Points for Propagandists: Whose Savings?
At frequent intervals we are reminded by capitalist apologists of the sums of money owned by workers and deposited in Savings Banks and similar institutions. The amounts themselves, although large in the aggregate, represent only a small fraction of the amounts owned by the capitalist minority of the population, and those who accept the figures have never attempted to show that the savings in question really do belong to members of the working class. Now comes Mr. T. S. Ashton, Reader in Currency and Finance at Manchester University, and shows that, in the main, they do not. The information was given by him in a paper which he read on Wednesday, January 15th, to the Manchester Statistical Society, reported in the Manchester Guardian on the following day (January 16th, 1930). Mr. Ashton agreed that the majority of the Post Office Savings Bank and Trustee Savings Bank accounts are held by workers, but he then showed that the total deposits, on. the other hand, are largely concentrated in a few accounts held by non-workers. In 1919 four Trustee Savings Banks analysed their accounts with the following results : At Kirkcaldy, 60 per cent. of the depositors had deposits averaging less than £10 per head, and all their deposits together amounted to less than one twentieth part of the total deposits; 82 per cent. of the depositors held together only a little over a quarter of the total deposits.
At Paisley, 10,000 depositors owned together only 3 per cent. of the deposits (£32,000), while 700 large depositors held £764,000, including holding of stock.
Mr. Ashton stated that the position with regard to Post Office Savings Banks is similar to that of the Trustee Savings Banks, and there has been no essential change since 1919. The Manchester Guardian accepts Mr. Ashton’s conclusions.
# # # #
Labour Government Waiting For “Prosperity.”
We have asked when the Labour Government intend to provide the benefits which it promised to give to the workers in the shape of social reforms. Mr. Snowden, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has answered the question.
He gave a wireless broadcast on April 15th and his address was reported in the Daily Telegraph on the following day. He said :—
I have held all my life that the happiness of the people can be vastly improved by great schemes of social reform and national reconstruction. I believe that the distribution of the national wealth calls for reform. I believe also that these vital improvements are only possible out of revived and prosperous industry from which our national revenue is derived. (Italics ours.)
But the only respect in which industry, as a whole, is unprosperous is in respect of the poverty of the workers—both employed and unemployed.
The employing class collectively have never been other than prosperous, and the workers have never been other than poor.
All, then, that Mr. Snowden offers is a promise to help the workers at some time unspecified when they are prosperous and will not need help.
We would add that capitalism, whether left to its own devices or aided by the Labour Government, will never bring about that result.
# # # #
Marx versus Maxton.
Mr. Maxton, Chairman of the I.L.P., is pleased on occasion to describe himself as a Marxist in spite of his transparent ignorance of Marxian theories.
The disservice he does to Socialist propaganda is well illustrated by a statement made by him in debate with the Hon. Oliver Stanley, M.P. In this debate, reported in the Daily Herald on 27th February, 1930, Mr. Maxton made the assertion that “the manual workers produced the real wealth, and it was produced in no other way.”
Although his attention was drawn to this in a letter which the Herald published a few days later, Mr. Maxton did not question the accuracy of the report.
His statement was seized upon by the daily press and use was made of it to ridicule Marx. The Daily Express in particular published a letter from a correspondent denouncing Mr. Maxton’s statement as an “absurd Marxian doctrine” (the Daily Express, 5th March). A letter to the Daily Express pointing out that Marx quite clearly rejects the view attributed to him was not published, but a day or two later the Daily Express inserted another letter repeating the untruth.
Marx deals with the question in Capital, Vol.I., Chapter IV., section 3 (“Purchase and Sale of Labour Power “). He wrote:—
I use the term labour power or capacity for labour to denote the aggregate of those bodily and mental capabilities existing in a human being, which he exercises whenever he produces a use-value of any kind. (Capital: Allen & Unwin Edition, page 154.)
It is a pity that Mr. Maxton cannot give his errors some other label.
# # # #
Is Parliament Too Slow?
It is often urged that Parliament as a machine is too unwieldy and slow. This criticism is usually based upon the disappointing results of legislation when judged from the standpoint of some or other group of electors. The critics forget that the failure of those who control the parliamentary machine to do something for the workers is not evidence of defective machinery, but of lack of intention. Even if the machine is at present defective, those who control it can always alter it if the electors want it altered.
General Seeley has, however, recently disclosed how speedy Parliament can be when those who control it really want it to be speedy.
General Seeley was Secretary of State for War in 1912, and in view of the anticipated war with Germany, Sir John French and Sir Henry Wilson wanted an increase in the Secret Service Fund and the passing of a more stringent Official Secrets’ Act. They wanted the Bill passed through all its stages in one sitting. The Speaker of the House of Commons (Mr. Lowther) and the Clerk of the House said it was “contrary to every Parliamentary precedent and to every principle of sound government.” Nevertheless, it was done and the Bill was introduced, put through its second reading and its Committee stage, and given the Royal assent, all within 24 hours (having previously passed the Lords). Two or three M.P.’s, who tried to speak on the Bill were pulled down by their coat tails.
General Seeley’s disclosures are made in his book of reminiscences, “Adventure” (Published by Heinemann’s, 21/-).
# # # #
Bombs Are Cheap.
The Labour Party and the Air Force.
A debate took place in the House of Lords on April 9th on the use, of the Air Force for “police” work in the outlying parts of the Empire.
“Police” work is a polite way of describing the forcible suppression of native races who resent British rule.
In the debate military and naval authorities raised objections to the use of the Royal Air Force for this purpose. The Earl of Cavan and Viscount Plumer raised the amusing objection that bombing from the air “hurts guilty and innocent alike” and “leaves bitterness behind” (Daily Telegraph, 10th April). It has remained for these military men to discover that high explosive shells fired many miles away are cute enough to select the “guilty” victims and leave the “innocent” untouched.
The Labour Party’s Minister for Air, Lord Thomson, defended his policy.
As an airman he ridiculed the naval and military arguments on the inhumanity of air warfare. He could not see the inhumanity of a bomb as compared with a shell. The question for him was efficiency and cheapness, and if the bomb satisfied that test he was for the bomb. (Daily Telegraph, April 10.)
# # # #
The Benefits of Capitalist Civilisation.
Mr. H. J. Greenwall, special correspondent of the Daily Express in Morocco, has been writing up the benefits which the French occupation has brought to the poor, untutored Moors. The work of the French is based, he says, upon “what Great Britain had accomplished in other climes (Daily Express, 10th April, 1930).
The French have abolished slavery. “Before the French conquest of Morocco the slave trade flourished, and in some parts of this country there were what might be literally termed slave studs, where slaves were bred by the pashas of the cities for sale. Since the French established a protectorate here there have been no public slave markets. Slaves may be freed on their own request.”
Now that the bad old days of slavery have been abolished by the chivalrous French capitalist, the Moors have entered into a new and better world, not only the men, but also the children.
Labour, of course, is very cheap, and the exploitation of child labour in some industries takes one’s breath away. I visited a carpet factory here. . . . the first thing that struck me was the number of tiny children, from eight to twelve years of age, working in the factory, sitting in front of the looms. They are paid per knot, and their baby fingers make knots in the twinkling of an eye.
The fathers were so unappreciative of capitalist civilisation that they resisted the French troops. It is to be hoped that the children will some day appreciate the value of being kept out of mischief from the age of eight, and saved from slavery in order to sit at a loom in a factory.
# # # #
Wealth and Directive Ability.
The Daily Express correspondent in New York tells an interesting story about the relationship between the wealth and the alleged superior grains of the capitalist class. (See Daily Express, 18th March, 1930.)
Mrs. Ida A. Flagler is the widow of the late Mr. Henry M. Flagler. He left his money to her, but she had the misfortune to become insane and was sent to a mental home in 1898. She then had property worth £200,000. This property has in the meantime grown in value to the enormous sum of £3,219,000 and her income alone is £l25,000 a year.
As the Daily Express correspondent cannot in this case attribute the increase to its owner’s “directive ability” he calls it a “natural growth.” When we find nature-given material transforming itself by “natural growth” into food, clothing, houses, ships, motor-cars, etc., without the expenditure of mental and physical energies by the workers who at present carry on industry, we shall be prepared to share the Daily Express correspondent’s belief in the miraculous power of money to multiply itself. Until then, we shall continue to believe, in accordance with the facts of everyday experience, that the wealth of the rich is produced by the brains and brawn of the working class.