Co-partnership again

The fraudulent nature of the co-partnership scheme has often been exposed by the Socialist Party. They have shown, both in their organ and on their platform, how it has for its object the greater efficiency of the worker, resulting in an increase of profits on the one hand, and more unemployment on the other. The truth of this statement has once again been demonstrated by an article which appeared in the “Daily Chronicle” of 9.5.12. The writer commences thus: —

“Co-partnership will unlock the doors of our doubting castle. And the troubles which the world of Labour has experienced, especially during recent times, have had an enormous influence in bringing people to a belief in this policy. Under industrial conditions as they exist at present, competition has assumed much of the destructive and wasteful element of war ; the dangers of disagreement and disputes tend to become ever greater.”

It is, then, the Labour trouble, attended by the “destructive and wasteful element,” and the danger of future disagreement becoming greater, that is forcing people to a belief in Co-partnership. Who is meant by the word “people” we are not told ; but that the writer is referring to the capitalist class there is no doubt, as they are the only people interested in preventing waste and destruction. These things have no dread for the workers. The destruction of property is welcomed by them as a means of supplying a demand for more labourers.

That it is the capitalist class who have cause to be interested in Co-partnership is shown by the following remarks : —

“When Labour problems are discussed in the House of Commons, that policy is advocated from both sides as the most effective remedy for introducing into our industrial system the desired element of peace, greater efficiency, and justice all round.”

We see now what this scheme is expected to accomplish.

(1) The desired element of peace.
That peace is desired by the master class goes without saying. As Marx and Engels pointed out in the Communist Manifesto in 1848 : —

“The Socialistic (!) bourgeoisie want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily arising therefrom. They desire the existing state of society minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best ; and bourgeois Socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems. In requiring the proletariat to carry out such a system, and thereby march straightway into the social New Jerusalem, it but requires in reality that the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society, but should cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie.”

Those words are as true to-day as when they were written.

(2) Greater efficiency.
As we have previously stated, this is the main reason for the capitalists supporting the scheme. More efficient workers require less time to perform a given task, with the result that the wage bill is reduced. Which in turn means more profit for the employer and more unemployment for the workers.

(3) Justice all round.
The desired element of peace and greater efficiency—what could be more just, from the employers’ point of view ? In fact, it rivals the murder of workers (by bullets or by bricking them up in a burning mine) for its justice all round. But enough of a word reeking with such hypocrisy. We will allow the writer to distinguish his pet scheme from the inferior brand of profit-sharing.

“It will be well at the outset to distinguish clearly between mere profit-sharing and Copartnership. The former, of course, is one element of the latter, but it lacks the second and chief feature, which is capital-owning. These two factors combined naturally make a much stronger and more effective policy. Profit-sharing alone—the paying of a bonus half-yearly or yearly—has been found in many cases not to achieve the desired ends—for there are more than one. It generally means a spurt in work when the bonus is nearly due, but seldom general and sustained efficiency ; it is sometimes used as a cover for lower wages ; the workers remain servants without a voice in the affairs of the business for the prosperity of which they are largely responsible ; there is no sharing of losses, should such accrue, save to the extent of a fall in wages or loss of employment.
“Under a real and effective scheme of Copartnership—profit=sharing and capital-owning—however, all the desired conditions are present. The worker gains a double interest in the success of the business. He receives a share of the profits, which he invests in the concern, and a return on that investment. As the losses, too, must he carried by the share capital, he has an additional incentive to effort. His point of view is charged and enlarged by having a voice in the management of the works. That has, it should be pointed out, a most excellent educative effect on the workers.”

Profit-sharing alone does not achieve the desired ends. It generally means a spurt in work when the bonus is nearly due. but seldom general and sustained efficiency. In other words the employer is advised that Co-partnership is the most effective means cf inducing men to work as hard as they possibly can from the first of January to the thirty-first of December,

We see also that profit sharing is used as a cover for lower wages. If that is the case, Copartnership will be used for such a purpose, or we have the alternative that the workers will wait in vain for their share out. Yet in spite of this they are persuaded that under a scheme of this character it is to their interest to work hard.

We are next told how the employee’s interest will be looked after.

“Then again a necessary feature is the formation of a committee for the employees, to look after their interest, a body which also provides machinery for the settlement of disputes at their beginning, and not when they have assumed large and dangerous proportions.”

In what way will the committee benefit the workers ? The men who constitute the committee, being employees, will be just as much under the domination of the masters as any other workers. If they refused to act as the employer desired unemployment would be their reward.

The settlement of disputes by means of the comomittee would, no doubt, suit the capitalists. Strikes are not always convenient. They tend to demonstrate to the worker the antagonism of interests between the buyer and seller of labour-power ; between slave and slave-owner.

Now, in order that there should be no misunderstanding we are acquainted with the following facts:

“Sir George [Livesey], when chairman of the South Metropolitan Gas Company, the most striking example of this kind of partnership, stated that the £427,000 paid in 18 years in the form of profit to the employees did not mean a single penny reduction to the shareholders, because the workers had earned it by better and more economical working.”

What an admission ! Not a single penny reduction to the shareholders. But might we be so impertinent as to ask what they gained as a result of the better and more economical working ? And was the money the men received used as a cover for lower wages ?

The contention that this scheme is a fraud is again supported by the following :—

“The scheme, too, has been adopted with great success by many of the largest limited liability companies in the country, and this list is continually being added to.”

Success and more profit are to the capitalist synonymous terms, when referring to his business. Co-partnership has proved a great success by being an effective means of further speeding up the workers, and at the same time lessening the chance of their retaliating with a strike.

The sooner the workers realise that the capitalist class, by owning the means of wealth production, are enabled to live upon the wealth they steal from the workers, the sooner they will know that all this talk of the employer helping the employee to become a part owner of things is just sheer, unblushing hypocrisy.


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