H. N. Hyndman in To-day April 1889

Marx’s Theory of Value

Source: To-day, April 1889, pp. 94-104;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The Editor of this Review has asked me to re-state briefly Marx’s theory of value. This I have undertaken to do as clearly and as simply as I can. When I first read Mr. Hubert Bland’s suggestion, however, it seemed to me somewhat strange that, as the first volume of the “Capital” has been excellently translated, and several English works have been published which are more or less based upon Marx’s writings, it should be necessary to make any such re-statement. On reflection it nevertheless occurred to me that only two English authors with whose books or pamphlets I am acquainted appear to have grasped the full meaning of Marx’s investigations; while some, Mr. Philip Wicksteed, Mr. G.B. Shaw and Mr. Graham Wallas, for example, have, I venture to think, entirely misunderstood the real gist of Marx’s analysis.

To begin with, Marx is by no means the originator of the theory that labour – the cost of production in human labour – is the basis of the exchange value of commodities. No political economist of any note has ever disputed this, so far as I know. This does not ensure that Marx and his predecessors are right, any more than the fact that he was to this extent anticipated detracts from the importance and originality of his own demonstrations. But it does throw upon those who support the pretensions of such a man as the late Professor Stanley Jevons, whose own original views were so absurdly silly, the onus of proving that the whole school of political economists are wrong on this point, and that in Jevons we have the Kepler or Newton of the science. This would, indeed, be a strong claim to put forward on the part of one who declared with all the pedantic self-assurance of a charlatan that the spots on the sun were the cause of industrial crises! Compare such nonsense as that with Marx’s masterly analysis of the real causes of these recurrent social dislocations based on his elaborate theory of value and investigation of surplus value. Without Marx’s analysis as a key, I defy any man to give a reasonable explanation of these extraordinary, and from many points of view, terrible phenomena. With Marx’s analysis well in hand it is impossible to fail to understand the necessity for the recurrence of these crises under our present system of production, or to realise the manner in which the antagonisms that give rise to them will eventually be resolved.

It is often said also, Mr. Graham Wallas for one says so in the last number of TO-DAY, that political economy has not advanced sufficiently far as a science to enable us to predict the future. That is true of the bourgeois political economy with its undeveloped and unscientific labour theory of value. It is not true, but precisely the reverse of true, of the scientific or socialist political economy of which Marx is the founder and chief exponent. In his “XVIII Brumaire,” for example, Marx, writing at the time of the foundation of the Second Empire in France, predicted, on the lines of political economy, almost precisely the course which it would, and which, as a matter of fact, it did, run, Those who are incredulous had better read the pamphlet, Again, apart from the prediction of crises already referred to, I do not see how anyone can honestly deny that Marx and his school predicted more than forty years ago the lines on which the development of Nineteenth Century capitalism would proceed. We can, indeed, see under our eyes at this moment the evolution proceeding just as it was then sketched out. I refer, of course, to the growth of big capitals at the expense of small; to the advancing internationalisation of capital, especially of banking: to the tremendous increase of competition in neutral markets; to the consequent development of the company form in industry and to the formation of trusts and unions and syndicates; to the manifest and deepening antagonism between the two classes which alone really remain in our capitalist and proletariat society; and to the efforts even of the middle-class State to cope with and smooth down this antagonism by legislative interference and palliatives, as well as by taking industrial departments under its own control. These changes and developments were, I say, in the main predicted by Marx more than forty years ago, on the strength of that scientific political economy of which he was a master.

If this be so, and I challenge contradiction, then surely the basis on which this power of prediction rests is Well worth careful study, not with a view to mere clap-trap refutation, but in order to attain to thorough comprehension of the teachings of a man of genius. Marx’s life-work had two sides to it. There is the historical or dynamical side, the thorough exposition of the manner in which mankind has arrived, through centuries of class wars, at its present stage of industrial and social development. There is the statical side, consisting of his elaborate inquiry into the methods of production and exchange under the domination of capital, with the criticism on other political economists which such an inquiry necessarily entails. In this article I confine myself entirely to the latter portion of Marx’s work and only to a section of that.

What was it then, that Marx set himself to investigate? The laws which govern the production and exchange of articles for human use in a special sort of society. This was not a communal, nor a slave-owning, nor a feudal, but a capitalist society. He found that society in existence all around him, and he begins the “Capital” with an exhaustive examination of the basis of exchange of goods produced in these circumstances. “In all societies,” he says at the very opening, “in which the capitalist system of production prevails, wealth consists in an immense accumulation of commodities.” I presume that even those who are nibbling at Marx’s theory will not dispute that.

It is the ratio of the exchange of commodities, therefore, that we are to examine. But what, to start with, are commodities. It is with the answer to that question that the real analysis begins. Commodities are articles for human use or consumption produced in a society by producers who are more or less isolated and are producing them on their private account; they are primarily, therefore, private products. But the private products, originally produced on private account, first become commodities when they are so produced, not for the consumption of the producers themselves, but for the consumption of others, when they are produced, that is, for social consumption; and they enter into this social consumption by means of exchange. The private producers stand, therefore, in a social connection. Their products, though they may be the private products or each individual producer separately, are consequently at the same time, quite independently of them and whether they like it or not, social products too.

This, though put in an abstract form, is easily reduced by any reader to concrete illustration by a momentary consideration of the method of production of boots, coats, hats, tables, wheat, and so forth. These commodities, produced as they are for the consumption of others by those who produce them for private reasons, are manifestly social products, and become so by their exchange for other social products. Whether they are exchanged for gold and silver, or for one another, does not in the least affect this truth, though to some minds it may, and unfortunately does, obscure it.

Now the word “value” in political economy means and can only mean the value of these commodities, of these private products which are at the same time social products, relatively to one another when they are exchanged. Value can only be relative. Absolute value is unknown, and such a phrase as “value in use,” or “use value” ought to be definitely and finally given up as misleading and unscientific. It is here, in this examination of the value of commodities, that the importance and at the same time the difficulty of Marx’s analysis begins to be felt. The difficulty lies in apprehending the meaning of this social character of these private products. In what does this social character consist? It consists in two properties. Firstly, the products all satisfy some human want, they are useful articles, not only for those who produce them themselves but for others. Secondly – And here is the point where so many seem to me to go astray and to lose their bearings altogether – Secondly, although these products are the result of the most different sorts of private or individual labour, of the expenditure of simple human labour-force, yet are they all at the same time the products of human labour in general, of universal human labour. These products can enter into exchange because they constitute utilities for others; they can be estimated in exchange because, and in so far as, they embody universal human labour-force. In two private products of equal value, produced under the like social conditions, very unequal quantities of private or individual labour may be embodied, but invariably and by the nature of the case only an equal amount of universal human labour.

Here again we have a truth which, in practice, is daily recognised. A private producer is producing boots or tables by hand; suddenly he discovers that identically the same or equally useful goods are being steadily offered at a lower exchange value than his own have hitherto commanded. He sees at once his whole stock is reduced in its exchange value relatively to other commodities. Somebody has invented a machine or some new method, whereby with a less expenditure of labour-force articles of equal utility can be produced. The law of universal labour has asserted itself at the expense of the exchange-value of his own hand-made commodities, although they may have cost him twice the expenditure of labour-force which they have cost his machine-using competitor. A pair of his boots or one of his tables is worth no more, will exchange with other commodities for no more, than a pair of the new man’s boots or tables. The private labour of an individual producer expresses no more of the value-making universal human labour than is socially necessary to reproduce the commodity, or portion of a commodity, in which it is embodied.

Let the truth of these statements be admitted and I do not myself see how the consequences which follow from them can be: avoided. Marx was never for an instant led astray by that economical will-of-the-wisp “a unit of labour.” He points out so clearly that to my mind it involves a certain amount of perversity of intelligence not to recognise it that human labour of itself can have no value. Marx never doubted for a moment that corn in a besieged city will exchange out of all proportion to its ordinary value with respect, say, to diamonds. Nor did he overlook the fact that when Great Britain is used as a “slaughter-market” for a surplus of American cotton cloth, that cloth will temporarily exchange with other commodities below its usual level. Nobody, further, has spoken more plainly than Marx as to the steps adopted by the Dutch to keep up the value of their spice monopoly; while his exposition of the effects produced in periods of crisis, by the efforts of capitalists, who have to meet their engagements at any cost, to sell their goods, is far and away the ablest known to me.

To sum up. however, the main groundwork of Marx’s value theory in the actual words of his able coadjutor. “When therefore I say that a commodity has a definite value I say:-

“1. That it is a socially useful product.

“2. That it is produced by a private individual on his own private account.

“3. That though it is the product of private labour it is, nevertheless at the same time and similarly, without his knowledge or consent, the product likewise of social labour, and what is more of a fixed and determinate quantity of such social labour, which is arrived in a social way by means of exchange.

“4. I express this quantity not in labour itself, in so many hours of labour, but in another commodity.

“If, therefore, I say that this watch is worth as much as this bale of cloth and both of them are worth fifty shillings, I say that in the watch. the cloth and the money an equal amount of social labour is embodied. I state consequently that social labour represented in them has been socially measured and found to be equal. But not directly, absolutely, as people measure labour-time in days or hours of labour, etc., but indirectly and relatively by means of exchange. I cannot, therefore, express this determinate quality of labour-time in hours of labour, for their number remains quite unknown to me, but only in a roundabout way, and, as I say, relatively in another commodity which represents the expenditure of an equal amount of social labour-time.”

Here we have placed clearly before us the utter impossibility of estimating in our present society what a commodity is worth by labour-time. It is precisely because this cannot be done, precisely because the socially necessary amount of labour comes behind both seller and purchaser of commodities and settles the ratio of exchange irrespective of the amount of individual private labour expended on their production that this analysis became necessary. Only in a society where social production and social exchange, so to say, go hand in hand, will it be possible to state how many hours of labour-time are actually incorporated in any article destined for the use of that society. Then the problem will be approached directly and from the other side. Ten thousand bales of silk have been produced at the cost of so many hours of labour to the community with the means of production then at command. Therefore each yard embodies so much actual labour-time of the community. But we are far from this point yet, and therefore it is that Marx’s theory of value with his analysis of surplus value and the general operation of our capitalist system is of such crucial value at the present time. To go farther here into the various phases of the exchange of commodities and the varying ratio in which they exchange with one another, according to the greater or less quantity of social labour-force embodied in them, would be merely to reprint the first chapter of the “Capital.” Suffice it to say that the creation of such “corners” and “combines” as the “Copper Syndicate” and “Salt Union,” no more affects the truth of this law, than the imposition of a tax on a special commodity by a government, thus enhancing its price to the inhabitants of the country where the tax is exacted, affects it, as the Copper Syndicate has already discovered.

But from Marx’s investigation of value thus briefly put, we come to surplus value, and in regard to this also we are now informed that Marx was quite wrong. Mr. Kirkup in the Encyclopaedia Britannica for instance, far as he has advanced since he reviewed a book of mine in 1883, states, if I remember correctly, that Marx’s theory of surplus value is entirely unsound.

Is it? What does Marx say? He states that a capitalist when he produces commodities of any description, purchases raw materials at the market price, and expends during the process of production certain other materials such as coal, oil, gas, wear and tear of machinery and plant. This Marx calls constant capital. The raw materials of the manufacture change their shape during the process of manufacture, but their value, plus the value of the coal, etc., appears unchanged in the complete commodities. That surely is intelligible enough. But, in addition, a certain amount of capital is spent in wages, and is called by Marx variable capital. This also must be represented in the value of the completed commodities, and so far also no difficulty can arise. But over and above the value represented by the constant capital and the variable capital which has been embodied in the commodities during the process of manufacture, there is a surplus for which the capitalist has paid nothing but of which he gets the benefit. Is not that also indisputable? His commodities must be sold at the market price, or he would not be able to dispose of them, yet their price must include a surplus value for him and those who take under him. He must have in his completed commodities, that is to say, the value of his constant capital, the value of his variable capital and his surplus value, and yet be able to exchange with other completed commodities – the intervention of money makes, of course, no difference as to the truth of this; for money itself is simply a king of commodities – on the basis of the quantity of labour socially necessary to produce both. Whence then asks Marx does this surplus value, this mehrwerth, arise? I wish someone would explain, by the way, whence it does arise other than in the manner in which he says it does. But to proceed. Marx declares that in buying labour-force on the market at the cost of its production in food, education, clothes and houseroom , by buying labour-force for wages at the market price that is, the capitalist has purchased a sort of commodity which has the remarkable property of incorporating its own value in the completed commodity during the process of manufacture – and more.

Analyse any process of manufacture from electro-plating to soap-boiling and this truth springs to the eyes, as the French say. Everyone who has ever held a share in a manufacturing company or has watched the production of commodities can verify this for himself. As the hours of labour are lengthened the amount of surplus value which the capitalist gets without paying for it increases; as improved machinery enables him to get the same amount of product with less than the quantity of labour-force expended that is socially necessary to produce such product on the average, the amount of surplus value which the capitalist gets without paying for it likewise increases, though the hours of labour remain unchanged. Labour-saving appliances mean, so far as the labourers are concerned, merely wages-saving appliances. The labourers cannot prevent their labour-force from being thus used for the benefit of the employing class. They are bound by the inexorable laws of competition for employment among “free” workers to sell their labour-force from day to day or week to week. It is a commodity that won’t keep. Consequently they can only maintain themselves and their families by allowing their labour-force to produce the surplus value on which the non-producers live.

Now the full significance of this whole theory of value and of surplus value, of Marx’s division of the value of a completed commodity into constant capital, variable capital and surplus value – a very different category from the old “fixed capital and circulating capital” – only appears when the circulation of commodities is dealt with. Then the insufficiency of the analysis of the old school of political economists and the competence of Marx’s analysis to solve the problem of modern production exchange and accumulation is made manifest once for all. But I read in Mr. Graham Wallas’ paper, which I presume is the reason why the editor asked me to write this article, the following extraordinary statement:- “The great disadvantage of that method” – what method? – “is that Marx himself is tempted to forget, and his more ardent followers are emboldened to deny, the existence or importance both of those causes of variation in the ratio of exchange other than labour cost which are roughly summed up as the laws of supply and demand, and of those causes of variation in the efficacy of labour which are the occasions of Rent and Interest. In fact, as has been well said, Marx explains the existence of surplus value by stating that the produce of all equally efficient labour is the same, whereas in fact, surplus value is due to the constant variation of the product of equal labour"! I have a high regard for Mr. Graham Wallas, but surely it is somewhat discreditable to a writer and a lecturer on scientific socialism to have written such a sentence as that last. If he had taken the trouble to study what Marx really says, he would have found that Marx attributes surplus value to the power the capitalist possesses of purchasing the labour-force of free labourers on the market, at a cost in wages for the reproduction of that labour-force less than, when thus purchased and applied, it embodies in the commodities which, having been produced, the capitalist owns. Marx expressly says in his first volume and again in the second (German Edition p.379.), “The appropriation of surplus value, of a value in excess over and above the equivalent of the value laid out by the capitalist, although introduced by the purchase and sale of labour-force, is an act which fully completes itself within the process of production, and forms an essential motive (moment) of that process.” This very purchase and sale of labour-force rests upon the separation of the labour-force of the worker as a commodity from the means of production as the property of the non-worker. But Marx goes on to say that this appropriation or this separation in no-wise affects the substance of value itself, and the nature of the production of value. “The substance of value is, and remains, nothing but expended labour-force, labour independently of the particular useful description of this labour, and the production of value is nothing but the process of this expenditure.”

But possibly it may be the phenomena attendant upon money and consequently on prices which confuse so many writers on this subject. We have seen lately how even economists of good repute could be misled as to the main causes of the shrinkage in prices in years past, and how other economists and capitalists have imagined that they could permanently keep commodities above the exchange value of their cost of production. No doubt the capitalist, like any other producer, must first change his commodity, into money before he can turn it over any further; he must convert it into the form of the universal equivalent. Very well. Let us then take Marx’s own words, even at the risk of repetition, “Consider the product, the commodity before it is converted into money. It belongs entirely to the capitalist. It is, on the other hand, as a useful product – as a utility – wholly and solely the product of a past labour-process; not so its value. One portion of this value is merely the appearance in a new form of the value of the means of production expended in the production of the commodity; this value has not been produced during the process of the production of the commodity; for the means of production possessed this value before the process of production began, and independently thereof as carriers (Träger) of such value they entered into this process; what has been renewed and changed is only its exterior form. This portion of the value of the commodity constitutes an equivalent for the capitalist for the portion of his constant capital-value used up during the production of the commodity. It existed before in the form of means of production; it exists now as part of the value of the newly-produced commodity. As soon as this last is converted into money, this value, which now exists in the money, must be again turned into means of production. Nothing is changed in the value characteristic of a commodity by the function as capital of this said value.

“A second portion of the value of the commodity is the value of the labour-force which the wage-worker sells to the capitalist. It is determined, like the value of the means of production, independently of the process of production into which the labour-force is destined to enter and is fixed by a step in circulation, the purchase and sale of the labour-force, before this labour-force enters into the process of production. By its function – the expenditure of this labour-force – the wage-worker produces a commodity-value equal to the value which the capitalist has to pay him for the use of his labour force. He gives the capitalist this value in commodity, who pays him for it in money. That this portion of the commodity-value is only an equivalent to the capitalist for the variable capital which he has advanced in wages of labour does not in the least affect the fact that it is a commodity-value newly created during the process of production, which consists of nothing but the expenditure of labour-force. Just as little is the fact altered by the circumstance that the value of the labour-force, paid to the labourer by the capitalist in the form of wages, takes for the labourer the form of income, and that consequently not only is the labour-force continually reproduced, but also the class of the wage-workers as such, and therewith the basis of the whole capitalist production.

“The sum of these two portions of value does not constitute the total value of the commodity. There remains a surplus over and above them both – the surplus-value. This, just like the portion of value which replaces the variable capital advanced in wages, is value newly-created by the labourer during the process of production – crystallised labour. Only it costs the possessor of the entire product, the capitalist, nothing. This last circumstance, in fact, permits the capitalist to expend such surplus-value wholly as income, provided, of course, that he has not to part with shares of his booty to other participators – such as ground-rents to the landlord, etc. – in which case these shares constitute the income of such third persons. This self-same circumstance was also the actuating impulse by reason of which our capitalist has generally busied himself with the production of commodities. But neither his original beneficent intention to procure surplus-value, nor the consequent expenditure of it as income by himself and others, affects the surplus-value as such. Nor, furthermore, does it alter the truth that surplus-value is crystallised unpaid labour, or affect its amount, which is determined by very different considerations.”

If that is the “Hegelian dialectic” then all I can say is, I wish that Marx’s critics would adopt an equally clear process of exposition and argument. For my part I venture to think that when an investigator of economical and social problems takes refuge in a dense cloud of mathematical formulae, to which he can attach no definite signification in intelligible words, it is quite as probable that this anxiety to seek cover in wholesale mystification is due to the obscurity as to the clearness of the thoughts – if thoughts they be – that thus make off into their congenial fog. At any rate I am confident that those who will honestly endeavour to reason out the complicated phenomena of the circulation of commodities under Marx’s guidance will be satisfied with the increased knowledge they will obtain of the processes of capitalist production, and of the development of society at large. Certainly it is the duty of all Socialists to make sure that they understand before they criticise, with an air of pragmatical superiority, the Aristotle of the nineteenth century.



Marx's Theory of Value by H. N. Hyndman April 1889

Graham Wallas in To-day March 1889

An Economic Eirenicon

Source: “An Economic Eirenicon,” To-day March 1889, pp. 80-6.
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford. A few minor typos have been corrected.

Four-and-a-half years ago (Oct. 1884) Mr. P.H. Wicksteed wrote in this magazine a criticism, from the Jevonian point of view, of the fundamental propositions contained in the earlier part of Marx’s Kapital. Three months afterwards (Jan. 1885) he was answered by G.B. Shaw, and published his final rejoinder in the April number of that year. The controversy had a very noticeable and unusual result. One of the controverters was actually convinced by the reasoning of the other and not long afterwards Mr. Shaw announced himself as a believer in the Jevonian value analysis.

Now Mr. Wicksteed has carried the argument a step further by himself publishing a book on Value with the somewhat misleading title of An Alphabet of Economic Science. At first sight the book, with its twenty-four sheets of diagrams and its unflinching use of mathematical terms, is likely to terrify a student whose knowledge of mathematics is “at the margin,” but Mr. Wicksteed is so painstaking and clear in his explanations that the most ignorant reader when he has finished the last page fancies for one delirious moment that he knows all about the Differential Calculus. In fact a competent critic is said to have told him that she did not think much of him as an economist, but would like to have him as her mathematical tutor. Marx, also, who preferred to employ the technical terms of Hegelian dialectic had to fill many pages with explanations of his method, pages which the adept finds unnecessary and the general reader “funks” but which like Mr. Wicksteed’s mathematics are very useful to the anxious but ill-trained enquirer. I have been asked, while reviewing Mr. Wicksteed’s book to state my own opinion on the points at issue in order that I may afterwards be dealt with by some other and more learned opponent. I will therefore describe the general impression left on my mind after some evenings spent in reading the Alphabet of Economic Science, and re-reading Marx and Jevons.

The existence of the problem of value is, I take it, due to the fact that men have a habit of exchanging various commodities with each other. If we examine the nature of those acts of exchange which make part of the trade of any civilised community we find, first, that similar commodities if exchanged for each other more than once at the same time in the same market are exchanged at the same ratio, and also that each party almost always gives up something which has cost him or someone else trouble to acquire, and does so in order either at once or eventually, to get something which may cause him pleasure. Therefore it is to be expected that anything which changes either the trouble necessary to acquire a commodity or the pleasure to be derived from it will alter the conditions under which any future act of exchange takes place, and therefore, the ratio of exchange. Marx fixed his attention on the causes which affect the trouble necessary to acquire any commodity, and in particular upon those causes which tend to increase or decrease the labour necessary on the average for the actual production of commodities. He pointed out[1] that if the labour generally necessary to produce any commodity is increased or decreased, then (other things being equal) a corresponding alteration takes place in the ratio of exchange between that commodity and others. Of course he was well aware that “other things” never are “equal,” that not only does the efficacy of labour in the production of each commodity vary with the circumstances of each mine,[2] factory, etc., i.e., that rent and interest must exist as economic categories; but also that the utility (in the Jevonian sense, i.e.., the power of satisfying human wants), of commodities varies with changes of fashion amount in the market, or already possessed, etc.[3]. I have heard Marx’s statement of value objected to on the ground, e.g., that the price of a fur coat in a pawnbroker’s shop varies with the daily readings of the thermometer, and that the labour involved in making another like it varies with the skill of the tailor who may sew it, and the excellence of the machine which he uses. Such an objection reminds the sharp boy who always when one is teaching Euclid, Bk. I, Prop. 4, minutely examines the figures on the board and says, “But, please sir, the triangles are not equal.”

At the same time I have difficulties of my own about Marx’s statement of his case. In the first place when he states that a change in the “labour-cost” of a commodity brings about a change in the ratio of exchange he does not indicate the process by which that change is brought about. In his tract Wage Labour and Capital, he describes in the most minute and graphic way the steps which he here omits, the constant competition of capitalists, the necessity which forces each to lower his price in order to secure a larger sale, and the final “settling,” after each fresh disturbance, of a price which represents the average (or to use Jevonian definiteness, the “final”) labour cost. The true reason why manufacturers cannot sell more goods without lowering their prices, namely, that they have to content themselves by satisfying relatively less “effective” wants seems to have escaped him. And he assumed that this effect of competition was so certain and invariable that in a scientific analysis of value any details as to its action would be out of place. But, since Marx’s time, manufacturers with or without the study of Jevons have discovered that their profits can be considerably increased if they agree to satisfy only the more urgent wants of their consumers, and with this object are giving up both in America and in Europe the kind competition which Marx assumes as universal, He quotes with approval in his preface a remark of some Russian reviewer, who describes him asserting that “any stage of development has its own law of population.” If he were writing now he would probably admit that his “labour-cost” law of value does not apply to the period of development characterised by rings, corners, syndicates, and all the other modern “interferences with the laws of supply and demand.” My next criticism is that Marx re-introduces in a somewhat clumsy way the notion of utility which he at first carefully excludes from his definition of value. For instance after saying (p. 5) “a use value, or useful article. therefore, has value only because human labour in the abstract has been embodied or materialised in it,” he afterwards says “Whether that labour is useful for others, and its product consequently capable of satisfying the wants of others, can be proved only by the act of exchange.” But while he admits that labour whose product fetches nothing in the market does not create “value,” he will not say that it creates more or less “value,” according as the product fetches more or less in the market. We have, therefore, the result that if labour has been wasted in producing a commodity its “value” as compared with its market price steadily rises, till at the exact instant when the price becomes nothing it vanishes.[4]

Again, though he recognises, as in the passage quoted, that the actual labour-cost does not always coincide with the “value in exchange,” yet he measures value sometimes, as here, by socially-necessary,” labour-cost and sometimes (p.22 et passim) by value in exchange. Finally if Marx measures the distinction between “simple average labour” and that “skilled labour” which counts as “simple labour multiplied” (cf. p.11) by anything but by comparing their products when sold in the market, what is his standard?

But in spite of possible inconsistencies Marx’s main position seems to me to be this, “If two commodities produced under equally advantageous circumstances by labour of equal efficiency be sold at the same time in the same market, the ratio at which they will exchange, will be the ratio of the labour (measured in units of time) spent in producing them provided that unrestricted competition prevail between all sellers in that market.” So stated I believe that it is true, but that the statement only possesses an historical interest, because competition is not now always unrestricted.

Mr. Wicksteed on the other hand believes that the whole subject of the trouble involved in making commodities belongs not to “Value,” but to “Production,” and accordingly omits everything but a casual reference to it. He fixes all his attention on the causes which affect men’s desire of commodities, and particularly on the well-known law that the more of any particular commodity a man has, the less anxious is he as a rule to get any more of it. The whole book is, in fact, an ingenious mathematical statement of this law and its corollaries. Now I have already tried to show that Marx knew this, though he certainly was not in the habit of figuring to himself, the decreasing satisfaction afforded by successive increment of any commodity as a “curve of quantity, and marginal effectiveness” and indeed seems to have had no clear conception of any kind, of the concomitant variation of utility and supply.

It seems to me, therefore, that Marx’s essential proposition is in no way inconsistent with that of Jevons and Mr. Wicksteed. Marx, I repeat, states that ratio of exchange between commodities varies with (or in Mr. Wicksteed’s language “is a function of”) the amount of labour necessary on the average to produce either of them. Wicksteed states that it is also a function of the amount of each commodity already possessed by the parties to the exchange. Each grants, I conceive, the truth of the other’s proposition, but attaches more importance to his own.

And not only may these two statements be both true, but any number of other Economists might be also right in declaring that the ratio of exchange is a function of any number of other variants which affect all commodities more or less, e.g., their weight, or the season of the year at which they are produced.

The question, however, still remains, “If Marx’s conception of value, and Jevons’, are not necessarily inconsistent, which is the more useful and important?” Now Marx gained certain obvious advantages by insisting on “socially necessary labour-time,” as the most important cause of variation in the ratio of exchange. He wrote in order that his teaching might in the end reach modern wage workers, men in most cases accustomed to compare all commodities by calculating the amount of time usually necessary to produce them, and to roughly eliminate not only all differences due to individual skill, advantage of sites, efficiency of superintendence, etc., but also all casual rises and falls in price due to the overstocking or understocking of the market. At the same time, the most salient industrial facts of the thirty or forty years during which Marx wrote on economics were changes in the methods of production which became practically universal almost as soon as they were introduced, and changes in the length and severity of the normal labour-day. In some instances it even seems as if his use of the word “value” helps him to put certain trains of reasoning more clearly, as in the vigorous pages in which he smashes Senior’s “last hour” notion.

The great disadvantage of that method is that Marx himself is tempted to forget, and his more ardent followers are emboldened to deny the existence or importance both of those causes of variation in the ratio of exchange, other than labour lost, which arc roughly summed up as “the laws of supply and demand,” and of those causes of variation in the efficacy of labour, which are the occasions of Rent and Interest. In fact, as has been well said, Marx explains the existence of surplus value by stating that the produce of all equally efficient labour is the same, whereas, in fact, surplus value is due to the constant variation of the product of equal labour.

In their choice of mathematics rather than Hegelian dialectics as a means of exposition, Jevons and Wicksteed have a decisive advantage over Marx. The science of Economics has to deal with effects produced by a multitude of causes acting simultaneously but varying independently, and mathematicians declare that the “fluxional calculus” is the best if not the only means by which such problems can even be clearly stated. The necessity, indeed, of some adequate mathematical statement of economic conceptions is becoming rapidly more evident. For the examination of causes is useless unless it leads to the prediction, and finally to the control of effects. So far the science, owing to the complexity of the causes with which it deals, has in this all important respect almost entirely failed. But every year provides economists with fuller and more exact statistics, and every year makes louder the popular insistence on an authoritative answer to certain economic questions. And at the same time the constantly growing body of state and municipal industry requires to be guided by some steadier light than that afforded by individual shrewdness and experience or by the most brilliant exposition of economic laws which, whether true or false, are not immediately applicable.

But while Jevons’ was certainly right in his belief that economics could only be treated exactly and fruitfully by the use of mathematical expressions, he probably paid too much attention to variations in the “utility” of commodities, i.e., in the conditions of demand. And too little to the difficulty of producing them, i.e., the conditions of supply. To explain the ratio of exchange by considering either demand alone or supply alone, is to explain the position of the tongue of a balance by referring only to the weight placed in one of the two scales. Jevons’ law runs, “The ratio of exchange of any two commodities will be inversely as the final degrees of utility of the quantities of commodity available for consumption after the exchange is effected.” If any single explanation of ratio of exchange is possible, this is incomparably better than Marx’s, since it is absolutely true without the use of qualifying words like “average,” “socially necessary,” etc. The expression “final utility” (i.e. utility of the last increment offered) neatly sums up all the conditions of production which cause that increment to be the last. But still, in Mr. Wicksteed’s case, the fact that he treats the whole question of ratio of exchange without reference to production, gives his book a certain “bourgeois” flavour when one comes to it fresh from Marx. This will be corrected by the next instalment of the work, but meanwhile he seems to take rather the point of view of a householder anxious to spend to the best advantage a fixed income, or of a shopkeeper anxious to extend the sale of some “special line,” than of a workman whose first pre-occupation is the severity of his work, and the conditions which make it necessary.

But this is by no means the effect of the Jevonian analysis when applied all round; and, indeed, for propaganda purposes nothing is more successful than the demonstration thus afforded of the fearful waste of the means of happiness produced by great inequalities of income. The Duke of Argyll put a common fallacy very neatly the other day, when he justified the social system which has created him on the ground that “price is the measure of demand.” No student of Jevons or Wicksteed, below the rank of a duke, could fail to discover that when a millionaire outbids a fisherman in hiring a few acres of mountain land, he is not necessarily more anxious to get them, or likely to derive from them more pleasure.

What then is “value"? Well, value, to quote Jevons, “is a thoroughly ambiguous and unscientific term.” It has two or three popular senses, and is used by economists to express so many different ideas, that not even the word “capital” is a source of greater confusion. The ratio of exchange between any two commodities has not the comparative permanence, e.g. of their ratio of weight, and therefore even if we use value to mean simply “ratio of exchange,” we must always state clearly whether we mean ratio at any particular act of exchange, or “normal” ratio; and in that case we must make it clear what is our definition of “normal.” And still greater difficulties are introduced if we use “value,” to mean any one of the causes which make things exchange at such and such a ratio, But there is no need whatever for us to use the word at all. Nobody, for instance, expects economists to find an exact sense for “niceness.” Plenty of terms already exist for the various meanings which have been attached to “value,” – such as “ratio of exchange,” “normal ratio of exchange,” “total utility,” “final utility,” or in Marx’s sense, “labour cost,” and “normal labour cost.”

Is it true then that the great “value” controversy can really be resolved into the fact that Marx and Jevons use the same word in different senses, and expound different but quite consistent laws?

I believe so, and in the presence of many of the stalwart partisans of Marx or Jevons, I feel like the child in Hans Andersen’s story, who could not see the coat which all men admired. If one of these will lift me on to his shoulders so that I may admire with the rest, I myself, and possibly some others in my position, will be genuinely thankful.


1. e.g.; Capital (Eng. Ed.), p.22, etc.

2. cf ., p.7. “The same labour extracts from rich mines more metal than from poor mines.

3. cf., p.79. If the community’s want of linen, and such a want has a limit like every other want, should already be saturated by the products of rival weavers, our friend’s product is superfluous, redundant, and consequently useless.

4. cf. p.7. “Jacob doubts whether gold has ever been paid for at its full value.” This applies still more to diamonds.


Marx's Theory of Value by H. N. Hyndman April 1889

E. Belfort Bax in To-day December 1887

Source: To-day December 1887, pp.1 67-169;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Playing to the Gallery

We must all admit that Comrade Champion did some service at least in bringing Socialism before the middle-classes of the West End last summer; since individuals from out these classes it is always possible to find, who may be converted and do good work. Reading papers on Socialism before the “Church Congress” will appear to most of us as rather a fatuous undertaking at best; but still even here, if a man has the leisure and inclination, there can be no possible objection to his amusing himself in this way, provided he confines himself to enunciating principles. The case is far otherwise when a well-known and generally respected member of the party demeans himself to descend to the level of his audience, and such an audience, and to talk the shop slang of the clerical trade. H.H. Champion pandering to a bench of bishops is surely not an edifying spectacle!

The Times reporter represents Champion as saying (1). “there is among the poor a strong belief in the simple doctrine of the gospel.” Can Champion honestly allege that this is true in any ordinary sense of the words used? I admit that to say that the bulk of the working-classes of England were dogmatically atheistic would be equally untrue, the fact being, as everyone knows, that the prevalent feeling among the masses respecting theological matters is that of complete indifference. (2). Champion is made to describe “the claims of labour” as in the main rightful.” Now I would like to ask what counter-claim is there which limits the rightfulness of labour’s claims; for such a limitation was plainly implied. (3). Capitalists are told that “patriotism and true religion” demand that they should take these claims into consideration. But really they didn’t want a Socialist to take the trouble to go down to the Church Congress to deliver this beautiful exhortation; the Archbishop of Canterbury or any other clergyman present could have done it quite as well and doubtless produced as much effect. But the choicest piece of demagogy which the (as I trust) malignant Times reporter has put into the mouth of Comrade Champion is the following: “He (Champion) could tell them that it was his opinion that if the spirit of the New Testament had been boldly preached to rich and poor, there would be no Socialist movement to discuss, and he believed it to be the opinion of every working-class audience he had ever addressed.” After this sally we are not surprised to read that our friend was greeted with loud cheers. How many speeches has Champion not made; how many documents has he not signed, the burden of which has been the irrefutable truth that the present condition of the working-classes is the result of the working-out of an economic law, having its roots in a necessary historical development which no amount of goody-goody preaching could help or hinder! Has Comrade Champion never heard of the great Catholic preachers of the Middle Ages? Will he say that St. Francis and his immediate followers did not preach the spirit of the New Testament boldly to rich and poor; – yet did they solve the social problem for all ages? Facilis ascensus coeli. Champion, apparently elated by the cheers of the Church Congress, is made to wind up with a brilliant peroration, suggestive of the late Mr. Samuel Morley, exhorting all Christians to drop their differences, and unite in their “common worship at the cross of Christ.” Poor, well-meaning Champion, if it’s really all true, what an effort it must have cost him to get out all this flummery, and in the mistaken belief that he is benefiting the cause, too. Of course, it was easy for one or two of the assembled clerics to show that there was not the slightest connexion between Christianity and modern Socialism; that Christianity takes its stand in the individual, Socialism in society; that the very almsgiving virtues of Christianity of which so much is made, in themselves imply the antithesis of rich and poor as permanent, &c., &c. I know that friend Champion is a young man of many admirable qualities, that if the time came for a cross of bayonets in a street fight, he would be “all there.” But, meanwhile, let him take my advice, and just leave this “Cross of Christ” alone, as it really doesn’t sit well upon him, and he is not at all likely to get the Socialist bodies to “officially accept” any form of Socialism agreeable to the “Church Congress.” Comrade Champion, it is well known, believes in the necessity of early parliamentary action for the English Socialist party; yet (judging by the Times report), he has furnished the strongest argument on the other side that I have seen. For it may be urged, if a man of Champion’s character and antecedents cannot keep decently straight, when it is only the applause of a few persons that is in question, how is it likely that (possibly) inferior men will be able to resist the many solid temptations which a parliamentary career offers. I do not say or think for one moment that this argument would be conclusive, but it would certainly be plausible. Because, rightly or wrongly, he is disappointed with the men he has had to work with in the Social Democratic Federation. Champion surely need not seek his rest in the apron of the Bishop of Derry as in an Abraham’s bosom.

I had intended writing privately to Comrade Champion to enquire whether the Times report was accurate, but on second thoughts, considering that whether true or false, it had become public property, I decided to make the enquiry through the columns of a Socialist Magazine.

Hollingen-Zürich, Oct. 10, 1887.


Marx's Theory of Value by H. N. Hyndman April 1889

E. Belfort Bax in To-day December 1887

Editorial Notes

Source: To-day December 1887, pp. 157-8;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

We publish in this number a short criticism, by Mr. Belfort Bax, of Mr. Champion’s recent address to the Church Congress. We do not agree with our contributor’s censure, and we think that is founded on a wrongheaded and mistaken conception of the meaning of Christianity; but we publish the article because we believe that it truly reflects the views of a good many prominent English Socialists, and we desire that our Magazine, while having a decided and definite policy of its own, should be the mouthpiece of every section of English Socialism.

* * *

“Playing to the Gallery” was originally sent by its author to the Editor of the Commonweal, but was refused by that gentleman on the grounds that it might “offend” Mr. Champion. This seems to us to be just the worst of all possible reasons for declining to publish anything in a Socialist journal. When Socialist editors take to suppressing hostile criticisms because of any “offence” they may give to anybody, then it is all over, it seems to us, with the independence and healthy life of Socialism in England. “Murdered by mutual admiration” will not be a pretty epitaph for its tombstone.

* * *

Apart altogether from any arguments which may be urged generally in favour of free criticism by Socialists of Socialists, we think that Mr. Morris does Mr. Champion a grave wrong in supposing that he could possibly be “offended” by any strictures on his conduct by such an outspoken and candid critic as Mr. Bax. He must have clearly foreseen that exception would have been taken, in more than one quarter, to his Wolverhampton address, and if he is made of the good stuff of which we believe him to be made, he will welcome an open and manly attack as cordially as he now hates and despises the underground plotting and muttering of which he has been the victim.

* * *

As a matter of fact no Socialist living knows better than does Mr. Champion that nine-tenths of the divisions and quarrels which have distressed and disheartened the faithful, and caused the heathen to blaspheme, during the last five years, would never have come about had Socialists only had the pluck to have said of each other publicly the things that were freely enough spoken in confidential conversation, and written in letters marked “private.” The best antidote to intrigue and cabal is free and open criticism, and the conditions most favourable to the prolific generation of “party splits” are those which inevitably arise from forced efforts after smug unanimity. Criticism is likely to be friendly just as long as it is free; it only becomes rancorous and corrosive when burked and forced under the surface. It is rather sad, though, that one should have to repeat such hackneyed truisms as these for the admonishment of Socialist editors.

* * *

While on the question of the conduct of the Socialist press we should like to ask the editor of the Commonweal how it is that no reports have appeared in his columns of the recent important conference of German Socialists at St. Gallen, and that English Socialists have been compelled to seek for information on the subject in the “Capitalist” papers. From these we gather that the conference was almost unanimous in favour of strictly political action, and that Liebknecht moved a resolution categorically repudiating and denouncing the views and methods of the Anarchists. Do these facts explain the strange silence of Mr. Morris’ organ? We hope that they do not, and that the omission is due merely to careless editing; but if they do, then we do not hesitate to say, that the basest of the “hireling prints” have never been guilty of a more disgraceful piece of suppression.

E. Belfort Bax in To-day October 1887

No Misogyny But True Equality

Source: To-day October 1887, pp.115-121;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

In a recent article I suggested that women were unable to treat any subject from other than a personal point of view. No better illustration of this statement could have been wished than the opening paragraph of Mrs. Besant’s reply to this same article. Now I should have said that if any living woman would have been capable of rising superior to this inability, it would have been Mrs. Besant. But no, even the brightest and best of the sex, it would seem, bear this fatal sign of sex-weakness upon them. Hence, when I endeavour to unmask what, rightly or wrongly, I deem a superstition on the subject of women, and to denounce the social injustice which results from it, I am accused, forsooth, of being a Romeo or a Robert, or some other “loving soul” out of sorts, writing under the sting of “personal suffering,” etc. Of course with the male readers of To-Day, such suggestions as these will only excite a smile. They remind one of the time-honoured bourgeois assumption that anyone who advocated more equitable economical conditions must be badly in want of a dinner; or of the inability of the Turkish mollah to explain the learned German’s purely scientific interest in Islamiti theology on any other hypothesis than anxiety to find out the way to the prophet’s favour. This incapacity to understand interest or emotion springing from anything but the most conventional personal reasons, with men generally eradicated by culture, seems for the present, at least, to be ineradicable in women, even the most gifted. Of course I can refer Mrs. Besant (in private) to at least two or three respectable householders who will vouch for the fact that the opinions expressed in the said article are old (of many years standing) with me, and that, therefore, the alleged “crisis” must be indeed a prolonged one. However, I am quite willing that Mrs. Besant should continue to be amused with the very commonplace kind of “self-revelation” she thinks she has discovered.

With regard to the “merry anecdote” business, printers have persecuted me without a cause (so far as I am aware), in turning “some 300 feet” into “some 800 feet.” I took steps to inform Mrs. Besant that this was the case, but conscious of the strength of my main position, I can well afford to grant my opponent all the points that can be made out of a misprint. For the rest, I might quote the eminent humorist who observed that if the young lady could jump 245 feet with impunity, there was no apparent reason why she should not have jumped 2,450 feet. With regard to the difference between the male and female birth-rates, I contend the figures given by Mrs. Besant fully justify the expression “enormously in excess” when we are dealing with large areas of population. An average of about one-twentieth more in one sex than in the other is a very important “excess” in such a case.

With a good many of my positions Mrs. Besant appears to agree. Of course I think she understates in favour of her own sex the inequality which she admits to exist between the male and female intellect. But it is not worth while to discuss this matter now. By her willingness to give up chivalry, Mrs. Besant shows herself at least consistent. In what she says also about the economic dependence, I, of course, agree. In fact her remarks on this head are only a commentary on the last paragraph of my article. She seems to forget that I myself stated that my remarks applied less to working women than to the women of the middle classes, though I fear many working men will tell Mrs. Besant that the greatest hindrance to their political and social activity is the apathy of their wives.

I certainly don’t deny that men are to be found who are no better than women in their capacity for interest in any impersonal question. I should say that both the sporting and religious “worlds” were largely made up of such. But let Mrs. Besant take the average educated man and the average educated woman, and her sense of fairness will hardly allow her to deny, I think, that my statement was in the main correct, at least in the sense in which I meant it. For I am not quite sure that she exactly hit my full meaning. By “impersonal question” I meant more than merely a. question not referring to self. Personal questions I understand to be questions concerning particular personalities, self presumably first, but when not self, other personalities, as opposed to questions concerning principles. What I say is that women in general are not interested in questions of principle as such, but at most only in so far as they affect particular personalities. They require the dramatic element to evoke their interest. With many men, on the contrary, though this element of course enhances interest, it is not the indispensable condition of interest. The difficulty for even a clever woman to conceive of what I might call an abstract interest is illustrated by Mrs. Besant herself (as already remarked), in her opening paragraph.

Mrs. Besant agrees as to the frailty of woman being mostly a sham, but tries to save the feminine reputation by crediting the female with especial fortitude in facing pain and suffering generally, as against the miserable man who makes a fuss when his finger aches. Now I don’t wish to be rude to a lady, but I am bound to state my conviction that Mrs. Besant at this stage of her article was at a loss for a retort, for the one she makes really won’t “wash”; it’s rather too thin. It must be notorious to Mrs. Besant, as it is to everyone else, that where the average man would go about his business, euphemistically answering conventional enquiries as to his health, with the passing reply that he feels “a little seedy to-day,” the average woman would be lying in her bed, or on a sofa like a limp rabbit, gasping out bulletins to the callers of the neighbourhood. No, surely, if there is one thing in which the average middle-class woman at least is deficient, it is in her “temper under suffering,” as the evangelical tract has it. She collapses utterly before the slightest pain, or even inconvenience, so far as not making a fuss is concerned. It has been confessed by ingenuous women that the pains of parturition of which so much is made, are in ordinary cases preferable to an attack of neuralgia. But whether this be so or not, it is an undeniable fact that many middle-class women if they feel a little tired from a walk pose as though their last hour had come. When Mrs. Besant charges this in the main to class-society I agree with her, but I am only chronicling existent facts, and it is no use denying them.

And now let us come to the main point in dispute. I have made no “impeachment of women in general.” What I have impeached is the ascendency of women as a privileged caste or class. What I maintained is that whatever may have been the disabilities of women in earlier stages of society, in our modern bourgeois society (Western Europe and its colonies), there is an increasing tendency to erect women into a “sacra-sacred” class, the members of which are to be exempted from all the disagreeable consequences of their own actions, to have the criminal law suspended in their favour, to win in every civil suit, to be treated as martyrs and heroines every time a slight inconvenience befalls them. This is what I term the modern 19th century form of the Yonic cultus.

Mrs. Besant will not take me seriously when I state that men have been given six months for protecting themselves against their wives’ violence. Yet this is literally true. The case I had in my mind occurred, if I remember rightly, about March last. The exact date I forget, but I noticed it in the Commonweal at the time. About a year-and-a-half ago there was a case at Highgate (as far as I recollect), in which a woman actually attacked her husband, who was an invalid and I think a cripple, with a knife, inflicting serious injury, and was let off scot free. If in the higher administration of the law there is gross and egregious favouritism shown to women as women, this is none the less so in the mere setting of the law in motion. A little more than a year ago a boy was sentenced, by Mr. Justice Day, to penal servitude for life, for attempting to extort money by threats of an indecent charge. Now women are allowed (vide Mr. Howard Vincent, Pall Mall Gazette, July 13th last) under the very eyes of the police to exercise as a regular trade, a practice which in the male, on a single offence, is deemed worthy of the penultimate penalty of the law[1]. Now I ask has ever greater privilege accrued to any class than this. The mediaeval “benefit of clergy,” pales down before the modern bourgeois “benefit of Sex.” Again, an alderman ventures upon a little feeble civic banter with some flower-girls who are brought up before him for obstructing the pathway. The Yonicists are up in arms. These “poor girls,” are insulted. The newspapers gush with indignation. Mdlle. Dronin is arrested on false information; by virtue of her sex the whole delinquent officialdom bows before her from Home Secretary downward, with apologies and costly gifts. A scream goes forth that women are bullied by the police in the streets. Parliament adjourns. The welkin rings with wrath against police tyranny. Over mere male Socialists, that does’nt matter – but over prostitutes – Oh! The Pall Mall Gazette rubs its eyes and snivels “Brethren shall we harry our sisters"? The same Pall Mall Gazette, bien entendu is very anxious to have its brothers “harried” for so much as looking at a woman in the streets; for the crime of accosting two years hard labour would, we suppose, be “grossly inadequate.” Talking about the Pall Mall Gazette, by the way, it is difficult to believe its editor was not intentionally “lying” at home “for the benefit of his country” - women, as he conceived, when he declared the other night that only a woman could be arrested on unsupported testimony. A man deserves to be condemned to travel every day for a twelvemonth with single women on the Metropolitan Railway that can make such an impudently false statement. As regards this matter, however, I, for one, am quite willing that no charge should be taken against a woman for annoyance in the street on the unsupported testimony of a man, provided no charge is taken against a man for indecent assault on the unsupported testimony of a woman. How now, what do you say to this, Mr. Stead? Completely destroy the blackmail industry – wouldn’t it? Now take this case – Barbarous cruelty to a young child, through whipping, is charged against the police – the child is a boy, a question is asked in Parliament, an investigation promised, and the matter shelved. Compare this with the case of a female arrested on an unproved charge by a policeman, and locked up for a couple of hours. She whimpers, and the respectable classes are set in a blaze.

I think that the Yonic superstition is in nothing more clearly evinced than in recent criminal legislation. The tender body of a young child may be flayed by a brutal policeman, just because it happens to be of the male sex; if it be of the female, to lay a finger on it is sacrilege, and for precisely the same offence it practically receives no punishment. The British Bourgeois affects horror at Count Schouvaloff’s birching of the court maids of honour at St. Petersburg, whose bodies were presumably better able to bear a castigation than the babes he complacently reads of in his paper as being sentenced to ten strokes of the birch by a police magistrate. Then take the clause in the recent Criminal Law Amendment Act, which provides that in the case of illicit intercourse between a boy and a girl, while the boy may be sent to the penal servitude of a reformatory for five years the girl remains absolutely untouched. Now it is universally admitted that girls develop earlier than boys, so that this is a simple premium for girls with precocious criminal tendencies to entrap youths. If it is prejudicial to the interests of society that intercourse should under any circumstances take place in the case of girls under sixteen, what conceivable rational ground can there be for limiting the penal consequences to one side of the equation. A more abominable infamy it would probably be difficult to find in the whole course of modern legislation.

Such are the outward and visible signs of the worship of the female principle in the modern world. Newspaper gush, one-sided legislation, “purity” meetings.

As it is holiday season, perhaps the editor of To-Day will allow me to be frivolous, and narrate a dream I had the other night. I had been reading the Pall Mall Gazette, and Mrs. Besant’s article after supper – and on going to sleep me thought I was in an ancient city. Temples, with griffins and other queer stone creatures abounded on all sides. Groups of quaintly robed idlers were standing about an open square (in which I suddenly found myself) talking eagerly together. Presently there issued from one side of the square a procession of white-robed figures that looked ghostly in the twilight as they advanced with measured step to the sound of the lyre and the lute. I asked of one who stood near what it was that I saw. “Knowest thou not, O son of the stranger,” replied he, “that the great goddess (the name I couldn’t quite catch) has vouchsafed to appear to men in mortal form, that she commands new rites, and will unfold to her worshippers the holy mysteries of the militant virgin.” This was interesting, and I eagerly watched the approaching votaries. While I had been waiting it had been growing rapidly dusk. But now the moon shone forth. By its light, I thought I detected, in spite of their strange garb, foremost among the advancing throng, not as I expected, Orientals of the third century B.C., but the homely figures of Mr. Stead and Mrs. Ormiston Chant, hand in hand, singing as they danced, and dancing as they sang, a joyous hymn of ecstacy. I looked again, and behind them detected, as I fancied, the features of Mrs. Josephine Butler and Mr Waugh, in similar raptures. My historical sense suffered a shock and I essayed to withdraw a little, but ere I had done so my neighbour laid his hand on me, “See,” said he, “the goddess herself approaches.” As I turned, the sharp cut features of a man, evidently a priest, caught my eye. He was clad like the rest in a plain white robe, but on his breast a large triangular silver breastplate glistened in the moonlight, and on his head was a conical crown. Could it be, but no – yet it was very like – the good Mr. Marson! In his hand he bore a standard whence gleamed in massy silver the model of a fish. Behind the high-priest followed a car drawn by eight milk white mares, and in a kind of palanquin a veiled figure I knew to be the goddess. “Bow, vile stranger,” said my neighbour, “adore that virginity which was, and is, and is to come, before which even the legislators veil their faces.” But I kneeled not, neither adored, but standing looked on. The procession halted before a temple, four priests came out and raised the palanquin. A thrill ran through the assembled multitude as the time arrived, when just for one moment the sacred veil should be raised. At the further end of the square a body of richly-attired old men emerged, with bowed heads, from a massive and imposing building. These, I understood, were the legislators, the fathers of the city. Now, thought I, for a chance to see one of the great types of ancient female beauty, if not the Trojan Helen, at least a Semiramid, a “Mrs.” Caudaules, or a Cleopatra! The veil was raised, there stood forward in the pale moonshine – “Miss” Cass ! I turned and felt a little sick. I suppose I must have swooned at the sight of the shopocratic vestal, for the next thing I recollect is being aroused by a crowd rushing forth from the temple, headed by him and her, whom I had taken for Mr. Stead and Mrs. Ormiston Chant, shrieking death and destruction to the male principle. “Hail to the eternal virgin-militant womanhood!” They all raised diamond-shaped daggers on high and conjured the moon-goddess that ere her virgin rays paled that night the city should be purged for ever of maleness, and dedicated a holy priestess to her service. I didn’t know exactly what it all meant, but thought I might as well go and look at something else, and so moved away, clutching a steel J pen and a fragment of the Pall Mall Gazette, which, in the event of the hero of Northumberland street beginning to show “venom,” I intended to use as a charm, crying In hoc signa vinces, (The allusion to the power of the new journalism; I thought would be sure to “fetch” him and make him forget his dreadful vows). However, at that instant I awoke – to reflections on the mutability of human affairs and the difference between the militant Yonicism of two thousand years ago – the group of smooth-faced white-robed fanatics, fish-sign on forehead, triangle on breast and diamond-shaped dagger in hand – and the militant Yonicism of to-day with its black frock coats, Exeter Halls, newspaper articles, London police-courts, lobby wire pulling, and vigilance societies, and I thought that on the whole in spite of certain elements of unpleasantness I preferred the former.

Let me assure Mrs. Besant I am no hater of “women in general.” What I hate is – women in the “particular” position of a privileged class as they are at present. I decline to bow down before a sexual principle, or to admit the justice of granting privileges on the basis of a sex-sentiment. What I contended and still contend is that the bulk of the advocates of woman’s rights are simply working, not for equality, but for female ascendency. It is all very well to say they repudiate chivalry. They are ready enough to invoke it politically when they want to get a law passed in their favour – while socially, to my certain knowledge, many of them claim it as a right every whit as much as ordinary women. Says Mrs. Besant, “Why use the existence of bad women as an impeachment of women in general?” Now I want to know who has done so. I certainly have not. All I say is, don’t allow the worst characteristics of bad women to come into play by giving them free leave to use the tribunals for purposes of spite, revenge or blackmail! Don’t pull out your biggest pocket handkerchief at every tale of wife-beating, before you have heard the other side! Don’t allow women to ruin men by legal process, as a punishment for not marrying them, when they want them to! Don’t allow wives to “sell up” their husbands, or to compel their husbands to maintain them in idleness, while they are allowed to keep all their own property or earnings singly to themselves.

In stating this view of the question plainly, I may say I am only giving articulation to opinions constantly expressed in private by men amongst themselves. A noisy band fills the papers with lying rhodomontades, & c., & c., on the “downtrodden woman,” and their representations are allowed to pass by default. I am styled a misogynist forsooth, because I detest the sex-class ascendency, striven for by a considerable section at least of the bourgeois Women’s Rights advocates, and desire instead a true and human equality between the sexes.


1. This is not all. It is now proposed by the Saturday Review and Pall Mall Gazette that this promising branch of female industry should be “protected” by the curtailment of cross-examination. A Mrs. Brereton, the other day, brought what the jury by their verdict pronounced a false, or to put it mildly, “doubtful” charge against a man. It is now actually complained by the journals in question that this verdict was obtained or furthered by the too severe cross-examination of the prosecutrix. Hence it is argued that cross-examination must be in future limited to questions not embarrassing to the prosecution. Could sex privilege go much further!


Marx's Theory of Value by H. N. Hyndman April 1889

Harold Cox in To-day October 1887

Mr Hyndman on India

Source: October 1887, pp. 101-113;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford

One of the amiable weaknesses of Socialists, a weakness which they share with Manchester Liberals, is a doctrinaire indifference to foreign politics. Out of this indifference Mr. Hyndman, at any rate, has done his best to rouse those who follow him. More than once have the columns of Justice called attention to the danger which the working classes of this country run, in imagining that foreign politics are nothing to them, and Mr. Hyndman has from time to time, if my memory serves me right, taken up the position of the enlightened leader who is willing to advise his followers on matters occurring outside the coast line of Great Britain, as well as on their home policy.

And among such external matters, Mr. Hyndman has apparently selected for his special attention the condition of India and the questions arising out of our connection with that country. As to the line now taken by Justice on Indian questions I must plead ignorance, for I have been out of England for some time and since my return have unfortunately not come across a copy of the organ of the Social Democratic Federation. But I have distinct recollections of Sibylline paragraphs in that journal, vaguely hinting that the writer is in possession of information denied to the government official and the ordinary newspaper man, but of momentous import to the British empire. It was, therefore, with considerable interest that on my recent return from a residence of eighteen months in India, I took up the nicely printed volume that contains Mr. Hyndman’s collected utterances on the condition of our great dependency.[1]

The title, The Bankruptcy of India, is a striking one, and its selection shows considerable ability on the part of the author. These terrible words induced a friend to call my attention to the book, and induced me to borrow it from a library, but they may have induced others to buy it. Possibly the author really thinks that India is on the point of refusing to meet her pecuniary obligations, for this is all that the title can literally mean. But there is certainly no proof of this position in the book, and the statement of it accords strangely with the fact that India 3½ p.c, stock is above par. However, let the title go; Mr. Hyndman is probably less blameable for choosing a sensational catchword than the British public, including myself, for requiring some such trick to attract its attention.

The first disappointment that many people will feel in reading this collection of essays is the author’s acknowledgement in the preface that he has never been to India. For there seems to have been a general idea among people having some knowledge of Mr. Hyndman that his interest in India and his acquaintance with Indian questions was due to a former residence in that country. The point is of less importance than many people imagine. As Mr. Hyndman has shown it is possible for a man to acquire considerable knowledge of Indian matters without leaving England; while on the other hand a man might in certain capacities spend a lifetime in India and return home almost as ignorant of India as when he left. Residence in a country is perhaps more certainly useful to the inquirer in the negative work it does in destroying previous misconceptions, rather than in the positive work of filling the mind with fresh information.

Thus in my own case I left England charged with the notion of the heartrending poverty of the Indian raiyat, and I expected on reaching India to find a peasantry weighed down to the depths of despair by the burden of an impious salt tax: – the gabelle of feudal France – and by heavy land revenue payments exacted with relentless regularity. My first bicycle ride seriously shook this notion. These quiet undemonstrative people that I met walking at an easy pace along the well-metalled road, or under the shade of the trees on either side, might indeed be poor, probably were, but in outward appearance at any rate they were not miserable; they might, indeed be badly fed, but at any rate they were not starving.

Poor is, in fact, a relative term, and can only be interpreted by a knowledge of the circumstances of the case. To mention that the usual wages of an Indian coolie, or labourer, are two annas (nominally 3d.) a day, is to convey absolutely no information as to the condition of the coolie. It is a trite truism that a statement of wages is useless unless accompanied by a statement of prices. But further than this we cannot infer from a mere description of the material condition of an Indian cultivator or an Indian coolie, the view that he himself takes of that condition. In other words, though he may appear poor to us, he may not appear poor to himself.

Thus the majority of the inhabitants of an Indian village are dressed in the simplest of clothing, often nothing more than a narrow loin cloth; their houses are tiny huts, four mud walls, a mud roof, and a mud floor; chairs and tables, and knives and forks are unknown; simple bedsteads of wood and string are indeed common, but poorer peasants have not even this luxury, and must sleep on the bare ground; finally, many of the cultivators and coolies can only afford one meal a day for themselves and their families, and this meal consists only of coarse girdle-cakes, made of cheap grain, perhaps washed down with draughts of warm milk.

All this sounds very terrible to English ears, but it is not really quite so bad as it seems. First, as to clothing. The climate of India, it is hardly necessary to remark, is not the same as that of England. If the poor of necessity wear but little clothing, the rich do the same of choice. A wealthy Hindoo with perhaps a lakh[2] of rupees locked up in his strong box, or invested in government securities, will wear but little more clothing than the peasant, and in some cases it will be of much the same quality. He will live, too, in much the same sort of house, though as a rule it will be larger. He will have a cheap bedstead to sleep upon, and sometimes to sit upon, and if he is a town shopkeeper he may have a ricketty old chair to offer to European customers. He will have also several rugs or mats spread about the floor, but he will eat his food squatting on the floor, and will help himself with his fingers. Like his poorer neighbour, too, he will wash himself beside the public well, or on the steps of the public tank, or by the river side. Finally, many rich a Hindoo will, as a matter of choice, have but one meal a day, though, unless he be a miser, the quality will be better, and the quantity greater, than in the case of the struggling coolie.

Therefore, though there is poverty, and very serious poverty in India, it is quite possible for an enquirer who has not visited the country to exaggerate in his mind both its intensity and the misery caused by it.

It is possible, also, that a traveller making the ordinary three monthly visit in the cool season might be equally misled. At first I was very much impressed by the continual references which my native friends made to the poverty and the growing poverty of India. But when I began to investigate a little and to cross-examine my friends I found that it was possible to attach too much direct importance to their statements.

When for example a Mahommedan gentleman talks of the growing poverty of India, cross-examination will generally elicit the fact that he means growing indebtedness of Mahommedan landowners to Hindoo money-lenders. And further examination will probably lead to the confession that this growing indebtedness is not due to a fall of rents, for they have risen, but to the increased extravagance of the landowner.

On the other hand, when a young Hindoo with an English education talks to you of the terrible poverty of his country, it probably means that he has been reading the Bengali newspaper, and that the Bengali newspaper man has been reading Mr. Hyndman’s book, or some similar production appearing in the London press.[3]

The gravamen, however, of the charge brought by Mr. Hyndman and similar writers against the Indian administration lies not so much in the statement that the people of India are at present poor but in the further assertion that they are growing poorer. This, if true, is a very serious charge indeed, and unfortunately it is extremely difficult to ascertain whether the condition of the peasantry is permanently improving or not. The district officials, to whom I have talked on the subject, all seem to think that the cultivator, i.e., the tenant farmer, is considerably better off than he was, and the improvement is generally attributed to the growth of the export wheat trade. This, however, does not apply to the coolie, the day-labourer, who need not necessarily share in the prosperity of his employer.[4]

On the other hand, rents are known to have risen, and the steadily increasing population presses more and more closely upon the cultivated area. There remains, too, the important question of the fertility of the soil. Year after year, Indian acres are being heavily cropped in order to send wheat to England. No return is made to the soil for this heavy yield, and it is therefore impossible to believe that the old fertility can be maintained. It is, in fact, generally asserted that the soil is considerably less fertile than it was.

Mr. Hyndman very properly calls attention to this evil, or approaching evil. It is difficult, however, to see how the Indian administration is responsible, unless it be for having promoted the railways which have made the export of wheat from the interior possible. It is to be noted that the same phenomenon has occurred in America, and probably in each case the people immediately concerned prefer to have the railways, with the evils they have brought, rather than be without railways.

It might of course be contended, and this is practically Mr. Hyndman’s argument, that were it not for the heavy taxes exacted by the British Government, the Indian raiyat would not be compelled to sell his wheat, but would himself consume it in his own village, instead of the inferior grain he now eats, and thus the elements of fertility extracted with each crop would sooner or later be restored to the soil. In other words, it is asserted that if taxation were reduced, the condition of the cultivator, and through him, of the soil could be improved.

This seems a modest proposition, but it cannot be hastily accepted. To begin with, what are the taxes which the Indian peasant has to pay? The only payments to Government that the cultivator is of necessity compelled to make are two, those on account of Salt Tax, and those on account of Land Revenue. If, further, he goes into court, he has to pay court fees, and if he buys intoxicating liquor, which he rarely does, he has to pay a heavy excise. Also, if he draws water from the canal, he has to pay a water-rate to the canal administration, but this payment at any rate can hardly be classed as a tax.

The most important of his payments is that on account of Land Revenue. With reference to this payment Mr. Hyndman makes some remarks, p.21, et. seq., which are more dogmatic than logical. “And here I may deal with a gross economical error which, to their shame be it said, still finds its way into the most important reports of the very highest officials. It is argued that the land revenue of India is not a tax at all, but that it is merely ‘rent,’ and therefore cannot be reckoned as any real imposition on the people. The Government or the State is the landlord, and in taking the land tax it exacts only what the landlord would take if the State did not! It is difficult to deal seriously with such nonsense as this. As usual, it arises from our determination to apply English views and English theories to a totally different economical and social system. .... Even so, under a capitalist system, let us suppose that the Government calls upon the landlord to pay a large or a small proportion of his rent for the purposes of administration, is not that a tax? Clearly it is. .... Well then, in India, where the ryots, as a rule, grow the crops to supply their families or to exchange merely for such simple articles as they require, the State says such and such a fraction is needed for administration, pay it over to the revenue collector – is not that a tax? The matter is too clear for dispute.”

I had always imagined that land nationalisation and appropriation of rent to the State was one of the subsidiary planks of the Socialist platform. Was I misinformed, or is it that Mr. Hyndman thinks any stone good enough to fling at the Indian Government? It is curious, to say the least of it, that a Socialist of the Iron-Law-of-Wages-School should describe the proposition that a land tax is a deduction from rent, as nonsense. In England there is a small charge on land called the Land Tax. If that were removed by Act of Parliament, who would benefit, the landlord, the tenant, or the labourer? There is another charge called the Tithe. Who again would benefit by its removal? During the re-adjustments necessary it is possible that one or other of the two economically dependent parties might be temporarily benefited, but if competition were free to work the ultimate benefit would inevitably accrue to the landlord.

Why is not this also true in India? Mr. Hyndman gives no reason for treating the two cases as fundamentally different. He seems indeed to ignore the fact that over a very large part of India a zemindar and raiyat system prevails, corresponding in its main features with fidelity to the Irish landlord and tenant system. Does Mr. Hyndman think that an Irish landlord would make a present to his tenant of any public burden remitted from his land? Still less would an Indian zemindar. And what makes the above quotation more utterly inexcusable is that in India the remission of burdens has been tried.

Under the Permanent Settlement of Lord Cornwallis for the Province of Bengal, the zemindars who previously had been merely tax gatherers, retaining a percentage of their gatherings, were made practical freeholders subject to the payment of a quit rent to the Government. The result is – that while the revenue of Bengal has remained stationary – the zemindars of Bengal have waxed fat exceedingly, and the raiyats of Bengal, some sixty millions, living in the most fertile of India’s provinces have become perhaps the poorest of India’s peoples. Happily the Government interfered some years ago on behalf of the cultivator, and passed an act on the model of the Irish Land Act of 1881, to protect the raiyat from the exactions of the zemindar.

In other parts of northern India the wiser plan of settling the revenue for only a period of thirty years has been adopted, thus allowing the State to participate in the rise of rents. But in the interim the increased value of land, owing to increase of population, higher prices, or improved communications is annexed by the landlord, and any permanent remission of. revenue would be at once snapped up by him. An act similar to the Bengal Tenancy Act was last year passed for Oudh, under the name of the Oudh Rent Act. In introducing the bill for this act into the Legislative Council, Mr. Quinton said, “I may add that there was general testimony to the fact that, rents as a rule, were enhanced more with a view to what the tenant could, under a threat of eviction be forced to agree to pay, than from any estimate of the value of the land and its produce.” [5]

These being the relations between landlord and tenant in Oudh or many parts of it, it is probably a distinct advantage to the tenant that the British Government continues, in spite of Mr. Hyndman, to follow the example of preceding governments from time immemorial and exact land revenue.[6] For pace Mr. Hyndman, it is probably a good deal better for the cultivator that some of his rent should be expended by an organisation called the government in defending him from foreign invasion, in protecting him from the possible violence of his neighbours, and his property from their possible depredations, in building dispensaries, hospitals and schools, in making roads and railways, and organising a postal service, rather than that it should all be squandered by an irresponsible rent-receiver.

Next to the land revenue or land tax – the name makes no difference as long as the conception is clear – the most important payment the Indian peasant has to make is that on account of salt tax. This is really the only tax that necessarily falls on the peasant; the land revenue, if it be a tax, is a tax on the landlord; court fees and stamps and excise do not enter seriously into the life of the ordinary peasant. What then is the salt tax? To begin with we must dismiss from our imagination all pictures of the old French gabelle. The gabelle was let out to tax-farmers, who were empowered to compel people to buy a certain minimum quantity of salt whether they wanted that quantity or less. In India the tax is not farmed, and no one is compelled to buy more than he wants.

The supplies of Indian salt are generally in the hands of the Government, who sell to private traders, reserving to themselves a net profit of two rupees per Maund – 4s. (nominal) per 82 lbs. In the case of Cheshire salt a duty of two rupees per Maund is levied at the port of entry, and distribution of the salt takes place through the ordinary channels of trade. In Bengal and the North West Provinces in 1884, the selling price of salt, with the tax, was 6 to 8 Rs. per Maund, in the Punjab, 5 to 7 Rs., in the Madras Presidency 41/2 to 6 Rs., in the Bombay Presidency, 5 to 61/2 Rs.[7]. Thus taking 6 Rs., as an average, we see that the Government tax represents a duty of 50 per cent. on the untaxed price, or in other words the price to the consumer is enhanced 50 per cent. The duty on tea in England, calculated in the same way, enhances the prices of tea to the consumer between 25 per cent. and 50 per cent.; the duty on tobacco enhances the price Some 250 per cent. In all three cases the enhancement is really higher than it appears, for the retail trader must also make a profit on what he has paid for duty.

So much for the rate of the salt tax, next as to the amount falling on each individual. The gross salt revenue from all sources for the whole of British India was in the year ending March 31st, 1885, Rx 6,507,236[8]. Part of this tax would be paid by the inhabitants of Native States, but for simplicity we will suppose that it is all paid by the 198,000,000 British Indian subjects. On this supposition the salt tax is equivalent to a poll tax of a little over five annas – say sixpence – a head per annum. Or supposing a labourer’s family to consist of five persons and the labourer to earn £5 a year, the salt tax will represent to him an income tax of sixpence in the pound. This is no doubt a heavy tax on such a low income, and it would be well if it could be further reduced. But it must be remembered that it is practically the only tax the raiyat is compelled to pay, and the figures hardly justify the scathing denunciations of the tax by some English writers.

One of the points on which Mr. Hyndman constantly and angrily dwells is the government policy of irrigation works. If he had been in India he would have discovered that canals have brought in their train certain unanticipated evils which cause some people to doubt whether they have been a net gain to the country or not. But as he has not been in India he contents himself with making mis-statements as to the financial results achieved. Thus on page 66, “in spite of cultivators having in many cases been forced to take and pay for water which they do not want, there is a dead loss on the working.”

Here are two important statements for which no authority is given. With regard to the first I can only say that it is grossly improbable. The cultivators are only too willing to take the water, and the canal officers complain that they use too much. Hence follows one of the evils alluded to above, namely the saturation and consequent deterioration of the land. With regard to the second statement it is disproved by figures.

The total capital expended on irrigation works up to the end of the financial year, 1884-5 was Rx 23,122,591[9], the gross revenue for the financial year ending March 31st, 1885, was Rx 1,540,844[10], the working expenses were Rx 571,423 [11] leaving a net revenue of Rx 969,421, and thus showing a profit of slightly over 4 per cent. on the total outlay. If we bear in mind that many of these canals were started simply to protect certain districts from famine and without any hope of profit, that the work done upon them is thoroughly solid and built to last, and finally that the capital account is swollen by several undertakings not yet opened, it will be seen that there is absolutely no justification for Mr. Hyndman’s statement that “there is a dead loss on the working.”

Still more unfortunate has Mr. Hyndman been in his quotations of figures. On page 86 and again on page 87 he quotes the population of India at 190,000,000 people; [12] but on page 180 he says “the total population of British India by the census of 1881 is put at 224,000,000.” Where did Mr. Hyndman get his figures from? In the Statesman’s Year Book the total population of British India, according to the census of 1881, is stated at 201,790,000; in the Statistical Abstract, it is stated at 198,790,000. There is a curious discrepancy here, of which let Mr. Hyndman have the full benefit, as tending to justify his much larger discrepancies. Again on page 180, Mr. Hyndman states the cultivated acreage of British India at 148,992,000 acres, but according to the Statesman’s Year Book the cultivated acreage is 181,816,000 acres. These errors are not essential though it sounds rather better to say (page 193) “224,000,000 people subsisting on the produce of 148,000,000 acres” than to say, “198,000,000 people subsisting on the produce of 181,000,000 acres.” Still the error may be accidental.

There is one case in the book of a somewhat similar kind which is obviously a case of real carelessness. On page 156 Mr. Hyndman says, “Close on £75,000,000 taken in one form or another for state purposes from a people whose total gross income is put at £300,000,000 on a fair, and at £400,000,000 on an optimist calculation, is in itself a statement sufficiently startling to arrest the attention of all save those who deliberately refuse to understand.” It is. The sum of £75,000,000 was approximately the whole revenue of account for the year ending March 31st, 1886, that is to say it included not only the sums raised by taxation, but also the post-office and railway accounts, and the various adjustments between different government departments, the tribute from native states and finally the immense sum raised by the sale of opium abroad, and the revenue of a million sterling raised by the sale of timber from state forests.

Making these deductions we find that the total revenue raised by taxation, including Land Revenue, was only £42,000,000.[13]

Now, Mr. Hyndman knew this, for on pp. 160,161, where he requires his figures for a different purpose, he says, “It is still more clear now than it was six years ago that India cannot afford such a frightfully extravagant system of government as that which pays away for military services and civil salaries, £24,000,000 out of a total net revenue of £40,000,000.” Where he gets either of these two latter figures from I cannot discover, but it doesn’t matter much. As I said just now, this is obviously a case of real carelessness. The real carelessness consists in placing these statements only five pages apart. The ordinary memory can bridge that interval.

Page 161 seems to be an unfortunate one for Mr. Hyndman. A few lines lower down he says, “The increase of the total debt to £250,000,000, of which not a tenth is held by natives, should alone check the exuberance of Anglo-Indian apologists.” There are two mis-statements in this sentence. In 1885 the total debt of India of all kinds was £173,000,000, of which £104,000,000 was held in India, and £69,000,000 in England.[14] Therefore, if only a tenth of the debt of £173,000,000 is held by natives of India, Anglo-Indians must hold the remaining £87,000,000. No wonder they are exuberant[15].

These quotations, of course, do not cover the whole ground of Mr. Hyndman’s book. Much of what he has written is quite true, and many of his suggestions, though not new, are excellent. The two following paragraphs pp.151, 152, seem to summarise Mr. Hyndman’s general view of our position in India:-

“The drawbacks to our rule since the Mutiny are only too apparent, their effects only too grievous. Yet all these can – all these must be – remedied. The alternative – what would almost certainly occur if we were to leave India before we had finished the task of remedying our blunder, and re-organising a country which, under good administration, would be one of the richest and most flourishing portions of the earth – is not pleasant to contemplate. Natives of India, broken up as are into many races and religions, would never be content to settle down, each to the peaceful management of their own. We have enforced peace, order, general security, but we have not yet built up – have not even tried to build up – any native system fit to take our place. What then would ensue? A savage contest between Mahommedan and Mahratta, Sikh and Pathan for the supremacy of the country. Our controlling influence removed, all the elements of disorder would burst forth and have free play. Railways would be torn up, tanks broached, cities sacked, Nepaulese and other hill tribes would descend again into the plains, and the condition of India in this nineteenth century of ours would be worse than if we had never entered it.

For this intestine strife would not be the end: other European States would take advantage of all the turmoil to thrust their yoke upon the conflicting natives, and to renew in a yet sterner shape the mischievous system from which we, at least, should be willing to set it free.

The last chapter of Mr. Hyndman’s book is devoted to considering the effect on India of the depreciation of silver. The author evidently recognises the difficulty of the question as well as its enormous importance to India, and cautiously expresses himself in favour of bimetallism. If the whole book had only been conceived in the same spirit of caution and modesty as this chapter, it would have been instructive to the English public and stimulating to Anglo-Indians. As it is, every reader who has any knowledge of India must feel that the author has set himself, as an advocate, to make out a case against the Indian Administration, and that the occasional scraps of praise thrown in are but intended to give piquancy to his criticisms. It is a pity that the book should have been written, for such an attitude as this inevitably damages the writer’s cause.

And Mr. Hyndman could hardly have selected a more worthy object than that of calling the attention of the English public to the fears and hopes of the Indian raiyat. We, the English public, are ultimately responsible for the prosperity of India. It is true that we have delegated our immediate responsibility to a body of able administrators, who are bound by their duty to do their best for the people they govern. It is true further that these men, though they are called Anglo-Indians, are still Englishmen, and are ultimately guided by the principles they have learnt at home. But no one can deny that an official body, however good, is always bettered by having occasionally to run the gauntlet of public criticism.

In order that the English public may be in a position to bring such criticism to bear with effect on the Indian administration, it is necessary; first, that the latent interest of the English public in Indian questions should be thoroughly aroused; secondly, that the information provided for it should be accurate. Perhaps Mr. Hyndman only thought of the first of these points, for about the second he is apparently quite indifferent.


1. The Bankruptcy of India, by H.M. Hyndman, Swan, Sonnenshein 1886.

2. The word lakh. means 100,000; crore means 10,000,000. They are useful words, which are wanting in English

3. I do not mean to imply by these paragraphs, that no native informants are to be trusted on Indian questions. There are, of course, many Indians who have an intimate acquaintance not only with matters affecting their own caste-fellows and co-religionists, but also with Indian people outside those circles. But, as a rule, I would sooner go for information about the condition of the peasantry to an English official, who has spent an important part of his life in district work, than to a Bengali or Parsee gentleman who, however freely he may talk about his country, has possibly not been outside of Calcutta or Bombay except to visit England.

4. These remarks are intended only to apply to the North West Provinces of India. They are obviously inapplicable to parts of India where a different land system prevails.

5. Supplement to the Gazette of India, 1886, p.228.

6. The following anecdote is illustrative of this subject: I was talking to a native barrister, who is also a large landowner, and asked him quite without arrière pensée, whether rents had risen in his part of the country. For some reason or other he rather wriggled at the question, but finally blurted out – Well, of course, if the Government keeps on imposing new taxation, rents must rise. But, I replied, the only new tax imposed for a long time is the Income Tax of last year and that is not chargeable on any incomes derivable from land. No, that’s true enough, he said, but you see, I for example have to pay Income Tax on my professional income as a barrister, and of course it is quite natural that I should make my tenants pay it back to me, (the italics are mine), If this gentlemen goes to England again and is lucky enough to meet Mr. Hyndman I have no doubt that he will pose as a devoted patriot and produce plenty of “facts” illustrative of the tyranny and extortion of the British Government.

7. Statistical Abstract for British India, p.279.

8. Id. p.67. By Rx. is meant tens of rupees. The ratio of the rupee to the sovereign varies according to the rate of exchange. At present £1 = Rs. 14 above or Rx.1 is about a third less than £1.

13. Financial Statement for 1887-88, as published in the Pioneer of March 29th, 1887.

Net Revenue in tens of rupees after deducting Refunds and Drawbacks, but including charges in respect of collection. Accounts 1885-86.

Land Revenue22,544,599
Provincial Rates2,954,715
Assessed Taxes485,271
Tributes from Native States689,575
Total Rx52,236,151

To get at the revenue raised by taxation in British India, deduct from this total the revenue due to Opium, Forest and Tributes.

14. Stat. Abst., p.77.

15. According to the census of 1881 the number of British-born subjects in the whole of India was 89,798, of these 77,188 were males, of these males 4,043 were under 20 years of age. Of the remaining 73,145, the head Army accounts for 55,000, leaving some 18,000 to be accounted for – Agriculturists, Barristers, Brokers, Clerks, Artisans, Planters, Naval Men, Sailors, Domestic Servants, Firemen, Engine-drivers, Clergymen, Merchants, Missionaries, Police, Railway Servants and Labourers, Surgeons, Tailors, Teachers and – the CIVILIAN VAMPIRE. – See Stat. Abst., pp.46-49.

Besides British-born subjects there are other Europeans in India. and also Eurasians (half-castes). Thus: British-born subjects 89,798; other Europeans 52,812; Eurasians 62,084; Total 204,694· – Stat. Abst., p.33.


Marx's Theory of Value by H. N. Hyndman April 1889

To-day October 1887

Editorial Notes

Source: To-day October 1887, pp. 93-5;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

In To-Day, for June last, we, deeming that the time had come for some plain speaking, invited “A Socialist Politician” to express himself freely in our columns on the need for reform in the conduct of the Socialist movement. Justice complained bitterly of the criticism, and asserted that “the Social Democratic Federation was never gaining ground so fast in its whole history.” Thereupon we, to make it clear that we were thoroughly on the side of our contributor as against Justice, told the Social Democratic Federation some strong and straight truths as to the position into which its leaders had misguided it. This, observe, occurred in June.

* * *

Justice, having presumably nothing to say, made no defence; but remonstrances were not wanting from some of our friends who are so good-natured that they would, as far as we can judge, see the movement dragged through the mud and suffocated rather than say a word (publicly) which could give pain to its leaders. Towards us, however, they displayed no such forbearance. Our conduct was declared “offensive” and attributed to an impotent desire to “split the party” and “upset the apple cart.” This, mark, was in July.

* * *

September came in due course, and what did it bring with it? Nothing less than a manifesto by Mr. H.H. Champion in his paper, Common Sense, not only making a full confession of everything alleged by us against the Federation managers in our July number, but advocating, as to the future of the movement, exactly the line indicated by “A Socialist Politician” in our June number.

* * *

For example, compare these quotations from our “offensive” July notes and Mr. Champion’s article in Common Sense.

* * *

“Mr. Hyndman is still really, though not nominally, editor of Justice; but the money is squandered and the prestige a minus quantity, most of the good men and women driven out disgusted, the few that remain unanimous as to the need of a new departure, and the paper degenerated into Mr. Hyndman’s weekly bulletin, with such a record for wanton vilification and insult to friends and foes as no paper is ever likely to surpass in an equally short space of time.” To-Day, July.

“Writers and readers of Justice are ashamed of or disgusted at the barefaced exaggeration, the jealousy of all persons not members of the Federation, the constant breedings of dissensions among Socialists themselves, the wholesale scurrility and imputation of bad motives, which are levelled, without distinction, and even without reasons alleged, at all who differ, whether little or much, from the kaleidoscopic views of Socialism held by those who are directly responsible for the conduct of .he paper.” Mr. Champion in Common Sense, 15th September.

* * *

It is evident that if we have been out of sympathy with Mr. Champion and his friends, it is only because we have been three months ahead of them. We laid our hands on the apple cart of the Federation and were not struck dead. Its high priests, after a brief remonstrance, are now shaking it more rudely than we did or could. We cannot resist the temptation to amuse ourselves by asking them whether their old opinion of our conduct remains unchanged, and, if so, what they think of their own.

* * *

One word more before we drop the subject. Our criticism of the Social Democratic Federation was directed personally and particularly against Mr. Hyndman and Justice. With those members of the Federation who have worked hard without approving of either, we have no quarrel. If esprit de corps should lead any of them to resent our indictment of their leader even whilst recognising its soundness, we shall not think the worse of them for that, and shall bear any hard things they may say of us with patience, silence, and good temper. But we are bound to acknowledge that no such feeling was expressed at the Fabian meeting of the r6th ult., where our views were practically endorsed by speaker after speaker from the Federation, the League, and the Union. On the platform, as in print, it proved that our views were the popular views and that in our onslaught on the apple cart we were peculiar in no one respect except that – which we rather covet – of having been the first to put our shoulder against it. We wish Mr. Champion all success in the effort he is at last making to rescue the Federation from Mr. Hyndman; but we venture to warn him that he cannot succeed merely as an advocate of political action; for that Mr. Hyndman, too, has always professedly been. Nothing but a vote of censure, backed up by the capacity and determination to supersede Mr. Hyndman in the indispensable functions he has hitherto fulfilled – and fulfilled with no common adroitness and ability – can remove the manager whose removal we have not hesitated to declare necessary to the welfare of the movement.


Marx's Theory of Value by H. N. Hyndman April 1889

To-day August 1887

Editorial Notes

Source: August 1887, pp. 3-34;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

We have received from Dr. Aveling certain piéces justificatives concerning his recent lecturing tour in the United States. It will be remembered that Dr. Aveling, at the end of his trip, was accused by the Socialist Labour Party of America, which paid – or was to have paid – his expenses, of unbecoming extravagance in his style of living. Some publicity was given to the matter by the capitalist press here; but it was a Socialist paper – Justice – which made the most and worst of it. Hence the piéces justificatives! We are bound to say that the impression they leave is that Dr. Aveling has his own unbusinesslike arrangements to thank for the opportunity which his enemies have seized. He travelled partly as a missionary from the Socialist Labour Party, and partly as a correspondent of various London newspapers. But he sent in to the Labour Party an account of all his expenses, and said virtually, “Here is what I have spent: now pay me whatever you think was fairly incurred on your account.” This was frank, brotherly, and free from all taint of bourgeoisisme. And it ended, as most brotherly affairs do, in a quarrel. The Socialist Labour Party found the task of deciding whether this or that particular cigar or bottle of soda water was “a means of production” of lecturing or of dramatic criticism, invidious and impossible. Dr. Aveling took a high tone, and told them, in effect, to pay what their conscience told them they ought to pay. They then lost their tempers; accused him of “trying it on”; and expressed their belief that if they had paid the account in full without remonstrance he would have pocketed the total without a word. Obviously this could neither be proved nor disproved; and Dr. Aveling, declining to pursue the transaction, returned to Europe, leaving the Labour Party in his debt.

* * *

In short, the upshot of the unbourgeoislike arrangements was just what any person of common sense might have predicted from the moment when the parties fell out. But why did they fall out? Because Dr. Aveling urged from the platform the importance of gaining over to the Socialist cause the existing organization of the Knights of Labour, just as he is now most sensibly urging the necessity of gaining over the Radical party here. Instantly the ill-conditioned and Impossibilist sections, with the natural dread of incompetent or supersensitive persons for practical work, became his bitter enemies, and brought forward his washing bill as proof positive that the Knights of Labour should be treated as lepers by every true Socialist. We have exactly the same spirit shown here by that absurd body the anarchist voting majority [anarchists voting!!!] of the Socialist League, with their strangely assorted leader, Mr. William Morris, who is ashamed to march through Coventry with them. These gentlemen vilify the advocates of political activity in England just as heartily as their transatlantic brethren vilified Dr. Aveling. The parallel alone gives the incident any significance. Until Socialist bodies fix a standard of comfort for their members, personal extravagance will remain a matter of private opinion; and people who make silly arrangements with regard to expenses must do so at their own risk.

* * *

The editor of the Commonweal should really keep a sharper eye on his subordinates, if he values his well established character for consistency. In the issue of July 9th there is a large type article by Mr. Sparling, girding at the Liberty and Property Defence League, for requesting the opposition of members of the House of Commons to certain measures for preventing adulteration, regulating the working of mines, etc., etc. Now these measures are the “palliatives” at which Mr. Morris constantly pokes such excellent fun, and about which he professes to be so superbly scornful. Does it not seem to him that he is guilty of the basest ingratitude in allowing attacks to be made in his paper on the men who resolutely oppose them? As a matter of fact, Mr. Morris and the Liberty and Property Defence League are really brothers in arms, and, there is no earthly reason why Jus and the Commonweal should not be amalgamated. If this is not obvious to Mr. Morris, it is sufficiently palpable to everybody else. But, of course, before Mr. Morris can open negotiations with the Committee of the Liberty and Property Defence League, he must muzzle his sub-editor, whose ideas on the subject of his chief’s policy seem to be a trifle muddled.


Marx's Theory of Value by H. N. Hyndman April 1889

Annie Besant in To-day August 1887

Misogyny in Excelsis

Source: Today August 1887, pp. 51-56;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Most sensible women who perused Mr. Belfort Bax’s deliverance on “The Woman Question,” in the last issue of this magazine, will have been conscious of the uprisal of a mingled feeling, which, on analysis, turned out to be composed of one-fourth irritation, and three-fourths amusement. The irritation was a passing emotion, and was quickly followed by the recognition that some truths quite worth the telling had been told, though in an eminently unpleasant way; but the amusement is permanent, for it arises from the unconscious self-revelation of the writer in the course of his splenetic attack, and is purified by pity for a man who has evidently been most unfortunate in his woman-acquaintances and friends, or is temporarily in acute depression due to some too fair foe. Thus might Romeo have written ere the memory of Rosaline’s charms had faded in the light of Juliet’s eyes; thus might Eros have raged when faithless Psyche’s too curious lamp at once burned his shoulder, and shrivelled his love-dreams; thus – for are not loving souls the same in all ages? – might helmeted Robert discourse when inconstant Mary Jane has turned from blue to scarlet. Under the influence of personal feeling and the sting of personal suffering, does not the universe become one vast cave for the echoing of our complaint?

It is pleasant, however, to notice that Mr. Bax is on the road to recovery, for he occasionally betrays a humourous sense of the absurdity of his own diatribes, as when he tells the merry anecdote of the young woman who “experienced but slight constitutional disturbance after jumping from the Clifton Suspension Bridge, a height of some 800 feet.” Mr. Bax is, of course, perfectly aware that the height from the water to the bridge is only 245 feet, and the Munchausen-like touch manifested in throwing in an additional 555 feet, with no greater result than a “slight constitutional disturbance,” at once convinces us that Mr. Bax does not wish to be taken seriously. And this conviction is strengthened when we read of a second young woman who after the removal of an internal tumour, and “the removal and replacement of a portion of the intestines,” was “in a few weeks ... better than she had ever been before” in her pre-tumourous days. The story is a wee bit ghastly in its humour, and suggests that Holbein’s “Dance of Death,” may have, been the companion of Mr. Bax’s sorrowful hours during his late attack of misogyny, but it has its use in keeping up the level of bantering perversity. Under such conditions, if I urged that the English birthrate of 100 females to 105 males, or the European of 100 female to 106 males, scarcely warrants the allegation that the male births are “enormously in excess” of the female, Mr. Belfort Bax might well retort: “Why do you adduce vulgar figures to clog my airy and irresponsible imagination?” To bring arguments from facts or statistics against Mr. Bax’s variegated rhetoric would indeed be to crush with the Nasmyth hammer the gay fluttering wings of a peacock butterfly.

But let us pretend to be serious, and see if we can find anything in Mr. Bax’s paper which may pass for argument. The trinity of dogmas of the “advanced” faith in the woman question would not, I fancy, be accepted by any defender of “woman’s rights.” “Natural equality of the sexes” is a perfectly meaningless phrase. It has always seemed to me to be the idlest of pastimes to divide the human race into two halves, differing sexually, and then to squabble about their “equality.” Equality in what? That which we claim is equality before the law, equality of opportunity; there is no more “natural equality” between the sexes than between man and man. As well might we dispute whether fair men are cleverer than dark ones. Mr. Bax asserts that there, is a palpable intellectual inequality between men and women; but that is only his headlong way of stating the case. If he had said that no woman has scaled the heights on which sit transfigured the throned Immortals of intellect; that no woman treads those Elysian fields in which Shakspeare wanders with Aeschylus, and Milton turns sightless orbs towards sightless Homer, where Murillo smiles to Buonarotti, and! Beethoven welcomes the coming of Wagner with thunderous chords of melodic greeting; if he had thus spoken, he would have said naught but truth. But below these loftiest ones men and women sit mingled side by side, and no wholesale placing of one sex above or below the other, has any fact answering to it in nature.

Dogma number two has the truth in it, that women have been oppressed as a: sex – not as a class – and this historical fact cannot be questioned by any one who is even superficially, acquainted with the laws and customs of savage, semi-civilised, and civilised states. Before man had reached the lofty pinnacle of sexlessness on which he stands to-day in Mr. Bax’s theory of society, he was wont to use his superior physical strength to secure sexual gratification, and he was apt to regard as his property the persons of those who afforded him what he needed. Even Mr. Bax would hardly deny that the marriage laws, as existing in England a few years ago, were oppressive as they affected women, or that the exclusion of women from the more highly paid professions was not a sex-disability.

Dogma number three is strongly and even vehemently rejected by most advocates of women’s rights. I cordially agree with Mr. Bax in his attack on the “chivalry” which has made a sham deference to “women as women” replace between the sexes honest discussion and strenuous argument. “Privileges” have been granted to us with thinly veiled contempt, and polished courtesy has been the veneer of male self-conceit. But all this has been confined to a very narrow circle of “ladies and gentlemen,” and affects a comparatively small number. I can assure Mr. Bax from personal knowledge that most of those who would abolish artificial sex disabilities are quite ready to resign the privilege of walking out of a room in front of a man. The women who cling to sex privileges are usually bitterly opposed to “women’s rights.” The only reasonable meaning that can now be attached to the word chivalry is the ready aid given by strength to weakness, and that is not, as Mr. Bax very truly says, a matter of sex. One cold wet day last winter I was in an omnibus which was full inside, and an old man wanted to get in; I gave him my place and went outside, merely on the ground that he was older than I, and was thinly clad while I had on a fur cloak. I think a young man should do the same for an old man or an old woman, and especially for a poor person of either sex who is in thin clothes, not from “chivalry,” but from the simple sense of human brotherliness which is so sorely lacking in the scramble we call society.

There is a good deal of truth in Mr. Bax’s allegation that woman is too much identified with the sex-idea, though as usual he spoils a sensible statement by exaggeration and ill-humour. I readily grant that the shutting of women out of public life, the restraints imposed on girls, and the constant insistence on the hideous doctrine that “womanliness” implies hanging on to some man for subsistence, have resulted in making the majority of the women of the middle and upper classes regard marriage as the only career open to them for a living. Girls of these classes have not been taught any means of livelihood during their youth; they have been trained to look to marriage as the one object of life, and their thoughts are necessarily centred on it. For this the men of their own class are to blame more than the women, for the men have fostered the notion of female dependence because it meant female subordination; a man can bully his wife or his sister as he would never dare to bully a male friend, and they must submit to his insolence and ill-humour because they are dependent on him for bread. If Mr. Bax were in the habit of associating with working women he would find that sex is a much less prominent matter with them than among the women of his own social grade; the business of life, the interests outside the home, have educated the former into human beings. Mr. Bax generalises from too circumscribed an acquaintance with women.

But the really delightful thing about Mr. Bax is the naively lofty view he takes of his own sex. Sex with man is only “an accident;” an inseparable one, surely, and often a far too intrusive one. And with melancholy emphasis I can assure Mr. Bax that the incapacity of the average man to abandon himself to interest in any impersonal question is fully equal to the incapacity of the average woman, and that it is often a sore burden to his female acquaintances. The one solitary subject on which every man can be eloquent is himself; the dullest of male conversationists responds in music when that chord is touched by a skilful hand. For the sufferings of Mr. Bax in drawing-rooms I have the profoundest sympathy, but why does he go to them? The ordinary drawing-room is intended as a place in which one sex may simper at the other, and why should not the habitants of that sphere amuse themselves in their own way? The average young man likes to simper at the average young woman, and he does not want her to look at him as if she were his grandmother or his elderly aunt; he hopes that his little essays in wit and satire will be tenderly welcomed and admired, and his happiness would be marred if he were treated to a discourse on the lost house of Israel, when his thoughts are full of the last garden party. Imagine his horror, if in answer to his blushing greeting, “I do hope you were not too tired the other night,” she responded, “Oh, no thank you, Mr. Graham; but do tell me whether you consider Spencer’s Postulate valid?” Besides there is one difficulty that Mr. Bax may have encountered in seeking for a woman above sex. His opinions on women are pretty well known, and if a clever woman began to talk to him it is not impossible – so frail a thing is woman – that she might take a mischievous delight in playing up to his idea of her. It is such fun when a man is very superior and talks down to you, to make yourself out a greater fool than he thinks you, and to know that while he smiles sweetly as he descends to your level he is inwardly muttering, “and they call this woman clever!” A woman is sometimes like Jehovah; she “taketh the wise in.”

I am inclined to agree with Mr. Bax as to woman’s “constitutional frailty.” It is mostly a sham, and is only assumed to please men who want to protect women, and who could not pose as protectors unless women posed as frail. It is a piece of delicate sex-flattery of male stalwartness. More boys than girls die under the age of five, and women, on the whole, are more tenacious of life than men. They shew also more vitality in the way in which they face pain and disease. And it is well that it should be so, for only imagine what life would be if women made as much fuss when their finger ached as men do.

Mr. Bax falls into the very common blunder of thinking that women ought to be contented with their lot if they are well fed and clothed by the men who own them. “Women,” he says, “have had the lion’s share at the banquet of life.” This is only true of the minority of well-to-do women, and, when true, is utterly irrelevant. Our complaint is that we have been kept dependent on men, and that what we have had we have received by their grace, and not by our own work. This state of things is passing away, but, even now, a woman who determines to be self-dependent has usually “a very hard row to hoe” before she frees herself from family and social tyranny. None the less it is a woman’s own fault now if she does not make herself independent, except in the cases of some of the older women to whom the social and legal changes have come too late to be of use. The legal oppression of women is very nearly, if not wholly, a thing of the past, and her future development lies in her own hands.

Were it not for my already-expressed view that Mr. Bax does not mean to be taken seriously, I would challenge him to give a single instance in which a man has been given six months’ hard labour for staying the uplifted conjugal arm, weaponed with a flat iron or a poker. On the other hand, I could give him several in which a husband has received but a few weeks’ imprisonment for inflicting the most serious injuries on his wife. But what would that prove? We all know that brutal men and brutal women exist. Why use the existence of bad women as an impeachment of women in general?

The fact is that on this matter, while Mr. Bax thinks himself heterodox he is merely reactionary, and, for a clever man, he makes a very successful attempt at writing nonsense. For some unknown reason he has against women what is sometimes called a feminine spite, and it is as idle to argue with him on the Woman Question as it would be to argue with a fashionable lady in fit of hysterics. And, in all seriousness, I venture to say to him that it is a lamentable thing to see a man of intellect and literary power prostitute his talents in railing and raving at one half of the human race. Not by shrewish carping and bitter taunts, but by patient co-operation and loyal friendship, shall humanity rise out of the slough of its past, and climb the mountains of happiness which lie before it. Woman and Man have their special weaknesses, but they have also their special strengths, and the redemption of the race lies not in the hands of either sex alone. With all our faults, Humanity has need of us, and those will deserve best of posterity who strive to ennoble, and not to degrade, the mothers and the mates of men.



Marx's Theory of Value by H. N. Hyndman April 1889

E. Belfort Bax in To-day July 1887

Some Heterodox Notes on the Women Question

Source: To-day July 1887, pp. 24-32;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The above is one of those questions on which a particular species of traditional nonsense is expected of one. The “advanced” writer starts from certain dogmas, which the “advanced” reader has had handed down to him in the apostolical succession of “advanced” thought for a century past. These dogmas of “advanced” faith in the Woman Question are (1) that a natural equality of the sexes obtains in all respects save that of physical strength; (2) that women have always formed an oppressed class, but that the advance of civilization may be measured by the lightening of this oppression (here, of course, we get into the tail of the great bourgeois Panegyric of Civilization); (3) the convenient corollary from the first position, namely, that women ought to have all the rights of intellectual capacity with all the privileges of physical weakness, otherwise expressed, all the rights of men, and none of the duties or hardships of men. For it is a significant and amusing fact that no mention is ever made by the advocate of women’s claims of the privileges which have always been accorded the “weaker sex.” These privileges are quietly pocketed as a matter of course, without any sort of acknowledgment, much less any suggestion of surrender. I may add yet another thesis to the dogmas of “advanced” bourgeois thought on the Woman Question. This is what I may term the theory of “womanhood.” It is to be found in its most formulated and definite guise in the Comtian worship of woman with its virgin mother and other accessories; But in a general loose way it pervades a large section of modern Radicalism, and consists in the notion of the sacredness of the female sex as such.

The sentiment, when analysed, may, I think, be traced to two sources. One is the sentiment of consideration for weakness, laudable in itself, but which has got transformed into that of the right of weakness to privilege or domination over strength which is, of course, a very different thing. But the other and most potent factor is, I fancy, a survival of the ancient worship of the principle of generation. The exponents of Cuniform tell us that a well known symbol of the alone, corresponding to the Greek Θ, is to be taken to signify the word “woman.” Now, I think there is a certain moral attached to this piece of Cuniform lore. Woman is, and has been emphatically the sex. The veneration of the generative principles in their grosser form is of course impossible to civilised man. And while male man has ceased to represent a sex, in developing into the human personality complete up to date; woman still represents a sexual principle; her personality centres in sex, in fact she still remains for the most part, an amplified, beautified, embellished sexual organ. Otherwise expressed, sex enters into the substance of woman, while in man it is only an accident.[1] Man has a sexual side which he recognises as something more or less distinct from himself – “He” is not the male principle of humanity in the same way that “she” is the female principle. With man sex enters into and affects the personality it is true, but is clearly distinguished from the personality as such; with woman, sex is identified with, and indistinguishable from the personality as a whole. This is easily seen in the incapacity of the average woman to abandon herself to interest in any impersonal question. Discourse in any drawing room with the “ladies” there assembled and you have an irresistible but uneasy sense that, however well-feigned may be the interest in the subject of conversation, the real interest of the woman centres round the fact that she is female and you are male, and in the various conventional barriers with which this fact is surrounded. The way otherwise shrewd men let themselves be deceived by the very thinnest assumption of interest in their pursuits on the part of their wives is to the last degree amusing. A friend seriously speaks of his wife’s opinion, say on some literary point; on being introduced to the wife she tells you she thinks Shakespeare must have been a very clever man! The real interest of the good woman is, of course, entirely absorbed in the personal matters springing directly from the sexual relation of married life. In modern gyneolotry I think then we may see the survival of the cultes genatrices of antiquity exhibiting itself, not in the coarse form of the worship of the actual organ, but in the refined one of deference for the representatives of the principle of sex[2] par excellence.

In the course of this digression I have forestalled one or two points in the subsequent argument. However, I will now jot down in succinct manner a few criticisms of the cardinal dogmas of modern gyneolotry. Like the dogmas of the Christian theology, and of the Bourgeois economy, these dogmas are supported by one or two stock pseudo-arguments of a conventional nature, the rottenness of which is manifest at a glance. For instance, in support of the potential intellectual equality of women with men, in face of the obvious actual inequality, the fiction is promulgated that women have been cut off from the possibilities of culture which men have had. Now this, I submit, is very much on a level with the Bourgeois argument in support of a class-society, which consists in trotting out the virtuous man of industry and frugality, and the vicious man of indolence and extravagance. There is a grain of truth, of course, in both arguments, but it is imbedded in a mountain of error. It may be true in isolated cases, and under special circumstances, that women have suffered from the lack of training in special departments which men have enjoyed, just as it may have been true in some few cases that wealth has been the result of industry in a sense, and poverty of laziness. The objection of course is, that as arguments they are inept, if for no other reason than that they fail to account for ninety-nine per cent of the facts. The curriculum of higher education has until recently, by general consent, been adverse rather than propitious to the development of intelligence in those subject to it. Years devoted to Latin verse-making can hardly be deemed stimulating to general mental development. This, at all events, women have been spared. Secondly, it has only been in a few departments of learning that at the best, men have had any considerable advantage over women. From the days of Sappho, there has never been any obstacle, real or conventional, in the way of women “taking to” literature or the fine arts in any of their forms. Yet what (in comparison to men) have they ever achieved in any of these departments? It is said that women have always been taught to limit their interests to home, & c. This may be true, of the Englishwoman of a generation ago and to a less extent even of to-day. But it was not true of the cultivated Greek hetaira, or of the Roman lady of the Augustan age. It has never in modern times been true of a large section of women in France, or in numberless other instances that might be mentioned. Besides, we find that with men individual character and genius has always shown itself precisely in the overcoming of such obstacles of environment. This is also true of women who have attained distinction. There was nothing, for instance, in the training of George Eliot different from that of the ordinary Englishwoman. The argument from social and educational disadvantage therefore plainly breaks down. It is not this which has prevented the average woman intellectually equalling the average man, or the exceptional woman the exceptional man.

The argument for equality, drawn from examination statistics, is hardly worth mentioning. That by great efforts some women can equal men in capacity for “cramming” proves nothing. The “examination” intellect means little more, in plain English, than a good memory and an acquired facility in using it. It is, in fact, an improved calculating machine, which is comparatively rarely accompanied by general or special ability otherwise. What senior wrangler or tripos man has ever been heard of by the world after his examinations are passed and forgotten?

Let us now consider the question of the physical strength of women. The inferiority of bodily or muscular strength is supposed to entitle woman to special privileges. That all weakness is entitled to consideration (though not to domination) goes without saying. But I submit that in the ordinary life of the modern world the question of muscular strength or weakness has very little significance. Even on those rare occasions when it becomes pressing, the invention of firearms has reduced its importance very considerably. A woman flourishing a loaded revolver could hold a room-full of able-bodied men in check. Again, on this argument the consideration shown to weakness ought to be shown quâ weakness and not quâ sex, as it is at present.

But the chief form of female privilege is the assumed constitutional “frailty” of the sex. We come now to an important point. Muscular weakness is commonly confounded with constitutional; strength of body with strength of health and vital power. Woman, because she is muscularly “frail” has obtained the credit of being constitutionally “frail.” But is this belief in accord with facts? Does muscular frailty involve constitutional frailty? If it does of course there remains a certain basis of reason in some, though not all, of the exemptions and privileges of women. But I contend it is contrary to facts open to everyone. It is a universally admitted fact that the female infant is much stronger and more easily reared than the male infant. The registrar-general’s statistics alone illustrate this, as broadly as could be desired. The number of male births is enormously in excess of female. The numerical proportions of adult men and women is, as is well-known, just the reverse. This superior vigour of the female infant would of itself lend probability, in the absence of strong evidence to the contrary, for assuming certainly not less vital power in the female than in the male adult. And what evidence is there to the contrary? A widespread assumption and nothing more. In observations (relating to this matter) extending over some years of accidents, severe illnesses, injuries, & c., I have noted the excess of women over men who “pull through,” as the expression is, to be enormous.

While inviting the reader to take careful note of his personal observations and his newspaper in this respect for the next six or twelve months I may recall haphazard one or two instances of female toughness of constitution, probably exceeding that of any man on record. It is well known that to be sentenced to the knout in Russia was only deemed a euphemism for a sentence of death. The only recorded instance of anyone passing through the ordeal unscathed is that of Mme. Lapuchin, who was knouted by order of Elizabeth of Russia, survived without serious impairment of health, was deported to the mines of Siberia, survived that also, and returning to St. Petersburg; died at a green old age. Most of us recollect the instance of the old Scotchwoman, the winter before last, who being in ill-health, was on her voyage from the Shetlands to the Mainland in quest of medical advice, was wrecked, drifted about on a raft in intensely cold weather, without food of any kind, for nearly a week, when she was picked up by a passing vessel, was taken ashore, and tended, and in a few days completely recovered. Not so very long ago, a woman experienced but slight constitutional disturbance after jumping from the Clifton Suspension Bridge, a height of some 800 feet. A case came within my personal knowledge recently of a young woman having to undergo an exceptionally severe surgical operation for internal tumour, involving removal and replacement of a portion of the intestines. “She’ll never get over it” was remarked to me. “It may seem incredible,” I replied, “still strong is the female constitution and will probably prevail.” The truth of my observation was attested when in a few weeks after her two or three hours surgical vivisection she was better than she had ever been before. Now these instances, which are taken merely at random, as they occur to me while writing, and which might be indefinitely multiplied, may be termed exceptional, if you like, but allowing the utmost latitude to their exceptional character, I contend they altogether upset the traditional assumption of the “frailty” of women as regards constitutional vigour and the capacity for endurance. The fact is the “lady” of civilisation is brought up to regard herself as a “frail” creature, is always being told “my dear, this is too much for you,” that it is fatal for her to stand on her feet for a few minutes together and so on, till at last she persuades herself it is true, or at least proper and womanly for her to pretend it is. Among the proletariat where these fancies are an unattainable luxury the equality of health and staying-power between men and, women is much more obvious; so, also, to a somewhat lesser extent with those women among the educated classes who have to earn their own livelihood by teaching or literary work. The injustice to men which the conventional superstition of the “frailty” of woman, with its customary rites entails is seen on various occasions. In an omnibus on a wet morning how often does it happen that one of that unhappy class of exploited employees, the city warehouse clerk, with health undermined by long hours in a vitiated atmosphere is driven to dangerous exposure to make room for some fat, hulking matron, out to do her “shopping,” who has probably ten times his physical stamina.

I think we may fairly conclude then (1) that no case has, as yet, been made out for reconsidering the opinion dictated by the obvious facts of the problem as it stands, viz. that women are radically inferior in mental power to men;[3] on the other hand, (2) that there is a very good case, supported by a large mass of evidence, for reconsidering the received opinion of the inferiority in constitutional strength or vital power, of women as compared with men, an opinion which is accepted like most traditional beliefs, in the absence of evidence, and without examination.

The second main position of orthodox Radicalism, that women are, and have been in the past, grievously oppressed by men, is, on one side of it wholly false, and on the other true only to a very limited extent. It is a common fallacy in this connection to represent women as an oppressed class. Now, as a matter of fact, at no period of the world’s history has the female sex constituted a disinherited or oppressed class. Women may have been liable to certain disabilities. But these have been always compensated and often more than compensated by exemptions and special privileges. Economically, although dependent on men, women have for the most part had the “lion’s share at the banquet of life.” The real state of the case is that the condition of women has been determined by that of the men of the class to which they belonged. Women of the privileged class have always been privileged, women of an oppressed class have been oppressed, not as women, but as belonging to an economically inferior section of the population. We repeat that women as a sex have never been at any time treated as an inferior class to be exploited, in the same way that the slave class of ancient times, the villein class of mediaeval times, or the Proletarian class of modern times, has. The, analogy sometimes attempted to be drawn between the female sex and an oppressed class is therefore altogether inept.

Coming to the present day, the talk of male oppression, in any form or degree is simply the grossest and most impudent piece of cant. Law, custom, and opinion, in this and in most other western countries are wholly and absolutely on the side at women as against men. It is hopeless for a man to attempt to get justice where his adversary is a woman. This has reached a condition of scandal in this country that every assizes shows a crop of spurious charges of indecent assault brought by women against men, without a single instance of one of these women being prosecuted for perjury. There was an atrocious case, recently, of a woman who, charged an unfortunate workman in the same factory with her, because he refused to give her money. Baron Huddleston who tried the case remarked that the woman ought to be prosecuted. Was she? Not a bit. Now suppose these cases were reversed. Suppose men of the baser sort to have discovered a way of blackmailing “ladies.” Conceive the yell of indignation that would well up from press and platform; conceive the proposals to apply the “cat” to the dastardly ruffians; conceive the sentences of penal servitude for life which would re-echo from the walls of every tribunal! Imagination pales before the terrific ebullition of Bourgeois fury that would ensue. But, of course, when it is men who are the sufferers, and women who are the assailants it is only a matter on which Mr. Stead may exercise his small wit.

Again, it is a fact, the explanation of which for obvious reasons, cannot be given here, that severe corporal punishment is more likely to injure young boys than girls. Yet if there is a case of a female child receiving a very mild castigation it is invariably magnified into a violent assault and emotionally commented on from the bench, and this in face of the brutal flogging systematically inflicted on the unfortunate lads on board government training ships, and in industrial schools. Yet again, take the case of the law of husband and wife. The husband is compelled to maintain his wife, under all circumstances, while the wife, who has her earnings protected, can sell him up for drink or to keep a paramour at her sweet will and pleasure. If he remonstrates she may proceed to rejoin with a chair, or a flat-iron, or a poker; and should he then be rash enough to stay the uplifted arm, he has committed an assault, she proceeds with wailing to the nearest police-court; commiseration from magistrates for her and six months “hard” for him – la voila – she is but an ill-used matron, and a convict-felon he. And this is what you call advancing toward equality between the sexes. The success of Barnum journalism and its maiden tribute agitations, Langworthy marriages, & c., shows the ease with which a cheap conventional indignation can be trumped up on any question supposed to point the moral and adorn the tale of the fiendish malignity of man and the angelic innocence of woman. How different is it with any infamy perpetrated not for the immediate satisfaction of an imperious passion (however unnatural or perverted) but in the cold-blooded pursuit of gain. A few months ago a fishmonger at Hammersmith, was sentenced by the stipendiary to a month’s imprisonment for one of the most revolting crimes a man can commit-he had tried to sell to the poor of the neighbourhood a portion of a putrid cod, which, had it been eaten, must, the medical officer stated, inevitably have produced inflammation of the intestines, probably resulting in a horrible death. This fishmonger appealed, the already ridiculous sentence was quashed, on account of “previous good character,” and a fine of ten pounds substituted. Did the humane philanthropic Bourgeois make the welkin ring with his protestations? Oh dear no. This was done in pursuance of a legitimate branch of trade. (It cannot be said in excuse that such offences are not common for it is admitted that only in the most extreme instances, and not always then, are they brought to justice, and notwithstanding, scarcely a week passes without one appearing at one or other of the London police courts.) This same Bourgeois philanthropist can foam at the mouth, gnash his teeth and vomit an ocean of gushing indignation over the chance seduction of a girl under eighteen! The latter has nothing to do with trade, and is connected with the wellspring of traditional emotion, so you have only to turn the tap on, and out spouts the sentiment ready brewed.

Notwithstanding the state of law, public opinion, and custom, the “shrieking sisterhood,” and their male lackeys continue to invoke male “chivalry” in defence of every usurpation or act of injustice perpetrated in the interest of female domination. This invocation of chivalry now is about on a level with the capitalist’s invocation of “freedom of contract.” With both ideas, while their form remains intact the content has entirely changed. Under an Individualist system of production, “freedom of contract” between employer and employed had a meaning; under the great industry it has none – it is merely an excuse for exploitation by the Capitalist class. In the early middle ages, when strength of arm was commonly called into requisition for defence, “chivalry” had a meaning; in the nineteenth century it has none, and is merely an excuse for the privileges and domination of the female sex. In fact, if “chivalry” means taking the side of the weaker, it would be shown more often to-day, in championing the cause of the man against the woman, than that of the woman against the man. Hegel said that every typical character appeared twice in history – once as tragedy and once as farce. If we apply this to the chivalric type, and take King Arthur or Sir Launcelot (regarded for the nonce as historical personages) as the embodiment of the former we may certainly find the latter in the person of the great cheap-jack of London journalism, and exponent of the sorrows of husband-hunting wenches. The drop is certainly great from the hero of the “City of Legions” to the “Northumbrian boy.”

It might be thought from the general tenor of these remarks that they were intended as an attack on all idea of equality between the sexes. Such, however, is not the case. All I have meant to do is to attack the spurious social and political equality advocated by the bourgeois “woman’s rights” faction, male and female, an “equality” which, to employ the celebrated bull, is “all on one side.” This to my thinking is to be fought at all costs. As a friend intimately acquainted with current political life recently observed to me, what these people want to get the suffrage for is not to further any broad social views whatever, but simply to get infamous laws passed against men as men. This I believe to be true. What they really want is the erection of a sex domination.

I have also endeavoured in the foregoing to show the baselessness of the arguments supposed to tell in favour of the intellectual equality of men and women. Two things seem to me clear. (1) There is and has been a palpable inequality. (2) The arguments hitherto put forward to explain away that inequality won’t hold water. It will be observed that this is a very different thing from dogmatically asserting the inequality to be necessarily permanent. I believe it to be much more radical than many people would wish to imagine, but we can none of us foresee the results which such a revolution as that toward which modern socialists look forward will effect in modifying human life generally and with it calling into play latent and as yet unproven capacities in the female mind. With regard to the practical point of equality of social status between men and women the question entirely rests on an economic basis. As has been often said, so long as a man “keeps” a woman, whether as wife or mistress, as things go, it is perfectly natural he should expect to control that woman. It is a part of the system. Abolish the economic independence, place woman on an equal economic footing, and you have cut the ground from under any other possible dependence. In this great socialistic step toward real as opposed to sham equality between the sexes, two other points are I think involved. One is the definitive overthrow of our sham monogamic marriage and the formal recognition by society collectively of free relations between the sexes; and the other is the repudiation by women themselves of the anachronistic notion of “Chivalry,” as being due to them from men. (This reconstruction aspect of the question would require a special article). If we are to have equality and fellowship, let it be equality and fellowship, and not a hollow fraud masquerading under the name.


1. This does not, of course, touch the question as to the relative strength of the actual sexual appetite in the two sexes. The latter may quite consonantly with the argument be, as some physiologists allege, greater in man than in woman. The statement in the text is best illustrated by the two aims of the “respectable” woman, which are (1), to maintain her virginity, or (2) to make a good marriage.

2. Christianity, in accentuating as the first of virtues, the essentially female morality of sex, really, tended to drag men down to the level of mere males. When “sex” interpenetrates the whole personality a sexual ethic is obviously the dominant one. Chastity – as in the case of women – becomes the first of virtues. Where sex is merely one side of the personality, the sex-morality necessarily loses its importance, even if it is not formally abrogated.

3. I have refrained from entering into the strictly scientific questions of embryology and craniology which nevertheless make entirely in favour of the above thesis, partly from incompetence to deal with them adequately, partly because they would extend this paper too much.


The usual instalment of “Capital” and the Book Reviews we unavoidably held over until next month. – [Ed. To-day.]


Marx's Theory of Value by H. N. Hyndman April 1889

H. N. Hyndman in To-day July 1884

Six Centuries of Work and Wages

Source: To-day, July 1884, pp. 100-104;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

This is a curious book indeed. To begin with, the publisher has cut it in half in the middle of a chapter, so that two volumes are made out of one in the most hap-hazard way; next, it is almost impossible to tell of what period the author is specially writing at any particular page, references to all the centuries being jumbled together in hopeless confusion; thirdly, the book has no guiding theory whatsoever, no attempt being made to explain how or why the labourers held such different relations to landlords and employers at different periods; fourthly, the author presumes upon the ignorance of his readers, and gives credit for originality to himself and his friends to an extent almost inconceivable. What has been done by other Englishmen and foreigners in the same field he coolly ignores. Thus, at p.522, we have the following ridiculous passage with reference to that most commonplace writer the late Mr. Newmarch: “My late friend Mr. Newmarch discovered and announced in the last volume of the ‘History of Prices,’ that the best condition of the English workman was during the fifteenth century and subsequently, but in a less degree, in the first half of the eighteenth.” “Discovered,” “announced!” why these have been the stock statements of every economist since Eden and Cobbett, to say nothing of Thornton and others. The truth is, that Mr. Thorold Rogers has imagined that because he has done some good work – and his larger book on the history of prices contains a great deal of useful matter rather clumsily put together – therefore he can lay down the law on all points as an “authority.” This assumption is, as might be expected, most apparent in the last part of the book, where Mr. Rogers’ incapacity to deal with the complications arising out of the complete capitalist system of production, with its world-market and constantly recurring industrial crises, renders his dogmatic, supercilious tone nothing short of ridiculous. Here and there he seems himself to have a consciousness of his own doubtful position, as at p.74, when he says “It is not clear that the man who gets wealth does not destroy at least as much as he gets, and sometimes more – a thief does so plainly as society concludes. A speculator often does, as those who have to purchase the materials of industry discover.” That surely leads, if followed out, very far away from the third-rate buy-cheap-and-sell-dear economy of which Professor Rogers is one of the chief champions. Shade of Richard Cobden, a middle-man likened unto a thief and by a prominent member of the Cobden Club!

Again, at p.557, we read that “it is possible that the struggle for existence, unless controlled and elevated, may be the degradation of all.” Not only possible but certain. It is so to-day. Yet our Professor never loses a chance of sneering at Socialism, of which he knows no more than is to be found in that very weak book of M. Emile de Laveleye’s Le Socialisme Contemporain. Socialism, however, not only explains this anarchical struggle for existence, but shows how alone it can be “controlled and elevated,” by taking account of that very, development of the power of man over nature, resulting in the class struggle of to-day, between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, which Professor Thorold Rogers systematically ignores. In short, but that Professor Rogers has succeeded in doing it, we should have said it was quite impossible for any man to write a work on English labour which covers the period of the great industrial revolution at the end of the eighteenth century, and the vast development of colonisation and emigration in the middle of the nineteenth, without throwing one single ray of light upon these two great social and economical changes. That he should have done this shows how a long course of bourgeois economy must have weakened the intelligence of a naturally clever man. Trade Unions and Co-operative Societies are his ideas of the extreme remedies for our present anarchical state of society. He is persuaded “that an attempt to relieve distress, provide proper lodging, and find work for the inhabitants of large towns, would in the end produce even worse evils than that condition which the expedients would seek to relieve.” It is, therefore, in Professor Rogers’ opinion, “natural,” and in accordance with the eternal fitness of things, that capitalists who never labour should live in luxury beyond all reason, and that those who provide the wealth should go starved and in rags. Landlords our Professor looks upon with a much less favourable eye; but his favourite capitalists – notwithstanding the passage quoted above – may rob labourers under existing economical forms as much as they please. Neither is any class war necessary; though we read with some satisfaction the following passage in the preface: “The charge of setting class against class has always been made use of by those who wish to disguise their own indefensible advantages by calumniating the efforts of those who discover abuses and strive to rectify them.”

We gladly pass from the puerilities and irrelevancies of the later period to say a few words on that portion of the book which alone is of any value.

Thus Professor Rogers tells us, that even as early as the thirteenth century almost everyone in England not only possessed land but cultivated it, and the production of clothes and hosiery was mostly a home industry. “There can be no doubt,” says Professor Rogers (p.83), “that in the thirteenth century every peasant had his pig in the stye. It is even more certain that he had his fowl in the pot.” They lived in short in rude plenty, though there were plenty of shortcomings. Adulteration was kept down with a strong hand, however, and regulated prices – which Professor Rogers thinks may even yet be extended greatly! – were common. “The mass of men had that interest in public affairs which is bred by the possession of property,” and most of the people were also far better educated than is commonly supposed. Now all this from Mr. Rogers is very important. Not because we can put the clock back, or wish to do so, to those days of small but not altogether unpleasant things; but because such facts make it quite clear that the system of unregulated competition has relatively greatly degraded the mass of the people; though the power of man over nature and the wealth of the country have almost infinitely increased since the Middle Ages. For “the Englishman of the Middle Ages disliked intermediaries in trade and strove to dispense with them as far as possible.” Further, he took a view of contracts most revolting to the middle class economist; for he did his very best to prevent the rigid enforcement of usurious claims, and, looking to the position of the two parties to a contract, took care to see that “freedom of contract” should not be wholly illusory as it is to-day. Possibly for these reasons we find that not only had the people plenty to eat and drink and good clothes to wear, but – think of this, you wage-slaves of the nineteenth century – “The poorest and meanest man had no absolute and insurmountable impediment put on his career if he would seize his opportunity and use it” (p.184). These were the days of personal relations and individualism in short; much oppression, much brutality existed, but good food and moderate labour made hardy, independent people of the English of the Middle Ages.

Professor Rogers’ account of the Peasants’ War, though not so long as in his larger work, is important; and his account of the function of the “hedge-priests” is really admirable. This is the best, portion of his book and well worth any man’s reading. To the Catholic Church Professor Rogers seems afraid to be just. These very revolutionary hedge-priests – answering by the way almost exactly to such men as Stevens and Bull in the Chartist movement – were sons of the Church, though no doubt, and very rightly, they were opposed to the domination of Rome, corrupt and altogether abominable as the Papal Court had become. The fifteenth century also Professor Rogers treats satisfactorily showing clearly the reasons for the exceptional prosperity of the labouring class at that period and their indifference to the faction fights of the barons.

Thenceforward we have reason to complain. Too much stress is laid upon Henry VIII’s debasement of the currency as a cause of the impoverishment of the people; too little upon the destruction of the monasteries and the uprooting of the people from the soil. The seventeenth century also is not well done. It seems to us, we confess, as if Professor Rogers had been forced by the recent agitations and publications of Socialists to write a hasty work quite ahead of his researches. This is the impression produced by the extraordinary falling off both in matter and in style after the period of the middle ages. Possibly he may remedy this serious blunder later.

As it is, the book though it contains a few good points, is as a whole an unsatisfactory and superficial jumble, very unpleasant to the ordinary reader from its deficiencies in style, and almost useless to the student owing to its extraordinary shortcomings at the most important periods.


1. Six Centuries of Work and Wages: A History of English Labour. By James E. Thorold Rogers, M.P. Swan Sonnenschein & Co., Paternoster Square, London.


Marx's Theory of Value by H. N. Hyndman April 1889

Edward Carpenter in To-day October 1886

Does it Pay?

Source: To-day October 1886, pp. 141-145;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Having lately embarked in an agricultural enterprise on a small scale, I confess I was somewhat disconcerted, if not actually annoyed, by the persistency with which – from the very outset, and when I had been only two or three months at work – I was met by the question at the head of this paper. Not only sisters, cousins, and aunts, but relations much more remote, and mere acquaintances, at the very first suggestion that I was engaged in trade, always plumped out with the query, Does it pay? And this struck me the more because in the innocence of my heart I fear I had not sufficiently realised the importance of this point. At any rate it had seemed to me that there might be other considerations of comparable weight. But I soon found out my mistake; for none of my well-to-do friends asked whether the work I was doing was wanted, or whether it would be useful to the community, or a means of healthy life to those engaged in it, or whether it was honest and of a kind that could be carried on without interior defilement; or even (except one or two) whether I liked it, but always: does it pay? I say my well-to-do friends, because I couldn’t help remarking that while the workers generally ask me such questions, as whether the soil was good, or adapted to the purpose, the crops fine, the water abundant, & c., it was always the rich who asked the distinctively commercial question – a professional question as it appeared to me, and which marked them as a class, and their modes of thought. Not that I have any quarrel with them for asking it, because the question is undoubtedly, in some sense, a very important one, and one which has to be asked; rather I ought to feel grateful and indebted, because it forced me to think about a matter that I had not properly considered before.

What then did it mean? What was the exact sense of the expression, does it pay? as here used? On enquiring I found it came to this: “When you have subtracted from your gross receipts all expenses for wages of labour, materials, & c., is there a balance equivalent to four or five per cent. on your outlay of capital? If yes, it pays; if no, it doesn’t.” Clearly if the thing came up to this standard or surpassed it, it was worthy of attention; if it didn’t it would be dismissed as unimportant and soon be dropped and abandoned. This was clear and definite, and at first I felt greatly relieved to have arrived at so solid a conclusion. But after a time, and carrying on the enterprise farther, I am sorry to say that my ideas (for they have a great tendency that way) again began to get misty, and I could not feel sure that I had arrived at any certain principle of action.

My difficulty was that I began to feel that even supposing the concern only brought me in one per cent., it was quite as likely as not that I should still stick to it. For I thought that if I was happy in the life, and those working with me were well-content too, and if there were children growing up on the place under tolerably decent and healthy conditions, and if we were cultivating genuine and useful products, cabbages land apples or what not – that it might really pay me better to get one per cent. for that result, even if it involved living quite simply and inexpensively, than ten per cent. with jangling and wrangling, over-worked and sad faces round me, and dirty and deceptive stuff produced; and that if I could afford it I might even think it worth while to pay to keep the first state going, rather than be paid for the second.

I knew it was very foolish of me to think so, and bad Political Economy, and I was heartily ashamed of myself, but still I couldn’t help it. I knew the P.E.’s would say that if I disregarded the interest on my capital I should only be disturbing natural adjustments, that my five per cent. was an index of what was wanted, a kind of providential arrangement harmonising my interest (literally) with that of the mass of mankind, and that if I was getting only one per cent. while others were sending in the same stuff from France and getting ten per cent., it was clear that I was wasting labour by trying to do here what could be done so much more profitably somewhere else, and that I ought to give way. This was what I knew they would say; but then from my own little experience I readily saw that the ten per cent. profit might mean no superior advantage of labour in that part, but merely superior grinding and oppression of the labourer by the employer, superior disadvantage of the labourer in fact; and that if I gave way in its favour, I should only be encouraging the extortion system. I should be playing into the hands of some nefarious taskmaster in another part of the industrial world, and by increasing his profits should perhaps encourage others, still more unscrupulous, to undersell him, which of course they would do by further exactions from the worker; and so on and on. I saw too that if I abandoned my enterprise, I should have to discharge my workpeople, with great chance of their getting no fresh employment, and to them I had foolishly become quite attached; which was another serious trouble, but I could not help it.

And so in all this confusion of mind, and feeling quite certain that I could not understand all the complexities of the science of Political Economy myself, and having a lurking suspicion that even the most able professors were in the dark about some points, I began to wonder if the most sensible and obvious thing to do were not just to try and keep at least one little spot of earth clean: actually to try and produce clean and unadulterated food, to encourage honest work, to cultivate decent and healthful conditions for the workers, arid useful products for the public and to maintain this state of affairs as long as I was able, taking my chance of the pecuniary result to myself. It would not be much, but it would be something, just a little glimmer as it were in the darkness; but if others did the same, the illumination would increase, and after a time perhaps we should all be able to see our way better.

I knew that this method of procedure would not be “scientific” – that it would be beginning at the wrong end for that – but then as I have said I felt in despair about my ever being clever enough really to understand the science – and as, to half-knowledge, that might be more misleading than none. It was like the advice in the Bible: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you,” obviously irrational and absurd, and any argument would expose the fallacy of it, and yet I felt inclined to adopt it.

For when on the other hand I tried to make a start along the ordinary lines, I found myself from the outset in a hopeless bog! I could not, for the life of me, tell how much I ought to take as interest, and how much I ought to give in wages – the increase of the former evidently depending on the smallness of the latter. If I adopted just the current rate of wages, there was nothing in that, for I knew that they represented a mere balance of extortion on the one hand, and despair on the other, and how could I take that as my principle of action? If I gave more than the current rate I should very likely get no interest at all, and so be consigned to perdition by all my well-to-do friends, including the Professors of Political Economy; while if I gave less, I should certainly go to hell in my own eyes. And though I pondered over this dilemma, or rather trilemma, till I was sick of it, I never could see my way out of it.

And then I reflected that even if I was lucky enough to pitch on some principle of wage-payment which would leave a nice little balance of Interest – it was quite doubtful, whether I should feel any right to appropriate such balance to my own use. That also was a great trouble. For I could not help seeing that after taking my proportional payment for my labours in the concern, and some small remuneration for my care of superintendencies, if I then appropriated a considerable interest on the Capital laid out, I should without any extra work be much better off than my coadjutors. And though the P.E.’s assured me this was all right, and kind of providential, I had serious qualms, which, do what I would, I could not shake off. 1 felt keenly that what I should then be taking, would only be so much subtracted from the wages of these others, and that the knowledge of this would disturb the straightforward relation between us, and I should no longer be able to look them in the face.

I could not help seeing too that it was by means of this general system of the appropriation of balances that a very curious phenomenon was kept up – an enormous class, to wit, living in idleness and luxury, they and their children and their children’s children, till they became quite incapable of doing anything for themselves or even of thinking rightly about most things – tormented with incurable ennui, and general imbecility and futility; all art and literature, which were the appendage of this class, being affected by a kind of St. Vitus’ dance; and the whole thing breaking out finally for want of any other occupation into a cuff and collar cult, called respectability.

And then I began to see more clearly the meaning of the question (asked by this class) – does it pay? – i.e., Can we continue drawing from the people nourishment enough to keep our St. Vitus’ dance going? I thought I saw a vision of poor convulsed creatures, decked out in strange finery, in continual antic dance peering in each other’s faces, with eager questioning as to whether the state of profits would allow the same doleful occupation to go on for ever. And all the more eager I saw them on account of the dim wandering consciousness they had that the whole thing was not natural and right, and the presentiment that it could not last very long. And then I saw a vision of the new society in which the appropriation of balances was not the whole object of life; but things were produced primarily for the use and benefit of those who should consume them. It was actually thought that it paid better to work on that principle; and strangely enough, the kingdom of heaven was at the centre of that society – and the “other things” were added unto it. But there was no respectability there, for the balances that could be privately appropriated were not large enough even to buy starch with, and a great many people actually went without collars.

And so I saw that the eager question (in the particular sense on which it had been asked me) was in fact a symptom of the decay of the old Society – a kind of dying grin and death-rattle of respectability – and that a new order, a new life, was already preparing beneath the old, in which there would be no need for it to be asked; or if asked, then in which it should be asked in a new sense.



Marx's Theory of Value by H. N. Hyndman April 1889

Edward Carpenter in To-day June 1889

The Value of Value Theory

Source: To-day, June 1889, pp. 179-182;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

ONE word more on this ever interesting subject. That Karl Marx had, metaphorically speaking, his tongue in his cheek when he propounded his statement of the theory of value is, I should say, more than probable. It seems hardly possible that its defects (for I take it they are more than one) were not patent to his shrewd untiring mind; but for his purpose – namely, the substitution of a society founded on a basis of labour for the old order or disorder of mere laissez-faire – it seemed obviously necessary to make labour the measure of value. Probably (pace Shaw and the rest) it is the most important element in value – though, of course, there are other elements. Marx however made it the sole determinant of value. But whose labour? What labour? Clearly not the labour of this or that individual. A brief but carefully steered analysis answered this question, and Marx returned with an abstraction “socially necessary labour,” and offered this as the test and measure of value. The Socialist party naturally accepted, without question, from their Aristotle a dictum so exactly suited to their wants, nor stopped to enquire too closely whether it had any meaning or not.

That was all right enough. We can understand the position of Marx. He had to provide a theory for a particular purpose, and he provided it. But what is the position of Hyndman? Here we are puzzled. There are two alternatives. Either – as Shaw appears to believe – he really thinks Marx had no reserve in his own mind about the theory, and his, Hyndman’s, attempted re-statement of it in the April No. of To-DAY is perfectly frank and guile-less; or else – and I incline to this view – he deems the pious fraud of Marx still necessary, and believes that even at this late hour an enlightened public may by mock thunders and ex-Cathedra threats be made to accept it. Neither supposition is, I fear, altogether creditable to the Hyndmanic intelligence, though the latter is perhaps the most creditable – and that is why I am disposed to adopt it.

Now to come to our friend Shaw. Sadly near the conclusion of his entertaining article, he unfolds in a few words his (plus Wicksteed and Jevons) theory of value. He says – what is perfectly true – that Marx, in generalising the specific labour involved in making such commodities as boots and tables into a common element, “abstract human labour,” which he regarded as the measure of value of these commodities, neglected the fact that the same process might be applied to the specific utilities of boots and tables – which might thus be generalised into a common “abstract desirability.” And he then and there maintains; that “this abstract desirability is the true basis, ground, substance, final cause, efficient cause – what you please – of value.”

And it is here that I am reluctantly compelled to conclude that Shaw, like Marx and Hyndman before him, is playing a little game with us. Apart from the suspicious appearance of such words as “substance,” “final cause,” and “what you please,” in a scientific treatise by a Fabian philosopher – there remains the obvious and indelible fact that the phrase “abstract desirability” itself has absolutely no meaning. It has no meaning which can in any way be defined, measured, or made clearly intelligible. It has no more meaning than Marx’s “abstract human labour” or “socially necessary labour” and those phrases are incapable of any clear definition. The only attempt, as far as I know, at an exact definition of them that Marx makes is in the following passage of “Capital” (I have only the French edition) “Le temps socialement nécessaire à la production des marchandises est celui qu’exige tout travail, exécuté avec le degré moyen d’habileté et d’intensité et dans les conditions qui, par rapport au milieu social donné, sont normales.” The more you think about such a sentence the more clearly you see that it raises greater difficulties than it disposes of; and if Hyndman’s efforts to attach an exact meaning to it and the other phrases are the efforts of an intelligent human being, those efforts only show that no such meaning can be attached to them. The same with Shaw’s “abstract desirability”; only he wisely, in the present article, does not attempt to indicate what he means by the phrase. The only remark he ventures is this:- “And whilst it (i.e. the abstract desirability) remains constant, no alteration of the labour-time socially necessary to produce the commodity can alter its exchange-value one jot.” Now what does that mean? Whilst the abstract desirability remains constant. Just think for a moment. What is the abstract desirability of your boot for instance? and what is meant by the abstract desirability of a boot or boots remaining constant? Say, Shaw, what do you mean?

Abstract desirability, mark you! Desirability to myself I can understand. Every hour I compare the desirability of objects to myself. I choose (a concrete act). But abstract desirability, as among millions of people? Here we come to a full stop. So of labour-cost. Any individual can say whether of two objects costs him most labour to make, but which contains most abstract human labour, and in what proportions. . ? All this is only a return, under modern guise, to the quiddities of the Schoolmen. That this object is desired by, and has a specific value to me, because of the abstract desirability residing in it, is just the same as saying that water drowns me because of its aquosity. It is either stating an individual and measurable concrete fact over again in a vaguer and more general, but less measurable, form, or it is nonsense. There is no means of measuring these abstractions except by the concrete cases they profess to explain. “Why do these two commodities exchange for each other?” answer, “Because of a certain relation between – their abstract deslrabilities.” “How do you know that this relation exists between their abstract desirabilities?” “Because they exchange for each other.” There is no other way. Naturally Shaw does not put his argument in this form, but it is implied in the statements he does make. Of course if there were any a priori method of measuring the abstract desirabilities of Shaw or the final utilities[1] of Jevons these remarks would not apply – but is there? The Jevonian theory, though more logical in form than the Marxian, is less satisfactory in content, It is conceivable, as Hyndman suggests, that in some future state of Society the labour-cost of a commodity may be calculable independently of its actual exchange value, and so become a real basis for its exchange with other commodities (only this would not probably be of much use, as by that time exchange generally would have ceased to exist); but it is hardly conceivable that the final utilities of commodities can ever be calculated beforehand. Notwithstanding hopes to the contrary somewhat faintly expressed by Jevons himself, his phi’s and psi’s will I fear remain psi’s and phi’s to all eternity. On p.148 – a few pages after the article in To-Day to which we are referring – we are told by a writer, apparently representing the Fabian society, that a phrase like “in the abstract is wholly unmeaning and belongs to the pre-Fabian era.” Surely this writer does not look upon our friend Shaw as a sort of economic pterodactyle.

And now to come to Carpenter – I confess the conclusion is unsatisfactory. It is this. There is no theory in these matters which will permanently hold water. (For every theory has to be got at through methods of generalisation similar to the above, by which concrete particulars are abstracted into large but unmeaning concepts – and therefore condemns itself to leakage beforehand – as will be seen perhaps in post-Fabian ages.) In any concrete case of exchange the individuals concerned can and do measure and compare the desirabilities (to them) and the labour-costs (to them), and other attributes besides, of the articles concerned, and do so contribute towards the determination of the relative values of the articles. And, doubtless, all these individual forces over large areas of society do have general resultants which though constantly fluctuating may be said at any one time to tend towards fixed determinations or values. More than that we cannot say for certain. We naturally form theories as to what forces are most important in producing such determinations, but the problem obviously involves endless elements of human nature and is remote from solution. A theory is necessary to think by. We must have generalisations for daily use; sometimes it is convenient to generalise the facts of exchange on a basis of labour, sometimes on a basis of utility (final or other), sometimes on a basis of custom, and so on. These different aspects of the problem vary in relative importance at different times and places, and according to the facts envisaged; and one theory may involve fewer untenable positions than another, but it is certain that none is, or can be, impregnable.

The moral of it all is that a doctrine of economics – like a Queen Bess musket – is a very useful thing provided you can make your opponent believe it is dangerous. If Hyndman and Shaw, with their “scientific Socialisms” and other blunderbusses, have succeeded in frightening the bourgeois multitude in the direction in which we wish it to go – what is that but matter of rejoicing to us. Probably none know better than the bearers of these weapons that they are weak in the breach; but if they look deadly that is all that is required. Let us congratulate our friends that they have done such valiant service in the cause without having, on the whole, been seriously injured by their own firearms.


1. Jevons, in fixing our attention on the final moment in the act of exchange, did I take it do a vast service, but this was really independent of his use of the term utility.