1910s >> 1917 >> no-160-december-1917

Editorial: Yapp’s Anchor

There is an important aspect of the present trend of economic affairs, not only in this country but throughout the civilised world, to which we do not remember to have seen the attention of the workers drawn. We refer to the permanent effect of the depression of the standard of living of the toiling masses.

Those who know what a vital part the standard of living plays and has played in the resistance of the working class to the wages-depressing efforts of the employing class, do not need to have their attention drawn to the serious after-the-war effects of the present suppression of all the little “luxries” with which many workers were wont to vary the monotony of their dietary, and the partial deprivation of such prime necessaries as bread and meat. To however, to whom this is not familiar ground, it is necessary to point out that the standard of living — the customary level of comfort (we don’t like the term in this connection, but can find no better at the moment) — of the working people, is the very basis of the wages struggle. To this both wages and the development and intensification of production have tended to shape themselves through the whole course of capitalist exploitation. Through generations multitudinous circumstances hare added their quota to its making, each quota to be seized upon and clung to and fought for with bitter tenacity. Thus this “standard of comfort,” to give it its common name, is a historic product.

But the condition of things produced by the war, the high prices of necessary things, the shortage of many of them at any price, the emasculation of trade union resistance, the virtual existence of industrial conscription, the voluntary surrender from “patriotic” motives, and other circumstances which may occur to other minds, have crumpled up this “standard of comfort” in a way that generations of capitalist brutality had failed to do. The historical asset, which had tended to persist in a remarkable manner through ages of competitive strife, is being smashed to atoms now that in all but appearance, competition is as dead as a doornail, and a lopsided conscription has taken its place.

This historic asset is much easier surrendered than recovered. There is a world of subtle meaning, a wealth of ironic humour, in the anchor badge we are all to be wearing “before Christmas.” They whose anchors they are count upon them holding in the Greater War after the war.