1920s >> 1929 >> no-296-april-1929

A “Simple” Cure For Industrial Trouble

The Daily News of Wednesday, February 27th, 1929, reports: “That the General Council of the Trade Union Congress considered the draft interim report on Unemployment which has been prepared by the Mond-Turner Conference.”

The report was adopted with a few modifications. The news goes on to say: “That the report deals with more or less palliative measures for unemployment and that more preventive measures will be covered in the final report, assuming that the Conference continues its work. It discusses the practicability of the Organisation of National Works to supplement measures, such as credit facilities, to foster a general revival in trade.” The question on providing pensions at 65 was also discussed.

This appeared on page 9. On page 11 we find another report. It is headed. Psychology Removes Worries in British Workshops. Six Girls Now Do the Work of 120. Increased Output and Greater Economy.

The report is a long one, but the following extracts will suffice:—

  “The phenomenal labour saving referred to above was achieved in the design and equipment of a new safety glass works. Radical changes have been achieved in production methods and labour-saving devices have been introduced which have led to a marked reduction of manufacturing costs. Thus in the case of two connected operations six girls will now do the work which formerly required 120. Waste of material has been reduced from 18 to 5 per cent, and the new factory will be able to produce in one shift almost double the output originally specified. The scope of the National Institutes of Industrial Psychology includes, the layout of factories, the sequence of processes, the elimination of waste of effort, material, and time in production, the selection of appropriate employees, and, lastly, the greater efficiency and contentment of the employees by improved working conditions.”

The report finishes by quoting the World’s Economic Conference’s opinion:

“That the workers should be safeguarded from temporary unemployment, resulting from this rationalisation, otherwise the movement will encounter the same opposition as befell the first attempt to introduce Taylor’s system of scientific management.”

Viewing these reports together, the thing that suggests itself is the fact that here we have two organisations, both claiming to strive for the good of the workers and yet one nullifies the effects of the other. The trade unions struggle for shorter hours and more pay and confer with the masters in an endeavour to foster trade to bring about more employment and when they have succeeded the masters employ psychologists to find out how they can do without a great percentage of the workers, leaving those still in employment more efficient, turning out as much if not more work with less waste and yet being contented with their job, keeping at bay those elements of industrial unrest which are so disturbing to the capitalist. Thus the trade unions find themselves precisely where they were, but with probably a bigger army of unemployed to deal with. Being Socialists, we realise that psychology, when used simply for the benefit of mankind, can be a great aid to human happiness, but in the hands of the masters, being used as a means to further exploitation, it becomes yet another burden upon the backs of the workers. The watchword of industry to-day is produce more, yet all the time the competition for the world’s markets is becoming more fierce and the markets more limited, making the disposal of the commodities less and less certain with the result that the unemployment figures increase and the different countries, in spite of peace pacts, etc., are heading straight for war. It is a time for serious reflection, fellow-workers.

Do you not find all these social remedies simply cancel each other? It is a ceaseless following of blind alleyways in which the workers get bewildered and hopeless. Unless they understand the Socialist position, they are tempted to make useless angry demonstrations and riots which can only result in loss of life or injury to our class and give the Government a chance to demonstrate their power and make an example of a few of the workers. There is only one sound policy to pursue, and that is the constant preaching of Socialism. When we have sufficient knowledge as a class, we can obtain political power. Remembering that the salvation of the workers must be the work of the workers, we must neither put our faith in the Lord, nor leaders, nor psychologists. Given the knowledge, the rest, by comparison, will be simplicity itself. Join the S.P.G.B., fellow wage slaves, and help to spread that knowledge that Socialism may come in our time, and we enjoy the fruits of our labour.

May Otway