Though the great Business War is over the sun is still shining for the “profiteer,” and he is sedulously “making hay” while opportunity offers. His stereotyped reply to all expostulation is that material is scarce and wages high. Both these statements may be correct, but how any combination of them within present experience works out to the effect that two-and-half lbs of galvanised iron, wrought to the form of a common housewife’s pail, at one time hanging fire at 6½d., should cost the present scribe 4s. 9d., wants a bit of understanding. But here is a little example which shows whether inflated prices are due to greater costs or to downright thieving.
During the recent election Parliamentary candidates had released to them paper, envelopes, cards ard so on. They got their permits, took them to their printers, and the latter, upon presenting them to the paper merchants, were supplied with the stuff.
But the galling part is this: the paper and other materials were released to the candidates at prices which were less than half those asked of the printer in the ordinary way. Thus paper known in the trade as “news,” was released at 5½d. a lb, while the printer has to pay 11d. to 1s. 3d. for an inferior quality. (The pre-war price was about l½d. a lb.) Envelopes were released at 5s. 6d. per thousand which the printer for his ordinary business would have to pay 12s. to 17s. for.
Are the paper merchants losing on this deal? Are they themselves bearing the “great advance in the cost of materials and labour” out of gratitude to the politicians who allow them to carry on their shameless thievery with impudent impunity? They might well do so, but it is hardly likely that they are. No, nobody is losing on this reduction of prices to election candidates. That it has been done is simply a confession that the magnates of the paper trade are seizing the opportunity provided by the war to plunder on a scale they could never have dreamed of before August 1914. They boasted quite early on, when they were deliberately holding up supplies for higher prices, that they would have the price up to 1s. a lb before the war was finished. But they have long since surpassed this, and in some cases have more than doubled it. Down with the thieves ! Down with the canting humbugs who urge the workers on to butchery in the name of patriotism while they scheme in their palatial offices to wax fat on the reek of the shambles and wring loot out of the agonised needs of their war-striken victims ! The agents of these ghouls are shouting “Germany begins to pay !” It is time that we had a squaring up of accounts with the thieves nearer home.