Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Doubts and Difficulties: Marx’s theory of surplus value. (1905)

Doubts and Difficulties column from the May 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Marx’s theory of surplus value.
In a recent issue of the Socialist Standard it was suggested that readers having doubts and difficulties as to any phase of Socialism or of the Socialist movement should forward them to the Editorial Committee, and endeavours would be made to have those doubts and difficulties removed. This suggestion has been followed by a sufficient number of readers to justify the setting aside of a portion of the paper under the heading of “Doubts and Difficulties,” and we hope that our readers will help us to make it of permanent interest and utility.


The Editorial Committee have asked me to undertake the conducting of this section of the Socialist Standard, and I have consented, after some hesitation, to look after it for the present. I do not for a moment claim that I shall prove infallible in my solutions to the economic, historic, and other problems set me, but I do not think I shall ever be found wrong. In the event of the answer to any question proving somewhat hazy to any readers I feel confident that they will say so, and every criticism will be ever welcome.


My attention has been called by one of my correspondents to a letter which has appeared in the Social Democratic Herald, published by the Social Democratic Publishing Company, of Milwaukee, wherein a Mr. Henry B. Ashplant, of London, Ontario, takes it upon himself to criticise adversely the surplus-value theory of Marx. He takes and disputes Marx’s illustration of the yarn manufacturer who invests his 27s. capital in the purchase of raw material, machinery, and labour-power. For raw material he gives 20s., while his machinery costs him 4s. and labour-power 3s. When the expenditure of the labour-power has, with the aid of the machinery, worked up the raw material into yarn, the finished product is sold for 30s.


The question which Mr. Ashplant desires to have elucidated is “Whence originates this 3s ?” Is it derived from the spinner, or from the machinery, or from the raw material, or from the capitalist, or from the buyer of the yarn ?


To quote his own words: “Who paid the 3s. realised by the yarn manufacturer ? If the 3s. is paid by the spinner then, I ask, where did the spinner get the extra 3s. from in view of the fact that he enters the market possessed of only his labour-power, which he sells to the capitalist for 3s. only. How then can it be shown that he pays to the capitalist this 3s., plus an additional 3s. which he never possessed as a spinner ?”


Again he says: “The yarn is sold to a third party whom we may call No. 3. Now to which class does No. 3 belong ? Does he belong to the capitalist-class ? If so, then indeed the 3s. is not paid by No. 2 class, viz., the spinner. Does No. 3 belong to the working-class ? If so, then I ask where does he who possesses nothing but his labour-power secure this 3s. which he pays to No. 1 in excess of what he receives from No. 1, the capitalist-class ?”


“As I have before intimated,” continues Mr. Ashplant, “I do not dispute the fact that social energy, including the labour of superintendence, produced the 20 lbs of yarn for which only 3s. was paid to labour, but I do dispute the soundness of the analysis in Marx’s “Capital,” as focussed in this yarn illustration.”


Such then is the contention of the genial Ashplant, who does “not in any sense speak disrespectfully of the great work of this truly great master thinker,” and does not “need ‘Capital’ or the surplus-value theory as marked “out by Karl Marx in this yarn transaction, to explain the terrible phenomena in my industrial environment.”


The amazing condescension in the letter overpowers even my native modesty, so much so that I hesitate to assail “his argument with the sword of my logic with a view to letting out its vital principle.”


What is the Marxian theory of surplus-value? In the first place the theory is essentially bound up with Marx’s theory of value as being materialised labour-power. Value, according to Marx, is the embodiment of labour-power in material articles, and is measured by the average amount of labour-time socially necessary to produce them.


Since value is labour-power materialised in commodities, values can be created only by the expenditure of labour-power. That this is the only source of value must be ever borne in mind when considering the problem of surplus-value.


Marx contends that surplus-value is the value created by the worker in excess of his own necessary means of subsistence, and I, for one, cannot see how our industrial environment can be explained except in terms of such surplus-value.


The fallacies which Mr. Ashplant appears to make are the identification of labour-power with labour, and the assumption, implicitly made, that the sum of all the values in existence remains a constant quantity. Doubtless he would be the first to deny these two principles, but nevertheless they run throughout the whole of his criticism.


Labour and labour-power are two entirely distinct things, or at least, two distinct phases of the same thing. Labour-power is potential; labour is kinetic. Labour-power is the power of working; labour is that power in action. Labour is the expenditure of labour-power.


Value being the embodiment in commodities of expended labour-power, we must look to the expenditure of labour-power—the activity of man, physical, mental, and moral—for the source of all value, whether it be of the raw material, the machinery, or the consumable articles which go to the replacement of man’s power of working.


In taking the division of the yarn manufacturer’s capital into so much money for raw material, so much for machinery, and so much for labour-power, we must bear in mind that the facts underlying the whole question are relative to labour-power rather than to money.


As, however, we are dealing with it in terms of money, let us see whether there are any difficulties which vitiate the reasoning of Mr. Ashplant. The yarn capitalist starts with 27s. which he proceeds to lay out as indicated above, viz., 24s. for raw material and machinery, and 3s. for labour power. Three persons figure in the transaction : the yarn manufacturer originally possessing his 27s., the spinner with his labour-power valued at 3s., and the purchaser of the completed yarn with 30s. At the end of the transaction the first has 30s., the second 3s., and the third the finished product.


Now, the machinery and the raw material purchased by the capitalist possess a value which represents so much expended labour-power, and is measured by a money value of 24s. But machinery and raw materials can expend no labour-power and cannot, therefore, create any new value. In so far as they are socially necessary to the completion of the finished product, their values—the labour-power expended in their own production—are simply transferred to that product.


The purchaser of the finished product receives in exchange for his finished product a value of 30s. in commodities as represented by the yarn. Hence from him arises no surplus-value.


We have to look then to the second party in the transaction, the spinner, to ascertain if he can throw any light upon the origination of our new surplus-value of 3s.


In the Ashplanter theory the spinner, possessing only his labour-power worth 3s., can only transfer an equivalent value of 3s. to the finished commodity in the same way that the machinery and the raw material transfer their value. But is this so ? The value of the labour-power of the worker is the value of his cost of subsistence whereas the value of his labour may be more or less than his cost of subsistence, according to the duration of the working-day. Under capitalism it is invariably more.


If Mr. Ashplant’s view were correct it would matter little to the capitalist what number of hours constituted the working-day. The labour-power of the labourer was transferred to his product irrespective of the length or shortness of that day. But the capitalist thinks otherwise. The capitalist is aware that after the worker has been engaged in production for a certain number of hours he has created a value equal to the value of his own labour-power, and that any additional working on his part is towards the production of a value over and above what he possessed at the beginning of the working-day, and which he continues to possess at the end of that day as the result of the consumption of his wages, which, determined by the socially necessary cost of his subsistence, measure the value of his labour-power.


To me there appears to be no difficulty in understanding this part of the theory of surplus-value, which not only explains the position of the worker in the industrial organisation of modern capitalism, but is the only satisfactory explanation of that position. He is exploited just because there is a difference between the 3s. which measures the value of his labour-power, and the 6s. which measures the value he has added to the commodity—between the actual and the potential value of his labour-power.


To-day also the degree of his exploitation, the extent to which he is robbed, is much greater than is shown in this yarn illustration of Marx. The surplus-value is now much greater than 100 per cent. Many of the workers are producing not twice but twenty times the value of their labour-power, and the parasites who live upon all this exploitation are ever on the increase.


I trust I have made myself clear on this matter, but if any of my readers are not satisfied I shall be pleased to hear from them, and all having difficulties on matters sociologic should hasten to lay them before—

Illuminations. (1905)

From the May 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

[By the flashlight man.]

I have just been reading “Reynolds” for Easter Sunday! Goodness knows, the outlook was bleak and desolate enough as it was, with the cold, and the wind, and the rain, but after reading W.M.T.’s advertisement sheet I fairly shivered.

o o o

H. M. Hyndman had a letter in it, in which he declared that “when, if ever, the Radicals really do re-discover their root, and are ready to strive in earnest to bring about even these minor reforms of our political and educational machinery, then they will find that, though this is not Socialism by any means, the Socialists would give them their most vigorous support.”

o o o

Speak for yourself, Mr. Hyndman, or at any rate only for that S.D.F. which you recently declared was “wholly destitute of political aptitude.” If, in the present instance, it does not repudiate you as its mouthpiece, it will prove how just was your condemnation.

o o o

What a vast difference between H.M.H’s. minimum program now and that of the S.D.F. at the General Election of 1895, when it “adjured” the electors “not to give a vote even by accident to any candidate who does not …. declare in favour of the ownership of the railways, the factories, the mines and the land by the whole people to be worked co-operatively for the benefit of every man, woman, and cliild in the entire community ” !

o o o

It was at that election that the Reading branch of the S.D.F. issued a manifesto to the people of Reading, urging them “to refuse to cast their votes for either of the candidates of the capitalist-class, whether ticketed Tory or Radical” !

o o o

But a change has come o’er the spirit of the dream !

o o o

The Socialist Party of Great Britain holds that the policy of the Reading S.D.F. in 1895 is the only sound policy for the Socialist working-class to-day.

o o o

“It is not true that the S.D.F. has ever declared that Liberalism must be smashed at all hazards ” says “Justice” of April 15th.

o o o

Justice” for July 13th, 1895, had a leading article with the title “Clear The Way.” It contained the following:—”We have to go on— victory or defeat—until we have completely smashed the Liberal Party and convinced its working-class supporters that it is hopeless, and then they will come over to us in shoals and we shall have all our friends by our side and all our enemies in front” !

o o o

In the manifesto to which I have referred above appeared these words :—”For our part, friends and fellow citizens, we rejoice at the overthrow of the meanest and most hypocritical faction that ever played fast and loose with the welfare of a people. Let it be our duty to convert the defeat of the Liberal Government into a final rout for the capitalist Liberal Party.”

o o o

In the same year the S.D.F. Conference was held at Birmingham, and in his opening address the President said : “Never again, let us hope, will the Liberal Party know the sweets of office and betray the people’s trust. That party has been utterly routed, horse, foot, and artillery; and it is now our duty, and it will be our pleasure, to exterminate them altogether” !

o o o
” For truth is precious and divine,
Too rich a pearl for carnal swine.”
o o o

H. Quelch has never declared himself in favour of the use of the bomb” says “Justice ” of April 15th last!

o o o
Ah, me! there are
“Deposited upon the silent shore
Of memory, images and precious thoughts
That shall not die, and cannot be destroyed.”
o o o

“We must adopt any and every means.to realise Social-Democracy. I am in favour of any means, from the ballot-box to the bomb, from political action to assassination.”—H. Quelch at the S.D.F. Conference at Birmingham, 1901 !

o o o

“I have decided not to stand for Bow again. I do so for many reasons, chief of which is, I don’t agree with the policy of fighting independently, but had I the time, and were I in good health, and my business not so exacting, I should have a real good try to get the S.D.F. round to my view.”—George Lansbury to the S.D.F. Executive, Feb. 23rd, 1902.

o o o

“The denial that ‘such a letter’ had been received was perfectly accurate and made in good faith by both Quelch and Lee,” says “Justice” of April 15th, 1905.

o o o

The “denial” was made at the S.D.F. Conference at Blackburn in March, 1902. At the following Conference (Shoreditch, 1903) H. W. Lee admitted receipt of the letter, but had not thought it politic to do so at the previous Conference, and declared that under similar circumstances, for the sake of the organisation, he would follow a similar course !

o o o
“Dare to be true, nothing can need a lie;
A fault which needs it most grows two thereby.”
o o o

The “Watford Critic,” the Organ of the Labour Church, is conducted by F. H. Gorle (S.D.F.) According to it, “Mr. Chiozza Money’s articles in the daily papers have shewn him to be a Socialist” ! ! !

o o o

This has almost extinguished my illuminator !

o o o

“It often happened that the manners of the members of the S.D.F. were far from attractive. If those who preached Socialism were men who could be respected, the men they wished to influence would be much more likely to listen to their opinions.”—A. S. Headingley at S.D.F. Conference, 1904.

o o o

“I call him a damnable, scandalous scoundrel,” (Leaning towards the Alderman and shouting excitedly): “You rotten, whisky-drinking swine ! You dirty, scandalous, old swine ! I’ll pull your whiskers”!— Recent speech by Mr. McAllen, S.D.F. Councillor for West Ham

o o o

“Our views have been placed before the chief authorities, before Parliament, and before the Nation; they are influencing the present attempt in dealing with the unemployed question, and we shall perhaps see, when the long-delayed legislation is proceeded with, that some, at least, of our influence may be traced in the measure.” Social Democrat, April 15th.

o o o

“As to the Unemployed Bill, it is precisely what we had been led to expect, and therefore occasions no disappointment. It is utterly inadequate for the problem with which it deals, and is really an attempt to do nothing while making a show of doing something.”
Justice,” April 22nd.

o o o

But what about “our influence” ?

o o o

Don’t enumerate your poultry before your eggs are incubated. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, at any rate, has never misled the working-class by inducing them to think that anything but capitalist legislation can come from capitalist governments.

The Divine Right of Capital. By Richard Jefferies (1905)

Richard Jefferies
From the May 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

“This is the Divine Right of Capital. Look, the fierce sunshine beats down upon the white sand, or chalk, or hard clay of the railway cutting whose narrow sides focus the heat like a lens. Brawny arms swing the pick and drive the pointed spades into the soil. Clod by clod, inch by inch, the heavy earth is loosened, and the mountain removed by atoms at a time. Aching arms these, weary backs, stiffened limbs—brows black with dirt and perspiration. The glaring chalk blinds the eye with its whiteness; the slippery sand gives way beneath the footstep, or rises with the wind and fills the mouth with grit; the clay clings to the boot, weighing the leg down as lead. The hot sun scorches the back of the neck—the lips grow dry and parched; and—’Look out for yourself, mate !’ with a jarring rattle the clumsy trucks come jolting down the incline on the way to the ‘shoot’; then beware, for they will sometimes jump the ill-laid track, and crush human limbs like brittle icicles with tons of earth. Or a ‘shot’ is fired overhead, bellowing as the roar rushes from cliff to cliff as an angry bull, and huge stones and fragments hurtle in deadly shower. Or, worse than all, the treacherous clay slips—bulges, trembles, and thuds in an awful avalanche, burying men alive.

“But they are paid to do it, says Comfortable Respectability (which hates everything in the shape of a ‘question,’ glad to slur it over somehow). They are paid to do it ! Go down into the pit yourself, Comfortable Respectability, and try it as I have done, just one hour of a summer’s day; then you will know the preciousness of a vulgar pot of beer ! Three-and-sixpence a day is the price of these brawny muscles; the price of the rascally sherry you parade before your guests in such pseudo-generous profusion. One guinea a week—that is, one stall at the opera. But why do they do it ? Because Hunger and Thirst drive them; these are the fearful scourges, the whips worse than the knout, which lie at the back of Capital and give it its power. Do you suppose these human beings with minds and souls and feelings would not otherwise repose on the sweet sward, and hearken to the song-birds as you may do on your lawn at Cedar Villa ?

“The ‘financier,’ ‘director,’ ‘contractor,’ whatever his commercial title—perhaps all the three, who is floating this line, where is he? Rolling in his carriage right royally as a King of Spades should do, honoured for the benefits he has conferred upon mankind, toasted at banquets, knighted by an appreciative Throne, his lady shining in bright raiment by his side, glorious in silk and scarlet and ermine, smiling as her lord, voluble of speech, pours forth his unctuous harangue. One man whipped with Hunger toils half-naked in the Pit, face to face with death; the other is crowned by his fellows, sitting in state with fine wines and the sound of jubilee. This is the Divine Right of Capital.”

Blogger's Note:
This passage of writing is quoted in Henry S. Salt's 1905 book, Richard Jefferies: His Life & His Ideals. I wonder if that is where the Socialist Standard editors originally found the passage?

Correspondence: Evolution by Revolution. (1905)

Letters to the Editors from the May 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

Evolution by Revolution


In the March issue of the Socialist Standard appeared an article over the signature of H. Philpott Wright, entitled “Evolution and Revolution,” which, in the humble opinion of the undersigned, is a positively brilliant production—except for the fact that it is grammatically obscure, logically deficient, historically absurd, and economically unsound.

Mr. Wright endeavours to prove that “revolution” and “evolution” are antithetical or antagonistic terms, and makes this clear by using “revolution” in one place in the sense of destruction, in another as meaning “dissolution,” in another as meaning a “sudden transition,” in another a “catastrophic change!”

Mr. Wright avoids discussing the question Reform v. Revolution on its own merit, contenting himself with arguing that if you are a revolutionary you must aim at revolution, while if you are a reformer you must aim at reform.

But the climax is reached when Mr. Wright says or gives us to understand that the transition from Capitalism to Socialism can be effected as well by reform as by revolution; that is, in his own words, “if Socialism evolves from this system there can be no revolution, for none will be needed.”

Now I, although unworthy, venture to assert that on the contrary, Socialism will evolve from this present system, and one phase of its evolution will be a revolution—the transition from Capitalism to Socialism constituting a social revolution; one essential stage in the transition being a political revolution.

Before we proceed to discuss the point will Mr. Wright please turn to our “Declaration of Principles” on page 1 and read it through carefully? He will notice that after pointing out the economic relation of the exploiting and exploited classes, the Declaration proceeds:
“That as in the order of social evolution the working-class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working-class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.”
Following Mr. Wright’s example I will now give a “little illustration.” I was at one time not a Socialist, in fact, I was violently opposed to Socialism. For me to change from an anti-Socialist into a Socialist entailed a complete and fundamental change in my political, social, and moral beliefs and ideals—in short an intellectual revolution.

Yet this revolution was produced merely by the apprehension of one simple fact, viz., that where one section of the community own all the means of life the rest of the community are in fact, if not in name, enslaved.

The acquirement of the knowledge necessary to the apprehension of this fact and to a recognition of its importance was a long and gradual process, but the apprehension was a single and sudden mental occurrence.

What had happened? I had acquired from various sources (environment) a certain quantity of knowledge bound up with a certain quantity of prejudice and a certain number of beliefs. Addition to this knowledge entailed as a necessary consequence the destruction of a mass of prejudice and the reconstruction of social and moral ideals.

Now what was that but an evolution with a revolution as an integral phase?

From one point of view here was a continuous development; from another a destruction of one “form” and the substitution of one entirely different. From one point of view the process was an evolution; from another a revolution. And as the latter necessarily followed upon the former, we sum up the process as an evolution with revolution as an integral phase.

Much in the same way does Society evolve: for we must always remember that one of the forces whose operation produces social evolution is human intelligence. In fact, in discovering the forces producing or laws governing social development, we have to trace the laws determining the development of public opinion; and here lies the essence of the socialist philosophy first expounded by Karl Marx. I cannot do better than give his own words:
“In making their livelihood together men enter into certain necessary, involuntary relations with each other.
“These industrial relations arise out of their respective conditions and occupations, and correspond to whatever stage society has reached in the development of its material productive forces.
“Different stages of industry produce different relations.
“The totality of these industrial relations constitutes the economic structure and basis of society.
“Upon this basis the legal and political superstructure is built.
“There are certain forms of social consciousness or so-called public opinion which correspond to this basis.
“The method prevailing in any society of producing the material livelihood determines the social, political, and intellectual life of men in general.
“It is not primarily men’s consciousness which determines their mode of life, on the contrary, it is their social life which determines their consciousness.
“When the material productive forces of society have advanced to a certain stage of their development they come into opposition with the old conditions of production, or to use a legal expression, with the old property relations, under which these forces have hitherto been exerted.
“Instead of serving longer as institutions for the development of the productive powers of society, these antiquated property relations now become hindrances. Then begins an epoch of social revolution.
“With the change of the economic basis the whole vast superstructure undergoes, sooner or later, a revolution.
“In considering such revolutions we must always distinguish clearly between the change in the industrial methods of social production on the one hand: this change takes place unconsciously, strictly according to the laws of natural science, and might properly be called an evolution.
“And on the other hand, the change in the legal, political, religious, artistical or philosophical, in short, ideological institutions; with reference to these, men fight out this conflict as a revolution conscious of their opposing interests.
“This conflict takes the form of a class struggle.
“We may in wide outlines characterise the Asiatic, the antique, the feudal, and the modern capitalistic methods of production as a series of progressive epochs in the evolution of economic society.
“The industrial relations arising out of the capitalistic method of production constitute the last of the antagonistic forms of Social production; antagonistic, not in the sense of an antagonism between individuals, but of an antagonism growing out of the circumstances in which men must live who take part in social production.
“But the productive forces which are developed in the lap of capitalistic society create at the same time the material conditions needed for the abolition of this antagonism. The capitalist form of society therefore will bring to a close this cycle of the history of human society, as it has existed under the various forms of exploitation.”—From the Introduction to the “Critique of Political Economy.”
I make no apology for the length of the above quotation. Marx is too little known to the working-class of Great Britain for quotations so important to be superfluous.

It will be seen from this, what indeed Mr. Wright admits, viz., that the political, moral, and social revolutions recorded in history were nothing but re-arrangements of the relations between man and man made necessary by the development of the “material productive forces” of society (the “means and instruments for producing wealth” as the Party Declaration puts it)—in short, an evolution with a revolution as an essential phase.

One illustration from history will suffice: The Capitalist or Bourgeois Revolution in France—The French Revolution.

Just prior to 1789 the Political, Legal, and Religious forms in France were feudal—but at the same time the feudal method of wealth production—viz., individual production by guild craftsmen, &c.—had been breaking up and giving place to the modern capitalist system of manufacture.

Consequently the class-division of society in France was not merely into rich aristocrat and poor peasant.

Firstly, there was the feudal aristocracy, lay and clerical, possessing political power and social privilege.

Secondly, there was the rising middle-class, or bourgeoisie, composed of the professional classes, the growing capitalists, and the lower strata of the priesthood—possessing little or no political power but at the same time the greater proportion of the economic power.

Lastly, there were the proletarians or wage-slaves of the towns and the peasant-serfs of the country, possessing neither political power nor economic possession.

The growing financial embarrassment of the aristocracy compelled them to submit to the summoning of the States-General. The States-General summoned, the bourgeoisie were asked for money, which they granted on their own terms. In short, they seized possession of the political power and proceeded to wield it in their own interest as the aristocracy had done.

This conquest of the political power by the bourgeoisie involved the extinction of the aristocracy as an aristocracy.

The phases of the French Revolution consequent upon the calling of the States-General, viz., the struggle between the Jacobins and Girodins, &c., can only be understood as the manifestations of a class-struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, in which the latter, being undeveloped, eventually and inevitably succumbed. When the monarchy was “restored” in 18l5 it was shorn of most of its feudal privileges—and the return of the monarchy again marked the victory of the landed-class over the industrial capitalist.

In short, economic evolution differentiated society into classes with conflicting interests; with the development of the economic conditions the respective political power changed and with the power eventually went the victory; an evolution with a revolution as its dominating phase.

Just as the economic change developed the capitalist-class and forced them to fight, so the working-class is developed and forced to fight for political supremacy by the evolution of society.

When the workers shall have evolved so far that they conquer for themselves the political power, that day will mark the realisation of the Social Revolution.
—Yours, &c.,
Thos. A. Jackson

Evolution and Revolution.


After mature deliberation consequent upon the careful perusal of Mr. Philpott Wright’s article in the March issue, I discover that I am, (1) an evolutionary Socialist because I concede the principle of development in society and hold that Socialism must grow out of existing forms ; (2) a revolutionary Socialist because the change in existing forms which will inevitably give birth to the new order of society involves a revolution in those forms which I belong to the Socialist Party for the purpose of expediting, (3) an involutionary Socialist because I wish to revert to certain primitive society forms, though I want to retain the advantages of ages of progress.

Now according to Mr. Wright a revolutionary Socialist is entirely distinct from an evolutionary Socialist, while an involutionary Socialist is in complete antagonism to the others. So I am an irreconcilable duality on the one hand and on the other a trinity in violent opposition to myself in two places. I am also a perigrinating paradox and several other things that will occur to Mr.. Wright in the privacy of his chamber, but what am I as a Socialist ? I should like you to fix on a title that will explain my brand of Socialism clearly, but I cannot conveniently call myself an evolutionary-involutionary-revolutionary Socialist. Will you please help me ?
Filius Populi

A Travesty of Trade Unionism. (1905)

From the May 1905 issue of the Socialist Standard

A correspondent sends a packet of literature explanatory of the objects and methods of the Railway Clerks’ Association. It is claimed that this association will serve to secure some betterment of the conditions of clerical workers on railways. It is a Trade Union for railway clerks.

Now a Trade Union is an organisation rendered necessary by the pressure of the capitalist or exploiting class upon the class they employ and exploit—the working-class. This pressure is the result of the constant endeavour of the capitalist-class to squeeze ever greater profits from the labour of the working-class, and expresses itself in the prolongation of working hours, in the reduction of wages, or if an increase of hours or a reduction of wages are not possible, in the maintenance of both in, so far as is possible, a stationary condition, irrespective of the increase in the productivity of labour.

In exercising this pressure the capitalist-class are but functioning as a class of exploiters whose wealth is derived solely from the labour of those they exploit. In combining in a Trade Union to prevent, if possible, any reduction of their standard of comfort, any hardening of their conditions of life, or to obtain where practicable some larger share of the wealth they create, the working-class are but taking the precautionary defensive or aggressive measures natural to an exploited class.

The capitalist-class are fighting to increase or maintain their powers and privileges ; and as these can only be maintained or increased at the expense of the working-class, their greatest concern is to keep the latter in subjection ; to prevent them improving their position, except in-so-far as that improvement is necessary to to capitalists. On the other hand, the working-class are fighting for the best conditions they can get; to improve those conditions if possible, and to prevent them being adversely affected in any event. And as they cannot improve their position, or for that matter maintain it, except in opposition to and at the expense of, the class above them, they are in necessary conflict with that class.

Obviously then, the antagonism of interest existing between these two classes must prevent any intermingling except in conflict. It would be absurd for the officers of one army to be in the innermost councils of the other. Hitherto, although the working-class combined in English Trade Unions have been very far from conscious of their class interests, a sense of hostility has kept them from fraternising with their natural enemies to the point of admitting them to an intimate acquaintanceship with the internal affairs of their fighting organisations.

The idea of employers being admitted to membership of workers’ Unions has ever appealed to the most hard-headed, hide-bound and mentally atrophied trade unionist as absurd,—and the clearer the comprehension of class-interests, the greater the growth of class-consciousness among the working-class, the more grotesque must the idea appear.

How then may we designate the working-class organisation that, coming into existence at a time when the antagonism of interests between the classes was too sharply defined to escape the notice of any man with an eye to see, yet admitted to the domination of its affairs, the representatives of the very class it came into existence, ostensibly, to fight. The Trade Union of the clerical workers of the railways of the United Kingdom (the Railway Clerks’ Association) has done this. Its President and Vice-Presidents are of the capitalist-class, several of them company directors, with at least one railway company director.

As might be expected, the literature of this Association provides curious reading. Whereas on the one hand a number of grievances that require redress are set out and clerks admonished to combine in order to secure certain reforms in working conditions which “individualism has lamentably failed to secure for 60 years and which combination alone can obtain,” on the other hand emphasis is laid upon the fact that the Association exists (among other things) to further the railway industry and provide facilities for the technical training of railway servants, which, being interpreted, seems to mean that facilities will be provided the railway clerk to become a more efficient-wage-slave what time every endeavour is being made to further the railway industry and make it a more profitable concern.

In the statement of grievances would seem to be embodied the dissatisfaction of the clerk with the existing conditions. In the statement of method and objects the still small voice of the company director is heard.

Says the leaflet before us :—
“It is said that the clerks will not join a Trade Union as they object to the extreme measures adopted by most Trade Unions . . . There in no strike and no coercion contemplated or allowed in the R.C.A.
“Membership is not derogatory to advancement in the service, neither is it detrimental to the best interests of the Railway Companies.”
And again, as might be expected :—
“All railway officials (and proprietors ?) approve our policy.”
This is the R.C.A., and a more pitiable and ludicrous attempt at working-class organisation the annals of Labour cannot show. Surely it should be obvious to the most oblique of mental visions that combination in order to secure some amelioration that individual effort has failed to secure in 60 years, implies a struggle. If some benefit is obtained as a result of combined effort, it means that force has been exercised. Those who previously refused to effect a reform have been coerced by a display of force into moving.

And yet in the R.C.A. coercion is taboo !

And opposition is offered to the use of the weapon of the strike, not on the ground that the strike is an obsolete weapon in economic warfare, but on the ground apparently that the warfare itself is bad !

What then is the use of the organisation at all except as a means of bolstering up present railway administration and providing railway companies with servants more efficient at producing profit for the capitalist-class who own the railways ? Why should they voluntarily assist in their own exploitation ? Why should they organise themselves and pay for the privilege of organising themselves in the interests of the class that lives upon their labour ?

What the workers on railways and in every other branch of industry have to recognise is that the utility of combination, economic and political, lies in the strength it gives to fight. What they have to understand is that they can only fight to the betterment of their own position at the expense and to the disadvantage of the class that exploits them. What they have to appreciate if they object to being robbed of any part of the wealth they produce, is that they will not only have to place the capitalist-class in the category of irreconcilable enemies, not only will they have to fight them as such always, but that they will have to beat them out of existence absolutely, before they can enter into the enjoyment of the full result of their labour.

And they will never do that until they understand whence the capitalist derives his power to-day—how it comes about that a handful of people are able to dictate conditions to the great mass of the people.

The workers on railways and elsewhere will have to understand that it is the possession of the land and tools of production and distribution that gives the capitalist his power. They will have to understand that the only way to break that power is to force him to relinquish his hold upon the means by which all the people live. And then they will be class-conscious (conscious of their class interests as distinguished from and opposed to the interests of the capitalist-class), and will appreciate the position which we of The Socialist Party of Great Britain occupy, and will be prepared to work with us for the capture of the political machinery of the country as the necessary preliminary to the capture of all the machinery of wealth production. Then they will utilise their strength not to treat with the representatives of the capitalist-class for the concession of small reforms, but will utilise it with the object of removing the cause of the conditions that give rise to the demand for reforms. Then they will work through their economic organisations and their political organisations for the complete overthrow ef the present capitalist system based upon profit and the realisation of the Socialist Republic based upon justice and equity.