III. The Business as Accounting Entity: The ratio (account)
1. The historical development of accounting. — The introduction of accounting was of the greatest significance for the full development of the capitalistic enterprise.
We know that the artisanal organization of medieval trade (and anything like bookkeeping was unthinkable for other branches of business life) found its expression in an incomplete and highly personalized bookkeeping. The sparse and confused collection of notes which characterizes the German trade books of the 14th and 15th centuries had, as sole object, to recall to the memory of the business manager particular events and conditions in his business. The books were memoranda in the most primitive sense of the word.
The public household was the place where an organized or “objective” bookkeeping, comprehensible to third parties took root.
Naturally, the Italian city communities took the first steps. From the 13th century on, perhaps even earlier, orderly business management starts to appear. Inventories of movable and real property are taken, the tavole delle possessioni in Florence, in two copies; special officials (notai) are appointed to provide annual reports on the public debt (Milan, Pisa, Florence) . Strict supervision of communal receipts and payraents is introduced. In 1225 the Milanese Podesta orders a monthly check on the government cash and requires officials to submit monthly accounts. All statutes contain bookkeeping regulations: the Breve pisano of 1286, for example, requires two separate books, one for receipts and one for payments; in Venice monthly audits and surprise cash checks shall take place. Balance sheets were constructed for the Italian states in the 14th century: we have them for Florence from the years 1336-38, for Treviso from 1341, for Rome from 1358, for Milan from 1463. Continue reading
The appearance of Mein Kampf in unexpurgated translation has called forth far too many vandalistic comments. There are other ways of burning books than on the pyre — and the favorite method of the hasty reviewer is to deprive himself and his readers by inattention. I maintain that it is thoroughly vandalistic for the reviewer to content himself with the mere inflicting of a few symbolic wounds upon this book and its author, of an intensity varying with the resources of the reviewer and the time at his disposal. Hitler’s “Battle” is exasperating, even nauseating; yet the fact remains: If the reviewer but knocks off a few adverse attitudinizings and calls it a day, with a guaranty in advance that his article will have a favorable reception among the decent members of our population, he is contributing more to our gratification than to our enlightenment.
Here is the testament of a man who swung a great people into his wake. Let us watch it carefully; and let us watch it, not merely to discover some grounds for prophesying what political move is to follow Munich, and what move to follow that move, etc.; let us try also to discover what kind of “medicine” this medicine-man has concocted, that we may know, with greater accuracy, exactly what to guard against, if we are to forestall the concocting of similar medicine in America.
Already, in many quarters of our country, we are “beyond” the stage where we are being saved from Nazism by our virtues. And fascist integration is being staved off, rather, by the conflicts among our vices. Our vices cannot get together in a grand united front of prejudices; and the result of this frustration, if or until they succeed in surmounting it, speaks, as the Bible might say, “in the name of” democracy. Hitler found a panacea, a “cure for what ails you,” a “snakeoil,” that made such sinister unifying possible within his own nation. And he was helpful enough to put his cards face up on the table, that we might examine his hands. Let us, then, for God’s sake, examine them. This book is the well of Nazi magic; crude magic, but effective. A people trained in pragmatism should want to inspect this magic. Continue reading
Anti-Semitism became official German government policy when Hitler was named Chancellor of the German Reich on January 30, 1933. The spring of 1933 also witnessed the beginning of a period of private cooperation between Zionism and the German regime to increase the inflow of German Jewish immigrants and capital to Palestine. The Zionist authorities succeeded in keeping this cooperation a secret for a long period, and only since the beginning of the 1960’s have criticisms of it been expressed here and there. The Zionist reaction has usually consisted of declarations that their onetime contacts with Germany were undertaken solely to save the lives of Jews. But the contacts were all the more remarkable because they took place at a time when many Jews and Jewish organizations demanded a boycott of German goods.
On the occasion of the Sixteenth Convention of the Israeli Communist Party, a paper was submitted at the outset of the conference in which it was stated that “after Hitler’s taking of power in Germany, when all anti-National Socialist forces in the world and the great majority of the Jewish organizations proclaimed a boycott against Germany, contacts and collaboration existed between Zionist leaders and the Hitlerite government.” (Information Bulletin, Communist Party of Israel, 3-4, 1969, p. 196) The paper quoted the Zionist official Eliezer Livneh (who had been editor of the Haganah organ during the Second World War) as declaring, during a symposium organized by the Israeli newspaper Maariv in 1966, “that for the Zionist leadership the rescue of Jews was not an aim in itself, but only a means” (i.e., to establishing a Jewish state in Palestine). To question the reaction of the Zionist movement to German regime, which in the course of its twelve-year rule murded many Jews, is a taboo in the eyes of the Zionist leaders. Only rarely is it possible to come across authentic evidence or documents concerning these occurrences. The following enquiry consists of information gathered up to this date about some important aspects of the cooperation between the Zionists and the German regime. It remains in the nature of things that this enquiry does not present a complete picture. This can only be possible when the archives (above all those in Israel), in which the documents concerning these events are under lock and key, are made available for scholarly research. Continue reading
Condensed from an address by Virgil D. Jordan, president, National Industrial Conference Board, before the annual convention of the Investment Bankers Association in Hollywood, Florida, December 10, 1940.
Before we can understand any of the needs of industry for national defense, we must first try to comprehend what this thing we call our “defense program” really means. We have not yet been willing to look the phrase squarely in the face. We vaguely recognize that it has something to do with the world war raging in Europe, Africa, and Asia, the depressing news of which we read in our morning paper, but I am afraid that most of us still have only the dimmest idea about the relation of our defense program to this planetary struggle.
When it began in September, 1939, we could not be blamed for feeling that we did not know enough of the facts about this war to be sure of the part we should play in it. Since then we have learned more, but not much, and even today few people, if any, know the truth about conditions in any country involved in it, or even in our own; and if anyone does, no one is telling it. In peace time it is the accepted custom and normal manners of modern government to conceal all important facts from the public, or to lie about them, in war it is a political vice which becomes a public necessity. People in every country, including our own, have more or less reconciled themselves to being pushed around by their public employees and treated as though they were helpless wards or incompetent inmates of some vast institution for the indigent and feeble-minded. It is much in this spirit and atmosphere that the chatter and prattle about our national defense program proceeds in this country today. Continue reading
MASS PRODUCTION. The term mass production is used to describe the modern method by which great quantities of a single standardized commodity are manufactured. As commonly employed it is made to refer to the quantity produced, but its primary reference is to method. In several particulars the term is unsatisfactory. Mass production is not merely quantity production, for this may be had with none of the requisites of mass production. Nor is it merely machine production, which also may exist without any resemblance to mass production. Mass production is the focussing upon a manufacturing project of the principles of power, accuracy, economy, system, continuity and speed. The interpretation of these principles, through studies of operation and machine development and their co-ordination, is the conspicuous task of management. And the normal result is a productive organisation that delivers in quantities a useful commodity of standard material, workmanship and design at minimum cost. The necessary, precedent condition of mass production is a capacity, latent or developed, of mass consumption, the ability to absorb large production. The two go together, and in the latter may be traced the reasons for the former. Continue reading
We are all distressed today when we observe how little effective national spirit there seems to be in Canada, and we are all worried about the problem of national unity when we consider the disruptive tendencies that seem to be dominant now in the Dominion, seventy-one years after Confederation. One of the things we never seem to learn from our troubles in Canada is the value of studying our own history. If we were in the habit of studying our past we wouldn’t be quite so drearily pessimistic when we are in difficulties or quite so vulgarly optimistic when things are going well with us.
Let me quote from a private letter written by one very eminent Canadian public man to another. ‘We have come to a period in the history of this young country where premature dissolution seems to be at hand. What will be the outcome? How long can the present fabric last? Can it last at all?’ Those words were written by Wilfrid Laurier to Edward Blake late in 1891. They express the spirit of despondency and disillusionment which had settled upon most serious Canadians when they contemplated the state of their country in the late 1880’s or early 1890’s. And if you think that you or your contemporaries are really feeling blue about the prospects of Canada today in 1938, I should recommend you to read a once famous book about Canada by a famous student of public affairs, which was published in 1891. It is Goldwin Smith’s Canada and the Canadian Question. Read it and you will get a new conception of what blueness can really amount to. Goldwin Smith had been watching the development of this experiment of making a new Canadian nation at close range for twenty years when he wrote his book, and by 1891 he had reached the conclusion that the experiment had been a complete failure. Continue reading
Translated by John Mepham and Mike Soneuscher 1
The analysis of the historical development of the labour process and of the complex forms of its current organisation, as well as any attempt to foresee possible future developments or devise alternative scenarios for the future, presuppose an initial definition of the labour process as well as an account of its position within the productive system and the movement of capital.
The labour process may be defined as that process by which raw materials or other inputs are transformed into products having a use-value. This process is a combination of three elements:
— human activity, or labour, which is set to work as labour power,
— the object (raw materials, unfinished products etc.) upon which labour acts,
— the means (means in general, usually in the form of tools or of ever more complex machinery) by which labour acts. Continue reading