Henry Hyndman November 1887

Wealth and Ability; Reply to Mr Mallock

Source: Fortnightly Review, November 1887, p. 636-648;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

In the course of the past few months Mr. W.H. Mallock has contributed to the Fortnightly Review four long articles entitled “Wealth and the Working Classes,” in which he has endeavoured to destroy the theoretical basis of modern Socialism. To place adequately before readers of the Fortnightly Review, in answer to Mr. Mallock’s criticisms, the views of Social-Democrats, or Socialists of the Collectivist school, would take up as much space as has been occupied by Mr. Mallock himself. I shall therefore confine myself in this article to a brief refutation of Mr. Mallock’s main thesis, which is that because mental ability of a certain kind is required for the management of the processes of industry and the affairs of commerce, therefore the bourgeoisie contribute so much to the wealth of the nation that the mass of the working class must rest permanently contented with their inferior position, and should never attempt to realise that Co-operative Commonwealth, with equality of social conditions, which we Social-Democrats regard as the next stage in the development of the human race. That 225,000 families in Great Britain should own between two-thirds and three-fourths of the realised wealth of the country is due, according to Mr. Mallock, not to inherited or acquired monopolies, but to the ability displayed by certain of their number in the organisation of industry and the development of invention. Ability in short imparts to commodities increased value in exchange, and that is why the few are rich and the many poor. Such is Mr, Mallock’s contention. Labour – social labour-force – ceases to be the real measure of the value of commodities in exchange. All the economists from Petty to Marx, and all schools of political economy from the laissez-faire to the Socialist, are wrong in considering cost of production in labour the main element of value. They have all overlooked “ability,” and Mr. Mallock has discovered or rediscovered it.

Before I treat directly of this strange contention, and the still stranger deductions which Mr. Mallock draws from it, I may be allowed to point out that Mr. Mallock seems to be very superficially acquainted with the Socialist writers whom he criticises. He knows no more of the works of the man who may be considered the founder of modern scientific Socialism than the first volume of the Capital. Even that, I venture to think, he has read very cursorily, and more for the purposes of hand-to-mouth controversy than with the view of a thorough understanding of that masterly analysis. Otherwise I can scarcely comprehend how he could pen such sentences as these: “Marx, for instance, represents the capitalist classes as possessed, as if by a devil, by one absorbing and hideous passion – ‘the greed for surplus labour.’ But the curious thing about him and his school is this; they use their criticism merely as a taunt, and do not see that really it is a scientific explanation.” What is a scientific explanation? The “curious thing” about the above passage is that none have ever pointed out so clearly as “Marx and his school” that this “greed for surplus labour,” these seven devils incarnate of competitive lust, are a necessity of the capitalist system. That, moreover, this very capitalist system itself was an inevitable stage in the development of mankind from the earlier communal forms, through the various phases of private property represented by chattel-slavery, serfdom, and wage-slavery, up to the complete communal development which will necessarily follow on the downfall of capitalism. It is precisely to Marx and his school that we also owe the formal statement of the history of class struggles as embracing the true history of civilisation, from the days of Egypt, Greece, and Rome to our own time. It is to Marx and his school that we owe the elucidation of the truth that slavery, which in its day was as inevitable as capitalism, was overthrown, not because it was ethically wrong, but because it was economically unprofitable; that the feudal nobles fell, not because they were corrupt, extravagant, and lustful, but because they had become useless, and incapable of handling the growing economical forces which had developed the strength of the trading class; that the middle class itself will decay in like manner, not because of its innumerable failings, but because it, too, has become useless, and, in spite of its “ability,” incapable of managing the growing powers of man over nature, even for its own eventual benefit.

Each of these periods of human development since the institution of private property in land and machinery – comparatively a very short term in the life of man on the planet – has manifested special vices and special virtues, and not one of them could have been escaped, though the cruelty in all might have been mitigated. None of this does Mr. MaIlock notice as a portion of Socialist theories. Surplus value adulterated with Utopian ideals, that is his conception of the Socialist creed. Of Karl Marx’s Misère de la Philosophie, of the famous Communist Manifesto of 1847, of the second volume of the Capital, containing exhaustive criticisms on Adam Smith, Ricardo, the physiocrats, and others, he has, I judge, never heard. While assuredly if he has ever read the writings of Engels or LassaIle, or even, if I may refer to it, my own Historical Review of Socialism in England, he is careful to avoid giving any evidence of his knowledge. In short, my difficulty in dealing with Mr. MaIlock is that he runs right away from the historical and economical arguments of the Socialists to expound at considerable length an ethical view of his own as to the infinite rectitude of great possessions.

In his two earlier papers Mr. Mallock stated, not unfairly, but still not quite accurately, the Socialist doctrine of value. I will give it here in the words of Engels:

“As to the value of commodities, which is the only value known to political economy, when I say that a commodity has definite value, I necessarily say-

“1. That it is a useful social product.

“2. That it is produced by a private individual for his own private account.

“3. That although the product of individual labour, it is at the same time, without even the knowledge or consent of the producer, the product of social labour, and not only so, but of a clear determinate quantity of such social labour arrived at in a social manner by way of exchange.

“4. I express this quantity of social labour not directly in so many hours of labour, but indirectly in another commodity.”

Mr. Mallock, as I understand him, admits, generally speaking, that this quantity of social labour does measure the values of commodities relatively to one another when they are exchanged, and that if the quantity of social labour necessary to produce one set of commodities is lessened it will fall in value relatively to all other commodities, other things remaining equal. What has ability to do with that? No human being can tell at the moment of exchange whether commodities of the like character have been produced under the control of a genius, or whether they have been sent to market by a born fool. If a producer is using the best machinery he will probably secure an individual profit; if he is working in the old way he will probably suffer an individual loss; but in either case the quantity of average social labour-force necessary to produce the articles comes behind the backs of both the seller and purchaser, and settles the relative value of the articles exchanged quite independently and even in spite of them. Deal doors made by machinery in Norway are much cheaper than precisely similar deal doors made by hand in England. The Norwegian producer is therefore able to give more doors for an equal number of other goods. He undersells the English handworkers and makes a profit, till the handworkers are finally beaten, and machines fight machines. What has ability to do with value in exchange here?

As a matter of fact, improved machines and inventions do not raise and never have raised the value of commodities. They reduce the value of commodities – a truth made conspicuously apparent just now in the agricultural department, in which machinery and organised co-operation under capitalist control have only just begun to produce a serious effect. What “ability,” or rather the general progress of social development, does effect is to enable fewer workers to produce more commodities with less labour than before. But this nobody ever disputed.

What Socialists denounce, and what, apart altogether from any feeling in the matter, they say must inevitably come to an end, is the appropriation of the results of social progress by a class whose chief characteristics – owing to the necessities of their struggle for survival in the race of competition with the members of their own class – are low cunning and utter indifference to the welfare of human beings. If that is “ability” the sooner we all migrate to the Paradise of Fools the better. Though in saying this I admit that I have insensibly transferred myself to the ethical standpoint. The modern villicus, instead of getting lower rations than the labourers, because his labour is less severe, is allowed, owing to the monopoly of the means of production by the employing class, to secure for himself and his employers three-fourths of the total wealth produced. Though this very villicus himself, the man of “uncommon labour developed,” more often than not gets a moderate salary as his share of the spoil, for the simple reason that the ability to manage large concerns is by no means so uncommon as Mr. Mallock imagines.

But, says Mr. Mallock, “All industrial co-operation implies subjection. Even Mr. Hyndman, in a Socialistic manifesto which he issued some years since, described the constructive programme of the Socialists as being to mass the people into ‘industrial armies;’ and what implies subjection more obviously than an army?” I deny altogether that industrial co-operation implies subjection – social subjection. It implies voluntary discipline – a very different thing. It implies also leadership, direction, or, if you please, even authority, whilst the industrial co-operation is going on. But the leader or director would be chosen, not by those who have an interest in maintaining slavery, but by those who have the best of reasons for securing freedom – that is, by the industrial co-operators themselves. What is needed for an industrial army is a Washington, not a Napoleon; a Cincinnatus, not a Sulla. With equality of social conditions this would be easy to obtain; and experience shows that where working-men choose their own managers they certainly do not fail to get competent administrators for their business. It is a delusion to imagine that Social Democrats wish to put a committee in command of a ship or a council in control of a newspaper. They are ready enough to confer power and responsibility on individuals when it is necessary or advisable to do so, but they retain the option of dispensing with their services by vote. Mr. Mallock assumes that the capitalist class can alone exercise such a choice with judgment, a statement which virtually begs the whole question at issue. Moreover, he takes for granted that high money payments are the only really permanent inducements for men of ability to exercise their faculties. And this, I take leave to say, is contradicted by the whole history of the human race, from the earliest periods even to the present time.

But what does Mr. Mallock’s argument really amount to? Not assuredly to showing that ability is the chief element of value in exchange. But to the statement that, because Kepler and Newton, Fulton and Watt, Faraday and Morse, with the thousands of inventors and discoverers who lived before them, enormously increased the power of man over nature, and consequently the wealth of all civilised societies, by their discoveries and inventions therefore – what? Therefore the late Lord Dudley took £600,000 in royalties in one year out of a little district which happened to have coal below its surface; therefore the Duke of Westminster receives hundreds of thousands a year from City ground-rents; therefore a great manufacturer like Mr. Samuel Morley can die worth millions; therefore a Jay Gould or a Vanderbilt amasses untold wealth; therefore our brewers, cotton lords, ironmasters, and bankers can scarcely find an outlet for their capital; therefore a few thousand shareholders take £35,000,000 a :year out of our railways, paying their managers – the men of “uncommon labour developed” – good salaries, and their porters bare subsistence wages; therefore – but it is needless to go on; the “rent of ability” goes generally into the pockets of very commonplace people.

A very superficial knowledge of the history of inventions and discoveries would have taught Mr. Mallock that, as a rule, neither inventors nor discoverers nor their immediate descendants benefit by their labours. When living we refuse them bread; when dead we vouchsafe them a stone. To him that hath – the landlord and capitalist – shall be given; from him that hath not – the poor inventor, discoverer, or organiser – shall be taken away that which he hath, namely his power even to invent and discover. Kepler and Cort, the discoverer of the hot blast, both died of starvation. I know a firm of enormous wealth in Birmingham which has notoriously gained that wealth to a large extent by systematically robbing their ill-paid “hands” of their inventions. That is “ability” devoted to the enhancement of exchange-value indeed --convey the wise it call! Mr. Mallock nevertheless says over and over again that Marx and his school don’t explain this appropriation. That is precisely what they do explain, by showing that the class which, owing to historical and economical causes elaborately traced, has obtained possession of the means of production, including the land, necessarily gains therewith, under a system of free competition among propertyless wage-earners all or nearly all the advantages clue to the progress of science and the organisation of labour. “Ability” becomes the handmaid of capitalists, as she was formerly the handmaid of great nobles and of great slave owners. What is more, the highest class of ability, being frequently the most sensitive, is crushed down in present conditions, and never gets an outlet at all. I know men of the highest ability among the workers who have no chance whatever of obtaining the means of exercising their faculties; the opportunities for rising out of the wage-earning class are indeed decreasing every day.

Worse still, capitalism having attained its full growth and verging on decay, now checks human development as formerly it helped on progress. That is a point which has quite escaped Mr. Mallock. At this very moment the use of improved machines is being kept back and the application of new discoveries to the increase of wealth arrested, because the object of the capitalist class is to save wages for individual benefit instead of to save labour for the general good. Wages being very low, it pays better in many departments to employ more hands rather than to sink capital in new machines. That very “ability” of organisation also which Mr. Mallock lays so great stress upon fails when it comes to deal with industry as a whole. The utter anarchy in business that can be seen in these terrible periods of depression, which now come oftener than ever and last longer when they come, shows that the middle class is unable to understand or to control its own social and economical machinery. The workers are dominated by that machinery, it is true; but the whole thing nowadays frequently comes to a dead lock. Why? How is it that the men of ability cannot control causes which are so manifestly due to social conditions? How is it that although the power of man over nature is greater than ever before in the history of the race, wealth and poverty were never so sharply contrasted? How is it that the question of the honest unemployed is becoming a matter of pressing difficulty, not only in Great Britain but in the United States with its sparsely-peopled territory, as well as in France with its stationary population?

To such questions Mr. Mallock neither gives nor suggests any answers. Social-Democrats, thanks to the investigations into surplus value and the historical evolution of class antagonism by Marx and his school, can give definite replies to them all, as I shall try to show before I conclude this article.

Meanwhile it must surely be clear to Mr. Mallock that, assuming even that it is beneficially employed, this ability, itself a product of man in society, can only be used to the advantage of the possessor in social surroundings suited to its application. Neither Hargreaves nor Jacquard, neither Stephenson nor De Lesseps, not to speak of such much lower forms of ability as Brassey’s, could have applied their special skill unless the society around them had been ripe for their inventions or applications of invention, and had had trained mechanics and artificers whom they could educate to carry out their ideas. Besides, all the, so to say, bed-rock discoveries and inventions of mankind were made in the communal period, and were common property. Yet without these no existing patent would be worth sixpence, and no “ability,” however great, could organise a single factory or undertake a single contract. The few who obtain possession – to meet Mr. Mallock’s objection in the August number of this Review – do so because they are born into the position owing to causes over which they have certainly no control, or, in exceptional cases, have faculties specially adapted to personal success – great strength, great courage, great unscrupulousness, great cunning – in the social conditions in which they are placed. But how this obvious truth weakens the Socialist argument I am at a loss to understand.

It is not to be denied that all inventions and discoveries are due to the combined observation and steady industry not of one or two but of thousands or millions of our race, though some lucky individuals may be honoured for the last crowning bit of work. We have had recent experience in the domain of electricity, not to mention chemistry and other sciences, how when men’s minds are at work on the same problem in different parts of the world, where the social development is nearly identical, the advance is made almost simultaneously by several different persons. The progress is a social development in which no doubt men of genius count for much, but which would not be greatly retarded – such at least is my opinion – if this or that particular genius had never been born. “With machines the same is true, from the simple wheel, the pump, the forge, the stencil-plate, and the potter’s wheel, onwards to printing, steam, electricity, and the great machine-making machines. Each owes all to the others. The forgotten inventors live for ever in the usefulness of the work they have done and the progress they have striven for. We of to-day may associate mythical or noble names with the advances we specially remember, but too often, even then, the real worker and discoverer, if such there were, remain unknown, and an invention beautiful but useless in one age or country can be applied only in a remote generation or in a distant land. Mankind hangs together from generation to generation; easy labour is but inherited skill; great discoveries and inventions are worked up to by myriads ere the goal is reached. Those, therefore, who hold that the individual is all, who contend that these organisers or that class have the right to take from their fellows in return for the services they themselves have rendered, do but show their ignorance of the whole unbroken history of human progress and social development.” [1]

To sum up this portion of the argument. We Socialists contend that owing to a long historical development, beginning with the institution of private property and the division of labour, the entire wealth-producing forces, including inventions, simple and multiple co-operation in the workshop, farm, and factory, and all the immense productive powers of the great machine industry, have come under the control of the capitalist class, who form an insignificant minority of the whole population. Socialists do not deny that the individual, competitive, and capitalistic form of production did at one time hasten on the progress of the human race. It was necessary in order to bring about the socialisation of labour which now we see. In the same way slavery, immoral as we now consider it, was historically necessary in the process of economical development. Without slavery there would have been no Greek civilisation, with its masterpieces of literature and art; without slavery there would have been no Roman Empire, with its great organised administration and its systematisation of law; without slavery the present power of man over nature and the marvellous growth of socialised production could never have been attained. So with capitalism and the feudalism which preceded it. Much as we may detest the capitalist system we recognise that it was an inevitable portion of the social history of man – a necessary stepping-stone to the new period before us. As the middle-class economically overthrew the nobles and took control when the nobles became incapable, so the workers will now overthrow the bourgeoisie, because they have become in turn a stumbling-block to economical progress, and their own functions of a hundred years ago or so are now filled by salaried servants who could as easily be the administrators of a democratic socialist state as of a collection of impersonal companies. The working class are even now learning from the facts around them the future before them. They are getting to understand that it is not their misery or the bad qualities of the governing classes which will give them the victory, but the certainty that economical conditions are ripe for their emancipation, which they were not a hundred, fifty, thirty, or even twenty years ago.

It is, in short, when we come to the answers to the questions put above, that the singular insufficiency of Mr. Mallock’s explanation becomes still more apparent. Here the Socialist analysis of cause and effect, of the class antagonism resulting from economical development, of bourgeois incapacity and proletariat aspirations, comes in to solve these problems and to explain the industrial anarchy rampant in our present society. Not, however, by conjuring up a Socialist Utopia or by figuring forth an ideal arrangement of society – though here as elsewhere induction and hypothesis should go hand in hand – but by pointing to facts, hard facts, which none can gainsay, by showing the tendency of modern productive forces which none can dispute, and by arguing as to the inevitable adaptation of general social arrangements to the economical forms which have even now developed. Already, we say, the new productive forces have outgrown their bourgeois or capitalist environment, and involve a constant conflict between these productive forces and the method of production itself. “Modern Socialism is but the conception in the mind of man of this actual, material conflict outside; it is the reflection of that conflict in the brains of the class which is the first to suffer from it – the working-class."[2]

It should never be forgotten that our present system of production and exchange slipped into a society – the Middle-Age society, to wit, after the emancipation of the serfs – in which the ownership of products was based upon the fact that they were the result of a man’s own individual labour. Gradually the division of labour, which is a social arrangement, made itself felt side by side with this more isolated individual labour. But the products of organised social labour of this kind could and did oust from the market by sheer cheapness the products of the isolated workers.

The ownership of these products did not, however, appertain to these organised groups of workers. No. The law of possession which gave a man the right to the products of his own labour passed over to the employer, the master, the capitalist, who became the owner of the products of other people’s labour. None of the workers could say, “This is my product;” and all of them together could not say, “This is our product.” The capitalist who, whatever his “ability” might be, did not produce at all, could alone claim the right of possession. Thus the individual form of production was revolutionised, but the individual form of appropriation remained unchanged. Here is the germ of the entire series of antagonisms of to-day.

Wage-earners already existed when this great change began, but they were the exceptions. Men only hired themselves as labourers for wages in order to increase the returns which they directly gained as labourers for themselves. Thenceforward, owing to historical causes already touched upon, the wage-eamers without property developed into a class by themselves. The Feudal or Middle-Age society, with all its elaborate series of checks and balances, privileges and guilds, orders and crafts, personal rights and personal duties, was broken up, and in place thereof, in course of time, was broadly substituted the severance between the capitalist class, with its mortgaged landowners, who owned all the means of production, and the wage-earning class, who owned nothing but the force of labour in their bodies. Thus-

I. “The contradiction between social production and capitalist appropriation manifests itself as antagonism between proletariat and bourgeoisie.”

Henceforth the workers had no control over the quantity of the commodities which they should produce, over the quality of such commodities (adulteration, short weight, & c.) as they were being produced, nor over the manner in which they should be exchanged when produced. The laws regulating the exchange of such commodities thus produced by social organisation, under the control of individual capitalists competing with one another for profit, had yet to be determined by experience. The greater the competition between the members of the capitalist class for the command of fresh markets, the more the field for the disposal of their products extended, the more essential to them became the organisation of the labour of their “hands” in their factories and workshops. By this means alone could they keep pace with the ever-widening circle of the markets which were opened to them as a body; by this means alone could each one hope to retain his place in the race for gain, in which his fellow-capitalists were as eager and as strenuous as he. It became a regular commercial war, at home and abroad, in which cheapness was the determining weapon – a chase of devil-take-the-hindmost, in which the lightest-weighted won the highest prize; a survival of the fittest, in which fitness – Mr. Mallock’s “ability” – meant exceptional faculties to squeeze surplus value out of other men’s labour. The upshot of it all has been a helter-skelter production of commodities, often of the worst kind, without rule, order, or comparison of notes even among the capitalists themselves, which brought about the strangest phenomena in the markets. Thus-

II. “The conflict between social production and capitalist appropriation appears as antagonism between the Organisation of production in the single factory, and the Anarchy of production in the entire society.”

Hence results the alternation of depression and elation, of stagnation and movement, of glut and brisk markets, of crisis and “boom,” which have been the invariable accompaniments of the introduction of the great machine industry and the extension of competition on the world market, in every civilised country.

Every general crisis in succession from 1826 to 1886 has been marked with the same general features: over-production, as it is called, on the one side; thousands or millions of industrious people out of work and too poor to purchase the goods which they need – even grain is too cheap now for thousands to buy any! – and which are thus “over-produced,” on the other. The great machine industry under capitalist control, as Marx says, demands and must have a relative over-population of this kind in every country, ready to be temporarily absorbed into the industrial system when “times are good,” only to be thrown out workless again upon the streets when the “men of uncommon labour developed,” the giants of commercial “ability,” have glutted the markets in their haste to be rich. The most powerful instruments for the creation of wealth are used not for the producers but against them; the workers, by producing commodities in the form of capital, condemn themselves as a class to a never-ending but uncertain existence as wage-earners – an uncertainty which is increased instead of lessened by every improvement in machinery. They are mastered by that very progress and industrial development which they should master themselves.

But the capitalists likewise, they too are wholly unable to prevent the universal crises of which we are now experiencing the seventh since the beginning of the century. The result of this is that capital rolls up into larger and larger masses, the smaller men being crushed out; that wage-earners, salaried officials, and domestic servants (the latter 1,800,000) comprise a greater and greater proportion of society; that the capitalist class cease to direct their own operations as individuals, but, associated in limited companies, employ skilled managers – still the men of ability – to do their business for them; and that, when crises come, so ignorant are the rich educated classes of their causes, that they wring their hands in helplessness, refuse to recognise any responsibility as attaching to the wealth they have acquired, and fail to see that, as I have said before, they are unable to handle the system of production already established, or to give outlet to the new productive forces (electricity, the storage of force, the power of the winds and tides, & c,) which are growing up below even as we argue. Thus-

III. “In periods of crisis the contradiction between social production and capitalist appropriation comes to a fearful collapse. The economical conflict has reached its highest point: the form of production revolts against the form of the appropriation and exchange: the productive forces revolt against the form of production itself, which they have outgrown.”

What is the remedy? There is but one complete remedy which is, as I believe, in itself historically necessary and economically inevitable, The social character of the great productive forces must be recognised, and the appropriation of the products by society at large must supersede their appropriation by the capitalist class.

That is, in brief, the Socialist view. But this exposition, it may be said, is too philosophical and too abstract. Perhaps so. We have then only to look round us for the plainest concrete illustrations of the correctness of the analysis. Competition for subsistence wages and increased uncertainty of work among the workers below, accompanied by a fearful relative overpopulation of unemployed and paupers, notwithstanding the advance in power of production; competition among the capitalists for profit above, without the slightest concern for one another, until a crisis comes which ruins many of their own class, and throws thousands more workers out upon the street; the rapid growth of limited companies and co-operative stores on the one hand, and threatening combinations of workers on the other; the economical antagonism in the field of production and exchange reflected, as we have lately seen, on both sides of the Atlantic, in violent class-hatred translated into riot in the streets; the break-down of our industrial system paralleled in the chaos come again or our political disintegration – cannot we see all this around us?

And at the same time the State, even the middle-class State of England, is timidly trying to palliate here and there the mischiefs occasioned by the happy-go-lucky methods which we have inherited from our fathers; and is even laying hold upon department after department of industry with the intention – never, unfortunately, realised, owing to the maintenance of competitive wages in the lower grades of Government employment – of organising them for the benefit of the community. So resistless is this tendency that the late Mr. Henry Fawcett, a man bitterly opposed to State intervention, was forced in his capacity of administrator at the Post Office to turn his back upon Mr. Henry Fawcett the middle-class political economist outside.

Social-Democrats contend further that the economical forms are now quite ready for the socialisation of production and exchange. The railways, the great shipping companies, the mines, the factories, the stores, the banks might be managed quite as well – we say, of course, much better – under the control of a democratic community of associated workers as under the control of associated bodies of idle shareholders. If Mr. Mallock’s men of ability require exceptional payment, then certainly the workers could pay them still higher salaries than their present masters the capitalists; though for my part I cannot believe that anyone in a well-ordered society would claim more houses than he can inhabit, more clothes than he can wear, or more food than he can eat, in return for the opportunity for using his faculties fully for the general benefit. Land has not yet advanced either in town or country to the company form of management; but there also co-operation could be substituted for competition without any serious economical break. That national would be supplemented by international co-operation is certain, as the workers of different countries are already beginning to understand that industrially speaking they have no antagonistic interests.

But Mr. Mallock himself admits more than once that the condition of the workers, physically, mentally, and morally, is not what it ought to be in this nineteenth century of ours. Why, then, does not he, why do not those who think with him, whatever may be their political opinions, help us Social-Democrats to bring about peaceful and beneficial social transformation? We shall never surrender our ideal nor give up striving for its attainment. But in the meantime I for one would gladly see either party, or both parties, carry measures which we have steadily agitated for during the past seven years. An Eight Hour Law in all trades and businesses, with a minimum wage enacted by Parliament; free education and free meals in all Board Schools; the compulsory construction of wholesome dwellings for the people by municipalities and county boards, to be rented at a price to cover the cost of construction and maintenance alone; the organisation of unemployed labour on useful work on the land and in other ways, at fair rates of wages, instead of giving the industrious poor criminal tasks to perform; the change of the Poor Law system from a penal institution against poverty into an organisation for the improvement and elevation of workers overtaken by misfortune at any age – these are proposals which have long been supported by the Social-Democratic Federation, and would gladly be accepted I have reason to know by the most vehement revolutionist of us all.

May I therefore conclude this article with an appeal to all who have any sympathy with the people to study carefully their social surroundings, to throw aside their class prejudices, and to recognise that ability is only used to the best advantage when it is placed at the service of humanity, not when it is sold to increase the gains of a class? A crucial transformation of our present society is assuredly at hand. Would it not be worthy of the highest intellects in our country that they should help England to take the lead, in orderly and peaceful fashion, of that social and economical revolution already begun in our midst?


1. The Historical Basis of Socialism in England, by H.M. Hyndman, p.100.

2. The passages in inverted commas are from Friedrich Engels’ admirable work against Eugen Duhring, entitled Umwälzung der Wissenschaft. The main ideas belong to “Marx and his school.”