Industrial Democracy

The logic of events has altered somewhat the character of the opposition that is made to the Socialist. He is now seldom told that the personal management of the capitalist is essential to the working of industry, for it is precisely those concerns in which the personal supervision of the capitalist is lacking that are driving the personally managed businesses to the wall.

It is acknowledged that the small master man has every year an increasing difficulty in making his way in the world. Each year sees an enormous number of bankruptcies, largely among the personally managed businesses, and each year sees private businesses turned into companies, and companies combined into rings, cartels, and trusts. The reason for this is not far to seek.

It is only the small businesses that can in any real sense of the word be said to be personally directed, and the small concern is in a parlous way beside the great public company. The large firm is able to considerably reduce the proportion of management expenses by distributing them over a larger volume of work. It is also able to extend the division of labour and to introduce and suitably employ the most efficient machinery. It is able to buy in large quantities and therefore more cheaply ; to make consignment of goods in bulk and therefore at lower rates ; and in many ways both in buying and in selling to overreach its smaller rival.

Though the working capitalist resort to sweating methods of the worst kind and work his men long hours and use all the petty tricks of trade, yet he can rarely successfully compete with the great company that makes profit for owners who know nothing of the processes and who take no part in the labour involved.

The sweating underground master-baker is out-competed by the eight hours day machine bakery. The struggling tobacconist, tea dealer, and the like are being crushed by the branches of the great distributing trusts. The small cycle maker is losing ground before the great Coventry companies, and on all sides a similar process is going on. The number of trusts in this country is already very great, and their number grows apace. And this fact, though it sounds the knell o’f the middle class, rings nevertheless with the promise of deliverance for those who toil.

It means that associated production is vastly more efficient and economical than individual or small scale wealth production. It demonstrates that the personal supervision of the capitalist is unnecessary to the carrying on of industry. It means that the workers run the main industries of the country, though it is true that they now do so for others’ gain.

In the company and trust, some of the black-coated proletariat are hired and placed in positions of authority ; the manager is given a larger salary and perhaps a percentage on the profits in order that his interests may be more closely identified with those of his masters, the capitalist class, rather than with those of his dusty coated brethren ; but nevertheless the fact remains that the most efficient concerns are run by proletarian hirelings and the profits are handed over by them to the idle and useless owners of the plant.

The growth of company and trust each year demonstrates more plainly the uselessness of the
capitalist. The working class now runs industry to its own misery for the profit of its oppressors, but the day is near when it should take those industries that have been built up with its blood and sweat and transform them from means of profit for a handful of parasites into the means of its deliverance from slavery and degradation. The economic foundation is being laid, and as industry after industry ripens to the trust stage, so approaches the time when those who labour, having driven their exploiters from the political entrenchments, must seize the industrial machinery their labour has created and use it for the well-being of all.


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