Letter: Further Criticism of the Object of the S.P.G.B.
In the February issue, reference was made to a letter printed in the Aberdeen Evening Express over the signature “C. Clarke.” We have received the following letter from the writer:—
February 27th, 1938.
In your February issue of the Standard, you have an article, purporting to be an answer, to a criticism of your “Object,” contained in a letter above my name, and published in the Aberdeen Evening Express.
What you had to say did not in any way alter my opinion, and in further proof of my contention that your party “Object” requires pruning to bring it into line with the Marxian dicta, I am giving a few extracts from the words of our illustrious mentor, Marx, which deal specifically with the points at issue. In Volume 1, chapter 3, of Capital, Marx states that: “The earth itself is an instrument of labour, but used as such in agriculture, implies a whole series of instruments, and a comparatively high development of labour. In a wider sense, we may include among the instruments of labour, in addition to those things that are used for transferring labour to its subject, and which, one way or another, serve as conductors of activities, all such objects as are necessary for carrying on the labour process.”
These extracts, besides dealing with what Marx understood as being “instruments,” etc., have also a bearing upon the term “distribution,” but, as they may not be sufficient in dealing with same, I am giving two other extracts, which may serve this purpose: —
1. On Page 127, Volume II, of Capital, Marx states that: “For having consumption as its object, production cannot be regarded as completed, until the product is placed within the reach of the consumer.”
2. On Page 71/72, “Peoples Marx,” by Deville, it states that: “Besides the things that serve as instruments of our aids to the action of man, ‘the means of labour,’ include in a wider sense, all the material conditions which, without entering directly into the operations performed, are yet indispensable to their performance, such as railways, canals, roads, etc., or at least their absence would render the labour imperfect.”
Your implication that I am a “seeker after brevity” and clarity, is far from being true; what I am concerned with, at all times, is “clarity,” whether brief or otherwise.
Regarding my comment on the term “community”, your remarks on same bear out my contention that it is rather restricted in its meaning, and, because of this, and the wider significance of the term “Society” (civilised body of mankind), my preference is for the latter. In closing, let me ask of you to give publicity to the extracts I have given, and also to publish my letter, as it appeared in the columns of the Aberdeen Express.
Mr. Clarke, not being satisfied with the case made by us in the February The Socialist Standard, seeks to prove his points by “giving a few extracts from the works of our illustrious mentor, Marx.” What our correspondent fails to see is that, while these extracts are interesting from the point of view of the student of Marx, they have little bearing on the question before us. (The first quotation does not appear in the chapter named.) The aim of the S.P.G.B. in presenting a statement of its “Object of Principles” to the workers is to do so in language which conforms to current usage, and is understandable by the men and women to whom it is addressed. That is the test, not whether Marx, writing in German three-quarters of a century ago in a highly technical work written for students, did or did not use the term “instrument” in connection with the earth. Similarly with the term “distribution.”
The possible objections to the word “Community” in certain localities was dealt with in the February The Socialist Standard. We notice, in passing, that Marx used the word “Community” in this sense, according to a letter written by Engels to Bebel, March 18th-28th, 1875. (See “The Correspondence of Marx and Engels,” Martin Lawrence, Ltd., 1934. Page 337.)
Mr. Clarke gives no reason why further space in our columns should now be given to a letter written, not to us, but to the Aberdeen Evening Express.
We regret the sudden death of Comrade George Bellingham. An appreciative notice will appear next month.