1920s >> 1928 >> no-287-july-1928

Comic Confessions of a Capitalist.

 One would have thought that with unemployed everywhere, because more wealth exists than can find markets, more production would not be advanced as a “cure for poverty.” Sir Ernest Benn, who claims to be an individualist, whatever that is, seems to think that he makes some wonderful discoveries. He informs us, in all seriousness (Daily Telegraph, March 17th, 1928), that :—

“The wealth of nations consists of things. Poverty is the absence of a sufficient number

of things.”

Marvellous! What things? Whose things? And why, and by whom, are they wanted? Does mere want bring possession of these things? Have the Workers, who undeniably suffer a shortage of the most desirable things, failed to produce sufficient of these things for other people who are non-workers? Are their productive powers greater or less than their needs? In an age when millions of the population are employed uselessly from a wealth-producing point of view, when machinery and other means of production lie idle, this “individualist” talks as if we were living in the stone age. Note this simple stuff :—

“Let us try to discover what it is that people want and how far it is possible to supply these needs.”

A boy or girl from a village school could tell Sir Ernest what it is people want, while even a superficial acquaintance with the achievements of the Industrial Revolution and the mechanical marvels of manufacture to-day will show that these needs could be met easily, even anticipating the most extravagant demands of the future generations. What has this great business mind to offer in the way of constructive proposals? Arithmetic and the wildest of suppositions. He says :—

“Let us get straight down to our arithmetic. Suppose we set the problem like this: Let us give to some railway porter of our acquaintance another £5 a week. Let us suppose for the sake of the argument that the adult male population of the nation is composed of railway porters whose income it is proposed to increase by £5 a week” (ibid.)

Having supposed in this farcical manner, everything is now straight sailing into Utopia. Our nation of supposed railway porters, we are told, will want :—

“Ten million houses, 10 million baths and hot-water systems, 135 million clothing ovafits, 15 million umbrellas, etc.”

It hardly seems credible that in a daily paper, supposed to be read by educated people, that one who claims superior capabilities could pen the following in his conclusion of a two-column article :—

“All these facts emphasise the truth of the theory that the problem of poverty is not a problem of money but of things, and that if we make the things the problem disappears.”

IF ! Then will Sir Ernest Benn tell us why we do not make them? Will he, or anyone, show where the Socialist is wrong when we claim that these things will not be produced unless such production serves the profit of the idle few who own the means of producing these things? This insane system can be ended when a politically enlightened Working Class break the fetters of ownership by the Capitalist few in order to establish common ownership, by which means that class can at once win emancipation and abolish poverty by the ease with which they can now produce wealth.


(Socialist Standard, July 1928)

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