The Fraud of Capitalist Education

It is difficult to find a stronger indictment against the capitalist class than their own con­fession of inability to control and regulate their exploitation of the resources of nature. Owning, as a class, the land and instruments of produc­tion, individual greed lands them in fiercer competition for ever larger slices of the world’s market, that they may realise ever larger pro­fits. Coal and iron mines are exploited without consideration for the needs of future generations—largely to supply ships and for navies and armies that grow in spite of all their efforts to regulate them.

The extravagant method of obtaining rubber, regardless of the destruction of the trees, is no­torious. Certain “birds of feather” and fur-bearing animals have become almost or quite extinct, because their slaughter was a source of immediate profit.

The unregulated exploitation of natural re­sources, however, is not to be mentioned in the same breath with their chaotic and ravenous exploitation of the working class. During the first half of the nineteenth century the only limit to their exploitation was the physical impossi­bility of working their slaves harder and longer.

The history of the factory system is a record of crime unparalleled in any age. Nero never exercised such brutal domination. Torquemado never practiced in cold blood such vindictive cruelty as did the factory lords of England to­ward the helpless children who came within their clutches for the purpose of exploitation.

In the “Daily Telegraph” (17.1.1860) a Notttingham county magistrate wrote :—

“Children of nine or ten years are dragged from their squalid beds at two, three, or four o’clock in the morning and compelled to work for a bare subsistence until ten, eleven, or twelve at night, their limbs wearing away, their frames dwindling, their faces whitening, and their humanity absolutely sinking into a stone-like torpor, utterly horrible to contem­plate. . . . We are not surprised that Mr. Mallet or any other manufacturer should stand forward and protest against discussion. . .
The system, as the Rev. Montague Valpy desceribes it, is one of unmitigated slavery, socially, physically, morally, and spiritually…..
What can be thought of a town which holds a meeting to petition that the hours ol labour for men shall be diminished to eighteen hours a day ? . . . We declaim against the Virginian and Carolinian cotton-pJanters. Is their black market, their lash, and their barter of human flesh more detestable than this slow sacrifice of humanity that takes place in order that veils and collars may be fabricated for the benefit of capitalists ?”

The lace trade was not alone, for according to the reports of factory inspectors, these were the normal conditions of factory workers when this excessive exploitation reached the point where regulation of some sort became absolutely necessary.

The feeble attempts that were made to regu­late exploitation could only succeed temporarily. With shorter hours higher speed was possible, and was enforced. Unemployment increased, and wages, for at least one third of the working class, remained below the poverty line, and remain there to this day.

Exploitation has not abated. The workers’ straggle for a bare existence is keener, and the capitalist politician, even with the assistance of his brother who “represents labour,” is unable to put a bridle on the greed of his class for flesh and blood. Their inability was again demon­strated in the recent discussion in the House of Commons on the question of a Minimum Wage. Expressions of sympathy were plentiful, but a melancholy impotence characterised the whole farce.

The terrible toll on the lives of the workers through “accidents” in mines and factories and on the streets and railways, and the alarming increase of disease directly traceable to poverty and industrial conditions, stand out forcibly as a separate indictment of the system.

While the workers are too old at forty, there is vital need for some arrangement by which the supply may be kept up. The pace is too fast; the workers are being used up too quickly in the industrial process. Hence the lectures by economists and eugenists on capitalist prodigality and wastefulness in the consumption of labour-power.

As a class capitalists need a continual supply of labour-power, but their thirst for immediate profits will not permit them to regulate its pro­vision. With labour-saving machinery and up-to-date methods, the labour market flooded with women and children, the supply of labour has overtaken the demand; and the capitalist takes full advantage of the opportunity afforded to reduce wages nearer to the cost of living of the individual worker.

The meagre wages of the bulk of the workers are barely adequate for husband and wife; how can the capitalist expect that strong, healthy children can grow out of them ? In spite of all the religious busy-bodies and “simple-lifers,” who instruct parents through the Press on “how to bring up a family on fifteen shillings a week,” and the board school lessons on “how to provide a dinner for six people for eightpence,” the attempt—for the majority of the workers—to bring up healthy families is doomed to fail­ure. Only weaklings can result from such wages and conditions.

This conclusion is amply borne out by the report of Mr. Pease, President of the Board of Education, in his survey of national education. Eighty-eight per cent. of the children attending elementary schools suffer from serious defects or complaints. Nearly 90 per cent. of working-class children are physically handicapped in the struggle for existence before they leave school.

A few days before Mr. Pease made his report the need for re-organisation, especially on the physical side, was emphasised by Lord Crewe. “Looking at the question from the most callous point of view,” he said (as though the capitalists of to-day were not the same in spirit as the fac­tory ghouls of 1860, or could be anything else than “business-like”—a polite synonym for cal­lous and brutal), “what a bad bargain we are making in allowing children not properly fur­nished physically to attend schools which are set up at great expense to the country. Such children are not being trained into useful citi­zens and useful industrial machines.”

“What a bad bargain,” says the capitalist representative. Wrapped up in his own little system, with no ideas outside of profit and loss, price lists, percentages, and stocks and shares, that portion of rates and taxes that goes to education is to him a collective investment in flesh and blood.

Labour is cheap to day ; by means of a small collective expenditure its productivity can be increased, when it will be cheaper still. Healthy workers must be happier than unhealthy ones, is the moral justification. But this is only inci­dental—it is not the object. Health is only to be considered because it means increased profits. The increased productivity of the worker is the cause of added misery, because it augments the unemployed army, thereby increasing competi­tion and reducing wages.

All this matters nothing to the capitalist or his representative. They do not take into con­sideration the effect of their measures on the working class as a whole. They are merely concerned with the provision of an adequate supply of human energy to enable them to com­pete successfully in the markets of the world. As the Lord Chancellor told the Eighty Club, when speaking of the new system of education : “The new organisation of society, of industry, and of finance, is pressing us into competition with other nations such as we have never known anything like an even distribution of these before, and if we have to compete and get profits, knowledge and skill and science must be far more diffused than at the present time. And what concerns me is that foreign nations are making this very advance in a way which seems to be a considerable menace to us.”

After thus emphasising their need for re­-organisation his lordship commented on the cost, and pointed to the need for a “great sacrifice on the part of the nation”—the nation, of course, ing the capitalist class, of whom the Eighty Club are fairly representative.

But why call it a sacrifice ? When a company lays down new plant they do so in the expecta­tion that the cost of production will be reduced, and the increased profits that result more than compensate for such expenditure.

There can be no sacrifice where greater robbery is the intention. Their system means exploitation intensified. Intensive cultivation of the brain and sinew of the workers. The more scientific exploitation grows, the more completely are the working class enslaved and robbed. Science, when applied to any productive process, increases the results ; when the supply of labour-power is scientifically regulated the results are increased wealth for the class that have ordered the step to be taken.

But the Minister for Education is on the horns of a dilemma. The capitalist wants educated workers but objects to paying. He cannot make the worker pay because his wages barely cover the cost of living. Consequently the Minister in charge of education is compelled to econo­mise. He restricts elementary education ; as the President of the N.U.T. said at the confer­ence of that body, children are ricocheted from class to class in order to economise space. A competitive system is set up for the purpose of obtaining students for secondary education, thus dividing the children before they actually leave school into two grades—those who will become so-called brain-workers and those who are des­tined for “manual” labour. The very thing that the astute politician would deprecate because the bulk of the workers become fixed for life in their manual occupations, with ever dwindling opportunities of advancement. The good jobs become the subject of competition for a selected minority, and capitalist administration is seen to be extending the principles of the Labour Exchange to the elementary schools, and arranging and training children to get the best results for capital.

“They must consider the occupations of the people,” said Mr. Balfour. Not the people them­selves, oh, no! Liberals and Tories alike believe that the worker’s education should be directed toward making him “a useful indus­trial machine.”

Education to-day does not mean imparting knowledge. Real knowledge is withheld, and every child’s brain is made the receptacle for rules and methods necessary to capitalist enter­prise, arithmetic that is necessary to calculate their rates of profit; composition required to indite their business letters, and instruction in religion, and so-called history, that they may grow up patriotic, meek, .and thoroughly con­ventional.

No wonder the workers’ children more than hold their own at the secoudary schools and colleges. They have to concentrate : it means their living. The sons and daughters of the capitalist class are quite prepared to let them shine : they don’t want such an education—it only clogs the brain and fixes the mind in a narrow, permanent groove. Capitalist education, elamentary or secondary, is the education for slaves ; those who are not slaves have no use for it. Those who out-class them in the college to­day will function for them in the industrial field—will become their eyes and brains, reduc­ing their wages bill, wielding the economic whip to coerce their own class, increasing the compe­tition and anarchy that already characterise capitalist society.

To-day the workers’ children are only taught what will make them useful to the capitalist class. Under a rational system of society the technicalities of production would scarcely enter into the child’s education. The entrancing wonders of the world would be unfolded before them; their philosophy would be a world philosophy. The narrow walls of some factory or office that now imprisons the mind of the worker would be broken down, and economic freedom would mean intellectual freedom. As­sured of the fruits of their labour, anxiety would have no place in the minds of the workers, for the establishment of order in the place of anarchy and chaos always brings contentment and happiness.

F. F.

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