1920s >> 1924 >> no-237-may-1924

King Canute up-to-date

There is a restiveness amongst the workers. There is a growing revolt against the present particularly depressed state ot wages. Workers on the railway, in the shipyards, and in the transport services have already taken action to improve their conditions and there are threats of similar ‘action being taken by other workers; amongst them the mine workers.

These are welcome signs to us. The pendulum is swinging back again after the abject acceptance of the sweeping reductions in wages and speeding up of work during the past few years.

But though these are welcome signs to us they are not welcome to the employers, and the latter are urging that some method be adopted to pacify the workers and turn their attention away from wages and conditions of employment.

An editorial«in the Daily Mail for April 3rd draws attention to an appeal that has been made denouncing Sunday politics. The Daily Mail urges that the abolition of Sunday politics will not help matters, but that the preachers and teachers should come down off their perches.

“Our civilian officers will have to come off their perches. They will have to sacrifice a good deal of their Sabbath peace, including their Sunday afternoon round of golf, and come down into the streets and go among the people. They know what things are and what facts mean. They will have to tackle resolutely and courageously the prejudices and misconceptions which have been instilled—while they remained inert—in so many honest but imperfectly informed minds.
The British working man is by nature fair- minded, just, willing to learn, and, above all, willing to talk things over. But he does not get a chance of correcting his misapprehensions. The absent are always wrong ; and he sees very little, if anything, of the men who do the brain work of this country.”

How artfully the case is put! The manager, the professor, the cleric, the M.A., the B.A., and all the other lettered gentry; in other words, the “Intellectuals” or salaried officials are obviously those to whom the Daily Mail points a reproving finger. How these people will swell with importance on reading such complimentary remarks. And yet it is nothing but “spoof.” “Spoof” for the “intellectual” and “spoof” for the worker. Where were the “brains” when the London transport services ceased to operate? We were promised that awful calamities—the collapse of the food supply, the break-down of commerce—if these refractory workers continued to adhere to the principle of freedom of contract by withholding their labour power until they obtained better pay.

But who are the intellectuals, the salaried officials, anyway? They are simply a particular section of the working class, the most backward section, the most abject slaves—they who kiss the hand that smites them. They receive “honourable mention” when their performances assist the interests of the employers and the sack when their performances are unsuccessful. Like other workers they depend for their living upon the sale of their energies, and, like other workers, they go under if they can’t find a ready sale for such energies.

All work done by workers under Capitalism requires the use of brains, and each kind of work is equally necessary.

The term brain worker ” is only a sop * thrown to a particular section to ensure the continued support of – Capitalism by that # section. The sop is thrown with the old principleMii- the mind of the thrower—“Divide and Conquer.” Set one section of workers against another and each will be so taken up with their sectional quarrel that they will overlook their fundamental solidarity as wage-workers.

The Northcliffe millions have been piled up by the Northcliffe papers providing gullible workers with carefully doctored news, and the suppressing or glossing over of the glaring and ugly facts of working class life. The relations between master and worker are daily dealt with in a way that obscures the fundamental antagonism of interests that exists between the two. The fact, for instance, that the master thrives on the unpaid labour extracted from the worker. But the Press method of propaganda is not proving sufficient, powerful though it is. The foundations upon which the Northcliffe and other millions are built are being slowly but surely undermined. To hinder this process, therefore, the Northcliffe paper advocates a more vigorous vocal propaganda to go along with the written.

Alas for the Capitalist the Daily Mail proposal is analogous to the attempt, made by King Canute many years ago, to stop the movement of the ocean with the human voice.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, May 1924)

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