1920s >> 1921 >> no-202-june-1921
Reason and Practicability
In an article under the heading “Miners’ Dilemma” the “Pall Mall and Globe“ of March 23rd says:
“We shall know tom-morrow whether the disposition of the Miners’ Executive to admit an infusion of reason and practicabiliy into their counsels is shared by the wider delegate body of the industry.”
“Reason and practicability” to the Editor of the “Pall Mall” and the class he serves means the lowest possible wages upon which the miners can subsist. But that which drives the miners to fight is the experiences of their past struggles to live on the wages paid to them ; therefore when confronted with the drastic reductions which the coal owners offer they have no alternative to refusal to accept such terms.
They are then locked out.
These are the facts and “perception of consequences” which the miners visualise, an abnormal cut at wages, a lowering of the standard of life for themselves and their families.
The present writer has had many years experience of mining and miners, and knows the horrible and brutalising conditions under which mining people live. Surrounded by dreary and grimy pit mounds, living in an atmosphere of coal dust, which necessitates, in order to keep the home clean, continuous drudgery by the women folk, the effect on the miner’s family cannot be expected to be other than degrading.
As the “Pall Mall” does not circulate among the working class the editorial seeker of “facts” no doubt feels safe in saying that “the wages of every industry must depend upon the price which the world will pay for its products.”
Leaving for the moment the question of wages and prices, we have here the admission that the products of nations are placed on the world’s markets for sale, and incidentally that the “community” is merely an “also ran.”
When the working class fully realise that under capitalism products circulate through exchange on the world’s markets, and that the capitalist national groups who own these products compete group against group, they will see how futile it is merely to organise for resistance to the effects of such competition. Instead they will organise internationally as a class for the purpose of taking possession of the political machinery, and use the political weapon to place society on a basis of social ownership and production for use.
The British coal owners, finding themselves up against severe competition from the U.S.A. and German coal owners, make their onslaught on the miners’ wages.
Now the country that contains the group which is the most efficiently organised, uses up-to-date methods and machinery, is the country which competes most successfully with other countries.
Lower wages need not necessarily be paid, for wages in the U.S.A. coalfields are higher than in Britain, and the latter is at the present time beaten out of the market.
This is due to the application by the American group, of scientific methods, and the equipment of the mines with machinery for the coal face; and more accessible seams are an important factor.
There can be no doubt that in face of the American and German competition wholesale prices must fall and therefore one can see the reason of the British coal owners’ agitation. Having neglected for years to improve their methods, because during those years they were assured of a market, they now wish to lay the blame on the miners by accusations in speeches and writings that “ca’canny” is practiced, whereas the facts are altogether the opposite.
Many men have been put to work at the more difficult seams, and many others have been working on extensions and explorations, for during the time the mines were controlled by the Government profits were assured and therefore there was no incentive for the mine owners to have the mines worked for output alone.
The editor of the “Pall Mall” tells us that the miner’s occupation is “one of the best paid and most leisurely trades in the country.” The effect of their leisure in the pits is seen when they get home, when they are utterly unable to keep awake, and fall asleep in their chairs, and often on the floor.
The laborious nature of the miners’ work has been admitted by Mr. S. Tate, of the Institute of Mining Engineers, who said in the Mining Engineers’ Journal (12.2.16) : “In future it would be necessary that coal getting must be made easy, either by altering the methods or system of work or by installing machinery to do the strenuous part of the coal hewers’ duty.”
Doctor Haldane, addressing the same body, said (8.6 18) : “As coal mining is a strenuons occupation, it is natural that colliers should go into some other occupation when they reach a certain age.”
It should be quite evident to a thinking member of the working class that the “Pall Mall” editor with many others is merely voicing the views of these who pay him.
The master class are quite prepared to use the present world crisis for the purpose of beating down the standard of living of the working class ; they wish to be prepared for the time when the surplus stocks have been sold off, and to begin the next booming period of trade and profit-reaping with cheapened labour-power.
However, the Socialist points out to the miner and other members of the working class that the aim of our class must be the abolition of the capitalist system, and the erection in its place of a system of society based on the common ownership of the instruments and means of wealth production and distribution. When that is accomplished there will be an end to all class struggles, because there will be an end to classes, and mankind will arise from the evil dreams of the past to the realisation of a sane, noble and free existence.
J. M. D.