The Secret of No Wages

In Business Organisation (August) a writer comments on the American instalment system, and offers what he appears to think is expert advice. He says :

“It is time that the whole British business world should get to grips with the subject in order to set a similar ball of prosperity rolling in our own land. . . . The theory is : If the people buy the goods, workers will be wanted to make them, and presently shirt-sleeved employers will be rushing into the street shouting, ‘We want workers, we must have workers.’ ”

Note the IF. If they cannot buy the goods—what then ? For years we have shown that American industry must travel the way of all capitalist industry. That way is by “boom” and “slump,” with ever-shortening periods between them until, with regulated and curtailed production, comes continued depression, as in this country to-day. The greater the competition for markets the greater the problem of over-production or restricting production. The value represented by wages never allows the workers to purchase all the enormous wealth they produce. The instalment trading system could not save America from the effects of Capitalism any more than it has done here. Such methods show that numbers of workers can no longer purchase for cash, and in America it might defer the crisis, but it would only aggravate it when it came. According to to the Daily Telegraph (3/4/28), the crisis in due course arrived. The “shout for workers” will evidently now become one for markets and buyers :—

“Labour agencies report that unemployment throughout the country has increased from four million to almost six million. . . . The American Federation of Labour finds that 18 per cent. of union members are unemployed, at any rate, it is represented that the total unemployed based upon 40,000,000 workers would be 7,200,000.”

No wonder we have not heard so much lately of American prosperity, and what a warning to those workers whose hope for the future lies in the day when they might again have “more work.”

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“It is no longer possible to pretend that the existing depression is a transient phenomenon. Clearly its causes are deep-rooted, and it has come to stay unless resolute measures are taken to abate or remove the causes” (“Morning Post,” 11/8/28).

What an admission from these staunch defenders of Capitalism, and how significant, though not in the Socialist sense, is their “unless.” Obviously the remedy is not in capitalist hands, or they would not confess to utter failure and inability to remove evils that must more and more compel the workers to ask the eternal Why? Why depressing conditions for themselves, while they produce for others who take no part in such production a once unthought-of degree of wealth and luxury? There is only one answer, and one that only the Socialist dare give—wealth belongs to those who own the means of producing it. No amount of reform or adjustment within the present system can alter that fundamental fact. While the wealth produced increases by leaps and bounds, our masters are at their wits’ end to sell, waste or spend it. The producers, separated from their means of life, cannot command more than that which only secures on the average an existence. To our masters that arrangement is the best and only possible one, hence the wish is father to the thought : “It has come to stay.” Out of the mountain of depression comes forth the mouse; for we are told :—

“It is incontestable that we are living beyond our means. . . . What can we afford?” (Ibid).

We ! Wage workers ! Surely a joke. Relative poverty and pauperism grow apace. In Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1927 there were 562 millionaires —and over (Daily Express (18/2/28). The estates of the ten millionaires who died in 1927 paid nearly ten million in death duties alone (17th Report, Inland Revenue Commissioners).

“There were more millions lost and won this year at Deauville than ever before in its history. It is estimated that 40 million changed hands. . . One noted motor car manufacturer lost about £8,000 in ten essays one night “(“Daily Herald,” 7/9/28).

True, the cause of these contrasts is deep-rooted, nor are your depressing conditions merely transitionary. But whether they have “come to stay” depends on whether you intend to continue allowing an idle few to enjoy the results of your efforts. Capitalism cannot work out to your benefit. The capitalists do not need Socialism, nor will they desire it because your suffering becomes more acute. Socialism goes to the root cause of working-class poverty. It lies in Capitalism or the private ownership of the means of wealth production. By the substitution of common ownership you will ensure the leisurely enjoyment of the plenitude you now provide for others.

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Peace, perfect peace, until the next war ! Some tell us we are cynical, distrustful, and do not want peace. We do—but can Capitalism ever give it ? We remember the peace tale in the days of yore. Did not Lloyd George tell us that he “saw distinct signs of peace” almost on the eve of the “war to end war”? Did not the Labourites demonstrate in favour of peace; and who could out-jingo them when war came? Does not the pacifist I.L.P. stand for reduction of armaments when out of office and vote for cruisers when in office? The signing of the Kellogg Peace Pact is yet another piece of hypocrisy on a par with the League of Nations. It is merely to allay suspicion while our masters prepare. In referring to the Pact, Sir Wm. Joynson-Hicks said :—

“I would warn you not to expect too much of this pact. . . . The whole of the nations of the world are still aimed to the teeth, and this new pact is but one more expression of the opinion that war is wrong, hateful and undesirable” (“Times,” 10/9/28).

One more pious expression, with the world still armed to the teeth ! Will that prevent war? We do not single out a special hatred for capitalist war any more than we do for its other abominations— unemployment, poverty and needless overwork. We stand as Socialists for the ending of Capitalism and with it the noxious maladies it begets. Those who support Capitalism through political ignorance are ever likely to be led into both voting and fighting for it while they remain in that mental state. Capitalism requires armed force, apart from military war. It is the final word in their political control over the working class. The further need for armed force as a means to defend and extend trade facilities is stated in terms of brutal frankness in the same speech :

“. . . There is one fundamental question we have to consider more than any other. That is the safety of Nation, Empire, and our trade routes.”

We, the workers, are not the “Nation,” we are the slave class within the nation. The “Empire” and the trade routes are the private property of our masters; they form channels through which they dispose of the wealth of which you have been robbed and over which wars are fought and working-class lives sacrificed.


(Socialist Standard, October 1928)

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