Friday, September 7, 2018

From The Branches (1959)

Party News from the September 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

Denison House and Hackney Meetings 
The three meetings advertised in August and again in this issue, are being arranged by the Propaganda Committee and Central Organiser. Members and sypathisers are urged to note the dates and time of the meetings and make every effort to give each meeting the fullest support. Denison House, Victoria —Sundays September 6th and 27th at 7 p.m. and Hackney Town Hall, Monday September 21st at 7.30 p.m.


Delegate Meeting
One Saturday and Sunday October 3rd and 4th, the Autumn Delegate meeting will be held at Head Office, 52, Clapham High Street, S.W.4. Commencing on Saturday at 2 p.m. and on Sunday at 11 a.m. Comrades are asked to make a note of the dates and times as being early in the month, the October announcement will not give adequate time for Comrades to make arrangements. Provincial Branch Secretaries should contact Head Office regarding their delegates requirements for accommodation.


Nottingham
News from Nottingham is most encouraging. Socialist activity in that City is at a very high level. For some months now, daily meetings have been held in the Market Square and the weekend meetings, particularly those on Sunday evenings, are tremendously successful. Market Square is an ideal place for meetings, being in the busy City Centre and at the same time, shut off from to-day's big speaking problem —the traffic: it is walled off and paved throughout as a place where people sit and talk. The audiences are most attentive, questions and discussions lively, and sales of literature (including pamphlets) are a positive indication of the generally good reception otaur case.

There are usually groups of people discussing aspects of Socialism with Party members, long after the meetings.

On one such occasion, when the meeting (which had dealt with how profits arise) had finished at 10 p.m., two comrades continued in discussion with some members of the audience until 1 a.m.!

Outdoor propaganda, excellent though it is, is only one aspect of activity in Nottingham. The Branch Organiser is anxiously trying to arrange more debates with opponents. A number of these have already been held, in particular the one with the Catholic Church, which was recently reported in these columns. As is to be expected, some opponents are a little backward in coming forward.

The Branch is also running its own classes with the aid of a London member who has been staying in Nottingham for some months. The classes are well attended and keenly supported and will doubtlessly do much to encourage further investigation of Socialist theory.

The above is a brief report on Nottingham from a London speaker who had the good fortune to spend a week there in July, and who looks forward to seeing those many comrades and friends again in the not too distant future.


Bloomsbury
The Branch Organiser has arranged a series of discussions to be held on the third Thursday in each month. The first, on September 3rd at 8.30 p.m. after branch business. Conway Hall, the meeting place, is easily accessible and visitors are ensured of an interesting evening.
Phyllis Howard


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Publication Date
In order that copies of the Socialist Standard can be on sale in the Provinces on the first day of the month, it has been decided to have it printed several days earlier. This requires that articles shall be delivered to the Editorial Committee at Head Office not later than the 14th of the month. Notices of meetings must also be sent in earlier than in the past, though it will sometimes be possible to secure their insertion later than the 14th.

From the Branches (1960)

Party News from the September 1960 issue of the Socialist Standard

The news from Mitcham, Surrey, is that the group there continues to meet monthly and have maintained attendances despite the summer holiday period. Apart front discussing local events and the opportunities they offer for propaganda, a discussion on a pre-determined subject has been part of each meeting. These talks have enabled the regular visitors—active supporters of the group who have not yet taken the step of applying for Party , membership—to look more deeply into the Socialist proposition.

From the inserts in the Group Directory of this journal, the Mitcham group secretary has acquired two correspondents in Canada. One of these contacts is likely to come to England to live and will most probably settle in the Mitcham area and join the group.

In nearby Carshalton, a bye-election is pending and the group intend stating our fundamentally different attitude at all the meetings they can get to. At the General Election in October, the group made quite an impression in the Mitcham constituency. Now one of its members has fired the first shot in the campaign due in Carshalton with a long, strongly worded letter published in The Wellington & Carshalton Times. Readers will be in no doubt as to the revolutionary position of the Socialist Party of Great Britain and of the existence of a Mitcham and District Group that they may join.

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The dates fixed for the Delegate meeting this year are Saturday afternoon, October 1st, and Sunday, October 2nd. Head Office is the venue and Comrades are asked to make a note of the dates as this is the only time it can be noted in the Standard.

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Bloomsbury Branch will recommence branch meetings on Thursday, September 1st. This is mentioned as there were no branch meetings during August

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A series of Theoretical lectures are being arranged and details will be advertised as soon as all the titles and speakers are finally settled.

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The Sunday evening film lectures will re-commence in October. Full details will be given in the October issue of the Socialist Standard.

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Islington Branch will be going down to Southsea on Sunday, September 18th, to hold an outdoor meeting at Marine Parade. The meeting starts at. 3 p.m. Details of train times, and so on, can be obtained from the Branch secretary.
Phyllis Howard

Is it all a mistake? (1961)

Editorial from the September 1961 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are some modern historians who take the point of view that the period between the first and the second world wars was one which saw a succession of diplomatic and military blunders. These blunders, they say, were the cause of the outbreak in 1939 — if the statesmen and the soldiers had somehow been more sensible, it could ail have been avoided. Germany could have been contained, there would have been no need for the Western powers to allow the Soviet Union to make the great inroads which she has now made into Europe and the post-1945 tensions would never have happened.

This is a convenient attitude to adopt, for it solves all our problems in retrospect. But it leaves several factors out of account. There may have been mistakes made, by both sides, in the 'thirties. Equally, the statesmen's decisions, in their context, may have been perfectly correct. Whatever the truth of it, there is something which stands above all others as the reason for the declaration of war. German capitalism was trying to elbow its way back into a position of strength and influence and was therefore a challenge to the other capitalist nations of Europe which none of them could ignore.

However clever, or inept, the governments may have been, it would have had no effect upon the threat from Germany. For that threat was the logical continuance of the competitive nature of capitalist society. No statesman—and no historian, for that matter —has ever been able to find a way around the problems which arise from that nature.

And what of the events since 1945? If, as our historians tell us, there were mistakes before 1939, did they teach anything to capitalism's leaders? The many wars and international crises which we have passed through since then might suggest that they did not. For if 1939 was a blunder, how much greater would be those which have followed and which have nearly landed us into a nuclear war? Was it a mistake to divide Korea? To allow the Russians to take the small Baltic States? Did the politicians err when they divided Germany and Berlin? Now, both sides are declaring that they would go to war again over the division of Germany. Is that another mistake they are making?

No, the “ great blunder" theory does not fill the bill. Whatever the incidentals which aggravate a tense international dispute, they do not explain the dispute itself. To do that we must explain the basis of capitalist society, its commercial rivalries, its anomalies, its inhumanities. That is the task of workers throughout the world. So long as they blame their leaders' mistakes for the problems of capitalism, they will be content to try to put things right merely by changing the headers, or by something else equally futile.

Which means that they will not consider Socialism as the only way out of their nightmare. And that is the biggest mistake of all.

News in Review: Nuclear Shelters (1962)

The News in Review column from the September 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Nuclear Shelters
This bit in the Observer it slays us all, it's so funny. Listen, it's about a retired army general and he's living in East Devon, so you know that something real humorous is coming up.

This general, he's got the bug about nuclear war. He’s even written a book about survival after they've dropped the H-bomb. Written it for the people of East Devon. Doesn't that make you laugh?

Listen, there’s more. He wants us to keep water in vinegar bottles. Non-returnable ones, of course—there's nothing dishonest about the general. Then he says we should fill up bits of furniture with earth. Yes, furniture. Fill them up and make a dug-out from them.

By now we're rolling on the floor.

Then we stop rolling because we've suddenly asked ourselves why. And this bit in the Observer it says the general's written this book because he knows that most people can't afford an expensive shelter against nuclear bombs.

So we stop laughing. And we wonder.

We wonder at a world which has built itself bombs which are powerful enough to wipe out whole cities—even whole countries. A world where most people can't even afford to get themselves a decent shelter against fall-out.

So maybe that general guy's nuts, filling his sideboard with earth. So maybe he’s only a little bit of a world that’s so crazy it's got its priorities and its motives right upside down.

So maybe the people of the world are crazy. They accept all this and they keep the whole show running, don’t they? And aren't they the ones to stop it all?

Hey there, Napoleon. Shake hands with the general.


Independent Jamaica
The short-lived West Indies Federation was regarded by some people as a great advance for the West Indian worker. They ignored the fact that capitalism would work on the Federation just as it works on the world outside.

Sure enough, it was a dispute over which territory should hold the economic and political reins which broke the Federation. When that happened it seemed fairly obvious that the richer and more powerful islands would go for their independence alone.

Now Jamaica is an independent state, born with all the barney of bands and festivals and speeches. Inevitably, God has been recruited to the side of capitalist independence. There was a thanksgiving service to mark the occasion in Westminster Abbey.

So Jamaica is free now to make her own way in capitalism's dangerous seas. All the familiar problems of property society will harass her government. They must struggle to safeguard her markets for bauxite, tobacco, rum, sugar and bananas. They must build up the island's armed forces, in case some other power threatens Jamaica's economic interests.

And they must sell all this to the Jamaican worker, who will vote them in and out of power under their new constitution. The island is notorious for its poverty, its slums and its diseases of malnutrition. That is why so many of its people come to seek what they hope will be a better life as a wage-slave in Britain —although this did not prevent them celebrating the independence of the island which gave them so miserable an existence.

Up to now the nationalists could easily blame the troubles of the Jamaican workers upon the shortcomings of British rule. It should soon become obvious that this was worth no more than any other vote-catching nonsense and that the problems cannot be cured by replacing British masters with Jamaican.

This will be a moment of truth for Jamaica.

If the new government is anything like the other capitalist administrations all over the world they will face it with lies, evasion and sometimes suppression.


Thalidomide Babies
It is not enough merely to say that the thalidomide babies are an awful tragedy. It is not enough, even, to help these tragic mites with artificial limbs and patient training.

We should be asking ourselves why so harmful a drug was so freely administered; why so many sedatives, stimulates, tranquilisers and the like are dished out in such quantities.

Pregnant women, like many sick people, often have trouble with their sleep. Sometimes this is a straightforward inability to drop off and in such cases there is a case for using a sedative. But in many cases it is only a difficulty in sleeping at the same time as the rest of us, whose sleeping and waking times are geared to the requirements of working class existence.

This difficulty need not be serious enough to need a sedative. The expectant mother can simply sleep during the day, or whenever else she feels the need.

But what if she, too, is tied to the regularity of working class life? What if she has to go out to work to help keep up the payments on a mortgage or on a hire-purchase buy? What if she has other children and, like all working class wives, cannot afford a nurse to look after them?

This is where the sedatives come in.

It is easier to give the patient a dose of something than to get to the root of her trouble. The handier to use, the easier to administer, the briefer its side-effects, the more popular the sedative becomes and the more freely it is given.

And that is where thalidomide came in.

Is there a lesson in this for us?
Whatever the truth of the controversy over drugs and medicines, of one thing we can be sure. The question should be settled in terms of human interests. But as long as capitalism lasts this will never happen.

Natural Disasters (1963)

From the September 1963 issue of the Socialist Standard

Man’s creation of the wonderful technical marvels that dominate our modern world tend to make us forget the latent destructive forces of nature. It is only when a catastrophe such as the recent earthquake at Skopje smashes through our complacency that we realise with a start that here is a force, terrible in its might, that twentieth century man is as powerless to control as any painted savage.

Apart from the feelings of horror, grief and the real human desire to render succour and comfort, which people share irrespective of their political ideas, we Socialists have some comments to make on the social aspect of natural disaster that most others do not make.

After the giant earthquake at Tokyo in 1923, it was often asserted by those who had knowledge and interest in the then new steel or concrete buildings that serious earthquakes would not cause such devastation if rebuilding followed the new methods. Such an idea, vague and stemming from many sources, became as usual partially accepted on its face value by most people. Agadir and Skopje have shown that the brand new buildings collapsed like cards and had no more resilience than the old bricks and mortar.

Capitalist society has produced buildings that can take a heavy pounding from the machines of war. Our rulers even have hide-holes against the Big Bombs (for themselves, naturally) so the possibility of designing structures that can give greater safety for human life in the earthquake zones is possibly not so far-fetched. Earthquakes are spasmodic and can occur over a large area of the globe. The cost of repairing and rebuilding devastated cities, especially when the expense is spread over a wide field, is obviously cheaper than reconstructing thousands of towns in a new and revolutionary way. Capitalism as usual therefore takes a chance, with human life taking second place to the need to balance the books.

Powerful states can shoot men into space because such action is tied up with war preparation and the need to protect or grab property. The cost of the space race is crippling even to healthy states, but it continues unabated. Do we ever hear of any research being encouraged or even carried out on methods that will enable men to plot the location and build-up of earthquakes in the earth's crust? Capitalism scares the pants off us with its “four minutes” H.-Bomb warning. How about a four-minute warning to help thousands escape from death and injury in an earthquake?

Yet another point has confronted us over this event. A well known radio and television commentator launched an appeal for funds in order to send prefab homes to Skopje. He stated that we have the men to make the units, planes to carry them to their destination, but we must have money to set the operation in motion. No money, no homes, however great the need or the desire to help!

Even in so great a need private property must not run at a loss!
Jack Law

To sum up (1964)

From the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our aim is World Socialism, a system based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life by and for the whole community. Under Socialism production will be for use and distribution direct.

The working class must establish Socialism itself. This cannot be done for them. Thus we reject Leadership. Self-styled leaders cannot lead the workers to Socialism, but they can, and do, lead a cosy life on the backs of the working class. We also reject the view that Socialism can be legislated into being by a majority of MP's over a passive and non-Socialist working class. We do, however, believe that the way to Socialism lies through revolutionary political action. Before Socialism can be established the working class must gain control of the machinery of government Then, being also organised economically for Socialism, they can use it to effect the change from Capitalism to Socialism.

We hold that only a consciously Socialist working class can establish Socialism. Thus we place extreme importance on Socialist understanding. Our primary task is to help to bring about such understanding and we believe the way to do this is to campaign for Socialism and Socialism alone. Otherwise we would get the support of those who merely want a reformed capitalism and eventually cease to be a Socialist party. Thus we have no reform programme. This does not mean that we are opposed to all reforms. We are not. But we are against a reformist policy. A Socialist programme can contain only one demand: Socialism.

There is no Socialism in Russia. In our view the Russian revolutions of 1917 cleared away feudalism and allowed capitalism to develop there. The Bolshevists were the agents of capitalism in Russia and the system they have built up can be described as State capitalism.

We accept, and act on, the doctrine of the Class Struggle between the capitalist class and the working class and we are therefore opposed to all other political parties whether they claim to be Socialist or not. In our view the Labour Party is a capitalist reform party. Its policy of piecemeal reforms cannot lead to Socialism. When in power. Labour parties have always acted as faithful caretakers for capitalism and against the interests of the working class. The Communist Party is also a reform party. It differs from the Labour Party in that it always put the interests of Russian State capitalism, and not those of British capitalism, before those of the working class.

Under capitalism trade unions are necessary and inevitable. We are not against trade unionism when it is used to improve workers' wages and conditions, but we say that trade unionism has its limits and cannot be used to overthrow capitalism.

Before Socialism can be established there are a number of illusions which must be dispelled. Among these is religion. Socialists are opposed to religion as it stultifies thought and encourages inaction by promising a better life beyond the skies. Religion acts as a delusory escape from the misery of capitalism and is thus a buttress of this system. Nationalism, too, is an illusion which help to maintain capitalism. It obscures the class struggle and leads the workers into actions which are altogether against their interests. A Socialist working class can have no use for nationalism. The most pernicious of these illusions is perhaps racialism. Scientific evidence shows that all race theories are so much nonsense. The colour of the skin has no connection with intelligence. No group of people sharing particular characteristics is inherently inferior to any other. The interests of all the workers of the world are one; they should not be led by the delusions of religion, nationalism and racialism to think otherwise.

Modern war is the product of the capitalist system. So are the horrifying methods of prosecuting it, including nuclear weapons. We have opposed, and are opposed, to the shredding of a single drop of working class blood in capitalism’s wars. Nor do we back the so-called colonial revolution. It is our view, and experience confirms this, that these anti-colonialist revolutions are mere changes of rulers. They are revolutions which lead to the introduction of capitalist or State capitalist regimes which prove to be cruel taskmasters to the workers of the territories concerned.

Our position can be summarised as: No Socialism without Socialists.
Adam Buick

Trade Unions in 60 years (1964)

From the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the present Declaration of Principles of the Socialist Party of Great Britain was drawn up at the Party’s formation in June, 1904, it was not considered necessary to include reference to trade unions: Socialist principles had been agreed, their application to some specific issues remained to be worked out Meetings were called to discuss the trade unions, and the results of those discussions came up for resolution at the first annual conference in April, 1905. But in the first issue of the Socialist Standard, in September, 1904, the broad lines of the Party’s attitude were set out immediately following a description of the exploitation of the working class:—
  So long as this lasts—and it will last as long as the capitalist system of society—it will not be possible for the workers of any trades union organisation to more than slightly modify their condition, and their power in this direction is becoming every day more limited by the combinations among employers to defeat the aims of the working class.
  Then, too, the magnitude of industrial operations, ever tending to increase by the inherent tendency under free competition of the large producer to crush out his smaller trade rivals—the joint-stock company takes the place of the large individual capitalist, the trust the place of the joint-stock company. The worker is thus brought face to face with an ever greater foe.
At the 1905 Conference there were two main points of view. The first would have committed the Party not to recommend its members to join any union unless the union was organised on definite Socialist lines and it envisaged the future formation of Socialist trade unions. This was defeated and Conference adopted a resolution which called on Party members in trade unions to oppose all action not based on the principles held by the Socialist Party of Great Britain. In a supporting speech J. Fitzgerald said: —
  Craft divisions would have to be broken down, skilled and unskilled, brain and manual workers, have to join hands. The tendency of economic evolution should be pointed out, and the changes rendered necessary in the economic organisation.
That was sixty years ago. What has changed in the trade unions in that time? In externals some of the changes have been remarkable. Membership has grown from under two million to nearly ten million, and Trades Union Congress membership from 1,200,000 to 8,300,000; but more than half the workers are still outside trade unions. There was at that time only one union, the South Wales Miners with a little over 100,000 members; now there are eighteen, and the largest, the Transport and General Workers Union, has 1,330,000.

Responding to the growth and centralisation of capital the number of unions has declined by amalgamation from 1,211 to 623. Half of all trade union membership is now in the eight unions with above 250,000 members, and the 18 unions with over 100,000 members make up four-fifths of the total. Parallel with current negotiations to unite the three big organisations of employers, active discussions for more trade union amalgamations are under way.

Some of the changes in size of unions have followed the growth or decline of industry; the expansion of engineering and allied trades and the decline of cotton; but trade unionism has made its way or expanded enormously in fields from which it was once wholly or largely absent. Central and local government accounts for well over a million members, insurance, banking and finance two hundred thousand, and education over four hundred thousand.

The number of strikes each year has increased greatly (355 in 1904, which was typical of the period, compared with 2,067 in 1963), and far more workers are directly or indirectly involved, but the total number of days lost through strikes has grown little, the reason being that long strikes by large numbers of workers are now comparatively rare. Exceptional in recent years was 1962, when engineering strikes pushed the total number of days lost up to 5,798,000.

More disputes are now settled without the threat to strike becoming an actuality—due largely no doubt to the low levels of unemployment for most of the time in recent years. The year 1904 came at the end of an eight-year period in which prices were rising—a total rise of about twelve per cent.—but unemployment was also high by comparison with the present levels. In 1904 it was 6 per cent. The consequence was that in those eight years wages rose by only half as much as prices. In recent years, with periods in which unfilled vacancies have exceeded registered unemployed, wage rates have gone ahead of the retail price index.

The position of the T.U.C. in the trade union movement has not changed much, unlike some other countries in which the central body directly conducts wage negotiations. Attempts to increase the powers of the T.U.C. have been going on for half a century but so far with not much result.

Legally it would have been said a few years ago that the position of the trade unions was firmly established, but recent court decisions have shaken this confidence and opened the threat that the unions will be back to the uncertainties that were their concern early in the century.

Some events of the past sixty years have left their mark on the unions. The defeat of the General Strike in 1926 and of other big strikes in the years after the first world war have undoubtedly induced a more cautious view of the usefulness of mass, prolonged strikes.

In 1904 there had not yet been a Labour Government—the T.U.C. in 1904 sent a message of congratulation to the Australians on their having made history by a Labour Government which lasted only a few weeks. It cannot be said that trade unions in the mass have abandoned faith in Labour Government and turned their hopes to Socialism, but certainly there is less belief now in the merits of nationalisation, or state capitalism than in 1904. The very large proportion of strikes that occur in nationalised industries has had its effect on misguided enthusiasm.

A glance at the 1904 T.U.C. is of interest. Proceedings began, as today, with a formal welcome from the local Mayor, but delegates now are spared the burden of a special service at which a parson delivered a long sermon. The 1904 Congress heard fierce denounciations of Britain's little wars, in Tibet and Somaliland, but also passed a resolution protesting about the Government's action in allowing “cheap Chinese labour" into South Africa.

One note from the 1904 T.U.C. is right up to date in this year when Postmen, for the first time since 1890, have come out on strike claiming, among other things, that the Government have ignored the Report of a Committee set up to consider Postmen's pay.

The T.U.C. in 1904 passed a resolution protesting against the action of the Tory Government which, after setting up a committee to consider the pay of Postmen and other Post Office Workers, refused to concede in full the pay increases it recommended on the ground that the Committee had failed to carry out its instructions, which was to fix Post Office pay by comparison with pay in outside occupations.
Edgar Hardcastle

Labour theory of value (1964)

From the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Emotional platitudes are not enough.

Nobody in their senses likes the effects of capitalism— nobody enjoys war or poverty or suppression. But what to do about them? Up to the present these problems have provoked, in the main, apathetic grumbling on one hand or emotional idealism on the other. Both are ineffective.

The sterility of simple discontent is obvious.

On the other hand, the articulate opposition to war is often the pacifist, to poverty the philanthropist, to suppression the libertarian. These people may be very sincere. But because they treat their problems in isolation, because they regard the problems in terms of idealistic defects in society, they are doomed to failure.

We stand on different ground. What really counts is understanding the effects of capitalism, linking those effects to their cause and explaining this whole process in consistent materialist terms. It is the badge of the Socialist that he does this in a scientific manner.

For the convenience of this article the case for Socialism may be divided into three parts. In the beginning is the Materialist Conception of History, which examines man’s social development and relates it to his power of wealth production. In this perspective, history is the process of struggle between classes for social and economic dominance.

In the end is the recognition of the class struggle under the present capitalist social system. Modern society is divided into workers and capitalists, who are in dispute over the division of wealth. When the subject working class take conscious political action to overthrow the capitalists' dominance, society will evolve into its next and higher stage—Socialism.

These two ends are linked by the Marxist analysis of capitalism. This analysis probes to the economic root of the system, uncovers the course of capitalism's sustenance and expands into its outermost branches. The basis of Marx's examination of capitalism is the Labour Theory of Value.

In words which fall like the strokes of a bell, Karl Marx opened his great work Capital with the statement:
  The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as "an immense accumulation of commodities ” . . . 
What, then, is a commodity? It is not simply something which has physical properties. It is also something which has social properties, something which exists and operates under certain social conditions. Commodities in the mass are peculiar to capitalism and therefore typify that social system.

To understand capitalism, then, we must understand the commodity. To do this we must first isolate the commodity from its social sophistication, so that it can be seen in its pure form. Only when we have thus examined it can we introduce the complications of its real existence.

A commodity is an article—a loaf of bread, a pair of shoes, or a service—a haircut, technical knowledge, which has use value. That is, it is useful to human beings, because it satisfies some need or some fancy. A commodity must be able to be constantly reproduced in social production, as are the goods which come out of modern factories. It is produced, not for the individual consumption of the person who worked on it, but for sale on a market at a profit.

Selling a commodity is in fact exchanging it for another, with money intervening as a convenient method of carrying through the exchange. When commodities exchange they do so in a certain regulated proportion. If at a certain time a ton of coal may exchange for half a hundred weight of tea, something must explain why the coal does not equal more or less tea. What is it that regulates the proportion in which commodities exchange with each other?

The only way in which commodities can be compared is through something which they have in common. This means that a commodity's physical properties, which are obviously dissimilar from that of other commodities, must be disregarded. Coal has nothing physically in common with tea, or butter, or any of the other things with which it exchanges.

There is only one thing which all commodities have in common. They are all produced by the application of human labour to some available material. Human labour, then, is the common property of all commodities and this, measured in time, is what must determine the proportion in which commodities exchange with each other.

But the labour time taken up in producing a commodity varies with the occasion and the condition of its production. With coal, for instance, it varies with the abundance of the seam which is being worked and with the degree of mechanisation involved. Thus the exchange value of a commodity is fixed by the amount of labour time which is socially necessary to produce it, under average conditions and intensity of work, at the time and place at which it is wanted.

This value regulates the rate at which commodities exchange with each other. It fixes the line above and below which a commodity’s price, under the pressures of market forces, may vary.

This conclusion applies to the commodity which we are all born with, but which emerges as a commodity only under the necessary social conditions—labour power. When our employers engage us, they are buying our labour-power at the price of our wage. This wage, just like any other price, can fluctuate. But the fluctuations are regulated to the value of the labour power.

Now what is the value of labour power? It is the amount of socially necessary labour involved in producing it—the labour in the houses, clothes, food, entertainments, and so forth, which contribute to the re-energising and reproduction of our ability to work. This value can be varied by a number of influences—among them the workers’ struggles in their Trade Unions.

So far so good. But if all commodities, including labour power, exchange generally at their value, how does profit arise? The answer to this question is found in the peculiar nature of labour power.

Employment is the process of synthesising part of the value of a number of commodities—of raw materials, of machines, of part finished products, and so on. At the end of this process the finished product has a value greater than that of all the commodities embodied in it. It is labour power which, in the acts of its application, has done this—it has created value.

This is how it comes about that a capitalist buys his materials, his buildings, his machines and the workers’ labour power, all, on average, at their value. When these are all joined by human labour the result is a commodity of a value greater than the sum of all the commodities originally put into it.

It is from this surplus value, from the exploitation of human labour, that the capitalist gets his profit out of which he pays dividends, rent, interest on loans, taxes for the upkeep of the State, and so on.

This exploitation is the mainspring of capitalism; by understanding it we also understand the mechanisms of the system. We understand why capitalism works as it does, why it produces the problems that it does and why it must end as it will.

It is this understanding which lifts the Socialist above the well-meant platitudes of the idealist. It is what makes a Socialist party a distinctive organisation, marked by its exclusive ability to understand capitalism and to work for the next and higher stage in mankind's social advance.
Ivan


Negative and positive (1964)

From the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalist idolises the hero, but a better world would be one fit for cowards to live in.

We reject Capitalism. We reject its inhumanities, its inadequacies, its values. We know that human beings are capable of something better than a society in which millions of people suffer varying degrees of poverty and outright destitution, a society which periodically divides itself into armed camps which proceed to smash the life out of each other.

Socialism is a reaction against capitalism and because of this it is often described in what may seem negative terms. It is often described as a world of withouts—without money, without national barriers, without social classes, and so on. Yet each of these negatives is in fact a positive, active element of the future Socialist world.

Let us illustrate this point with two examples.

Socialism will be a world without money. This is so because money is essential to Capitalism; in what we are pleased to call advanced society, it is a convenient method of exchanging wealth. Nobody escapes this. Everyone who works for a living exchanges his labour power for the things he needs to live, and this exchange is carried out by money, in the form of wages.

Money is essential to Capitalism because all wealth, in one way or another, is produced for exchange, or sale. This is an inevitable development from the basis of Capitalism, which is the class ownership of the materials and apparatus which are needed to produce wealth.

But money is one of Capitalism’s symbols of restriction. Most of us never seem to get enough of it; even if we earn a bit more—if, say, we get a rise in wages—we usually find that this is wholly or partly wiped out by a price rise. Money is convenient for Capitalism but for most people it is anything but a good idea.

The end of money, then, also means an end to the restrictions which money entails.

This will not leave an economic vacuum, with no method of circulating goods. Socialism will replace money with a system of free distribution. This will spring from the basis of Socialism just as money does from the basis of Capitalism.

Socialism will be based upon the universal ownership of all the things which go to produce and distribute wealth. One of the consequences of this will be production for use and free access which all human beings will have to whatever is produced.

No more massive effort will probably be needed for this than is needed to turn out Capitalism’s wealth today. The administration of it will be largely a statistical exercise of finding out where each sort of wealth can best be produced and where it is needed, and arranging production and transport.

There will probably be points of distribution, specially designed to hold and to pass out particular types of goods; bread, for example, will need different facilities from clothing. From these distribution centres people will simply help themselves.

Nobody will go along with a pocketful of metal discs or paper notes. Nobody will have to sign any cheques or surrender any coupons. Because human beings need certain things, they will make them and distribute them. Society will devote its knowledge and energy to the task of satisfying its own needs.

The restrictions and poverty of capitalism, negatived by Socialism’s basis, will be replaced by the positives of free availability of goods.

It is evidently impossible to go into this in minute detail, because these details will be largely determined by the conditions which prevail when Socialism is established. We do not know what these conditions will be, any more than the founders of the Socialist Party of Great Britain knew in 1904 that, when we celebrated our sixtieth anniversary, we would discuss production and distribution in terms of nuclear energy and jet aircraft.

But man, as they said in you-know-where, does not live by bread alone. He has senses other than the purely physical which, if he is to be a whole man, need to be satisfied. We take the point. How are these senses satisfied today?

Have you ever seen what they do to a landscape when they set down a line of pylons across it? Or what happens to a green valley and its river when it becomes industrialised? Or how a wild coastline is changed by the shapes of a nuclear power station?

More and more, the peace and the aesthetic refuges of life are being destroyed. Fast roads slash open green hills. Monotonous towns sprawl out farther and farther, poking their uninspired designs into what once were tranquil woodlands. Noise gets louder, fumes get denser, the pace of what we call living gets faster.

And why does this happen?

The reason for putting power lines on pylons instead of under the ground is that the cost of buying them is at present anything up to seventeen times as high as slinging them across the air. The Central Electricity Generating Board say that they regret the destruction of a landscape—they have issued many advertisements assuring us that they do as little visual damage as possible. But they make no bones about the reason for the pylons..

The Board are interested in making a profit from the supply of electricity and they are in a pretty tough market. They cannot be expected voluntarily to take on the enormous increase in costs which would result from burying power lines.

They are not the only body which, faced with the choice of incurring extra production costs or destroying something beautiful will choose, with a sigh and a regretful mutter about the economics of the thing, to destroy. The profit motive of Capitalism, with its drive for cheaper production, is responsible for the ugliness which touches everything with its stifling hand.

Professor Buchanan has suggested how, even within the limitations imposed upon him, some of our living amenities could be saved from complete extinction by the motor car. If Buchanan’s schemes cost a few thousand pounds they might stand a chance. But they are likely to cost hundreds of millions. Capitalism can spend that sum of money on nuclear weapons or on guided missiles, but schemes for human comfort are a different matter. . . .

Socialism will not only stop the march of ugliness. It will preserve and beautify. Ancient, mellow beauty, in landscape or building, will be preserved. Centres of living will not be the ugly, industrialised sores that they are at present.

Architects and townplanners will be free from the economic restrictions which hogtie them today. With only one standard —human comfort and welfare—to conform to, their knowledge and talents will find their highest expression. The possibilities are exciting, and limitless.

An idea of what this will mean in detail can be gained by imagining the sort of house we would live in, if we had a free hand in its design and setting. Then we can expand this image into a town, a country, the world. We shall be near to imagining what Socialism will be like.

Socialism will be man's culmination to his search for control over his environment. It will negative each aspect of Capitalism with its own positive. It will replace poverty with abundance, fear with security, repression with freedom, strife with brotherhood.

Capitalism is abundant in the hypocrisy of its platitudes. Socialism, by turning society upside down, will destroy the hypocrisy and turn the platitudes into reality. Perhaps that might be called a world built by heroes for cowards to live in. By any standards, it will be a wonderful place for human beings.
Ivan


What have we achieved (1964)

From the September 1964 issue of the Socialist Standard

There are probably worse ways of perceiving history than as a continuous process of ironies.

Consider, for example, the history of parliamentary reform in this country. From the first stirrings of agitation for popular suffrage, to the Act which gave woman the vote in 1918, the reformers were bitterly resisted. Brutality, and sometimes death, were part of the battle; the name of Peterloo has its place in working class history and there are still plenty of people alive who endured imprisonment and violence as Suffragettes.

The more intelligent representatives of the ruling class always knew that reform was inevitable. There were certainly some indefensible theories held by the opposition. The young Gladstone, a Tory, when at Oxford in 1831, thought that the Reform Bill would destroy the foundations of the social order not only in this country but also in the rest of the civilised world. In 1866, when. Gladstone was on the other side, introducing his own Reform Bill, John Lowe opposed the measure in a speech which described the working class as the last repository of venality, ignorance, drunkenness and violence.

The opponents of female suffrage also held some ideas which are now generally regarded as ludicrous. In The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage (1913), Sir Almroth E. Wright wrote:
  The woman voter would be pernicious to the State not only because she could not back her vote by physical force, but also by reason of her intellectual defects.
These seemingly quaint notions conceal the suspicion—perhaps the conviction—of the ruling class that universal suffrage would mean the end of their dominance; would mean, in other words, a popular revolution in which the people would take power.

Now the irony in this is that they need not have worried. The murders at Peterloo, the Chartist riots, were all unnecessary. John Lowe was an ass. The people have got the vote now—some of them even use it and others go to the lengths of finding out which parties their candidates represent so that they use the vote as they want to. Yet no political earthquake disturbs the foundations of the Stock Exchange, nor of Buckingham Palace, nor of any of the gracious possessions which are the badges of the master class.

The workers are happy to use the vote to keep capitalism going, which shows how silly were all those 19th Century politicians, who thought that unrestricted voting rights would bring Red Ruin upon them all.

It can even be argued that the popular vote has made capitalism mote secure. Most big companies know that if their employees are convinced they have a say in running things— if they have someone to grumble at, if they think they are in the directors’ confidence—they are contented employees. They work harder. They are less susceptible to the seduction of what are called agitators.

In the same way, it seems, a working class which has the parliamentary vote is that much less discontented with capitalism. They will suffer its humiliation, its poverty, its wars, provided they can have a say every so often in which party governs them. The workers will absorb any amount of punishment, if only their bruises are occasionally salved by a politician’s handshake. It is all rather jolly, in a way—even the politicians sometimes seem to enjoy it.

Within this universal contentment, the voters may in theory change their allegiance between any one of several political parties whose policies are almost indistinguishable. In practice they make things even easier for capitalism by shuffling their support between just the Labour and Conservative Parties.

Why do they change from one to the other? The reasons are rather puzzling. The Labour Party lost a lot of favour in 1950 because they pulled out of Abadan, although the overwhelming majority of the voters had no interests in the oilfields there, and anyway the Tories would almost certainly have got out of Abadan as well. The Conservatives now appear to be losing support not so much for anything they have done (and some of their actions deserved to finish them off for good) but because the British voter thinks that government is like a game of Snakes and Ladders, in which everyone should have a turn.

These changes in support sometimes happen with surprising rapidity. The public opinion polls, for what they are worth, often record almost weekly fluctuations. This is to some extent backed up by the results of local elections, in which councils change their political balance from year to year. It is natural to muse upon what manner of upheaval can be responsible for such vacillations. And it is reasonable to conclude that the working class hold their voting rights, won by so much hardship, in frivolous contempt.

It is against this sombre background that we must assess the progress of the Socialist movement. For we have always refused to join in the razzle-dazzle of the political fairground. We do not lure voters with specious promises of more houses, higher wages, and—to be up to date—better schools, faster roads.

We have always said that programmes like that attract the people who want the houses, wages, schools, roads, but who also want the social and economic conditions which make worthwhile social change well nigh impossible. There is abundant evidence to support this attitude. After a century and more of “reform,” capitalism’s problems are still here— the slums grow apace, workers still have to fight over wages, schools and roads still need urgent attention.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always insisted upon two things. Socialism is the only final solution to the problems of modern society. And Socialism can be established only by a working class who consciously opt for it because they understand it.

This insistence, apart from earning us some nicknames, has doubtless hampered our numerical growth. How many applicants have we turned away because, on examination, we have discovered that they were religious, or wanted to ban the Bomb, or thought that everyone should have joined up in 1939?

It might make it easier—that is, we might get more support —if our attitude were more flexible; if we campaigned for higher pensions, if we paraded to get someone out of prison or someone else locked up. Easier, perhaps; but futile beyond a doubt.

In any case, there are enough organisations in that game already. Our big achievement, in political terms, is that we have kept out of it. We have kept the only worthwhile issue clear: Socialism versus Capitalism. Our opponents have sneered at us. We have been dubbed the Small Party of Good Boys; a recent issue of Young Guard, the Young Socialists’ paper, referred to us as “ revolutionary virgins.”

Well, alright; let’s agree. While those who sneer at us have prostituted themselves in countless ways, we have kept our political honour. We have not urged workers out to slaughter each other on battlefields. We have not broken strikes, nor planned the production of nuclear weapons. We still want now what we wanted when we were formed in 1904—Socialism, simple and, yes, pure.

This consistency has borne fruit in our analysis of capitalism. We have seen many upheavals in our time—two World Wars, the Russian Revolution, the General Strike, the rise of Fascism, the downfall of the mighty British Empire. Look back on what we said about these events. Our analysis has not faltered and in every basic requirement has been proved correct

This is not to say that we have not made mistakes. In minor detail we misjudged events in Russia; we did not dream of what the Nazis did to the Jews; as can be seen from our reproduction of the front page of the first Socialist Standard, we started off with our optimism too high, thinking Socialism nearer than it was.

Such mistakes are inevitable. Our proud achievement is in the basic accuracy of our case, which has kept the road to Socialism open while the others have been stuck in their various dead ends. This is worth more than anything the other parties have; it is worth much more than the millions who vote Conservative because their father does, and the other millions who vote Labour because of Mr. Wilson's Gannex raincoat.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain is rich in its membership—men and women who are politically mature and who have worked long and hard to establish and to nurture the Socialist movement They have kept our propaganda constant amid some desperate ups and downs. It is thanks to them that we celebrate our sixtieth anniversary.

Their reward is the satisfaction of working for a world of plenty, freedom and dignity. Men climb a mountain because it is there. People work for Socialism because it is right.
Ivan



Paddington and Marylebone (1965)

Party News from the September 1965 issue of the Socialist Standard

Paddington and Marylebone Branch have held a continuous series of lectures and discussions since Easter. We had the pleasure of listening to our comrade Alice Petersen from Copenhagen talk on the educational system in Denmark. The following week our veteran and staunch comrade Rudolf Frank from Vienna spoke to us about the work of the Socialist Group in Austria. And then we were visited by our comrade Charlie Davis (Secretary of the New York Local of the WSP of the USA) and we had a very interesting discussion with him. The international flavour to our meetings was continued at a later meeting when we had a visitor front Italy, who addressed the Branch in Italian, and with the help of a member who could speak Italian, members were able to discuss with him. We made a propaganda trip to Brighton and held two good meetings on the front. To the end of the year a varied series of lectures and discussions have been organised, and we welcome you to all our meetings. We meet every Wednesday at 8.45 p.m. (see page 134).
Branch Organiser.

News in Review: In the swim (1966)

The News in Review from the September 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the swim
Quintin Hogg once tried to help his claims to the leadership of the Tory Party by taking a publicity-seeking dip in the autumn sea at Blackpool.

Chairman Mao Tse-Tung’s swim in the Yangste River last month was also a publicity-conscious event, designed to prove, after some rumours of his bad health, that he is still in charge of the Chinese government.

And in case there were any doubts left after the swim, it coincided with another purge among high-up Chinese military and government circles.

The Chinese people were reported to be overjoyed at Mao’s swim, presumably they were also supposed to be glad about what they were allowed to hear of the purge, and to regard it as another protective act by their almighty, all-seeing, all good leader.

But, as Quintin Hogg showed in the gentler atmosphere of England, capitalist politics is a ruthless business. The same is true in China; at any level, capitalism is a hard world to survive in and where the stakes are high the struggle for survival is particularly desperate.

That is why capitalist politicians are such a cold, pitiless lot; why they can give an effortless display of public affection for a hated rival; or deny that they intend to do something which they are actually about to do; or try to attract attention by indulging in public comedy acts.

What is especially irritating about Mao’s swim, and the latest Chinese purge, is that in some quarters they are said to have something to do with Socialism when, in fact, they are part of the same old power struggle which goes on in every capitalist state.

The rules, such as they are, of this struggle are simple.

Every man for himself.

Sink or swim.


World cup willies
Somewhere in its distant past, football was known as a sport.

Even today the hack journalists, when it suits them, describe it in the same way.

They applauded the “sporting” gesture of the Portuguese player who congratulated Bobby Charlton on scoring one of the goals which knocked Portugal out of the World Cup.

They screamed blue murder at the “unsporting” play of men like the Argentinian Rattin and the Russian Chislenko.

Every now and again, though, these same journalists revealed something of what lay behind it all.

The Portuguese team would have received £500 a man if they had beaten England in the semi-final, as well as all sorts of bonuses.

The England World Cup squad—22 men—shared £22,000 for winning the Cup and apart from this there were the payments for playing in each round, bonuses for winning, the higher wages each player will now command from his club, the fees they can get by certifying that they wear particular makes of kit, use a certain hair cream, or do something else with some other commodity.

When we consider what fortunes, for the players, may have depended on a single foul, the behaviour of some of them appears to be not so much “sporting” as businesslike.

Because football is a business. The big wages reflect the fact that famous and skilful players can bring big money to a club. The World Cup contest brought a lot of money to the tourist industry in this country—and to the FA, which had the copyright on the World Cup Willie emblem which appeared on rosettes, plastic hats and bottles of beer.

Not, in other words, so much a sport —more a way of making money.


New Mr. Stop-Go
Some people were surprised by it. Others were shocked. Others amused.

In the latest financial panic of British capitalism, Harold Wilson applied measures which were a more extreme version of what Selwyn Lloyd, who was once Wilson’s favourite chopping-block, tried when he was Chancellor.

Thus Mr. Dynamic Expansion became the new Mr. Stop-Go.

But the surprising, shocking, amusing thing is that anyone should think it remarkable that a capitalist politician goes back on his word.

It is nothing new for a government to come to power pledged to reverse its predecessor’s policies—and to end up following those very policies through.

Indeed, any political party which has any chance of forming a government usually says at some time that it reserves the right to break its promises, if it judges the situation demands it.

This is what Labour meant when they proudly described themselves as a “pragmatic” government. Faced with a crisis in capitalism, they have reacted just as the Tories did.

It is too late now for Labour supporter to be indignant; they asked for this government and they have got it

But even Harold Wilson must come to an end sometime. The next General Election, when the Labour Party are once again claiming to be a Socialist organisation, will be the time for workers to remember that there is no difference in principle—and precious little in anything else—between the Labour and Conservative Parties.

It will also be a good time for them to consider the alternative to all the capitalist parties, to capitalism itself.


A Labourite confesses
You know Labour Government fails. You’ve seen their plans and promises smashed to pieces by the workings of capitalism. Now even Labour MP’s are beginning to see this. On July 26th Lena Jeger, MP for Holborn and St. Pancras South, did some heart-searching in her regular Guardian column.

George Bernard Shaw was once asked how long he thought it would take to get Socialism in working order. A fortnight, he replied. Writes Jeger:
   “Socialists must be either his ‘fortnighters’ or they become grave dullards, sifted and sobered into an army of underpinners, dedicated to making capitalism work, albeit slightly less brutally than is its nature . . .
  ‘‘Where have the economists got us? Under a Socialist Government one per cent of the people still owns 50 per cent of the wealth . . .
   “What sort of socialism is it that can coldly contemplate the deliberate creation of unemployment as a weapon of economic policy? If a Labour Government cannot make capitalism work without an army of unemployed, then perhaps it should start trying to make socialism work . . .
   “The Labour Party at the moment seems like a fly on a revolving wheel— it gets an experience of movement without controlling movement, a sensation of power without the motivating power . . .
  “Maybe the Labour Party needs a fortnight club, a brigade of ‘do-it-quick'. What have we gained slow respect for entrenched positions? Only, it seems, a prospect of unemployment, a vista of despair. Except for those well-off enough to escape. And what has that to do with socialism?”
What indeed! But what a confession of failure! After all Labour’s claim to be able to humanise capitalism was the fig leaf that hid its support for a brutal system. If Labour cannot make capitalism work “slightly less brutally than is its nature”, then it’s nothing.

Mind you, the Socialist Party of Great Britain never believed it could. We have said all along that capitalism can’t be made to serve rational, human ends.

Now a Labour MP all but admits our point. Remember her words next time her type come cadging for your vote. Labour—and all the other would-be reformers of capitalism—are and can only be flies on the revolving wheel of capitalism.

Another View (1967)

From the September 1967 issue of the Socialist Standard
We wrote to three opponents of Marxism, asking them to contribute their criticism to this centenary issue. Mr. Raymond V. McNally, a regular correspondent to the "Financial Times", sent me a letter which we publish, with our comments, and we are grateful to him for doing so. The Economic League thanked us for our letter but said: "We do not wish to avail ourselves of the offer made therein". Enoch Powell, M.P., wrote: "I confess I cannot recollect having written or stated my views on Marx anywhere, and I do not feel competent to do so."
Dear Sir,

It seems fitting for the centenary of the publication of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital to be commemorated by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, for it was in this country that Marx did the bulk of his research and writing.

Since first studying this monumental work over 30 years ago, my continuing interest in it has stemmed chiefly from the impact it has had on the quality of modern thought. In Britain alone, the activities and attitudes of the trade unions, and the increasing intervention of government in economic and social life unmistakably bear the stamp of Marxist influence, which therefore, must bear considerable responsibility for the steady decline in this country’s economic and political power during the last 50 years.

Although Das Kapital reveals occasional flashes of real insight, unfortunately it never succeeds in putting them together in one integrated whole. As a result, it never arrives at a true understanding of the nature and functioning of capitalism. Whether Marx would be pleased by what has transpired since his death in 1883 is a big question. Certainly what has replaced capitalism in Soviet Russia can scarcely be called a ‘higher’ social organism. Indeed, Marx was quite aware of what ‘makes production by slave labour such a costly process.’ Doubtless, if he were alive today, he would suffer some mental agony over the spectacle of Marxist Russia relying on capitalistic America to feed her starving people — a striking example of a country that combines industrialism and famine.

But Marx's work (even including Karl Kautsky’s three volumes entitled Theories of Surplus-value prepared from Marx's own notes) always struck me as a kind of ‘unfinished symphony.’ There is too big a gap between fact and theory. Factually (in his more objective moments) he has the capitalist-employer appear as a very busy and important person — initiating, financing, organising, employing and directing labour, keeping the books, seeking out markets, and buying and selling. In fact, he makes it quite clear that the worker left to his own devices would scarcely be any better off than he was in feudal times. Yet, theoretically, the capitalist appears to be a dismembered spirit, no longer the brains and spark-plug of the enterprise who makes such a valuable contribution to the production of wealth. Instead, it is the lowly worker who creates all values, saves the capitalist from starvation by providing him with an ‘unearned’ income and gives him the means for accumulating capital, in the form of Surplus-value.

In vain one seeks an explanation from Marx for this vast disparity between fact and theory. For the truth is that he has become the victim of his own dialectics that leave no room for introducing realities into his various theories, even if he were so disposed. In borrowing the worst from the classical economists and leaving the best, and making manual labour the sole source of value, he cannot include the labour-power of the capitalist-employer in any category of values except as an expropriator. Thus, unlike the classical school, he is compelled, not only to oppose the intelligence and genius of the innovator, but even to deny their existence.

But since Marx knows that it is the results of this muscular exercise of labour-power and not the labour-power itself that is of value to the capitalist, he must now perform a semantic convulsion and turn the worker into a commodity. In this way he gives the labour-power a value based on ‘the value of the means of subsistence necessary for the maintenance of the labourer,’ akin to the value of any commodity ’that lies hidden behind' its exchange-value. Thus, he has the capitalist pay wages for the worker’s subsistence (‘hidden’ value) and not for the results of the exercise of his labour-power.

These results, says Marx, the capitalist gets for nothing! This then is the sum and substance of the famous Surplus-value theory, the very core of his entire thesis. But instead of the worker being ‘tricked’ by the capitalist and the capitalist mode of production, it is the capitalist and society that have been tricked by Marx’s dialectics, thus earning him from an American economist in the nineteenth century the title of ‘Prince of Muddleheads.’

It seems tragic that in this ‘enlightened’ age, so much human energy is wasted squabbling over a mythical Surplus and striving with increasing futility to divide it up, while capitalism, buffeted on all sides by abuse, excessive taxation, government regulations and intransigent trade unions, tries to carry an ungrateful world on its weary shoulders. Such are the fruits of Marxism.

Yet a final word. In one of his more lucid moments, Marx seemed to glimpse, as through a rift in the clouds, the true nature of capitalist production when he wrote that commodities ‘cannot go to market and make exchanges of their own account’ but ‘must, therefore, have recourse to their guardians, who are also their owners.’ Further, that these owners ‘whose will resides in these objects’ (italics mine) ‘must make the exchange by means of an act of mutual consent’ and ‘must, therefore, mutually recognise in each other the right of private proprietors (italics mine; Vol. I, Book I, Part I, Chap. II)’.

Here Marx seems to recognise that the value of any property ultimately lies in its private administration, that is, at the point of exchange, thus ensuring its equitable, civilised distribution. By contrast — since it takes two to make an exchange — the so-called common ownership and administration of property can distribute wealth, not fairly on the basis of values freely arrived at, but only arbitrarily and erratically by a sort of tribal technique.
Yours faithfully,
Raymond V. McNally
65 Eaton Square,
London, S.W.1.


Reply: 
Mr. McNally seems to think that the surplus over and above what people get as wages and salaries is “mythical’’. No doubt this is news to those who live off rent, interest and profit — a property income they receive even if they do no work. As far as we know, the only way in which wealth can be produced is by work, by human beings applying their mental and physical energies to the materials found in nature. It follows therefore that non-work incomes like rent, interest and profit can only come out of the wealth produced by those who do work.

Nor did Marx say that manual work was the only work that counted. A little thought will show that it doesn’t make sense to separate so-called brain and so-called manual work; both are necessary for any work.

‘Marxist’ Russia is, of course, just a myth.
Editorial Committee