1920s >> 1928 >> no-286-june-1928

Unemployment: We Do Not Shirk the Issue.

” Unemployment.” ” Shirking the issue.” These are the striking headlines of an editorial in the “Daily Chronicle” of February 10th, commenting on the debate in the House of Commons the previous day.

This article, after criticising the present Government for evading its responsibility for the relief of those affected, and having told us that Protection is no remedy, draws our attention to the “remedy” proposed by the Labour Party.

Mr. Arthur Henderson asked what the Labour Party’s remedy was, “Gave one comprehensive answer—the abolition of the system of private ownership—Socialism.”

This, we are informed, is not an answer to the question as to how work is to be found for the unemployed.

Then our very Liberal Editor treats us to the following: “That the question at issue is not one of ownership, but of work, production, business.”

Now, short of having a copy handy of that day’s Parliamentary debates, we cannot, of course, say whether Mr. Henderson used the word Socialism or not, while, assuming that he did, his use of the word is misleading. His conception of Socialism is nationalisation and has been exposed in these columns.

One becomes suspicious that the Editor of the “Daily Chronicle” knows that the Nationalisation of Industry, the object of the Labour Party, is not Socialism when he asks, “How the State is going to create employment” when the change of ownership is made?

Quite so, Mr. Editor. The State being but the executive machinery of the employing class, private ownership of the means of wealth production would still exist in the sense of class ownership.

It follows therefore that the other conditions of capitalist production would still apply, i.e., production for profit of goods that must be sold on a market before such profit is realised.

When the market ceases to absorb these goods, or does so only on a restricted scale, profits either cease or are greatly reduced. Production is accordingly restricted or stopped altogether. When this happens unemployment, partial or general, follows for the very people, the workers, who have, by their productive diligence, produced more than the market requires.

Just when thousands, nay, possibly millions, of people are prevented from receiving wages, and consequently from being able to buy things, there are more things for sale than there are people to buy.

The reason for this being that as pointed out earlier—production to-day is for profit, not for use.

Then, with all the brazen impudence of the capitalist apologist, we are told that “The question is not one of ownership but of work, production, business.”

With the development of modern productive methods and intensified machine production, along with existing class ownership in, say, the newspaper world, a surplus of workers exists that meet with disappointment continually at such places as the United Newspapers because employment at all times for all workers is not profitable.

After all these facts in our everyday experience, it is sheer nonsense for the Liberal Editor to tell us it is not a question of ownership.

Given Free Trade Liberalism, Protectionist Toryism or Free Trade Labourism, unemployment cannot be abolished or remedied while private ownership remains.

Whether the victims are relieved by relief works, benefits, or both, is the business of those who are involved, consciously or otherwise, in the defence of the private ownership of the means of wealth production.

While for workers who can see their class position through all the surrounding confusion, the remedy is the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life.

It will then be seen that this is not to be attained by supporting Liberal, Tory or Labour political parties, including any others that may be hanging on to one or the other.

The attainment of such a remedy, involving their emancipation as a class, must then be reached by political organisation and action on the basis of their class interests for the overthrow of the capitalist system.

The Party that fulfils all these requirements that is in fact the Party of the workers, the Socialist Party will, with the support of the workers arising from their understanding, carry on to the political field for the first time the class struggle, now so blindly fought industrially over wages and conditions.

J. B.

(Socialist Standard, June 1928)

Leave a Reply