Building trade’s decline

A leading article with the above heading was published in the “Daily Chronicle” of Saturday, July 11th, 1914. This article is remarkable for the damaging information against the private ownership of the means of life, and for the “tender-heartedness” shown by this capitalist politician. Mr. Chiozza Money, M.P., the author of the article, has, as usual, condemned the economic and political state of the country, and switches the attention of working-class readers to Parliament—the saviour of the people—the place from which can issue the commands, the admonitions, the laws to make it so that all shall be well for the working class in the “better times” that are coming under capitalism.

Mr. Money says: “Between 1901 and 1911 an army of men passed out of the building trade in England and Wales, and that in spite of an increase in population of three and a half millions. Whereas in 1901, the population being 32,500,000, the Census showed 1,042,864 men employed in building and works of construction, in 1911, the population having advanced to 36,100,000, the number of persons employed in building and works of construction fell to 946,127. Three more years have elapsed, and in the interim, there is reason to fear, the number of persons employed in the industry has been stagnant or even subject to further decline. . The decline in employment is therefore a very serious thing for the nation, merely regarding the matter from the point of view of engaging our people in worthy occupations. When, however, we remember the nature of the industry concerned, we have to deplore in the figures referred to, not merely a decline in a noble employment, but a decline in the consumption of buildings, and especially of buildings in their aspect as the homes of our people.” Noble employment! Ye gods! So noble that the State has taken pity on those employed in the building trade to the extent of seven shillings unemployed benefit and ten shillings on sick ; so noble that they swarm like bees about a big job, and try to get the “glad eye” of the foreman ; so noble that when in work they have to speed up and compete one against the other—”Brothers” in the branch, and Brutes on the job.

We of the Socialist Party can tell where a great many of the builders’ “hands” have gone. Many have been forced to seek the shelter of the “Homes” provided for those broken on the wheel of industry—the workhouses ; many have “downed tools” for good, and walk the streets of “Old England” with “dull-eyed melancholly.” Hundreds have packed up and gone to distant lands with, the hope of getting “the staff of life” easier, and of securing a better prospect for their children. They have left this “tight little island,” blessed with hundreds of Acts of Parliament passed in the interest of the working class—so we have been told—left the land “blessed” with the history of “great men” who have looked after those who worked in “noble occupations.” “The Salvation Army” can account for some who have “got out and got under” ; in the workshops of the “Blood and Fire” brigade they have tasted the sweets of capitalism.

Mr. Chiozza Money has criticised the workings of capitalism, and we must try and “better the instruction.” Let us quote again. “It is fundamentally important that Britain should be rebuilt. It is by far the most important social question. The inside of a house matters much, and the outside of a house matters no less. Between their interior and their exterior aspects, buildings for an industrial nation become the framework of the lives of the majority of its people. They either let in or keep out the sun. They either form beautiful and healthy cities or environ town populations is ugliness and misery. They either make or mar our lives. Let no man imagine that by securing himself in a decent home he has rid his own person or his own family of the curse of bad housing. A house can never be an individual thing or a private thing. . . The private investor has failed and is failing to give the nation the houses which it needs. With the money which has been invested abroad in the last four years by British investors every slum in this country could have been wiped out, and when I say this I use the term ‘slum’ to include not merely the most squalid streets, but to cover about one-fifth of all the town dwellings of the country.”

What is the “remedy” of this capitalist M P. ? It is to make it the duty of local authorities to “house their people well,” and to assist them with “supplies of cheap capital.” We can understand Mr. Money very well in his insidious way of keeping working-class attention still longer fixed on the lips and promises of the capitalist politicians. We understand from his wail that this social mess in the shape of “houses” is because of naughty capitalists ; much “good” will result when the “good” capitalists predominate. We, of the working class are according to this capitalist prize-fighter—the children of those who house us, of those who feed and clothe us, who pay us wages, and kill our brothers and sisters in Factory, Mill, and Mine, and fine themselves, through a manager, £24 for murdering over 400 miners in a pit in “gallant little Wales.”

Mr. Money wants our capitalist fathers to be more thoughtful for their children; but Mr. Money is in that section of capitalist politicians who raised the load line to suit the ship-owners; who ticketed and numbered the proletariat to suit the masters, and who have mucked about a “Home Rule Bill” for over 30 years while the workers have been stifled in slums—and polish their tools in case something turns up.

“Cheap Capital” to house the workers. Very well. The only way to attain this desired end of capitalist “goody goodies” is to exploit the working class more and more—and improved methods of hastening the wealth production under capitalism will swell the unemployed army, will crowd the workers in the slums, and make them fit instruments to produce wealth for “Cheap Capital.”

We, of the Socialist Party think that it matters everything to preach to the workers that they are wage-slaves; that their so-called decent homes hang together by but a slender thread ; the evolution of a rotten system of wealth production will scatter many home nests of those who think they are safe.

So, then, we are framed in by slums, by unemployed men, by starving children, by factory hells, by want of the necessaries of life in the midst of plenty. We want bread and it is difficult to get—but the steam plough is working. We want decent houses—but the workmen are not allowed to build. We want life, freedom, the obstacles hewn out of our path to get food, clothing, and shelter after the working of our brain and muscle—and some of greatest obstacles in the path of the toilers of the world are those who preach that we are “but little children weak” and they—the “great intellects” who will some day do us some good.

Look to Parliament and see there the agents of the capitalist class, who spin silky words about and around our social sores. When the delegates of the class-conscious workers sit in Parliaments of the World, the days of the “kind perishers” will be numbered.

S. W.

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