The Western Socialist
Vol. 35 - No. 263
No. 3, 1968
Once upon a time, not so long ago, a tale was told of profit-sharing under the title of "Millions for Everyone." It could be that some people never learn, or even that Phineas T. Barnum was right when he said, "There's one born every minute." It is a fact that the industrial world is strewn with the wreckage of former profit-sharing schemes, and it is quite possible that if all the disillusioned workers who, despairing of the idea of becoming a boss but who believed they could share their boss's profits at least, were lined up side by side, they could form a ring around the world.
There are enough contradictions around to make schizos of us all without this added turmoil of exploiter and exploited in a so-called partnership deal. The profits that are ostensibly "shared" by the hired help had to come from the workers themselves. But the realities of the capitalist con game demand that only the owners may reap the spoils of the industrial process, there being no exceptions notable enough to mention. The owners pay for the labor-power and are entitled — under the rules of capitalism — to receive the proceeds of the surplus which their hired help produce. It is this profit motive that stimulates most production in our era.
Profit-sharing for the workers, then, is a delusion. It is a carrot to be dangled before their noses with the aim of greater productivity. The greater productivity naturally results in greater profits but the "shares" dealt out to the hired help really signify nothing more than salary bonuses. And despite the fine psychological approach the "worker-profit sharers" are no more secure than before they were taken in by the firm.
Yet, like the ram who insisted on charging at a stone wall, despite bloodied head, because he was told there was no wall there, some workers seem willing to go for the old profit-sharing experiment all over again. And from time to time success stories still appear in the press citing some particular firm that has made profit-sharing work in a big way. An article in the Victoria (B.C.) Daily Colonist for March 8, 1968, dealing with the American pharmaceutical firm of Marion Laboratories Inc. is a case in point. For the claim is made that "a score" of those who work for Marion are millionaires, and a casual reading of the story might cause one to believe that this 18-year-old firm has come closer to really sharing the profits from the robbed with the robbed than any other to date.
THE HIDDEN PROVIDERS
It would seem to be obvious, however, that some large but inarticulate group within the firm must produce the loot to provide the privileged twenty with their fortunes. That all of their wealth could have been generated by the twenty worker-capitalists is clearly an impossibility. And sure enough, a clue does emerge in the report in the form of a reference to employees who "earn less than $6,000.00 a year." Under the rules of the game this lower income group must work 11 years before it is allowed to get its full share of the "profit sharing fund." Those above $6,000.00 per annum must work 22 years. Thus there is plenty of time for the lower paid workers to supply the unpaid or free labor necessary to pamper the "score of people" and the big shareholders with the millions that they have been appropriating.
Now where did "everyone" disappear to? Whoever was responsible for the heading of the report, MILLIONS FOR EVERYONE, must have gotten carried away on a wave of emotional idealism. But isn't it the truth? We do seem to tolerate more sordid reality when we are fed a steady diet of dreamy utopianism by the mass media.
THE TOP, THE "MIDDLE" AND THE BOTTOM
The Company President, Ewing Marion Kaufman, apparently suffering pay discrimination in his earlier years as a worker, started his company with the affirmation that every employee who produces for a firm should share in the ownership and profits of the said firm. "I told them I'd demand more from them, but if they delivered, they'd be rewarded," said Kaufman.
Now there's a smokescreen if we ever saw one. It is part of the very concept of "employee of a firm" that said employee produce. There is no other basic reason for him to be occupying the premises. It is a condition of the economic equation of modern society. Kaufman has but revealed that in his firm the old master-slave relations of "demander" and "deliverer" and "rewarder" is supreme. The revealed absence of any social equality between those who allegedly share the proceeds of the productive process is another clue that no real sharing takes place.
Furthermore, as an indicator of which was the greater, the delivery or the reward, we only have to compare the status of a $6,000 wage-worker after he gets his "share" (15% of his wages each year for 11 years) to Kaufman, who recently hit the news by buying Kansas City's new American League baseball franchise for $6 million.
But it is not necessary for Kaufman to hold himself up as an example to his workers. He has evidence, visible evidence, of some "winners" from the ranks around the establishment. And this helps to induce the rest of his hired help to maintain their pace on the treadmill. The impassioned news reporter has obliged us with some of the details. An assistant office manager who has been with Marion only 8 years "is worth" $600,000. A maintenance man recently bought a farm, and still has more than $300,000 "to play around with." A young executive who has a $400,000 share in the business exclaims, naturally, "Do you think I mind coming down here to the office on Saturdays and working 60 to 70 hours a week?"
These are Kaufman's middle men. But despite their important positions as executives and their relatively high incomes they are still his hirelings. They must not falter in their direction of the pillage. The fat dividend cheques to the large shareholders must continue. Otherwise they are subject to replacement and those junior executives, panting on the rung below them, await the opportunity. In a society such as capitalism, industrial co-ordinators must be bribed to "crack the whip" over the more ordinary type of worker. Despite their higher income status the executives are involved in the same rat race and subject to the same scrap heap.
GIVE A LITTLE BACK — IT PAYS
With an added dream before them of a share in the profits of their own exploitation the non-management workers' efficiency of output is often improved. But it is all reminiscent of the fable of the man and his dog who were lost in the woods. After a few days of hunger the man began to form a mental picture of his dog's tail in conjunction with some water and an old tin can he had found. Eventually it happened. He cut off the dog's tail and made soup from it. After eating all the meat from the tail he was overcome by the beseeching look on his animal's face, whereupon he threw the bone at him. Forever after that memorable event, the dog proclaimed to the world, "What a wonderful master I have. He took the bone of my tail from his own mouth and gave it to me."
Given the lack of political sophistication, the prejudices, fears and inferiority complexes of the useful denizens of society, this formula for fatter fortunes for the few frequently succeeds. "You can't imagine how all of us love Mr. K.," says an employee of the enterprise in question. "There's nobody like him." It is an aura of magic that has worked well against many groups of victims ever since the days of Robert Owen, the well-meaning 19th Century reformer. (Owen eventually became embarrassed by the loot emanating from the kindnesses he extended to his factory hands.) The nicer the owners are to their providers, the more property will the producers shower upon their already propertied overlords. It pays to lick the hand that feeds you.
But let a liberal capitalist provide the testimony, in this case straight from the horse's mouth — Kaufman himself : "Giving money away certainly hasn't hurt me personally. I still own 43% of the Company." And to help to show that he did no giving at all, unwittingly, perhaps, he added, "Which would you rather have, 100% of $2,000,000 or 43% of $175,000,000?"
J. G. JENKINS, S.P.C.