John Maclean Internet Archive
Transcribed by the John Maclean Internet Archive

Time-saving and Karl Marx

by John Maclean

First published: Justice, 14 December 1907
Transcription\HTML Markup: Revolutionary Communist Group, 1998 and David Walters in 2003
Copyleft: John Maclean Internet Archive (, 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

By instinct the other evening I strolled up Sauchiehall Street towards the Fine Art Galleries, where at present are being exhibited all the latest devices and mechanisms that go to make up the modern office. Drawn thither by the spirit of enquiry that characterises the mind regenerated by socialist convictions, I enjoyed a mental feast, varied and palatable. I watched in operation machines for adding; machines for calculating the prices, wages, weights, etc.; machines for duplicating letters and drawings; in fact, machines for all kinds of work within the sacred precincts of business premises. I observed the latest methods of constructing and printing business books, the best systems of filing letters, the latest types of business furniture—all designed to create order and facilitate operations and calculations…What underlies all these facts? What principle determines the whole exhibition? What is the philosophy of the whole affair?

Obviously, timesaving. The avowed advantage appealed to invariably by all exhibitors is—the saving of time. Clocks of various types and adapted to every purpose are there to lure the wary purchaser who knows that the struggle for existence in business is waged round the timetemple, and who knows that he who has the shortest cuts in the end will survive. “The race is to the swift", “time is money, save time—save money."

This great truth inflames the imagination of the utopian socialist, who sees in all these things the means whereby the burden of humanity may be lightened in the new society.

To the marxist, the entire exhibition but reveals another aspect of the million activities of life, which all confirm the accuracy of his theory of value. But yesterday I heard of a clergyman giving a lecture on socialism, in which he reiterated the old bogey, that Marx had long since been discarded. Probably the wish was father to the thought; or, perhaps, parrot-like, it was simply repeating what socialists, who have not read or, having read, do not comprehend Marx, take a stupid delight in asserting. Many who are better caricaturists than thinkers or observers, delight in seizing hold of the technical language created by Marx the more easily to state his case and abridge later discussions of an intricate character, and by the skilful jugglery of the word-conjurer show the absurdities of marxian jargon. Others, less able, seize upon the awkward use of marxism made by zealous novices, and make that the base of an attack on Marx.

But all alike fail to present a serious refutation of Marx (even those who may have scanned the writings of Böhm-Bawerk), and to support any alternative theory other than those propounded by the orthodox economists, the capitalist hacks, whose whole business is to justify the existence, not explain the origin of profit.

These would have ignorant socialists believe that we marxists are narrow bigots, blinded by the prejudice resulting from an overassiduous application of our minds to Capital and the other works of Marx.

This is absolutely false. Whilst the laws of capitalist production discovered by Marx form the foundations of our beliefs and actions, yet they have only become deep convictions as a consequence of using our own eyes and brains. Every new invention that saves time to the capitalist, and therefore is adopted by him, is simply further proof of marxian principles. Thus the significance of the business exhibition. It proves beyond dispute, by facts, that marxism is as true today as when discovered by Marx.

No other theory, and we marxians know these theories as well as our own, can find support from the display at the Fine Art Galleries.

It therefore becomes a duty for every socialist to comprehend marxian principles, because only by scientific knowledge can we know our social surroundings, can we explain social evolution and, therefore, efficiently and speedily accomplish the social transformation (i.e. the social revolution) necessary to the establishment of socialism. See how successfully the Americans have applied science to industry, theory to practice; see how rapidly Britain is constructing technical colleges to follow suit; and see how the whole of Asia, with one fell swoop, is being lifted from barbarism and early civilisation to the highest form of capitalism by the wholesale absorption of Western science and arts.

If the capitalists can show us the importance of theory, and the certainty and celerity with which it can advance the political and economic structure, surely we socialists whose boast it is that we are ahead of the conservative capitalists, cannot afford to grope along in the dark in the good old (?) “rule of thumb” way, as did our fathers.

Capitalism is forging ahead at a terrific rate, and at an increasing rate; society is evolving at an unprecedented pace. Surely, then, we socialists cannot afford to grope; we must lead not follow capitalism. To that end we must have special scientific knowledge in our own lines of business; we must have halfanhour’s experiments every day in school for our children, instead of trying to follow Paul on his propaganda tours, or trying to parrot answers and inappropriate proofs to silly questions; and we must study Marx to know how best to lift society on to the higher plane of social evolution we are pleased to call socialism.