Monday, July 23, 2018

Socialism Before Marx

WILLIAM THOMPSON (1785-1833) was a native of the county of Cork. He was a friend of Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher, and to a considerable extent under the influence of the latter’s radical teachings. Thompson's principal work is an “Inquiry into the Principles of the Distribution of Wealth most conducive to Human Happiness (1824),” a book that runs into some six hundred pages. The essential theme of this work is that rent, profit, etc., are wealth forcibly and unjustly appropriated by the capitalists from the workers. But let Thompson himself speak: —
  "But as long as the labourer stands in society divested of everything but the mere power of producing, as long as he possesses neither the tools nor machinery to work with, the land or materials to work upon, the house and clothes that shelter him—as long as any institutions or expedients exist by the open or unseen operation of which he stands dependant, day by day, for his very life on those who have accumulated these necessary means of his exertions; so long will he remain deprived of almost all the products of his labour, instead of having the use of all of them/' (Page 590. Longman, Hurst Ed.)
And how are going to alter this state of affairs ?
   “In the usual course of things then the productive labourer is deprived of at least half the products of his labour by the capitalist. . . .  No doubt if the productive labourers acquired knowledge, and could trace the immense abstractions made under the name of profits from the products of their labour, they must see the injustice of such an arrangement and endeavour to become themselves possessed of all the articles under the name of capital or of the means of commanding the use of such articles necessary to make their labour productive. . . .  As long as two hostile masses of interests are suffered to exist in society, the owners of labour on the one side and the owners of the means of labouring on the other, as long as this unnatural distribution is forcibly maintained—for without force wielded by ignorance it could not be maintained—so long will perhaps as much as nine-tenths of obtainable human production never be brought into existence, and so long will ninety-nine hundred parts of attainable human happiness be sacrificed."(Pages 160-175.) 
Remember that the above was written over a century ago!

And shall we appeal to the capitalists to introduce Socialism?
   "The excessively rich as a class, like all other classes in every community, must obey the influence of the peculiar circumstances in which they are placed, must acquire the inclinations and characters, good or bad, springing out of the state of things surrounding them from their birth. Having always possessed wealth without labour they look upon it as their right and their family’s right always to possess it on the same terms.” (Page 211.)
Solomon Goldstein
May 1940 Socialist Standard

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