Higher Efficiency. What it means to the Workers

Mr Chiozza Money, as a statistician, easily holds first place in this country. But, like many others who have contributed generously to the totality of scientific knowledge, he frequently misses the real significance of his own figures, or becomes confused when he tries to handle statistics for the purpose of abstract reasoning. The very simplicity of actual solutions is often the cause of his overleaping them.

“How is it that machinery does not conquer toil ?” he asks. “Why, then, arises the grave and significant question, has invention failed to reduce arduous toil ? Why is it that so many people are condemned to work long hours at fatiguing operations ?” Mr. Money answers bis own questions satisfactorily to himself in the following sentence: “The explanation is that a a enormous proportion of our population is either not at work or working wastefully.”

He utterly fails to see that if all these were at work producing for the market on the most eco­nomic lines, the intense competition of to-day would develop into the wildest anarchy. The simple answer to Mr. Money’s question overlooked by him is that machinery, instead of being socially owned, is the property of private individuals, who comprise a class owning, not only the machinery, but all the means of life. The question of the ownership of the machine—obviously the most important factor—does not appear at all in Mr. Money’s explanation.

In a series of articles published in the “Daily Chronicle,” Mr. Money successfully argues that higher wages induce greater efficiency, inven­tion, and the application of more scientific methods. Far from denying that this increases ; the number of unemployed, he claims it as the natural result, and after demonstrating by evi­dence that the unemployed army grows with the increase of efficiency, he uses his conclusions as convincing reasons for the enactment of a mini­mum wage in agriculture. “A high wage is the father of invention,” says Mr. Money, and according to his own statement, invention increases unemployment.

More than once have we pointed out this effect. Higher wages, whether obtained by legal enactment or by trade union action, hasten the introduction of labour-saving devices of all kinds. Repeated strikes, or even the threats of strikes, will bring about the same result. A two­fold advantage is gained by the employer when he introduces new methods: he saves in the number of his employees, and he sets up greater competition amongst them, which enables him to exact greater efficiency.

It is, therefore, with the “Curse of Claudian” upon his head that Mr. Money advocates higher wages for agricultural workers ; like Claudian, too, he knows beforehand what the sequel to his good intentions will be. He says : “It will not be a growing industry, because each successful application of science will reduce the number of persons required to grow a given quantity of food, and as the need for food and organic materials is strictly limited, the proportion of men required to grow produce must decline.”

That is true of any industry that can be men­tioned ; why, than, does Mr. Money go on to say : “That, of course, is a good thing for mankind, and not a bad thing, sinca the fewer men re­quired for one industry the more are set free for other industries, and the cali for the product of other industries is, of course, without practical limit.”

The world’s market, in a given period, is the limit in demand for the products of every industry, and therefore determines the number of workers to bs employed on the industrial field. “Successful applications of science” have already reduced the number of workers required in nearly every industry, to a much greater extent than in agriculture, in this county. Those who are therefore displaced, either by scientific improvements or greater efficiency, actually swell the general army of unemployed. Every industry is being scientificly treated and greater efficiency is being exacted. Every in­dustry is limited by the demand for its products. All round efficiency, consequently, meansiu crease of unemployment all round.

Let there be no mistake as to the meaning of greater efficiency. Unless the return in products or service for the same bill of wages has increased, there is no increase in efficiency ; while if the return is greater, by that much is it a pure gain to the capitalist.

Higher efficiency means greater concentration and effort on the part of the workers, and as competition among them increases by virtue of the growing army of unemployed, wages for those who are employed remain stationary or fall. Greater efficiency, therefore, means, for the working class—more work, less wages. Co-part­nership and profit-sharing illustrate and prove this truth.

Increased efficiency can only be “good for mankind” when the wealth that is produced is socially owned ; for the working class are in the same position as bees that produce in the sum­mer more honey than they require, and yet die in swarms during the winter because they have been robbed. Just as the bees have learned to economise wax by substituting hexagonal for circular cells and are robbed of the results of their highly developed instinct, so the working class have been robbed of the results of their more intelligent application of labour to the production of wealth, and will continue to be robbed while their labour-power is stamped as merchandise.

The greater efficiency of the working class under capitalism means greater competition and poverty. The cry of the capitalist for increased efficiency is consequently only the expression of his greed, for what the worker loses in wages his employer gains in profits. To pretend that the condition of the working class improves with greater efficiency is therefore sheer humbug.

The requirements of the capitalist class with regard to labour-power are various. The high­est forms of labour-power can only be produced by the expenditure of a greater amount of labour-time—by the consumption of the products of previously expended labour-power—hence its higher price. Supply and demand will play the deuce with the price of any commodity, under certain conditions, and when industrial “corres­pondence schools” and “commercial colleges” promise their students good jobs on the termi­nation of their course, the market becomes flooded, and salaries that used to be fat fall by easy stages until they are indistinguishable in amount from, wagea.

Commercial education means, not higher, but lower salaries. To-day the labour of two clerks—more efficient clerks at that—can be bought for the same price as one a generation or so ago. This has been achieved by the simple process of teaching shorthand, book-keeping, etc, at evening classes and polytechnics, and the masters have been supplied with all the labour of that kind they require for the double purpose of keeping their accounts and keeping down their wages bill.

The efforts that are being made in certain quarters to compel every child to attend evening classes after leaving the elementary school, are not intended to benefit these young people, but only to place at the disposal of the masters more efficient workers, for if the working class are to receive only, on the average, just sufficient to enable them to exist, it is better for them to re­main inefficient, because the price of labour-power is more firmly fixed at the cost of living. The lower the quality of that labour-power, the better the bargain from the working-class standpoint.

All the time and energy spent by members of the working class ia increasing their efficiency is a free gift of labour-time to the capitalist class. All the time that is spent at industrial corres­pondence schools, commercial colleges, and evening classes is so many hours added to the daily toil of the working class. These hours of added labour, of course, fall on those who have imbibed freely at the fountain of capitalist pro­mise. The lure is the good jobs, the plums sprickled here and there, rare as oases in the capitalist desert of poverty, and magnified and muliplied in every capitalist publication.
So, Mr. Money’s claim that greater efficiency or better organisation of work is good for man­kind, under capitalism, unsupported as it is by evidence or reason, falls to the ground, and when he says : “The truth is that if invention went no further, mankind now possesses the means of wealth,” he himself indicts the capitalist system, with its one third of the population below the poverty line.

What really stands in the way of either “bet­ter organisation of work” or a “more equitable distribution of wealth,” is the class ownership of the means of life and the merchandise charac­ter of human labour power. Until these condi­tions are removed increased production will only spell glut and depression, with ever-pre­sent working class poverty.

F. F.

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