Profits before life

 “The profits will not allow it.”

 Rarely has the plain, tragic truth been so bluntly stated by a capitalist as on April 28th in the Westminster Coroner’s Court.

 The Coroner was holding an inquiry into the “accident” that took place upon a building in course of erection in High Holborn.

 Two and a half tons of iron was being hoisted by a crane “made to take three tons.” “ Everything was brand new ”

 Henry James Matthews, a lad of 18, acting as a crane signalman, was killed as the result of the chain of the crane breaking.

 After the poor lad’s brother had given evidence, the Coroner called a member of the firm that made the chain.

 After great difficulty the Coroner got the makers to give evidence. The secretary of the company that supplied it offered the Coroner some certificates, but said that he knew nothing about the chain itself.

 The Coroner was forced to remark that “it seems a very casual way of doing things when a man’s life is at stake.”

 Finally a member of the manufacturing firm told the Coroner that he had been asked to attend ‘‘to listen to the evidence.” He was asked by the Coroner : “After testing do you go over the chain to see if there are any cracks?”

 The answer was a remarkable indictment of this cursed system of society, for he said:


“I am not talking about profits,” retorted the Coroner. “I am talking about the safety of human life.”

 After some further questions the Coroner was led to say: “You are perfectly well aware of what you are talking about. It in no use trying to befool me. You are trying to ride round the subject.”

 A link of the chain was handed to the witness and he was asked why, although the link had snapped, it showed no signs of fracture. All he could say to the point was. ” It shows no signs of fracture.”

The Coroner said that “looking at the surface of the link you can see it is not a fracture, and that the metal had never been properly welded.”

 Frederick John Parkes, Factory Inspector, said that the quality of the workmanship of the link was very bad indeed and that the metal was defective. It had not been properly welded.

Even the representative of the building company had to confess that he “found the rest of the chain not perfect.”

 This is the plain, unvarnished evidence, as reported in the “Evening News” (28.4.13). And it bears out to the fullest extent the charge of the Socialist that men are sacrificed to the hunt for profits. You have here the capitalist confession as given in a capitalist paper.

 A lad of 18 is done to death! At an age when the sons of the parasite master class are enjoying themselves in the playing fields of Eton or Harrow, or Oxford or Cambridge, a worker’s child is manipulating two and a half tons of iron with a “brand new” but rotten chain—because the employers want “profits.”

 In the interest of profit women and girls are sweated in the chain-making sheds of Cradley Heath, and after years of struggle against the employers they are allowed 2½d. an hour!

 The story of profit mongering is the record of the sacrifice of human lives to the parasites’ interests.

 Col. H. A. Yorke, of the Board of Trade, said in his report of the 19th September last, that during the year 2,934 accidents occurred due to failure of couplings—made of iron —on the railways.

“A weldless steel coupling has been tried and has given very satisfactory results, but” —(Ah, that all-meaning “but”!)— “unfortunately it costs rather more than the iron coupling. The accidents,” the Colonel said, “frequently result in injuries to the men.” But what matters that when it is a case of workmen’s lives against PROFITS.

“ Even if a little more money were spent upon it it would still be the cheapest coupling in the world,” declares Col. Yorke, but his Department, the infamous Board of Trade (of Titanic memory), being anxious only for the capitalists’ welfare, lets the matter rest, whilst the murdered are carried in a ghastly procession to their eternal home.

 Toilers may be slaughtered so that the “White” Star Line may pay 60 per cent, dividend. Shunters may be shunted into an early grave to enable the railway companies to make 50 millions profit in a twelvemonth. Dynamite makers may be blown to atoms (as at Pitsea last month) so that the dynamitards may give “Peace prizes.” All this may be done to make a merry England for our masters.

 It will only cease when the workers awake to the fact that this system stands for murder and robbery—stands in the way of the safety, the well-being, the happiness of humanity—of the wealth producers.

Adolph Kohn

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