Of Mice and Men

According to The Economist (25/2/50), Mr. Herbert Morrison regrets that the activities that take place in the Stock Exchange are influenced by politics.

The society we live in is called capitalism. It received that name because “capital,” strictly speaking, money invested to gain more money, is the driving force in the production of society’s needs. This money is spent on means and instruments of production, fields, factories, raw materials, machinery and the buying of labour power, and under present conditions most of the money is invested in huge companies and state concerns which produce the bulk of the goods and services society requires. The title to ownership in those organisations is stocks and bonds, and the main market where they are bought and sold is the Stock Exchange. In the commodity market when prices rise this shows which goods are in demand and the production of these goods increases until supply overcomes demand and prices fall. So in general the price of shares on the Stock Exchange rise and fall under the influence of the same kind of factors. The Stock Exchange is a necessary adjunct of capitalist society. Mr. Morrison realises this: he “presumes the Stock Exchange has useful functions to discharge,” and says, “We ought to recognise that in our money and industrial system such an institution may well be necessary,” but Mr. Morrison “would urge them not to allow the political straws to affect investments.”

To this criticism, Mr. John Braithwaite, the Stock Exchange chairman, very effectively replied: —

“It is quite true that prices are influenced by the ebb and flow of opinion as to the result of the election as they are by every form of news and opinion on domestic or foreign affairs that has any bearing on the investment market. . . .
“What Mr. Morrison seems not to understand is that movements of prices are not made by the whims or wishes of members of the Stock Exchange. They are the result of the actions of countless individuals and institutions all over the country and by no means all of one political persuasion who are moved by countless different reasons to send instructions to the Stock Exchange to buy or sell securities. . . . These are the tides of business influenced by economic and political conditions the world over. . . . The Stock Exchange can no more control or influence those tides than King Canute could order the tides of the sea.”—(The Economist, 25/2/50.)

What chance has Mr. Morrison and the other Canutes of the Labour Government planning a system like that? Even a Cabinet with the alleged talents of the Piddingtons wouldn’t have a chance.

Mr. John Strachev, Secretary of State for War in the present Labour Government, a few years before the war made the following statements in “The Nature of the Capitalist Crises”; they bear repeating: —

“The whole of the present official leadership of the British workers looks forward, like G. D. H. Cole, to the possibility of an organised or planned high wage paying and centrally controlled capitalism. . . .
“Unfortuntely, however, as we have seen, whatever else may happen upon this uncertain planet, the establishment of a planned, stable, high wage paying capitalism is impossible” (page 354).

Planning is only possible when goods are produced for use and not for profit, and at the present stage of social development with the gigantic social productive forces production for use implies common ownership of those productive forces—in a word, Socialism.

J. T.

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