The first six lectures in this book were delivered at the Central Hall of the Social-Democratic Federation in 1893 and again in 1894. I have very often been pressed to publish them, by Socialists and non-Socialists alike; but until lately I not give the time and attention needed for their careful revision. I now issue the lectures in their present form, in the hope that I shall thus furnish the rapidly-increasing number of students of sociology with a concise and readable statement of the main theories of the scientific school of political economy, founded by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
I have done my best to make the lectures clear and easily intelligible, even to those who have not previously studied political economy. Lecture IV is the hardest of the series; but I do not think it contains any passage which will baffle the comprehension of the careful reader. In that Lecture, as well as in Lecture VI, I have drawn upon the second and third volumes of the Capital, not yet translated from the German, where it seemed to me advisable to do so. In Lecture V, on Industrial Crises, there are a few pages which will be recognised by those who have read my Historical Basis of Socialism. As, however, this, the first book published in the English language dealing at length with scientific Socialism, appeared more than twelve years ago, and has long been out of print, the passage will probably be new to most of those who peruse the present work.
It is, I believe, universally admitted that a science has passed the empirical and has reached the positive stage when those who expound it are able to forecast events with reasonable accuracy. Economists of the Socialist school can truthfully claim that they alone have been able to predict with any approach to certainty the course of social and economic development during the past quarter of a century; especially in reference to the growth of monopolies, the ruin wrought by our capitalist system in India, America and the Colonies, and the periods of recurrence of international commercial crises. On this ground alone I venture to think that more attention ought to be paid to our theories throughout the English-speaking world than has hitherto been given to them.
The seventh lecture, which is wholly critical and controversial, was read before the Political Economy Circle of the National Liberal Club. I have left this lecture, with the exception of one foot-note, precisely as it then stood. It was written as a direct challenge to the whole of what is called the Jevonian school, the followers of the late Professor Stanley Jevons. My friend, Mr. J.H. Levy, the Secretary of the Circle, kindly sent proofs of the address, with invitations to attend, to the leading Professors of Political Economy in Great Britain, who hold Jevons’s views on Final Utility, some weeks before the evening on which it was delivered. I was told confidentially, beforehand, that my rashness in making such an attack would then receive exemplary chastisement, and that, after the discussion of my paper, no more would be heard of the Socialist theories as an important contribution to the science of political economy. I confess that I did not feel at all afraid. But I also admit that I did not expect that, after all that they had said and written as to the absurdity of our views, neither Professor Foxwell nor Professor Wicksteed, neither Professor Marshall nor Professor Sidney Webb would put in an appearance. Possibly, now that the paper is reprinted, some of these learned gentleman will either attempt a defence of the opinions which they have adopted and champion or will honestly abandon them as wholly untenable.
However that may be, I now leave this book to the judgment of the public, with the hope, already expressed, that I may be instrumental in helping some of my readers to a better understanding of the economic basis of the organised Socialist movement in every civilised country than they have hitherto been able to arrive at.
The book has been set up, printed, and published, under circumstances involving great technical difficulties, by the Twentieth Century Press. This Press is entirely organised and managed by men of the working class in the interest of the Socialist movement in Great Britain; and I venture to think that the work done by them and the success which they have achieved with very slender funds is highly creditable to them in every way.
Last updated on 21.1.2006