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LETTER: Bum steer

From Mr J. Peter Morris

Sir: More than a simple hobo's song, Halleluja, I'm a Bum, title of Brian Behan's new play (Diary, 27 April), has in it a summary of Marx's theory of value even more concise than the old Clause IV. It says:

Whenever I get all the money I earn

The boss will be broke and to work he must turn

It states the fundamentalist's fallacy that value (whatever that is) is created solely by labour, and the capitalist steals part of it. It was a song of the Industrial Workers of the World - the Wobblies - who were a kind of socialist in Nnorth America just before the First World War.

They travelled as hoboes to spread their word, but an uncle of mine, who had been a member, angrily rejected the assertion that IWW stood for I Won't Work: whoever aspired to lead his fellow workers had first to win their respect for his skill. Indeed, the song is a protest at not being allowed to work and not about the kind of shiftless individual who seems to be the hero of Mr Behan's new play.

Yours etc,


London, SW1