1920s >> 1926 >> no-268-december-1926

Ford v. Marx

Two or three months ago, one of our contributors had occasion to criticise the illusions of the Editor of the “Observer” concerning the respective intellectual merits of the notorious exploiter of motor-car producers and the author of “Capital” and other works of economic criticism. Now it appears that the Editor of the New Leader shares some, at least, of his Conservative colleague’s fantasies.


In a recent article under the above heading, Mr. Brailsford emulates Mr. Garvin in seeking to delude his readers with the belief that Marx’s analysis has (once more) been exploded, and his predictions falsified, because, forsooth, American capitalists have discovered how to make huge profits while paying high wages. We are told that the fundamental principle of capitalism according to Marx has been discarded. The new Capitalism has got rid of poverty, and Mr. Brailsford’s sole remaining objection to it is that it is autocratic! He even refers to “the source of exploitation being closed,” but fails to reveal his meaning. Apparently, his mental outlook is so foggy that he imagines that the increased consumption of the workers keeps pace with their increased production. Yet it is obvious that if this were the case the increased profits of the bosses would not exist.


Now the object of capitalist production is profit. Marx dealt fairly exhaustively with this fact, and no one yet has demonstrated the alleged error in his reasoning. He also showed that wages, like the prices of other commodities, were an extremely variable factor. Nowhere did he suggest that they could never rise; while he indicated, with exceptional clarity, the part played by machinery in intensifying the exploitation of higher-paid labour-power and reducing the proportion of the workers’ share in the fruits of their labour.


In Ford’s book (quoted by Mr. Brailsford) the secret of the higher profits obtained with higher wages is shown to lie in the application of machinery, while elsewhere in his article, the “New Leader’s” editor refers to the fact that one-third of the American workers are below the poverty line! Marx, therefore, would appear to have been exploded only in the imagination of Mr. Brailsford, and those who think like him.


In our pamphlet on “Socialism,” the point is dealt with at some length, in Chapter III., but one example will serve here to illustrate it. Between 1899-1923, the number of cars per worker produced in the automobile industry had increased from 1.66 to 16.11. The output had multiplied by ten! Surely Mr. Brailsford does not imagine that the wages of the producers have been multiplied in anything like that proportion, either in actual money or in purchasing power! Yet, unless he does believe this, how can we explain his failure to see that the exploitation of the workers has been increased, and the gulf between them and their masters widened? Only by his utter ignorance of Marxian economics !


Eric Boden