Philanthropy and Profits

The real nature of the pretendedly disinterested benevolence of some large employers is at times laid bare even in the journals of the enemy; and capitalist “philanthropy” is then found to have a very material basis. The Berlin correspondent of the Daily Chronicle has, for example, after a visit to Essen, the following to say regarding the famous firm of Krupp :—

“Krupps are honourably known for the patriarchal benevolence which they display towards their workpeople Their model dwellings, their sick-clubs, their co-operative stores, and a great variety of other institutions to alleviate the lot of their workers, have often been described, and always in terms of adulation. For my part, I carried away a different impression. I felt that all the mature thought bestowed by the famous firm on their benevolent institutions was the result of sound business principles, tinctured by despotism, rather than the manifestation of any special leanings towards philanthropy. This is the opinion of a large body of their own employees who regard the many admirably-conducted institutions as so many chains binding the men to the firm. The chains are covered with cotton wool, but that does not impair their strength ; it only makes them less galling. A concern like Krupp’s could not afford to have a large body of their workmen disaffected ; a strike could have most disastrous consequences.

“With my Socialist friend I visited several of the model dwelling-houses, and found much to admire, but a good deal also to criticise. Rents on the whole were high, and I found a far larger proportion of the tenements than I had expected anything but comfortable. Indeed, in too many cases the dwellings looked gloomy, forbidding, and absolutely devoid of homeliness and comfort. The colonies known as Schederhof and Nordhof were dreary and squalid in the extreme. An incessant guard, moreover, is kept over the men that they do not live a life outside the works which is displeasing to their employers. Their political activities, for example, are very narrowly scrutinised. Every workman on entering Krupp’s employ must sign a document of portentous length, in which his work and his play are both regulated. He must, for example, sign that he will not attach himself to any political organisation which has as its object the upheaval of existing social or political institutions. As Socialism in the eyes of Krupp is synonymous with revolution, this means that any workman known as a Socialist is summarily dismissed.”

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