1920s >> 1921 >> no-198-february-1921

Capitalist Fears and Admissions

The ever-increasing development of machinery—a law of existence to capitalism—begets problems faster than they can be solved. “Efficiency,” the watchword of the capitalists, works with a boomerang effect through the glutting of world markets and compulsory closing down of industry, and a realisation of this sets to work the brains of professors, journalists, and individual capitalists, thinking out schemes for the weathering of commercial storms which grow more intensive in ratio with increasing productive forces.


So it is that the capitalist Press gives a large amount of space to the discussion of society’s problems, and the more conscious members of the master class-draw attention to and attempt to solve the various problems.


Printer’s Ink” for November contains a report of a speech delivered by Wm. B. Dickson (President Midvale Steel Corporation) before the American Society of Engineers, in which he declares:


  “Efficiency in all lines of human endeavour is greatly to be desired, yet I fear that we are in danger of making a fetich of efficiency such as to endanger human freedom. It is a deadly menace in a people clothed with political power but stunted in body and soul by their environment. . . The tendency [sic] of modern industry is towards autocratic control of the workers through ownership of what our Socialistic friends term ‘the tools of production,’ which include not only the natural resources, but also the furnaces, mills, factories, and transportation systems.” (Italics mine.)


Just how this autocratic control of the workers arose, exists, and is maintained has been explained innumerable times in the columns of the “S.S.”


Divorced from the ownership of the necessary tools of production, the workers are compelled to sell the only power they possess—the power to labour—and in return receive wages which represent in the main only the bare necessaries needed to produce that labour power, despite the fact that their energy, applied to the materials they work with adds value to the subject of their labour. The products, however, remain the property of the masters, who proceed to realise their profits by selling the products on the market. Thus, being dependent upon the masters, the workers are enslaved and subjected to exploitation, which grows more and more intense, with the result that ever more quickly markets are flooded and more workers are thrown on their own resources—which means that they are at liberty to starve.


Lest we appear biased, let Mr. Dickson describe the process of shutting down industry. He says :


  “The merchants were driven out of business, real estate values were depreciated, and the workers were thrown on their own resources and had to break up their homes and seek employment elsewhere. None of these persons had any voice in the momentous decision, which was made in a New York office and which resulted in social paralysis in all of these communities. . . . It is the effect of the unconscious insolence of conscious power. . . By reason of this condition we have the unstable situation of a government founded on the suffrages of men who—for all practical purposes—and industrially bond men.”


Coming to his solution of the problem the steel magnate declares for a “fair system of collective bargaining,” and insists that the worker must be given a real stake in the enterprise, slyly suggesting that the employee should be induced to invest his savings. Also a greater measure of management must be introduced according to this capitalist sociologist, who goes on to issue the following warning to those who will have nothing to do with “industrial democracy.”


  “My answer to this is that all human relations are not static but dynamic, and unless I am mistaken as to the direction and force of the tide which is now running so strongly in human affairs your choice will not lie between the present system of industrial control and industrial democracy.”


Ah ! the cat is out of the bag. Of what can Mr. Dickson be afraid ? SOCIALISM ! as is obvious from his quotation from Carnegie’s “Problems of to-day.”

  “Revolutionary Socialism is successfully to be combatted only by promptly conceding the just claims of moderate men.”


What a noble compliment to the pseudo-Socialists who are the formulators of “just claims” and so-called working-class reforms. Like the Italian premier, Mr. Dickson would like to be able to declare that “Socialism has been prevented for at least fifty years,” but because he is not confident in either his own solution or the many other palliatives which have been advocated at different times and in so many different guises, he is compelled to fall back upon the bourgeois religion of hope. He concluded his address with the following: “I am hopeful that our generation will guess the sphinx riddle, and that ‘Out of the nettle, danger, will pluck the flower, safety.’ “


So much for Mr. Dickson. We will now turn to another defender of the bulwarks of capitalism, Mr. Hoover, who is reported by the New York “Daily News” of November 20th as saying before the Federated Engineering Societies that


  “the intermittency of unemployment . . the ever-present industrial conflicts by strike and lockout produce infinite wastes and great suffering. The aggregation of great wealth with its power to economic domination presents social economic ills which we are constantly struggling to remedy.”


Hoover, like Mr. Dickson, is concerned with the removal of this condition of affairs which gives the workers innumerable object lessons which, with the aid of Socialist analysis, will bring them to a definite acceptance of Socialism. He asserts that employers frequently overlook the fact that “Labour organisations as they stand to-day are the greatest bulwarks against Socialism.”


He also advocates shop committees “imbued with the principle of co-operation” and. discloses another “shilling under the foot,” for apropos of the recent agitation on the part of master-class associations against the closed shop he remarked: “There would be little outcry against the closed shop if it were closed in order to secure unity of purpose in constructive increase of production by offering the full value of the worker’s mind and effort as well as his hands.” In other words, a BRAIN-SUCKING SCHEME with which the British worker is familiar under the guise of Whitley councils, Nationalisation schemes, etc.


Mr. Hoover’s solution is no solution, but an aggravation of the problem, as indeed all capitalist solutions tend to be. Although they see how they are compelled to dig their own graves they are also compelled to evolve even bigger tools for the purpose. Shop committees, whether built up from the more conservative unions or the ultra-revolutionary (sic) industrial unions, will, according to his theory, serve as the instrument for removing minor points of friction in this industrial machine, as well as contribute by suggestion towards more efficient development.


Always tinged with the insatiable greed for wealth, the solutions offered by the master class fall short, as that very profit lust is the expression of the causes of the problem and it cannot be solved without their self-abolition or without the working class organsing for that purpose.


While production is social the product is privately owned, and as the workers can only absorb wealth according to their meagre purchasing-power, and the master class cannot dispose of the surplus wealth even by indulging in stupendous orgies of waste, distributing centres become choked with wealth and the cycle of unemployment and starvation in the midst of plenty is gone over again until the wealth is gradually absorbed and the channels once more freed. Private ownership, then, is the root cause of the problem; and it is at the root cause we must strike.


Capitalism is rotten, as is evident from a glance over the headlines in any newspaper. Crime, disease, oppression, starvation, indicate the social and economic bankruptcy of the system of private ownership of property, and we of the working class can confidently go ahead to wield ourselves into the party which shall take the helm and usher in the system that, for the first time in the history of man, shall make freedom possible. While the masters are futilely trying to “pluck the nettle,” we Socialists shall continue the educational work which makes the roses grow on the cheeks of a working-class party determined to make use of the political power with which we are clothed and digging out the weed of capitalism which chokes most that is best in human relations.


We declare with Engels:

  “To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. To thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions and thus the very nature of this act, to impart to the now oppressed proletarian class a full knowledge of the meaning of the momentous act it is called upon to accomplish, this is the task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement—Scientific Socialism.”