Are We Robbed?

A.—Here, I want you to clear up a little difficulty. You said the other day that we are poor because we are robbed. I agree, of course, that we are poor, while, the boss, who does not work, is well off, but I can’t see exactly how the robbery takes place.
B.—Well, the workers are in the factory. They produce more wealth for the master class than is given back to them in the shape of wages. Mr. Chiozza Money, in “Riches and Poverty,” shows that, of the wealth produced in this country, which he estimates at roughly £1,710,000,000 per annum, the wage-earners receive but £655,000,000, which means that the masters, who do nothing towards its production, receive £1,055,000,000—by far the largest share. You work for a certain number of hours and produce in that time a certain amount of wealth, but the wage paid to you is merely sufficient to reproduce the energy expended by you in that production and not enough to buy goods of an equal value to those you produce. The difference between these two amounts, which we call surplus value and which the masters call rent, profit and interest, is what you are robbed of. Is that clear ?
A.-—Well, hardly. I do not see how that is robbery. You agree with the employer to take a certain screw, or, as you would put it, to take a certain price for the labour-power that you have to sell. That the boss gets fat I admit, but I don’t see where the robbery comes in.
B. -Just a moment. If a customer enters a tradesman’s shop, receives goods to the value of £5 and pays £1, the tradesman would be robbed, would he not ?
A.—Yes, he gave more than he got in return.
B.—Just so, and if the employer gives you £1 for producing £5 worth of goods, he gets more from you than he gives in return, and is, consequently, a robber. You may argue if you will, that he entered into a bargain while the tradesman did not; but to-day the worker is at the mercy of the capitalist, who takes up tbo attitude of the highwayman, and holding the pistol of starvation at your head says, “accept these terms or die.” What sort of a bargain do you call that?
A.—Well, that again seems right enough, but in the production of goods the machinery, purchased by the capitalists, the buildings, etc., are utilised and eventually worn out. That has to come out of the so-called surplus-value.
B.—-Not at all. All that expenditure, including the raw material, the necessary clerking, bookkeeping and transit is counted up by the capitalist and, as representing so much necessary labour, is added to the value of the article produced. The amount of machinery used up in the production of any article utilises as it were, the stored-up labour embodied in the machine by the labourers who made it, just as the cash paid for the raw material is but payment for the labour embodied therein. The value of all commodities is determined by the amount of socially necessary labour embodied in them, whether that be transmitted through a machine or more directly by hand. With all this expenditure and the vast amounts paid for what is really unnecessary work, deducted, the capitalist class who comprise but one-seventh of the community, receive more than two-thirds of the wealth produced. All that they get, from no matter what source, is robbed from the working-class, who, by their labour, physical and mental, produce all wealth. This robbery will go on so long as you have a system of society which enables one man, or one section of the community, to buy a man’s labour-power, sell the results of the application of that labour-power, and appropriate the difference. What we workers should do and what, eventually, we must do, is to organise to stop the robbery, to institute in the place of the present capitalist system, a system wherein we produce wealth because we want it, and not because another wants profits. With the aid of the present means of production, a little concerted effort on the part of all would produce sufficient wealth to provide for all. Why should we produce for others ? Why should we be robbed ?
A.—Well, old chap, I must confess that you have the best of the argument. I’ll think it over and will continue the discussion, another time. I must be off to work now. Good day.


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