1920s >> 1929 >> no-293-january-1929

The Economic League Discover Some “Socialist” Fallacies

Why should blue papers cause us trepidation Why do we look upon them with suspicion? Seidlitz powders? Possibly. A pink wrapper would be an affront both to human intelligence and to medical science. Or is it that we associate blue papers with somewhat peremptory requests to show cause why, etc., or with polite invitations to appear at certain not greatly sought after institutions? Whatever the reason may be, I must say that the blue paper which was thrust into my hands recently, though possessing the conventional aspect of terror, did not justify the fears aroused by its presentment. But, like most productions of the “Economic League”—for it proved to be one of’ their efforts—it was not only harmless, but a really fine piece of imaginative literature, which fully excuses the existence of this obscure but very “well breached” body of “economists.” (What they actually economise with will be shown later.)

The title of this leaflet intrigued me greatly—“Some Socialist Fallacies Exploded”—and I was astounded to find that the perpetrator was none other than (well, guess—wrong first time!) the great C. E. Ross, whose name should be a household word, but who is unfortunately unknown to the writer. Of the Indian Finance Department, too—think of that! (Whether of the League of Nations or Woolworth’s, we are left to wonder.) Retired, of course. After reading a little, I discovered that the title was most apt, except perhaps in one trifling particular—due to a printer’s error, I assume. (With these delicate penny-a-liner-linotype machines, the tiddy-pin occasionally jams in the collychuff, thus disconnecting the caggle-waggle—and hence misprints occur.) In this case it is apparent that the word “Socialist’’ has got substituted for “Capitalist”—not that such a detail should inconvenience the Economic League, who can always plead their innocence to any charge of being fastidious with regard to such meticulous, hair-splitting distinctions.

The first item on the menu contains real mental pabulum :—

Fallacy No. I.—All wealth is created by the labour of the working-class alone. Therefore it should be owned and controlled by that class. This is the first of the fundamental principles laid down in the Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. It is the real foundation of the whole Socialist creed, as all the other principles and objects of Socialism are more or less dependent upon it. It has often been called “the great Socialist Lie,” but I prefer to call it a grossly misleading half-truth. It is perfectly true that labour is a most important factor in the creation of wealth, but it is not the only factor, and the principle, as laid down, is misleading for two reasons. In the first place, because it ignores the other two factors, viz., Natural Resources and Capital

I patiently waded through the “Manifesto” referred to, but I was most annoyed to find the printer had left this “ first of the fundamental principles ” out of my copy, and in fact the Socialist Party has never “laid down” any such principle. To a well-attuned ear (not a cabbage-leaf flap like my own) the word “Manifesto” is acoustically synonymous with “Declaration of Principles,” and possibly would look the same to a member of the Economic League. On this assumption, therefore, the reader is invited to compare this Fallacy No. 1 with what is stated in the Declaration of Principles on the back page of this Journal. Comparisons are odious, of course, but I have no doubt the reader will note how punctilious the Economic League have been in rendering an exact replica of our principles. On the other hand, if he is of a perverse disposition, he may not! Except for the fact that the principles state that the working-class have not the spook-like quality of being able to “create” wealth, but merely “produce” wealth by expending their labour upon “natural resources” (implied by the use of the term “land”), the fact that no ethical deductions are drawn as to what the working-class should or should not own and control, and the further fact that the principles very definitely and emphatically state how the working-class can abolish classes altogether and bring into being a classless society, which will democratically own and control the “means of living” in the interest of the whole community—not in the interest of a class which has ceased to exist; except for these paltry differences, the Economic League has “edited” our principles in the pleasing fashion usually associated with their propaganda, which invariably subordinates mere expediency to unequivocal expression of the truth. It may be excusable, however, on their part to refrain from adding difficulty to their case by taking the Socialist principles too literally.

That the Socialist dog may be beaten by any old stick—and quite jolly right, too!— is again ably demonstrated in the passage which follows on from the one last quoted:

And, secondly, because it defines labour as that of the working-class alone, by which is implied, and evidently intended to imply for the delusion of the uninitiated, the labour of the so-called wage slave only, to the exclusion of mental (i.e. inventive and administrative) labour. The omission of natural resources as a factor in the creation of wealth is significant. Without natural resources there could be no wealth, and it is to be noted that, in the creation of this essential factor, neither industrial capital nor labour had any part or lot whatsoever. Many people, besides Socialists, do not seem to realise the importance and significance of the fact that the word “Capital” is derived from caput, the head, and this, coupled with the physiological fact that all physical actions emanate from the brain, clearly demonstrates that, in the creation of wealth, the work of caput, the head, is of infinitely greater importance than that of manus, the hand.

I should hate to presume, but might not the term “Capital” be derived from “capio—I take ”? If this should be the case, “capital” would apparently mean “I take all,” but such an expression could only have significance in games of cards, so this derivation does not seem to fill the bill.

Obviously caput, the head, is of far more importance than manus, the hand, though both might be of equal utility in, say, knocking a nail in a wall—with a hammer, I mean! But these Capitalists have developed their heads to such a degree that they could knock screws into the sides of battleships with them, and in the event of a coal dispute they would be able to provide all the necessary fuel simply by meeting and putting, their heads together, wooden they? (Steady!)

Whilst I might agree with the Economic League that the Capitalist is far too brainy to indulge in such a coarse expedient as WORK while he can buy working-class brains to perform the functions of inventors, managers, supervisors, agents, administrators, foremen, and indeed every function necessary to the effective running of the Capitalist system, yet I think they are somewhat unkind to saddle the poor chap with the responsibility for the “direction” of industry. Take the coal industry, for example. The remarks of Lord Melchett (Alf Mond to myself and other intimates) in his presidential address to the Institute of Fuel (“Daily Herald,” November 22nd), if they refer to the Capitalist in the coal industry, do not accord them the justice they deserve.

The present methods of coal distribution in this country arc in a shockingly primitive condition.
Coal was being dragged in small quantities, and in a quite unsystematic manner, about the towns. Two or three coal carts could often be seen in one street, each delivering a few hundredweights at a time.
Then they had the so-called “qualities” of coal, which scientifically they knew did not exist.
If all this could be standardised, simplified and unified, everybody would do much better. Whatever corner one touched there was an entire waste going on.
Turning to the productive side, Lord Melchett professed to see efforts made by the colliery owners towards peace in industry. He expressed his pleasure, and added: “If they had only done one-tenth of what they are doing now two years ago, we should never have had the strike.” The coal trade was faced with the problem of tiding over the present period of disorganisation and over-production in such a way that the world’s output of coal when used with the greatest economy would satisfy its needs.
Nearly 300,000 miners were unemployed, and it was said that between 200,000 and 250,000 were a permanent unemployable surplus in the industry. It was a desperate load for an industry to assume, and the general desolation caused was almost too dreadful to think about.
Internal reorganisation should take place promptly. In what other industry would unproductive units be tolerated, such as were seen in the coal trade the world over?

One would almost think that that was said by a naughty Socialist, wouldn’t one? It may be, however, that the Capitalist “directs” in every industry but the coal industry, and the Economic League may be right after all!

But how refreshing it is to find that the Economic League can agree with us that sunshine, rain, the ocean, land, etc. (or “natural resources” so called) were not “created” by the Capitalist, and that this “is significant.” They do not state, however, whether the significance lies in the fact that the Capitalist draws most of the advantages from them, or in the fact that wealth is produced from them by the labour of the working-class alone—the Capitalist is far too busy with other amusements to bother about this one. If the Economic League can afford the sum of 2d. from their coffers for the pamphlet “Socialism,” they will find additional evidence of the subtle manner in which these Socialists “exclude” “mental” labour from their calculations. On page 2, for instance, it states :—

    The essential thing is that the member of the working-class has to sell his labour-power in order to live. Beside this salient fact all else pales into insignificance. The differences of dress, pay, education, habits, work, and so on that are to be observed among those who have to sell their working power in order to live are as nothing compared with the differences which mark them off from the capitalists. No matter how well paid the former is, or how many have to obey his commands, he himself has a master. He has to render obedience to another, to someone who can send him adrift to endure the torments of unemployment. Because he has to sell his labour-power, his whole life must be lived within prescribed limits. His release from labour is short and seldom; he has no security of livelihood; he has always to fear that a rival may displace him.

No! We have not noticed that the “abilities” of the Capitalist are used to “blackleg” on the working-class, who appear to have the monopoly of WORK, mental or physical—he does not keep dogs and bark himself.

Well, reader, the first “Socialist” fallacy having gone off with an appropriate bang, the consideration of the others can be left over for our next issue.

Sarcastigator.