1920s >> 1920 >> no-188-april-1920

How “Ability” Directs.

How often are we working men told that we have not the intelligence to “direct” industry ; and that society would crumble to pieces were it not for the individuals who possess a wonderful faculty called by our masters Directive Ability? We are also assured that those possessing this marvellous—and very mysterious !—gift are only found within the ranks of the capitalist class.

Now and again ugly and awkward (for the capitalist) facts come out in connection with the running of particular concerns. At such times the capitalist directors (the alleged possessors of “directive ability”) hasten to disown responsibility for any of the irregularities charged against the company, and plead ignorance of its internal mechanism. On such occasions officials of the company (wage-slaves) are saddled with the whole of the responsibility.

A case in point was provided during the inquiry into the celebrated Putymayo Rubber atrocities, some years ago, in which Sir Roger Casement gave evidence. On the board of directors of the company, whose treatment of the natives formed the subject of the investigation, there were four English directors. When interrogated as to the company’s doings these brainy gentlemen denied all knowledge of its operations and asserted that they did not even know the language in which the business at the meeting of directors was carried on !

However, even this direct information is not necessary to anyone who will give a few moments’ thought to one side of the question—and a glance now and again at the company reports and prospectuses regularly printed in the papers. From the latter it will be noticed that the same individual’s name appears on the boards of numerous companies. It will further be discovered that some of the companies are gigantic concerns with tentacles stretching out all over the world, and producing varieties of articles a knowledge of which requires training and specialisation to a very high degree. This being so, it should be obvious that an individual who was connected with such concerns could take a very minute part (assuming for the sake of argument that he does take a part) in the work of these companies.

The writer of this article has before him a cutting from the “Daily News” (14/2/22) relating to the case of the City Equitable group of companies whose affairs are creating a financial stir at the present moment. From this cutting we learn that Mr. Gerard Lee Bevan, who was the chairman of the City Equitable Fire and the City Equitable Associated Companies, was also on the boards of the following companies :

Agricultural Industries, Ltd. ; Burton Son and Sanders, Ltd. ; Chilian Stores (Gath .and Chaves), Ltd. ; Clarke, Chapman & Co., Ltd. ; H. and C. Grayson, Ltd. ; Harrods (Buenos Aires), Ltd. ; Leyland Motors, Ltd. ; South American Stores (Gath and Chaves), Ltd.; Southern Brazil Electric Co., Ltd


The capital of two of the above companies (Agricultural Industries, Ltd., and South American Stores) total round about £5,000,000. It will be observed that one of the above companies is connected with Agriculture, another with Petrol Motors, another with Electricity, and so forth.

A man would need to be indeed a many-sided genius to handle such vast concerns !

No wonder the poor fellow has made a mess of things and cleared out !

The truth of the matter, however, is that all the direction of industry performed by these self-styled directors concerns the direction of the profits into the appropriators pockets.

The whole of industry, in all its ramifications, occupies in the actual production and distribution of wealth only those whose title gives the key to their social position―the working class. How are they rewarded ? Perhaps the following; quotation will form a fitting conclusion to these few remarks (taken from the “Daily News,” 10/2/22) :

“A case which has been resumed at intervals for the last 30 years has been brought once more before the First Paris Court of Appeal.

  1. Eugene Turpin, the inventor of melinite, and of many other contrivances, is endeavouring to recover damages from all persons who have used his invention. M. Turpin is still a relatively poor man, although since 1881 he has brought out at least 40 inventions.”

The above inventor can take his place with the galaxy of inventors (including General Shrapnel, who died in poverty in the early stages of the war) who have made possible the rapid expansion of wealth which has brought with it intrigue and wire-pulling (misnamed “directive ability”) of the wealthy financiers.


(Socialist Standard, April 1922)



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