A Tory candidate on Socialism

Major Adams, late Tory candidate for Woolwich, has been at pains to explain his objections to Socialism to some of his electors. In the historical portion of his address he is reported to have said that the French Revolution was caused by the writings of Voltaire and Rousseau, and that its constructive “failure” was the failure of Socialism.

In point of fact the writings of these two individualists had little effect upon the revolutionary movement: their opinions, in common with the ideas dominating the French Revolution, were the outcome of their economic environment. The growth ot commerce and industry in France rendered feudal restrictions increasingly unsuitable and unbearable, and Feudalism was abolished that “Freedom” should reign. The Revolution brought in the classic age ot Laissez-Faire and devil take the hindmost; the tyranny of capitalism under the mask of freedom.

Free competition, not Socialism, was the objective of the French Revolution. To imply that such an inherently capitalist revolution was Socialist is a fine example of historical ignorance.

Next in the lecturer’s consideration of scientfic Socialism he fell foul of the theory of value. “Labour,” he said, “was to be measured by its scarcity or utility, not, as Marx said, by time.” Truly, the scarcity of labour would make a curious measure of it.

The Major, however, gave a concrete example of his meaning by saying that “if a man came across a diamond while mining, according to Marx the diamond would have no value because no labour had been expended upon it.” Presumably the man was mining for carrots, for if he was mining for diamonds some labour certainly was expended on the diamond.

The whole thing, however, is a travesty of the theory of value, for value does not depend upon the labour of one individual. Value is the amount of labour that is socially necessary to produce an article under the prevailing conditions of production. If one can produce a commodity in say two hours that it takes in general three hours to produce, its value will be three hours’ labour, nevertheless ; whilst if an article can usually be produced in two hours but a few men take four, two hours’ labour still represents the exchange-value of the article.

If a diamond exchanged according to its usefulness it would not be so highly prized as it is now. The search or mining, cutting, etc., of a diamond, call for the expenditure of a great deal of human labour, and this makes the diamond’s value. If diamonds, to take a classic illustration, could be made by mixing cheap chemicals in a glass of water, diamonds might be ten a penny.

A thing may have considerable use-value but yet have no exchange-value—air is a familiar example ; but the exchange-ratio or value of a given use-value is determined by the labour required to produce it. Price, of course, fluctuates around value according to supply and demand, but the labour cost of production mainly determines both supply and demand in the last resort.

Major Adams seems to have hardly a nodding acquaintance with his Marx, for he gave him as saying that laborious work should be paid most wages, whereas Maix contents himself with analysing and explaining the laws of wages. Neither does Marx speak only of manual labour, for there is no manual labour without some intellectual labour, and no intellectual labour without some degree of manual labour.

The different prices or wages of the various kinds of labour-power are mainly due, apart from historical standards of life, to the fact that they require differing amounts of labour to produce and perpetuate. Thus the more skilled worker required in the production of his power to labour, not only a more protracted period of training or education than his unskilled fellow, but also a higher grade of living to maintain his skill or fitness. The spread of machinery and automatic devices is, however, bringing labour nearer to one common level, sometimes, indeed, reversing the places on the labour market of “skilled” and “unskilled” labour power.

The Major’s objection to Socialism that it would be impossible to fix the different values of labour-power is, therefore, cut from under his feet in two ways; firstly, by the levelling influence of the systemization of industry, and secondly by the fact that under Socialism the category of wages is abolished. The remuneration of the workers ceases to be the cost of their subsistence and becomes the product of their labour. All having equal facilities of development and culture, the difference between the various workers becomes merely one of convenience, and though some occupations may, during the few hours that it may be necessary to toil, be less pleasant than others, the balance between the supply and demand of labour may be simply adjusted by shortening the hours of the least attractive, or lengthening those of the most sought after.

Our critic is concerned that the capitalist should obtain a reward for his “intellectual labour.” The intellectual labour of the modern capitalist would appear to be confined to a study of the Companies’ List and of the prices on ‘Change. The whole of the useful labour in his concern is being done by hired workers, from the manager to the shop boy.

“A comparison of the modern labourer with 100 years ago shows,” says Major Adams, “that the surplus value of labour did not altogether go into the pocket of the capitalist.” The fact of it being surplus value at all shows that it had already gone to the capitalist class. Further, according to an eminent statistician, the wealth of this country has increased eight times during the last century. Now with modern intensity of toil and insecurity of employment, will the Major assert that the working class has materially benefited by this increase ? The very increase in the wealth wrung from the workers enables the possessors to purchase wage-saving machinery that augments the poverty of the working class by depriving them of their livelihood.

“Under the Socialistic system,” we are told, “any accumulation of capital would be forbidden. There would be no pictures painted, no statues carved, no books written.”

Major Adams is either himself confused or tries to confuse his hearers ; for what is capital ? Capital is wealth used as a means of obtaining profit. With the abolition of the profit system, capital is abolished, but wealth remains; and the accumulation of social wealth for social use becomes the function of the community. Wealth, being no longer confined to a degenerate few, but being at the command of those who create it, the misery and degradation of the many which now prevents them appreciating and demanding the use and collective possession of fine pictures, statues, buildings and books, is abolished ; and art, instead of being the reflex of the unhealthy and irrational tastes of a few, becomes the beautiful expression of the healthy, vigorous, and well-balanced life of the people.

Socialism, we are also informed, will increase misery by removing the responsibility of parents for the bringing up of their offspring, thereby causing the population to unduly increase. The Major should have explained why it is that, in general, the easier it is for persons to bring up children ; the less forethought for children becomes necessary as we go from the poorest to the wealthiest in society—the smaller is the number of children to the family. Those upon whom, according to the Major’s theory, forethought is most strongly enjoined by the necessity and difficulty of bringing up their children, these, the poorest, have the largest families. Evidently the more wealth, health, and leisure are spread among the people, the more forethought and enlightenment should we find.

Our critic also stated that Socialism would destroy individual liberty and the rights of minorities, but the Major’s assertion is clearly comprehended in the light of the class struggle. Just as capitalist interests are opposed to those of the workers, so the capitalist idea of liberty is opposed to that of the working class. From Major Adams’ point of view Socialism does not mean individual liberty, because it would necessarily curtail the liberty of the capitalist to batten upon the misery of the many. When the capitalist professes such a tender regard for LIBERTY it is not usually because he is anxious about the freedom which the working class have not got, but rather about his own liberty to exploit and grow fat upon the toil and sweat of the people.

The tyranny under which the working class groans, the unending and hopeless drudgery that is their lot, these Socialism alone can end. It will abolish also, it is true, the liberty of the capitalist to grind the faces of the poor, but it will establish the basis of true freedom for mankind by abolishing class antagonisms and class tyranny, and uniting all in a bond of labour with common interests.

The hypocrisy of the assertion, from such a source, that Socialism would disregard the rights of minorities, becomes apparent when we reflect that an unscrupulous minority rule to-day by cunning and by force, and usurp to themselves all the good things of life created by the labour of the people. It is the cry of the capitalist brigands to the just power that is rising to end their crime.

Unity being found upon essentials by socialised production and distribution, government becomes, under Socialism, little more than the administration of things in the common weal. By the liberation of the mass of mankind from excessive toil and lack of leisure, each is enabled to develope to the full his individuality. Where all interests point one way coercion finds no place. Since at last the people rule, arid it is unprofitable to the vast majority to exploit a few, the best guarantee of liberty to each individual becomes the guaranteeing of the like liberty to every other individual.

The Major’s last objection is positively childish. In order to avoid work under Socialism, people would pretend to be sick and the hospitals “would very soon be full of idlers,” he said. This, too, in spite of the fact that by the more efficient organisation of industry by the elimination of the waste of competition and of the senseless luxury of “Society,” and by the utilisation of all capable of work in the community, the amount of toil would be enormously reduced, and its nature made pleasant and healthy. If there were a grain of truth in that objection to Socialism we should find to-day, with the tremendous provocation of exhausting toil and demoralising conditions, that not a single Sick Benefit Society could exist, because the greater part of its members would be malingering. That the very reverse of this is true even to-day shows the utter foolishness of such an objection to Socialism.

Indeed, the Major’s objections are so obviously feeble that, were they not so common, we must almost apologise for dealing with them. We know his real objection, it is that he is placed on the shoulders of toiling humanity and does not envy their lot. He finds it good to be alive in his place, and has no wish to change; for he might have to work. Besides, quoth he, a bird in the hand is better than a bird in the bush. The Major therefore makes it his duty in serving the class whose interests are his, to prove to the workers by Euclid and other means, that a bird in his hand is best for them.


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