Letters to the Editors from the March 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard
The writer of “Work and Play” in the February Socialist Standard mangled the quotations from Ruskin, Wilde and Marx. Enthusiasm for his argument does not excuse the disregard of the actual words of the quotations, and the joining together of disparate sections without indicating that there are gaps. Readers can turn to pages 705-9 of Marx’s Grundrisse and enjoy the full text. Wilde would, perhaps, have been amused by the mishaps to the first of the two short extracts from The Soul of Man under Socialism—apart from the omissions there are four changes of words, and even one major addition! But as to the Ruskin quote, there can be no excuse. This is part of one of the most magnificent utterances of the English language (would Horatio rewrite a Shakespeare Sonnet?). This is what Ruskin actually wrote:
“We have much studied and much perfected of late, the great civilized invention of the division of labour; only we give it a false name. It is not, truly speaking, the labour that is divided; but the men: Divided into mere segments of men—broken into small fragments and crumbs of life; so that all the little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not enough to make a pin, or a nail, but exhausts itself in making the point of a pin, or the head of a nail. Now it is a good and desirable thing, truly, to make many pins in a day; but if we could only see with what crystal sand their points were polished,-sand of human soul, much to be magnified before it can be discerned for what it is,—we should think there might be some loss in it also. And the great cry that rises from all our manufacturing cities, louder than their furnace blast, is all in very deed for this,—that we manufacture everything there except men; we blanch cotton, and strengthen steel, and refine sugar, and shape pottery; but to brighten, to strengthen, to refine, or to form a single living spirit, never enters into our estimate of advantages.
I should like to express my appreciation for your letter of 11th November and the review of “VODKA-COLA” in the November issue of the Socialist Standard.
I also very much appreciate your positive comments on “VODKA-COLA”, which will be the core conflict of the ’80s between democratic socialism and authoritarian state capitalism.
I also appreciate your comments in the utilisation of the term “socialist” and the loose handling of “Marxism” in the text. I share entirely your definition of the USSR as an example of state capitalism -and not socialism. And, of course, the entire tenor and objective of “VODKA-COLA” is to confirm what you state that the means of production and the distribution of its output have now largely been accumulated by small elitist minority groups whose interests converge on the exploitation and the expense of the majority of the population, and especially those who relate to society through their earned incomes.