“It has paid.”


“Experiments in Industrial Organisation,” by Edward Cadbury. London : Longman & Co. 55. net.

I do not know exactly what a “Dean of a Faculty of Commerce” is, but it appears from the page before me that he is a person (not parson) “concerned with, the training of young business men.” If this is so it perhaps accounts for the unerring manner in which the particular “Dean of a Faculty of Commerce ” (W. J. Ashley, Ph.D., Professor of Commerce in the University of Birmingham) who wrote the preface to Mr. Edward Cadbury’s book, “Experiments in Industrial Organisation,” stuck his finger right down through the thick, Bournvillainous scum of cant and humbug, upon the one solid point of resistance in the quakey, quakery quagmire. “It is the opinion of the Firm,” he says, by way of irresistible appeal to “young business men,” “that, taken as a whole, their policy has distinctly ‘paid.'”

I make bold to say that not even the Socialist, concerned with the training of young (and old) working men, could have got right down to the essential incentive of the Cadbury policy in fewer words and with less waste of time.

“I see no reason why we should not be quite frank in the matter,” Mr. Ashley goes on, “it has been a splendid advertisement. Instead of cynically pooh-poohing it for that reason, I think this is a particularly encouraging fact, and highly creditable to human nature. It shows there is such a thing as a consumers’ conscience.”

Without wishing to decry poor old “human nature,” the reviewer opines that one is on much safer, if less cheerful, ground in asserting that it shows that the manufacturer’s conscience has had precious little to do with the Policy of the Firm (oblige with a “cap,” please, Mr. Printer, and keep it “up” all through). In this one is confirmed, even before coming to the body of the book, by the further argument of a “Dean of a Faculty of Commerce,” that this same policy “has reduced the expenses of manufacture.”

If Mr, Cadbury had let his book simply show that the policy of the Firm had been conceived as conducing to greater profits, and that it had amply fulfilled expectations, without slavering it all over with the hypocrisy of the “Workers’ Welfare” movement, one might take it up, if not with more respect, at least with less contempt.

However, in this particular sort of cant the Cadburys, like most “philanthropic” employers, have always been regular nibs—cocoa nibs-—and if all the “welfare” humbug which is so lavishly scattered through this volume is translated at Bournville into actual consideration for the workers’ welfare, instead of into profits, it must be, as one employee of a goody-goody firm graphically put it: “Like working for Jesus Christ.”

For instance, the Firm does not employ married women in any of its processes, we are told, not, of course, because the Firm has not the same disciplinary hold over married women that it has over other employees, hut because married women, in the estimation of the Firm, are not fit and proper company for girls. Doubtless this example of the Firm’s deep conception of the natural “sinfulness” of women will be duly appreciated by the “consumer’s conscience,” as exemplified in the thousands of married women who purchase the Firm’s products. Even men are not adjudged quite so badly as women, for certain selected men who wear badges are permitted in the girls’ departments—though, either from oversight or from jealous regard for trade secrets, Mr. Cadbury does not say whether these “eunuchs” are properly emasculated deaf mutes or the safeguard is in the badge.

It would, however, be very useful to know just how the selection is made, whether by test or appearance. The present scribe is conscious of wearing a “werry wicked countenance,” yet he is as harmless as a lamb, while certain of his (mere) acquaintances, whose countenances would guarantee them a free pass to the Sultan’s harem would—well, would rush to the test.

In the mass of tabulated results set out in Mr. Cadbury’s volume is to be found striking confirmation of several important common Socialist contentions. The value of working class technical education—to the employers—is clearly demonstrated in the chapter on trade classes. “Right methods of working,” we are told on page 61, “were substituted for the wrong methods which the girls had picked up” ; and on the same page : “This preliminary course served, directly or indirectly, many useful purposes. For instance, it enabled the head of the department to eliminate those girls who gave no promise of ever becoming first-class box-makers and to transfer them to machine work.” Here we really have the key to the policy of the Firm. The Cadburys are not philanthropists : they are particularly long-headed business men. They have recognised that the ordinary brutal and clumsy methods of capitalism, which sees no difference between one worker and another, is about as wasteful a way of utilising social labour-power as can well be imagined. There is no power of selection exercised, and the majority of workers are misfits—square pegs in round holes. The man whose heart is in the soil, and who might out-Burbank Burbank in the garden, is. to be found peeling potatoes in an hotel cellar, while the material for the making of the best chef in the world may be wasting in the raising of mushrooms instead of glorying in the cooking of them.

The Cadburys’ great achievement lies in the realisation of this fact. Mr. Ashley, speaking after them, says in his preface: “Human beings will insist upon being treated as human beings, and not as imperfect machines.” When the cant is cleared away this means : “Workers are not machines, all cast to one pattern, with the same qualities and the same imperfections. They are human beings, things of temperament and individual qualities.” That was a grand discovery for a capitalist to make.

Starting out from this principle the Firm proceeds to fit all the square pegs into square holes, and all the round pegs into round holes.

The first point is to choose the material, and here the important discovery is made that intelligence in the worker is a distinct asset to the employer. It is found that girls whose intelligence enables them to reach the seventh standard become the most proficient workers, as the following shows:—

“A record was recently taken of the wages of sixth and seventh standard girls, both doing the same work under the same conditions. The results were :—

At end of three months.
Sixth standard girls 1.24 pence per hour
Seventh „ ,, 1.33 „ „
At end of six months.
Sixth standard girls 1.58 pence per hour.
Seventh „ „ 2.07

The last figures mean that, even at the same wage rate, three rooms with three sets of valuable machinery operated by seventh standard girls would produce practically as much as four such rooms of costly plant attended by girls of the sixth standard. So seventh standard girls are given preference in employment, and “on a recent occasion when fifty girls were taken on, all were in the seventh standard.” (p. 3.)

Having chosen the best material, freely brought to their doors by the well-considered and cunningly contrived “advantages” which their manufacturer’s “conscience” prompts them to offer to those whom they aspire to employ, they now set about making the most of that selected material. This process the cocoa nibs have reduced to a fine art—with fine artfulness.

A clever system for maintaining discipline has been evolved, which does not allow “culprits” to expiate their offences with fines, but records them against them as sins to be washed away only by two years good conduct. The Firm finds this an admirable system to apply to young people “just leaving school,” who “have not yet lost their habit of obedience and discipline.” Then come letters to parents, pointing out the need for technical education, which, “besides ensuring that all shall have a thorough grounding in things necessary to life, also aims at making the best use of the boys’ or girls’ time, and means greatly increased efficiency all round.” The cogent argument is also used, doubtless with overwhelming effect, that “only by treating the subject scientifically … we can hope to keep our supremacy in the world, and take our lead among the nations.” Then, of course, factory ethics are inculcated, the Firm going to considerable trouble to teach its future machine operators “how serious is the loss caused by an expensive machine standing idle during the ordinary hours of work.”

Then come the technical classes, firstly, as aforesaid, with a view to finding out those possessing the “gift of speed,” in order to obtain workpeople for those processes which particularly require manual dexterity, and secondly to repair that other great omission of capitalist organisation the proper training of wage slaves.

It is a strange thing how lax are capitalists in this respect. If a man aspires to fame in the “ring,” he has to fit himself by a systematic training, which commences, not with his fists, but with the direction in which his left foot shall point. In cricket every detail of the manipulation of the bat is the subject of theory and practice. Even so simple (!) a thing as drawing a bow square across the strings of a fiddle has to be practiced for months before a mirror by the aspirant for efficiency. But in industry all this goes for nothing. The worker is given the job and told to get on with it, and he scrambles through.

This, however, is not the Bournville way. No effort is spared by the Firm, after fitting the square pegs to the square holes, to theorise each operation and eliminate every superfluous action.

Now for the cost side of all this. We are told on page 67 that the number of employees of the Firm in 1910-11 was 6,182, and the total cost of education to the Firm for the session of that date was £2,782. Of course, not all the workers took part in the scheme during this session, but the point is that the cost covered the annual training necessary not only to replace the Firm’s present workers, but also to cover the rapid expansion of the concern.

It comes to this, then, that the benevolent despotism of the Firm supplies them with properly selected and trained workers at a cost of something less than 9s. per head per annum.

Here is cogent reasoning for the “Dean of a Faculty of Commerce’s” “young business men.” Do you think it is worth it—to have every worker in a vast industrial concern doing the work he or she is best fitted to do in that concern (except, of course, bossing the show) and properly trained to do it, without false motion or waste of time or material, for 9s. a head per year ? Is the expert a bad bargain compared with the ordinary half-trained or untrained worker at an additional cost of 9s., or £9, ay, or perhaps even £90 per year ?

Well, the Firm says that under certain stimulus the output “has doubled without any undue strain upon the workers, largely as the result of adopting better methods.” And, as if to clinch the argument in favour of training as such by eliminating improvements in machinery they add : “This especially applies to hand processes.”

It may be argued that as most of the work is paid for on the “piece” system the benefit goes to the workers, but the intelligent reader will hardly need to be told that the rate is fixed so as to allow the workers to reproduce their efficiency, and is revised from time to time, thus securing that every advance of the general efficiency shall be translated into extra profits for the Firm, in order, of course, that we may “keep our supremacy in the world, and take our lead among the nations.”

I have not space to deal further with the details of the Bournville policy, but what remains, no less than what has been touched upon, points to the truth of what has been contended in these pages—that the general worsening of working-class conditions is not inconsistent with shorter hours and higher wages, for those in work, and greater physical efficiency even for those out of work. For, as the Cadburys have discovered, the efficiency of the workers, after all, depends fundamentally upon their physical and mental condition.


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