Karl Marx

Page 3 of 18

In primitive tribal communism that force emanates from the collectivity of economic equals, and the "undifferentiated income" is communally owned and consumed. But subsequently "differentiated income," received by non-labourers, makes its appearance. In slave-owning communities, differentiated income goes to the slave owners; in feudal serfdom, it accrues to the baronage; under modern capitalist conditions the dispossessed proletarian masses produce of course their own subsistence, and produce in addition income for the legal owners of land and capital. Slave owners, barons, capitalists, are in successive stages the "recipients of [differentiated] income."

Throughout the history of these economic phases there has been a conflict between the [Pg 32]interests of the labourers and those of the recipients of income, taking the form, in times of exceptional stress, of slave insurrections and slave wars, of jacqueries and ruthless reprisals by the baronage, of strikes and lock-outs. Here we have one aspect of what Loria terms "the struggle between subsistence and income," and this aspect coincides obviously enough with one aspect of the Marxist class struggle.

The association of labour is the prime cause of labour's enhanced productivity. But while the association increases productivity, the coercion that is requisite to secure association exercises a restrictive influence upon productivity, the restriction being more marked in proportion to the severity of the coercion. Thus the crude and harsh coercion of the slave-owning system makes slave labour (in part for psychological reasons dependent upon the mentality of the labourer) less productive than serf labour under the feudal system,[Pg 33] wherein coercion was somewhat milder. In modern capitalism coercion, though still very real, is veiled, and for this reason (quite apart from the peculiar advantages of machinofacture) associated labour is more productive under capitalism.

It is the superior productivity of each successive system which has rendered it victorious over its predecessor. With the dry light of economic science Loria displays for us the working of the type of production dominant to-day, the most effective system of production the world has yet known.

Such is Loria's outline picture of the succession of economic phases.

It is impossible here to trace the Italian economist's detailed analysis of the causes which lead to the break up of one economic system and its replacement by another. Suffice it to say that in his view an important part is played by the action of those whom he calls "unproductive labourers," members of the[Pg 34] educated caste living also on differentiated income, on portions of income reallotted by the primary recipients of income, whose interests, in the prosperous phase of any system of income, the educated caste is thus paid to serve. A typical service is that of the priestly order, which is maintained "to pervert the egoism" of the labourers, to delude them into the belief that they are pursuing their own better interests by peacefully and diligently producing income for the master class.

But in the declining phase of any economic system (and Loria considers that the wage system of capitalism has now, despite its imposing appearance, actually entered its declining phase), the diminution of income curtails the amount available for reallotment to the unproductive labourers. Hence from supporters of the existing system they are speedily transformed into its active opponents. These "intellectuals" now make common cause with the labourers, the disinherited of the earth;[Pg 35] and the old property system totters to its fall.

He writes (The Economic Foundations of Society, p. 347): "All revolutions undertaken by the non-proprietary classes alone, without the support of the unproductive labourers, are ... foredoomed to failure. The rebels, divided and disorganised, not at all sure of themselves and uncertain of the ends they would attain, soon fall back under the dominion of the proprietary class.... The ancient economy was not destroyed by the revolt of the slaves, nor was the ruin of the medieval economy effected by the armed uprising of the serfs. These two economic systems did not succumb until the clients of the Roman economy and the ecclesiastics of the medieval economy were induced by a falling-off of their share in the constantly decreasing revenues [income] to break their long-standing alliance with the revenue holders [recipients of income] and to lend their support to the final revolt of the labouring classes."

[Pg 36]

To the Lorian theory of revolution we shall return in conclusion, after we have discussed the relationships of Loria to Marx. The theory involves tactical questions of the utmost interest and importance. Apart from these, the crux of the problem of transition to the co-operative commonwealth centres, as most thoughtful socialists are coming to see, around the question of the coercion to associated labour. A fundamental part of the socialist outlook is the belief that the existence of a special class of recipients of income, whether these be slave owners, feudal barons, or legal monopolists of land and capital, is not needful to modern civilisation. We affirm that the disappearance of such a class (though that class may have played a necessary part in social evolution) can now be witnessed by the enlightened without a single regret. But what is to ensure the continuance of that high social productivity which will be necessary to the maintenance of general wellbeing? Now[Pg 37] that our race is at length becoming truly self-conscious, will it be possible "to transform the economic natural force from the ruler of mankind to its servant?"

The closing sentences of The Economic Synthesis show in outline how Loria envisages that possibility: "The essential social contradiction can be eliminated, economic equilibrium can be established, only by means of a profound transformation, affecting not merely the process of distribution but also the process of production, relieving this latter process from the coercion which has hitherto environed it and restricted its efficiency; in other words by the destruction of the coercive association of labour and its replacement by the free association of labour. Herein is to be found the supreme objective towards which must converge all the forces of social renovation." And in a terminal footnote he adds: "This is now understood by all the most enlightened economists, not excepting the socialists, who point out that[Pg 38] a reform which effects no more than the distribution of income among the proletarians, while leaving unaffected the method by which that income is actually produced, would have no more than an extremely restricted and fugitive effect; and that a decisive and durable social renovation must be initiated by a radical metamorphosis in the process of production."

We have now to ask, what does Loria consider the most important elements of Marxist teaching? In his account of the Communist Manifesto (infra p. 68) he tells us that "this writing contains the whole Marxist system in miniature, and ... supplies a critique of all doctrinaire, idealist, and utopian forms of socialism. Thus the Manifesto voices the two fundamentals of Marxism: the dependence of economic evolution upon the evolution of the instrument of production, in other words the technicist determination of economics; and the derivation of the political, moral, and ideal[Pg 39] order from the economic order, in other words the economic determination of sociology—or, as we should express it to-day, historical materialism."

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