The Coal Miner and his Union

We remember a glowing eulogy of Frank Hodges appearing in the daily Press at the time of the coal strike, 1920.


An immediate reason for “pointing him out” arises from the following statement he is reported to have made (“Daily News,” 14/1/22) on the miners’ plight and low wages.


  “Those who are working, are working with unprecedented energy, but the pithead prices secured for the coal does not warrant either a decent wage for the workmen, nor anything like a fair measure of profit to the owners; although the industrial consumer and the domestic consumer are still having to pay fabulously high prices for the coal after it has passed through the hands of merchants, factors, and retail dealers.”


Why should Hodges be concerned about “a fair measure of profit to the owner” ? What are profits ? They represent a portion of surplus value, unpaid labour time.


The workers are poor because they are robbed of this surplus value. The workers receive back only a relatively small proportion of the values they produce. They are paid wages on the subsistence level, the sliding scale system. The worker has but his power to labour, which, in order to live he is compelled to offer for the best terms he can obtain.


His labour power is a commodity, and like every other commodity, its price is determined, in the main, by its cost of production, the price fluctuating through the operations of supply and demand. Therefore, the cost of purchasing the necessaries of life—food, clothing, and shelter—determines as a rule the amount of wages which the worker receives from time to time.


Now Hodges knows that the wages system spells misery to the worker and he clouds the situation with his talk of “decent wages” and “a fair measure of profit.”