Crime: Its Cause and Cure
“The Times” of 24th February, 1933, quotes a statement by Lt.-Col. W. D. Allan, in the Report of H.M. Inspectors of Constabulary for the year ended 29th September, 1932. He says: —
“During the last few years the police have been confronted with new types of crime which might be termed the shock tactic type well known to everyone, and in addition to this, especially in our large industrial areas, offences against property, with and without violence, have been on the increase. I think this is due to a great extent to unemployment and its consequent results, and it is to be hoped that when trade and employment improve, there will be a corresponding decrease in serious crime.”
One would have thought that, having been sufficiently discerning as to realise that crimes against poverty are mainly due to the poverty of those who perpetrate them, he would have endeavoured to find some solution to the poverty problem—some means of abolishing poverty, so as to do away with its natural outcome—crimes against property. Unfortunately, such an investigation does not come within the scope of the gallant colonel’s duties, and, apart from the pious hope expressed above, he confines himself to recommending changes in the organisation and distribution of the police force, forgetting that so long as the cause remains untouched, all attempts to combat the resultant effects can necessarily result only in changing the form of those effects.
It may be well here to quote two extracts from a speech made by Sir Herbert Samuel, the then Home Secretary, in the House of Commons, on 15th April, 1932: —
“It was characteristic of the movement of crime that fewer offences were committed by elderly people. That was partly due to the enactment of old age pensions and to the improvement of social services generally, which had lifted above the level of actual penury a great number of persons.
A second cause in recent years was the economic depression. A chart showed exactly how, as employment rose and fell, crime rose and fell.”
(Daily Telegraph, 16/4/32.)
Here we have two competent authorities both practically admitting that the major portion of criminal acts (crimes against property) is caused by poverty.
What, then, can be done to abolish poverty? Is it possible to abolish it within the capitalist system? If the capitalist class give the unemployed an allowance sufficiently above starvation level to deter them from taking the risk of infringing capitalist laws, it might also deter them from taking the risk of working! Hence the tendency to limit unemployment payments. Wherever capitalism exists, the aim is to give the unemployed no more than is sufficient to keep them alive.
Hence the poverty of the working class must have its origin in the system of society itself. This system has its basis in the ownership by one class of the means of production—land, mines, and factories—and the production of goods solely for profit, the workers serving merely as instruments in the mode of production, to be cast on one side when they are no longer wanted. Therefore, to abolish poverty, the capitalist system itself must be abolished.
It is to the interest of the workers to achieve this result. This they can only do by organisation within one party pledged to the overthrow of the capitalist system, and its replacement by a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. Such is the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and we invite all those who agree with us to join with us in the common cause.
(Socialist Standard, May 1933)