Graphic Witness: Hugo Gellert
Graphic Witness home page

Hugo Gellert: Karl Marx' 'Capital' in Lithographs

secret of primary accumulation [1 of 3]

PRIMARY ACCUMULATION: secret of primary accumulation

. . . .In political economy. . .primary accumulation plays much the same part which is played by original sin in theology. Sin came into the world because Adam ate the forbidden fruit. The origin of sin is supposed to be explained by a folk-tale. In like manner we are told, as regards primary accumulation, that in times long past there were two kinds of people: some of them, the chosen few, were industrious, intelligent, and, above all, thrifty; the others, lazy rascals who wasted their substance in riotous living. But there is a difference. The theological legend of the Fall tells us this much, at least: why man has been condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow. On the other hand, the economic history of the Fall reveals to us why there are persons who need do nothing of the kind. No matter! It is this economic Fall which accounts for the poverty of the masses, who, however hard they may work will for all time have nothing to sell but themselves; and thence, likewise, dates the wealth of the few, which is continually growing, although the few have long since ceased to work.

People still chew the cud of this childish imbecility. . . .As soon as the question of property crops up, it becomes a sacred duty to declare that the spelling book should be the only reading of persons of all ages and stages of mental development. In the history of the real world, as every one knows, conquest, subjugation, robbery, murder--in a word, force--play leading roles. But the gentle science of political economy has always clung to idyllic notions. "Right and labor," say the economists, "have ever been the sole means of enrichment, our own times alone excepted." As a matter of fact, the methods of primary accumulation were anything but idyllic!