Vince Copeland Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index   |   ETOL Main Page

V. Grey

Shop Talks on Socialism

The Profitless Poker Game

(25 May 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 21, 25 May 1946, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The capitalists do not grow richer by cheating each other. Nor do they merely gain from the others’ losses. It would be as if there were 10 men in a poker game, each with a million dollar stake. If they played with a one dollar limit, the chances are they would all play for years and still each have their million at the end. Each would gain from the other only to lose to the other.

Yet if each put his money into a business – shares of ownership stock in U.S. Steel, for example, he would have about a million and 50 thousand at the end of one year.

Even suppose the general law of chances didn’t work out in the poker game and one capitalist won millions of small pots constantly, cleaned the others out and made 10 million. The fact remains that there was only 10 million to start with, and there was only 10 million, at the finish – even though differently divided. But if the whole 10 million had been put into U.S. Steel, it would have increased to 10 million, 500 thousand at the end of the year. Even if it were put into savings banks it would have Increased 200 thousand or so.

If you look over the income returns, you will see that the capitalists as a whole get richer and richer every year. Where do all their riches come from? If they don’t cheat other capitalists out of it, maybe they cheat the poor people out of it when they sell to them?

That can’t be true either. Take the steel producer. He sells only to capitalists. He can’t cheat them, as we have proved (yet he makes 5 percent profit). The steel producer would look at the automobile producer who sells directly to the working man. He’d say, “To hell with selling steel to a man I can’t cheat. I’ll get in the auto business, where I can sell to the working man and cheat him to death. Thus I will make more profit.” But he doesn’t do this. For both heavy steel and light cars are sold at their value, and there is a profit in both of them.

Then, too, the rich are 7 billion dollars richer than they were last year. But the poor, though poorer, are not 7 billion dollars poorer. The seven billion didn’t come by the capitalists gypping each other out of it, and it didn’t come by their evercharging the consumers for their products.

The 7 billion is 7 billion dollars worth of new wealth. It is something that did not exist before. It is new factories, new limousines, and warehouses full of products. It is the product of the labor of the working people.

The working people did not give their employers warehouses full of goods and newly built factories by passing them over the counter in a sleepy trade. No. It was not a gesture of trade but a labor – a constant labor of millions and billions of hours on their part, that created this wealth.

The working peoples’ labor made all their own food and prepared it – it built their homes, made their clothes in the factories, and all their other necessaries, as we have seen. In addition it made 7 billion dollars worth of other things they didn’t get.

The capitalists get their wealth directly out of the labor of the people who work for them. When the capitalist owner of the factory takes the products you have made and gives you wages in return, he has already made his profit. The products turn into money as they go out the door of the factory into the trucks of the merchant who pays for them.

Naturally, the capitalists and their stooges do not agree with this. And when you show them that new wealth cannot be created by trading everything back and forth (buying and selling), they pull their ace-in-the-hole. “Why capital makes its own profit! All you do is invest it. Money itself breeds money!”

(Next Week: The Parent Without a Child)

Vince Copeland Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 23 December 2018