1940s >> 1943 >> no-464-april-1943

Why Lord Nuffield looks after the workers

The worker is the lifeblood of capitalism. Without workers, no profits can be made. Efficient and healthy workers are better profit-making instruments than inefficient and unhealthy ones. Modern capitalists are fully conscious of this, hence the various “Welfare” schemes which are the vogue to-day.

As is to be expected, the Nuffield organisation is not behindhand in this development, and. the Electrical Times (March 4th, 1943) gives particulars of “one of the largest workers’ welfare schemes in the country.” Two complete blocks of buildings with a floor space of 7,000 square feet were recently opened. “In one of these,” it is stated, “is housed everything of a general nature appertaining to the well-being of the employees—National Savings, provident club, athletic club, and similar activities.” In the other block of buildings is a wonderfully efficient health centre. This contains an electro-cardiograph, which even many hospitals do not possess, an X-ray installation, sun-ray lamps, and up-to-date dental and optical departments.

Some readers may object that we are prejudiced when we take the view that the object of welfare schemes is to enhance profit. The facts, however, do not allow us to take any other view. The system of society in which we find ourselves to-day has certain features which must be plain to all who are not wilfully blind.

These features are the fact that the means of production—the land, the mines, the factories and the transport services—are the private property of a relatively small number of people, the capitalists, while the great bulk of the population, having no independent means, are compelled to work for the capitalists in order that they may live.

There is no way out, short of begging or stealing, both of which have certain disadvantages, so most people prefer to work, if they can find someone to employ them. The worker works so many hours per week, and in exchange he receives a wage or salary.

This wage is, on the average, sufficient to enable him to keep on working, in an efficient manner, and to enable him to produce and rear offspring. There is, of, course, a natural desire to beget children, but this works very well in the interest of the capitalist, because workers grow old and become less nimble and lose their strength, so there is always a fresh supply of young workers coming along.

It will be noticed that we have used the phrase “in the interest of the capitalist.” Our doing so implies a belief in a clash of interest. But let us not be misunderstood. We do not advocate a clash of interest; we merely notice it as a fact, and here is the proof.

The commodities which the worker produces, but which belong to the capitalist, are sold in a market, and for them the capitalist receives a price.

Between the price which the capitalist receives for the sale of his commodities and the amount which he expends on wages, raw material and plant (depreciation), there is a margin, and that margin is his profit. It will be seen that this margin can be increased by adjustment at either end.

It is perfectly natural for the capitalist to want to do this, and it is equally natural for the worker to object to the part which affects him. Hence, despite any desire to the contrary on either side, there is this clash of interest—what Socialists call the “class struggle.”

But there is another method of increasing profits. If, as a result of more intensive application, workers can produce more commodities in the same amount of time, it will be at once apparent that the margin is increased— the goods sold produce more money, while the workers’ wages remain unchanged.

It is clear, therefore, that it is in the interest of the capitalist that the workers’ energies should be expended in the most sustained and intensive manner possible. This explains the interest of the capitalist in the welfare of his worker.

It explains why he wants to make sure, by means of a medical inspection, that he gets a healthy worker to start off with—one who has a sound heart, for example— and that, when once engaged, he does not lose time through illness.

Hence the marvellous paraphernalia for pulling out his teeth, putting optics on his eyes, and sun-tanning his skin.

It is one of the curious features of modern capitalism that neither the popular nor the technical press, in presenting its latest developments, are able to do so without giving the facts a kind of mental twist.

Thus whether it be the production of planes, music in the factories, social insurance, the bombing of cities, or works welfare schemes, they are always described as if they were in the interest of the workers.

This report in the Electrical Times is no exception, for it says that one reason for the Nuffield scheme was “of course, the wish to do everything possible for the worker for his own sake.” The other reason was “the knowledge that swift diagnosis is the most powerful weapon, not only against serious illness and contagion, but the minor ailments which cause absenteeism of a few days.”

This Nuffield affair also contains a food research department, with a bio-chemist, food dietician and chef. “The problem” it is stated, “of finding the meals which are at once palatable, satisfying, and at the same time conforming to dietetic principles, will be the task of this department. while at the end of every day the directors can know precisely the number of calories served to each worker and the nutritional values, in hard and fast figures, provided for their employees.”

This solicitude for the welfare of the worker reminds us very much of the care which those capitalists who are interested in the turf lavish upon their racehorses. There are, of course, slight differences. A racehorse does not have to worry about making ends meet, about getting clothes for the children, about coupons or rations, or whether he will get a job when the war is over.

In fact, he just doesn’t do any worrying at all. There is another difference between the relationship of the worker and the racehorse to their common master. If a racehorse is no longer wanted, he can be sold, and perhaps eventually finish up in the knacker’s yard, and, in these days, as horse meat.

But if a worker is no longer wanted, he is discharged, and sent about his business.

At all events, times of depression do occur, and all industries are compelled to “release” their workers, as they so euphemistically term it. When this happens, as it will, there is no doubt that Morris Motors will part with regret with the workers upon whom they have lavished such care and attention.

What a pity that they could not be put into refrigerators until wanted again, as one of our contemporaries has suggested.