1920s >> 1922 >> no-218-october-1922

Correspondence: Rip Van Winkle.


Dear Sirs,—

Re your reply to my letter, I hardly think it meets the case. The fact of new people developing capitalism does not alter the fact that it is possible for a country to acquire means whereby it can escape going through all the stages of capitalism. You half admit this yourself, for your assumption that the Russian people would not keep abreast with Western development is not in accordance with facts. For instance, the rapid growth of capitalism in Japan is an instance of how a backward people can acquire proficiency regarding the manipulation of modern means of production. We must understand that the Bolsheviks holding political power are in the position of giving their people full scope for development. It is not necessary for a person to fully understand a machine before he is capable of operating it. Regarding the S.P.G.B. Standard—what I meant was that it was not necessary for a people as a whole to be capable of understanding Marxian Economics. That is why 1 quoted the passage from the preface to the “Critique.” The passage precedes the one over which Mr. Dight first crossed swords with you. The passage following is also illuminating. It runs as follows :— Therefore mankind always takes up such problems as it can solve; since looking at the matter more closely we will always find that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist, or are at least in the process of formation.” Now I claim that the Russian Bolsheviks were justified in seizing power and attempting to establish Communism, since it seems clear to me that it is possible by importing modern means of production into the country of at least escaping the worst of capitalist development. If I am wrong, I would like to be put on the right track. I asked you to explain the passage I quoted from the “Critique.” You declined, brushing it aside, saying that it did not require interpretation ; I asked because I put a certain construction on it that you might think wrong, and I require information which you did not give. My interpretation is briefly this :—That Marx foresaw a seizing of power by the intelligent section of the community, backed by the unrest and misery of the workers on the breakdown, partial or complete, of a preceding system. Where he says—”and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic—in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out,” it strengthens the idea that despite a changed economic foundation, a great bulk of the people would not have an ideology in keeping with the change. He points out that “the distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production.” Briefly, this is my construction, and I think that it is also the construction of the Russian Bolsheviks. I again ask you for your interpretation. Regarding my “astounding blindness,” it still remains, that whichever country or countries subsidised the buccaneering expeditions into Russia, it was always with the purpose of overthrowing the Bolsheviks, for they all realised, if J.F. does not, that they had little hope of fleecing the workers of Russia whilst the Bolsheviks held power; so I do not see the refutation or answer to the latter part of my letter.

One more point I would like to ask. In the reply to Mr. Dight, J. F. says there is no race or nation of people that have passed from feudalism to fully developed capitalism without going through the essential phases of capitalist developments. Will J.F. kindly explain what he means “by the essential phases of capitalism.”

Yours fraternally,



When a correspondent sends any question to the Socialist Standard, the facts and arguments in support of our case are put forward in the simplest language, consistent with accuracy, at our command. If such a presentation of our case fails to reach the understanding of the questioner, it is evidently useless to carry the discussion any further.

All the points given in Mr. Mahoney’s letter have been answered in various articles in the Socialist Standard, and were specifically dealt with in the answer to his previous letter in the August (1922) issue.

Mr. Mahoney admits that he still fails to understand that the most colossal war in human history was not between two nations at different economic stages, but between two whose stage of development and economic conditions were practically identical. In the face of such a mentality, it would be a waste of time and space to deal with his other statements.

ed. com.

(Socialist Standard¸ October 1922)

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