1920s >> 1927 >> no-269-january-1927

A Socialist Survey

Effects of Re-Organisation.
Labour Leaders, Miners’ Leaders, Liberal and Tory Leaders have all been talking on the need for reorganisation in the working of the mining industry. In fact, the miners’ leaders have insisted upon immediate reorganisation as a method by which the industry could be put “upon its feet.” Now we have the I.L.P. journal, Forward, admitting the effects of reorganisation under capitalism is to worsen the workers’ lot. This is true whether the reorganisation takes place by Trusts or under Nationalisation.

This is Forward’s confession taken from their front page, signed by Thos. Johnston, M.P. (Dec. 11th, 1926) :

“Every proposal we make for the reorganisation of industry means more unemployment.
The Daily Mail justifies the reorganisation of our electrical supplies, on the ground that it will save the labours of 300,000 colliers.
Reorganisation of the coal industry means the discharge of 100,000 colliers.
And we have already a permanent standing army—the coal stoppage apart—of well over 1,000,000 fellow-citizens who can find no employer.”

Unemployment Insurance as a Narcotic.
After commenting on the decline of unemployment agitation compared with pre-war days, Forward (same issue) says : “Unemployment insurance of course is responsible for dulling the edge of the agitation.” Mr. Johnston, M.P., who writes this, forgets to state that the Labour Party was one of the parties to the passing of the Unemployment Insurance Act. He complains of the effect of their work, but his “remedy” is to set up a Select Committee of the House of Commons to examine unemployment relief proposals ! Such is the Capitalist policy of the advanced Clyde !

The Rich Labourites !
Commander Kenworthy has won Hull for Capitalism under a Labour label. He has boasted of the support of big business men locally who saw “no change” in his “Labour” programme from his Liberal policy. Now the wealthy Oswald Mosley has won Smethwick with a policy to suit the moderate Liberal. To show the “proletarian” character of the Labour Party let us quote Philip Snowden, their “Chancellor” (Forward, December 11th, 1926):

“A few cases have happened lately where a candidate has been put up to auction by the local Labour Party and sold to the highest bidder.
New recruits to the party, who happened to be wealthy, have bought favourable constituencies. They have no record of service in the movement, and they know little or nothing about its principles. Men with long years of service in the party have been put aside because they were poor. Such incidents demoralise the local party, and put it on a level with the capitalist parties.”

The article is headed, “Who Pays, Rules.” Snowden says “Those who pay the piper call the tune.”

Is the Marxian Theory of Value out of Date ?
A writer (John Smith) in the Canadian One Big Union Bulletin (November 18th, 1926), writing on “Marx and Super-Capitalism,” says that Marx’s theory of value is not true under large scale production in America.

The essence of his statement is in the following extracts :

“Most of the European capitalistic countries are still producing on the basis of nineteenth century social machinery, whereas America is sailing under the flag of super-capitalism. Principles of Economics that still hold true on the European Continent and in England are no longer applicable to the economic conditions of North America.
Super-capitalism has changed some of these “economic truths,” considerably. With the elimination of competition, cartels for price-fixing and control of production and distribution have effectively done away with the principle of “socially necessary labour power” as the basic unit of commodity prices. Industries controlled by such cartels and falling within the “mass production” class are regulated at the will of the industrial magnates whose wish is the law in the economic field as well as in the political.”

The Will Power of the Capitalists.
Like most critics of Marx who allege that Marx is out of date, this Winnipeg writer does not attempt to show what has taken the place of Marx’s labour theory of value. His only claim is that the will of the Capitalist determines prices. Marx has already dealt with the alleged free will of the Capitalist in “Value, Price, and Profit.” Like all so-called wills and decisions, the Capitalists’ will is conditioned by circumstances. We might ask with Marx how is the power of the Capitalists’ will determined? What are its limits? This writer, who says “economic laws are conveniently thrust aside” by these super-Capitalists, might tell us why these magnates whose “wish is law” don’t charge twice as much as they do for their goods. Is it modesty? Or self-denial?

The Truth of the Labour Law of Value.
The real fact is that the super-Capitalists and trusts are aware of the truth of the labour law of value. Every worker in the Ford Plant at River Rouge, or even in the assembling plant at Winnipeg, can tell our Winnipeg writer that continual and unceasing efforts are made to reduce the time taken to produce the articles. The same truth applies to all large scale production, especially in the country named by our writer—the United States of America. The continual reduction of prices of Ford cars, for example, took place after (as Ford admitted) the time taken to produce cars had been greatly lessened.

It is not the will to charge higher prices that we see at work specially in the trust. It is the scheming and planning to so increase output per man that less labour is embodied in each article, thus enabling them to outsell their rivals and increase their profits. The secret of Ford’s and all similar firms is that with tremendous capital laid out in modern machines the work can be so divided up and simplified that more goods can be produced in the same time. Every modern manufacturer knows the truth of Marx, and hence the employment of the latest devices and systems. The firms who cannot invest enough capital to lay down the most up-to-date plant cannot compete with the efficiency and labour-saving methods of the Trust. If it was simply a matter of will to charge higher prices there would be nothing new or modern about the super-Capitalists. All sellers have the will to get the highest price the market will bear, but to-day, as well as a century ago, the seller’s will depends upon suitable conditions for its gratification.

The Power of the Trust.
The rings, trusts and huge firms find the way to wipe out their rivals is to produce cheaply. The way to produce cheaply is to reduce the amount of labour involved in producing each article. Hence the trust erects modern large plants and installs the latest machines and speeds up their workers to the last pitch. As an illustration of the truth that trusts can sell cheaper, take Canada and U.S.A. Most articles produced in Canada are higher in price than in U.S.A. Canada has smaller workshops and fewer self-contained industrial plants than U.S.A. and more time on the average is taken to produce Canadian goods. Does our critic explain the continuous decline in price of Ford’s Cars since 1910 as a constant change in Mr. Ford’s will?

The combines’ power to charge higher prices is limited by—

(1) the purchasing power of its customers ;
(2) the similar goods to be obtained from rival firms ;
(3) the use of substitutes when price is too high;
(4) the decline in amount sold of these commodities if price is higher than market will bear.

Even mighty Ford finds himself faced with the rivalry of the greater combine backed by Morgan and Wall Street Bankers—the General Motors Co. This firm in its turn adopts the same methods of reduction in time taken to produce each car, with the result that a number of cars are offered in competition with Ford’s price.

To-day, as when Marx wrote his address on Free Trade—cheapness is the battering ram that breaks down the barriers of competition.

Where the Workers are Robbed.
The worst use of articles like that we have criticised is that attacks on “monopoly prices” lead the workers to look at things from the point of view of consumers of commodities.

Actually the workers are the smallest consumers of the total national production. Their purchasing power is limited to the amount of their wages. The Capitalists are able to buy the largest quantity because their “share” of the total output is largest in the shape of rent, interest and profit.

The workers must view matters as producers, being the only class engaged in production. It is where they produce that they are exploited. The demand then must not be “Lower Prices,” but the “abolition of exploitation.”

The Fool Programme of the Communists.
The alleged revolutionary Communist Party offers another Red Programme for its vote catchers to work on.

The following is what they demand as a “full Socialist Programme” ! (“Communism is Commonsense,” p. 18.) :

“1. Nationalisation of mines, railways and large-scale industries without compensation and with workers’ control.
2. Nationalisation of the land and the banks in the same way.
3. State control of foreign trade.
4. Capital levy on all fortunes over £5,000, and no interest to be paid on National Debt holdings over that figure.
5. A steeply graduated income tax on all incomes over £250.
6. National minimum of £4 per week for all who work, and a minimum 44-hour working week.
7. Maintenance of the unemployed at trade union rates by the State, under control of the Trade unions.
8. Repeal of all anti-Labour laws (E.P.A., etc.)
9. Wiping out of all Reparations and War Debts.
10. Declaration of independence of the Colonies and withdrawal of British troops.
11. Credits to and friendly relations with the workers’ government of the Union of Soviet Republics.”

None of these demands, from Nationalisation to 44-hour weeks, touch the cause of working class slavery, nor do they offer any solution to the “social evils” of to-day. They are Communist idiocy.

The ”Savings” of the Workers !
Once again we are treated to the story of huge savings of the workers ! A writer in the Burton Daily Mail for December 15th complains of the Socialist statement of the rich getting richer and the poor poorer, and gives the usual figures of the savings, “mostly of the working classes.” He quotes the Chairman of the National Savings Committee on October 20th stating the following increase from 1916 to 1926 :

1916 1926
£ million £ million
Cash value of Saving Certificates 475
Deposits P.O. Savings Bank 190 280
Deposits Trustee Savings Bank 54 82
Building Societies 64 166
Total 308 1,003

Even accepting these figures as correct and ignoring the obvious duplication of funds in different kinds of institutions—what evidence do they offer of being working class savings? We challenge the writer to show that they are mainly workers’ investments. It is well known that small business people, shopkeepers and others of similar position, use these institutions very largely. The writer also forgets to state the number of different persons holding these apparently huge sums. If these figures offer evidence of increasing luxury of the workers—what striking evidence on the other side is shown by the mounting cost of poor law relief and unemployment “relief”? If we are so well off why the united cry of decline in prosperity? In reality bank returns clearly show the prosperity of the employers in a world of working class poverty.

A. KOHN.

(SOCIALIST STANDARD, JANUARY 1927)

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