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Review of First Principles of Working Class Education

The author has presented to proletarian students a simple lucid and comprehensive treatise based on the Marxian interpretation of human life and labour, which should be read by every studious and thinking worker. It should find its way into all working-class colleges, classes, clubs, libraries and homes.

In spite of its simplicity, the book calls for careful study; there are many excellent diagrams and no headway can be made in the reading and digesting of the contents without carefully consulting them. A thorough perusal of the first chapter, Historico-Sociological, will give the reader the necessary understanding of the method that Clunie employs throughout the text in giving visual form to his investigations. The worker in any given branch of industry will find herein, by a critical perusal and study of the diagrams, in what relation his industry stands in relation to all other, how each is linked up to each and skilfully manipulated by the controlling interests to serve their own selfish purposes.

Perhaps the simplest illustration is on page 11, but one may add much to it in the imagination. It gives a clear cut division between the exploiting classes, what might almost be a split from the very top to the lowest strata of our society; and right down along the line of on the one side is to be seen, active or passive, the worker-supporters of the Capitalist regime, the retainers of the robber lords, even the harpies of the slums, the vicious element which Engels says somewhere, will willingly become the instruments of the counter-revolution to fight against the revolutionary will of the class-conscious proletariat. The difference is not so marked here, on account of the individualistic or anti-social tendency of the British workers; but on the Continent, where the co-operative movement is essentially working-class, untainted by petit-bourgeois contact as it is in England, the division is quite noticeable in the social life of the workers.

The index chapter deals exhaustively with the status of Labour in the existing social order. It shows how orthodox, or Trade Union, labour is by reason of its growth and strength, reactionary and reformist, and naturally antagonistic to Revolutionary Labour. But because of the extension of Capital and pressure from the Revolutionary Labour, Trade Unionism is reluctantly pushed into revolutionary channels. The recent development in the Trade Union movement here lend added interest to this chapter.

On page 14 there is a clear and definite statement which should help to enlighten and comfort idealistic Socialists who often find it impossible to to work and hold intercourse with their fellows of the same faith, because their conduct often belies their Socialist principles: “The connection between man and man is not a human but a property relationship, and will remain so until society is really humanised, and this cannot be until their material relationship has become socialised universally.”

A keen observation of the remarkable diagram on objective economics, which, making use of unscientific terms, shows the powerful hold that “dead” capital has upon “living” labour. The subsequent chapters, dealing with value, exchange value, exchange, surplus value and wages will richly reward the diligent reader in search of lucid information on matters that are of especial interest in these times of tumbling exchange and chaos in international commerce. They would doubtless help to enlighten many bourgeois economists of the Harold Cox school of thought.

But perhaps the most illuminating thing in the book is the short chapter xi, that takes up the “nature and function of Capital.” It is beautifully clear, and ends with a brief, brilliant summary. The appendix is useful, especially the sections dealing with American banking concerns, and giving a list of epoch-making inventions of the world. Altogether an excellent book.

'First Principles of Working Class Education price 8s 6d post free 9s 6d By James Clunie, Socialist Labour Press, 50 Renfrew Street Glasgow.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1940, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.