1940s >> 1947 >> no-516-august-1947

Notes by the Way: Blood and Coal


Blood and Coal
The Centralia Coal Company, charged with wilful neglect in connexion with the death of 111 miners by reason of an explosion in one of its mines on March 25 last, was fined $1,000 to-day in the county court at Nashville, Illinois. The penalty was the maximum provided by law. (Times, 9/7/47). .
(1,000 dollars is about £250).Frederick Engels and Manchester

  “It is an excellent suggestion which was made in the Manchester City Council yesterday, that the city’s new block of flats in Hulme should bear the name of Engels House. Of all the eminent people who have made Manchester their home it could well be argued that Engels had most influenced the course of history, both by his own writing and by his alliance with Karl Marx.” (From an editorial in the Manchester Guardian, 3/7/47).

What Manchester thought of Engels when he was alive and what Engels would now think of the City Council, is another story.

The Independence of Small Nations after the War to Make Them Safe
The Manchester Guardian makes the following comment on the position of East European countries “persuaded” by Russia not to attend the Paris Conference of the West European States.

  “There is no pretence that pressure has not been applied, and in the cases of Czechoslovakia and Finland it has been ostentatious; their Governments have suffered a public humiliation. The West will have only sympathy with the plight of these countries and regret that they have ‘slipped into the position of subordinate countries deprived of their independence.’ Their hopes of rebirth as free democracies have been disappointed and they now bitterly realise that they have exchanged a German overlordship for a Russian.” (Manchester Guardian, 12/7/47).

“Payment by Results”
Many trade unions have fought for years against the introduction of systems of payment by results. It has remained for a trade union Minister of Labour in a Labour Government to encourage such systems. Mr. George Isaacs, Minister of Labour, declared in the House of Commons on July 8th, 1947: “We are asking industry to examine methods of payment by results and to adopt them wherever possible.” (Manchester Guardian, 9/7/47).

When it is possible for the employers to lengthen hours of work that is normally the method used by them to extract more work from the workers. With restrictions of hours under the Factory Acts the same purpose was served by going over to systems of payment by results. At the present time the Government is encouraging the introduction of double day-shifts and if, as is proposed, the two shifts are restricted to the period between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., the hours on each shift will be eight a day less half-an-hour for meals and it will normally be confined to five days a week according to the recommendation of the Committee on the Double Day Shift System. Hence the renewed demand for systems of payment by results. Another factor at the present time is the relatively small amount of unemployment. When unemployment is heavy the threat of the sack is the principle goad to keep the workers working at full pressure. Now that that pressure is for the time being weakened another has to be found and the Labour Government finds it.

And if that is not sufficient Lord Hyndley, in the newly nationalised coal industry, threatens another. Speaking of unofficial strikes at the Conference of the National Union of Mineworkens he said:—

   “It is our intention . . .  to deal rigorously with all flagrant cases . . . To re-introduce prosecution under the law would be a most unpalatable decision to the Board, but failing a real alternative there will be no other course open to us.” (Times, 10/7/47).

The Profits “Fallacy”
Speaking at a dinner of the Federation of Property Owners on February 5th Sir John Anderson “gave warnings against the fallacy which led to the ‘ widespread belief ’ that there were large resources still to be tapped for the benefits of labour.” (Daily Telegraph, 6/2/47).

On April 27th, in the Observer, the City Editor wrote at length to explain away the increase of profits of Imperial Chemical Industries from £4,770,062 in 1945, to £7,171,109 in 1946. He explained that £1,700,000 of the increase was due to unnecessarily large provision having been made for taxation in previous years, and he showed that while I.C.I.’s expenditure on wages and salaries in 1946 was £30,500,000 its net profit (excluding the £1,700,000) was only £5,900,000.

Perhaps he would now like to try his hand with the Monsanto Chemical Co. Their prospectus (Daily Telegraph, 12/5/47) when raising new capital showed that their 1946 profits before charging Income Tax were £426,000 and the number of workers employed is 1,500. This shows a profit of £284 a year per worker employed —about £5 10s. 0d. a week. The company’s 5s. shares now stand at over £3.

Nationalisation of Railways In Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesia has an anti-Labour Party government, the United Party being in power with 23 seats against the seven seats held by the Labour Party In opposition. Its railway system is privately owned, the British South Africa Company having a controlling interest.

The Southern Rhodesian government has just raised £32,000,000 in London for the purpose of acquiring the share capital of the railway company.

Yet there are still Labour supporters who imagine that nationalisation was invented by their party and is something designed to benefit the workers. The capitalists were nationalising, when they deemed it to be in their interest as a class, before the Labour Party had been born.

Our Country
The following, under the heading “Village for Sale,” appeared in the Daily Herald (1/7/47).

  “Another English village is likely, I hear, to be offered for sale complete. It is Woolstone, one of the loveliest little villages of Berkshire, tucked into an elm-planted fold in the downs below the White Horse . . .
“Woolstone belongs to the Misses Butler, who live there. They seek a purchaser who will keep the village intact and unspoiled,”

 

Edgar Hardcastle