6 NOVEMBER 1936, Page 19



[Correspondents arc requested to keep their letters as brief as is reasonably possible. The most suitable length is that of one of our " News" of the Week " paragraphs. Signed letters are given a preference over those bearing a pseudonym, and the latter must be accompanied by the name and address of the author, which will be treated as confidential.—Ed. THE spEcTATOR.] . [To the Editor of TI1E SPECTATOR.] Sin,—Readers of The Spectator have asked me such a large number of questions on the subject of Communism that it will be difficult to give more than sketchy answers to them, in any space which I can decently ask you, Sir,. to provide.

A whole group of these questions turn on the question of the difference between Communism and Socialism. The difference is simply this. Both are societies in which the means of production are publicly owned and operated, on a plan, for use. In Socialism, however, the resulting products are distributed in accordance with the value of the work done by each individual worker. In Communism the resultant products are distributed in accordance with the needs of the recipients. And this involves (as Socialism does not) the abolition of that individual incentive to work which is provided by increased individual remuneration for better or harder work.

The Soviet Union is a Socialist society, not a Communist society. It is, however, the fulfilment of the proposals of Marx, Lenin and all other Communists. For we have always stated, in the most precise manner possible (see, for example, the " April Theses " of Lenin), that we worked for the estab- lishment of Socialism as the immediate alternative to Capitalism, and only looked forward to Communism as something- which must evolve out of Socialism. This, I hope, explains our position to Sir Henry Fountain, who could not understand how I could. reconcile the two state- ments that the Soviet Union was Socialist, not Communist, and that Marx would have hailed it as a fulfilment of his proposals.

Mr. R. E. G. Dawson has also confused Socialism with Communism. What he calls Communism is in fact Socialism. His own proposal " to make a man's livelihood independent of his occupation " is Communism. But, as he himself admits, this is not a practicable proposal today, though we agree with him that it will become so at some time in the more or less distant future. For then Socialism will have established in reality that universal plenty which, though Mr. Dawson seems to overlook the point, is only potential today.

Sir Frederic Hamilton objects that Mr. Bernard Shaw does not agree with my definitions of Socialism and C,oni- iinunism. That is quite true. The explanation is a simple one. Mr. Shaw is wrong. He is wrong, not because he disagrees with me, but because he disagrees with every other instructed Socialist and Communist who has ever written on the -subject.- Of course, Mr. Shaw was at liberty to re-define the words in a new sense, if he had explained that this was what he was doing. But he has never done this and has thus caused very considerable confusion.

It is not the case, as Sir Frederic Hamilton supposes, that Lenin and Stalin first attempted to establish equality of wages in the Soviet Union and only subsequently abandoned this attempt. For example, I myself spent six weeks in the Donbas coal fields in 1928, and studied the wages system in some detail. Higher wages for skilled work and piece work were both in full operation in the Donbas at that time. What is true, however, is that there were certain people in the Soviet Union who, failing to understand the character of Socialism, pressed for a greater equalisation of wages.! But they never-received any countenance from the Government. If Sir Frederic Hamilton will look again at the ,quotation he makes from Stalin, he will see that what Stalin is.saying is precisely that " in a number of undertakings " wage rates (under the pressure of such people) were (in 1931) beginning to approximate, and that this tendency must be combated because, as Stalin -wrote, " under.- Socialism wages must be paid according to work done and not according to needs."

Dr.. Inge complains that I blame him " distinguishing between State Socialism and Communism," and then drawing the same distinction myself. But, if Dr...Inge will look again at his article, he will see that he distinguished between Communism and " State Capitalism," which is presumably the antithesis of State Socialism. He alleged that the Soviet system was State Capitalism. I would not have dreamt of objecting, if he had said that the Soviet system was Socialism,

Sir Frederic Hamilton thinks that Dr. Inge was alluding only to the followers of Trotsky and Zinovieff when he spoke of " Lenin's gangsters " ; but. as Dr. Inge himself has now stated in his letter, he was alluding to " Stalin, Trotsky. bjerzhinsky, Zinovieff," and the rest of the Russian Com- munists indiscriminately. Hence 1 cannot help supposing that he was in reality alluding to all Communists, including British Communists like myself who, I assure him, go a giant deal beyond sympathetic admiration of what is being done in the Soviet Union.

Of course, we are so used to being called gangsters and, as Dr. Inge now adds, in his letter, " blood-thirsty criminals," that the point would not have been worth mentioning, had not Dr. Inge coupled these characteristic expressions with a plea for getting away from catch-words, prejudice, and the dust and heat of controversy. It was this combination which, I confess, struck inc as a little quaint.

Sir Frederic Hamilton thinks that the holders ,of Soviet bonds are the new capitalists of the Soviet Union. Here, I think, he is making a point of some substance. It has always seemed to me that the existence of State interest- bearing bonds, into which the Russian workers can put their savings, is an anomaly in a Socialist society., It is, however, at the present stage of development of the Soviet Union, an entirely necessary anomaly. It will remain in existence until a much higher degree of universal plenty has been attained than now exists in the Soviet Union, or anywhere else. For, until such general plenty, and such perfect social services, have been established that no one feels any need to save for his old age, &e., individual savings are a necessity. However, the anomaly is quite a small one. The Soviet bond-holders have no more control or influence over Soviet industry than the depositors in the Post Office Savings Bank have over the Post Office.

As a matter of fact, there arc several tither anomalous features in the Socialism of the Soviet Union. There are remaining Capitalist elements in Russian society just as there are Socialist elements in British society. We have to judge human communities by their predominant charac- teristics. Nothing human is ever perfectly and completely true to its type. The substantial fact is that Capitalist elements in British society, and Socialist elements in Russian society, have overwhelming predominance. .

I am afraid I have left several other interesting points raised by your correspondents unanswered, but I fear I have already exceeded your limits of space.---Yours, &c.,