1920s >> 1927 >> no-278-october-1927

The wealthy workers !

The concentration of vast capital into the hands of a continually decreasing number of Capitalists, accompanied by more efficient methods of production, swells to an enormous extent the wealth of this class. While, on the other hand, this development brings with it a more intense form of exploitation, greater insecurity, unemployment, and poverty of the wealth producers. The result is that, as Capitalist society develops, the distinction between the two classes becomes wider and clearer; and the opposition of interest more intense.

These facts are having a powerful influence on the minds of the workers, and are slowly but surely preparing them to accept the principles of Socialism.

Having progressed so far towards an understanding of their class position, they become less easy to deceive. Consequently the older political parties, who openly defend the present system of society, and claim that there is no alternative, can no longer command the support of an overwhelming majority of the workers as they did in the past. Hence the need, to the Capitalist class, of a political party that can secure the support of this discontented section, by criticising the system, and when necessary expressing sympathy towards Socialism, and that can, at the same time, be relied upon to maintain Capitalist society.

This is the cause of the rapid growth of the Labour Party. Experience and Socialist propaganda, however, will complete the lesson the workers have commenced to learn. They will then realise the futility of fighting for anything but Socialism, and will join the Socialist Party, that has Socialism, and that alone, for its object.

The awakening of the workers to their class position is, to the Capitalist, a serious affair, and it is the endeavour to delay that understanding which prompts them to publish articles, such as this from which we quote :—

“According to most Socialist, and all Communist, writers and speakers this country is divided between the “capitalists” and the “workers,” that is to say, the Haves and the Have-Nots. They try to delude people into believing that practically all the capital is in the hands of a relatively small minority ; the rest of the community consisting of the toiling but unpropertied masses. Nothing could be a more ridiculous travesty of the facts. The truth is that a very large proportion of the people of this country, including the workers with hand or brain, are owners of capital. “—(The “Daily Mail,” 11/6/27.)

It will be most gratifying to the workers to realise that, after all, their poverty is only a delusion. But what a pity the million miners did not know that they had such resources to draw from when they were locked out. And why did King Fuad of Egypt feel it incumbent on him to donate £1,000 to the London poor during his recent visit?

Another point that is often raised is the increase in the number of small investors. This appears at first sight to contradict the assertion that capital is concentrating into fewer hands. But upon closer examination it will be seen that the contrary is the case, and the increase in small investments is actually an effect of that concentration.

In the first place, this increase only applies to money invested in savings banks or public companies, and takes no account of capital held by people who use it as private traders. Consequently, if they are compelled to sell their business and invest the money in one or another of the concerns mentioned, that would be registered as an increase in the amount of capital held by an investor of moderate means. But all that has happened has been a change in the form of their property. Take, for example, a man with a capital of £3,000, and using it to run a private business. He finds his business failing on account of competition from a more powerful competitor. Now, according to the way he acts, we get the following results :—

(1) He may see the danger before much harm is done, and be successful in selling his business without any great loss, and transfer the money to one of the concerns mentioned. With the result as above, the transfer of capital would be reckoned as an increase, when no increase had taken place.

(2) Assume that, before he is able to sell his business, he shows a considerable loss, and is compelled to accept for it half its former value, viz., £1,500, which he invested in the same way as in example No. 1. Here the result is that there is registered an increase of £1,500 in capital held by people of moderate means, but in actual fact there is a decrease of £1,500 owned by this group.

(3) Or again, he may hang on to his business until he is forced out, as a bankrupt. In which case there is a loss of £3,000, but it is not registered as a decrease by these one-eyed statisticians, because a view of this side of the question would be fatal to their case.

If we take the period 1906 to 1926, and consider the rate at which small businesses have either been crushed out or absorbed by larger ones, and they in turn swallowed up by more powerful combines, it is easy to account for this increase in the amount credited to depositors of small means, running parallel with the concentration of capital. The greater the concentration, and the more general large-scale production becomes, the greater becomes the amount of capital that is forced out of the channels of private trade into those of investment. And the fact that a few of the small fry are able to rescue a part of their capital from the share-shark infested waters, and place it in the safest position they know, accounts for this supposed prosperity of the working-class. A delusion which arises, as we have seen, through the competition between Capitalists—the weaker being pushed, at an ever-increasing pace, into the ranks of the “Have-nots.”

In face of the trials the workers experience in their struggle to live, such attempts to mislead them must fail. And as the system develops, the need for a change in the basis of society from the private ownership in the means of life to common ownership becomes more evident. When the majority of our class realise this simple fact, they will join with us in the fight to secure control of the political machinery and armed forces for the purpose of establishing what must be the one and only object of a working-class political party—Socialism.

E. L.

(Socialist Standard, October 1927)

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