1920s >> 1925 >> no-247-march-1925

A look round


“The big facts to concentrate on are two. First, the great majority of Englishmen are much poorer than they ought to be. Secondly, the problem of how to make them richer can only be solved through a great increase in their productivity. It never can be solved by tinkering at the distribution of the utterly inadequate wealth, which at present is all that they can produce.”—(“Daily Chronicle,” 7/2/25.)

Both the above “big facts” avoid the main issue. The first is ambiguous, the second is disproved everywhere. The question the workers must ask is, Why are they poor? despite the fact that it is they alone who convert the earth’s materials into a prodigious quantity of wealth. The object of the “Chronicle” writer is to obscure as far as possible the main contradiction within capitalist society, increasing poverty side by side with increasing wealth. If increased production was all that was required to remove poverty, then one and a half million idle workers could help to solve the problem, or the capitalists could refrain from deliberately restricting production in tea, cotton, rubber, wheat, and in practically every large industry. “How can it be done? Upon an adequate scale only in one way—by increasing the output per man of the workers.” (Ibid.) Note well the “per man,” which means an increased output by those AT WORK, or in other words, fewer workers required for an equal or even greater amount of wealth produced. Has increased production brought prosperity to the mill operatives?

“The power loom abolished the hand weaver—to-day a girl in a Lancashire mill turns out more cloth in a day than a whole village of her ancestors could have done in a week.”—(“System,” August, 1924.)

Yet the operatives live in poverty, and short time working has been the order of the day. Though the “Chronicle” talks of the “utterly inadequate wealth,” observe how adequate it is for those who take no part in its production :—

“The immense profit of £8,365,168 was earned by the Imperial Tobacco Co. (of Great Britain and Ireland) during the last year. … It is nearly £1,000,000 in excess of the nett income for the previous 12 months. (7/2/25). (“Daily Chronicle,” same date.)
“Those who invested in March, 1918, in the Rolls Royce Company, Ltd., have had their capital doubled by bonus shares, and have each year received a dividend of eight per cent, on the whole of that capital.”—(“Daily Herald,” 13/1/25.)

Everywhere it is the same, a production of wealth once unthought of and yet—the worker to-day gets on the average just what the chattel and the serf did, their subsistence, except that they get it through the medium of money (wages). While the workers remain sellers of labour power they cannot command more than the price of that sale (wages), therefore in proportion to the ever-increasing amount of wealth they produce their conditions MUST GET WORSE. Heed not the capitalist liars, there is no problem of wealth production to-day, for the industrial revolution solved that problem. The question of poverty can only be solved by the workers themselves through the Social Revolution.

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The class war does not depend for its existence upon the whims of agitators as our rulers and their supporters pretend to believe. The conflict existing between the two historically developed classes, capitalists and wage workers, is that between buyers and sellers of labour power. Buyers wish to buy cheap, and sellers realise as much as possible on their sale. The human element of necessity on the part of the workers (for labour power quickly deteriorates) makes, the conflict a stern reality. This fact is becoming thrust upon the workers in their struggle to live, with such persistency that even the Labour leaders, once wont to deny the class struggle, find themselves compelled to admit its existence by lip service, even if they outrage its every implication in practice.

The following is a choice example of this fact:—

“I am not an unrepentant believer in the class struggle. I know of no Socialist Party that preaches the class struggle. There is no word in the Socialist vocabulary of that description.”
“Mr. R. C. Wallhead said he was not one of those who went about the country proclaiming there was no such thing as the class struggle, because he was not prepared to deny the facts as they were.”

The above are the statements of the same individual, a prominent member of the I. L.P. (Gleanings and Memoranda, July, 1924, and February, 1925, respectively.) Neither are they the mere inconsistency of an individual, for that party, like the Labour Party, has from their inception, through the war, and down to the present time, been a party of confusion and compromise.

With a support comprising every shade of opinion except Socialist, and led by individuals either ignorant or unscrupulous, they merely lend their numbers to the support of every nostrum drawn across the workers’ path. The important fact for the Socialist, however, is the anti-working class nature of the activities of these Labour leaders. They do take part in the class war, whether they deny it or admit it—on the masters’ side.

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According to a leading article, “Daily Herald,” 14th Feb., 1925, “The Royal Family appears anxious above all things to avoid change,” “to maintain old pomps and ceremonies,” etc. Not the capitalist class, mark you; and has the “Herald” forgotten the toadying of Labour leaders at Court functions? Mrs. Snowden, that ardent admirer of capitalist institutions, was much perturbed by the remarks of the so-called “wild men” anent the money required for the Prince of Wales’ trip to South Africa and America. Think of it. Gracious !

“The suggestion that the Royal House does not do any work is just absolute nonsense. I consider they are the hardest worked people in the country.”—(“People,” 15/2/25.)

At what they worked Mrs. Snowden did not say.

Mere physical effort does not constitute work in the economic sense, otherwise burglars, coiners, etc., would be deemed to be engaged in that enervating pastime. The unremitting toil of the workers in mine, factory and chemical hell, such trifles can be dismissed with an insinuating insult—it is the parasites on parasites who are the “hardest worked” people. The “wild men,” too, must justify their position in order to allay the growing suspicion and discontent of their followers who expect somebody to do something for them. They must obtain a little notoriety in some way or other so as to appear to be doing that “something.” But it does not concern the workers whether the wealth of which they have been robbed is spent on rebuilding churches, champagne orgies or Royal Figureheads. When in the House of Commons capitalists like Sir Alfred Mond lie and misrepresent Socialism, or when the Labour Party prepares the armed forces as strike breakers, the extremists or wild men show their capitalist subservience—for they are as tame as white mice.

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It would appear from a reading of the capitalist press that slums and rotten houses, or no houses, were innovations in the workers’ drab existence. Even parsons and “ladies” have discovered this phase of social corruption when its gravity threatens the future security of the idlers whose affluence is based upon such misery. Are houses the only things of which you suffer a shortage? Does it not apply equally to millions of the workers regarding food, clothing, and the essentials for a rational existence? Though you can provide these things in abundance, under present-day arrangements they will not be produced unless providing profit and rent for the idlers first. Your masters try to hide the true cause of the present housing conditions by lies about irksome labour restrictions, dearness of materials, etc., but did one ever hear of a shortage of residences for the capitalists, or of buildings in which to carry on their commercial undertakings? The following shows the hypocritical nature of their excuses, for business must come first whatever the wealth producers lack :—

“The year 1924 has seen a big revival of building in London, much of which, including some great operations in the City, will not be completed until the end of the year. . . . The square mile of the City indeed is undergoing a more vigorous transformation than at any time in the present century.”—(“Manchester Guardian,” 12/2/24.)
“Commercial rebuilding has nowadays become so insistent that there appears to be hardly a great thoroughfare in London in which there are not evidences of it.”—(“Fortnightly Review,” February.)

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With an ever-growing army of unemployed and increasing insecurity of life for the workers, old bogeys are dug up to do further service. Commenting on what they call the alien question the “Evening News,” 12th Feb., 1925, says:—

“How odd it is that Socialists, who pose as the only friends of the British workman, are invariably on the side of the foreigners who wish to come in here and take his job.”

Presumably the wealthy visitors to “our” country are not aliens, as like their thoroughbred (!) British prototype, they are not likely to undertake any jobs.

No matter the land of birth of the workers, as a class it is they who have the monopoly of work, a most desirable arrangement for the capitalist class and one they will be in no hurry to upset. A little reasoning would soon convince the worker that the alien question is merely dust thrown in their eyes to blind them to fundamental causes. Competition for jobs is just as keen, and conditions just as vile, in occu¬pations where the so-called alien hardly enters—docks, railways, agriculture—as it is upon the seas where every nationality sails.

The world over, irrespective of geographical boundaries, poverty is the lot of the Working Class. In peace, as in war, your masters will make to order, as friends or foes, workers of other countries in order to divide you. Study Socialism and you will find a wealth of meaning in the words of Marx and Engels :—Working men of all countries, unite. The Proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.


(Socialist Standard, March 1925)

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