March 1922 issue of the Socialist Standard
A story is related of Mark Twain that he once offered to deliver a lecture to the members of a great scientific society upon their own special subject. The secretary of the society suavely pointed out that Mr. Twain’s equipment for such a lecture consisted of an entire absence of any knowledge of the subject chosen. "All the better,” replied Twain. "I shall be quite impartial in my treatment of the matter.” Somehow this failed to satisfy the secretary and the lecture was never delivered.
Undeterred by this example, we still find people willing to deal with subjects, or criticise them, whose only qualification for the purpose is a complete lack of acquaintance with the subject they attempt to discuss.
An instance of this kind occurs in the February issue of the “English Review,” where a writer calling' himself "Judex” contributes an article entitled “The Lesson of Bolshevism.”
“Judex” scorns to burden his article with any facts, evidence, or quotations to support the various statements he makes. This may be a sign of wisdom, for had he attempted to quote any authority for many of his remarks he could at once have been exposed for an imposter, whereas now one may conclude that he is merely ignorant.
He claims that Marxian Socialism has been tried in Russia and been found a failure when he says :
“The orthodox expropriation of the expropriators (according to Marx) has been completely tried.”
The most superficial reader of Marx’s writings knows that the above statement is not only false, but is in complete contradiction to the whole of Marx’s teachings. From the world-renowned “Communist Manifesto” down to the “Civil War in France,” Marx showed how human societies have developed from primitive communism to Capitalism, and how Capitalism, when it has passed through the stages of its development, must be followed by Socialism. In the preface to the "Critique of Political Economy” (page 12, Kerr ed.), Marx says:
“No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions for their existence have matured in the womb of the old society.”
Later on, in the preface to “Capital,” Marx extends and amplifies this point in the famous, oft-quoted passage where he says :
"One nation can and should learn from others. And even when a society has got upon the right track for the discovery of the natural laws of its movement—and it is the ultimate aim of this work to lay bare the economic law of motion of modern society-it can neither clear by bold leaps, nor remove by legal enactments, the obstacles offered by the successive phases of its normal development. But it can shorten and lessen the birth pangs.”(Page XIX, Sonnenschein Ed.)
These quotations prove not only that Marx did not expect a country in a backward condition economically to be able to establish Socialism, but also that he expressly denied such a thing being possible. So far from following Marx, as "Judex” suggests, Lenin has acted in direct opposition to Marx’s teaching. To suggest that a country like Russia, still largely feudalistic, with only the beginnings of Capitalism, is “most suitable for applied Socialism,” shows a most complete ignorance of Marx, coupled with a boundless recklessness of assertion.
After such a brilliant display of his marvellous intellect, one is not surprised to find such a gem as the following in "Judex’s” article :
"In highly industrialised countries such as England, Germany, Belgium, and even France, Socialism could only function with enormously reduced populations. In Britain certainly 10,000,000 people would have to die or emigrate; in Belgium 2,000,000; in France 5,000,000; because Socialism would imply the elimination of all production of a luxury or surplus character, thereby implying the elimination of an export trade which is the strength of highly industrial people."
Not a tittle of evidence nor a single fact is given to support this bundle of nonsense.
As Socialism will mean the abolition of the idle class of present society—the Capitalist class—who gather all the best of what is produced to themselves to lead lives of barbaric luxury, the first result of the establishment of Socialism will be that a large quantity of wealth will become available for distribution among the producers that was never within their reach under Capitalism. So far from it being necessary to reduce the populations under Socialism, the elimination of the idle thieves will be one factor in making it possible to support far larger numbers than the present system is doing.
“Judex’s” complete innocence of the simplest economic facts is shown in the scintillating assertion that “the purest Socialist State must function on capital or credit of some kind. " Evidently he has not the faintest conception of what capital is, or upon what credit is based.
Capital is wealth used for the purpose of producing a profit. Profit is a portion of that wealth produced by the worker, but robbed from him under the present system. Hence capital is wealth used for the purpose of robbery. Clearly, when the system of robbery is abolished, capital will disappear. Production will then be carried on for use; wealth will be used to promote the well-being of all.