A Word to the Unemployed
The economic forces at work under capitalism tend towards a growing army of unemployed, and the problem is permanent as long as the private ownership of the means of production continues. The increasing use and complexity of machinery, and the economies in organisation, are factors that enable production to meet the needs of consumption by the work of ever fewer and fewer workers. There used to be a possibility of temporarily easing the situation by the opening up of new markets. Now that the whole world has been drawn into the net of Capitalist production the prospect of “new markets” in foreign countries is disappearing.
Each national group is speeding up and rationalising production to the utmost of its power, and in the process meeting its own basic demands and looking for a market for its surplus. Cutting across this is the operation of the gigantic international trusts which seek to rationalise production and distribution internationally.
In the past, European and American capitalists looked to the huge markets of India, Russia, Turkey and South America as El Dorado’s in which to get rid of their surplus products. These areas are now well marked on the productive map and are rapidly becoming first-class productive units with their own unemployment shadows looming menacingly ahead.
In each of these backward areas the aid of European and American trained experts has been invoked, so that their industrial development is progressing faster than the advanced countries formerly did, as the latter had to do the pioneering.
The future prospect then is one of growing unemployment and growing insecurity for those who were accustomed to believe they held “permanent” jobs. Even the bank clerk, who formerly regarded himself as among the “aristocracy of labour” is being hard hit by the new developments in mechanisation. The number of girls in banks who now, with the aid of machinery, do the work formerly only entrusted to trained men, has increased to such an extent that it has become necessary for the Bank Officers’ Guild to appoint a full-time official to organise them and attend to their welfare.
All the political wire-pulling and programme making cannot overcome this obstacle. The growing insecurity and misery of the workers is solely due to their slave position, to the fact that before they can eat or drink they must sell their working power to a master. It is true a few try to avoid the necessity either by robbing or by trying to live on the crumbs of charity. But both ways are unstable and a glaring illustration of the rottenness at the root of the present order of things. .
Until the workers grasp the elementary facts of their wage-slavery and the utter hopelessness of any solution but Socialism, the unemployment problem and their other ills will continue to increase in aggravation.
In spite of the attempts of blind leaders of the blind to exploit such situations as that arising out of the means test the fact remains that the mass of the workers do not understand their slave position and consequently small temporary ameliorations are sufficient to disperse the apparent revolutionary fervour and battalions of unemployed marchers and rioters fade away. An example of how far the unemployed are from grasping the real position is illustrated by a report in The Star (October 6th) of an incident that occurred at Ilford. The report runs as follows: —
“Eighty unemployed stopped roadmaking work in Eton Road, Ilford, to-day, because, they said the 20 workers were not local men.
The unemployed first marched to the town hall and interviewed the borough surveyor. Then they went to Eton Road, where they called on the foreman to stop his men. This was done without any disturbance.
The job was held up until an arrangement was reached with the contractor that local men should start work to-morrow.
Ilford Council, in their contracts for work of this description, stipulate that 60 per cent, of the men engaged shall be local.”
Here is a blatant illustration of the narrowness bred out of the fight for “immediate ends” beloved of the Communist and the generations of Labour misleaders. One of the elementary principles the worker must grasp, if he wishes to be free, is that local and national boundaries disappear in the great class war of worker and capitalist. The workers of the world have one interest as opposed to the interests of the capitalists and the workers must unite to abolish capitalism and not allow themselves to be split up into warring groups like dogs fighting for the bones thrown to them.
The means test, and various other disabilities that at times press heavily upon sections of the workers are products of capitalism, and the people who put these things into operation have been placed in possession of the power to do so by the overwhelming majority of the workers at elections. While the workers agree by their votes to maintain capitalism it is futile for them to complain about particular evils of the system.
There is only one way in which the employed and the unemployed can obtain lasting amelioration of their lot, and that way is revolutionary political action to bring Socialism to birth out of capitalism.