Weevils and fame

“The American Cotton Problem” is the subject of an article in the Observer (15/7/23) by the Financial Editor. Sir E. Mackay Edgar, Chairman of Crosses and Winkworth Consolidated Mills, is given a powerful pat on the back for his prediction of a year ago that a famine in American cotton was coming.

During the last 17 years America has produced about 60 per cent, of the world’s cotton supply. Latterly there has been a falling off in America’s production, and in 1921 and 1922 American production has fallen to 54 per cent. and 56 per cent. respectively of the world’s production.

While the production of cotton has fallen, its consumption has risen. The article points out :

“The United States is already expanding her textile trade and her consumption of cotton measured by her spindle capacity is much greater than that of the United Kingdom. She is also increasing her spindleage and to an extent that should occasion alarm in the industry in Great Britain.”

Poor Lancashire ! First India started pinching her Indian trade, and now America is trying to pinch her American trade. What base ingratitude !

The fall in cotton production and increase in its consumption keeps cotton prices high, and hence the squeals of Lancashire.

A large share in causing the cotton shortage is laid at the door of the boll weevil, whose method of sustaining life consists of destroying the cotton plant. But there is a weevil of another brand that also affects cotton production, but its object is the sustaining of profit.

From Professor Milhaud’s “Enquiry on Production—General Report,” we learn that:

“The situation with regard to cotton has been exactly the same. In December, 1920, the production of Japan was already reduced by 40 per cent., and further reductions were contemplated. In Egypt it was the public authorities themselves who took the initiative. The provincial councils unanimously decided to restrict the cultivation of cotton for 1921. In accordance with this decision the Sultan signed a decree on December 7th ordering that the area under cotton should be reduced by two-thirds and prohibiting the cultivation of cotton in upper Egypt except in the parts irrigated by the Nile.”
“The American Cotton Growers’ Association succeeded in bringing about the largest percentage of reduction on record in the production of cotton. This Association boasted of the firm and vigorous attitude of the bankers of the whole of the cotton-growing districts, who refused to grant the necessary advances and credits to enable the cultivation of enough cotton to ensure a normal crop.”

The Cotton News (1/6/21), referring to the restriction in the use of artificial manures in the cotton growing States along the east bank of the Mississippi, states :

“which means to say that the growth and ripening of the new crop will be impeded and, furthermore, that the crop, already greatly restricted as regards the area under cultivation, will be seriously handicapped during the growing season. That applies even in those cases where the climatic conditions would be otherwise favourable.”

“A similar policy has been applied by the International Federation of Linen Manufacturers, comprising the linen manufacturers of France, England, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, and Denmark, who declared at their meeting held at Brussels on November 18th, 1920, that the most important consideration was to restrict production and stabilise the market.”

Sir E. Mackay Edgar is a director in a large concern, and we are frequently informed that upon such men we depend for the carrying on of large industries, where an intimate knowledge of world affairs (not supposed to be possessed by we lesser mortals) is essential. Can we therefore doubt that Sir E. Mackay Edgar was familiar with the facts quoted above? Then his prophecy may not have been so marvellous after all. How often does a man achieve fame on account of the blindness of others !


(Socialist Standard, November 1923)

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