1940s >> 1944 >> no-473-january-1944

Our Message For 1944

If there is one undisputed truth it is this: that the workers do not make wars, though they bear the main part of the burden of them, both in the fighting and in the miseries that flow from wars. When wars are being projected or are being fought, one of the principal aims of the rulers on both sides is to convince their working class that they have an overwhelming interest in success and the defeat of the “enemy,” otherwise they might not know. They have to be told! The reason the workers have to be convinced is that no modern war is possible without the active participation of the workers. When the international working class understands the real cause of wars, the private property basis of modern society, wars will be abolished.

We are now entering upon a new year with a prophecy by Mr. Bevin ringing in our ears. Speaking in the House of Commons on December 10, he said:

  “For fifty years after the peace the nation will not be able to afford wasted manpower. If people are lost to industry through sickness or injury, be warned, ‘you will have lost the war in spite of all the victories in the field.’ ”

(Daily Mail, 11/12/43.)

The “Mail” published it under the heading “50 Years’ Labour Shortage.”

If this is what so many have lost homes and lives for one could legitimately ask if the end were worth the means. But Mr. Bevin’s prophecy will not fare any  better than Mr. Clynes’ more modest estimate just after the last war. We were then told that it would take over 12 years to repair the wastage of the war, but in less than 18 months production had overtaken effective demand, and there were more than 2,000,000 unemployed. And it will be the same this time.

This insistence on working hard after the war, however, is becoming more and more general, and it has a very significant reason behind it. It is the same reason that lies behind the allegation that workers are getting high wages now. Capitalism is proceeding true to type. After the last war the employers forced wage reductions and Labour Leaders pleaded with the workers to work harder on the grounds that industry had been so badly hit by the war that it could not afford to pay even the relatively poor wages for which the workers asked. The wage standards of miners, railwaymen, builders and others were rapidly attacked and reduced. The miners’ lock-out, leading to the “General Strike” of 1926, which left the workers almost defenceless at the mercy of the employers, was the final outcome and an example of what the workers gained from their sacrifices during the war. The employers, on the other hand, were able to accumulate enough wealth to build up large fortunes—and engage in another world war.

The same process is again foreshadowed. As soon as the war is over we will be faced with similar appeals to work harder to repair the damage of war. We will be told that workers are lazy and dirty. That it is no use giving them decent houses with bathrooms because they will keep the coal in the bath—and so forth. In fact, flimsy as present-day houses are, we are promised flimsier ones in future by a committee of the Lambeth Council who suggest that “future dwellings should be of less ‘permanent’ construction than those of to-day. . . . The reason they give, in their report, is that this would save money and prevent houses becoming obsolete by modern standards, although remaining structurally sound.” (“Evening News,” 18/12/43.)

The workers are quite obviously not lazy. When they are not working they are chasing jobs. When they are working they are ministering to the wealth of the employers. As the employers, as a class, do not work they must draw their incomes from the work of the workers. The workers are not only not dirty but it is amazing how so many can keep clean and have tidy homes when one considers their working conditions and the difficulty they have in making ends meet—even when the whole of the family are working. One of the tragedies of modern times is the spectacle of young people getting nice clothes and homes out of meagre wages and at considerable sacrifice. A society worth living in should be able to satisfy the dreams of youth without compelling them to suffer pains and penalties that embitter their later years. At the moment of writing there is an appeal coming over the wireless for contributions to a fund to aid crippled children. In savage societies the crippled were taken care of by the tribe. In modern society they depend upon the voluntary subscriptions of the poor. What a pointed condemnation of the society of our day.

The war has had far-reaching effects in many directions; much more so than the last great war. The national line-up will be vastly different from what it has been during the past century. Smuts has recently given a clear indication of this. The British Empire as an imperial unit is quite plainly a thing of the past. Although they may still form part of the same group, the Dominions are coming into their own as economic and political units. The struggle for sources of supply, spheres of influence, and markets will he profoundly affected by the new forces that the war has released; not only technical forces, but also the growth of new national units as well as the disintegration of the old.

Much more potent with meaning from the Socialist point of view is the effect the war has had upon workers. Thousands of young men and women have had an intensive scientific training in many directions associated with aircraft, wireless, chemistry and engineering. While on the one hand this education raises their intellectual standard and makes them better able to help lay the basis of a reasonable social system; on the other hand it will make them an extremely difficult problem for the capitalist when industry changes over to peace-time production and a large proportion of them becomes redundant. They will swell the resentful section of the workers who have to be placated, yet whose problems are insoluble under Capitalism. Wrestle how they will, the solutions offered by Capitalism will meet a bolder and colder reception as the worker’s knowledge grows, and eventually, in spite of Beveridge plans, Education plans, and many more plans yet to be born, the workers will come to the conclusion that they must take control of their own destinies.Capitalism has made possible an abundant production of the things we need, but its insatiable greed for profit has converted the producers into little more than beasts of burden, disease ridden and with twisted minds and bodies. It is rotten at the root and has soiled, the lives of people wherever it has raised its ugly head. But it has one merit. By bringing each section of the earth into a unified system, producing a wealth of articles for the world at large, it has prepared the ground for a new social system—Socialism—under which the means of production will be owned in common.

The future is promising for the spread of socialist ideas. The restrictions that at present hamper propaganda will have to be lifted, whatever may be the desires or intentions of our social rulers, because a pot that is left on the fire indefinitely will inevitably burst. The new year which we hare just entered should witness considerable progress towards our socialist objective, and it behoves all who sympathise with our outlook to do what they can to “shorten and lessen the birth pangs” of the new social system.