1910s >> 1919 >> no-181-september-1919

The Hirelings at Work

Manifold are the uses of the labour leader to the capitalist class. W’hen the masters wanted war the decoy ducks received their instructions and Patriotism became their watch-cry. When a strike becomes inconvenient to the masters the “leaders” instruct their men to return to work. Now that the labour situation is becoming somewhat uncomfortable for the employers they send out the cry of “More production or national disaster,” and right nobly do the henchmen rally to the call.

To enable the inexperienced reader to appreciate the perfidy of these people it is necessary to set forth a few elementary facts.

The basis of the tactics necessary to achieve Socialism is the understanding of, and acting in accordance with, the class struggle—the recognition of the fact that in present-day society two classes exist whose interests are diametrically opposed: the employing class and the employed class.

The employing class own all the wealth produced, and as there is a limit to the amount of wealth that can be consumed by wage-earners—a limit imposed by the limits of the purchasing power of their wages—so there is a limit to the amount that the markets demand. The greater the speed of production the sooner this limit will be reached. The employed class produce the wealth, and the individuals who compose this class, by the necessities of their existence, are compelled to compete with each other for jobs, and so keep wages down to a certain average level.

As there is a limit to the wealth which the markets can absorb, so there is a limit to the jobs going. The more completely production is organised and the harder the employed class works the sooner the limit to the wealth required will be reached and the sooner a large proportion of the employed will be jobless.

Consequently, the present constitution of society puts the workers in the position that an increase in production, in so far as it signifies an intensification of the productivity of labour, is directly opposed to their interests. Considered in this light, therefore, an increase in production means, in the long run, an increase in wealth to the employers, and an increase in unemployment to the workers.

With the idea of smothering the class war and promoting harmony between exploiter and exploited an alliance has just been formed calling itself the Britannic Industrial Alliance, The chairman of the Provisional Committee is J. Havelock Wilson. The committee also includes G. N. Barnes, J. R. Clynes, J. Hodge, and G. H. Roberts. The aims of the organisation are:

  “To bring together employers and employees in this country which are now working harmoniously under Whitley Industrial Councils or similar working agreements, and organisations and individuals interested in developing British trade and British interests.”—”Daily Chronicle,” 1.9.19.

The only weapon the workers have on the industrial field is to be set aside and we are to sweat riches for wasters without a murmur— in the interests of British trade.

In the ”Daily News” (28.8.19) we read—

  “Mr. W. Adamson, M.P., stated in an interview yesterday that already he had made it clear to the House of Commons that so far as the Parliamentary Labour Party and he were concerned they recognised that there was great need for increased production.”

J. T. Brownlie, chairman of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, has issued an appeal to the workers for increased production, and the “Daily Chronicle” (2.9.19) gives a list of “Labour leaders” supporting the appeal. The following paragraph sums up the situation :

  “Quite a number of leading officials of the big unions have been interviewed by the “Daily Chronicle” representative, and in every case there was agreement that the grave position of the country demanded more work, and more work.”

Speaking in the House on the Consolidated Fund Bill (12.8.19), Mr. Sexton delivered himself of the following gem :

“The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when members on this side were complaining, endeavoured to lay at the door of the working classes of this country the blame for the trouble, because he said the men were not increasing production. I want to subscribe to that.”

Of course, the whiskers of the “Socialist” movement, H. M. Hyndman, had to put his spoke in the wheel. He, we learn, had an interview with a “Daily Chronicle” representative, to whom he said (18.8.19) :

“Of course there must be increased production. If we had prepared as well for the honors of peace as we did for the honors of war we should not now be in the position we are in to-day.”

How well Marx and Engels judged this man half a century ago when they described him as a bourgeois intellectual. For years he has served his class well, reaching the culminating point when he threw all his energies into assisting in the late campaign to smash German competition and incidentally send millions of the workers to eternity.

At the moment of writing we see Ben Tillett has added his mite to the mess. In an article in “John Bull” (0.9.19) he writes :

  ”The whole nation, is in an ugly mood of sulk and suspicion. The more alert and enterprising countries, like America and Japan, had, prior to the end of the war, prepared a scientific and calculated attack upon our export trade, and our trade generally ; while we have reduced our wealth by such immense quantities to the advantage of our Allies in general, and America in particular, that we are economically in a more or less crippled condition. The energy and the organisation of labour and capital, which helped to build our fortune previous to the war, are at the moment viciously and selfishly antagonistic. . . .
“There never was such a chance for recovery as now presents itself—to maintain our position among the nations—and there never was such a moment of peril! Capital and Labour must understand the tremendous obligations of the war, the debts to be paid, the hundred millions to be given to our defenders and their dependents. There is no jugglery in the world to meet these obligations—they must be met by actual effort, and the community owes a debt to the men who braved the fight and the dependents of those who have given their lives. We want virile brains and healthy bodies and happy homes and useful lives—but monopolies, either of Capital or Labour, must go if the country is to live !”

Comment on the above effusion relating to our trade, our wealth, our fortune, our allies, and the debts we owe is needless. It might spoil the beautiful phrases of one of the workers’ most contemptible enemies.

Thus do the “labour leaders” echo the cry of the capitalists. Unless we produce more and compete successfully (ah ! there’s the rub !) with other countries, they cry, we will go headlong to ruin. What stronger argument is needed for the abolition of capitalism ?

“Labour leaders” are out for pelf and place; they do not advocate the only solution to the working-class sufferings, but seek to conserve the interests of the capitalists by maintaining that more production, more sweating of toilers, will ease the situation.

But already there are thousands who cannot get work, and as long as this is so the words of the Tilletts are known for lies even as they fall from their foul lips—lies intended to wring still greater profits out of those who are fools enough to believe them.

Graham May

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