Editorial: Produce more—children !
At the meeting of the British Association in Liverpool some of the scientists demonstrated once again that the payer of the piper calls the tune. Official science must give evidence, now and again, that it is a bulwark of capitalism, so that learned professors may obtain the wherewithal to live and carry on their studies.
Many years ago it was alleged that an important cause of the workers’ poverty was the largeness of the worker’s family. Since that time war has swept away a huge number of the pick of manhood. In spite of this latter fact, there are, at the present time, nearly two million workers wanting employment. One would imagine, therefore, that any present restrictions in the size of the worker’s family would be welcome, particularly as so much is made of the difficulty of handling the “unemployment problem.”
But the capitalist does not aim at solving unemployment. If he did solve this problem he would be placed in a similar position to that in which he found himself during the war—forced to pay comparatively high wages on account of the shortage of the labour supply. Since the war the labour supply has overflown the demand, and the capitalist has been able to press wages down.
Under capitalism business moves at varying rates of speed. At one time there is a rush of business ; at another time there is a slump. The employers require a supply of labour sufficient to meet the demands, of brisk business and still have a sufficient number of workers over to prevent those in work from demanding wages above the normal. In periods of slump the number of workers over during the busy time is swelled by the number the slump throws out of work, and the unemployment problem becomes acute.
The growing difficulty of sustaining life, even at the best of times, has a tendency in recent years to force the workers to limit the size of their families. The capitalist sees in this a dangerous symptom—a symptom that might reduce the industrial reserve army and limit the extent of his profits.
It is just here that the scientist can lend him some aid—and he does his “duty.”
The Special Correspondent of the Daily News, reporting the speech of Dr. Vaughan Cornish, President of the Geographical Section, writes :
“In his opinion if you are to do your duty to the Empire you must have at least four children. He made it clear that you should not invite children into the world for their own pleasure or amusement, but should enlist them, as it were, in an army for home defence.
“In his view it appeared children were merely potential soldiers.
“In order to have strategic security in this, island,” he insisted, “we must be able to meet the air force of a European combination as well as to carry out our traditional plan of dispatching a powerful expeditionary force for the support of a friendly Power. This active defence requires a large population.”—(“Daily News,” 14/9/23.)
Imagine urging us to increase our families so that our children may provide food for guns ! And the monuments to the “glorious dead” are still being covered with wreaths, though their dependants cannot find the necessary covering to shelter them from the inclement weather.
But the patriotic plea put forward is only a cloak for the masters’ desire for cheap labour.
Not only do the masters require an industrial reserve army, but they also require a plentiful supply of youthful labour. Machines are taking a greater part in industry as time goes on, and the operation of these machines is becoming more and more the work of children. In spite of official regulations, the half-time system is growing. According to the Westminster Gazette (27/8/23), there are 3,437 children between the ages of 12 and 13 at work in Staffordshire alone. In Rochdale the number of half-timers increased from 871 in 1915 to 1,219 in 1920.
Therefore, workers, if you would raise-up multitudes of youthful competitors and provide the employers with cheaper labour, then heed the advice of the scientist—be fruitful and multiply.
(Editorial, Socialist Standard, October 1923)