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50 Years Ago: Trade Unions and the Next Slump

ARE WE BACKWOODSMEN?

At the Brussels Cycle Show Russian machines are on display at what the Herald calls "highly competitive" prices. The Financial Times (22/1/49) reports that the cotton industry is worried about the revival of Japanese competition and Sir Raymond Streat, Chairman of the British Cotton Board is in U.S.A. to discuss with American manufacturers what can be done about it. The Manchester Guardian tells us (25/1/49) that "employers and trade union leaders are to talk to Mr. Harold Wilson next week about the danger of German competition with the British engineering and shipbuilding industries." Referring to this and to the cotton developments, the Guardian says: "These are early moves in a struggle that is bound, within the next year or so, to become one of the most bitter issues of industrial and foreign policy."

Oil is another industry in which supply is overtaking demand; and the Times (24/1/49) tells us that world production of wheat and other grains is rising: "Last year's cereal shortage has been largely overcome and during the next five years surpluses may well be in sight." This does not mean that too much will be produced for the needs of the world's population, but that supplies may be more than the market will take. Indeed the Director-General of the United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organisation has just said that "more than half the world's population will go to bed hungry tonight." (News Chronicle, 28/1/49.) If the hungry ones have not money to buy food they do not exist in the eyes of the capitalists who are seeking to sell their food-stuffs profitably.

(From Socialist Standard, March 1949)