J. T. Murphy

Book Review

Review of Distribution in the Transition Stage to Socialism

Source: The Aldelphi, July 1934, Vol. 8, No. 4
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Distribution in the Transition Stage to Socialism
By L. A. Benjamin
Gollancz, 6s

It is a sign of the times that more and more people are discussing the meaning of Socialism in practice. They are not content with the reiteration of Socialist generalisations. They want to know how these generalisations are to be applied to particular problems.

L. A. Benjamin has tackled the problem of the distribution of income in the transition stage to Socialism. He is not the first to do that. Marx did it in the “Gotha programme.“ But this work of Marx was forgotten since the S.L.P. published it years ago as a 3d. pamphlet, until quite recently.

We are indebted to Benjamin, however, for discussing the problem in entirely new circumstances, and challenging the equalitarian theory which has passed muster as the Socialist answer to those who have not taken the trouble to analyse under what circumstances equality can become a reality. “From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs” is sound morality, but impracticable politics in the first stages of Socialism. Russian history has proved this. Equality of distribution is possible only in two circumstances—starvation conditions and supreme abundance. “War Communism” in Soviet Russia applied the principle of equality in the first circumstances. The age of Socialist supreme abundance belongs to world Socialism on the eve of Communism. Immediately the “War Communism ” conditions passed away, so did equality of distribution.

Benjamin examines both the economics and ethics of the principle of “full value for services rendered,” in its application to distribution in the transition. It is sound in argument and backed by abundant material. The pamphlet deserves the attention of all Socialists and especially those who are anxious to make Socialism intelligible to the middle class technicians and proletarian skilled workers, who think they have much to lose in the change besides their chains.