Monday, June 21, 2021

A Look Round. (1925)

From the July 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Meaning of Capital.

A study of past and present human society shows it to be marked off by distinctly different methods of producing and distributing the wealth that maintains such society. Each social economy, chattel slavery, serfdom, capitalism, has had its own particular religion, morals, philosophy, etc., and each system has developed within itself the elements that made possible the revolutionary change to the new social order. These changes mark important steps in the development of mankind.

To analyse and understand the workings and the forces within the capitalist system is the mission of the Socialist. The capitalists and their agents will fight such a method at every step, for it reveals them as a useless but property-owning class. Their wealth is used primarily for their own profit, irrespective of societies’ needs. Such profit is obtained without effort on their part, because the value of the workers’ means of subsistence for a given time is a minute proportion of the values he can produce in that same time.

Production is carried on to-day for the world’s markets, and profit is derived from the unpaid labour of workers who sell their energy in the labour market as a commodity. Only the capitalist system has presented these features in general, and it was not until the present system prevailed that economic wealth became known as capital. (Evolution of Property Lafargue.)

Capital is not a thing, it is a definite social relation, it presupposes a working class who possess nothing but labour force. In order to spread confusion our opponents often claim that we all possess capital of a sort, we are all capitalists; capital they say may be the workers’ health, the poor woman’s sewing machine, the navvy’s shovel; others, like the I.L.P. and the Labour Party, believe it ought to be publicly owned, while the university professors say it is wealth used to produce further wealth. All fail or pretend to be unable to see that capital is the wealth owned by the capitalists and used to exploit the working class for profit. As Socialism stands for the abolition of exploitation, it stands for the abolition of capital.

A Doctor's Dope.

According to a Dr. Shadwell (Quoted Observer, 17/5/26), there are over two hundred definitions of Socialism, which he says are cities of refuge to its apologists since:—
  “It is always possible to shift the ground and to say when any particular aspect is criticised that it is not Socialism.”
Fortunately Socialists do not rely on definitions, but facts, though there is a maxim that “all colours look alike in the dark.” Our pedantic doctor is eager to find some redeeming features of capitalism, especially as there are still Marxians who adhere to the doctrine of the inevitable “increasing misery.” He can dispose of them in a few words, thus :—
  “There has been a levelling up at one end and a levelling down at the other. It stares one in the face in visible matters of houses, clothes, and locomotion . . . As for clothes, it is no longer possible as it used to be to distinguish classes by clothes . . . and if Capitalists dash about by road in their own cars the proletariat do the same in charabancs.” (Ibid.)
We need not weary you with details of the delightful houses you habitate, every snob in the country has said that the dear workers must be better housed (some day), and the object of the Housing Bill, we were told, was to provide cheap houses for “us” (bye and bye). Clothes (sic)—we do not judge classes by clothes, but by methods of living, hirers and hired, robbers and robbed, but locomotion—ah ! the charabanc, what profligates ! Even the publican says, “No charabancs served here.” And, despite all, we still adhere to the fact that the workers’ conditions can only be measured in relation to the wealth and the pleasures they provide for their hereditary enemies, the capitalists. We fail to find consolation in the fact that when we are dead, other workers may have better houses. We do not appreciate the shoddy, bad fitting garments that cover our ill-fed bodies. Ungrateful scoundrels that we are, we cannot be soothed, because the growth of poverty and pauperism keeps pace with the increase in millionaires. We still want, and will fight on to obtain, the full use of the best that the skill and dexterity of the workers makes possible. We want the world for the workers.
W. E. MacHaffie