1920s >> 1929 >> no-297-may-1929

Socialist Brevities

 
The Gate to More.
You all know, of course, that Unemployment can be both nice and nasty—the degrees of niceness and nastiness depending entirely upon the quality of wisdom displayed in choosing one’s parents. Locker- Lampson, Fat-fee Smith, Lloyd George, etc., etc., suffer their pangs amidst the lush verdure of the Riviera, but we workers prefer to cultivate our faculties of observation by meandering around looking for the display of that soul-stirring caption — “Hands wanted”! (Of course, if you are a baker, you may be expected to use your feet!)

 

However, let us look at unemployment as known to, and regarded as a normal risk by, the workers. Labour “leaders,” “economists,” and “captains of industry,” have constantly asserted that the cure for this disease is “More production,” “Rationalisation ” or “Nationalisation” —all fancied names for the increased exploitation of the workers. “Look at America!” they say. But let us look at England first. Lord Ebbisham, the President of the Federation of British Industries, in an article in the “Morning Post” (14/1/29), surveying British industrial conditions during 1928, makes the following statement:—

   Lastly, the reliability of unemployment returns as an index to industrial activity has been affected by the economy of effort and labour, which is one of the outstanding features of post-war industrial reorganisation. There is little doubt that post-war methods of manufacture aim at increasing output while actually decreasing the number of men engaged in production. That most of the workers so displaced will find employment in new industries does not minimise the significance of the possibility that, if the present tendency continues manufacturing, as opposed to marketing, finance, and other commercial activities, will in the future make progressively decreasing demands on the population, and in that sense will play a smaller part as a contributor to the general prosperity. (Our Italics.)

More production, more—unemployment!

 

Observe that manufacturing (i.e., wealth production) will continue to make lesser and lesser “demand on the population.” A very generous interpretation of the 1921 Census returns gives us 7,615,198 workers engaged in productive occupations out of a population of about 45,000,000 (see pamphlet “Socialism,” pages 9 and 10), so the workers should feel quite complacent as to their prospects of increased leisure in the future.

 

But apparently, marketing, finance, etc., will make more and more “demands on the population.” Perhaps. Let us see. The “Morning Post” (1/1/29) provides us with a nice little tit-bit:—

 

ROBOT BANK CLERKS

Will there be fewer openings for junior clerks in our large banks, owing to the ever-increasing efficiency of the ledger-posting, exchange-reckoning automatic devices being introduced? One of the latest of these devices is an American ledger-posting machine which writes out customers’ bank balances in their pass-books and posts the amount of credit and debit.
Under the new system a girl can do the work of two or three men. One of the largest London Banks is doing all its complicated exchange conversions by machine, and all foreign currencies can be turned into pounds sterling by turning a handle. A British machine for ledger-posting is being used at Lloyds’ head office, and nearly all bank branches are saving hours every week by up-to-date machines.

One need not be a prophet to see what this state of affairs might lead to in the future. I will hazard a guess, anyhow!

 

Scene : A big Stores in 19—?

 

Salesman (to customer): “Bank clerks, Sir? Yessir! Fine line in to-day, sir. Six for sixpence each, sir. Or thirteen for a shilling if you are not superstitious, sir. Four gross, sir? Thank you, sir. They will be delivered to-morrow, sir, 12.30 p.m., in one of our plain vans, together with our free insurance policy. Good*day, sir.”

 

Ah! But engineering will always be safe for the workers. Munitions, ships and things. Do not, therefore, let the following paragraph, culled from the “Manchester Guardian” (14/1/29) disquiet you unduly:

 

  Mr. James Rowan, general secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, in his monthly report to the members, writes that the most remarkable feature of the past year has been the heavy production on the one hand in most of the staple industries, and on the other the large percentage of unemployment in the same industries. Shipbuilding in 1928 produced a tonnage in excess of all previous years, except 1922, yet so great has been the progress of labour-saving devices that the percentage of unemployed in shipbuilding districts never seems to have gone below 10 per cent., and in many cases had reached 20 per cent., and even 25 per cent.
In the engineering section much the same state of things has prevailed. The motor section had a great year, and certainly there was a boom in electrical engineering.
Noting this, and while again noting there has been a record output both in volume and value, the percentage of engineers unemployed has been remarkably high. In all the productive sections of industry the same remarks apply. To think that at the end of a year of such enhanced production it should leave us with about two millions of the workable population redundant, is something that casts a very grave reflection on the powers that be. If this is the result of rationalisation, so far as it has gone, then it seems rationalisation has gone mad.

Engine-very-neers!

 

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Happy Erin.

 

Now how can poverty be cured before the cause is discovered? There are too many of us, that’s the true cause. Not enough jobs to go round, obviously. At least, that is what the Labour “leaders,” “economists ” and “statesmen” tell us—and they ought to know! The population of Ireland has been declining for centuries, so we will doubtless find here a happy, prosperous and healthy people. Especially now they have “Home Rule.” You will see this is so by the paragraph below, taken from an article on “Progress under Home Rule” by the “Morning Post” special correspondent (31/12/28).

 

  I do not suppose anybody will contradict my statement that the Government till is empty, or that the farmers are in a deplorable state. Mr. Cassidy, Labour Member for Donegal, made this remarkable statement in the “Dail” some weeks ago: “Unemployment and destitution prevail, thousands of farmers are in the state of poverty, thousands of fishermen are destitute, and nothing is being done for them. I think it is indeed strange that the Government should have given a thousand pounds to the Royal Zoological Society for the keep of wild animals while at the same time they refuse to keep human beings in the country.”

Oh! dash it all. I’ve given the wrong paragraph!

 

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He Changeth Not.

 

What we want is “leaders.” Leaders who will lead! Sincere, honest, champions of the worker’s cause. Bromley, Cramp, Smillie, Newbold: all of these used to fill the bill. Even Trotsky is more than doubtful just now! But A. J. Cook is the man. He is the one pearl in the ointment, the true gilt on the cokernut.

 

’Erb Smith? N.G. Cook? The Miners’ Messiah, the workers’ Whatname! Leaders may come, leaders may go; but Cook remains, with a tow-row-row! Cook the—    but what’s this little bit in the “Sunday Worker” for March 10th? Can it be? The great A.J? I’m afraid it can!

 

In his weekly article in that newspaper, this paragon, so well boosted by the Communists, seems to have followed his late partner, Maxton, and crumpled up entirely under the threat of the Labour mandarins. Here is a piquant extract:—

 

  A Labour Government would bring new life and hope to the workers, would increase faith in trade unionism, and thus would lead us nearer to Socialism. Therefore I regret the actions of any party or sections that start new unions, or that endanger the return of a Labour Government. This is my view after an active life of many years in the Trade Union and Socialist Movement. No doubt I shall be called reactionary, a compromiser, etc., etc., by the Communists in particular. I want every reader to become an active Trade Unionist, and control his own destiny, believing Socialism is our only hope.

You see, you get nearer Socialism, the only hope, by supporting Capitalism.
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Another Wreck!

 

In the same issue of the “Sunday Worker” there is another interesting item, which, by the way, may have some bearing on the defection of A. J. Cook :—

  The National Left Wing Committee meeting, held in London last week-end, decided by ten votes to one that the Left Wing Movement as a national organisation should be dissolved. It was emphasised that this decision does not mean the cessation of Local Left Wing activities, which should continue on the basis of local united front committees and workers’ electoral committees, their work based on concrete issues before the workers. The decision was made after thorough and frank discussion, in which two points were strongly urged as making continuance of the organisation impossible.
The first point was that the Birmingham conference political and organisational decisions have made it hopeless to turn the Labour Party into a working-class party. The “loyalty” resolution now makes Left Wing work in the Labour Party impossible.
The second point emphasised was that the continuation of the National Left Wing movement in its present form involves the danger of a new Party which would be detrimental to the interests of the working class. The resolution adopted advised all Left Wing workers who desire to carry on a fight for Socialism that they can best do so by joining the Communist Party, now fighting alone for full emancipation of the workers.

Have you seen any of these “full emancipation” programmes of the Communist Party? Their slogans, too, are quite good —“God save the People” is the very latest, I believe!