John MacLean Internet Archive                                                                          From the Revolutionary Communist Group

Away with the Idle Rich

by John Maclean

First published: The Call, 22 January1920
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

Not long ago in The Worker I wrote an article showing that the leading capitalists, such as Lord Weir of Cathcart, accept Marx’s labour-time theory of value. Every issue of Engineering and Industrial Management proves this. Addison accepted Murphy’s pamphlet on “The Workshop Committee”, and the government is consequently trying to get workshop committees established. It accepts the guild socialism notion, and foists on labour the spurious Whitleyism. Recently The Call quoted Dorman of the Dorman Long Group of the Teesside as urging virtually “The One Big Union” on the workers.

Why all this? Obviously to stave off real Bolshevism. The marxian theory of value applied under capitalism increases production and increases exploitation. Workshop committees, Whitley councils, and industrial unionism under the guidance of the capitalists and the capitalist coalition government means greater harmony, greater peace, inside the workshop and inside the whole sphere of production.

Because the capitalists accept our theory and the type of structure we as marxians may suggest, that is clearly no reason why we should scrap our theory and mechanism for the control of production after we displace our enemy from power. They played the same game in the old days when they stole our socialist thunder and our socialist programmes for election purposes.

The latest phase we find well put in the leading articles in The Statist. The tone is obviously false, and is consistent with that running throughout the business articles in the rest of the paper. It seems clear to me that the government realises that the very rapid “Labour drift” will soon bring Labour into political power. The policy will therefore be to guide it, to channel it, nay to earth it if possible, and so stave off the communist commonwealth. The Statist is giving the cue to a section of the business world, and it seems that Lord Fisher has caught on. Here are extracts from The Statist of 20 December 1919. In “The Money Market” leader it says: ”But for the present we have the worst government upon earth, and nobody knows, or at least nobody seems to know, what ought to be done to give us a good government, or even to avoid serious international danger. We must sweep away the idle rich. That is clear.”

In another entitled “The Trades Unionist”, it says:

”No other class is strong enough to uproot the rule of the idle rich and the rule of the idle rich is the main enemy of the prosperity of the kingdom and the empire at the present time…We would, then, earnestly appeal to the trade unions…They are numerous enough and energetic enough to acquire an almost irresistible power in the state. Are they willing to establish a really bona-fide democratic government? And, as a beginning, are they ready to dismiss the idle rich, once and for all, to the idleness for which alone they are fitted, or rather to prepare the way for taking from them properties that never ought to have been given to them, and compelling them to work like other people? Is there any reason under heaven why a particular caste should be endorsed with the ownership of land, so that they and their eldest sons and their daughters may live in idleness and pretend to govern when they have no absolute knowledge either of government or of anything else?”
T his sort of talk is being kept up week after week. It reminds us of Lloyd George’s Limehouse speech. We know that he and Churchill are poles assunder in policy inside the cabinet in their mutual endeavour to keep capitalism on top for a time longer. We also know that Lord Fisher “loves” Churchill over the Dardanelles mess. When we see Lord Fisher writing to The Times urging the “idle rich” to work to increase production we naturally conclude that he is lining up with Lloyd George and Lloyd George’s tools in The Statist.

On Monday 5 January last, I visited an office at 163 West George Street, Glasgow, entitled “Political Information Office”, on a little investigation, and there had a talk with a Lieutenant-Colonel Hutchison regarding an advertisement for an organising secretary. His talk to me was confirmed by another comrade. His suggestion to my comrade was that he should help to form a new political party under Lloyd George. The organisation must break official connection with other political parties. They must oppose the class war and be against the views of Karl Marx.

If this be true (and Lloyd George’s photo was over the fireplace in his sanctum) then we may expect Lloyd George in intrigue to get a grip over the most influential leaders of the Labour Party, have a dramatic quarrel with Churchill over Russia or some other world issue, break away, join and lead the Labour Party. Lloyd George’s sham Russian policy, expressed through O’Grady, and Churchill’s statement that Labour is unfit to govern, fit in with this conception.

The by-elections show that Liberalism is dead, and that Labour would win at a general election. Whether this conjecture be true or not, it is our business to be alive to the situation, and to do all we can to forestall such a contingency.

Let us therefore push forward with classes and colleges on marxian lines, with one political and industrial policy, and with one more detailed programme for the guidance of our class in the onslaught on the capitalist class.