1920s >> 1928 >> no-291-november-1928

The economics of the I.L.P.

There are hosts of well-meaning busy-bodies who set themselves out to educate the workers in Socialist knowledge, whose sole qualification for so doing is an entire absence of such knowledge. As Socialism is not an idea engendered in the brains of men out of nothing, but arises from the present system itself, a Socialist must have an understanding of the present system; particularly he must understand what is capital.

Strictly speaking, capital is money invested in, say, land, buildings, plant, machinery, tools, raw material, labour power, for the purpose of returning a surplus; and the only source from which this surplus can come is the unpaid labour of the wage worker. Capital, therefore, is wealth used to exploit wage workers.

A self-styled “Socialist,” writing in the “Northern Voice ” (September 7th)—a Manchester I.L.P. journal—describes the primitive tools and possessions of savage man as capital. So much for his knowledge. The article is written in praise of Henry George’s “Progress and Poverty,” and the writer has the impudence to foist the old Capitalist proposal, “Taxation of land values,” on his readers as Socialist propaganda, and is apparently very pleased because that staunch supporter of Capitalism, Philip Snowden, “is devoting great efforts and time to the propagation of Henry George’s ideas.”

An article by “Jonkin” criticises a leading article of the “Daily Dispatch,” which apparently represented Socialism as dividing the incomes of the millionaires amongst the poor.
After showing that the editors of Capitalist newspapers write what they are paid to write and not what they think, “Jonkin” treats us to a sample of what he thinks :—

“If the nation is divided into poor and rich, the poor must for ever remain poor unless there is an alteration made in the distribution of the wealth which is produced. The rich are rich because they get a lot. The poor are poor because they get so little. And no power on this earth can remove the poverty of the many until they receive a larger share of the nation’s yearly income.”

Dear, dear ! The rich are rich because they are rich, and the poor are poor because they are poor, and will remain poor until they get more. So now we know all about it !

The Capitalists are rich because they own the means of wealth production, and consequently the resultant product; and the workers are poor because they possess nothing but their labour-power, which they are compelled to sell to the Capitalists in order to live. As the value of labour-power is determined by the cost of its reproduction, that is to say, the necessary food, clothing and shelter to enable the worker to maintain himself in a fit state to do his job, and reproduce his kind, increases in the wealth produced are of benefit, primarily, to the Capitalist class. The beauty of the article is that while the “Daily Dispatch” attacks Socialism as being a scheme for dividing the incomes of the wealthy amongst the poor, “Jonkin” apparently accepts that definition as being correct. Socialism is nothing of the kind.

In the same issue, Mrs. Bruce Glasier has two columns of sentimental twaddle; there is an article criticising the Tory Government for “muddling,” which may be true, but that is the masters’ affair, not ours.

The front page article by “Vox,” is good as a criticism of the “peace” policy of the T.U.C., but it will not prevent the I.L.P. from supporting these same people at the General Election.

The “‘Northern Voice” is simply an agent of Capitalism, side-tracking the workers from the only remedy to the ills they suffer, though the writers are probably unaware of the fact.

J. L.

(Socialist Standard, November 1928)

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