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50 Years Ago: Holidays with pay

IT IS INDISPUTABLE that, since the war, an increasing number of people have annual holidays, but before we applaud this happy fact, let us examine the reasons. Twenty-five years ago few people enjoyed a regular break from their employment, except, of course, the idleness enforced by unemployment. To-day, however, an annual fortnight’s holiday is an accepted feature of their job. This is mainly due to recognition by the capitalist class that a refreshed working class makes for greater efficiency and higher productivity (e.g., contented cows yield more milk) and also organised working-class activity (i.e., shortage of labour-power giving the workers stronger bargaining powers).

Accompanying the development of capitalism we find machine production ever more complex, a higher division of labour and hence a growth of monotonous repetitive operations. The effect on employees of these factors is boredom, nervous strain and physical disorders, making a break from this drab existence imperative. Having tightened nuts, hammered rivets, checked invoices, and swept floors innumerable times, fifty weeks a year, the remaining two weeks must be spent forgetting nuts, rivets, invoices and floors. The working class, generally speaking, regard a holiday as a period in which to flee from the rut of normal existence. In other words, not to do those things one usually has to do, to do all those things one cannot normally do, and where either of these cannot be carried out, then to do them under more congenial surroundings and conditions.

Therefore, the manner in which various individuals spend their restricted release is determined largely by their particular job of work. Of course, the style of the holiday is conditioned by the financial resources, indeed, whether they have a holiday at all is dependent upon that factor [. . .]

(From front page article by “DE NORM”, Socialist Standard, July 1954)