John Maclean Internet Archive
From the Revolutionary Communist Group

Will Capitalism Collapse?

by John Maclean

First published: The Call, August 28, 1919
Transcription\HTML Markup: Revolutionary Communist GroupJuly 1998 and David Walters in 2003
Copyleft: John Maclean Internet Archive (, 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Many comrades seem to have been carried away by Kahn’s Collapse of Capitalism and by the alarmist “leaders” and speeches of British journalists and politicians, and believe that under its vast accumulation of credit and paper money and bills capitalism is rapidly staggering to its doom. My impression is that capitalism is more vital today in Britain, Japan, and America than ever it was and is preparing for expansions such as have never been made before, that if capitalism is to be “sent west” it will only be the result of the delivery of the greatest knock-out blow ever given, and that this blow must be given by a united, revolutionary working class.

My contention is that capitalism is not based on credit or paper but on production of commodities for surplus value in the form of interest, profits, and rent. The conditions are sources of raw material, machinery, and organisation, skilled labour, and markets. The war has opened up new sources of raw material and coming railways will vastly extend these sources, and the war waste affords vast demands for goods and the seizure and opening-up of the world by the League of Thieves means markets vastly exceeding past experiences.

It is admitted that the big companies of Britain have extended their plant during the war and installed the latest and best machinery laid down in scientific manner. Much of the war expenditure has involved the vast extension of this “fixed capital” inside Britain. The general skill and aptitude of the working class has been rapidly improved by war adaptation, and the labour-power resources have been swollen by a mighty new army of women workers. In Britain alone we have therefore today, now that war production has been transformed into peace production, the conditions of a production perhaps double that of pre-war times and thus the possibilities of a surplus value realisation treble that prevailing in 1914.

What applies to Britain applies more or less to the United States and Japan. If more gold be needed to back up the paper media of commodity circulation, that can easily and plentifully be obtained from industrial sources and the gold mines or silver can be used as unlimited legal tender as in Britain in the eighteenth century.

The secretly planned campaign of the London bankers and the government finding expression in the alarmist whine about credit collapse, and most recently given voice to in the Commons by Austen Chamberlain and Lloyd George, is part of the settled policy of inducing the working class to increase production by toiling harder than ever. Compulsion through scientific management and inducement through bonus, profit-sharing, and similar payment-by-result methods will supplement the alarmist appeals to the workers to save the empire by reducing the time and cost of production. (By the way, everyone now adheres to the labour-time theory of value except J. Ramsay MacDonald, some capitalist economists, and the mass of the trade-union leaders and labour men such as William Adamson, MP, PC.)

The agitation to increase production has, as the usual bait for Mr Henry Dubb, an increased standard of life, such as is enjoyed by some workers in America - the intention cleverly being to divert the workers away from revolution. The accomplished increase of output will mean cheaper goods for the market and success against American competition throughout the world.

If Britain can extend her world market, her increased sales will realise increased profits. On those profits depends the safety of British capitalism, for out of them the propertied class will be able to make a fatter living through dividends and interest directly, and indirectly through £400,000,000 interest on the £8,000,000,000 national debt.

From this swollen income the propertied class will be enabled to put by vaster sums than ever before to invest abroad, in governments to buy their allegiance in the event of another war, and in industries everywhere to extend the direct robbery of the world’s workers.

Britain’s every economic preparation at present - improved machinery, industrial research, trustification, and standardisation, scientific management and applied industrial psychology and physiology, bank amalgamation and world extension, state unification of mines, railways, electricity production and supply, slightly and economically reduced hours, capitalist industrial unionism, the Overseas Trade Department etc. - is a vital preparation for the coming trade war with America. Such is not the sign of death, but renewed life. As a matter of fact the capitalists are leaving the trade unions and the socialist leaders “light years” behind and are ruthlessly sweeping the co-operative movement aside despite its numerical expansion. Never were the capitalists more lively, more aggressive.

Politically since the armistice they have played their cards desperately well. Army and navy officers together with Bolshevism and the “ticket” won an amazing election result. This year’s game has been to keep peace, i.e. prevent a revolution at home, whilst stemming the revolution in Europe, and winning the tricks at the Paris Peace Monte Carlo,

Our hopes lay first in the Miners Federation leading the workers to battle on an immediate programme that would have ultimately involved capital and labour in a revolutionary conflict. By the introduction of the Coal Commission and the Industrial Peace Conference with its committee, Lloyd George prevented a general strike until Britain won the stakes at Paris. The Sankey worm on the coalition hook baited the miners, who realise they are now hooked by Lloyd George’s utterance in the Commons on Monday 18 August against nationalisation of the mines and in favour of trustification. Home’s hooks lie behind the Minimum Rates of Wages Commission Bill, and the Hours of Employment (No.2) Bill, the outcome of the Industrial Conference. Before his pronouncement last Monday week, Lloyd George saw that the miners were denounced for reducing the output and tried to turn the workers generally against them by the brazen-faced 6s per ton impost on coal. He has converted the miners’ attack into a defence with a host of official and unofficial traitors in the ranks of the miners weakening even the defence. That is no evidence of capitalist collapse, is it?

Our hopes were then transferred to the Triple Alliance. The Triplets determined on a ballot for a strike to force the withdrawal of British troops from Russia. The Wondrous Winnie made a most audacious speech in the Commons assuring the “Labour leaders” Britain was withdrawing her troops from Russia (the wounded, of course), this despite his speech on 17 July in the Connaught Rooms, London, appealing to the League of Nations to make “one united concerted effort” against Russia. The “Triplet” leaders met and thanked Winnie for the excuse he afforded them for suspending the ballot. If Russia is crushed these “leaders” will meet solemnly and declare a ballot is unnecessary….

Meantime, the press is working up the opinion behind the “Labour politicians", such as Henderson and Clynes, that “direct action” may thus be hung up this year. The capitalist class that can manoeuvre "Labour” backwards and forwards in this way shows no signs of having lost its kick.

Then once the “Peace Picnic” at Paris is over Britain sets about adding Persia and Afghanistan to the empire whilst excluding France from Syria, assuring the world all the time that these countries are clamouring for Britain’s protective help. Britain also led the way to “democracy in Hungary by installing that “direct actionist", Archduke Joseph (the recent autocratic enemy), and now has settled down seriously to bomb and batter Bolshevism in Russia to blazes. If world capitalism is to be saved the revolutionary workers of Europe must be starved and killed (women and children do not matter). The fight really begins as Parliament goes on holiday for two months, and to prevent sporadic outbursts in Britain the government has brought back a huge slice of the Rhine army of occupation, leaving France to do the dirty work there. The Highland Division is camped near Mansfield, Notts, ready for the miners. Ireland, meantime, is being incited to revolt so that John the Bully may give her a long sleep

The lesson we ought to draw is that we must agitate, educate, and organise more boldly and vigorously than before. Let us remember that although the trade union and political leaders of the working class have been afraid to be as audacious as the leaders of capitalism, have failed as ever at the critical moment and will do so again, nevertheless the mass of people are coming more and more towards our position.

Therein lies salvation. The safety of society rests not in the hands of a few (leaders or heroes), but in those of masses of mankind, conscious or unconscious. Although the events do not seem propitious, a growing mass of workers is becoming conscious of the need for a new society and is drifting our way all right. The greater the drift the more the props of capitalism will vanish, and hence the pending collapse of capitalism. Quantitative change on our side will become qualitative, in other words, newer and clearer views with higher and prouder spirits will come with numbers, and the moment will come (perhaps even this year) when the workers will challenge capitalism to the last fight and win through to the world society of a united human race, producing each for all and all for each.

On with the fight, comrades!