The class struggle
Mr. R. Neft is a Labour candidate who vainly tries to persuade himself that he can at the same time be a Socialist. A previous pamphlet on the Capital Levy was noticed in these pages. It was almost worthless because of Mr. Neft’s lack of understanding of the structure and working of the capitalist system. He has improved. For instance, he has now learned that for practical purposes there are in developed capitalist society only two classes—the propertyless, who work, and the propertied, who live by owning. At least, he knew this up to page 13, and there he falls back into his old habit of writing about “all classes.”
His pamphlet is an attempt to give a simple sketch of the development of the means of production in human history, and the parallel growth of forms of ownership and social systems. He shows how exploitation came into existence, but he makes a serious omission in not describing the corresponding political evolution. Had he shown how the capitalists won and keep their position as a ruling class, he would perhaps have seen the glaring inconsistency of his own position. When we realise that the workers must gain political power before they can establish Socialism, we see also the impossibility of a Socialist giving support to the Labour Party which seeks power for numerous purposes but not for Socialism. We have often enough shown that that Party’s principles are anti-Socialist, and we invite Mr. Neft to prove that the Labour Party is committed to the abolition of the exploitation of the workers by the property owners.
He quotes Marx extensively, but quite fails to appreciate the Marxian view of the class struggle. He is pleased because
”merchant-middlemen and shopkeepers” are swelling ”Labour’s right wing” (page 7), yet he must know, as Marx knew, that these people are in the worst sense reactionary. They fight—when they fight at all, and don’t merely whine—to win back “pure” small-scale capitalism. They want us to assist them in staying capitalist economic development. They are the last people to desire the abolition of the system. We look forward; they look back.
Mr. Neft believes (page 10) that when once they learn of the existence of the class struggle, the capitalists will “join the Socialists.” This is untrue, and contrary to Marx, whom he quotes with evident approval. Allowing for some exceptional individuals, the more clearly capitalists recognise their own interests, the more determinedly will they organise to protect their class privileges and resist attacks on capitalism. They will continue to associate their interests with the welfare of society as a whole.
What misleads Mr. Neft is the capitalist support he sees increasingly going to his party. Some day perhaps he will realise why this is happening. It is because the capitalists are coming to believe that the Labour Party really is, what it boasts of being, “not a class party,” but the “only bulwark against revolution.”
Mr. Neft’s confusion is shown by his absurd statement that the co-operative movement is one of the weapons of the class struggle (page 12). According to the Report of the Registrar of Friendly Societies (see Labour Research Dept. Monthly Circular, February, 1925), the total wages bill of the co-operative societies for 1923 was £17 million, and their total surplus was no less than £16 million. While, according to the N.U.A.D.W., whose members have been involved in a wage dispute with the Leeds Co-operative Society, that society pays an average yearly wage of £123 per employee, and makes a profit of £203 per year per employee. These figures are for 1924 (see Daily Herald, March 5, 1925).
This is a rate of exploitation which would make Leverhulme’s mouth water. Cooperative capitalism is worse than any other because of the sickening hypocrisy of its defenders, who masquerade as representative’s of a higher morality than their fellow-sweaters.
Mr. Neft’s economics are equally weak.
He says of Trade Unionism that “The capitalists are forced to give in on the union question, but are by no means defeated. They give advances in wages, and take back what they give by means of higher prices and unemployment.” This is nonsense. Will he kindly tell us where and when he has met this queer type of capitalists who “give advances in wages.” Our experience—and, I expect, Mr. Neft’s experience also—is that the master class always and everywhere resist demands for more wages.
They sell at that price which gives them a maximum profit. Unless other conditions alter, a wage advance to their employees does not enable them to get compensation by raising prices. If it did, they would not resist wage claims. And will Mr. Neft explain why his capitalists were so philanthropic as to refrain from raising prices before wages went up?
This false theory was used with disastrous effect by the Labour Party and other defenders of capitalism during the war. It encourages among the workers the disgusting slave attitude of non-resistance to the attacks of the employing class.
Mr. Neft links Socialism up, with Christianity, and says that we both preach ”the brotherhood of man.” We don’t; we preach war against the capitalist class.
He says that trustification is the adoption by the capitalists of Socialist principles, and will eliminate competition. There is nothing of Socialism in large scale capitalist industry, and in widening the area of competition to great national groups it makes for a rivalry not less but more acute and deadly than before.
Finally, Mr. Neft calls himself a Socialist, and then defines Socialism as “vesting the ownership of . . . the means of production, distribution and exchange in the whole community” (page 16). Will he please explain what a Socialist community would need to do with wealth, in addition to producing it and distributing it?
Has it not occurred to him that exchange necessarily implies private property, and does he think that private ownership and Socialism can co-exist?
(Socialist Standard, April 1925)