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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 6. April 13, 1950

The Curious "Case for Communism"

page 3

The Curious "Case for Communism"

This apologia could easily be divided into two sections, one of which, the theoretical section, la very small when compared with the practical or constructive section. Since one is the source of the other it is important to see whether the theoretical section is sound. If the theory is in error then the successful application of that theory is at once imperiled. This is important and cannot be too clearly stated. If the theoretical basis of Communism, even as one of its lesser and English apologists understands it, is fallacious (I admit he alone may err), then the practical implications which would require the creation of a classless society based on a materialistic philosophy are perhaps not practical at all.

So in the first chapter (p. 11) the author divides philosophies into two classes: the idealist and the materialists. He then erroneously equates the position of the idealists with that of the Idealists, i.e., those who consider that outward objects exist only in our minds, that we give them their existence. On this idea he pours scorn as absurd as though this is the only non-materialist theory. His dismissal of the case for the anti-materialists is therefore ineffective and his attempt to establish the case for the materialists is that much weaker, since he has only considered a minor non-materialist theory.

His case for the materialist view rests on the unproved assumption that there is no reasonable theory which is not materialist.

Finally the author begins to apply his theories to practice and at once becomes more discursive, but even so makes some curious statements for a Communist. At p. 28, for example, "The economic basis of the future society is the common ownership of the land, mines, factories, railways and all other means of production that makes possible an effective plan." Does this mean total socialisation or not? Taken in conjunction with this at p. 104, "How will the small producer fit into this general pattern," and at p. 100, "The major productive sources of the nation will be common property"—it would seem as though it does not. In the end, even allowing for the transitional stage to Communism, the position is clouded with doubt.

Here and there more curious statements focus attention on the not always apparent utopianism of the Communists. This is a pretty sentiment: At p. 34 he insists that colonial peoples (without any qualification) be allowed to govern themselves "here and now." I cannot understand this unreal attitude any more than I can understand the mind of a man who can write this at p. 131, "But it can be said (speaking of the war) that Socialist society against the best the capitalists could produce out-generalled the enemy, fought with better weapons and proved itself ... to be far stronger than capitalism." This statement ignores so much—Lend-Lease for example—as to be as absurd as this gem—at p. 99; "If there is an unpaid mortgage on it (the house) it will be cancelled."

Any criticism of this book is itself open to criticism in that Mr. Gallacber is no philosopher and probably hardy an accredited Communist, apologist of standing. It is my guess that Penguin Books chose him as a figure rather than an expert.

I would not pretend to criticise the maze of facts and figures which form such a large part of this book. There is no doubt in my mind that Capitalism needs trenchant criticism and reform both as to policy and methods. My objection to this book is based on the grounds that its errors are fundamental. A careless philosopher working on an erroneous thesis may be a careless critic even if sincere and zealous. Certainly if his philosophy is based on careless and unproven dogmas then his practice is very likely to contain all the seeds of impractical and eventually disastrous consequences. The same results must follow if his philosophy is in fact the Communism of the Marxists.