Editorial: The fruits of “reform”
Those who credit our present rulers with a special regard for the interests of the workers would do well to ponder upon the facts revealed at the recent inquiry into the fire at the St. Pancras film factory, when five workers’ lives were lost.
According to Mr. Macklin, Inspector of Factories, “The outbreak of fire could have been avoided by the use of some other method of drying” (“Daily Chronicle,” Oct. llth); while Miss Ada Dunch, another inspector, stated that she addressed a letter to the firm regarding breaches of the regulations as long ago as January. She further stated that there were over 4,800 factories and workshops in her district and that her staff consisted of one half-time man, and some assistance given by another inspector.
Asked by a representative of the Home Office if she found it difficult to carry out the annual inspection, she replied that it was impossible. Her statement was corroborated by Mr. Macklin already quoted.
In his classic examination of capitalist industrialism, Marx long ago showed how numerous Acts of Parliament (ostensibly designed to regulate conditions in factories) remained dead letters owing to the failure of Parliament to vote the funds for the necessary inspectors. Seventy odd years later we find that his criticism still applies.
Liberal, Labour and Conservative Governments have succeeded one another in the task of administering the affairs of the capitalist class; with the result that working-men and women still go needlessly to their doom in order that their good, kind masters may enjoy lives of culture and benevolence on the profits realised from the workers’ toil.
The wage-slaves of to-day pile up wealth in hitherto unheard-of quantities; yet it is too much to expect that they should be enabled to do so in security. It is cheaper to let them be burnt or buried alive than to pay for the necessary supervision to prevent such events.
The tragic death of five factory hands is of course a paltry flea-bite which passes unnoticed by the average slave who enjoys, by way of amusement, pictures of the wholesale slaughter of the members of his class when glorified by such names as “Mons” and “Verdun.” The putrid sentiment which clogs the minds of working-class patriots prevents them seeing the shrieking absurdity of a social order under which millions can be poured forth daily for years in order to produce a blood-bath while the money cannot be found to save women in England from a holocaust.
Over a million men and women on the Labour Exchanges and a shortage of factory inspectors ! What have you to say, you Tory, Liberal and Labour reformers?
The blood of the workers calls out for an answer!
(Socialist Standard, November 1927)