Friday, April 16, 2021

“Capital.” A Criticism of the New Translation. (1929)

From the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

We publish below an interesting letter which was addressed to the “Labour Monthly” by Professor Riazanoff, and published in its May issue.


A letter from Professor Riazanov.

Dear Comrade,—In your last letter you mentioned the new translation of “Capital” by E. and C. Paul (*). The book, peculiar as it may seem, has not been a pleasure to me. Of course, it is agreeable to find the demand for the works of Marx having become so great as to require a new edition of the “Capital,” and as a sign of this increased interest in Marx and his works I certainly welcome this edition. Only my pleasure has been marred by the circumstance that one has found it necessary to make an entirely new translation instead of revising the edition of Moore and Aveling, which had been thoroughly revised and completed by Engels.

Both translators of the first English edition were born Englishmen, both were quite conversant with economical matters and even if to them has to be denied an all-round competence in questions of economy, nothing of the kind can be said against Engels, who, as is to be seen from letters of that period, also from his introduction to the English edition, has spent an enormous deal of time and labour on this edition. This old edition contains a tre­mendous deal of Engels’ own work, and I do not consider it right to neglect this work; and what is more, to me it is not a neglect only, but equals almost to a contempt, to an abjudication of Engels, and with such a tendency I, of course, cannot at all sympathise.

I do not consider myself so competent as to declare decisively that the edition revised by Engels complies to all stylistical require­ments, or that it contains no mistakes, no errors. Its containing mistakes is quite possible. But to justify the discarding of the text authorised by Engels, the least one ought to have done would have been to prove on hand of numerous instances the absolute uselessness of the old English edition, the impossibility of adapting it to the requirements of to-day and hence its inevitable fate of being thrown away in order to make room to a completely new translation. To such an authority as Engels this justification, to my idea, ought to have been made !

I have not gone through the Pauls’ translation very thoroughly, but the fact of this translation suffering from serious errors was brought home to me by the introduction of the Pauls, from which I learned that they have not used for their text the “Volksausgabe,” published by Kautsky (and to which I also contributed by adding a very complete register).

This Kautsky edition, though not a critical definite one, possesses great advantages over all other editions as far as the text is concerned, as Kautsky has used for this edition all the variations of the four different versions by Marx or Engels, further numerous corrections of Marx and Engels’ found in their own copies, and also the French edition, which to a great extent had been revised by Marx. From all this is to be seen that the Pauls have not made use of the best text hitherto known, therefore their translation is a step backwards.

A hasty perusal of their book resulted in my discovering the following errors :—
On page 866 instead of “hoffnungsvoll” (hope­ful) they translated unhappy.

,, 282 instead of “Arbeitsvolk” (work­ing people) they translated the French people.

,, 318 instead of “Arbeitszeit” (labour time) they translated labour power.

„ 552 instead of “Lehrfabrik” (factory for learning) they translated tan­nery.

,, 593 instead of ”politische Oekonomie” (political economy): they translated English economics.
In conclusion, let me say that as long as E. and C. Paul do not convince me by a thorough criticism of the old translation that a revision (the necessity of which I do not deny) has been absolutely impossible, I maintain and shall continue to maintain the standpoint of considering their new translation from a scientific point of view superfluous. The interest of the English speaking world in Marx’s “Capital” will grow to such an extent that I hope the day will not be far off when the opportunity arises of re-editing the old translation.
Fraternally yours,
 D. Riazanov.
Moscow, April 18,1929.

* Capital. A new translation by Eden and Cedar Paul, based on the Fourth and Definitive Edition. (Allen & Unwin, 927 pp., 12s. 6d.)

Trafalgar Square Demonstration. (1929)

Party News from the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

We greatly regret that the Demonstration arranged for Sunday, June 9th, and advertised in the “Socialist Standard,” had to be cancelled. Speakers who had undertaken to address the Demonstration reported their inability to attend, but it was then too late to make other satisfactory arrangements. Efforts were made to advise as many of our readers as possible.

Aspects of the “Woman Question.” (1929)

From the July 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard
(Based on Notes of a Series of Lectures on “The Sexes in Evolution.”)
In the present state of our knowledge of biological matters, no fact is more patent than that sex constitutes one of the greatest underlying principles throughout Nature.

Students of evolution will appreciate the fact that sex, like any other biological feature, has undergone a progressive evolutionary development—a development exhibiting many phases, both simple and complex—until we arrive at what is termed its “highest expression,” that of the human male and female.

Much of the course of this development is known, but the question of the origin of sex itself still remains one of the puzzling problems of biology. Certain it is that there was a time when what we know as “sex” did not exist. In many “lowly” organisms this condition of sexlessness obtains to-day. But at one stage in the development of living forms this condition was universal. By and bye there came a differentiation in the development of organisms, which resulted in a division of labour, where the special functions of each were confined to two separate and distinct individuals. From this point the indepen­dent history of the male and female sexes begins. Probably from the time of the appearance of life on the earth to that of the establishment of separate sexes, mil­lions of years intervened. And probably, also, from the time that sex first made its appearance, millions more have elapsed. How and why sex differentiation came about at all is problematical. In all likeli­hood some crisis arose which threatened the existence of the particular species in which the phenomenon first occurred, and which had its appropriate physiological response in the organism, resulting in a division of labour, for, fundamentally, male and female are the same in biological essentials, the difference being some subtle biochemical quality whose essence is not quite understood.

We pass on, then, to the rise of the human animal where this sex differentiation concerns us most. They, like all other animals, have arisen from a line of organisms whose sex organs are ultimately identical, but in which, since modifications were introduced, have resulted in differences that are now of fundamental biological importance. Hence the “femininity” of women is not the product of education or convention, but is essentially biological in character. When our knowledge of the history of life on the earth has become more extended, it will be found that it is only by tracing the processes of differentiation throughout the two entire lines of development that we may hope to unravel all the mysteries bound up in the problem of sex, or to understand the prevailing differences in character and constitution which have arisen as the outcome of this early division of labour.
Tom Sala

(To be continued.)

Ken Livingstone/Paul Foot – Dream Ticket? (2000)

Editorial from the April 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Ken Livingstone has taken on the Labour machine. He wants to be mayor instead of Blair’s poodle, Dobson. Journalist and SWPer Paul Foot is heading a list of candidates for the assembly calling itself the “London Socialist Alliance” which is supporting Livingstone. “Vote Livingstone, Vote LSA” is their slogan.

Well, should we? That depends on what you want. If you want to elect an old-fashioned Labourite politician to run the administrative side of capitalism in London—or if you want the mayor of London to speak with a London accent—or if you want to protest at Blair’s control-freakery—go ahead. But if you want Socialism, stop and think it through. Livingstone as mayor with Foot as leader of the assembly is an intriguing prospect, but how would this advance the cause of Socialism?

Livingstone has been a lifelong member of the Labour Party and still regards himself as a Labour man temporarily separated from the fold. He is not a socialist unless you think that nationalisation under a Labour government is an example of Socialism (in fact, it’s state capitalism).

In any event, he is not standing as a “Socialist”, but as a politician promising to make things better for London people under capitalism—”Vote London” is his campaign slogan. But anyone who knows how the profit system works knows this can’t be done. It doesn’t matter how sincere or competent or determined a politician is they can’t make capitalism work other than as a system that gives priority to profit-making. All governments that have spoken about putting needs before profits have failed. So will Livingstone. This is not a reflection on him personally but on capitalism as a system.

Paul Foot and his “London Socialist Alliance” aren’t standing on a socialist programme either. They are not standing for the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, with production for use not profit. All they are doing is offering a collection of attractive-sounding reforms to be achieved within capitalism: “a £7 billion increase in NHS spending”, “a 35 hour week without loss of pay”, “a minimum wage of at least £7 an hour”.

Nice if you could get them, but you can’t. They’re just empty promises. Vote-catching bait. These days capitalism can’t deliver reforms. Nor can Foot and his friends any more than Livingstone or Blair or anyone else.

So what to do? Leave Livingstone to fight it out with the other professional politicians. And if you want to vote for Socialism, do this by writing “WORLD SOCIALISM” across your ballot paper.

The poverty of education in Ghana (2000)

From the April 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard
There is a close affinity in Ghana between post-independence politics and the pre-independence era when the political and intellectual African elite were mobilising support from the African masses to overthrow the colonial establishment. Both have been full of promises and rosy dreams of what the future ought to be like.
Elections in Ghana these days, for example, remind one of the politics of agitation by the Nkrumah’s, J. B. Danquah’s and the Houphuet-Boigny’s in the colonial days. Equality, freedom and freedom from poverty and oppression are sonorously proclaimed these days too; and every available propaganda tool is used by parties to discredit other political parties in the bid to win the support of the voting public. But the results of these bitter campaigns have always ended in the same way. As soon as any political party assumes the mantle of office, the ideas that it used to politicise the masses to propel it to power becomes a fetter on the purpose of the leadership of the party. The demands for equality and freedom from poverty, and the vitriolic criticisms launched against the oppressive economic policies of previous governments, are inevitably forgotten and equally inevitably people come to direct them at the party that has taken over the reins of power. The difficulty of the political leadership is that it wants to inherit the privileged positions of previous governments, that it has unseated either in an election or a coup d’├ętat, without implementing the progressive and radical sounding ideas which had helped it to come into power. It knows too well that its interest as the representative of the ruling class and international capital are diametrically opposed to the interest of the majority. And it cannot fundamentally transform the existing relations of production in the interest of the masses, without limiting its own access to economic surplus. The interests of the Ghanaian ruling class since independence is just the same as those of the old colonial regime; and it works with the forces of neo-colonialism and international capital to negate the consciousness of the masses, using its unlimited access to the economic surplus to attain this objective.

Ruling class and ruling ideas 
The national bourgeoisie and international capital have succeeded in foisting their ideas on the majority of the people largely because of their control over material production. Marx and Engels’s claim that “the class which has the material means of production at its disposal has control at the same time over the mental means of production, so that generally speaking those who lack the mental means of production are subject to it” seems to describe the Ghanaian situation aptly. In no other field have the techniques of mental control been employed with such efficiency as in the educational system. Apart from being inaccessible to a majority of Ghanaians it seeks to create the myth that the current neo-colonial and capitalist direction of development are sacrosanct and inviolable. The school curriculum, especially in the social sciences, is replete with all kinds of bogus assertions seeking to justify the unjustifiable. The educational system has thus evolved essentially into a positive instrument serving neo-colonialism and the ruling class in Ghana; whilst at the same time making it difficult for the propertyless classes to understand the true nature and causes of their wretched conditions.

This is evident in the economics syllabus in educational institutions and the thinking of prominent intellectuals on the subject. They all reflect the ideas of bourgeois academicians in America and Britain. Consequently the ideas they propagate manifest the interest of capital. Books written by Harvey, Adam Smith, Caincross and Hansen are not only important textbooks for students but reference books for teachers. The ability to regurgitate the ideas in these books in examinations qualifies one to be a graduate of economics and enhances the chances of an individual to aspire to lucrative jobs. These books are devoid of class analysis in their presentation of current economic problems, ignore imperialistic influences as factors in the underdevelopment of a country, and propagate the myth that without foreign investment economic growth and development would be hampered. The exploitative aspects of foreign and Ghanaian enterprises are either completely ignored or little discussed. The worship and devotion to free enterprise is therefore total. The impression that private investment of capital is essential for economic growth relegates labour to a secondary position in industry and prepares the minds of the people to accept the dominance of capital over labour in the process both of production and distribution. It also seeks to imprint in the minds of the recipients of education the idea that the profit motive is both essential and intrinsic to increased productivity; and the belief that free-for-all competition at the market place is the only way to realise the overall interest of society.

The alternative to the free market policy is normally presented as the state ownership of the means of production. What is not discussed or is not known is that the state ownership of the means of production prescribed and fixed in law does not preclude the exploitation of labour by capital. Capitalism is not only characterised by the legal form that class possession of the means of production takes. That is the superficial aspect of it. The essential aspect is the social fact that those who “possess” the means of production exploit wage labour and accumulate surplus value thus obtained as capital. The immediate post-independent West African economics would suffice to illustrate this point. Workers sold their labour power to various state enterprises; and the products of their labour were sold in the market place with a view to profit. The difference between the wages of the producers and the value of what they produced was used for capital accumulation and the consumption of the privileged classes. Under the guise of socialism that state was employed by the ruling classes to appropriate economic surpluses from the masses. State ownership sought to hide the monstrosity of capitalist exploitation by confusing socialism with state property and presenting it to the producers of wealth as the best.

With the failure of the economic recovery programme staring them in the face, the ruling class has become louder in their call for “indigenisation” in recent times. Suddenly the ghost of economic nationalism is being resurrected after it had been banished from economic planning. Conspicuously absent are those aspects and activities of enterprises that have made their operations inimical to the interest of a majority of Ghanaians, irrespective of their origin.

Imprinting minds
The ethos, symbols, values, lifestyles, relations of production and modes of operations are not of primary concern to the new converts of indigenisation. What matters is the encouragement of Ghanaian manufacturers to produce more to capture the local market from “foreigners”. But such factors as mentioned constitute strong inbuilt pressures on local entrepreneurs to cave in to the wishes of foreign capital. Instead of enterprises becoming more and more national in the use of local resources and in satisfying of the needs of the vast majority of Ghanaians it is in fact the Ghanaian entrepreneurs who are going to become less and less national. The ultimate beneficiaries will be the privileged classes whose share of the surplus in the exploitation of Ghanaian labour would increase. Indigenisation would therefore essentially become a weapon of the haves in the country to realise their dreams of increasing their wealth which was somewhat crushed during the heydays of liberalisation.

Ethnic chauvinism 
In sociology and anthropology one encounters the bogus assertion that Ghana has ethnic and not class relations. This argument is nurtured by bourgeois politicians and their mentors in sociology departments who want power based on communal hegemony. Normally the place occupied by individuals in a historically determined system of social production is not made the basis of analysis. While it is not denied that ethnic consciousness exists in Ghana, the phenomenon has to be recognised as part of the ideological rationalisation that reinforces and in turn reflects the existing relations of production. Classes in Ghana may be embryonic but they exist. Thus while ambitious petty bourgeois politicians preach and fan the deadly parochialism of ethnic chauvinism they actively form alliances with petty bourgeois elements in the various other ethnic groups to consolidate their repressive domination of the masses. Ethno-centrism as presented by bourgeois sociology is essentially a weapon of the dominating classes to dissipate the energies of the working class, divide them, and strangle potentially progressive organisations.

Another fraudulent intellectual claim obviously calculated to instil false consciousness in the recipients of education is that Ghana’s present underdevelopment is a direct inheritance from the pre-colonial times. The history departments and historians of repute in universities have made no attempt to prove or disprove this assertion. They just reproduce it for students to swallow and regurgitate during examinations. The impression this propaganda pap seeks to create is implicit: that pre-colonial conditions continue to be reproduced. But three questions immediately come to mind when issues of this nature are discussed. Is this claim correct? If it is correct why is it that these conditions have persisted in spite of years of colonialism and neo-colonialism? What forces are reproducing them and why?

It should be understood that societies are not static and Ghanaian societies were not an exception to this law of development. They also went through the processes of change that characterised societies elsewhere. These changes were to be found in the revolutionary transformation of the social structures, relations of production and techniques of production of social groups. What impacted negatively on these processes of change were two things—the slave trade and the subsequent integration of Ghanaian societies into the world capitalist system in a subordinate position. One cannot deny the infrastructural changes that contact with Europe brought in its wake; but the subsequent material benefits benefited the metropolitan bourgeoisie and the sham bourgeoisie in the colonial country. It condemned the majority to perpetual poverty.

Some contemporary African writings used as literature books in universities and secondary schools in Ghana also do not adequately address the phenomenon of exploitation. Mongo Betis’s Poor Christ of Bomba; Rene Maran’s Batouala; Oyono’s The House Boy; Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God; and Camera Laye’s African Child tend to emphasise the superstructural aspects of colonialism. The imposition of colonialism through brute military force and the subsequent destruction of African socio-cultural and political institutions are given prominence in these writings. What is not normally clearly established or is often ignored is the link between the superstructural aspects of colonial rule and its economic base—production relations. The colonial production relations were the foundation upon which the political, juridical, ethical and religious aspects of colonialism were founded. But in these works the cultural and political aspects of colonialism are artificially severed from the production relations which provided it with its life-force and dynamism.

However, available evidence proves that the real reason for colonialism was to ensure the haemorrhage of capital from the fringes of the capitalist system to its core. The cultural and political domination which were made very much part of the colonial system were therefore a means to an end.
Adongo Aidan Avugma

Losers’ World (2000)

Book Review from the April 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Turbo-Capitalism: Winners and Losers in the Global Economy’, by Edward Luttwak, (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998)

Most American textbooks on capitalism either present it as the best possible system that will last well into the future if not for ever, or admit that it has a few faults which are a small price to pay for its benefits. Luttwak is closer to the second position than the first. In his opening sentence he expresses his belief “both in the virtues of capitalism and in the need to impose some measure of control over its workings”. In a matter-of-fact tone the author discusses the many and dreadful consequences of capitalism for the losers, of which there are many more than winners. By turbo-capitalism he means a form of capitalism that is much different from the controlled form that mostly prevailed from 1945 to the 1980s. He admits that “turbo” is his term—others simply call it the free market. It means very much more than the freedom to buy and sell:
  “What they celebrate, preach and demand is private enterprise liberated from government regulation, unchecked by effective trade unions, unfettered by sentimental concerns over the future of employees or communities, unrestrained by customs barriers or investment restrictions, and molested as little as possible by taxation.”
Luttwak likes the increase in economic growth that turbo-capitalism brings but is aware of the consequences which he deplores:
  a breakdown of familial capitalism (especially in Asia): “Cold-blooded, truly arm’s length and therefore purely contractual relations” 
  increasing job insecurity: “employees at all but the highest levels must go to work each day not knowing if they sill still have their job on the morrow” 
   the global increase in unemployment: “it is a protracted tragedy at the personal level, and destabilising at the social level” 
the insecure majority are persuaded to accept the sovereignty of the market: “losers blame themselves rather than the system”

In mitigation of the harsh discipline and sharp inequalities which Luttwak admits turbo-capitalism has brought, he believes that there are “two great forces that serve to balance its over-powering strength”: the American legal system (poor people can get “damage awards”) and the pervasive influence of Calvinist values (earned wealth is no impediment to virtue).

In Luttwak’s favour is his assessment of Blair and the left wing in politics: ” . . . both Clinton in the United States and Blair in the United Kingdom have continued to use some liberal prose to wrap their conservative remedies . . . even a left-wing electoral victory can yield only right-wing polices”.

Compared to what he calls “defunct communist economies” and “bureaucratic socialism”, the author believes that turbo-capitalism is “materially altogether superior, and morally at least not inferior . . . Yet to accept its empire over every aspect of life, from art to sport in addition to all forms of business, cannot be the culminating achievement of human existence. Turbo-capitalism too, shall pass”.

Yes, Luttwak, but what are you doing to help make it pass?
Stan Parker

50 Years Ago: Circumstances alter attitudes (2000)

The 50 Years Ago column from the April 2000 issue of the Socialist Standard

Before it became the Government the Labour Party built up a reputation on the frail ground that it was in favour of applying the principle of democracy everywhere, with particular reference to the depressed native populations who suffered so much from the profit-hungry greed of the privileged class. Now that the Labour Party has become the Government, administering Capitalism, lofty ideals that gained them support have had to take a back seat and the interests of the British Capitalist class become, and must become, the ruling idea. A recent example is the instance of the native ruler Seretse.

The circumstances are fairly well known owing to the publicity given by opponents of the Labour Party: opponents, it may be added, who would in all probability have acted more or less in the same way had they been the Government. Seretse is chief of a native population in Bechuanaland. He came to England to study and married a white girl. The Regent who had been acting as chief during Seretse’s minority objected to the marriage. After considerable internal discussion the Regent was exiled and the majority of the population accepted Seretse and his wife. In the meantime the Government’s representatives had been taking part in the dispute. Finally Seretse was invited to England for discussions on the express condition, he claims, that he would be allowed to return. When he was here the Government refused to let him return and banned him and his wife from the territory for five years . . .

Thus, in spite of the high-flown style of the propaganda against Fascism and Nazism in the past, where capitalist interests are, or seem to be, involved all capitalist governments, including Labour ones, are prepared to engage in racial discrimination.

(From editorial, Socialist Standard, April 1950)

The Labour Party and the Future. (1929)

Editorial from the June 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

At the time of writing, a few of the Election results have yet to be announced, but the general position is clear enough. The Labour Party will be the largest of the three Parties in the new House of Commons, and although lacking a clear majority over the other two parties, it will presumably take over the Government with the tacit consent of the Liberals, more or less as in 1924.

The Labour Party will have 288 seats, as compared with 251 Tories and 54 Liberals. As regards voting strength in the constituencies they polled 8,337,407 votes, as against 8,575,532 given to Tory candidates and 5,238,054 to Liberals.

In 1924 81 per cent. of the electorate went to the poll, as compared with about 79 per cent. this year. In the meantime the electorate has grown from about 20 million to over 28 million, largely owing to the extension of the franchise to millions of young women.

In the last House a clear majority (over 60 per cent.) of the Labour M.P.s were members of the I.L.P., although the number actually financed by the I.L.P. was of course much smaller. In the present Election, out of 56 candidates, for whom the I.L.P. accepted financial responsibility, 37 were successful (two results have not yet been declared, but are not likely to be I.L.P. successes). How many of the other Labour M.P.’s are also members of the I.L.P. it is not yet possible to say.

The Communists, with their Russian money, paid very dearly for an elementary lesson in electioneering. They sent 25 candidates to the polls and scored 25 failures. In 21 constituencies they forfeited their deposit through failing to poll one-eighth of the votes. Out of the 25 constituencies, seven (including Saklatvala’s seat at Battersea North) have been fought by the Communists on one or more previous occasions. In every one of these seven constituencies the Communist vote declined, in spite of the big increase in the size of the electorate. Saklatvala’s vote fell from 15,096 to 6,554 and the loss in the other six constituencies was in most cases very heavy. In the other areas their vote was insignificant.

The lesson they had hitherto not learned is that votes for a Communist who fights on a reformist programme are not votes for Communism. Their success at Motherwell a few years ago, and more recently at Battersea, was possible only because they received Labour votes owing to the absence of an official Labour candidate. (In face of the vast increase in the Labour vote and the insignificant Communist vote, it is amusing to recall that the Communist excuse for supporting Labour in 1923 was that the Labour Party would be discredited and the Communists would gain at their expense.)

The I.L.P. long ago recognised that they must carefully avoid anything which would cause the Labour Party to oppose the I.L.P. candidates. Between elections the Maxtons and Wheatleys and other incipient leaders of revolt can produce their thunder on the left as noisily as any communist. But election time finds them hastily deserting their rebel colours and rallying round the Labour Party and fighting as Labour candidates.

Is It Socialism.

What is the real significance of the Labour vote? Does it mean that 8 million people want Socialism? The Daily Herald says that it does. In the editorial of June 1st we read the following :—
  This great appeal to the people has shown that Socialism has no terrors for millions of men and women in this country of all classes and callings. The magnificent results we record to-day are an earnest that at no very distant date the banners of Socialism will be carried to that final victory of which the present triumph is only a prelude.
Without in the least imputing dishonesty to the writer of that passage, we confidently assert that his view is hopelessly wrong. The Election shows that 8 million people are not afraid of the word Socialism; it shows that millions of workers have satisfied themselves that men and women of their own class are at least as capable administrators as the men of the ruling class and their professional politicians. That is all to the good, but it is very far removed from a desire for Socialism. The working class have lost their horror of the word Socialism, but they have hardly begun to understand the meaning of the word. To them Socialism means the administration of capitalism by people calling themselves Labour or Socialist. And therein lies the problem which no Labour Government can solve. We deal elsewhere in this issue with the failure of Labour Government in Queensland. We prophesied that failure and with absolute confidence we prophecy the similar failure of Labour Government here. No matter how able, how sincere, and how sympathetic the Labour men and women may be who undertake to administer capitalism, capitalism will bring their undertaking to disaster. As in Queensland, those who administer capitalism will find themselves sooner or later brought into conflict with the working class. Like their Australian colleagues the Labour Party here will find themselves in a cleft stick. Having no mandate to replace capitalism by Socialism, they have pledged themselves to solve problems which cannot be solved except by doing the one thing for which they have no mandate. That thing is the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production and distribution, and its replacement by common ownership : the production of goods for use not for sale; the discarding of all the paraphernalia of wages, prices, and profits. The millions of Labour voters who are not afraid of the word Socialism because they do not know what it means, would regard as absurd and Utopian common ownership and the production of goods for use. Yet it is in sober truth the only solution for the pressing economic problems of the day. Even those workers and their “left wing” leaders, like J. Maxton, W. J. Brown and others, who are prepared to make inroads into the possessions of the capitalist class, have still another great lesson to learn. They have still to learn that the use of political power for the purpose of forcing capitalism to function in a manner beneficial to the workers is a temporary and a dangerous expedient. It will produce as many and as grave new problems as those it solves. Capitalism is a system, the parts of which are interdependent. You cannot remedy the evils and yet keep the system, and you cannot abolish the system without a mandate from a Socialist electorate. This is the dilemma which faces the Labour Party. They are pledged to solve a problem, but lack the means of its solution.

Rationalisation and Unemployment. (1929)

From the June 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

We were amused last year when the Government started to solve the problem of the 250,000 out-of-work miners by transferring them from the mining areas where there are no vacant jobs, to those places where there are vacant jobs. This would have been simplicity itself if there had been any such places, though in that event it would not have been necessary to set up an Industrial Transfer Board to coax the unemployed man to seek the vacant job. Some 20,000 have been transferred, and nobody knows how many of these have been thrust into jobs which were not vacant.

We suspect, however, that the politicians responsible for that venture were not greatly concerned about its success or failure. While it was useful for election purposes, the existence of an unemployed army of a million or so does not, and need not, cause sleepless nights to the Capitalist class or their politicians as long as the workers in the main, whether in work or out, accept as a necessity the Capitalist system of which unemployment is but one feature.

There are, however, many people whose sympathy for the unemployed is beyond question, but whose remedies for the problem contain just that same silly fallacy. They treat each industry or each country as if the workers in it alone suffered from unemployment. By disregarding the same problem due to the same causes in every other industry and country, they are then able easily enough to solve the problem by the simple device of transferring the unemployed in industry A to industries B, C, and D, and by emigrating the surplus population of country Z to countries X and Y.

The Unemployed Miners.

The Labour Party proposes to put the mining industry on its feet again by nationalising and reorganising it. The elimination of wasteful and inefficient methods, both on the productive and marketing sides, will enable it to regain its lost world markets and develop new ones, including the supply of coal for the manufacture of bye-products. This is the theory.

Our first criticism is that competing mining industries in Europe and America are busily doing the same thing, and the relative position of each will be more or less the same after the process as it was before. Each will be more efficient and all will be faced with the same problems as now.

The main point is that greater efficiency does not solve the problem of unemployment.

Between September, 1924, and September, 1928, the number of miners employed decreased from 1,082,340 to 859,259, and over that period the output per man shift rose from 17.33 cwts. to 21.13 cwts.

Thus the fall in numbers employed far exceeded a fall in total output. (See Ministry of Labour Gazette, February, 1929.)

The Bulletin of the International Management Institute (Geneva, June, 1928) gives an illustration of the similar effects of rationalisation in a German group of mines. Between 1924 and 1927 the output per man rose by 60 per cent., the total coal output and sales rose by 10 per cent. and the number of men employed fell by 31 per cent. from 6,942 men in 1924 to 4,815 men in 1927. More work done by fewer workers. Unemployment resulting from greater efficiency.

Mr. Baldwin, speaking at Cardiff on May 15th, stated that the output per man in the South Wales mines “was 18 per cent. more than in a good year before the war.” (“The Times,” May 16th.)

Then Mr. H. N. Brailsford, after observing this process at work in America, offers his contribution towards a solution. Writing in the New Leader (January 4th, 1929), he suggested a simple remedy. If, he says, we develop the “home market,” this would
create a call for labour, especially in agriculture, which would soon absorb the surplus thrown idle by the progress of rationalisation (notably the miners).
So the miners “rationalised” out of the mines must go on the land. Good !

Putting the miners on the land.

But if Mr, Brailsford had looked a little further afield in the U.S.A., he would have observed that, owing to various causes, not ably “rationalisation,” the number of men forced out of U.S.A. agriculture is enormous. The March, 1928, issue of the Review of the National City Bank of New York states that during 1926 alone, “the net movement from agriculture to the cities . . was approximately 1,000,000.” Nevertheless, the supply of wheat is in excess of effective demand, and wheat growers have been faced with the “greatest slump of recent years.” (See “Manchester Guardian,” May 9th.) The New York correspondent of the “Daily Telegraph” (May 22nd) said that the only solution for this glut was a “poor harvest” this year.

In this country we have been told that the decline in wheat and other arable cultivation can be offset by the development of dairy farming. This in itself means a vast decrease in the number of men per acre, as arable land is put under grass.

The effect of rationalisation in agriculture is the same as in any other industry, and the same in every branch. To take one instance alone, the ordinary farm milk-hand can milk and attend to 8 or 10 cows. Mr. R. Borlase Matthews, the noted writer on agriculture, tells us (“The Times,” June 6th, 1927) that with electric power and mechanical milking machines 150 cows can be tended by 3 men, whereas without these mechanical aids at least 15 would be needed. Thus the farmer increases the productivity of the farm and sacks some farm hands.

Agricultural Productivity.

The output of agriculture in England and Wales in 1925 was £225 million.

After allowing for price changes, this was the same as in 1908. (See “Agricultural Output of England and Wales, 1925,” Cmd. 2815, p.78.)

In the meantime, there had been a great decrease in the number of persons employed in agriculture and a great increase in the use of machinery.

Owing to changes in method of compiling statistics comparable figures are not available, but the decrease in persons was almost continuous and was very large. The following figures are taken from official sources and are reproduced in “Land and the Nation" (p. 146). This is the Rural Report of the Liberal Land Committee.

Between 1911 and 1921 the number of men and boys over 15 fell from 1,267,000 to 1,212,000. (These figures include farmers, small-holders, etc.) The decrease between 1871 and 1921 was 154,000. Between 1908 and 1913 the number of employees (excluding farmers’ sons, etc.) fell from 722,000 to 651,000. And between 1921 and 1924 the number of employees (including farmers’ sons, etc.) fell from 859,000 to 802,000. (See “Land and the Nation,” p. 146.)

The number of young men fell by 16 per cent. between 1924 and 1928 (Sir Daniel Hall in “Daily Telegraph,” January 24th, 1929).

On the other hand, the number of agricultural engines in use in England and Wales rose from 17,331 in 1908 to 83,535 in 1925. (See “Agricultural Output,” p. 108.)

Petrol or oil engines rose from 6,911 to 56,744 in the same period.

What about Denmark?

Mr. T. Shaw, Minister of Labour in the Labour Government, wrote in the “Morning Post” (February 18th) setting out his views on unemployment. He saw the solution in rationalising agriculture and making it efficient in all its branches, like agriculture in Denmark. How futile is the remedy is shown by the figures of unemployment in that country. The Ministry of Labour Gazette for January shows that the percent age of unemployment in Denmark on November 30th (the latest figure available) was no less than 17.6 per cent. as compared with 11.7 per cent. in this country.

Conditions in America.

Then we have “experts” here and in the U.S.A. who tell us that this increased productivity and consequent reduction of staff in productive industry and agriculture need not disturb us, because the displaced men will find work in commercial and financial occupations. Thus, Mr. Herbert Hoover explains in the Fifteenth Annual Report of the U.S.A. Secretary of Commerce, how the men displaced from industry have been absorbed in “distribution” and in “professional” and “personal” services. This would be a plausible explanation of the absence of unemployment in the U.S.A. if, in fact, unemployment were absent. Unfortunately, there is heavy unemployment, and what is required is a theory explaining the existence of unemployment, not a theory explaining its non-existence.

The American Federation of Labour reported early last year that 18 per cent. of its members were out of work, and that on this basis they estimated unemployment amounting in all to six million (“Daily Telegraph,” April 3rd, 1928).

In this country we have Lord Ebbisham, President of the Federation of British Industries, admitting that rationalisation in the productive industries produces unemployment, but assuring us that the men relieved of jobs can go into commerce, finance and marketing. (See “Morning Post,” January 14th.)

Put the landworkers behind the counter.

So our miners who have been placed on the land by Mr. Brailsford, and then rationalised off the land, must look for salvation in the banks and the distributive trades.

Lord Ebbisham, when making this statement, of course overlooked the fact that there is already 6.4 per cent. of unemployment in the distributive trades (See Ministry of Labour Gazette, April), and that the recent rapid extension of the use of automatic machines of a large type has brought forth protests from shop assistants and small shopkeepers that their livelihood is being threatened still further. Recent amalgamations of big departmental stores have been accompanied by considerable economies in staff. In addition, it must be remembered that small shopkeepers, crowded out by the stores, are not entitled to un employment pay, and so will, in many cases, not register as unemployed.

What shall we do with the Bank Clerks?

And the Bank Clerks are also playing this great game of General Post. They, too, are being “rationalised.”

Mechanical ledger-posters and other machines are being installed with the result not only that staffs will be decreased, but scales of pay also. Mr. Clegg, President of the Bank Officers’ Guild, anticipates the reorganisation of the bank staffs in two grades, “the administrative being a small, well-paid body, chiefly of directors’ nominees, and the clerical a large and not well-paid body.” (“The Times,” May 20th, 1929.)

Two of the five big Joint Stock Banks have already decided on complete mechanisation, and the others are expected to follow suit in the immediate future. The “Daily Express” (May 8th) sums up the position in the following words : –
 The bank clerks of past generations will disappear and machine hands will take their place. . . . Bank clerks are naturally apprehensive. The introduction of the new machines opens up the prospect of wholesale unemployment.
In an interview reported in the same issue, the Secretary of the Bank Officers’ Guild told a “Daily Express” representative that
  two girls can easily perform the work of five or six men with the help of the machine …. The Midland Bank already has a considerable surplus staff as a result of the adoption of mechanical methods.
Let us all be Civil Servants.

But this problem, too, has been “solved.” In August last year, the “New Leader” had been explaining how the I.L.P. proposed to nationalise and make more efficient the banks of this country. A correspondent had claimed that “enormous economies could be effected.” This led to a Bank Clerk’s wife writing to ask what was going to happen to the bank clerks whose jobs were economised out of existence. (“New Leader,” August 24th, 1928.)

The Editor of the “New Leader” replied that the bank clerk’s wife need not worry, because the redundant staff “could usefully be incorporated in the Civil Service, which would require to be extended by the development of social activity in many directions.”

So our miner, after a brief sojourn down on the farm, and a briefer passage through a bank, will land eventually in the Civil Service, somewhat puzzled, but doubtless still trusting in the wisdom of his various leaders and still hopeful of a permanent resting place soon.

What shall we do with the Civil Servants?

It is, however, hardly necessary to add that the replacement of men by machines, and their displacement owing to the elimination of wasteful methods, goes on just as inevitably in the Civil Service. Foot-postmen are being replaced by a smaller number of motor-cyclists and motor-vans; the indoor handling of parcels is economised by the use of mechanical conveyors ; automatic telephone exchanges make the employment of telephone operators less and less necessary. For many years the total volume of old and new varieties of work in the Post Office has been increasing more rapidly than the size of the staff. The output per head is rising just as in the mines, and factories generally. The constant extension of Post Office work is offset by the increased demands made on the workers–and the machinery which is revolutionising banking is also being introduced into Government Departments.

The Conservative Government stated their intention of appointing a Civil Service Royal Commission to enquire into various questions. “The Times” then pointed out that
  there are many members of the House of Commons who believe that an inquiry of this kind might lead to a reduction in the number of civil servants (26 April, 1929).
So that prospects in the Civil Service look no more rosy than outside.

The Films and the "Talkies.”

Then we find our old friend Lord Ebbisham going a step further in his study of the problem. On Wednesday, May 1st, he addressed the Federation of British Industries on the trade prospects. He said that the falling-off in the pre-war basic trades had been offset by expansion in distribution services.
  Then there was the increased demand for entertainment and amusement, resulting largely from the post-war reduction in hours of employment. (Report in Times, 2 May, 1929.)
So now our ex-miner farmhand-bank-clerk-Civil Servants are to pin their hopes on the entertainment industry. The first objection is that although shorter hours may increase the time available for going to cinemas and theatres this is not of much use to unemployed men, who cannot afford the price of entry. But what is more to the point is that rationalisation is vigorously attacking the entertainment industry too. The percentage of unemployment in “Entertainments and Sports” is 11.1 per cent. (See Ministry of Labour Gazette, April.) Theatres are complaining more and more of their inability to compete with cinemas, and for many years now the unemployment among actors and variety artistes has been appalling. The latest development – the “talkies” – has spread consternation among the cinema musicians as cinema after cinema dispenses with its orchestra. The “Evening News” (April 30th) contained the following : –
  While all the talkie-talkie among the moneyed friends and the equally well-to-do opponents of the voice film is going on, there is a silent and melancholy drama happening in London.
 Cinema musicians are, orchestra by orchestra, being told to pack up their bows and violins, their ‘cellos, and all the rest and take formal notice of “the sack.” Most of them are accomplished players to whom the cinema seemed to promise a lifetime of steady work.
  Now the majority, scrapped by the talkie, do not know where bread and butter is to come from a few weeks hence.
  An orchestra recently played, brilliantly, behind closed doors a record for a British talkie that, when it is developed in America and sent back here for exhibition, will throw that same orchestra out of its job, and will circulate all over the country and similarly displace other orchestras.
The Musicians’ Union held a meeting to discuss the question on Wednesday, May 15th (See “Evening Standard” of that date.) Here it was pointed out that the new methods had the effect not only of causing unemployment, but also of lowering the salaries of those who succeeded in keeping their jobs. An official of the Union also made a very telling point. The Home Office have, in the past, kept alien musicians out of the country on account of unemployment. The official said : –
  An alien musician throws only one British musician out of work ; one ‘talkie’ may put a hundred out of work.
It is true, of course, that the declining demand for cinema actors and actresses who have not suitable voices is offset by the demand for others who have, but, in America, the home of the movies, unemployment is already widespread among actors. In January it was stated that there were nearly 9,000 unemployed in New York alone.

Miss Lya de Putti, the famous film star, also points out (“Evening Standard,” May 20th) that
  as crowds are not required in many talking films, “extras,” too, are being thrown out of work in hundreds.
Mr. Lawrence Wright, in a letter to the “Morning Post” (May 20th) on the “talkie” threat to the employment of musicians in the 10,000 cinemas of this country, stated that the “talkies” in the U.S.A. had “precipitated the most shocking unemployment among musicians in America.”

Good news for cigarette makers. 

The next move is obviously with Lord Ebbisham. One thing, however, he must not do. He must not try to put the ex-musicians at work making cigarettes. A representative of the “Daily Telegraph” (May 3rd, 1929) witnessed a demonstration of a new machine installed at the factory of the General Tobacco Co., St. Luke’s, London.
 It was said to be the first of its kind in Great Britain capable of converting tobacco into the finished cigarette—plain or tipped—in five seconds, and at the record speed of 1,200 a minute. Only three persons were required to tend the machine, with an output equal to 700 workers under old methods. Another machine, which was also said to be the first installed in this country, was a cutter run by one man which turned out sufficient material to keep three of the cigarette machines going at the rate of over 200,000 cigarettes an hour.
Having got so far, and while we await further brilliant solutions of the problem, what about making work for the redundant Civil Servants by setting up another department to transfer the unemployed ex-miner-farm-labourer-bank-clerks to the pits, while the Industrial Transfer Board transfers them back again. Then the unemployed musicians can play them along the road, both ways ! One improvement, at least, there promises to be. Mr. Lloyd George’s road schemes would certainly facilitate the movement and counter-movement of the unemployed at the hands of the Transfer Board.

A question for the employers.

When these undeniable facts showing the displacement of labour by machinery are brought to the notice of the employers and the professional apologists for Capitalism, they usually fall back on two arguments.

First they reply that machinery reduces costs and prices, and that lowered prices result in bigger sales, which render unnecessary the dismissal of staff. But their actions do not square with what they profess to believe. Lowered prices will, it is true, generally speaking, result in increased sales, but if the increase were sufficient to require the employment of the whole of the former staff, why do the employers ever dismiss workers when installing labour-saving machines?

The employers could demonstrate their belief in their theory by pledging themselves not to decrease their staff, something they will certainly not do.

Their second argument rests on the belief that when men are displaced by machinery an equal number of additional men are required in the machine-making and allied industries. This ignores the effects of labour-saving also applied in these branches of production. Again the facts belie the theory.

The Ministry of Labour Gazette (April, 1929) reported the following percentages of unemployment at the end of March in industries directly concerned in the making of machinery. Engineering, 8.1 per cent.; Iron and Steel Manufacture, 17.6 per cent.; Tinplate and Steel Sheet industries, 23.7 percent.

The following brief announcement gives point to our contention : –
 Two hundred workers at Dowlais steel-works are on notice to terminate their employment owing to the introduction of new machinery (Daily Herald, May 8th.)
In the cotton industry a new automatic loom is being introduced so simple in its mechanism that one man can operate 25 looms in place of the present average of one man to 4 looms. The new looms will run for an hour or more without attention, and it is recognised that “dislocation of labour conditions would inevitably follow any large scale introduction of such a revolutionary piece of mechanism.” (See “Daily Telegraph” and “Manchester Guardian,” May 13th.) But even should there be a big demand for these and other machines, the existing capacity of the machine manufacturing plants is already well above demand, and they are, in consequence, not working full pressure. In spite of the recent growth of artificial silk production and the resulting demand for machinery, John Hetherington & Sons, Ltd., the textile machinery manufacturers, lament the “deplorably intense competition in the textile machinery industry.” (See 1928 Annual Report, “Observer,” May 12th, 1929.)

The truth is that unemployment is a feature of Capitalism as such, and cannot be solved in one industry or country while Capitalism remains. So long as the Capitalist class own and control the factories, the land, the railways, the cinemas and so forth, they will continue to operate them for profit. They will continue to decide when to have them working and when to close them down. They will decide how many men they will employ and they will go on under the pressure of home and foreign competition reducing costs by installing labour-saving machinery and thus adding to the army of unemployed.

So great is the wealth of the possessing class that their necessities, their luxuries and their charitable gifts leave them with a vast and increasing surplus out of income which they must needs re-invest. The productivity of the wealth-producers increases more rapidly than the spending of the Capitalist class. Goods are left unsold, and more and more wealth is re-invested, thus further increasing the volume of production.

Constantly more wealth is turned out by fewer workers, and the unemployed are compelled to fall back on private and State charity for their subsistence.

No “remedy” for unemployment is worth considering which leaves untouched the private ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, and leaves the workers dependent for their livelihood on the possibility of goods being sold at a price profitable to their masters. The Socialist remedy is the common ownership of the means and instruments for producing wealth, and the production of goods for the use of the members of society in place of production for sale and private profit. There is no other solution of the unemployment problem.
Edgar Hardcastle