2013Back to top of page