1920s >> 1923 >> no-225-may-1923

Correspondence

Gentlemen,
Referring to Mr. Fitzgerald’s reply to my letter (this month’s issue of the Socialist Standard), I would like, for charity’s sake, to leave on one side all matters, such as whether Mr. Fitzgerald’s article was vituperative, whether my policy is akin to that of an ostrich, and whether I am in the habit of misapplying what I call my reason—matters upon which Mr. Fitzgerald and myself would probably still disagree in the long run, and to ask this simple question :—
Taking Mr. Fitzgerald’s statement in his article in the December issue of the Socialist Standard, that “Every increase in prices . . . has called either for an increase of currency, or for some financial readjustment,” what are the successive stages between the increase in prices referred to and the arrival in circulation of the increased currency? It would, of course, make the answer more interesting if a concrete example were given, starting with the definite reason for (or cause of) the particular increase in prices.
Yours sincerely,
J. HUTCHINSON.

ANSWER TO J. HUTCHINSON.

In his previous letter, appearing in the February issue of. the Socialist Standard, Mr. Hutchison refused to examine or accept the facts and figures we presented in our criticism of “Plebs,” in the December (1922) Socialist Standard, but brushed them aside contemptuously in favour of what he called his “reason.” As, by the above letter, he still retains that position, it would, obviously, be a waste of time to supply any further facts or figures to such a critic.
When Mr. Hutchison is prepared to take and examine facts, as the basis of a discussion, we may deal with his question.
J. FlTZGERALD.

* * *

March 23rd, 1923.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain, 17, Mount Pleasant, London, W.C.I.

Dear Comrade,
I have only received the Socialist Standard for February this week, hence my delay in answering J. F.’s reply to my question:

How to distinguish a commodity from other things “; for if we can do that, we can tell without further aid, whether a sovereign is a commodity or not. J. F. says:— “Whether a product of labour reaches the position of currency or not has no bearing on this question.”

I claim that that is the point at issue, and that it is J. F. who bears on it, and tries to show that when gold is minted into sovereigns it is no longer a commodity, because :—

“When it has reached this position, and only then; it ceases to be a commodity, as it is no longer produced for profit, but as an official instrument set apart for currency purposes.”

Are we to clearly understand from the above sentence :—

(a) That a use-value that has no surplus-value embodied in it, is not a commodity.
(b) That although gold has surplus-value embodied in it before it is minted, by some miraculous means it looses that surplus-value as soon as it is minted, and therefore, is no longer a commodity.
(c) Is there any “profit” produced in circulation. In other words, is value augmented in any commodity by means of circulation, and if not, why bring it into the discussion ?
Yours fraternally,
Wm. WALKER

ANSWER TO “W. W.”

The questions in the above letter were answered in the previous reply appearing in the February Socialist Standard. “W. W.” appears to have muddled himself by dragging in the question of circulation. Whether the explaining of the obvious will clear that muddle we cannot say, but perhaps it is worth the trial.

“W. W.” wants to know whether he is “to clearly understand” from a sentence he quotes :—

“(a) That a use-value that has no surplus-value embodied in it, is not a commodity.”

If “W. W.” will read our statement again, he will see that his question has nothing to do with that statement.

First, as we pointed out, when a particular article is no longer bought and sold, is not produced for profit, but is used for the performance of certain work, it is no longer a commodity, no matter what it may have been before. An illustration may help to make the matter still more simple. A machine bought from the market and used in production is not then a commodity. It is in the stage of being consumed. True ! In the case of bankruptcy, or for some other reason, it may be brought on the market again, and once more become a commodity. But this is only an occasional occurrence. The bulk of machines are used up, or consumed in production.

And so with sovereigns. The Government might gather together light weight coins, and, after melting them down, sell the gold ingot as a piece of gold, which would then be a commodity. But the sovereign is not produced for sale or profit, but as an article of utility in certain social transactions. It is being consumed in use while acting thus, and is not a commodity.

Question (b) is disposed of by the above.

Question (c) has nothing to do with the subject, as the word “circulation” was not used once throughout the whole answer. On the general question of “circulation” and “value,” an answer to a correspondent in the March Socialist Standard covers the ground.

J.F.

(Socialist Standard, May 1923)

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