Jems from Jevons

In Professor Jevons’ little book, “Primer of Political Economy,” we have the A.B.C. of capitalist exploitation. The aim of the book is to “put the truths of Political Economy into a form suitable for elementary instruction.” It contains some wonderful “truths” ; some soul-inspiring epithets. The frank and candid definitions, the sparkling lucidity of expression, the logical method of criticism, etc., etc., all tend to build up an invincible (!) defence of the present economic system.

The learned professor, in his chapter on “Capital,” informs us how capital is obtained. Listen and give ear, therefore, ye discontented proletarians:

“Capital is the result of saving or abstinence,” and “it can only be obtained by working to produce wealth, and then, not immediately consuming that wealth.”

Really ! How thrifty our magnates and exploiters must be, and how industrious ! “Abstinence” and “work” ! It appears strange that the poor devils who work fourteen and sixteen hours a day, and “abstain” with a vengeance from consuming, never become Carnegies or Rockefellers ; but Jevons evidently did not bother his head about such trivialities as these. At any rate, he dees not deal with the point. But our friend Karl Marx deals with it—let the learned professor give heed to the Marxian enunciation (or denunciation) of this “abstinence” theory :

“Moreover, the capitalist gets rich, not like the miser, in proportion to his personal labour and restricted consumption, but at the same rate as he squeezes out the labour-power of others, and enforces on the labourer, abstinence from all life’s enjoyments.” (“Capital,” p. 605.)

Let the “scientific” minds but deny this statement, and they violate the truth. Capital is not the result of abstinence on the part of its owner, but the fruit of exploitation.

We discover some more elucidative and highly instructive matter in the chapter on “Wealth Distribution.” We are told at the commencement of this chapter that “we have now to learn the natural laws according to which distribution takes place, and ascertain how it is that many of the population get so little, and some so much.” (Page 49.) The professor defines his terms so : “Wages = Payment for labour. Rent = Landowner’s share of produce. Profit = Capitalist’s share.”

The last term evidently needs detailed explanation, for Mr. Jevons spends a little extra time upon it. “The capitalist,” he says, “often acts as manager, and works every day almost as long as the worker.” (Can he mean as the unemployed worker ?) Further, we are informed that the capitalist “works with his head and his pen, calculating prices, choosing good workmen, and so on.”

Beautiful, isn’t it ? But we read on : “It is necessary that a successful manager should have a considerable share of the produce, so as to make it worth his while to give his labour, and his share we call the wages of superintendence, and such wages are usually larger than the share of the labourer.”

How logical, my dear Professor ! No wonder the capitalist spend nine months of the year in holiday-making, after such mental stress.

“Another part of the capitalist’s profit must he laid aside as recompence for risk. When misfortune happens it is the capitalist who mainly suffers, because he loses a great deal of money, or, which he may have lived comfor ably.” Shades of the murdered miners of Whitehaven and Atherton, yes, very comfortably ! And when “misfortune happens” to the miner, the seaman, the painter, or the bricklayer, who have not “a great deal of money” to risk, but only their lives, the workhouse is the only “recompense” provided to cover their risk.

Bah! Prostitution of intelligence, sir, to voice such damnable “truths.”

“Profit + Wages of superintendence + Interest + recompense for risk.” Such is the “scientific” definition with which the professor closes his chapter. Re strikes and “blacklegs” our author remarks “Those who strike have no right to prevent others from taking their places. If there are unemployed people, able and willing to work at the lower wages, it is for the benefit of everybody excepting the strikers, that they should be employed. The employer is right in getting work done at lowest cost, and if there is a supply of labour forthcoming at lower rates of wages, it would not be wise for him to pay more.”

Such is the tone of capitalist economy. It is right to pay low wages, to sweat, to grind, to bleed white you men, women and children, that the cost of production may be low, and profits high. It is not right, and certainly not “wise,” to pay and treat you better.

Workers, be on your guard ! These learned minds (!) are the “advocates for the defence.” Let Jevons & Co. preach their infamous gospel to the exploiters and sweaters ; but you, give heed to our call, and let your whole force, physical and mental, be thrown against the system which breeds and upholds such anomalies.

W. J. E.

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