Chapter 3 - Economic Determinism
Thus we come to the crux of the question around which the entire organization of capitalist society is orbited—the expropriation of surplus value from wage-workers. To do this requires two fundamental things essential to the existence of the capitalist class; first, to educate and force the exploited slave into mental, moral and physical subjection to his condition; and, second, to take and maintain possession of all means, and all improvements and advances in the machinery and technology of wealth production.
John Stuart Mill said, "It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any human being." And that is quite natural when we consider the division of society into its two classes—those who do all the work and are barred from participation in the fruits of progress by the requirement that they shall have no share other than a living in all the accruals of invention and scientific progress that flow from their labors as naturally as clouds rise from the sea; and that other class that does no labor but takes and retains possession of all the social product. Between these two classes there never has been and never can be any other than incessant struggle until the workers organize as a class and take possession of the means of production and the power that flows from such possession and banish class rule forever from the earth. The time for and the necessity of such action by the workers is determined historically by the development of the economic structure of society; that is the evolution from individual methods of production by handicraft to the vast integrations of mass production by machinery and the world-wide markers of today. Production, formerly individual, has become socialized; methods of ownership, control and distribution remain individualistic. This is an anachronism that is at war with natural evolution, producing the social stress and strife that can end only when socialized production becomes one with collective workers ownership and control.
That the freedom of the workers from class oppression and exploitation depends upon the development and control of the means of wealth production was clearly seen over 300 years before the Christian Era by Aristotle. He said: "If the weavers shuttles were to weave of themselves, then there would be no need of apprentices for the master workers, or of slaves for the lords." So we arrive at that other great law of human progress first set forth by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, the law of economic determinism and the economic interpretation of history. It reveals that in every historical epoch, the manner in which the people of that epoch produced and distributed the wealth was the factor that determined the character of the laws, institutions, moral codes and ideas of the period. This must necessarily be true because human life, like all other forms of life, depends upon production of the means of life.
The implements and instrumentalities that men use in making a living have at all times played the most powerful part in shaping the destinies of the human race; and control of the means of wealth production has always determined the form of social and political institutions. When man emerged from his primitive backgrounds and assented his superiority over other primates it was as a tool-using animal. It may be said with the full support of history that the degree of individual freedom existing among various peoples and nations has always been proportioned to the degree of. control they retained over the lands, tools and implements with which they made their living. For economic security is the foundation of liberty. Whosoever controls the means of wealth production of a nation, holds power over that nation. All power is economic at base. The shifting of centers of political power in the rivalries of nations has always been preceded by a shifting of control of the prevailing wealth-creating agencies. And within the nations the possession of control over the means of wealth production by one class has made it dominant over the rest of the nation, producing the class struggle.
The masses, denied free access to land and tools, are at the mercy of the class that controls these necessary means of life. No laws or "bills of right" can secure any sort of rights to a class that has no organized power of control over its means of making a living. We may say, therefore, that the history of human progress has been a history of the development of tools in the broad sense of the word, meaning all means of creating wealth, marked by the struggles for their control as wealth-creating agencies. All political and social institutions; all established forms of thought in the religious and political field; all moral codes; all social habits and customs are conditioned by the prevailing methods of wealth production and the control of its implements and agencies. The laws and moral codes of any era are those formulated or interpreted by the owners of the wealth-creating means for the purpose of protecting and conserving their exclusive class control. But inventions change and advance faster than human habits and laws, causing both laws and moral codes to break down whenever the newer methods of producing wealth have come into conflict with laws and customs. We are now passing thru such a period of revolutionary change.
Next page: Chapter 4 - The Uncontrolled Economic Cycle