The Nocturnal Antics of Capital

Mr. Rudyard Kipling made a striking and picturesque speech at Folkestone yesterday.
“Money is a curious article,” he said. “Have you ever thought that invested money is the only thing in the world, outside the Army, the Navy and the mercantile marine, that will work for you while you sleep ?
“Everything else knocks off or goes to bed, or takes a holiday at intervals, but our money sits up all through the year, working to fetch in the 5 per cent. interest.
“I am not a financier but I do know that much ; and I do know that a man who has an income, however small, from money he has saved, is free of worry and anxiety for himself, his wife, and his children, up to the extent of that income.
A man who has wasted or muddled all his pay at the end of the week is the servant of the whole world for his next week’s pay,
“Any fool can waste, but it takes something of a man to save.”
—”Daily Express,” 16.2.18.

This is the poet’s conception of capitalism. His poetic imagination strips the system of all its sordid ugliness—the poverty and exploitation of that great bulk of Society, the working class—and sees nothing but money making money. Very few capitalists are afflicted with such an imagination ; many of them marvel at the social arrangements that guarantee them a a regular income without the necessity of work or worry on their part, but they know that in some way or other it is the result of working-class effort. The majority, however, are under no delusion. They know that their incomes are part of the surplus wealth produced by the workers, that surplus wealth being the difference between the total product of the workers and the sum total of their wages.

Most capitalists would consider Mr. Kipling’s “striking and picturesque speech” as very dry humour. In it the worker is completely ignored, his labour counts for nothing. It is money that does the trick ; “it sits up”—another marvel added to the long list of its Cinquivalian achievements—”all through the year”—and its shadow never grows less—”working” (no doubt on edge, or it could not be sitting up) “to fetch in 5 per cent. interest” that enables the capitalist to sleep and slack his time away.

Not having to study economy himself Mr. Kipling is strikingly and picturesquely severe with the unthrifty. Being in receipt of a princely income, largely the result of his success in persuading the workers to pose as “absent-minded beggars,” neglecting their own interest and their class interest meanwhile, he regards them with the utmost contempt,being “absent-minded beggars,” they are unable to buy war bonds and live on the interest.

“A man who has wasted or muddled all his pay at the end of the week is the servant of the whole world for his next week’s pay.” In this he seems to be quite unacquainted with the fact that there are some people in these islands whose pay at the end of the week is barely sufficient to provide bread and marge for the following week. He imagines that everyone has a margin provided he does not waste or muddle. The Government department that instituted the coupon system of selling war bonds was wiser. By means of that system the poorest worker can, by an extra spurt of self-denial, become the proud possessor of a bond certifying him a creditor to his country, and implicating him in that country’s quarrels to that extent.

But all this is beside the point. The worker’s pay, or wages, is barely sufficient to keep himself and those dependent on him. The strongest confirmation of this is supplied by Mr. Kipling himself, in saying that if he wastes or muddles it he and his family are in a precarious position for the following week. It is a well known fact that only those workers whose wages are well above the average—a relatively small minority by the way—and who make a careful study of the relative costs of tood, clothing, shelter, etc., and who expend their wages with care and economy, can preserve a decent exterior and make any provision for a rainy day. But even these, the so-called aristocracy of labour, are compelled to work, not for the whole world, but for some capitalist who is part owner in the means and instruments of wealth production. The bulk of the workers are compelled to practice a rigid economy because their wages are barely sufficient to maintain them in a fit condition to continue working. So Mr. Kipling’s statement is absurd, for whether a worker wastes or muddles his pay, or is rigidly economical, he is never free of the capitalist-imposed necessity to sell his labour-power in order to live. The idea of the working class exploiting itself by means of a fund saved from wages is extremely funny, yet that is the logical deduction from Mr. Kipling’s reasoning.

Next we are told “any fool can waste, but it takes something of a man to save.” And by that token we know that Mr. Kipling is a man, notwithstanding he is reputed to be a poet. By the same standard the vast majority of the workers, in Mr. Kipling’s judgment, must be muddlers and wasters, and therefore fools, be-;ause they have no income, however small, from investment.

But if he is right, and the bulk of the workers are fools, it is not for the reason he advances, but because they allow the capitalists to exploit and the Kiplings to confuse them. If only they would examine carefully and critically his statement that money works while the owner of it sleeps, they would find in it the germ of a wider philosophy ; they would see in it an admission that the capitalist performs no useful function in Society ; that he is a parasite on the working class, living in idleness and luxury while the latter, by their labour, continually add to his wealth.

Money does not make money. Nor does capital make dividends, though the investment of capital is the capitalist method of robbing the working class of all the wealth they produce, returning to them only sufficient to keep them’ fit for a continuance of the process. The process itself may accurately be described either as the robbery or the enslavement of the working class. It matters little by which name we call it. The fact remains that the working class produce all wealth but always remain poor, while the master class, though revelling in luxury, grow daily more wealthy—while they sleep.

Social arrangements such as these, once they are recognised by the workers, cannot be tolerated. When the facts are brought home to them they will organise with us to capture the machinery of government, in order that they may establish a system of Society based on the common ownership and democratic control of all the wealth and instruments of wealth production mid distribution—which is Socialism.

F. F.

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