Obituary: Edgar Hardcastle
Edgar Hardcastle—or Hardy as he was simply known in the Party—died in June at the age of 95.
Hardy gave a great input into the Party particularly to the Socialist Standard, serving on the editorial committee for over thirty years and contributing articles from the early 1920s onwards. He was also a member of the Executive Committee for decades and a Party lecturer and representative in debates as well as serving on the new pamphlets committee.
The son of a founder member, he went to prison as a socialist conscientious objector in the First World War, formally joining the Party in 1922. After studying at the London School of Economics under Professor Edwin Cannan he worked all his life as a researcher in the trade union movement, first for the Agriculture Workers Union, then for a short while for the international trade union movement in Brussels, then till his retirement for the Post Office workers’ union where he was chief adviser to a succession of UPW General Secretaries.
Hardy had the reputation of being a “theoretician” of Marxian economics but in fact he was something different and rarer in the socialist movement: a person who combined a wide knowledge of Marxian economics with a knowledge of the contemporary empirical evidence.
His main interest was monetary economics. From the 1930s on, as his articles testify, he did battle against Keynes on behalf of Marx and also, more curiously it might be thought, on behalf of his old professor, Cannan. Edwin Cannan, a largely forgotten bourgeois economist of the first part of this century (he died in 1935), could be described as the last of the Classical Political Economists and, as such, shared with Marx certain economic views. In particular that inflation was a purely monetary phenomenon caused by an excessive issue of an inconvertible paper currency and that banks were merely financial intermediaries without any power to “create credit”. Both of these positions were denied by Keynes whose views became part of the economic orthodoxy. At one time there was talk of reprinting Hardy’s “Marx v Keynes” articles in book form but nothing ever came of it.
Hardy’s empirical bent enabled the Party to refute, with the necessary statistical evidence, theories which have sometimes been attributed to Marx such as under-consumptionism, the increasing pauperisation of the working class, the collapse of capitalism (Hardy was the author of the famous 1932 Socialist Party pamphlet Why Capitalism Will Not Collapse) and—more controversially within the Party—the increasing severity of crises.
It was a pitiful business that towards the end of his life, Hardy found himself a member of a branch which was expelled by a poll of all the membership (the only way anyone can be excluded from the SPGB) for deliberately and repeatedly refusing to apply a democratically-arrived-at Conference decision. This was a sad end to a lifetime’s contribution to the development of the socialist movement.