From the August 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard
In the March issue of the Socialist Standard there appeared a short item in the Voice from the Back column that has obviously annoyed a supporter of capitalism. It was criticising an article in the Observer of 9 February and has led the Observer writer to describe us as “ahistorical nitwits clinging to a fundamentalism every bit as odd as the Islamic variant”. To put our readers in the picture we will set forth what has been said, and will also put in our own tuppenceworth. It is up to you to decide.
In March we wrote:
“You can always rely on journalists to write nonsense whenever they are dealing with capitalism and socialism. Take the recent example of Will Hutton writing in the Observer (9 February). 'Socialism and social democracy are secular forms of Christianity whose insistence on justice, fairness and equality have palpable Christian roots, while Christian Democracy's embrace of market capitalism is qualified by its Catholic commitment to a just wage, just prices and just profits – and that work should be a source of human dignity.' It would be difficult to find a sentence with more nonsense if you spent a year searching. Socialism is a materialist view that opposes the slavish notions of Christianity. The source of all profit is the surplus value that the workers produce over their wages. To speak of 'just wages' is as daft as 'just robbery'.”
Will Hutton was sent a copy, to which he replied:
“I receive over 100 e-mails a day regularly – sometimes over 200. I don't know where to begin with the criticism. It rests on the belief that the values which socialism promotes somehow did not exist before socialism; and that socialism has a monopoly of concepts like justice – hence the mockery of the just wage. If early socialist thinkers had been as poor as this, the ideas would have got nowhere. Sadly today's champions are ahistoric nitwits clinging to a socialist fundamentalism every bit as odd as the Islamic variant. That is why they have so little influence. If you don't see the pedigree of values upon which socialism rests and is built, you don't deserve to be in the game.”
Wow! Take that you, bounder and other put downs. Now let's take a look at the real world. The Catholic Church's “just wages, just prices and just profits” and commitment to “human dignity” is a historical nonsense. Has Hutton heard of the inquisition? Or the Pope's support of Franco and Mussolini? The Catholic Church, like the Protestant Church is a whole-hearted supporter of private property.
More importantly than Hutton's strange views about socialism and christianity is that he doesn't challenge the basic premise of socialism that profit is derived from the unpaid labour of the working class. Hutton is a very talented worker who sells his ability for a wage or a salary to a member of the capitalist class. He is dependent on a wage or a salary, just like, this “ahistoric nitwit”. Men and women of the working class produce all the wealth of the world. Even silly articles in the Observer. The proprietor has got to fill the spaces between the adverts after all.