1940s >> 1944 >> no-482-october-1944

By the Way

Concern for Workers
As everyone knows, there is a most terrible housing crisis in London now. The newspapers are full of appeals to the authorities to get something done about it. The Government has brought thousands of building workers from the provinces and arranged for them to work a 65-hour week, Mr. J. J. Mallon, the Warden of Toynbee Hall, has written to the Times pointing out that long hours under modern conditions do not make for greater production.

Let Mr. Mallon speak for himself: —

To the Editor of the Times,
Sir,—It is disquieting to learn that building operatives are to work 65 hours a week on first-aid repairs to houses in the London area. Even though the arrangement is to apply only for three weeks, it is deplorable and against the teaching of all industrial experience. The Regional Joint Committee for London express the view that the Government is “ill advised to propose such hours,” and suggest “that the maximum hours of work should not exceed 60.” Sixty hours are also too many. If 55 or even fewer hours are worked more will be done.
For nearly 40 years as a member of innumerable trade boards and other industrial bodies I have had to do with hours of employment. When these hours are excessive they tend to lessen rather than increase production, to add to illness, accidents, and absenteeism, and so to fatigue the worker as to do him cumulative injury. The reduction of excessive hours always leads to greater production. Surely the example of America, where miracles of war production have been achieved, should not be disregarded. Early in their associated war efforts the relevant American Government departments decided in favour of an eight-hour day and a 18-hour week “as the best working schedule for sustained efficiency in most industrial operations.” The results of their decision fully justify it. The Government should reconsider the 65 hours proposal.
Yours sincerely, J. J. MALLON, TOYNBEE HALL, 28, Commercial Street, E.I. July 26.”
—(Times, July 28, 1944.)

Mr. H. C. Harland, the President of the Master Builders’ Association, has written to the Times to confirm Mr. Mallon’s verdict. The point that Socialists are concerned with is that Mr. Mallon and his apparently kindly well-meaning fellow Lib.-Labourals are not really worried about the worker, as such, at all. They reduce hours and give medical treatment, holidays, music while you work, etc., in the same way as one puts expensive oil into a motor engine—to make it run better.

They are not the first or the only ones to realise that the old big stick methods of treating the workers are out of date.

Even King Farouk of Egypt is busily running round telling the tale to the workers—a very good reference for Egyptian workers, incidentally. The Times for July 31st records his “visit to the M.I.S.R. Co.’s spinning and weaving (cotton) works, where he had an enthusiastic reception from 26,000 employees.” “In an address to the board of directors he emphasised the importance of the Egyptian worker, and impressed upon them the necessity of providing better living and working conditions. He invited representatives of the workers to the royal table and made a gift of £1,000 to their benevolent society.” “King Farouk is missing no opportunity of establishing closer and more personal relations with the humbler classes of his subjects.” (Times, July 31st.)

Naturally, British capitalists don’t call representatives of their workers to their table to present them with £1,000. They get Sir William Beveridge to do it. The idea is always the same—to get the workers to work better. “All that glitters is not gold.” Working men who allow this talk about concern for them, by capitalist Lib.-Lab. politicians, to delude them into supporting reforms of capitalism will get improved capitalism, not Socialism—that is, increased exploitation and relative poverty.

* * *

“How U.S. Airmen are Taught New Technique
Under this heading a London evening paper reports that mobile training units, miniature technical schools on wheels, are now following U.S. airmen as bases move deeply into France. “Though airmen are fully trained before coming to Europe, continual aircraft modifications due to experience in battle make it necessary for mechanics to study constantly.” The training has speeded up aircraft repair so much that the director of the training units has sent mobile units to every war theatre in which U.S. aircraft are fighting.

What is happening to-day on the battlefields happens yesterday and to-morrow in industry. The complex nature of the productive methods developed by capitalism force mechanics to “study constantly.”

When mechanics are studying constantly nothing on earth can prevent them eventually contacting and completely grasping the Socialist idea—which is the application of study to problems of society. The reply to those who claim that “the workers will never learn,” is “look around you”—the workers are learning at aeronautical speed, every day, at their work.

* * *

Last Days of the Barricades
A great deal has been written and said about the insurrection in Warsaw. That the plight of the insurgents is rather pitiable can hardly be disputed.

Most ironical of all, the high-priests of insurrection, at all times, in any places, during the past twenty-five years, the Moscow politicians, are supporting their own special Committee of Liberation as against the British sponsored Council of National Unity of the Polish Government in London. Incidentally, the London Council of National Unity is more “radical” than the Committee of Liberation, making play with the phrase “socialisation of industry.”

For this reason, Pravda says that “the Red Army has always warned people against such risings. Handfuls of men armed only with fiery sentiments and cold steel have no chance against modern weapons in battles for large cities.” (Our emphasis.) (The Observer, August 20th.)

To this the Poles reply that the Soviet radio had, in fact, on several occasions shortly before the rising, called on the Polish people, and especially the people of Warsaw, to rise against the Germans.

Apart from this, such statements from the Bolshevik leaders of to-day are the clearest confirmation of the Socialist Party’s repeatedly expressed view on insurrection. Years were spent proving how the Russian Communists were distorting the writings of Engels—for example, in his well-known preface to “The Class Struggles in France”—to try and justify their unprincipled attempts to embarrass foreign governments by riots and street fights.

As if the Soviet’s statement on the futility of insurrection in Warsaw were not enough, further confirmation is to hand from Paris : —

“The Patriots had a very had time, but they recovered and managed to form a defence line in the streets near the building with the aid of barricades built of anything they could lay their hands on.
The barricades were not strong enough, backed by our small arms, to hold the tanks. The German armour smashed them down, then went through the Patriots, firing right and left and affecting shocking slaughter. We had not the weapons to prevent them. . . . All Paris is waiting for the Allies to enter the city and clear out the German tyrants.” (Star, August 25th, 1944; our italics.)

It may be added that in Paris, as in Warsaw, practically the entire population was in support of the revolt; arms had been freely distributed by parachute by the Allied Air Forces. Yet both failed completely, though the circumstances could not have been more favourable.

The Editors of Pravda are quite right. “Handfuls of men with fiery sentiments and cold steel have no chance against modern weapons in battles for large cities.”

In other words, without the all-powerful State machine, with its complex armed forces, revolts are doomed to disaster. And yet there are still “direct action” maniacs in public places urging the workers to commit suicide in barricade revolts.

The statement of Pravda will be chalked up for those post-war C.P. and “Unemployed” fire-brands who will once again urge workers to bash their heads against the State machine.

The Socialist Party urges the workers to think before they act, and then vote intelligently for Socialism, thus giving incidentally an infallible indication of the progress of the Socialist idea and the intellectual development of the working class.

With a Parliamentary majority it is the capitalists who will be faced with the prospect of illegal barricades, which the Socialist controlled army and air force will go through like cardboard, if they ever get put up.

To those who claim that the capitalists will close down Parliament before the Socialists can attain the majority, the reply is that’s their funeral—if they are ever stupid enough to do so.

* * *

Easier for Lord Latham
The evening papers (The Star, September 7th, 1944) inform us that one man whose task has been easier by the relaxation of the black-out is Lord Latham, who since 1940 has been mainly responsible for Civil Defence in the L.C.C. area. He is Chairman of the L.C.C.

By the queerest coincidence, in addition to being Chairman of the L.C.C. and in charge of Civil Defence in London, Lord Latham hapens to be Chairman of the London and Thames Haven Oil Wharves, Ltd. Lord Latham, as Chairman of the L.C.C., is very concerned in the re-planning of London. According to the Evening Standard (August 29th), Lord Latham is also very interested in the port of Havre. The Company of which he is Chairman owns about (about) £1,000,000 of property there. “It is the largest shareholder in an oil installation, a hotel, and wharves. Now the shares, like those of other concerns with interests in Occupied Europe, are on the rise.”

Following is the City Editor’s report on the Company (Evening Standard, August 28, 1944) : —

London and Thames Haven
Feature in the market recently has been the further rise in the shares of London and Thames Haven Oil Wharves. These 4s. shares are now up to 15s. 6d., which compares with a low of 1s. 1d. in 1941. This price gives the Ordinary shares a market valuation of around £3,100,000, which compares with a market valuation of around £5,700,000 in the years when the company was paying tax-free dividend of 10 per cent, plus a less tax bonus of four. Since then the capital has been written down to provide for losses.
The company has paid no dividends for six years, but secured earnings last year of 3.8 per cent. tax free. The prospect is that the company will shortly recover the property which it owns at Le Havre. It has been improving its position steadily and has reduced its bank overdraft to £331,000. The directors are considering issuing more capital to pay off the bank overdraft, and no doubt, once the French position is more clearly seen, some action may be taken along these lines.”

Mr. Churchill has a word for this. He said the war “as it progresses becomes less ideological.” In this case about £1,000,000 less.

* * *

Lend to the End (of What?)
”Peace Savings Soon.—Sir Harold Mackintosh, Chairman of the National Savings Committee, said last night at the jubilee dinner of Birmingham Municipal Bank that the time would soon come when the war-savings campaign would become a peace-savings campaign.”— (Manchester Guardian, September 2nd, 1944.)

* * *

“Out of the Mouths of Babes and Sucklings”
The New York Times Magazine, April 30th, carried an article by a young British evacuee, Anselm Acker, describing his impressions of American life, in the course of which this schoolboy says of New York: “The sight in the subways, when the people are returning from work, sitting and standing like sodden bales of hay with their mentality apparently all drained from them,” displeased him. Good for you, young Anselm, you are a perspicacious youth, whose keen eye will assist him much in penetrating the surface to see the real nature of the things beneath.

No wonder American magazines carry ads. for “No-Dozies,” guaranteed to keep you awake. And the comic strip of the Philadelphia Tribune shows a small child asking its mother : “Mom, what do these candies do to me ? Nothing, Son. What, don’t make me regular? No, Son. Don’t make my complexion clear? No, Son. Don’t make my breath sweet? No, Son. What! you mean I can eat ’em because I like ’em? ”

All the most simple elementary things of life are utterly commercialised and distorted. Everything is “packed,” “processed.” American troops are issued “Energy” crackers. Ham becomes Spam. Life is in a packet or carton.

If you would like to turn up the writings of a man who never went to New York, Anselm, by the name of Karl Marx, who wrote over sixty years ago, you will find that he said :—.

“Within the capitalist system all methods of raising the social productiveness of labour are bought at the cost of the individual labourer . . . they mutilate the labourer into a fragment of a man, degrade him to the level of an appendage of a machine, destroy every remnant of charm in his work, and turn it into hated toil; they estrange from him the intellectual potentialities of the labour process, in the same proportion as science is incorporated in it as an independent power : they distort the conditions under which he works, subject him during the labour process to a despotism the more hateful for its meanness; they transform his life-time into working time, and drag his wife and child beneath the wheels of the juggernaut of capital: as capital accumulates, the lot of the labourer, be his pay high or low, must grow worse.”—(“Capital,” Vol. I., chapter 23.)

Nowhere is this clearer in the world to-day than New York.


Leave a Reply