Answers to Correspondents
Equal Pay for Equal Work
Mr. J. Bolge (S.E.20) asks: “What is the Socialist solution for the problem of ‘unequal pay’ ?” And adds: “ Perhaps there is none under the present system.” He has anticipated our reply. The employer is not interested in abstract principles of equality, but in getting the kind of workers he wants as cheaply as possible. If he finds that large numbers of suitable applicants for a particular kind of work are available, he takes advantage of this to force down wages, and trade unions can only offer a limited amount of resistance to pressure in such circumstances. Mr. G. B. Shaw —in splendid isolation—advocates equal wages for everyone, but nobody supposes that this is practicable. Neither the workers nor the capitalists desire it.
Various groups of people advocate other schemes in the name of “equality.” The best known are the advocates of “equal pay for men and women,” duly qualified by the words “for equal work.” They have in mind the cases where men and women work side by side, yet the man is more highly paid. This they say is “unfair”; to which men reply that “equal” wages are equally unfair, because of the married man’s greater financial responsibilities. Generally speaking, however, the advocates of equal pay for men and women do not ask that charwomen should receive equal pay with women teachers, nor do the opponents of it favour equal pay for male bus drivers and bank clerks. In defence of their inconsistency, both groups raise the question of the so-called “value of work,” but this is pure illusion. There is no way in which the so-called “value” of one kind of work can be measured against that of another kind.
Dustmen and doctors both perform services which are very useful to those who benefit by them, but how can the usefulness of the two be measured and compared? In actual fact, when they talk of “value of work” and “comparative value of work,” what they are really doing is to accept the current extreme contempt for so-called “manual” and “menial” work, and use it as a lever to get increased wages for those kinds of work which in capitalist eyes are less despicable. The capitalistically minded teacher, or bank clerk, or chemist making poison gas, sneers at the dustman, and claims that his work is “more valuable” and should, therefore, be better paid.
The only solution for the friction and resentments aroused among workers by the wages system and its illogical workings is not a differently regulated wages system, but the abolition of the wages system—i.e., Socialism.
Mr. Ralph Oder (New York). We have your inquiry about the conclusion of the article on page 178 of the December, 1938, issue. It is certainly ambiguous. The meaning it was intended to convey is that the Socialist movement, in fighting to achieve Socialism, is at the same time safeguarding democracy.
Mr. Graham Boatfield (Ashford). For statements on “Collective Security” and “War for democracy,” see THE SOCIALIST STANDARD for October, 1938, and February, 1939.
Mr. L. S. Chell (N.W.9). We will endeavour to get an article on the subject in the near future.
Mr. W. V. Andrews (Wickford). Different economists and statisticians use different definitions of “National Income” according to the purpose for which they are to be used. All of their definitions include both profits and wages. You will find a statement on the subject in Chapter .I of “The National Income,” by Colin Clark (MacMillan & Co., 1932), and in “The National Income,” by Bowley & Stamp (Clarendon Press, 1927).
Mr. R. Mead (High Wycombe). The basis of your criticism of our attitude towards the Bolshevists is your belief that Russia “is undoubtedly striving towards, and will soon attain, real Communism.” If you will give us the reasons for your belief we will examine them.
You are wrong in saying that the S.P.G.B. opposes Popular Fronts simply because they are not composed of Socialists. The question is whether Popular Fronts can succeed in achieving what is claimed for them. We say no. Incidentally, we notice that you believe a “so-called Dictatorship is inevitable” in order to achieve Socialism. How do you square this with your support of Popular Fronts, which are intended to preserve democracy?
(Socialist Standard, May 1939)