The Uselessness of Reforms: An Important Admission
Those who oppose Socialism and urge a policy of getting “something now” in the shape of social reforms habitually ignore the strength of the pressure which the employing class are able to bring to bear to force down wages towards the minimum consistent with efficiency.
What is the value to the workers of giving them unemployment pay if the “gift” is accompanied by a reduction in wages? The existence of a large and increasing army of unemployed puts the employers always in the position of being able to secure such readjustments.
In a report on wages in the wool textile industry, Lord MacMillan, appointed by the Labour Government to preside over a court of inquiry, recommends a wage reduction. He uses as one of his justifications for reducing pay the fact that social services have lessened the demands on the workers’ wages. In effect the “gains” secured by the vast efforts of the Labour Party and its supporters over many years are being nullified by reductions in wages. The reforms reduce the workers’ cost of living, but the employers it is who reap the benefit.
Lord MacMillan’s actual words are as follows (quoted in The Times, March 7th) :—
“In former times the prudent workman had to make provision out of his wages for various eventualities, the risk of which is now covered by one or other of what are known as the “social services”. . . . Thus the workman is now insured against ill-health, unemployment, accident, old age, and blindness, and provision is also made for his widows and orphans. In addition money from public sources is provided in connection with the health of mothers and children and the prevention and treatment of disease, as well as for the relief of the destitute and the care of the physically or mentally infirm. … I think it relevant to point out that they play a substantial part in improving the standard of life of the workman and lightening the burden on his wages.”
The “step-at-a-time” politicians of the I.L.P. and the Labour Party are for ever defending themselves on the plea that “half-a-loaf is better than no bread.” The first half-brick which the Labour Government delivered was a 6¼ per cent, reduction in pay for the cotton workers. Now comes a recommendation for a reduction for wool workers, ranging from 3s. to 5s. a week. (Daily Herald, March 8th.) The Herald in an editorial describes this as “a victory from the employer’s point of view.”
We would like to ask in what way “a victory from the employer’s point of view,” ushered in by MacDonald and his party, differs from a similar victory engineered by Baldwin.
And in view of the fact that a majority of the Labour M.P.s are members of the I.L.P. will Mr. Maxton tell us how many half-bricks make one “Socialism in our Time”?