The game has nothing in common with leg-pulling. Authorities differ as to which is the older, and there is a marked difference of opinion as to their exact origin, but that need not concern us. Baudelaire attributed laughter to the satanic influence in man, and as leg-pulling is usually aimed at promoting laughter, this game seems possessed of a very antique parentage. On the other hand, wool-pulling was not known by that name until the invention of the American language. Was it not to one of the American Presidents who attended the post-war conferences, that the advice was tendered, “Don’t let ’em pull the wool over your eyes?” Whether they did or not is beside the point. Suffice it that the Americans have invented a phrase much more living and vivid than our own terse “spoof” or “codology,” neither of which are dictionary words.
But without spending any more time in profitless research, let us direct our gaze to Bradford, where the wool comes from. This is not necessarily the wool that is used in obstructing the vision, but as you will presently perceive, the Bradfordians are not unacquainted with the practice. Doubtless, inspired by those disinterested, high souled patriots who advise us by poster to ”drink more milk,” to “eat more fruit,” to ”own your house” and what not, they hired a large space in the Daily News, on February 21st, in which, to tell us to insist on buying Bradford products. Everyone can help,” they said in heavy leaded type, ”to reduce unemployment. If the, purchase of a foreign-made article causes unemployment in Great Britain, then to the price paid for that foreign article must be added the cost of maintaining the resulting unemployment.”
There is much more , of course, in the advertisement. British prosperity, British interests, national safety, relief of taxation, full production, and all the usual tags of the wool-puller are utilised. We are assured that “the greater the demand by the home trade, the greater is the opportunity for successful competition in foreign markets.”
Simple, isn’t it! You buy British goods only and thus bankrupt the foreigner. Having reduced him to a beggar, “the greater is the opportunity for successful competition in foreign markets.” Then, obviously, the home unemployed should be an ideal market for the home manufacturer. Of course, there is more in the argument than this. The British worker, like any other worker, buys what his wages permit him to buy. As his wages are determined by the cost of living, he can do no other. In point of fact, he does precisely what the Bradford manufacturers do. The best answer to their case is contained in the same issue of the Daily News. And it concerns Bradford itself.
“The decision of the Bradford Corporation Electricity Committee to accept the tender of a Belgian firm for the supply of four machines, has aroused some feeling. The Belgian firm’s tender was for £l3,000, whereas the lowest British tender was £l7,000. The Committee held that the desire to relieve unemployment did not justify paying the additional £4,000.”
Comment would spoil it. We confine ourselves to the simple statement, that it is not what you spend, or how you spend it, that should be your chief concern. It is what you get that matters. It is in the workshop that you are robbed. Your efforts should be concentrated in obtaining, along with your fellow workers, ownership and control of your means of livelihood. Compared with this, how you spend your pittance is a secondary matter, and a bad second at that. Own your means of living ; all else is ”wool-pulling.” Don’t let ’em pull the wool over your eyes.
(Socialist Standard, April 1924)