The Western Socialist
Vol. 31 - No. 240
No. 4, 1964
A few years ago a popular magazine carried a lengthy list of the inedible additions to the regular contents of pop bottles, among these being a black widow spider.
Over the years there has been a steady stream of complaints about the marketing of unfit foodstuffs. Chalk has been found in flour, wood shavings in corn flakes. Chemicals have lessened the stench of putrid meat. Insects and floor sweepings have been handsomely packaged, to wind up in the human digestive system.
Much of the filth that is sold occurs accidently or because of careless handling. Black widow spiders are not intentionally put into pop bottles. But improper and unsanitary treatment of foodstuffs is often deliberate, the incentive being strong where profit may be enhanced. The U. S. Food and Drug Administration is forever hauling food and drug concerns into court and ordering them to "desist."
Adulteration occurs early in the capitalist scheme of things. Marx nearly a hundred years ago commented (Capital, Volume 1):
"Englishmen, always well up in the Bible, knew well enough that man, unless by elective grace a capitalist, or landlord, or sinecurist, is commanded to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, but they did not know that he had to eat daily in his bread a certain quantity of human perspiration mixed with the discharge of abscesses, cobwebs, dead blackbeetles, and putrid German yeast, without counting alum, sand, and other agreeable mineral ingredients."
People are poisoned in many ways and much concern has been expressed in recent years over the effects of tobacco on human health, U. S. authorities having just taken the drastic step of ordering tobacco companies to print a warning of smoking hazards on each package of cigarettes marketed. The tobacco companies, of course, intend to fight this order in the courts.
The Consumers' Association of Canada at its annual meeting recently heard a report from Mrs R. W. Morningstar, one of its officials, on food contamination in Canada. Complaints came to the association from many parts of the country. "Foreign materials" found in canned goods during the last year included worms, cores, hairs and pieces of hide. Mouse droppings were found in a can of spaghetti. Canned salmon was "inconsistent" in quality. Even baby food was contaminated.
Marx once remarked that he painted the capitalist in no sense rose colored. We too find ourselves at times looking darkly at the capitalist.
The record is not helpful to the defense he would offer. Men, women and children have worked long hours in his workshops for wages insufficient to preserve health. They have labored under unsafe conditions and become mangled because safety devices were not there. They have worn shoddy clothing, lived in clusters in airless places and wasted under penetrating dampness and cold. They have existed in misery from the beginning to the end of life.
Men have gone to sea in coffin ships never to be seen again. Women have slept from exhaustion, to be torn apart by the machines in their care. Boys and girls have gone into the mines to become tiny, bloody corpses.
None of this has been necessary, yet the capitalist has fought bitterly against every change for the better and would restore at once horrors that have long been suppressed.
But the capitalist is not a bad man. We are often assured of this. He is good to his children, kind to animals, ready to support worthy causes and generous in his dealings with those about him. But he is a capitalist and, as such, in search of profit and ready to reach for it wherever its source. He is not just a human being; he is part of an economic category, driven without semblance of humanity to perform a function that has even brought children at the age of three to be ground up in the profit machine.
He spreads his influence widely. He stoutly defends the society that preserves poverty and explodes in war and sees no wrong in the starved and slaughtered millions. He finds greatness in reddened fields and glamour in blackened ruins and he rewards the poets and artists who reflect his moods. To him there is no more sacred mission than the pursuit of profit and if the trail behind is not a pretty sight it is amply balanced by the beauty of his accumulated wealth.
His drugs may bring deformed babes, his tobacco may bring lingering death, his defective auto tires may increase highway hazards; his marketing of adulterated and poisoned foodstuffs, his spewing of industrial wastes into rivers, his chemical and radio-active pollution of the earth may play their part in destroying the health and increasing the anguish of mankind. But they must not be checked in any way that might interfere with his mounting profit.
The capitalist is a fine fellow. His paid admirers tell us so. But they don't dwell too long on the record.