The Capitalists’ “Directive Ability”

Some Lessons from recent happenings

The Need for the Parasite
One of the stock arguments of the anti-Socialist is that the worker will be unable to control in­dustry under Socialism, as, in order to enable affairs to run smoothly, men are required with some weird, mysterious and miracle-working power called “directive ability.” The “anties” contend that we could not get along without these powerful individuals, and that (grande finale) these men are the ones who to-day possess wealth and position, i.e., the Rockefellers, Liptons, Devonports, and so on.

Let us just test this contention with a few facts and see how the miracle-workers run this system.

During the last few months a case has been attracting much attention in the courts. In this case certain civilians (past or present employees of Liptons, Ltd.) and some Army officers have been accused under the Bribery and Corruption Acts. In the evidence it transpired that Liptons have been in the habit of giving induce­ments to Army officers to secure Army canteen contracts. One of the defendants, Col. Whitaker, had received £540 from a firm of brewers, who supplied the beer to Col. Whitaker’s regiment at Malta. The Colonel said that he received the greater part of the money for using his influ­ence to secure a contract from a colonel of a regiment at Crete. It also turned in the evi­dence that a member of the Government, Lord Saye and Sele, had written advising Col. Whitaker to take a holiday and go to Crete to “smooth a ruffled bird” (Col. Bird) for a con­sideration !

In summing up the case the judge said : “I am bound to say that the evidence before the Court satisfies me that these defendants, em­ployed by Lipton’s, in so far as they made pay­ments for the bribery of persons capable of influencing contracts in favour of Lipton’s, were acting on a system which was known to the directorate, encouraged by the directorate, and persisted in by the directorate, after there had been consideration given as to whether to stop that system or not.” (“Times,” 28.5.14.)

Now is this the way the capitalists run the show ? Is this the way they pile up their for­tunes ? Is this the line “Directive Ability” takes ? When the capitalists themselves are faced with these facts and called to account, what do they answer ? Just what Lipton would have answered : “We do not know anything about it ; we did not attend to the business. You must blame our managers.'”

Tarred with the Same Brush
Those who have memories a little longer than the usual working-class memory will recollect that when the directors of the company con­cerned in the Putumayo rubber atrocities were brought before the commission, four of them admitted that they did not even know the lan­guage in which the business at board meetings was conducted !

Let us now turn to another recent instance of “Directive Ability.”

The coalfields of Colorado have lately been drenched with the blood of miners who struck against the conditions obtaining in the mines of the Trinadad Coal and Iron Co. A condition of affairs was in operation out there similar to what existed in England before the factory legislation began. The miners were compelled to trade at the company’s store, paying 25 to 50 per cent. more than outside prices, to buy coal off the company, pay the company’s doctor, and live in the company’s shacks.

When the miners struck on September 3rd last wholesale evictions followed, and men, women, and children were turned into the streets with their few belongings, to go where they could in the rain and snow that kept fall­ing through the next two days.

A Heroic Rockerfeller
During the strike the mine-owners, following their usual custom, imported as mine guards riff-raff of every description—armed thugs who could be depended upon to commit without hesi­tation the most cold-blooded of murders. “No authentic account,” says the “New York World” in a candid moment, “of anything that has happened in Mexico com­pares in cold-blooded brutality with what took place at Ludlow, Colorado. Dr. A. S. Harvey, a physician who testified at the inquest, said that while the “women and children lay in the safety pits which had been dug under the tents, the militiamen applied torches to the canvas and burned the structure over the heads of the terrified refugees. He declared that one ranch-house, in which dozens of women and children had taken refuge, was under fire from the mili­tiamen the whole day.” The militia mounted machine guns and swept the strikers’ quarters with bullets. Over 200 lives were lost in this mine war.

We now come to the “directive ability” side of the matter. As a result of the allegation that the rioting was caused by agents provocateur, and that the troops acted with great brutality in charging and shooting down men, women, and children indiscriminately, a Congressional inquiry into the matter was ordered. When John D. Rockefeller, Jun., who is a director of the Trinadad Coal and Iron Co., was questioned he “blandly professed entire ignorance as to the details of the rioting and causes of the strike. He admitted that his father owned 40 per cent. of the company’s stock, but declared that neither of them interfered with the management of af­fairs, and they knew very little about the matter. ‘We have so many interests that it is impossible for us to supervise personally everything.'”— (“Leader,” 7.4.14.)

An Obliging Conscience
How they get out of it when anything is brought up against them ! Capitalists, say our opponents, supervise industry, therefore deserve their profits. Charge Rockefeller with the murder of the Colerado miners, how­ever, and he immediately begins to squirm, and says he knows nothing about the matter. He does not “supervise personally” when the butcheries have to be accounted for, but only when the “swag” is divided.

When one of the committee very pertinently pointed out that Rockefeller found plenty of time for “social uplift” work and vice investi­gation, and asked him why he did not investigate the conditions in his own business, the canting, hypocritical scoundrel at once replied : “My conscience acquits me of any responsibility in the matter.”—(“Leader,” 7.4.14.)

The Rockefellers, by the way, seem to be rather accomplished hypocrites, and, incident­ally, men after God’s own heart. The father of the aforementioned unctuous humbug, John D. Rockefeller, Sen., was referred to last June by Mr. Bustard, the pastor of the Euclid Avenue Baptist Church, Cleveland (of the congregation of which Rockefeller is one of the oldest mem­bers) as “one of the rose bushes in God’s garden.” The same reverend soft-soap and chloroform dispenser also paid a tribute to those faithful followers in the church who, like Mr. Rockefeller, “have for years lead religious lives and been steadfast in the Lord’s work.” Comment on this is needless.

Before leaving for his father’s Pocantico Hills Estate young Rockefeller “issued a statement, in which he admitted that his investigations into the riots had disclosed conditions more terrible than have yet occurred in that or any other State.”—(“Reynolds’s,” 3.5.14.) In his concluding statement before the commission, however, he disclosed his true capitalistic soul, and showed himself as the advocate of free and unfettered sweating. “He got rather angry when it was pointed out that the newspapers had given plenty of details as to the working conditions in Trinadad, and that a word from his father would have stopped the bloodshed and ended the strike. He declined to agree to submit to arbitration, and declared that the company would rather sacrifice the whole of its property in Colorado than recognize the miners’ union if it hampered the company’s freedom.”— (“Leader,” 7.4.14.)

The Company’s Freedom
Well, what about “directive ability” now ? As a matter of fact, about the only directive ability the masters ever exercise is in employing managers, foremen, etc. to run their concerns for them while they are enjoying themselves, and if it large enough dividend is not regularly forthcoming they want to know the reason why ; if a sufficient reason is not given the official gets the sack. Owing to the contra­dictory nature of present society the workers are compelled to fight each other for jobs. The overlooker and manager are working men like the rest of us, dependent on their jobs for their livelihood and just as likely to get the sack at any moment. Their particular job consists in using every method they can to get the greatest possible amount of work out of their fellow-workers. Thus on the industrial field workers find themselves compelled to fight, not only their masters, but also each other in order to get a living. When the workers take over production then the “directive ability” of our fellow-workers (the absent bond-holding capitalist does no work in production at all), will be employed for the common good instead of, as to-day, for the misery of their fellows.


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