1920s >> 1929 >> no-296-april-1929

A Foggy Knight on Socialism

Through a twenty-four page article in a 3/6 monthly (“Fortnightly Review,” February and March issues), Sir Reginald Mitchell-Banks, M.P, asserts, warns, and re-asserts regarding what he terms ”The shifting sands of Socialism.” The amount of Socialist criticism his contribution contains may be estimated by the fact that he merely concerns himself with the vague definitions given by such enemies of Socialism as Philip Snowden, Sydney Webb and Bernard Shaw.

By this method he avoids the task of having to meet scientific generalisations and provable theories. By assuming that Nationalisation, Municipalisation and other forms of Capitalist development are Socialism, Sir Mitchell reaches the conclusions he wishes to arrive at. This question-begging method makes it easy then to attribute Capitalistically-produced evils to Socialism. It can then be shown that where Socialism has been ”experimented with” that ”not one success has been recorded.”

In fairness to our critic, we will allow that he states: ”All I can do is to indicate what I believe to be the essential points in the Socialist case.” We then see how convenient is such a proviso. Sir Mitchell claims that: “Socialism is based on the ground that Capitalism has failed to provide a decent standard of life for the mass of the people.” What is “decent” we are not told, but we may add that Capitalism is the Capitalists’ own system, and presupposes a working-class who are content to provide their masters with luxury and comfort while accepting a slave’s portion themselves. That Capitalism has failed to provide a “decent standard” for the mass, our critic says is “demonstrably contrary to facts.”

On the very next page we are told that this same Capitalism has “found colossal annual sums for assistance of children, the aged, the sick and the unemployed,” and a few lines further on that there is no evidence to prove that Socialism will abolish the evils which he now tells us “admittedly still exist.” Of course, Russia has to be touched on because “there you may see Socialism of the Marxian type in being, and it is beyond doubt a failure.” Same method of unsupported assertion, same want of evidence that it is Socialism. Instead, we get another contradiction, for we learn that: “Wherever you discern a ray of light it is produced by a resumption of Capitalist methods.” This is a novel method of making your case good, for we are to believe that there are two social systems in existence in Russia. Where Sir Mitchell sees in Russia what he terms failure, it is labelled “Marxism in being,” and where he sees “rays of light” (presumably wages, trade, profit) they are produced by Capitalist methods. Very convenient ! We claim, and have supplied evidence in the past, that Capitalism is the system in vogue in Russia at present. Social systems cannot be tried one day and abandoned the next in the fantastic manner inferred. All the material, economic and intellectual, for the establishment of a new system of society is generated in the system that precedes it. Advanced Capitalist countries have developed the necessary industrial technique, but the intellectual material for the establishment of Socialism, a Socialist majority of workers, has yet to be generated in these countries. This is more so in economically and politically backward Russia, where the majority are peasants and large scale social production, the basis for Socialism, has still to be developed.

Sir Mitchell’s article is a wind-beating onslaught upon a “Socialism” of his own making. His attempted criticism makes one wonder why members of the Capitalist class are not wise enough to leave such tasks to their hired journalists. They, at least, would hardly exhibit such mental poverty as is contained in the following statement, made without a scrap of evidence to support it: “Nothing worth mentioning is left of Marx as an economist or as a prophet. It seems his speciality was being wrong.” The best answer to this is to advise readers to study for themselves the correctness of an analysis of Capitalist conditions and tendencies that has stood the onslaughts of the paid professors of the Universities for over half-a-century. Sir Reginald Mitchell Banks, M.P., may be considered a great man in Capitalist circles, but his entry into the field as a critic of Socialism reminds us that pygmies remain pygmies, even though perched on stilts.