1920s >> 1929 >> no-303-november-1929

“Work for All”

The Sunday Pictorial, October 6th, 1929, gives prominence to an article by Mr. G. Ward Price, who, according to the headlines, “shows that industry is suffering from several definite ailments. If it were “rationalised and brought up to date, we should not have a capable worker unemployed.”

“There is no mystery about what is wrong with the great British export trades,” says Mr. Price. “Their costs of production are too high.”

Further, he says, “There are only two “remedies for unemployment. . . . One is the compulsory rationalisation of our big industries on lines of which America and Germany furnish the example, and the other is the reduction of Trade Union restriction.”

See how great minds work ! The problem of unemployment has baffled each succeeding Government since Governments realised there was unemployment; yet Mr. Price—in his spare time—has placed the whole question—ailment, cause and cure— within the understanding of the least intelligent.

The ailment : cost of production too high. The cause : failure to adopt up-to-date methods, and Trade Union restrictions on output. The cure : limit the latter and rationalise industry.

Mr. Price may be guilty of some slight exaggeration when he says the result will be jobs for every capable worker. That fulness of employment has not yet been reached by America or Germany, although, he says, they furnish examples of rationalisation we might copy.

Every capitalist knows—even if he doesn’t know what his capital is invested in—that reduced cost of production is necessary if markets are to be extended. Every modern concern is run on that basis, even the most backward concerns believe in forcing the biggest return for every penny spent in wages. There is no question with the capitalist about reducing unemployment. So far as he is concerned he desires to increase it. If he rationalises his concern he reduces the number of workers employed while increasing the amount of the product. He may not, it is true, reduce the number of workers in his own factory, but workers must be displaced somewhere if he succeeds in capturing markets previously held by his competitors. For, despite all the bunkum talked and written about new markets, no-one has yet discovered how to unload commodities on some planet across the ether.

Markets are the chief concern of capitalists. Melchett, Ford, and all the rest of the self-advertising industrial magnates are constantly proclaiming industrial warfare against competitors in every country. They carry on the fight by reducing the cost of production ; by reducing the number of workers employed. The huge modern concerns, linked together—often across national boundaries—with the set purpose of achieving world monopoly, organise, train and eliminate until they have the pick of the labour market working at top speed ; with the aid of the latest machinery. An army of workers, trained like athletes to smash, by the cheapness of their products, those concerns opposed to their masters. According to their degree of success the unemployed millions increase. There is no escape from this reasoning. The world’s markets are limited. As a rule what is gained by one concern is lost by others. The markets that are won by England, if we can speak of nations when capital is international, are lost by Germany, France, or some other country.

Mr. Price’s cure for unemployment is, therefore, merely a statement of capitalist method for the benefit of capitalists. It means for the working-class not less unemployment, but more. It means division of the workers into groups and industrial armies straining every nerve to capture world markets for their masters by cheapening their products. Each worker in mad competition with his neighbour to keep his job, and organised on a grand scale to throw men out of work across the seas or the national boundaries.

Trade Union restrictions on output are mere pills for an earthquake, in this collossal industrial struggle. Canute commanding the tides was scarcely more ludicrous than Trade Unionists who imagine they can slow the march of capitalism by going slow themselves.

The working-class forms the great bulk of society. They produce all wealth. Instead of owning the wealth themselves they allow the capitalist class to own and market it. Born and educated in a capitalist world, it is hard for them to conceive of any method of distributing wealth other than by exchange.

The capitalist method is ownership of the means of wealth production by the capitalist class ; enslavement of the working-class by compelling them to sell their energy for wages, and setting them to the production of commodities to be sold on the world’s markets. It is this method, this system, that causes unemployment and poverty, not the high cost of production and Trade Union restrictions, and the only cure is the removal of the cause; the abolition of capitalism.

All workers organised in the mad competitive struggle for markets, as well as the millions of unemployed should learn the truth about capitalism. They should organise with the Socialist Party for its overthrow, and for the establishment of a system where production and distribution will be carried on for the people by the people themselves.

Class ownership of the means of life is the cause of working-class misery. Substitute ownership by the people, production and distribution by the people—leaving out the cash basis—and unemployment will no longer be the name with which we shall designate the long periods when our labour is not required. Modern methods of production can satisfy all our needs and leave us with ample leisure for enjoyment.

F. F.

(Socialist Standard, November 1929)

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