1920s >> 1929 >> no-304-december-1929

“Labour” Fails, Why Not Try Socialism?

Had the Labour Government been prepared with schemes dealing effectively with unemployment they could not have set the stage and billed Mr. Thomas’ performance with greater assurance than they did for the drab fiasco that resulted.

All parties criticise his schemes for their inadequacy. His own party were not the least dissatisfied and critical. The “New Leader” pretended to see in his refusal to call himself a Socialist the real cause of his failure. That journal said (8th November) :

“The fault is not his entirely. Upon the Cabinet itself rests a very considerable measure of responsibility. Where, for instance, is the National Economic Committee of which such a great feature was made in “Labour and the Nation”? Where is the Employment and Development Board which was to take a lead in scientifically developing the National estate? Where are there signs of the harnessing to the State of the great Civil Servants who had such invaluable experience of mobilising the nation’s resources during the war?

But provided all this is remedied, Mr. Thomas must still fail unless he tackles the problem far more fundamentally than there is any indication of his doing at present.”

Because unemployment is fundamentally necessary to capitalism it must of necessity be dealt with fundamentally. Because it is the working-class that suffers from unemployment, only that class can deal with it fundamentally.

Because Mr. Thomas has no mandate from the workers to interfere with the basis of capitalism he can only attempt to palliate the evil. What is the difference between him and his friends of the “New Leader“? Merely a difference in the kind and the number of reforms.

Mr. Thomas, in order to pose as the friend of the unemployed, provides work for some of them out of the arrears of his predecessors in office. A system of fast and heavy motor traffic has been allowed to grow up on roads totally unsuited for it. The ever-mounting total of casualties has already forced Governments to act, but in a sluggish and inadequate fashion. Mr. Thomas has made a virtue of necessity; more than half the work he is so ingeniously (?) providing would have been done years ago but that capitalists and capitalist governments lack foresight and directive ability—the very qualities they boast of possessing.

“Mr. Thomas,” says the “New Leader,” “during the next few months may put some 50,000 people into employment— but at the same time rationalisation is putting others out of employment with increasing rapidity. Poor Mr. Thomas is like a man pouring water into a pail without a bottom.”

This is putting it mildly. Labour-saving machinery, new methods and rationalisation are all utilised in Mr. Thomas’ schemes, as well as the world over. Their effect is such that all the reforms conceived by the I.L.P., plus the good will of the capitalists—if that were possible—could not prevent unemployment increasing. What of other reforms? A Minimum Wage ! Capitalists will always pay that and no more without compulsion. Increase the Dole ! Then it is still a dole and must remain inadequate. Children’s Allowances ! On top of present wages ? Not at all likely while capitalists pay wages. These and many other reforms advocated by the I.L.P. have been exposed in the columns of the SOCIALIST STANDARD.

Careful examination by the workers would prove their worthlessness. Those who advocate them do so with the ultimate object of doing what Mr. Thomas is doing : pouring water into a pail with no bottom, for a Minister’s salary and a place in the limelight.

The “Daily News” (14/11/29), commenting on Mr. Thomas’ failure, says :

“What the vast mass of the electors are thinking about all the time, however they may vote and however they may pray, is how they are to get work, how they are to keep it, or how they are to bear the burdens, which in one form or another the existence of a vast army of unemployed people imposes upon them.”

What is the natural deduction? That the vast mass of the workers are deeply concerned in a solution of unemployment. Not merely in some temporary expedient that will tide them over a winter, or bring the figures back to pre-war level. The need of the capitalist class is a normal army of unemployed, to drive their wage-slaves in the mad race for markets through the cheapening of commodities. The need of the workers is release from the nightmare of unemployment and assurance of the necessaries of life.

Capitalism in its competitive struggle shortens the labour-time required to produce all commodities; with the twin results of increasing unemployment and perpetual surfeiting of markets.

But unemployment is only one of the evils of modern society. Alongside it is a shortage, throughout the working-class, of all those things necessary to human well-being : houses, clothes, pure food, time and opportunities for recreation and enjoyment, etc.

This is the greatest contradiction in the history of human society. The vast mass of the people are in perpetual anxiety about their necessaries of life, or actually deprived of them. Yet millions all over the world are forced to remain idle and unprovided for when their labour, applied to the nature-given materials, could more than supply all needs.

It is no wonder that Mr. Thomas has failed. No one man, no government can remove, or even permanently remedy, unemployment. The problem is an indication of the underlying poverty and insecurity of the whole working-class. All are affected. The call for a conference of parties can only result in more water being poured into a pail without a bottom.

As all are affected, all must interest themselves. The need is great. It is for a working-class movement, intelligent, organized, and consciously directed towards controlling governmental powers, that the means of life may be owned by the people and controlled by them. Only by this means can unemployment be removed and only by the work ing class can it be achieved.


(Socialist Standard, December 1929)

Leave a Reply