The Maximum Profit

As was pointed out in our recent exposure of Lloyd George’s Land Campaign, the treatment received by the miners in their struggle for a minimum wage supplies a good example of Liberal method in dealing with such cases.

Yet in spite of what the past can teach as to the effect of Capitalist legislation upon working-class conditions, thousands of toilers are now looking forward to the time when this much-mouthed scheme of “land reform” shall mate­rialise into an Act of Parliament. That being the case, the reproduction of a few statements made by supporters of the latest Liberal fraud might prove useful.

Extract number one shows clearly the lines upon which the Liberal’s action is based.

“All experience not only in this but in other industries, and not only in this country and time, but in other countries and other times—shows that ill-paid labour is the least efficient, and an increase in efficiency due to better food and to raising of the general conditions of daily life will, sooner or later, and we think sooner rather than later, make itself apparent in in­creased productiveness and yield.”

And further we read :

“I have given you a general survey of our proposals. What I have to say in conclusion is this. There is nothing in them that is unfair to any class or interest involved. There is nothing in them that imposes upon any owner of land in town or country a heavier burden than that which every wise and public spirited owner is under existing conditions, not only willing, but anxious to assume.”

With these words did Asquith. in a speech at the National Liberal Club, reported by the “Daily Chronicle,” (10.12.13) soothe the troubled mind of any Capitalist employer that was per­turbed by the sight of “David” dangling suck juicy fruit before the workers’ eyes.

The statement that the Liberals do not intend to impose “a heavier burden than that which every wise and public spirited owner is under existing conditions, not only willing but anxious to assume,” is borne out by Lord Ashby St. Leger’s, a large land-owner—and evidently a wise one—who is putting into practice upon his own estate the theory advanced by this “Featherstone hero.” And in order to advertise his “generosity ” or wisdom, he tells us through the “Daily News and Leader” (19.11.13) :

“He believed that good wages were commer­cially sound. Lady Wimborne and himself had realised a project which had long engaged their attention. They were taking two farms in hand. A standard wage of 21s. 6d. would be paid for adult labour, which, after allowing for an economic rent for cottage and garden, would leave the labourer with a remuneration which was 30 per cent. more than the average and 50 per cent. more than the minimum which they had ascertained was previouslv current in the district. The number of hands would be increased and a half holiday would be granted. This standard would apply to all their em­ployees engaged in rural pursuits. An econo­mic rent would be paid to the landlord for the farm, and further, he was sanguine that the undertaking would show a profit on the capital invested.
“How could all this be achieved ? The talis­man on which he relied was increased produc­tivity and increased output. Sufficient capital and improved, up-to-date methods would ac­complish wonders.”

In this and the previous statement I have quoted the essential point is admitted—that, if an increase of wages takes place greater efficiency obtains, cancelling any benefits that would otherwise fall to the worker, and consequently leaving the employer on the winning side.

Thus the hopeful outlook for the farm worker is further speeding up by means of more up-to date methods, a greater expenditure of energy in the day’s toil, with the result that any increase in wages will be absorbed in supplying this much abused machine—the modern wage earner—with extra fuel, in the form of food, clothing, and shelter, to meet the increasing output of labour power. More work per man will mean a fall in the number employed on a given task, resulting in the number of unemployed rising. His life yet further shortened and its misery magnified by the more intense character of labour, the agricultural worker will realise that the master class in their greed for profit respect not his comfort, nor even his life.

The truly capitalist nature of this scheme is further emphasised by Lioyd George. The “Daily Chronicle” (23.12.13) reports this mouth almighty of the Liberal Party in these words :

“There will be an exception made in the case of old men” (the minimum wage is the subject referred to) “who cannot be expected to render the same service as they were capable of giving in the days of their prime, and who are kept on to do light work on the farm often from motives of kindliness and goodwill.”

So much for the party whose heart bleeds for the aged worker when sentiment would har­monise with economy. But why an exception in the case of old men ? From motives of kindli­ness and goodwill ? Far from it. The Capitalists do not intend to “flog a dead horse.” Having passed their “prime” the old men are not fit material for this method of speeding up, conse­quently the increased wage would not accom­plish the desired effect of greater profit, which, being the “all in all” of the master class, the aged worker must toil on for the miserable pittance he is at present compelled to “live” upon, when an employer can be found, who—”from motives of kindliness and goodwill”—will exploit him.

Such is the position of the working class, who, being propertyless, can live only by selling themselves for wages to those that own the means of wealth production. While these con­ditions remain poverty and misery must be the workers’ portion. Only by changing the basis of society from one of private to that of common ownership, can this slavery and all the evils it implies be ended. The class that to-day own and control the means of production must therefore be overthrown. To do this the workers, united by a common knowledge of their class position, must organise into a political party, secure political power by the strength of their vote, and use that power to place society upon the foun­dation of Common Ownership, from which will rise a system in which slave and parasite, poverty and gluttony will be impossible, but where all shall shoulder a fair portion of the social labour, and in return enjoy a like portion of the social product.


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