Letters: The Plebs Leaguer and Marx
Confession from Winifred Horrabin
We have received the following letter from the Honorary Secretary of the Plebs League referring to our criticism in the April “Socialist Standard” :—
“The Socialist Standard.”
April 11th, 1926.
‘‘The Socialist Standard,” ever up to date, criticises in its April issue a review of mine that appeared in the “Sunday Worker” in November of last year and in criticising what I wrote launches a bitter personal attack on me, calling me “a mentally indolent superior person,” finishing up by asking me why I “pose as a Marxian.”
May I be allowed to answer?
First of all. I accept the correction with gratitude and humility. I may be superior, I hope not in the sense meant by your critic, but I certainly hope that I am sporting enough to acknowledge an error when I have made one, and in accepting the correction may I say that it would have lost none of its forcefulness if it had been more polite. After all, if a person is right and has knowledge on their side and insight to see the errors of others, then that person should be calm and could afford to be kind.
I am even willing to abase myself still further and to admit that many of the details of the economic theories of Marx are not clearly understood by me, hence my error, then why do I pose as a Marxian?
Because the materialist conception of history seems to me to he a scientific and true explanation of the events of history, and because I believe that emancipation can only come through a realisation of the class struggle.
After all, the main point I wished to make in the incriminating sentence quoted by you, was that the capitalist’s explanation of anything and the worker’s explanation were not the same thing. I can’t help feeling that a criticism of the book (or even a word of praise for it) would have been more to the point than a tirade about me
I am not ashamed to say that I was a human being before I accepted the Marxian theory of society and that unfortunately I am prone to error. It must be nice to feel one is always correct.
The statement criticised by us appeared in the “Sunday Worker” and was as follows :—
“Don’t let us expect that when our employers pay us 5s. for 10s. worth of, our labour power that their explanation of that odd 5s. is going to be the same as ours.”
After showing the glaring error here and contrasting it with Marx’s teaching, we penned the following comment:—
“She may reply that to worry about the theories of Marx is mere pedantry—but if so, why does she pose as a Marxian ?
“We can understand, even while we reject the view, of those who say that there is no time to educate the workers, that action and action alone is what counts. We can equally understand Capitalist propagandists who seek deliberately to mis-educate the victims of Capitalism. But we really cannot understand those who, wanting to overthrow Capitalism, have no time to learn and teach the truth, but time enough and cheek enough to offer as knowledge the bewildering half-truths which satisfy mentally indolent superior persons.”
We note that Miss Horrabin accepts our correction with gratitude. We did not ask her why she posed as a Marxian. As readers will see, that question hinged on the possibility of a reply ridiculing Marx.
Our criticism is sound; and it is indolent for a secretary of a Labour College organisation to offer her readers such complete ignorance of Marx’s economic teaching. The fact that profit is made by buying labour power at its value is a fundamental and essential point in Marxian economics, and it should be known by those who set out to teach economics.
We learn that Winifred Horrabin was a human being before she accepted the Marxian theory of society. We accept her statement. Her plea that being human she is liable to error is a platitude that does not excuse ignorance of one of Marx’s most fundamental economic teachings. And in defining herself as a Marxian she states that she does so because she accepts Marx’s theory of society and the class struggle. Thus she avoids the question of Marx’s economics altogether, although she is prepared to write in the “Sunday Worker” warning the workers of capitalist economics. It is nice; and, after all, Winifred is human !