Saturday, March 08, 2008

Henry George Eulogizes Karl Marx March 1883


I am unable to accept the invitation of our committee to address the meeting at Cooper Institute, but I desire to express my deep respect for a man whose life was devoted to efforts for the improvement of social conditions.

I never had the good fortune to meet Karl Marx, nor have I been able to read his works, which are untranslated into English. I am consequently incompetent to speak with precision of his views. As I understand them, there are several important points on which I differ from them. But no difference of opinion can lessen the esteem which I feel for the man who so steadfastly, so patiently, and so self-sacrificingly labored for the freedom of the oppressed and the elevation of the downtrodden.

In the life and in the teachings of Karl Marx there were the recognition of two profound truths, for which his memory deserves to be held in special honor.

He was the founder of the International - the first attempt to unite in a "holy alliance of the people" the workingmen of all countries; he taught the solidarity of labor, the brotherhood of man, and wherever his influence has reached it has tended to destroy those prejudices of nation and race which have been in all ages the most efficient means by which tyranny has been established and maintained. For this I honor Karl Marx.

This seems fair enough.

And I honor Karl Marx because he saw and taught that the road to social regeneration lies not through destruction and anarchy, but through the promulgation of ideas and the education of the people. He realized that the enslavement of the masses is everywhere due to their ignorance, and realizing this, he set himself to work to master and to point out the social economic laws without the recognition of which all effort for social improvement is but a blind and fruitless struggle.

Now this of course is the very view of George himself, and perhaps of anarchist thinkers also, moreso than Marx. Marx was interested in revolution, in which a vanguard would play a more prominent role.

Karl Marx has gone, but the work he has done remains; whatever may have been in it of that error inseparable from all human endeavor will in turn be eliminated, but the good will perpetuate itself.

And how freaking long is that going to take? One of the problems with Marxian economics is that the crucial labour theory of value and theory of surplus value is formally incorrect. We need logically correct theory at this fundamental level, and my suggestion has been that the value theories of henry george can contribute to this.

And his memory will be cherished as one who saw and struggled for that reign of justice in which armies shall be disbanded and poverty shall be unknown and government shall become co-operation, that golden age of peace and plenty, the possibility of which is beginning even now to be recognized among the masses all over the civilized world.

Well, we've had a nightmare century-and-a-quarter of warfare, imperialism, colonialism, tyranny, genocide, warcrimes, crimes against humanity worse than anyone at that time cold have conceived and it just continues on and on unabated in front of our eyes, albeit at a slower pace than the peak horror of WW11. And we still directly face nuclear holocaust or environmental devastation.

But hope springs eternal....

Dave Reed observes that the influence of Henry George on the UK Labour party was rather more, and the influence of Marx rather less, than many might assume:

In the UK the influence of Marx was not paramount in the formation of the Labour Party, as CJ Bartlett attests in a typical college textbook 'A History of Postwar Britain' (1977) p15 "The party had always been a heterogenous body ,drawing inspiration from Morris, Dickens, Ruskin, and Carlyle as well as Marx, and later from the Webbs, Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge, not to mention the general influence of non conformity, the Bible, American contributions from Henry George and Jack London" . Oxford's Prof Iain McLean is more specific in his "Land tax : options for reform" 2004 [which is available direct from the Net and via the Labour Land Campaign website]. He states p10 "Henry George had far more influence on the British and American left than Karl Marx." For this reason the Labour Land Campaign often sees itself, not so much as trying to point the Labour Party in new directions, as trying to get it back to its origins.

How much the Labour Party was committed to land tax can be seen from Labour Land Campaign's "Labour and Land" a summary of old Labour Party manifestos (for internal use by the Labour Land Campaign but now on the Net).It is surprising how long land tax appeared as Labour policy alongside a reluctance to use redistributive income tax. For those wishing to check the originals they are available on the Net as Archive of UK Labour Party Election Manifestos.)

It is a similar story of course with the Australian Labor Party.

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