Sir Richard Acland in a Muddle
Sir Richard Acland, M.P., is a Liberal who advocates what he believes to be radical and practical reforms of the capitalist system. All the same he has not got very far in his understanding of capitalism. In a letter to the News Chronicle (November 1st, 1940) he argues that this country’s property institutions must be changed drastically in order to win the propaganda war against Dr. Goebbels.
What I submit we have got to do is to answer the Nazi taunt of “Pluto-democracy.” While more than 50 per cent. of our property is owned by less than 1 per cent, of the population and while the effective control over our economic policy is in the hands of an even smaller number of people, there is far too much truth behind this taunt for comfort, and whatever we may say, the Nazis will have a powerful weapon with which to turn small men and workers everywhere against us.
Two observations may be made on this. One is that Socialists have always had an unanswerable case against capitalism, and it has nothing to do with what Goebbels may have to say about it. The second is that Sir Richard Acland seems to have fallen for that piece of Nazi propaganda which represents Germany as a State which is run on principles other than those of “pluto- democracy.” There is not an atom of truth in it. Behind the screen of State control those ungentle grafters, the Nazi leaders and their capitalist big-business backers are running Germany for their own ends on the usual exploiting lines.
It may be said, however, that at least Sir R. Acland does want to see inequalities of ownership in Great Britain done away with, but when we read further in his letter we realise that he is only continuing the Lloyd George propaganda of 30 years ago, and the result will be the same. He asks that after the war the men who manage our giant resources “must be in some way or other chosen by all of us to work in the interests of all of us, and must not be chosen in any way by the owners of invested capital to work in the interests of the owners of invested capital.”
Sir R. Acland probably does not see the fatal flaw in his pious proposal. He proposes that there shall still be “owners of invested capital,” i.e., people who live on property-incomes, but asks that the property from which they get their property-incomes shall not be worked in their interests! Just as a defender of slavery might have urged that slavery should not be abolished, but should be run in the interests of all! Let it be noted, therefore, that the interest of the workers is to get rid of the private ownership and control of the means of production and distribution. Short of that, and the introduction of Socialism, the more “pluto-democracy” changes the more it will be the same.