One Macpherson

The professional Liberal scribes are very busy just now endeavouring to persuade all and sundry tliat their land policy, as yet undefined, will benefit all sections of the working class. Their professional “economists” likewise try to show how the question of “land monopoly” is the root of all evil, and no matter what we may be politically, we must all support the “Great Liberal Party” who are going to remove the root. One Hector Macpherson, writing in “Reynolds’s” (15.9.12) appeals for Socialist support and endeavours to show that the first step a Socialist must take is in the direction of breaking up this “land monopoly.” He says :—

“Socialists declare for a policy of nationalisation : Liberals for a policy of taxation. Socialists want to buy out the landlords. Liberals, on the other hand, do not want the land, but rather the value of the land, using it for the common good.”

Neither statement is correct. Socialists have never declared for the nationalisation of the land because they know that that would simply mean that the land which is now held by tha capitalist class individually would then be held by the capitalist class collectively. Such being the case, any benefits accruing from sach collective ownership will go, not to the toilers who use the land, but to the idlers own it.

In what way should we benefit in the event of the land being “transferred” to the State ? The price of land (virgin soil) is determined by the demand for it. In a locality where there is a great demand for it land will command a relatively high price. The worker who wants land cannot get it to-day because the capitalist can offer more for it; and under State control, as now, the man with the money will get the land, and the offer of the worker will be rejected.

And as to taxation, it is easily seen that while the industrial capitalist may benefit by taxing land values, thereby forcing his “sleeping partner”—the landlord—to pay more towards the upkeep of the country, etc., the working class will be no better off unless the amount collected is spent in their interest. Have we any evidence to show that such will be done ?

Money has been raised by Liberal taxation for the purpoae of providing armies and Dreadnoughts and police truncheons. Army and Navy and police force have been used to terrorise and butcher the workers, but the condition of the working class, as Mr. Lloyd George himself is compelled to admit (Cardiff speech, 1911) is worse than ever before. The wealth of the country increases—Liberals admit it, glory in it. The poverty of the workers increases, and Liberals are forced to admit that too. So with Liberal rule and taxation in the past, and Liberal rule and taxation in the present, the working class is poor and its poverty is increasing.

The Liberal party, if it succeeds in its land policy, will use the proceeds “for the common good” of the Liberals and of the capitalists generally, and the workers will be left in the cold. Of course, such is the policy of the Liberals.

Then the “Socialists” (those who want “to buy out the landlords”) “talk of a kind of universal minimum wage which will only be possible under a Socialistic government. Liberals think they can see a way of procuring these boons [universal minimum wage, better housing, etc.] without the revolutionary methods of Socialism, and a beginning has been made by the land clauses in the Budget.”

Having foisted this rubbish upon the Socialist, Hector proceeds to demolish it, and after declaring that the Liberals are out for the same thing, he tries to show that it is impossible. His knowledge of economics, however, is very shaky.

First of all he shows that Asquith and the Liberal Government are bunglers because: “Wages cannot be fixed by any Government, however Socialistically inclined.” Yet the Liberal party have tried to fix a minimum wage ! “Wages in the long run are fixed by supply and demand. If a capitalist needs 10 men and 20 apply, what happens ? The men compete against each other and it is they, and not the capitalist, who bring down wages.”

This is true only in so far as the price of the commodity labour-power cannot fall far or for long below the cost of production. Otherwise our economist has to explain why wages are higher in America than in Germany and England, with surplus labour-power more plentiful in the former than in the latter countries. Wages are determined by the cost of the production and reproduction of the labourer, and over-supply merely tends to keep wages down to the level of subsistence.

After this our Liberal scribe goss right off his base, as instance : —

“Suppose that the Socialistic government enacts that the ten men are to get a fixed rate, what is to become of the other ten ? Their services are not needed, and unless they are to starve they must be kept at the expense of the industrious workers.”

It would seem that the solution to the “enormous” difficulty, should it arise, is fairly easy to any intelligent person. For instance, if you cut down the time of the first ten by half and give one half of the work to the other ten men, then obviously their services would be needed, or if starvation would result from their idleness, why not let them all work ? What happens today ? If there is work for ten men and twenty apply, the ten who are taken on work twice as long as is necessary and the other ten “have to be kept at the expense of the industrious workers,” unless they are to starve.

The solution is quite simple. It is the present chaotic system that confuses. Let each man do his share of the necessary work, increasing his hours of labour when necessary to produce a sufficient amount of wealth or reducing them when it is found that the needs of society are being more than met. The “difficulty” is then overcome. Of course, our critic did not think of that. The devil of it is that these people never do—I suppose it hurts them.

The problem Mr. Macpherson supposes will never arise, because under Socialism the “Goverment” will not pay “fixed rates of wages.” Socialism implies the abolition of wages, fixed or movable. While the working class is divorced, not only from the soil, but from the instruments necessary for the production of weilth, the workers will be forced to hire themselves out for wages. So long as they do that they will ba slaves—slaves to those who hire them ; slaves to those who can pick out this man and that from among them and say : “These man shall live, for we will give the food, clothing, and shelter; but those men shall not live, for we your masters, have no need of them.”

And, while the working claas, the great mass of the people, are slaves, we cannot have Socialism, because Socialism means the control of things by the community, and not control of men by the few.

Under Socialism production will be carried on for the creation of things for use, not of objects for sale. But there are none so blind as—those who write for the capitalist Press.


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