Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Party System. And why the workers received the franchise. (1914)

From the June 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Necessity for the Party System.
“In every historical epoch the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organisation necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch.”
The frequency with which working-class questions are brought before Parliament to-day goes far to prove this scientific truth, so far as its political application is concerned. Industrial questions and disputes occupy an increasing amount of Parliamentary time. Working-class problems as they affect the capitalist, become more insistent and call for more attention from their representatives on the executive body. How to deal with the growing “unrest” is fast becoming the chief problem before Parliament, and mere party questions sink into insignificance beside it.

The inability of politicians to work up issues that will obscure the line of cleavage between the two classes in society, becomes more apparent daily.

Without friction the party system must necessarily be a failure. For although every party question ends in a compromise, both sides carry on the sham fight as though complete victory were of vital importance to them. The working class have to be deluded into the belief that the fight is real, and that they are concerned in it. A compromise effected, a new Act or Budget passed, without being first staged, without the “exciting scenes, noisy incidents and protracted debates”, would be an opportunity lost of deluding the workers. Without friction and agitation the workers cannot be divided to ensure their united support for capitalism – but one of the many inherent contradictions of capitalist society.

“Politics”, says Edward Jenks, “is the business of government”. In other words, politics is the art of keeping a slave class in subjection.

This business of government is really more of an art than most people imagine. The most arbitrary rulers of the Middle Ages could not rule exactly as they chose. Slaves, no matter how docile, hold fast to ideas and customs which their rulers are, in the main, compelled to recognise

Increasing Difficulties of the Capitalist Class.
When a system advances toward its disintegration, the forces encountered by the ruling class demand greater cunning, resource, and courage to cope with them – just the qualities they have allowed to decay while revelling in fancied security. The revolution of the capitalist class in England and France against the monarchy and nobility found the latter muddled and weak – the result of generations of vice and debauchery.

In like manner, the capitalist class to-day cannot supply the brains to carry on the business of government. They have to breed or encourage professional politicians from the class beneath them. The days of their “directing ability” passed with the manufacturing period. The introduction of power-driven machinery, and the growth of limited companies stripped them of their last economic function, and left them without the necessity to struggle. That they are forced to requisition fresh blood from outside their class to fight against the awakening working class proclaims the rapid progress of their senile decay.

The ruling class of our day is a parasitic organism devouring the substance produced by the working class. It is an organism within an organism, and is compelled to adapt itself to its surroundings. It rules, and yet is governed by its environment, and restricted by the limitations of the system it imposes, and the principles it is compelled to adopt.

Compelled to Confer the Franchise.
How the capitalist class were compelled to confer the franchise, and must continually extend it, is shown by the position in Russia during the past few years, where the constitutional question is not even yet fought out. There is no pretence of giving the workers the vote because it is their right, or because it will benefit them. It is given merely because it means an improved form of government. M. Shingareff in the Budget debate said: “Our Government is strangely opposing itself to the all-powerful spirit of the times. It has no organic union with the country, and with its own hands is digging an abyss between the population and the administration”.

Stability is the object to be attained, and the capitalists of Russia look with envy on the English form of government because it possesses that quality in a greater degree than their own government by oligarchy.

Those Ministers and politicians here who realise the value of the party system, speak their minds when it is in any way threatened. When, in 1910, a Liberal finance bill was in danger of mutilation by the House of Lords, Mr. Lloyd George told the opposition they were not playing the game, and that “If the party system were destroyed, the class line must become the line of demarcation”.

Again, in 1909 he said: “Is it not a real advantage to the country that there should be two great parties, each capable in turn of providing responsible administration for the service of the Crown? How much better our system of government, as worked upon this balance, than in those countries where there is a permanent governing class, with all those interests of wealth and privilege massed around them, keeping the rest of their fellow-countrymen in sullen subjection by force of arms”.

Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
Lord Haldane, at the Royal Academy Banquet, referred to the growing education of the working class and the danger of allowing affairs to drift: the crisis could be forestalled by broadening the basis of the Constitution so as to give it stability.

How our masters yearn for stability as their “cheap and nasty” system evolves! But the sands are shifting beneath their feet – the Rock of Ages is not only cleft, but barren.

Party politics are like the murky fluid ejected by certain denizens of the deep – they only conceal for a time. When capitalist interests are threatened by the workers both parties reveal themselves as one class.

That one man should have formulated the principles for both sides in the Parliamentary game is significant, and strengthens the conviction that it is but a game – mutually arranged – after all.

Edmund Burke, says Trevelyan, quoting from Moore’s Life of Sheridan, “has left behind him two separate and distinct armouries of opinion, from which both Whig and Tory may furnish themselves with weapons, the most splendid, if not the most highly tempered, that ever genius and eloquence have condescended to bequeath to party”.

His genius was needed. Capitalist domination was scarcely established before it was in difficulties; Burke, according to Lecky, was its saviour. In vol. III, History of the Eighteenth Century, he says: “It was necessary, in the face of the mass of discontent which was smouldering in the nation, and the growing corruption and inefficiency of Parliament, that each party should have a distinct line of policy. As time went on, these lines, as we shall see, became clearer, and the writings of Burke probably contributed more than any other single influence to define them.”

An Old Fraud with a New Face.
It is the continual boast of modern politicians that we live in a democratic State. When they say “we” they mean, of course, the ruling class. They see to it that neither King, lords, nor demagogues filch their “democratic” rights. But the so-called democracy conferred on the working class is not a semblance even of the real thing. Two thousand years ago Athens boasted in similar fashion of the democratic State, and the chief principle of the Athenians was that while there existed one man in the community who suffered in justice through the operation of the State laws, the others should not rest until his wrongs had been righted. An injury to one held possibilities of injury to all. But beneath this free and high-principled class was another class, chattel-slaves to them, who had no rights but what were willed to them by their owners.

This same description applies to the working class of to-day. They are driven into the workshops of the capitalist by hunger. They must sell their labour-power for what it costs them to live. When the capitalist has no market for the products of their labour they are driven out again – to starve. The over-crowded labour market is the spur to increased activity inside the workshops; greater concentration and efficiency are called for by the masters and easily obtained. Competition and unemployment haunt the modern worker like a nightmare, and every year bring him more helplessly under the control of the capitalist, who dictates all the hum-drum details that go to make up the wage slave’s wretched existence.

Liberal or Tory – what a choice for those who are robbed by both alike and left poor under either! This, they say, is democracy! It is the limit in impudence; the last word in bare-faced hypocrisy. “Millions of workers are stripped of everything but the bare necessities of life”, says Winston Churchill; of what use is a vote to these, when they can only give it back to those who gave it them – the capitalists?

The vote they were compelled to give, though they made a virtue out of necessity and said they gave it because they loved the principles of democracy. But no matter how they got them, the workers have far more votes than their masters. With the knowledge of their slave-position and the courage to organise, these votes can be used as the means to their emancipation. The capitalist class cannot abjure what they have established. The vote was given to secure their own domination; if they discard it they lose control and have no sanction to govern.

By constitutional methods the workers can win their freedom; they have no need to go outside the Constitution until they finally destroy it. So the party system together with the franchise – established because they promised stability – pave the way for working-class victory.

Real democracy will come with Socialism; when the game of party bluff has been played for the last time to unresponsive workers – when the latter are busy with their own interests, determined to enjoy the full results of their labour. The party system will be exposed as a fraud, consciously practised by the ruling class in their own interest. Its records will go down to posterity as curiosities, and future generations may read them and marvel that a working class, sunk in poverty and anarchy, could forget, even for a moment, their own wretchedness, while they voted this way or that on questions that concerned their masters alone.
F. Foan

Blogger's Note:
The quote at the top of the article is from Engels' introduction to the 1888 English edition of the Communist Manifesto.

Socialism in Debate. Part 4. (1914)

From the August 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard
As mentioned in our April issue, it was brought to our notice that Mr. G. W. Daw, Conservative agent for Wandsworth, had stated publicly that Socialists are reluctant to open the columns of their journals to pronounced opponents. We therefore offered Mr. Daw space in this journal for three months to set out his case. The following is the outcome.

[The original arrangement, under which Mr. Daw was to have space afforded him for three months, was departed from in order to give him opportunity to develop an attack on the Marxian theory of value. The present contribution from our opponent, and our reply thereto, closes the debate.—Ed. Com.]

The Case Against Socialism. 

Mr. Daw’s Final Contribution.

A great deal has been made of my admission that evils exist under what my opponents style “the Capitalist system.” But when we examine the causes of those evils we shall find them due, as I stated, to the shortcomings of human nature.

A man inhabiting an old and rickety dwelling may decide to pull it down and re-build on a new plan, but using the old material. The result is that he gets a different shaped dwelling, but the defects still remain, because the old materials are used. So, if it were possible to re-organise society on a Socialist basis, the same defects and evils would be manifest, because human nature and instincts would remain unchanged; and as the evils would be materialistic, the probability is that greed and selfishness would be far more rampant, and assert themselves, though of course in different forms to those to which we are accustomed under existing industrial organisation.

As to Malthus’s arguments having been crushed to powder by Godwin and Henry George, that is a matter of opinion. Some modern Socialist writers have recognised the difficulty of the question I raised, and suggested methods for overcoming it which would place intolerable restrictions on individual liberty, thereby justi­fying the contention of anti-Socialists that under Socialism there would be no individual freedom. The natural tendency of population to increase up to the extreme limit of the means of subsist­ence is a fact, manifest to all who care to study statistics, and argument against facts is futile.

The Editor seeks to score a point because I admit that there is a surplus value. Yes, but not produced by manual labour force. Moreover, under the theoretical industrial organisation prescribed by Socialists this value would cease, because production is to be for use and not for profit. Exchange, as Bastiat observes, produces at once two interests where there was formerly one; and then the price, as I previously pointed out, is largely determined by the eagerness of the buyer on the one hand, and the eagerness of the seller on the other.

Those who carefully scrutinise the theory of communistic Socialism will discern that it is a reversion to a primitive form of life. Hyndman suggests that man lived under communism for a much longer period than he has lived under forms of private property. This is an important admission, because it will be noted that although the world then contained all the wealth, it was undeveloped, and tribes were constantly warring one against the other to escape starvation. Probably cannibalism had its origin in the extreme poverty to which mankind was driven under that communal organi­sation of human society.

In this discussion I have assumed for the sake of argument that Socialism is practicable. Personally, as the result of a fairly exhaustive study of Socialist writings, I am convinced that the reconstruction of the industrial and political order of things, in accordance with Socialist theories, is impracticable. Socialism is potent for one thing, and that is to cause a revolution which could only overthrow civilisation and leave those remaining in the direst misery and poverty. In a word, although Socialism may profess to be constructive in theory, it is destructive in practice.

When I suggest that the workers should set up their own machinery and factories I do not, as seems to be implied, suggest that the workers should steal someone else’s property. My proposition is that the Trade Unionists should devote a few thousands of their five millions capital, now invested in property, etc., and put their Socialist theories to a test. Whenever I have advanced this argument in debate it is evaded by my opponents. I am therefore not surprised to be told that “the working class have no capital.” On referring to the Fifteenth Abstract of Labour Statistics, compiled by the Board of Trade, I find that 100 principal Trade Unions had funds at the end of 1910 amounting to £5,121,529. The Retail Co-operative Societies of the United Kingdom have a share capital of £4,849,926, and a reserve of another two millions; the agricultural and wholesale departments have several more millions. In 1910 the Depositors in the Post Office and Trustees Savings Banks had 221 million sterling in deposits, the greater part of which must be savings of the workers.

If the workers are the inventors of machinery, why have they persistently opposed the introduction of the same? If they discovered “how to control various forces in nature” why have they allowed them to pass into the hands of others? Are our patent laws defective? Let anyone infringe a patent and he will soon find that it is a very difficult matter to rob the inventor. There is as much skill necessary to conduct a business as is required to invent a machine, and whereas the inventor’s task is generally an affair of months, the capitalist has to exercise his ingenuity throughout his career.

I come now to the criticisms in the last issue of the “Socialist Standard.” Utility. I am informed, “is not considered in measuring value,” and bread, by way of illustration, is cited as “immensely more useful—or possesses greater utility—than gold, yet its exchange value is enormously less,” because “the amount of labour power embodied in a given weight of gold is far greater than that embodied in the same weight of bread.” I venture to controvert this statement. In the first place, the weight of the two commodities can have no bearing on the question. If my critic will again peruse “Capital,” page 25, he will observe that Marx is careful to state that for measuring a commodity by weight “the iron officiates as a body representing nothing but weight,” and says “just as the substance of iron, as a measure of weight, represents in relation to the sugar loaf, weight alone, so in our expression of value, the material object, coat, in relation to linen, represents value alone.”

Therefore when my critic compares the weight of bread with gold, as an illustration in the way he does, he is giving an interpretation of Marx which is not born out by the philosopher’s own words. There is nothing in Marx’s conclusions which qualifies his very definite statement on utility I previously quoted from page 8. He tells us you can only measure value by comparing one article of human labour with another—”the most simple expression of value such as twenty yards of linen = the coat.” In anticipation of further questions which may be put to me I submit this: supposing instead of a coat the same material was cut up and sewn into a shape which was of no possible use whatever? There might be the same amount of material and labour, but it would not be the equivalent of twenty yards of linen. Without utility there can be no value after all.

In conclusion, if we are to measure human labour, let us do so fairly. “As far back as 1886,” Mr. W. C. Anderson, I.L.P., tells us “the Commissioner of Labour for the United States reported that in America the machinery at work represented 3,500,000 horse-power, and that 4,000,000 work people were able to turn out wealth to produce which, without power, would have required 81,000,000.” And in 1887 it was estimated that the power exerted by all the steam engines in existence was “equal to the labour of 1,000,000,000 men.” Notwithstanding all special pleading and argument, I, at any rate, remain, a hardened unbeliever in the Socialist faith, that seeks to maintain the omnipotence of human labour-force in the industrial world by blindly ignoring that greater labour-force and wealth producer, viz., steam power.
George W. Daw

—————————-

The Socialist Reply.

Mr. Daw’s concluding contribution empha­sises the truth of our statement in the first reply, namely, that no one has yet shown a flaw in the essentials of the Socialist case. In this closing contribution to the debate we have a number of question-begging statements, but no facts or evidence are brought forth to support these statements.

For instance, what is the chief evil under Capitalism? Want in the midst of plenty due to the slavery of the working class. Mr. Daw was quite unable to meet this point when we first put it. He is unable to do so now, and to fall back on the “shortcomings of human nature” after our analysis of the cause of poverty, is a confession of defeat.

Again, who are the “Socialist writers” who have “recognised, the difficulty” of the popula­tion question? We are not told—and for the simple reason that they do not exist. In our first reply we pointed out that neither Malthus nor anyone else had given any evidence of the “natural tendency of population to increase up to the limit of the means of subsistence.” If Mr. Daw has any evidence why does he not produce it? Our first reply to this Malthusian rubbish has not been touched, let alone met, by our opponent.

We are again told that surplus value is “not produced by human labour force.” We never said that it was. What we stated was that it was produced by applying human energy to the nature-given materials and forces, and we challenged Mr. Daw to show how it could be produced otherwise. Instead of doing this he merely repeats his former statement.

Socialism will not be a “reversion to a primi­tive form of life,” because it will be neither a “reversion” nor “primitive.” We state quite distinctly that we desire the common ownership of all the modern means of wealth production—huge machinery, control of colossal forces, far-reaching organisation and distribution of the results of productive activity. There is nothing “primitive” about this, but only action in line with social development.

The present “civilisation” leaves the mass of the workers “in the direst misery and poverty” to-day. How its overthrow would leave this condition remaining Mr. Daw, wisely, does not attempt to explain. The great thing Socialism will destroy is wage-slavery and exploitation.

Then the hoary wheeze of telling the workers to “set up their own machinery and factories” is trotted out again with figures from the “Fifteenth Abstract of Labour Statistics.” Mr. Daw is evidently quite ignorant of trade union work or responsibilities, or he would know that only a small portion of the £5,000,000 is invested in property. The larger portion has to be kept in readiness to meet the continual Sick and Death Benefit claims, as well as to furnish dispute pay.

As we mentioned in the June “S.S.,” it would be absurd to suppose that any serious critic would suggest the withholding of these benefits to buy machines or factories. The co­-operative societies are not restricted to working men. Anyone can take up shares in most of them, no matter which class he belongs to. Ah! but what of the 221 millions sterling in the Post Office and other savings banks? We are told that the greater part of this “must be savings of the workers.” Why “must be”? Can Mr. Daw or anyone else give any evidence to support this claim ? We say they cannot. It is largely baseless assertion. It is true that the bulk of the trade unions’ funds are deposited in the Post Office Savings Bank to meet their current liabilities ; but these having been already reckoned in the trade unions’ funds, should be deducted from the Post Office account. Again, a number of businessmen put money in the Post Office, while, where competition is keen, or some scheme of bankruptcy is contemplated, the funds are often deposited in the names of the various members of the family. Where workers do put any savings in the bank, these, as we said before, are only the few pence scraped off the wages to provide against serious sickness or unemployment. It would be useless for this purpose in the form of shares in a factory, for it could not be turned into cash when wanted.

But all these stale old quibbles of Mr. Daw are quite beside the point. It is a sheer dirty insult to tell the working class, who are robbed of the whole of the means of wealth production—means of production which they alone fashion and operate—that they should pinch and starve themselves a little more to put their tiny mite into a factory or works. Let the workers stop the robbery and take possession of what is rightly theirs—the means necessary to live.

The question of the inventor and machinery has already been fully met in the June and July issues of the “S.S.” Our opponent, instead of trying to meet the refutation given to his previous statement, merely repeats it like a parrot. As to it being difficult to rob an inventor, only an appalling ignorance of the history of inventions could excuse so false a statement. From the day when Arkwright robbed Paul Kay to the time when Carnegie robbed John Breslin the growth of modern industry has shown countless instances of inventors being robbed of their discoveries by capitalists.

Note first that the onus is thrown on the inventor to prove his claim. The capitalists’ agents, the lawyers, raise every technical point and quibble the laws are so prolific of, and often in cases where the inventor does go to law he loses on some small legal shuffle that does not concern the essential questions at all. John Breslin was unable to pay the fees for hearing the case in the Court of Appeal. Even the mere stamps for the documents cost more than many working men can pay.

As for our patent laws being defective, we have only to point to the fact that to take out a full patent costs about £100, and most inventors would be glad of a hundred pence by the time they have worked out their drawings and made their models. The law is most effective—for the capitalists !

We are then told that “There is as much skill necessary to conduct a business as is required to invent a machine,” and that “the capitalist has to exercise his ingenuity throughout his career.”

The careful reader will see that there is absolutely no connection between these two statements. If Mr. Daw means to suggest—for he does not say it—that the capitalist “conducts” or manages his business we have already denied this in our first statement of our case. All the management of business, as well as the manipulation of machinery, is done by wage-slaves—a fact Thomas Lipton admitted to the shareholders of Liptons Ltd. when referring to the Army canteen scandals.

After having proved how little Mr. Daw understands Marx, it is rather refreshing to be referred to the portion we ourselves quoted. We never said that weight determined or measured value. We simply pointed out, that Mr. Daw’s illogical and confused statements on utility being the measure of value, because it always had to be present, was similar to saying that volume measured weight instead of density. Simple as our explanation was it was evidently beyond our opponent’s mental capacity.

Whenever two things are compared in any science or sphere some basis has to be taken to measure from. We may compare yards of silk with pounds of coffee or tons of iron or ounces of gold, and it is evident to the poorest intelli­gence that, having taken a given unit to begin with, it must be kept throughout the calculation. Gold is usually dealt with in small quantities, and the ounce is the unit of weight generally used in England. Now take our illustration.

Why does a given quantity of gold—say an ounce—not exchange for the same quantity of bread? Every schoolboy knows that an enormous number of ounces of bread (over 12,000), usually reckoned in multiples called pounds, exchanges for one ounce of gold ; yet the utility of one ounce of bread is much greater than that of one ounce of gold. It is simply idiotic for Mr. Daw to say that weight has nothing to do with it. He must take some unit quantity for comparison or obviously he cannot compare at all. The particular unit he chooses does not affect the question in the slightest. Let him take equal volumes if he prefers ; still the same dilemma faces him. Why does a bushel of gold exchange for a large number of bushels of bread, despite the greater utility in the latter?

Note how Mr. Daw shuffles round this point by failing to give the slightest indication of how utility can be measured. Yet indeterminate as he leaves it, he tries to claim it determines value. His last point on machinery and steam has already been fully met in our June issue. Instead of looking at our reply Mr. Daw merely repeats statements that have already been pulverised. Discovery of machinery and steam power and the manipulation of these forces are entirely due to the working class, not to the capitalists.

This debate has been successful in exposing another empty braggart—an agent of the capitalist class—who, evidently lacking the ability to understand the Socialist case, sets up as a powerful critic and demolisher of the “Red Spectre.” This claim sounded very well until he met the Socialists, and then his empty boast and pitiful lack of even an elementary knowledge of Socialism were fully exposed.

No one, whether a member of the capitalist class or a renegade from the workers’ ranks, has yet shown a flaw in the case for Socialism, because it is based upon the irrefutable facts of social life and development. Its propaganda steadily grows. The way in which the various agents of the master class, in pulpit and in Press, in the political field and in the economic arena, are all shrieking against Socialism, proves not only what progress its propaganda is making, but also the hate and dread in which the capitalist class hold the force that will wipe them out cf existence.
Ed. Com.

Socialism in Debate. Part 3. (1914)

From the July 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard
As mentioned in our April issue, it was brought to our notice that Mr. G. W. Daw, Conservative agent for Wandsworth, had stated publicly that Socialists are reluctant to open the columns of their journals to pronounced opponents. We therefore offered Mr. Daw space in this journal for three months to set out his case. The following is the outcome.

The Case Against Socialism. 

Mr. Daw’s Third Contribution.

Marx on machinery.
Karl Marx, in his work, “Das Capital,” explains to the world the economic basis not of Socialism, but of existing forms of industrialism, as viewed from a Socialist standpoint. In his discursive analysis and criticism of labour he seeks to fit existing conditions to preconceived theories, which may be summed up in the statement that the capitalist employers obtain all their surplus-value, viz., profit, from unpaid labour, and that without such labour, wealth would be non­ existent; that the amount of socially necessary human labour expended on a commodity alone determines its value in exchange for any other commodity. On this question of value he fails to realise that it is not objective but subjective. In other words, value is not a property inherent an the article, but a condition of mind which values a commodity when it is not an actual necessity, in which case supply and demand are the dominating factors. If these premises are wrong, how is it that gold is more valuable than silver? The difference in the labour necessary to obtain them does not account for the difference in value. This is admitted in a different form by Marx himself, when he says: “Nothing can have value without being an object of utility. If the thing is useless, so is the labour contained in it; labour does not count as labour, and therefore creates no value.” It is a perfectly fair deduction to draw from Marx’s own proposition, that utility, and not labour, is the basis of the exchange-value of commodities.

The cost of production is the point below which value cannot fall, at least, not permanently. But even the cost of production, does not depend on human labour alone. Steam propelled machinery is both producer of commodities and of wealth by reason of its facilitating transport. Now, it is impossible for such an observant mind not to have perceived this; but whilst unable to ignore the fact, Marx evades the obvious conclusion. “Modern industry,” he writes, “raises the productiveness of labour to an extraordinary degree; it is by no means equally clear that this increased productive force is not on the other hand, purchased by an increased expenditure of labour.” What is certainly obvious is that whilst Marx felt bound to acknowledge that machinery had increased productiveness to an “extraordinary degree,” he was what we should call in common parlance, “in a regular fix.” Here was an outside productive medium which could not be claimed as human labour or skill. He could only venture a guess that its use necessitated the employment of more human labour. Was this supposition correct? Was this increased production the result of an equal increased amount of human labour? I will let Marx answer for himself:
“If it be said that 100 million people would be required in England to spin with the old spinning wheel the cotton that is now spun by 500,000 people, this does not mean that the mules took the place of those millions who never existed. It means only this, that many millions of workpeople would be required to replace the spinning machine.” (p. 429.) 
Yes, to “replace the spinning machine.” Marx here gives away his case against machinery. The difference in the output by the employment of machinery is admitted by him to be equal to the labour of 99½ million people. As that quantity of human labour “never existed,” from whence does it come? Steam power applied to machinery. But mark well how cleverly Marx endeavours to obscure the issue. It is smart, but not straightforward.

After this it is useless for the philosopher to inform any practical man that “machinery, like every other component part of constant capital, creates no new value, but yields up its own value to the product that it serves to beget. In as far as the machine has value, and in consequence imparts that value to the product, it forms an element in the value of that product,” and here follows a conclusion which is absurd: “Instead of being cheapened, the product is made dearer in proportion to the value of the machine.” Two inferences are to be drawn from this statement: (1) That the manufacturer, by employing machinery, increases the cost of his goods, and so, by dispensing with the machine, he would cheapen the cost of production. (2) That the manufacturer employing cheaper, and consequently less efficient machinery, would have an advantage over a rival using more expensive machinery.

Machinery supplants the human skill and labour-power, so that, to quote the S.P.G.B. Manifesto, the worker has “lost his skill as craftsman and become a machine minder.” The skill and labour-power is derived from the machine, whilst the man has become in many instances a mere minder, or overlooker. If the capitalist exploits anything it is the machine. Yet on the following page of this manifesto we are gravely informed that wealth is produced by “labour-power” and is produced “by the working class alone.” If it be not true, Socialists say, take away the workers and where would the capitalist and his machinery be? This is plausible, but not conclusive reasoning.

To realise the fallacy of such an argument we may retort by asserting that without light no one could work, therefore all wealth is due to light. In order to give labour the foremost place as sole producer, Marxists are driven to adopt a process of reasoning which is not in accordance with facts. In the passage I have quoted from Marx, he admits the existence of a quantity of commodities from the machine spinning looms which cannot be accounted for by human labour-power. But he says it is impossible for profit to come from the machine itself beyond its own deperishment, which must be comparatively small. He ignores the fuel, which imparts an energy and labour force which is beyond all comparison with the labour expended in mining. Marx’s contention is that the profit the employer makes is from the unpaid human labour only. If that be so, then the manufacturers must be fools, for they are continually seeking to use more machinery to supplant human labour and thus lessen the profits; but, as the late Harry Quelch admits in one of his pamphlets: “It is to the capitalists’ interest to employ as few men as possible.”

Marx devotes much space to the careful analysis of the processes of labour applied to production, and makes endless comparisons; but he is, strange to say, silent on one very important point in his investigation.

While admitting that steam power enters into competition with muscle, he does not attempt to explain what peculiar property there is in human labour-power and skill (differing from the machine), by which he says it imparts three or four times the sum paid in wages by the employer. In one passage of his work Marx admits that “so soon as the handling of this tool becomes the work of a machine, then, with the use-value, the exchange-value too of the workman’s power vanishes” (p. 431). “But machinery acts as a competitor who gets the better of the workman and is constantly on the point of making him superfluous” (p. 436); further on he is compelled to admit that the “immediate result of machinery is to augment surplus-value and the mass of products in which surplus-value is embodied” (p. 446). After making these admissions Marx evades the logical conclusion and follows with a disquisition on surplus-value as if it came from human labour-power alone, conveniently dropping all further reference to steam power, and he concludes by asserting that all surplus-value, whatever particular form it may subsequently crystallise into, is in substance the materialisation of unpaid labour. Perhaps some Marxist will now explain why the employer’s surplus value comes from the human worker and practically nothing from the machinery. And when he has done so, he may then proceed to explain how it is that, if the employer’s profits depend on the surplus-value of the labour he employs, he so often fails in his business.
G. W. Daw.

——————————

The Socialist Reply.

Our opponent’s first point is that Marx failed to realise that “value is not objective but subjective,” and the illustration of the relation of gold to silver is taken with the totally inaccurate assertion that: “The difference in the labour necessary to obtain them does not account for the difference in value.” Then what does ? As Marx has already shown (“Capital,” p. 7), much more labour-time on the average is required to produce an ounce of gold than an ounce of silver ; hence the greater value of the former.

No matter what value a capitalist may “subjectively” place upon the commodities he owns, he finds the exchange-relationships determined by the general social conditions of production, without the slightest reference to his personal views in the matter at all. In fact, Mr. Daw admits this when he says: “The cost of production is the point below which value cannot fall, at least, not permanently.” This certainly contradicts any idea of “subjective” value determining exchange.

Again, as Marx has so well shown (“Capital,” p. 3, and “Value, Price, & Profit,” pp. 19-20), “supply and demand” only decide fluctuations of price. These fluctuations are about the line of value. Can our opponent tell us what decides the point at which equilibrium is reached when supply and demand equal each other if it is not the average labour-time under the prevailing conditions of production?

Mr. Daw is quite at sea in handling the quotation from Marx on utility. Utility is the subject, but not the measure, of value. A masterly exposition of this, with a splendid illustration of the factor of weight, is given on pages 25-26 of “Capital.”

Our opponent might just as well argue that volume, instead of density, is the basis of weight, because all things possessing weight have volume. But, as the old phrase has it, “a pound of feathers is as heavy as a pound of lead” ; and just as volume is not considered in determining weight, so utility is not considered in measuring value. One simple illustration will make this clear. Bread is immensely more useful—or possesses greater utility—than gold, yet its exchange value is enormously less. Why? Only one explanation answers the question—the amount of labour-power embodied in a given weight of gold is far greater than that embodied in the same weight of bread.

We are told, however, that “even the cost of production does not depend on human labour alone. Steam propelled machinery is both producer of commodities and of wealth [sic] by reason of its facilitating transport.”

In our last reply (June “S.S.”) we pointed out how machinery of any kind is useless without labour-power. It is quite true—as pointed out there—that the discovery of the mechanical powers and of the control of certain natural forces, increases the productivity of labour-power, but as claimed in the opening paragraph of our first reply, in the May “S.S.,” the only people who operate this machinery and manipulate these forces are the members of the working class. They, then, are obviously the ones exploited, as without them the machinery would be idle.

So far is it from being “useless” for Marx to say that “machinery, like every other component part of constant capital, creates no new value, but yields up its own value to the product it serves to beget,” that it is just this that is tabulated on every balance sheet of every industrial firm in ordinary business.

If a machine costs a thousand pounds and lasts on an average ten years, then each year’s balance sheet will show an item of 10 per cent. (or £100) under the heading of “Depreciation” for that machine. This amount is counted in the cost of production, and divided among the number of commodities turned out during the year. Thus no more than its own value is imparted to the articles by the machine. But now take the labourers. What they receive is always less than the value they turn out, and it is the only item on the balance sheet showing such a difference—such a surplus.

Mr. Daw’s misunderstanding of Marx in the other quotation given is simply extraordinary. The “increased expenditure” of labour mentioned by Marx refers, of course, to the greater speed and intensity with which the individual is burdened, as shown in page after page of the section quoted from. See, in particular, pages 391 to 417. Marx never maintained the absurdity that Mr. Daw tries to place on him, that a machine required more labourers to produce the same amount of wealth in a given time. No one showed the contrary more clearly. See pages 430 to 448 of “Capital.” And Mr. Daw is treading on very thin ice when he refers to Marx’s statements being “smart, but not straightforward,” as the quotation that he refers to as “after this” occurs 26 pages before, i.e., on page 383. Here Marx—as every reader of the section knows—is comparing the cost of modern machinery with the old handicraft tools, and it is obvious to the poorest intelligence, that the product of a day’s working with a modern machine has more value transferred from that machine than the product of a day’s working with hand tools has. Or to quote the same page, “it is as clear as noon-day that machines and systems of machinery . . . are incomparably more loaded with value than the implements used in handicraft.” The day’s product is therefore dearer, but the number of products being so much greater, each individual article is cheaper. As shown above, however, the best division of time to take is the average life of the machine, and compare the two methods upon that basis.

The above shows how stupid and childish are the “two inferences” our opponent attempts to draw from Marx’s statement.

Our previous contribution shows the absurdity of Mr. Daw’s statement that the capitalist “exploits the machine.” But we are told that by our reasoning it can be shown that all wealth “is due to light.” What a pity it is for Mr. Daw’s illustration, that men work in so many dark places, such as mines, and so on. Any schoolboy could see that light is not the essential factor in wealth production in the economic sense. Light exists where no wealth is produced, but on the other hand no wealth is produced where labour-power does not exist. Twist as they may the defenders of capitalism cannot find a single loophole in the Socialist case, as all the wriggles of our opponent show.

To say Marx “ignores the fuel” is met, among countless other instances, by page 384, where Marx refers to this and the other “forces furnished by nature without the help of man.”

The manufacturers only seek “to use more machinery” because, as shown in “Capital” on the pages given, and in our own contributions, it enables them to more fully exploit the workers employed. To say that Marx “does not attempt to explain what peculiar property there is in human labour-power and skill by which it imparts three or four times the sum paid in wages,” shows either an ignorance of what Marx said, or a deliberate dodging of what he wrote. The point is dealt with in numerous portions of Marx’s writings, and is specially analysed in pages 166 to 180 of “Capital.” Anyone—opponent or friend—who is interested, is advised to read the chapter entitled, “The Labour Process” for a complete answer to Mr. Daw. The peculiar thing about labour-power, as Marx proves, is that it is “a source not only of value, but of more value than it has itself.” (“Capital,” p. 175.)

The only “admission” about the quotation from page 446, is that machinery enables the capitalists to rob the workers of greater quantities of wealth than previously, an “admission” that all Socialists cheerfully agree to. There is no dropping of any “logical conclusion” by Marx, but only the fuller working out of that conclusion by examination from various sides.

Several Marxists have already shown both “how” and “why” surplus value “comes from the human worker and practically nothing from machinery.” The best instance is to be found in pages 156 to 180 of a book called “Capital,” written by a person named—Karl Marx.

The chief reason for failures in business is the fact that the big concern with the large capital, having the greater powers of exploitation, is able to beat the relatively small competitor out of existence. But it must be carefully noted that, though individuals may fail here and there, the capitalist class not only do not fail, but grow richer year by year.
Ed. Com.

Socialism in Debate. Part 2. (1914)

From the June 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard 
As mentioned in our April issue, it was brought to our notice that Mr. G. W. Daw, Conservative agent for Wandsworth, had stated publicly that Socialists are reluctant to open the columns of their journals to pronounced opponents. We therefore offered Mr. Daw space in this journal for three months to set out his case. The following is the outcome.

Link to Part 1. 

The Case Against Socialism. 

Mr. Daw’s Second Contribution.
The statement in the opening paragraph of the reply to my previous contribution may claim to be the key-stone to the Socialist case, viz., that all existing wealth “is produced by the application of human labour-power to nature-given materials.” It has probably gained more adherents to Socialism than any other argument advanced by propagandists. No defender of Capitalism, we are assured, has been able to show a flaw in the statement. Nevertheless, we shall find on examination that this invulnerable argument is based on a partial suppression of relevant facts.

Existing wealth owes its origin not to two, but four primary agencies. (1) The nature-given material. (2) Machinery propelled by steam or electricity. (3) Labour. (4) Invention and Design. The Socialist argues that without labour, the material would be useless, but pursuing this method of deductive reasoning, we may contend that without demand there would be no value, for as Marx himself admits, “nothing can have value without being an object of utility,” and the same writer, referring to nature’s gifts, says “We see, then, that labour is not the only source of wealth.” It is obvious that labour without material is valueless, for labour creates nothing of itself, but merely shapes or changes the form of matter already existing.

We have now three sources of wealth recognised. It is when we come to machinery and design as wealth producers that the contention arises. Machinery is the most important item because it is the multiplier of wealth, to which we are indebted for that surplus value which Socialists use to dazzle the eyes of the proletariat.

“This wealth is all produced by your labour-power” the Socialist says in effect, “and is appropriated by the capitalists. They are robbers and you are the victims.” If this wealth was all produced by human labour-power, such a statement would be just, but it is not true. Machinery effected an industrial revolution which largely supplanted human skill, and steam power reduced human labour-power in the process of manufacture to such an insignificant part that the early manufacturers who first availed themselves of its agency, dispensed with men and—to their lasting disgrace—employed children of tender age to attend the same. But these employers of Lancashire and Yorkshire were not aristocrats, but all self-made men. A writer in “Justice” (9.12.1905) “estimated that of all work done by this country, an average of 84 per cent. was done by steam power.” To day it is not the workman that employs the instrument of labour, but the instrument of labour that employs the workman. When we examine the part steam power and machinery take in distribution, this is more plain. In past ages haulage was done by man. He carried produce on his back. To day the steam engine carries tons of merchandise and the workmen are driver and stoker.

Now let us examine the claim of the designer to be considered as a contributor to wealth. If I desire to become a ship owner I must utilise materials, labour, machinery, capital, and an architect to design the vessel. The material may be the best that can be obtained, the labour the most skilled, both human and mechanical, but when the ship is launched it has such a heavy list that it is condemned as unseaworthy and therefore useless. Labour and material alone, unaided by a competent designer, fail to produce wealth. As with the ship, so we shall find on examination, design, in one form or another, play an all-important part in wealth production. Two men start life with the same opportunities, the same capital and equipment, yet whilst one amasses a fortune, the other lands in the Bankruptcy Court. The different results are not due to the labour employed by each—both being equal—but owing to the inequality of business capacity on the part of the two men.

It is, however, when we come to the inventor and the machinery he has designed that the absurdity of the Socialist claim becomes most apparent. For centuries human labour-power plodded along, turning out with no appreciable variation, the same amount of goods per man. Of production in those times it might be said with truth that wealth was due to human labour, plus material ; but it was comparative poverty. WE ARE INDEBTED TO THE INTRODUCTION OF MACHINERY, AND THE SUBSTITUTION OF STEAM-POWER FOR HUMAN LABOUR-POWER, FOR THE ENORMOUS SURPLUS WEALTH OF TODAY. These are facts which cannot be gainsaid, and to read the futile attempts of Marx and his followers to evade this fatal flaw in their argument provides amusement which is seldom found in the pages of professed economic works.

The contention of Marxists is that the use of machinery is to exploit labour, and of itself creates no value. “The surplus-value comes from unpaid labour only.” This surplus-value is said to be the difference between the cost of the labour-power to the capitalist and the amount of labour-power he is able to extract from his work people. This is Marx as interpreted by Bax and Quelch in their “New Catechism of Socialism.”

Then how stupid the capitalist employers must be to spend millions on the installation of steam power and machinery, which “create no value” and reduce the number and quantity of human labour power, from which alone profit is produced !

Of course, all Marxists do not take this view. For instance, Mr. H. M. Hyndman informs us in “England for all,” that “the riches due to machinery have gone to the few.” That the rich alone have benefitted is not true, but even if wholly accurate, I would emphasise the admission that this wealth is the result of the exploitation of machinery, and not men.

I have often met with the retort on the platform that the machinery was made by the workers. My reply is that it was designed by the few, and violently opposed by the industrial classes because they recognised that the machinery was a substitute for human muscle power, in fact, it was doing their work. The capitalists had discovered a substitute for human labour-power and skill, which was able to produce wealth in far greater abundance. The old hand-loom weavers became machine-minders. Bearing on this I ask, if labour makes the machinery, how can capitalists maintain an exclusive monopoly ? There is sufficient capital in the hands of the employed to acquire their own instruments of production.

If the workers are robbed of two-thirds of what they produce, they would, by setting up as their own masters, reap enormous profits, which would enable them to drive all competitive capitalist employers out of the market. The capitalists have no monopoly of human labour-power, or of the market—viz., the consumers. Anyone with capital can buy land, material, and machinery.

I should like, if space permitted, to have dealt in some detail with Chapter XV. of Marx’s “Capitalist Production,” showing how, whilst indulging in a long diatribe on “Machinery and Modern Industry,” he shuffles over the question. [We have pleasure in offering Mr. Daw additional space for this specific purpose. Ed. Com. “S.S.”] I will give one example of his sophistry for my critics to ponder over. He says (p. 405) machinery “being constant capital, does not produce surplus-value.” This platitude is as puerile and irrelevant as if he had written: “An overcoat bought on the instalment system produces no warmth.”
G. W. Daw.

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The Socialist Reply.

Practically the whole of our opponent’s second contribution is taken up with one point, viz., the one emphasized in his sixth paragraph that “We are indebted to the introduction of machinery, and the substitution of steam for human labour-power, for the, enormous surplus wealth of to-day,” and according to Mr. Daw, this is another “fatal flaw” in our argument.

Now even if this statement were true, as it is put by Mr. Daw, it would still leave our case untouched. All the various ringing of the changes, in words, about the same point can be met with two answers, so simple that only an opponent of Socialism fails to see them.

Firstly, machinery and steam-power are quite useless and incapable of producing a single atom of wealth until labour-power is applied in starting, running, and controlling that machinery and power. Hence these factors are still dependent upon the human element—labour-power—for their operation.

Secondly, the machinery and engines themselves are manufactured by the working class and the capitalists do nothing in the introduction or manipulation of this machinery and power, yet they own both the means and results of wealth production, thus enslaving the rest of society.

If we take our opponent’s variations upon the one theme, we will find the same answers fitting them every time, though amplification may be useful on some of them.

Thus we are told in paragraph (2) there are four primary agencies in wealth production instead of the two given in the brief statement of our case. But what is machinery itself except the result of labour-power applied to the nature-given materials ? We thus see at once that it is no new factor but simply a portion of the previously stated ones.

Again, are not Invention and Design the application of human energy upon certain materials in the endeavour to obtain a given result ? Then we are still left with but two primary agencies, labour-power and natural resources.

In paragraph (3) we read that “Machinery is the most important multiplier of wealth, to which we are indebted for that surplus-value which Socialists use to dazzle the eyes of the proletariat.” It would be interesting to know how this statement opposes Socialism. As shown above, machinery can do nothing without labour-power.

That various discoveries and the general growth of knowledge increase our powers of production is a point in favour of, not against, Socialism, though it contradicts Mr. Daw’s statement in his previous contribution that we can never supply the needs of our growing population. He even now admits that there is a “surplus value,” a thing not usually conceded by our opponents.

It is quite informing to know that the “early manufacturers” “to their lasting disgrace, employed children of tender age to attend” their machinery. The later and present manufacturers, who still employ children, are free, we suppose, from any such imputation upon their characters.

The reference to the part taken by steam-power and machinery in distribution is fully met by our first answer.

Paragraph (5) would be laughable were it not swallowed by so many working men when they hear it expounded by one of their masters or his agents. Our second answer meets this point, but a little extension may be useful.

The first point to note, and one that overshadows all else here, is that it it not the capitalist who is the designer. The latter is employed to do his portion, as the others are to do theirs.

Leaving out the entirely baseless assumption that “labour the most skilled” couid not design a seaworthy vessel, we may just point out that for thousands of years various branches of the human race built seaworthy ships with no other “designers” than those who constructed them. In this as in other branches of production and distribution, it is only when “division of labour” reaches a certain stage in its development, that the “designer” becomes a separate person with a single function to perform. That he is, sometimes, better paid than the ordinary craftsman, makes him none the less one of those employed by the capitalist.

Then we come to the “fatal flaw” with our old friend the “inventor.”

What was the greatest discovery mankind has made? According to the greatest ethnologist that ever lived, Lewis H. Morgan, it was the discovery of iron and how to smelt it. But certainly as great, if not greater, was the discovery of how to control fire, as without this factor iron could not be smelted. Did the capitalists discover these two great factors in human progress? Or have they discovered any such factor? What machine did they invent? What power did they discover the control of? The answer is, not one. Yet they own the results of all these discoveries. In the vast majority of cases no individual “inventor” is known. And of the others, nearly all died in poverty, while the capitalists stole their inventions. It is the working class who “invent” the machinery and discover how to control various forces in nature as well as manipulate these things in the production and distribution of wealth.

The attempted argument in paragraph (9) is utterly unhistorical, incorrect, and fallacious. What “few” invented the wheel, the inclined plane, and the lever? Yet every machine is a combination of such powers.

It is true that those who may be displaced by machinery sometimes—not always—oppose its introduction for the simple reason that under the chaos called Capitalism, we have the utterly insane absurdity that every new means of increasing production means increased poverty and misery for the workers. Hence the cure for such a position is obviously for the workers to own the machinery they invent and operate, as well as its results.

And note the question, childlike and bland, “if labour makes the machinery, how can the capitalists maintain an exclusive monopoly?” Even Mr. Daw dares not attempt to maintain that the capitalists make machinery, so he takes refuge behind his question.

The answer is well known to Mr. Daw. Let any body of workers attempt to take hold of any machinery—or any other commodity—they have produced, and what would happen? Mr. Daw knows quite as well as any Socialist that the legal machinery, backed by the armed forces of the nation, would be used to protect the “masters’ property” and prevent any workers possessing it. This machinery and force is used for the masters’ interests because they control the political powers, dominating and directing these forces, such powers being placed in the masters’ hands by the working class when they vote Tory, Liberal, or Labour candidates into Parliament.

And where is the “sufficient capital in the hands of the employed to acquire their own instruments of production”? It must be in some secret place for, as workers ourselves, we haven’t the faintest inkling of its existence.

The capitalist pays the worker, on the average, a wage that will buy such necessaries of life as will keep him in a condition to continue working. To meet the various ills that afflict the worker, even if in work, he sometimes scrapes a few pence together in a Friendly Society against serious illness (he cannot afford to stay away from work for a slight illness), or in a Trade Union against a lock-out or a strike. But it would be an insult to Mr. Daw’s intelligence to pretend that he is referring to these small sums scattered over so large a number.

One remark he makes, however, is generally true. “Anyone with capital can buy land, material, and machinery.” May we add “and labour-power.” As the working class have no capital they obviously are unable to buy any of these things.
Ed. Com.

Socialism in Debate. Part 1. (1914)

From the May 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard 
As mentioned in our April issue, it was brought to our notice that Mr. G. W. Daw, Conservative agent for Wandsworth, had stated publicly that Socialists are reluctant to open the columns of their journals to pronounced opponents. We therefore offered Mr. Daw space in this journal for three months to set out his case. The following is the outcome.
The Case Against Socialism.

Thousands of pamphlets, lectures, and articles lave been published in order to present the case for Socialism, therefore in responding to the invitation of the Editor of the “Socialist Standard” to state a case against Socialism within a limited space in these columns, I must ask critics to hear in mind that I am only submitting a few of the arguments which can be advanced.

In all debates on Socialism I have heard and taken part in, the champion of Socialism has devoted a very large portion of his speech to a denunciation of the evils which arise under the existing conditions. Obviously, this gives Socialist debaters an advantage on the platform, for they at once enlist the sympathy of their audience, and place their opponents at a great disadvantage. Nevertheless, the successful condemnation of existing evils is no proof that Socialism would be a remedy, nor are Socialists justified in assuming, as they do, that defenders of the present organisation of society are indifferent to suffering and poverty because they oppose Socialism. The constant effort made by legislation and various charities is evidence of the sympathy which exists amongst all classes to assist the unfortunate.

The Socialist, having effectually criticised the evils of “the capitalist system,” which are visible, proceeds to enunciate a remedy, viz., “the establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.” This formula involves the organisation of a new system of society. The Socialist assumes that the main source of the evil is the “system,” and that by reconstructing it on a communal basis the evil will disappear. But if we examine the actual source of the major portion of poverty and suffering, we shall find that the innate selfishness of man, sin, disease, age, and improvident marriages, are all contributory causes. What justification is there for assuming that the so­cialisation of wealth—admitting for the sake of argument that it is practicable—would overcome these ? No new system devised by man could eradicate human failings and selfishness. As the S.P.G.B. Manifesto admits, “in all human actions, material interests rule,” and above all, that interest which affects his own individual welfare.

Socialism is simply a theoretical system which has never been successfully applied. It is not supported by facts—-it is not scientific. Socialists are very pleased when they get an opponent on a platform. They postulate theories as arguments and challenge all comers to refute them. I might as well assert that the planet Mars is inhabited by human beings and invite any astronomer to disprove it. You cannot disprove the claims made on behalf of Socialism because, like the dwellers in Mars, they exist only in imagination.

Socialism, it is admitted by the S.P.G.B., can only bring about a transfer of the ownership and control of wealth by revolutionary methods. That is the one trait I admire in the S.P.G.B. They give a plain, straightforward interpreta­tion of Socialism, and in this they differ from the I.L.P.ers, who exploit Socialism like some hypocrites exploit religion, using it as a cloak to achieve personal ends. This, by the way, is further evidence of the theoretical character of Socialism, for if it were scientific it would be impossible for a party of opportunists to use it as an instrument for exploiting the masses. Any man can proclaim himself an adherent to the cause, and the rank and file have no means of testing his sincerity. The reason is that all Socialists are Socialists in theory but not in practice, and, therefore, are as logical as a man who declares himself a teetotaler in theory but a consumer of alcohol in practice.

Robert Owen, the father of English Socialism, realised the absurdity of preaching a new system and practising another. He set out to show us how to carry the theory into practice, and spent the whole of his fortune in the attempt. Ever since then Socialists have wisely refrained from making similar ventures.

The greater part of the coveted wealth which is set forth by the Fabian, Mr. Chiozza Money, depends upon security and credit, and would disappear at the first sign of a revolution and upheaval of civilised society, which is the goal of all true Marxists. The billions which exist on paper would drop to insignificant millions in actual gold and materials. Kautsky, dealing with this question, admits :
“The capitalists do not consume all their income ; a portion of it they put away for the extension of production. A proletarian regime would also have to do the same in order to extend production. It would not, therefore, be able to transfer, even in the event of a radical confiscation of capital, the whole of the former income to the working classes.”
Adding:
“Thus we see that not much will remain for the raising of the wages of the working classes, even if capital were confiscated at a stroke—still less if we were to compensate the capitalists.”
This, it may be observed in passing, refutes the oft-repeated statement that the capitalists exploit the workers; and certainly dispels the notion that poverty would vanish.

A strong point in Socialist propaganda is the “anomaly of starvation in the midst of plenty.” No scheme devised by Socialists could abolish poverty any more than disease, for both originate from physical causes which no “system” can control. The history of every race in every country shows that the population always increases up to the limits of the means of bare subsistence. Every wave of prosperity is accompanied by such an increase, and if, as Socialists profess, they could so adjust wealth production as to relieve the pressure of existence created by existing poverty, the same natural law would prevail. I know some Socialists contend that wealth is as plentiful as water, but there is not an unlimited supply of necessities, and there is no evidence which warrants us assuming that it is possible to keep pace with the increasing demands of a growing population. State aid in the shape of poor relief and voluntary charity are ever engaged in a race against poverty, which they can never overtake and never will. A Socialist State would be more heavily handicapped in such a contest because it would relieve the individual of parental responsibilities, and thus remove what now operates as the strongest restraint on parentage.

Socialists as a rule evade this, as they do other fatal objections. Others, including an American Socialist, suggest that a parent of unwanted children should be compelled to work longer hours. This, to say the least, would be hard on the prolific parent. No one can evolve a practical organisation—political or industrial—dominated by Collectivist conditions, which does not of necessity impose restrictions to which no community would submit. What Socialists fail to realise is that just an you can obtain no monetary aid from a State Exchequer beyond what is taken by the State from the people in the form of taxes, so you cannot obtain from the State services or privileges more than are rendered to the State by individual members to an equivalent degree.

Whilst under Socialism they would eliminate one of the strongest motives tending to pro­gress—the incentive of personal gain—they offer no substitute. Socialism suggests that people would work from altruistic motives, which is quite contrary to human experience. The alter­native would be State compulsion. As Emile Vandervelde admits :
“Absolute freedom of labour is only possible in individual enterprises, that is, of course, if we call submission to natural laws alone ‘freedom of labour,’ a submission which is all the more complete as labour is more isolated. From the moment, on the contrary, when labour, whatever be its nature, demands the incorporation of the individual in a whole, his liberty, necessarily, undergoes restrictions.”
In plain language the worker under Socialist conditions would be a slave, as we now use the term.
G. W. Daw.

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The Socialist Reply.

Beyond stating our Object in a sentence, Mr. Daw has failed to put forward the Socialist case which he tries to attack. It will be an advantage for the sake of clearness to state briefly that case.

Socialists state, and the facts and figures are given in many of the pamphlets Mr. Daw refers to in his first paragraph, that all the wealth that exists, whatever the precise quantity may be, is produced by the application of human labour-power to the nature-given materials; that this labour-power is applied by only one class in society—the working class ; therefore the wealth the capitalist class own, enjoy, waste and use, is obtained by robbing the working class. No defender of Capitalism has ever been able to show a flaw in the above statement. The Socialists then proceed to make a simple but strictly scientific deduction from these facts. That deduction is : The working class should endeavour to gain control of power for the purpose of owning and controlling the means of life, and to manipulate them for their own benefit and well-being, instead of for the benefit, profit and luxury of an idle profligate class in society.

Details will be dealt with in the course of the discussion.

It is not long ago that the defenders of the present system denied the existence of the “evils of Capitalism” stated by the Socialist. Mr. Daw not only admits their existence but claims that even the “sympathy” of all classes will be unable to remove it. This is a nasty knock for “sympathy” and the Charity Orga­nisation Society.

He says “the successful condemnation of existing evils is no proof that Socialism would be a remedy.” No Socialist ever claimed it was. The condemnation is contained in the facts of Capitalism and the remedy in the abolition of that system.

We are then told that “if we examine the actual source of the major portion of poverty and suffering, we shall find the innate selfishness of man, sin, disease, age and improvident marriages are all contributory causes.” The meaning of this beautiful sentence is hardly startling in its lucidity. Do sin, disease, age— is the latter young or old—form the “actual source” ? or are they merely additions to it ? If the latter, what is the actual source ? And in either case how comes it that the capitalist class never suffer from “the innate selfishness of man, etc.” seeing that they never suffer from poverty ? Was the American millionaire Harry Thaw’s marriage a “provident” one? Was the Duke of Norfolk’s son free from disease? If so what did he suffer from? It certainly was not poverty.

The “actual source” of poverty is wage slavery. Whether a man is selfish or altruistic; sinful or good; diseased or in good health; old or young; married or single; when he receives his wages on pay-day and before he spends a single penny, with the wages in his pocket he is poor—he is in poverty. Wages are never sufficient to keep a man above poverty.

The remark that Socialism is not supported by facts—is not scientific—is met by our opening statement of our case. Mr. Daw is welcome to try and disprove the facts therein or show how the deduction is not scientifically drawn.

The statement that if Socialism “were scientific it would be impossible to use it as an instrument for exploiting the masses,” touches the depths of absurdity. Any schoolboy could repeat to Mr. Daw from his little primers the vast uses made of Science to “exploit the masses.” The harnessing of the electric current to produce light so that the capitalists may carry on their robbery of the workers during night as well as day, does not detract in the slightest from the strictly scientific discovery and its application.

Robert Owen, as a matter of fact, continued preaching until he died. Quite hopelessly, it is true, because he was preaching to the capitalists to come and save the workers.

A brilliant flash of economics is attempted when we are told “the greater part of the coveted wealth which is set forth by Mr. Chiozza Money depends upon security and credit.” It is just the reverse that is true. Credit is never given where no wealth exists. All that credit does is to arrange for existing wealth to be moved from point to point. And Kautsky was not dealing with this point at all—in fact, never mentioned it—when he wrote chapter IV. of one of the worst works he ever penned: “The Morrow of the Social Revolution,” from which Mr. Daw is quoting. How this quotation “refutes” the fact of capitalists exploiting the workers Mr. Daw does not attempt to show.

Let us say at once, however, that we repudi­ate Kautsky on this as we have done on several other points. In the first place a very large portion of the wealth “put away for the exten­sion of production” never figures in the Income Returns at all, but appears on Balance Sheets as Reserve Funds, etc. On other occasions it is used up during the year in these extensions and counted merely as an item of expense and never reaches the Income sphere. Of the wealth that comes under Income Returns huge sums are spent in barbaric orgies that would make the heroes of the Arabian Nights turn green with envy. £20,000 on a single dinner; silken coats and diamond studded collars for four-legged puppies; elaborately furnished suites of apartments for pet monkeys, with attendants to look after them ; more spent by an individual in a single endeavour to look “smart” by some bizarre insanity than a hundred workers receive in a year. Where does it all come from and how much of it is used for “extension of production” ? Even then there remains the fact that “every extension of production” under Capitalism means a corresponding extension of exploitation, so that far from “refuting,” it strengthens our case.

In the next paragraph he says that poverty, like disease, “originates from physical causes,” in lofty indifference to the fact that he had previously said it was due to the “innate selfishness of man, etc.” Now it is because “population always increases up to the limits of the means of a bare subsistence.” Later we are told “Socialists as a rule evade this, as they do other fatal objections.” Firstly, it not only is not a “fatal” objection, it is not an objection at all. Secondly, no Socialist ever evades the point because he has not the slightest reason to do so.

The statement about increases of population is taken from the parson Malthus’ dirty, lying apology for Capitalism called “On Population.” What Mr. Daw is apparently ignorant of is the fact that Godwin—the Utopian Socialist—whom the book was written against, wrote a reply directly after the first edition appeared that tore up every shred of so-called argument Malthus had put forward. Though Malthus lived to edit four or five more editions and in doing so seriously altered his whole position, not once did he attempt to answer Godwin. Later on, Henry George in “Progress and Poverty,” taking Godwin’s work without acknowledgment as a basis, built up a case with the fuller information the intervening years supplied that crushed Malthus’ book to powder.

We need only emphasize one point. Neither Malthus, nor anyone else, has ever produced a single tittle of evidence historical or otherwise, that “population always increases up to the limits of bare subsistence.”

In every age since the break-up of the tribal communes mankind has carried an idle luxuri­ous class upon its back. That this could be possible proves there must have been a surplus above subsistence all the time. We may hope that Mr. Daw in his next instalment will give our readers his first point against Socialism.
Ed. Com.

Anti-Socialists’ Challenge Accepted. (1914)

From the April 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard 

An attack on Socialism by Mr. George W. Daw, the Conservative Agent for Wandsworth and a local champion of capitalism, recently appeared in the “Mitcham and Tooting Mercury,” in the course of which he stated that “there is one challenge I have made to Socialists which has never been accepted, and that is to conduct a debate on Socialism in the columns of a recog­nised Socialist journal. I have an extensive acquaintance with Socialist literature, and have noticed that whilst Socialists are so eager to debate on public platforms, where they can prac­tice the tricks of oratory on their audiences, in which they are adepts, they are equally reluctant to open the columns of their journals to pronounced opponents.”

We have written to Mr. Daw and to the above paper accepting his challenge and offering him space in this journal for three months to set out his case. We await his first contribution, which, if received in time, will be published in our next issue together with our reply.


Reform and Revolution: Three Early Socialists on the Way Ahead (1996)

Book Review from the Sep-Oct 1996 issue of the Discussion Bulletin

Reform and Revolution: Three Early Socialists on the Way Ahead — William Morris, John Carruthers, Fred Henderson. Edited and Introduced by Stephen Coleman The William Morris Library #12. Thoemmes Press. 11 Great George Street Bristol BS1 5RR. U.K.

One hundred years ago a familiar dispute raged within the anti-capitalism movement Should we socialists organize our class to improve their lot under capitalism, or should we limit ourselves to educating workers about the need to abolish the system in its entirety? Today it’s very clear that the reformers have won for the time being. To everyone except small grouplets of libertarian non-market socialists—DeLeonists, world socialists, and anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists—socialism and communism mean social welfare programs and varying degrees of government ownership of the means of production, all within the market system.

The three anti-reformist pamphlets collected in this volume were written between 1887 and 1915 by William Moms and two other prominent British socialists whom he had influenced. Steve Coleman, who probably convinced the William Morris Society to commission the book, has written a thirty-eight page introduction that places that debate within the context of the events and preoccupations of the spokesmen and organizations of the time. Morris wrote "The Policy of Abstention” (20 pages, 1887) after his new group, the Socialist League, split from the Social Democratic Federation over the question of reformism. Carruthers’Socialism and Radicalism” (15 pages, 1894). written a few years later. describes the failure of the reformist-“radical" in his lexicon-politics of the Labor Party of New Zealand, where he lived for a time, to change substantially the lives of working people in that country when it held power. "The ABC of Socialism" by Fred Henderson (18 pages, 1915). was published by the Independent Labor Party, which supported Labor Party reformism but permitted dissenting views. It was published as part of a larger work presenting standard reformist ideas.

Coleman's introduction, after examining the historical context of the debate between the revolutionary anti-reformist impossibilists and the reformist gradualist possibilists in both England and abroad—including the US where the IWW and the SLP are mentioned—concentrates on Morris’s contribution to the book. His idea of abstention (boycotting elections) stems from the view that electoral activity by socialists must inevitably involve the advocacy of reforms to relieve the immediate misery working people suffer. Since Coleman belongs to that substantial part of the existing revolutionary movement that advocates electoral activity, he spends some time trying to explain and demolish Morris's contentions—and not too successfully as I see things now after decades in the electorally oriented SLP. But this aside, socialists will find the book useful both for its historical information on reformism and as a source for the never ending debates with the well meaning reformists we meet m our day-to-day discussions of social issues.
Frank Girard

Blogger's Note:
This book was also reviewed in the June 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard.

Sting in the Tail: An open letter (1996)

The Sting in the Tail column from the June 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

An open letter

Centre of Philosophy,
London School of Economics.

Dear Colin,

We enjoyed your recent diatribe in the Independent on Sunday against the effects of the profit motive on agriculture.
You explained how your researches into famine convinced you that food production in “the modern world” is not aimed at feeding people but at making money. Then you condemned the “bad husbandry” which led to BSE and the tortures inflicted on farm animals and provided the reason:
"When profit is the driving force. .. those who do not cut corners go to the wall."
Yes, you certainly put the boot into the profit motive in agriculture, but that doesn’t go nearly far enough, does it? After all, food is only one of society’s necessities: housing, clothing, medicine, in fact all the things we need are produced for profit and not people.

So, Colin, what you call “the modern world” is really the capitalist system and that’s what you should be attacking, not just one aspect of it.


Science and profits

The Observer (28 April) has revealed another piece of capitalist skulduggery in the relentless pursuit of profit:
"Boots, one of Britain's most trusted companies, commissioned research and then suppressed it after the results showed that its most lucrative drug could be replaced by products three times as cheap and just as effective. ”
After paying $250,000 for the survey by the University of California to test their drug Synthroid against cheaper ones produced by their rivals, they threatened legal action against publication. They used a team of private investigators to discredit the report, another example of the waste of human effort and the distortion of science caused by a society based on the profit motive.

Inside a society based on production for use the disinterested pursuit of human knowledge will be essential. Inside that society distortion of scientific research for profit will be impossible.


Learned fools

Below are some examples of “howlers” from last year’s GCSE exams:
Q. If the letter MW appear on a radio, what does it mean? 
A. Don’t play it on top of the microwave.

Q. Name some key figures from the industrial revolution. 
A. Harold Wilson and Arthur Scargill.

Q. Give an example of the use of the word “judicious”. 
A. The hands that judicious can be soft as your face with mild, green Fairy liquid.
Here are some howlers provided by very important public figures:
The core of empire was not profit but governance (Prof Max Beloff).

Iran is a theocracy but it is also a democracy (Louis Farrakhan of the Black Muslims).

Private ownership is the basis of all ethics on which man’s personality is built (Cardinal J√≥zef Glemp, Primate of Poland).

Prescott’s pretensions

John Prescott, deputy leader of the Labour Party, declares that he is middle class, so Barry Hugill writes in an article in the Observer (14 April) entitled “We’re all middle class now”.
"It's a tricky question because there is no right answer. Karl Marx, never the snappiest of writers, dreamed up ‘relationship to the means of production’ as the key factor. So an engineer earning more than £40,000 per year would be working class because he doesn't own the company he his working for—he is just a prole like the rest of us. "
This won’t do for Hugill. After discussing education, vocabulary, occupation, housing, income and snobbery he concludes “So what are you? And does it matter?”

Well, yes it does. Class is determined by none of the categories in Hugill’s 600-word article, but by Karl Marx’s “relationship to the means of production”. Snappy enough for you, Mr Hugill?


Hattersley’s hesitations

Somewhat surprisingly, Prescott’s predecessor as Deputy leader of the Labour Party, Roy Hattersley, has an inkling that this might be so, writing in The Guardian (22 April) that:
"Social groups are determined by their relationship to the means of production. It is just my luck to begin spouting Marxism at the moment when nobody else believes a word that he wrote. ”
Hattersley’s comment on Marxism is wrong, but if by “social groups” he means classes then he is right. People who work for a wage or salary are working class whether they know this or not, and those who think they are “middle class” are only kidding themselves.


Alderson in Wonderland

The left was delighted, the right were enraged, and socialists were amused.

John Alderson, ex-Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall, wrote in the left-wing journal Red Pepper claiming that Britain is becoming a police state and anti-road protesters and protesters against the export of veal calves are the hope for the future.

Alderson gave his Humpty Dumpty view of the world in the statement:
"The primary task of policing is to uphold and safeguard human rights, he says, calling for an independent police commission to resolve conflict between police and public ” (Observer, 21 April).
The primary task of policing is to protect private property. The hope for the future is in workers organising for a society based on common ownership.

Alderson, Red Pepper, its left-wing supporters and its right-wing opponents, are united in their opposition to that revolutionary aim. Curiouser and curiouser.