The Cadbury flavour
In last month’s issue of the SOCIALIST STANDARD was published, side by side, two extracts front leading articles by the “Daily News and Leader” ; the one declaring that the cause of the extensive strikes among the workers was the enormous increase in the cost of living, the other stating that the “working classes were receiving money in a measure without parallel.” Attention was drawn to these contradictory statements and it was suggested that the “Daily News” could only reconcile these statements by proving: either in the intervening three months between the publication of them wages had risen enormously, or prices in the same period had been correspondingly reduced.
Since the appearance of the second statement—on the supposed affluence of working class—the same journal, quoting from the Board of Trade “Labour Gazette,” has voluntarily furnished us with the actual figures, both as to the increased cost of living and the rise in wages.
But the figures do not help them, for we learn that the cost of living, for the year ending July 1925, has risen by 34 per cent., while wages, have risen for some 2½ million workers by about, three shillings per week, £400,000 being paid weekly as war bonus to that number of workers.
Next, as though they were serenely unconscious of their statement of June 14th, that the “working classes are receiving money in a measure without parallel;” on August 17th they say:
“Unhappily it is on the poor that the rise falls, heaviest, and that both absolutely and relatively. It is the commodities that for them form the staples of life that have advanced most rapidly. Bread, for example, is up by 40 per cent., fish by 60, tea by 30, sugar by nearly 70, and the cheaper cuts of imported beef by 60. In few families would it be true to say that the sovereign has dropped in value to thirteen shillings, for obviously only a proportion, and in the case of the well-to-do a very small proportion, of the family income is spent on food. But for the very poor, whose particular staples have advanced by the proportions indicated above, and who of necessity spend a high proportion of their wages on food, the statement almost holds good. The comparative absence of actual poverty in the poor law sense cannot obscure the existence of much hardship and penury, for the most part cheerfully borne as part of the-inevitable cost of war.
The “Daily News” apparently quotes these figures for the purpose of comparison with German and Austrian food prices, which are said to have risen by 65 and over 100 per cent. respectively. We are expected to derive satisfaction from the comparison, and to remember with gratitude “the ceaseless debt of the nation to the royal navy.” This is the lesson from the capitalist point of view. But the lesson we Socialists urge is that in every case it is the worker that suffers as a result of rising prices. That in the “piping times of peace,” according to the late Sir H. Campbell Bannerman, thirteen millions of people in this country live on or below the poverty line ; that according to capitalist authorities the average wage of the working class is less than twenty-four shillings per week.
If it could be said that this poverty were due to the failure of the working class to produce sufficient wealth to satisfy their needs there could only be one remedy : to increase efficiency and discover new and easier methods of producing wealth. But there is not one defender of the capitalist system who would dare to impute the poverty of the working class either to the lack of wealth or to their inability to satisfy all their needs by means of the existing instruments and methods of production. Neither is there a capitalist statesman or defender who dares to tell us why the working class is poor in the midst of plenty. Nor yet can they tell us how the poverty “problem” may be solved.
The conditions the capitalists and their hacks champion are grounded ill anarchy. Such conditions cannot be honestly defended. If we are honest we must expose and condemn the capitalist system, which permits an idle class to dominate society in its own interest, imposing slavery on the mass of the people while they, the dominators, live in security and the wildest luxury. An intelligent working class cannot accept their ideas nor their view-point. The workers’ philosophy must take shape around the material facts of their existence. Antagonism will naturally develop, but the working class cannot expect to reach their emancipation unless they first challenge the class that enslaves them.