Monday, April 10, 2023

Economic and Political organisation. (1930)

From the April 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

The class struggle and action. 
The Socialist Party hold that both economic and political organisation of labour are necessary. The class struggle is neither purely political nor purely economic, but involves both lines of action. That follows from the nature of the class struggle which arises from the conflict of interests between the working class and the employing class.

Economic organisation is a part of the inevitable defence of workers’ interests in selling their working power to the employers. The class position of the workers naturally compels them to organise to protect their interests. The class struggle arises on the economic field, and is seen in the conflicts always going on between the workers and their masters.

Limits of economic action.
The necessary fights over hours and wages are inseparable from the wages system. The efforts to raise wages and shorten hours, and the employers’ opposition cannot be abolished while there is one class selling its labour power and another class who buy it.

The rapid development of modern industry with its improved machinery and methods steadily tends to throw an increasing number out of work to compete for jobs. The combination and trustification of employers into huge firms and alliances is another of the great factors in defeating the workers’ struggle in industry. It is clearly seen to-day that Karl Marx was right when he pointed out that “in its merely economic action capital is the stronger side.” (“Value, Price and Profit.”)

Where strikes fail.
The weakness of all economic action by the workers lies in the fact that they have no power over production and no control of the means and instruments by which production is carried on. The economic struggles are limited to efforts within this economic system to better their daily working conditions as wage-slaves. After even the most successful strike, the workers have to go back to work for the employers and depend upon the employers’ consent and power to employ them. No matter what wages and working conditions may be gained, the workers will never be free from the necessity of finding masters and being exploited, while the masters are left in possession of the resources of production.

The essential thing, therefore, is for the workers to enter into possession of the means and instruments of production and distribution of wealth—the land, railways, factories, machinery, etc. The common ownership of these by the entire society of workers is the only remedy for the workers’ slave condition.

Economic action can never enable the workers to take control of the means of life because economic organisation has neither the power nor the machinery to take and maintain possession.

Why the employers are supreme. 
The employers do not rely upon their ownership alone, but their ownership is backed up and maintained by the forces of the State. These State forces are controlled by the employers through their possession of political power. In all countries with constitutions like Great Britain those who control a majority in Parliament control the State, and have charge of all the armed forces of repression and the legal machinery of the country. The employing class to-day are put into political control by the votes of the workers, who with their majority of votes elect Conservative, Liberal or Labour agents of Capitalism. This economic system is kept in existence because in their ignorance the working class use their, political power to make the employing class masters of the State machine.

How the workers are defeated. 
In the last “General Strike,” and even in smaller struggles, the property and wealth of the employers were protected by all the armed forces of the State. Economic or industrial organisations of the workers are, therefore, rendered unable to take possession of the factories, etc.—they are faced with the fact that the political machine dominates the entire situation and that the State forces are used to defend capitalist ownership against the workers.

Strike action—local or general, industrial or craft—does not enable the workers to become the owning class and end the system. Strikes, however general they are, leave the employers in possession. They may dislocate industry, and even paralyse it—but paralysis of industry is not the object of the Socialist, and does not mean the control of production. To establish Socialism the workers must be able to continue production and produce the everyday requirements of the workers.

Can you lock out the employing class? 
The slogan—lock out the bosses—which is used sometimes, is similar in its futility to a general strike. It may, for the time being, leave the workers in charge of a factory, but does not give them power over the entire economic system of production and distribution without which the workers are helpless.

Factory workers in Italy who tried the “lock out the boss” policy to enforce wage demands found that they could not eat the products of their factory—automobiles, etc. They had to either sell them or get into contact with the other producers, in order to live. The armed forces of the Italian State were able both to eject the “stay in strikers” and make it impossible for them to organise production and distribution in common with the rest of the workers of Italy.

Political action the only way.
The lesson, then, is for the working class to understand their class interests and organise as a class into a political party of Socialists to control political power, and thus control the armed forces of the State.

Having obtained control of these forces the workers can continue production for themselves—socialise the means of production and distribution, and secure themselves against aggression.

Strikes and other economic action may win temporary concessions, but no economic action can establish common ownership. That is the function of political action.

The common objections against political action, and some of the arguments in favour of economic action will be considered in another article.

A Look Round. (1930)

From the April 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard 

Prosperity in America!

That successor to Samuel Gompers, Mr. Wm. Green (the president of the American Federation of Labour), writes in the Daily Herald (March 8th) on High Wages in U.S.A. Mr. Green gets High Wages, like his fellow Labour Leaders, but doesn’t refer to that. He says that the principles for which they contended in their unions—high wages—is now accepted American practice. But his whole article is a series of admissions of the futility of a ”high wage” policy to assure any security or well-being to workers under Capitalism. Firstly, he tells us how obliging the American workers are :
“In industries where trade unions are an established agency, they have added to protective functions responsibility for helping to solve problems of production such as finding more efficient methods of work, the most economic use of materials, higher quality standards, regularising work and the number of work days. 
Testimony as to the practical value of this kind of co-operation was given to the convention by the president of the Canadian National Railways.”
So not only are the workers exploited, but they assist the employers to find ways to do it better. The “directive ability” of the employer about which we hear so much is assisted by the advice of the workers.

* * *

Where the cotton blooms. 

The Capitalists of the Northern States have found it more profitable to have cotton spun in the South, where it is grown—for there “labour” is cheap. About this Mr. Green says :
“During the past ten years rapid industrialisation of the South has come from textile mills seeking “cheap” labour in our Southern States, which have been slowly overcoming the economic handicaps of civil war between the States in the ’60’s. 
Long hours in mills operating night as well as day shifts and employing child labour also, mill villages controlled by the textile companies and paying low wages, have exploited Southern workers. 
They were driven to revolt last spring by work orders that more than doubled their work but decreased their pay.”
These workers have been left to their “fate” by the American Federation of Labour, who supported Capitalist Politics while all the forces of law and State were used to smash their strike.

* * *

The Scrap Heap

In that “happy land” of rationalised industry—which is the ideal of industrial reformers here—Mr. Green confesses that only young’ workers are wanted.
“Another problem which the convention considered was discrimination against workers over 45 years of age. The speed of machine production is assumed to require young workers. 
This idea, together with protective features which compensation laws, old age pensions or insurance plans provide for wage earners, has developed a prejudice against the middle-aged workers because of additional costs their greater liability is supposed to bring to industry.”
“The speed of machine industry” wants the nimble hands of the young-—hence the future is black while the machine is owned by the employers. The last paragraph quoted above shows that when reforms cost the employers’ money they reduce their liability by sacking those most liable to accident and those who would need to be pensioned.

* * *

Not over 25 years of age.

How quickly workers are used up in modern developed industry is evident from Mr. Green :
“The Federation has collected information which shows that some large corporations refuse to employ workers over 35 years of age, and in some cases as low as 25 years. 
The general trend towards decreasing employment opportunity to middle-aged workers increases the difficulties of providing for incomes for old age. 
In addition we have the problem of workers displaced by machinery and technical changes, so that skills which have been developed through years of work are no longer of any value in production. The resulting so-called technical unemployment is very hard on older workers.”
* * *

What a remedy!

After these remarks on “High Wages” in America, the leader of the American Unions tells us that the remedy for the conditions is to remove them from the area of conflict to the Conference Table ! He also advises the workers to practise “greater output,”

Nearly 30 years ago the American Labour Leaders formed the Civic Federation to get together with Employers “round the table.” And the result can be seen in Mr. Green’s own admissions to-day.

22 per cent. of organised Labour in U.S.A. is unemployed according to the Federation of Labour (Daily Herald, March 4th). What is the unions’ remedy ? More Capitalism. Mr. Ford says high wages are the remedy, but he wants other employers to pay high wages so that their workers can buy his motor-cars. When he announced higher wages for his employees he forgot to add that short time was general in his “shops” and that along with the extra dollar a day a greater speeding up of the machine slaves went on. High wages did not prevent his factories closing down many departments recently and when they re-started the pace was increased.

The land of high wages ! The Secretary of Labour recently complained that 2 million workers were getting 1s. 3d. (30 cents) per hour or less. (New York Telegram).

That means practically a starvation wage in a land with a high cost of living.

But more machinery is coming”!

The New York Post (November 18th) says that machinery in industry, mining and farming has displaced 2,300,000 in the last 8 years in the U.S.A.

The lesson for the workers is to own the machines and produce for use.

* * *

The fruits of rationalisation in Britain. 
“There are 153,000 building workers unemployed.” (Chiozza Money, Daily Herald, February 27th.) 
“There are 200,000 miners who will never work underground again.” (Tom Smith, M.P., of Department of Mines, Daily Herald, February 27th.) 
“Some colliery companies laid it down that when they wanted fresh hands no men over 45 need apply.” (Same speaker.)
We were told that the dilution of labour in the building trade would provide work by making houses cheaper. Now after all the dilution there is vast unemployment. The Labour Party are rationalising mines, closing down uneconomic pits, and combining the others with the result that the 200,000 miners “out of work” will be added to. Rationalisation means efficiency in industry and the older men not wanted as they have been “worked out.”
. . . . . .

By the “aid” of the Banks the shipyards have combined into a huge trust, “National Shipbuilders Security, Ltd.,” and the banks will see that before loans are issued the unnecessary yards and smaller plants are closed down.

Beardmore’s recently dispensed with 600 men on the Clyde at Parkhead as their amalgamation with David Colville, Ltd., made that plant unnecessary. Mr. Brownlie, of the Engineering Union, said :
“I think the shipbuilders are adopting the right policy in dispensing with the obsolete and unnecessary shipyards and reducing overhead and administration charges.”
This capitalist view of a trade union leader quoted in the Daily Herald (March 1st) contrasts with the view from the same paper of the representative of the Shipwrights’ Society, who said, “the scheme was one of the worst things which could happen to the employees.” We are assured by this “Labour” paper that the scheme is largely “a financial one,” which means, of course, a financier’s one. A scheme to assure profits to the detriment of wages and employment.

* * *

More work—fewer men required. 

How true the Socialist view of rationalisation is, can be gathered from the figures given by the Daily Herald—the supporter of rationalisation and the Labour Government. Dealing with the Iron Ore industry in Cumberland, it states that last year was the most productive since the war, output totalling 1,050,000 tons. The next best was 1922 with 868,000 tons. But last year’s output was from 10 mines, while in 1922 it came from 30. “Moreover, the number of employees is half the total of a few years ago. The explanation lies chiefly in the increased use of machinery.” And the “Herald” adds that the volume of unemployment in the industry is very serious, and that the position has worsened since the beginning of the year.

25 per cent. of the Lancashire cotton workers are unemployed and over 5 million spindles are permanently idle, and a large number more are only used on short time. Such are the conditions in the highly developed industry—the backbone of British Export Trade. Now they form a huge combine and fewer mills than ever will be required.

The Labour leaders agreed to a reduction in wages of 1s. 3d. in the £, and the employers argued that a reduction in wages would mean more employment for cotton operatives. After several months of reduced wages they are faced with more unemployment than before.

In the weaving branch the employers are rationalising with a vengeance. Mills are being equipped with “up to date” looms; 8 looms per weaver instead of four. Thus the process of speeding up production means more output by fewer employed, and all the time the output is increased the market for it declines. With a view to using the most efficient machinery continuously the masters are advocating the two shift system as in America, but it has not saved the New England mill workers from unemployment.

. . . . .

We learn from the Daily Express that 120 drivers and Conductors have been dismissed by the London Bus Combine. These men were taken over from the independent companies when the Labour Government’s Traffic Act gave the Combine the control of the London ‘buses. The men were dismissed after medical examination and have no prospect of other employment. The London General Omnibus Company is “fully rationalised ” and Lord Ashfield, the director, sees that when the Company pays its “union wage” he gets the goods. They took over the rival ‘bus company’s ‘buses, but the men were not reckoned to be able to stand the terrific physical and mental strain of working the profit hunting ‘bus of the Combine with its merciless exploitation under “high wages.” So here again—combination of capital plays havoc with the worker. No wonder the Minister of Transport (Mr. Morrison) described his own Government’s bill as one of the worst bills ever passed through Parliament.
Adolph Kohn

Gift to Library. (1930)

From the April 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

We have received from Comrade Stevens, “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”

Editorial: War and the International Outlook (1943)

Editorial from the December 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

When war broke out in 1914 the S.P.G.B. issued a Manifesto which reiterated our warning of years that it is the economic rivalries of the capitalist system that contain within themselves the ever-present danger of war and which had caused that world conflagration. We affirmed that the interest of the working class of all nations is not in deciding which nation or group of nations shall have dominant control of trade routes and the world’s markets, but in ending the social system based on private ownership by the capitalist class of the means of production and distribution. Our Manifesto ended with the words :—
“Having no quarrel with the working-class of any country, we extend to our fellow workers of all lands the expression of our goodwill and Socialist fraternity, and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism and the triumph of Socialism.”
In October, 1939, we published in these columns a statement re-affirming the Socialist attitude to war. We said : —
“With the increasing international tension of recent years we have again and again pressed home the undeniable truth that as long as the world is organised on a capitalist economic basis the never-ceasing rivalries will continue to produce conflicts ranging from mere diplomatic crises to gigantic armed struggles spreading over the oceans and continents of the world. The S.P.G.B. re-affirms that the interest of the world working-class—on whom the untold misery and suffering of war inevitably falls—lies in abolishing the capitalist economic system.”
At our 1940 Annual Conference a statement was formally adopted which briefly reviewed the arguments for supporting war, re-affirmed our Socialist opposition, and held that “the consequences of modern wars are such that we cannot envisage circumstances arising which would justify Socialist support for war.”

We are aware that this attitude, unpopular in the last war, is equally unpopular now, particularly in face of the widespread belief that war is the only means of stemming the spread of Fascism and of safeguarding democracy. There are many who would say that they entirely agree with the broad statement that capitalism is the breeding ground of war, but who put forward the argument that military defeat is the way of overthrowing the dictatorships. Briefly our answer to this is that though military defeat may have that immediate result—as indeed it did in 1918—the existence of democracy depends in the long run on the degree of enlightenment of the working-class, and that one of the consequences of modern war is that the nationalist feeling and hatreds engendered by war hinder the growth of working-class internationalism and enlightenment. On this latter point there can be no question. The growth of nationalism in the ranks of the workers and of theories based on the assumption that the whole German nation, including the German workers, are incapable of rising above the barbaric traditions of the German military and big business cliques is proof of this.

We affirm that that way lies despair and disaster for the working-class movement and the human race. The need of the hour is to re-kindle the former flame—weak and uncertain though it was—of internationalism based on the slowly growing recognition that the interests of the world working-class of all nations are one. It is easy and plausible to say that internationalism is unreal and must be abandoned in face of the past unwillingness of workers in Germany and Italy to line up behind their aggressive ruling class dictatorships. Our view is that the decision of the British and other Labour movements (in 1914 and again in 1939) to ally themselves with the Governments of capitalism inevitably weakened the hands of those in other lands who were willing to resist the capitalist-nationalist fever around them. We hold that hope for the future lies in the direction of trying to keep alive independent Socialist organisation free from the charge of having lost its belief in the working-class. We hold that it is the duty of Socialists here to continue their work of spreading Socialist knowledge confident that Socialists in every other country will be doing what they can in face of the difficulties that beset them. At a time when the international fraternity of the working-class is drowned by the roar of guns, we re-affirm our faith that only through international, Socialist action can the future peace and well-being of the working-class be attained.

A Critic of Marx’s Economic Theories—concluded (1943)

Letter to the Editors from the December 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Illustrations of the Alleged Errors of Marx
In our correspondent’s letter (see November Socialist Standard) examples were given to show that Marx was wrong. Our correspondent charged us with ignoring capital and directive ability and asked us to consider the man who builds a boat, lends it to a friend and receives half the catch. The boat builder is also an expert on fishing grounds and directs the fisherman to the best spot. This may be interesting as a hypothetical example of division of labour, but it has no relationship to the capitalist system as it actually is. Capitalists as capitalists do not build boats to lend to friends, or guide fishermen to the best fishing grounds. Directly or through their agents the capitalists control production and look after their own interests as profit receivers, but all the productive process, including the provision of technical knowledge and organising capacity is for the most part in the hands of wage or salary earners—members of the working class. If the capitalist happens to take a hand in production this is something extraneous to his position as a receiver of profits. In the undeveloped small-scale enterprise the capitalist would take a hand in production, but, as Marx pointed out, “the capitalist is relieved from actual labour so soon as his capital has reached that minimum amount with which capitalist production as such begins” (“Capital,” Kerr edition, Vol. I, p. 361); moreover, from that point he (the capitalist) “hands over the work of direct and constant supervision of the individual workmen and groups of workmen to a special kind of wage-labourer.”

Marx went on to expose the error of the capitalist economist who “treats the work of control made necessary by the co-operative character of the labour process as identical with the different work of control necessitated by the capitalist character of that process and the antagonism of interests between capitalist and labourer. It is not because he is a leader of industry that a man is a capitalist; on the contrary, he is a leader of industry because he is a capitalist.”

Marx dealt with the capitalist who claims that he himself creates value. “Have I myself not worked? Have I not performed the labour of superintendence and of overlooking the spinner? And does not this labour, too, create value?” (P. 215.)

Marx pointedly adds : “His overlooker and his manager try to hide their smiles.”

Our critic’s example does not belong to the world of to-day. First, as Mr. J. Wedgewood has shown from the available information, the typical wealthy man or woman of to-day has inherited his or her wealth or the bulk of it: “… in the great majority of cases, the large fortunes of one generation belong to the children of those who possessed the large fortunes of the preceding generation” (“Economics of Inheritance,” Routledge, 1929, p. 104). In short the existing capital is largely the accumulation of surplus value taken from past generations of workers.

Next, the predominant type of capitalist concern is one in which the capital is owned by shareholders who have no hand in the operations of the concern. In ten large, well-known concerns, including Imperial Chemical Industries, Ltd., Unilever, Ltd., and Coats, Ltd., there were in 1936 no fewer than 442,720 shareholders, of whom 193 held between them 36,778,624 shares or units of stock. (“Economist,” 5th December, 1930). Nobody suggests that these 442,720 shareholders have any hand in the running of the concerns they own, except the remote one of looking after their financial interest through the boards of directors. They do not operate chemical plant, manufacture thread, work on plantations scattered over the globe or build and man the fishing trawlers that are owned by Unilever. The chairman of Unilever, who is also director of an insurance company, a candle company, plantation companies in Africa, and fishing companies in this country, does not have to build boats and guide fishermen to fishing grounds.

How remote the capitalist can be from production was illustrated a few years ago by one of the wealthiest women in Australia, Mrs. Scarfe. Having explained that her money was made “by hard work and hardware,” she was asked by a reporter if she “managed ” her own money. Her candid reply was: “Oh, no! I don’t ‘manage’ my money—I just take my share of the dividends” (Daily News, London, 20th August, 1925). Or we may quote G.B. Shaw in reply to Mallock many years ago (not because Shaw is an “authority,” but because he well put a demonstrable, truth) :—
“The notion that the people who are now spending in week-end hotels, in motor-cars, in Switzerland, the Riviera, and Algeria the remarkable increase in unearned incomes noted by Mr. Keir Hardie have ever invented anything, ever directed anything, ever selected their own investments without the aid of a stockbroker or solicitor, ever as much as seen the industries from which their incomes are derived, betrays not only the most rustic ignorance of economic theory, but a practical ignorance of society . . . .”
Our critic’s second example about two publishers calls for several comments.

It is not quite clear what is meant by the remark that the labour embodied in the production of 100,000 copies of one book is the same as that embodied in “several times that number” of the second book. If only 100,000 copies of one book were printed and, say, 500,000 copies of the second book, then much more labour was embodied in making the paper, and printing and binding the second book. If, however, both firms printed 500,000 copies, but one firm had 400,000 left on their hands, we can only say that the salaried worker who was responsible for so misjudging the market that he had 500,000 copies printed in advance when only 100,000 were needed, would get the sack.

Our critic obviously misunderstands the Marxian labour theory of value. Marx did not say that unnecessary or wasted labour is value-creating, but only socially necessary labour.

The labour-time that counts, according to Marx, is “no more time than is needed on an average, no more than is socially necessary” (“Capital,” p. 46). And again, “If a thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it ; the labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value” (p. 48).

Our correspondent has something to say about the authors of the two books—”One was more successful than the other.” He will, however, be aware that some firms, Messrs. Dent, for example, can publish at a uniform price (their “Everyman Library”) the works of authors so much at variance with one another as St. Augustine, Boeaccio, Darwin and Karl Marx; while on the other hand anyone who has the cash can pay all kinds of prices for, say, Shakespeare’s Works according to the different bindings, type, and quality of paper, i.e., according to the different amounts of labour embodied in them. In conclusion it may be repeated that the validity of the Marxian explanation of the working of capitalism cannot be denied merely on the ground that a number of individuals with less than Marx’s knowledge think the explanation inadequate, especially as for the most part they have not understood what Marx says; nor can Marx be shown to be wrong by examples which bear little or no relation to the world of capitalism as if actually exists.
Edgar Hardcastle

Correction.—Owing to misreading a passage in our correspondent’s letter we inadvertently attributed to G. B. Shaw a statement actually made by our correspondent,

What our correspondent intended was:—
“I have said that Socialists and anti-Socialists alike have riddled the Marxian doctrine through and through.”
The first two words were linked together and we read them as “Shaw said, etc;’ and replied on that understanding, the more readily since Shaw is a critic of the Marxian theory. Our printer, however, got the words correctly, and thus the references to Shaw in the November issue, were not called for by our correspondent’s letter.—Ed. Comm.

Mr. Priestley does not understand (1943)

From the December 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Mr Priestley of Postscript fame, has discovered a conspiracy. Not in the Argentine to prevent certain British capital to exploit the production of Argentine workers, or in one of the Balkan States where Kings and Presidents add the prefix ex- quite often, but here in England.
“When the war situation was bad a great many gentlemen and their newspapers suddenly developed an acute social conscience. ‘Yes, yes,’ they cried, to our astonishment and delight. ‘a new Britain after the war … no more unemployment, low wages, bad housing . . . Beveridge …. Equal opportunities. Couldn’t agree with you more.'” (Reynolds, 20th October, 1943.)
Surely, if Mr. Priestley has any memory, he shouldn’t have been astonished and delighted by such an old and well-tried chicanery as this. Does he not know that at all crises developed by Capitalist production, when its continued existence was threatened and could only be saved by the efforts of the working class, that lavish promises of a better life were made? To be forgotten directly the immediate danger was past and when the workers might have been expected to claim the rewards due to them. When they did so they could be assured of plausible reasons for the non-fulfilment of the promises. Sometimes it has been deemed better to frighten the workers and terrible bogeys like inflation are used to encourage them to adjust themselves to the new conditions.

The success of these methods is possible because a proper understanding of the social system, of which the workers are victims, is lacking.

Mr. Priestley continues :
“But since we have begun to win battles and complete victory in Europe is almost within sight, these gentlemen and their newspapers have changed their tune. We hear very little from them now about that new Britain. Their reforming zeal appears to have vanished.”
The tune is the same, Mr. Priestley, it is just a variation. It is occasioned by the new conditions that loom up from the darkness and havoc of the war. Industry will no longer have to curb its activities for the purpose of war. There are world markets to gain and the domestic requirements of the people to supply. These peace-time projects are at present hedged around with controls and orders that disturb some capitalists.

But the workers have plenty of experience of the discomforts of short supply. In fact they are quite used to it. Even when there was an abundance of these things many workers went without, and as long as Capitalism, and its motive of production for profit remain they will continue to do so.

Certain sections of Big Business have to capture the ears of the workers. They have to gain their support in order to legislate for the purpose of giving full reign to their profit-seeking activities. The workers may be told that labour restrictions are the cause of their bad conditions, that the Essential Work order is not democratic, and that they are entitled to the freedom that has been fought for. Thus exploiting the lack of political knowledge of many sections of workers.

When industry seeks its profits once more in peacetime production there will no longer be need for Essential Work orders. Once more the threat of unemployment will take the place of the fine and imprisonment. If anyone doubts the possibility of unemployment then the controversy on demobilisation should dispel any illusions on that matter. Many times has that fear been expressed in leader columns and letters to the Press, that those who have fought and served the longest will return to find all the jobs have been snapped up.

In the same article Mr. Priestley relates the inconveniences of form filling and their like to those other rather permanent features of working-class life, unemployment and undernourishment. He sums it up with—
“Too much red tape is bad, but better red tape than chains.”
Socialists know that the wage system is the basis of Capitalism and the wage-packet the link in the chains of the worker. All our well-meaning reformers see as their greatest achievement the provision of a wage-packet for all, and so the chains are complete. We who understand the nature of Capitalism know why this is impossible, and makes the provision of the dole necessary to fill in the gaps and to keep the workers from utter destitution.

The controls that have been introduced in war time, and which many of our well-known politicians of the Left find so attractive, have been introduced by the representatives of the owning class, and when they have served their purpose they will go and other methods adopted to secure the functioning of capital. Workers will strain in vain to cage or curb it. Capitalism has its own way of working, and never to the advantage of the workers. The workers’ task is to abolish it and the evils and poverty it entails.

The socialist message is the same to workers of all lands.

The abolition of Capitalism and its wages system, and its replacement by the common ownership of the means of life with the distribution of goods solely for use according to our needs.
S. K.

This Interesting World (1943)

From the December 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Turkey in the War?

Newspapers these days make interesting reading. An example is an article by the “diplomatic correspondent” of the News Chronicle (5/11 13), who presumably gets his cue from the Foreign Office. Many moons ago it was stated that Turkey is “Britain’s formal military ally,” but despite this the Turkish Government have taken no active part in the war. It is to be presumed that the Turkish Government would prefer to keep clear of either side in the conflict, but small nations, in a world of big capitalist powers, are not the masters of their fate which they would like to be. After the Moscow Conference, Mr. Eden, on his way home, had an interview in Cairo with the Turkish foreign minister, and the News Chronicle purports to show what might have been discussed. The article states that “Russia thinks that Turkey should abandon her neutrality,” while the “diplomatic correspondent” states that in view of the victories now being achieved by the allies “Turkish statesmen must naturally be reviewing present Turkish policy in the light of future probabilities” and “the weight of any influence she could exert in the settlement of problems in which she has an interest will be in direct ratio to the contribution she has made towards bringing peace about.” What this curious diplomatic verbiage really means is : “Join in with us now, and you shall have a slice of the cake.” It also seems to indicate the suggestion of a threat. If Turkey does join in—on the right side—it will be just one more dictatorship fighting for “democracy.” Turkey has a one-party system of government similar to that of Russia.

* * *

The Sergeant Wants His

The same issue of the News Chronicle contains a report of a discussion in the House of Commons regarding a Sergeant, serving in India, who was told by his former employers that they could not guarantee to take him back after the war. Mr. Bevin, Minister of Labour, admitted that the firm had not committed any legal offence, and stated that he had communicated with them, but that they had shown no desire to change their attitude. Mr. Bevin’s comment was—”I must express my astonishment at their stupidity in not realising the effect such a letter must have on its recipient and my condemnation of their apparent disregard of any considerations other than those directly affecting their own interests.” It will be observed that Mr. Bevin was concerned that a letter should have been written which might disturb the man’s “morale.” It is to be presumed that other employers, at any rate, will make a note of this. Even if they are unable to take back workers after the war, at least do not tell them so !

* * *

Food, Work and Home

Mr, Churchill, however, does realise the necessity of keeping up the fighting man’s “morale,” and in his recent speech in the Mansion House, he said (News Chronicle, 10/11/43):—
“I regard it as a definite part of the duty and responsibility of this National Government to have it set about a vast and practical scheme to make sure that in the years immediately following the war there will be food, work and home for all. 
“No airy visions, no party doctrines or party prejudices or vested interests shall stand in the way of the simple duty of providing before the end of the war for food, work and home. Each plan must be prepared now during the war, and must come into action—just like when war breaks out general mobilisation is declared—as soon as victory is won.”
Either Mr. Churchill is or is not aware of how capitalism works, but despite any guarantees, however sincere they may be, of security after the war, capitalism just won’t provide it—not even if Mr. Churchill still heads the British Government. Capitalism is based upon the ownership of the factories, mines, railways, etc., by the capitalist class, and upon the production of goods and services for profit. No profit, no work, is a constant factor in capitalism, and when goods have been produced so that markets are glutted, and no further outlets can be found, the necessary consequence is that the factories, etc., will be closed or put on short time until the markets revive again. Factory owners will not employ workers to produce goods when those goods cannot be sold at a profit.

* * *

£1,250 Millions in Six Minutes

Another paragraph in the News Chronicle of November 5 reports the voting in the House of Commons of another £1,250.000,000 for carrying on the war. This huge sum, it is stated, was voted in six minutes. Most of this money will be raised either by taxation of the British capitalist class or by loans from that class. When the war is over we wonder whether unemployment relief will be voted for with the same alacrity and on the same generous scale.
R. Milborne

Whose Idea was the Magnetic Mine ? (1943)

From the December 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialists proclaim and prove that wars are the outcome of conflicting economic interests, and are not due merely to the machinations of Governments, whether these Governments are Labour, Nationalist or Communist, or a combination like “Popular Front.”

Likewise they are not due to the intrigues and villainy of individuals, irrespective of whether these individuals are eulogised and lauded as the paragons of virtue, or are condemned as the prototypes of an imaginary Mephistopheles.

Given the economic urge, each section of the capitalist class endeavours to thwart other sections, and secure the raw materials, etc., to beat its rivals.

Failing other means of settling the dispute, recourse is had to war.

Anticipating the possibility of war, all governments devote some of their time to the type of weapons likely to be most effective, and if possible to give research workers support in the search for any “new” or “secret” weapon which, on being used, would cause consternation and havoc (at least temporarily) to the enemy.

When Hitler announced that a “secret” weapon was about to be used against his opponents, everyone else was wondering and fearing the form it would take if it really existed.

It is now disclosed that the “secret weapon” was the magnetic mine.
“The Germans perfected the magnetic mine eight years before the war.”—(Daily Express, May 4, 1943.)
Now, if the start of the war be reckoned from the date when Britain and Germany broke off relationship (excluding the Czecho-Slovakian “episode”) then eight years brings us to 1931, and the government in power in Germany then was a democratic Catholic-cum-Social Democratic one, and therefore the preparations were perfected at that time as far as the magnetic mine was concerned.

Again, fellow worker, we of the Socialist Party of Great Britain wish to impress upon you the fact that wars are fought and prepared for as a result of economic need, and the conscious or unconscious representatives of capitalism will make these preparations, whether the form of government be democratic or dictatorship. Wars are not fought for the settlement of ideological differences. These differences themselves arise from the different economic needs.

Take special note, fellow-worker. The economic need of the working class is the historic need of emancipation from wage-slavery, and this can only be brought about by abolishing Capitalism and establishing Socialism.

The ideological difference in the mind of the worker who is a Socialist springs from the economic need of social emancipation

When sufficient members of the working class (a majority) recognise this need and take the necessary steps to get the political power to bring it about, then it shall be an accomplished fact and not before.

SPGB Meetings (1943)

Party News from the December 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Coal Crisis, Conscription and the Future (1943)

From the November 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Between 1920 and 1939 a serious situation existed for the miners; poverty, unemployment, ill-health and fatalities were constant and recurring features of their lives. They marched to London, their leaders addressed meetings of protest demanding that something be done. Nothing was done by the Government except in 1931 when the meagre dole was cut on the grounds of “economy” and “equality of sacrifice” (with the sanction of the majority of the Labour Government) : a marked difference from the feverish activity now shown by the Government and its spokesmen, when faced with a serious coal shortage. There were no newspaper appeals then nor any broadcasts calling men to volunteer for this “honourable and vital work.” There existed no need to entreat or flatter workers—in fact, when miners sought to improve their working conditions or prevent a lowering of these conditions, abuse was the weapon used against them by the mineowners or their apologists. The miners’ leaders have been referred to as “Arrogant, bellicose, stubborn to the verge of stupidity” (page 96. “The Coal Problem,” 1936, by J, Dickie, formerly Liberal National M.P. for Consett).

During the last two years another serious situation has developed, but this time the Government is seeking maximum production for war purposes, as coal production has failed to reach the figures estimated to be necessary. The severe winters of 1940 and 1941 exposed an acute coal shortage, and quickly the Government’s past policy received caustic criticism. The Economist stated : “It was assumed, far too easily, that, for the duration of the war, supply would be in excess of demand. Miners below the age of 30 were recruited into the Forces, and pits were assisted to close down. This is where the failure of foresight occurred.” (11/4/42). The national press demanded the return of skilled miners from the Armed Forces. Some were returned, but insufficient to stem the fall in production. Then in September, 1942, a district bonus scheme was instituted, which it was hoped would stimulate the miner to emulate the Russian Stakhanov. A weekly standard tonnage based on previous output, was fixed for each district and those districts reaching at least 1 per cent. above this, target qualify for bonuses. While this had some initial success, only a few districts have regularly qualified for bonus, and in recent months production has again declined.

It is this latest decline that has led to widespread accusations of indiscipline and absenteeism, and a call for speedier disciplinary action against the “culprits.” The Daily Telegraph, in a series of articles, suggested that the decline arose from “The pervading indiscipline which is at the root of the trouble”; and while the Economist states that this is not the main factor, it calls for “speedier and more direct measures to deal with offenders” (26/6/43). Previously it had pointed out that: “The main reasons for the decline in productivity . . . are probably the increasing age composition of the labour force . . . and the wastage of trained men.” (15/5/43).

We will not deal here with the charges of absenteeism and indiscipline, except to put on record the careful analysis by the Minister of Fuel, Major G. Ll. George, in the House of Commons : —
“Many Members may not know, however, that the number of absences reported each year involving absence for three days or more is between 150,000 and 160,000—that is, on an average, one man in four suffers injury involving absence of three days or more at least once in the year. There are in a year 135,000 cases involving absence for eight days or more. The industry has a very high rate of occupational sickness, while the miner is more prone than people in most other industries to rheumatism.” (House of Commons report, 23/6/43.)
Those who criticise the miners rarely use this information—they are interested only in the “avoidable” absentee figures (4½ per cent.) given by the Minister of Fuel. Analysis and truth, they are not primarily concerned with—abuse is good enough when threatening the “indisciplined” wage-slave of the mine.

One of the chief factors in the crisis is the fact that coal, like all other commodities, is produced not solely for use but for profit, and will not be produced unless the owners consider that there is a reasonable chance of profit. After June 1940 production was curtailed because the markets of France and Italy were closed to Britain. Many of the pits that supplied these markets either worked short time or closed down. The reservation age of the miners was raised, miners went to other industries or faced once more the crisis they had known for 20 years—unemployment. Again there was too much coal in Britain, and as it could not be sold it was not produced. That this curtailment of production in 1940 is the basis of the present crisis in the industry is contended by Mr. D. Grenfell, M.P. (former Parliamentary Secretary for Mines), who in the House of Commons stated recently : —
“We had more than enough men. We had more than enough production. Pits were closing down and our men were standing idle just over three years ago. . . . There was no shortage. … I warned everybody concerned that we would want these idle pits brought into production; that we should not disperse the men who were standing idle.” (House of Commons report, 23/6/43.)
Note the Labour Leader enunciating the expedient of keeping the unemployed in reserve until production can start again. Another factor is that some coal-owners are concentrating on the poorer seams and are leaving the better seams until the end of the war, or until more favourable selling conditions prevail. This has been denied, but the statement of Mr. T. Fraser, Labour M.P. for Hamilton, indicated that this practice does exist : —
“Men and materials are being directed to this mine but in such small quantity as to ensure the coal will not be in production for some time to come, but will probably be in time for a competitive market after the war. We have two other cases of mine-driving that we allege have been deliberately impeded for years so that good quality, good selling seams may be reached at another time.” (Forward, 31/7/43.)
Even in war the interests of particular groups of capitalists will cut across the interest of the capitalists as a class. Profit is the motive of capitalism—patriotism is for the miners only.

With the recognition that little increase can be expected from the present labour force, the Government have made proposals to attract others to the industry. Mr. Bevin at the Miners’ Federation Conference (20/7/43) and Major LI. George in Parliament (29/7/43) suggested conscripting lads of 16—18 for the mines. This has been met with some opposition, and it has not yet been proceeded with. Few of those who opposed the proposed measure realised that the 70,000 lads between the ages of 14—18 who worked in the mines in pre-war days (1938) were also conscripts, hunger-conscripts. Their property-less position, their poverty and the social conditions around them forced them into the mines. To-day they are able to find work less dangerous and arduous than coal-hewing, so Mr. Bevin is preparing to drive them back to the mine.

Recently a campaign for 30,000 volunteers has been launched; Mr. Bevin has spoken on the radio extolling the industry, and Trade Union leaders promised their help in boosting this campaign. But a blow has been struck that may sever the miners’ leaders from the intended “boost.” The decision of the National Tribunal on miners’ wages to award young miners wages considerably below those demanded was received by Mr. W. Lawther, President of the Miners’ Federation, with “angry amazement.” Mr. Lawther decided, in view of this decision, to cancel his intended broadcast in support of the campaign (Daily Herald, 7/9/43).

May we ask Mr. Lawther the question, “Upon what premises or promises did you lend your aid to this campaign ?” The miners have had lock-outs, wage-cuts and broken promises for 20 years, and this latest “award” is by no means the “unkindest cut.” The events of the past did not prevent labour leaders from co-operating with the ruling class in its handling of labour problems, did not prevent them from popularising the Essential Work Order; in other words, despite the lessons of the past, the labour leaders gave unstinted support to the ruling class to enable them to conscript and regiment members of the working class in the defence of capitalist interests. Where is the difference in principle that precludes co-operation now? Three years ago ample opportunity existed to force concessions from the capitalists; instead, sacrifices were asked from the workers on the plea of “national unity.” We would suggest that it is a little late to bemoan a “disgraceful award.”

Like all other capitalist industry, mining has no joyous and hopeful future for its workers. Mr. Grenfell in the Daily Herald (3/5/43) says, “there should be co-operation between managements and workers. . . . The miner must be allowed to take part in the day-to-day production of the pits. Our pits can be made to work better. . . .” His intention is to secure for the miners “better living and working conditions.” How the proposals will improve conditions is not shown. Apparently it is believed that increased production is the key to improved conditions. A glance at some production figures related to the average wages earned will explode the idea that working-class prosperity is dependent upon output.
 Year Coal produced per man. Average wage 
1920 (10 day’s stoppage) 187 tons £4 6s 11
1922 217 tons £2 8s 1d
1932 255 tons £2 2s 1d
(Appendices IV. and VI., “The Coal Problem.” Dickie.)
In an article on the “Coal Question,” the Economist took a similar view to Mr. Grenfell, stressing the need for more men now, and arguing that in the first stage after the war 850.000—900,000 may be needed to supply Europe with coal. But in the second stage :—
“Europe’s coalfields will return to full work again ; . . . . Then the British coal industry operating with a contracted labour force (say of 600,000) will have to stand on its own feet in competition with other coal-producing countries, and rely on productivity rather than on abundant labour.” (7/8/43.)
What will happen to the 300,000 excluded from the “contracted” labour force? On this the Economist remains silent. Their simple solution to the coal problem is more mechanisation, improved efficiency and unified national control. The Secretary of a South Wales Miners’ Federation lodge showed what mechanisation means to the miner : “Mechanisation employed from a profit motive has made mining into an inferno of dust—the horror of dust sweeping into your lungs until they are solid lumps and you die slowly and painfully.” (Reynolds News, 5/9/43.) More mechanisation—more silicosis.

We can see that the future that capitalism offers to the miners is poverty, high incidence of silicosis, nystagmus (the eye disease prevalent in the mines) fatal accidents at the rate of 1,000 a year, and increasing unemployment. The perpetuation of capitalism means the perpetuation of these evils. The reforms advocated would leave capitalism intact, while nationalisation and public ownership are only different forms of capitalist ownership. The miner’s problem cannot be solved in isolation—it can be solved only when the workers unite for Socialism. Common ownership of the means of wealth production is the only solution of the workers problems. Our message to the miners and all other workers is to study the Socialist case and organise politically for the capture of the political machinery in order to establish Socialism. That alone will ensure the workers’ future.
Lew Jones

Letter: A Critic of Marx’s Economic Theories (1943)

Letter to the Editors from the November 1943 issue of the Socialist Standard

Editorial Committee, Socialist Party of Great Britain.

Dear Sirs,

In the “Socialist Standard” for June 1943 I find the following explanation of how the worker is said to be exploited under capitalism : “The worker is not paid for the produce of his work for the whole duration of the day. In a working day of eight hours a worker may receive wages equivalent to, say, four hours’ produce of his work. The other four hours are given free to the capitalist. It is thus that the worker is exploited under capitalism. Were he paid for the full produce of his eight hours’ work there would be no profits for the capitalist class.”

It is surprising that a paper such as the “Socialist Standard,” which adopts such a scientific attitude to many of life’s problems, should be found in the year 1943 preaching this exploded and ridiculous fallacy of Marx. There is a case for Socialism—many will say a very strong case—but it is not to be found in the Marxian doctrines of value and surplus-value, the absurdities of which have been exposed by Socialists and non-Socialists alike.

Profit may, under certain circumstances, be robbery, but it is not robbery simply as profit. As Arnold Lunn has said, profit is merely a form of payment, and the fact that in certain cases there may be excessive profit is no more an argument against profit than the fact that in certain cases there may be excessive payment for labour would be an argument against wages. The illustration given in the “Socialist Standard” assumes that the only element entering into production is labour, and entirely ignores all other factors. But surely the contribution of capital and directive ability cannot be thus ignored. If I build a boat and lend it to a friend to go fishing, and if my friend catches ten fish and gives me five of them for the use of my capital (the boat), in what respect am I robbing him ? My capital was a necessary contribution to the final result. And if I am able to direct him to the place where he will catch the most fish because I have devoted lengthy study to the fishing ground, am I not to be rewarded for my contribution? Or let me use another illustration. The firm of Brown & Company print and publish a book, employing a certain number of men in doing so. Smith & Company in the next street do likewise, employing the same number of men. But the sales of the first book amount to 100,000 copies, while those of the second book reach several times that number. The profits in each case are different, but the labour employed is the same. Is it not clear that not labour alone, but the manner in which it is directed determines the difference ? The compositors on the first book no doubt worked as hard as those on the second. They put in the same number of hours. But in setting the type they formed different words. These were the words of the authors. And one was more successful than the other. Not labour alone, therefore, but how it is directed and the part that capital plays in the final result must be considered. Your contributor considers labour only.

I have said that Socialists and anti-Socialists alike have riddled the Marxian doctrine through and through. Permit me to append a few opinions.
“Upon Marx’s theory of value and surplus value it is not necessary to spend much time. It has not stood the test of criticism; it is out of harmony with the facts; and it is far from self-consistent.” “The Marxian theory of value seems clearly untenable not less on theoretic grounds than from an analysis of the facts of business.” (Prof. H. J. Laski : “Karl Marx.”) 
“A mass of congealed fallacies.” (Prof. Flint : “Socialism.”) 
“The greatest intellectual mare’s nest of the century which has just ended.” (W. H. Mallock : “A Critical Examination of Socialism.”) 
“Rests upon superstition and upon a wholly superficial misconception of facts.” (Dr. A. Schaffle: “The Impossibility of Social Democracy.”) 
“The widespread acceptance of it among the labouring classes is doubly mischievous. On the one hand, it makes their justified resentment at the working of the economic order take the form of denouncing one definite alleged injustice; and this gives heat rather than light to their examination of schemes of reform. On the other hand, it exasperates those whom they attack by the injustice of the particular allegation.” (“The Labour Theory of Value in Karl Marx,” H. W. B. Joseph.)
Dr. A. D. Lindsay describes the doctrine as “indefensible,” and Bertrand Russell describes it as “not a contribution to economic theory as much as a translation of hatred into abstract terms and mathematical formulae.” Sidney Webb (“The Decay of Capitalist Civilisation“) says that “the theoretic mistakes of Marx are as patent nowadays as the mistakes of Moses.”

Prof. Hearnshaw (“Survey of Socialism”) makes the following criticism : “The Labour theory of value involves two propositions, both of which are entirely untenable. The first is that the cost of production is the only determinant of value; the second that the only active element in production is labour, and that consequently the wage of labour is the only justifiable element in determining cost of production. The first proposition wholly ignores the vital factor of demand as a determinant of value; the second wholly ignore all the factors of production except labour. . . . And yet this fake and now abandoned and derelict theory has been made for more than a quarter of a century (1867-94) on the one hand the chief weapon of the Marxian attack upon capitalism, and on the other hand the corner-stone of the Marxian economic structure.”

Prof. Flint, in his instructive work “Socialism,” states that : “The view of Marx is undoubtedly erroneous. Profits are derivable from all the factors of production, and not merely from labour. . . . Profit and loss in business are not proportional to what Marx calls the variable capital but to the total capital employed in it. To maintain the reverse implies blindness to the most obvious and indubitable facts of industrial and commercial life.”

Finally (for I cannot claim too great a portion of your space), let me quote the words of the veteran European Socialist, Max Beer (“The Life and Teaching of Karl Marx”) : 
“It is impossible to set aside the view that Marx’s theory of value and surplus value has rather the significance of a political and social slogan than of an economic truth. It is for Marx the basis of the class struggle of the workers against the middle class, just as Ricardo’s theory of rent was the basis of the class struggle of the bourgeoisie against the aristocracy, or as the doctrines of the social contract and of the natural rights of man formed the basis of the struggle of the middle class against aristocracy and divine right. Such militant philosophies need not in themselves be true, only they must accord with the sentiments of the struggling mass. It is with such philosophical fictions that history works. Marx’s theory of value explains neither the vast and unparalleled accumulation of wealth nor the movement of prices during the last sixty years. Wealth, measured in values, has, in the last few decades, increased by many times the increase in living labour power. In this connection the old formula: Wealth increases in geometrical, living labour-power in arithmetical progression. The greatest difficulty in Marx is that the inventors and discoverers, the chemists and physicists, the pioneers and organisers of industry and agriculture, are not regarded by him as creators of surplus values. Thinkers, who by chemical researches or discoveries double the productive capacity of the soil and conjure forth values in millions from the waste products of industry; physicists who place new resources of power and new means of production at the disposal of mankind and multiply the productivity of labour; organisers who co-ordinate the forces of production and introduce new methods of working—all this creative and directive work demanding, as it often does, an infinite amount of intensive intellectual effort, is not considered to increase the total sum of exchange values of the nation.”
In this letter I have confined myself to Marx’s theories of value and surplus-value. For a devastating exposure of the fallacies underlying Marx’s dialectical materialism I refer your readers to Max Eastman’s interesting book, “Marxism : Is it Science ?”—where the author proves that it is not.
Yours faithfully,
H.W. Henderson

Reply—An unconvincing appeal to authority
Our correspondent’s criticisms can be divided conveniently into two parts : (1) an appeal to authority; and (2) an attempt to show where Marx’s theories are wrong.

The appeal to authority calls to witness 13 individuals who have given it as their opinion that Marxian doctrines are absurd.

Let us say straight away that this kind of dispute cannot finally be settled by an appeal to authority; if it could many economic theories once backed by distinguishes economists would not have had to be abandoned later—for example, the mid-nineteenth century economists who held that a reduction of hours of work or the prohibition of child labour would bankrupt the manufacturers, and were therefore impracticable. The logical structure of a theory may be examined to see if it contains flaws, but the final test lies in the realm of experience. Does the theory explain what it sets out to explain ? Is it found to be in accordance with the facts?

Now let us examine these quoted authorities and the basis of their authority.

Our critic, seeing that Marx is repudiated by 13 more or less well-known writers, regards the sum of their 13 opinions as being more weighty than the words of Marx. Is there justification for this? Who are these people? Out of the whole 13, apart from Schaffle, who once had a considerable reputation as an economist, none of them have standing as economists. They comprise historians, writers on philosophy and political science, a mathematician (Russell), authorities on public administration, and several distinguished literary men who have written on a wide range of political and social questions—e.g., Shaw, Mallock and Eastman.

If this economic question could be decided by an appeal to economic authority, then Marx’s opinion is worth more than the rest of them put together. He spent far more time on painstaking study of economic theories and the workings of capitalism than any of them. He had an advantage possessed by none, that of having as his close collaborator Frederick Engels, who was not only a distinguished student of economics in his own right, but was intimately acquainted with the working of capitalism through being first an employee, then director of his father’s Manchester textile business. If it is an appeal to authority that is needed, then Marx and Engels have every claim to be treated as vastly superior to most of the 13, and in some degree superior to all of them.

There are other weaknesses in the appeal. If the 13 speak as experts when they say Marx is wrong, why cannot they agree on where he is wrong and on what is right ? They not only disagree with each other, but some of them deny the right of others to be regarded as useful or reliable witnesses at all. Is Shaw plus Mallock any weightier than either of them alone ? Not if we recall what they said about each other. (For the evidence see “Socialism and Superior Brains,” by G. B. Shaw.) Shaw charged Mallock with “rustic ignorance” of economics; declared that “any Socialist over the age of six could knock Mr. Mallock into a cocked hat ; said that Mallock’s “practical ignorance of society” was so incredible that he found it difficult to persuade his fellow Fabians that Mallock really believed what he wrote; and held him up as proof that “even the cleverest man will believe anything he wishes to believe, in spite of all the facts and all the text-books in the world.”

Mallock retorted that Shaw had entirely misrepresented his views, had obviously not read his book, and that “Mr. Shaw writes about myself very much as a man would write who mistook the Book of Genesis for the Koran.”

Now see where the appeal to authority gets us. If Shaw is an authority then Mallock is a rustic ignoramus about economics, and if Mallock is an authority Shaw is incompetent and untrustworthy.

Other similar illustrations could be given, as, for example, the statement made by Laski when reviewing the Webbs’ “Soviet Communism,” that in this book they had “a mood of ecstatic acceptance which makes them blind to facts which it is simply not possible to deny” Manchester Guardian, November 4, 1941).

Another weakness is that the long list of 13 is largely a duplication. Laski (who is not an economist) acknowledged when he wrote “Communism” (Home University Press, 1927) that in his chapter on Marxian economics he was indebted to Lindsay. A. D. Lindsay (also not an economist) in his book “Karl Marx’s Capital” (Oxford University Press, 1925, p. 53) admitted that though he differed widely from H. W. B. Joseph, he had “been greatly helped by his demonstration … of the indefensibility of doctrines often ascribed to Marx.” So Lindsay stands on Joseph’s shoulders and Laski stands on Lindsay’s, and Joseph anyway is not an economist but primarily a writer and lecturer on philosophy.

Next it could be shown, if space permitted, that many of the 13 put themselves out of court by rejecting Marx’s theories without knowing what they are. Earlier this year Shaw, in an article “What would Marx say about Beveridge,” declared that “Marx’s attempt to measure value by abstract labour-power can lead only to nonsense and bankruptcy.” Now this is not what Marx attempted to do. He expressly and clearly showed that value is determined by the amount of labour socially necessary for its production. When Shaw’s attention was drawn to his error in confusing “labour” with “labour-power” he stuck to his error and claimed that Marx really meant labour-power (Plebs, July, 1943). It would be easy to demolish anyone’s theories if we are permitted to re-write them to suit ourselves.

Then let us glance at Laski. In his “Communism” (p. 95) he assures us that, according to the Marxian theory of value, “we can measure the amount of ‘labour power’ in each man’s effort and so determine scientifically how he ought to be paid” (our italics). This may be Laski’s theory; it certainly isn’t Marx’s.

Laski evidently borrowed it from Lindsay, who wrote : “The labour theory of value … is primarily interested in what a man ought to get in reward for his labour . . .” (Lindsay, “Karl Marx’s Capital,” p. 61.)

This is not true, as any serious student of Marx knows. Marx was not concerned with how a worker “ought to be paid,” but with explaining how, under capitalism, he is paid. Laski is equally wide of the mark when he says (p. 116) that for Marx “Commodities have also an inherent value, which is what they would obtain in exchange where society was properly organised.” Laski ought to know that for Marx the aim was Socialism, a system of society in which there would be neither commodity production nor the system of wage-labour.

Is it then seriously suggested that these gentlemen, who do not know what Marx’s theories are, shall be regarded as good judges of the soundness of these theories?
Edgar Hardcastle