The Socialism of Our Times: A Symposium

By Harry W. Laidler; Norman Thomas | Go to book overview

HOW MANY CLASS STRUGGLES?

By WILLIAM LEISERSON

The theory of the class struggle, like the theory of economic determinism, which Professor Barnes has discussed, attempts to explain the progress of mankind under all systems of society. It offers explanations of feudalism, and of the domestic economies of more ancient times, as well as of capitalism and socialism. But Marx's theory of value is an attempt to explain only how value is determined under the system of free, competitive enterprise.

This distinction is a rather important one to bear in mind. For, if socialists hold an erroneous theory of value as determined under a system of private, capitalist enterprise, it is a matter of no great moment. They may revise or even entirely discard the theory, without jeopardizing their movement. That is exactly what the defenders and advocates of capitalism have done. Ricardo had one theory of value. John Stuart Mill modified it. Jevons, Boehm-Bawerk and Clark had another theory, and modern economists are modifying that. Capitalism wasn't undermined or overthrown because theories of value were found faulty and changed. The socialist movement is as little affected by changes in value theory. Most of the Fabian socialists in England long ago gave up the Marxian theory of value. Yet the socialist movement in their country has grown apace.

But if the socialist theory of class struggle is wrong, then there is no reason to believe in the inevitability of socialism. For, if it is not true that the interests of the wage-earners are in conflict with the interests of employing and property owning classes, if the workers are not a "revolutionary class," if they can become masters of the productive forces of society without abolishing private property in those productive forces, if it is possible for them to share the ownership of industry with investors, managers and other capitalist classes

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