1960s >> 1964 >> no-718-june-1964

50 Years Ago: Forerunners of Marx

The author claims that the great forerunners of Marx—standing between the Utopians and the latter— was an Irishman named William Thompson, who, among numerous notable statements, laid bare the source of value in his work entitled, “An Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth most conducive to Human Happiness”, etc., published 1824, where it is laid down that all labour can be reduced to unskilled labour of the average kind at a given time.

Miss Potter says Marx took his notion of “homogeneous human labour” from Thompson and incorporated it in “Capital”.

The author says, “In the English speaking world the work of this Irish thinker is practically unknown, but on the Continent of Europe his position has long him established'” (p 115)

Now what is common to both Connolly and Miss Potter is the curious fact that neither of them state who established Thompson’s position and made him known on the Continent. The uninstructed reader may learn with surprise that the person responsible was—Karl Marx!

Many years ago Dr. Aveling pointed out in a little book called “Darwin Made Easy”, that the various “objections” by ignorant Christians and parsons to Darwin’s work were all first formulated by Darwin himself in the “Origin of Species”, and no opponent had ever brought forward any other. So with Marx. All the opponents of Marx who are so loud in their claims to have discovered “forerunners” of his work and ideas are all of them—German, English and Irish alike—indebted to Marx, who first discovered and gave full credit to them in his various works, particularly in the “Poverty of Philosophy” and the “Critique of Political Economy”.

And among others he points out that Benjamin Franklin had already in 1721 stumbled on the secret of undifferentiated labour as the source of value, though he (Franklin) did not work the idea out to any extent.

However, it is the fashion today among the shallow critics of scientific Socialism who are unable to refute the case or show a flaw in the arguments of Marx to pretend to demolish that genius by finding someone who “anticipated” him, and keeping “gradely dark” the fact that the very person they are indebted to for such discovery is Marx himself.

(From the Socialist Standard, June, 1914. Extract from a review of “Labour in Irish History” by James Connolly)