Socialism in debate [4]


[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.]

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 statment 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.” Nowithstanding 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.




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 Oflice 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 neeessary 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 effectiv—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.


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