Holidays and Toil
The holiday season is here, and a great exodus of holiday makers is to be seen at every great terminus. The tired toilers everywhere are—where they can—making frantic efforts to obtain a little of the imperative relaxation for the human machine. Nature demands it. Capitalism, as it develops, exacts more and ever more of the physical and mental make-up of the individual wage-slave and his class. Body, brain and nerve, under the present system, have an ever-increasing strain thrust upon them by the exacting demands of a ruthless system of exploitation and production for profit.
The consequence is that not only individual workers, but our wage-slave class, are automatically worn out quicker. They are the speedier thrown onto the industrial scrap-heap of unemployment, discarded like an orange from which all the best has been withdrawn. They are the sooner smitten with disease, and the more frequently overtaken by death prematurely. These are some of the “rare and refreshing fruits” of capitalism which cunningly-framed insurance Bills are powerless to cope with. Karl Marx pointed out with his usual profound insight, that it suits the capitalists’ interests better to have a virile generation that they can exploit intensively, and, through that, wear out quicker, than a generation which they can only exploit at a slower rate. The pace kills ! But in the race for wealth human beings are given by our masters less consideration, than they bestow upon their racehorses.
In some cavalry exercises in the South of England a young soldier and his horse met with an accident. The horse stumbled and broke his fetlock, and the man was thrown and broke his collar-bone and leg. Several soldiers hastened to the injured man’s assistance. “Never mind him ! Look after the horse!” the officer shouted. “We can get men any day ; the horse cost £50” !
That is true, as it was told me, and reveals a similar attitude to that displayed by our exploiters.
The “Great War” (how long will it be ere a greater is organised ?) showed the utter callousness of the capitalist class. The lives of the workers were considered of no account to the workers themselves by our war makers. They were only of value as they served our masters’ purposes as pawns to fight and die for capitalist interests alone.
And in “peace” it is just the same: the working class are used as mere human machines for the production of surplus value. They are TOILERS ! They have to drudge. Their work, which would be only a means to an end under a sensible system of society, is for millions a relentless slavery. The damnable monotony of it, the harsh conditions and blighting effect of it upon mind and nerve and body are disastrous to our class.
Work should be a joyous exercise of all the necessary faculties brought to bear upon some socially useful purpose. It should not be unduly prolonged, and even if it is laborious it should be tempered to the worker.
Under capitalism every ounce that can be is daily wrung out of the wage slave. This is the result of having a system where the very means of life are in the hands of, and controlled by a class.
We work far too long and far too often ! Why ? Because all that the masters can compel us to produce beyond what they pay us in wages goes into their pockets, and it is only for this that the masters allow us to use the means of production in their possession. The surplus-value thus produced through a fleecing wages system permits a class of parasites to riot in luxury. They can make holiday all the year round, till holiday bores them with ennui. Wintering at Cannes or squandering at Monte Carlo, they know that “money will come in” because their wage-slaves are toiling for them. The “London Season” gees them luxuriating in “Town” ; later they flaunt at Ascot, and in the exquisite villas at Maidenhead, and to the moors they go for grouse-shooting. And they do it all while their slaves are toiling, and on the wealth which these latter so painfully produce.
There are thousands upon thousands of workers who are annually quite unable to scrape together enough to go for a much-needed rest and change at the seaside. Capitalism denies them the opportunity !
Socialism alone will ensure to all, not only every means, in abundance, necessary to physical well-being, but every opportunity for rest and recreation. Under Socialism the workers will not live to work for exploiters, for class rule will not exist.
At present the working class only exist to serve a sordid purpose—the interests of capitalism.
(Socialist Standard, August 1920)