The Genesis and Evolution of Slavery - the writings of Eugene Kingsley

"The history of civilization has been written in letters of blood and fire. The enslavement of man by man was the primal curse, the fundamental crime..."
So began Eugene Kingsley's fundamental text, The Genesis and Evolution of Slavery, written in 1916. Two years previous, Eugene Kingsley was exiled from the Western Clarion - a newspaper he funded, edited and wrote for in some capacity since 1903 - over disagreements regarding his condemnation of German aggression in the First World War. At this time Kingsley set to writing Genesis, published by himself and his long-time friend and collaborator R.P. Pettipiece. It was to be the first and only official collection of Kingsley's political thought.

Cover of Kingsley's 1916 book, "The Genesis and Evolution of Slavery"
Similar in form and purpose to the Communist Manifesto, Genesis lays out the argument that human relationships are defined by exploitation, which has remained unchanged since the dawn of human civilization. The sum of human society, thus, is a system of basic slavery that underpins all economic relationships. Slavery, Kingsley writes, is not a distinct political system where human beings are owned as property. Rather, slavery is the basic relationship between master and servant, boss and worker, or lord and serf: any time one person asserts power over the livelihood of another with the support of a political system.
Photograph of Kingsley from "The Genesis and Evolution of Slavery."
According to Genesis, Capitalism is distinct only in that the modern worker's slave status is 'hidden' by wages and the market, and that the power of the state to enforce the slave system is kept out of sight until worker organization precipitates state violence to suppress it.

This reiterates Kingsley's opposition to union organization as the primary means of political change. So long as the worker depends on bosses for wages, better working conditions and wages can only be temporarily secured, as power over the basic necessities of human life still rests in the hands of owners - "the wage system." The Union, Kingsley argues, then only secures a worker's consent to the wage system, and does nothing to upend the worker's slave status. Failed confrontations for labour rights, such as the violently suppressed coal strike on Vancouver Island in 1913 - only validated Kingsley's skepticism about the radical power of unions to politically transform society. Those which were to come, the Vancouver and Winnipeg general strikes of 1918 and 1919, did little to change his mind.

Rather than direct action, Kingsley argued, the only way forward was a democratic revolution as the State is the ultimate authority which allows such systems of slavery to exist. "The class struggle is purely a political struggle," he writes in Genesis, before going on to state that an orderly transition of power to Socialist hands would precipitate a total economic transformation. Kingsley believed that this political revolution was imminent, and would occur naturally by establishing a class-conscious democratic base in response to the miserable conditions brought on by capitalism, and fanned through marches, lectures and education. He would, of course, be in the vanguard of this struggle.
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