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Socialist View of the Results of the Free Market Economy: Excerpt from Ferdinand Lassalle's "Open Letter" (1863)

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This iron and cruel law, gentlemen, is something you especially need to impress deeply, deeply into your souls, and all of your thinking must proceed from it.

On this occasion, I can offer you and the entire working class the infallible means to escape all illusions and deceptions once and for all.

Above all, you must pose the following question to anyone who speaks to you about improving the condition of the working class:

does he acknowledge this law or not.

If he does not acknowledge it, you must tell him from the start that he either wants to deceive you, or else is miserably schooled in the science of national economy. For, as I already told you, even within the liberal school itself there is not a single well-known national economist who denies this. Adam Smith along with Say, Ricardo along with Malthus, Bastias along with John Stuart Mill are unanimous in acknowledging it. Here, agreement prevails among all men of science.

And if the person who talks to you about the condition of the workers has acknowledged this law in answer to your question, then you should go on to ask him:

how he proposes to eliminate it.

And if he does not know how to reply to this, then go right ahead and turn your back on him. He is an idle chatterbox who is trying to deceive you or himself, dazzling with hollow phrases.

Let us look more closely for a moment at the impact and nature of this law. It is, in other words, the following:

initially as much is deducted from the output of labor (from production) and distributed among the workers as is required for them to eke out a living (working wage).

The entire surplus of production – of the output of labor – goes to the employer.

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