1920s >> 1924 >> no-238-june-1924

The relief of Abstinence

The latest returns of the tea-producing companies illustrate the enormous amount of unpaid labour that is appropriated by the Capitalist.

The following table shows the dividends of five companies for 1922 and 1923 :—

1922 1923
Alliance Tea of Ceylon 25% 40%
Ederpolia Tea Co. 17½% 30%
Nedeem Tea Co. 22½% 35%
Halem Tea Co. 25% 40%
Spring Valley Ceylon 35% 50%

(Taken from the Observer,11/5/24)

From the above it will be seen that the shareholders have received on the average over two-thirds of the money back that they invested, and yet they may still have their original amount invested in the company—and this has been accomplished within two years !

Thirty-two pounds a year (out of every hundred originally invested) for doing nothing—not a bad way of obtaining a living. And yet when the engineers, the coal miners, or the railway men, ask for a paltry shilling or two more a week for 47 hours or so of arduous work under unhealthy conditions, this is the type of people who cannot find epithets strong enough to condemn such action.

The shareholder invests money in a company (or a paid official does it for him) and then he can go to sleep or go to Jericho with the pleasant conviction that at the end of a given period a nice fat sum will come to him, and at the end of further periods further fat sums will be forthcoming. The idea is spread about that these nice fat sums are the reward of “abstinence.” This suggestion would be quite alright if “abstinence” was intended to mean abstaining from useful work. But such is not the intention though it is a fact. We are required to believe that these people abstain from spending the money on pleasures in order to invest it. Yet curiously enough it is at pleasure resorts of various kinds that the wealthy shareholders are found. Who is it occupies the first-class berths on ocean going liners? The abstainer. Who harries the big game in the mighty forests and jungles of Africa and India? The abstainer. Who dodges the harshness of the English, winter by taking the first-class trans-Continental express for the Riviera ? The abstainer. Who puts as many miles as possible between himself and the ugly factory towns in which is his wealth is produced? Why the poor hardly used abstainer, of course.

But everything has an end, even though the end be but the beginning of something else. One day the selfish worker will take pity on the altruistic shareholder and will save the latter from the “miseries” associated with “abstinence.” The workers will take unto themselves the fruits of industry to set off against the toils. That day the shareholder will be relieved of his idleness as well as his abstinence. For that he should bless us, but, alas, I fear he will curse us. Our motives are the best and we wish to make of him a happy, healthy, and useful human being.


(Socialist Standard, June 1924)

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