1940s >> 1949 >> no-544-december-1949

Pounds, Dollars and Poverty

We all like to be flattered, and no doubt the readers of the Daily Herald are no exception. Perhaps then, they were pleased to read in that paper’s leading article (14.10.49) that most voters understood ‘‘devaluation.” The leader continued:

  “The British electorate is not the ignorant, unthinking mass that the Tory Party considers it to be. The people grasped very readily the reasons for devaluation . . .”

Far be it from me to devaluate the intellectual capacity of the electorate, but I wonder how many men-in-the-street would know what to say if asked— “What is devaluation”!


And it even seems that the Daily Herald itself is not doing its utmost to clear away the confusion when we read in the issue of 13.10.49 on Page 1, a quotation from a speech by Sir Stafford Cripps: “Discussing the cost of living, the Chancellor denied that his forecast had been too optimistic. There was no reason for immediate increases (apart from that already made in bread) on account of devaluation.” But on Page 5 (the same day) Lord Hollenden, President of the Wholesale Textile Association is quoted: “In September, he said, cotton cost 10% more than in August, wool 2% and silk 27% more. Since devaluation this rise has been greatly accelerated and costs are leaping.” According to “Time” (3.10.49): “The (British) Government last week raised the price of non-ferrous metals and of such humble objects as pots and pans. The first predictions of a 5% cost-of-living rise shot up to 10%.”


But let’s look at the advantages that devaluation is supposed to give us. We are told that “we” will be enabled to sell “our” goods at cheaper prices on the American and other markets and that this will help to reduce “our” dollar gap.


Now, we will leave it to the economists to say whether this will actually happen or not, but let’s assume it does and that “Britain’s” economic problems are solved—how will this affect the workers?I suppose the best that Sir Stafford Cripps, or any other capitalist politician of any Party, could possibly hope for is that “we” gain precedence in all the markets, that once more “we” become a “creditor” nation and again “ lead the world.”


And of course, “we” did lead the world, during the last century—that era of Britain’s greatest prosperity. And at that time, exactly how prosperous were the workers of Britain? Has the prosperity or otherwise of our national capitalist class ever made any difference to the miserable conditions of the mass of the people who create that prosperity? Do the producers ever get any of it?


The United States is “prosperous” now—but are the workers there any better off relatively than us? At the moment, some American trade unions are fighting for a national minimum wage in the same way as some of the workers in Britain are now doing. Also, according to Charles Luckman, President of Lever Brothers in America, speaking on 20.7.49:—“Twenty-seven million Americans have no kitchen sink, 18 million Americans lack washing machines, 25 million Americans lack vacuum cleaners. 1 million families need new homes this year, 40 million Americans have neither bathtub or shower.” (Quoted in the Western Socialist, August, 1949.)


So you see that, if we are poor its not because we owe America dollars, not because the pound has been devaluated or because we’ve lost “our” Empire; if we have no homes it’s not because our houses were destroyed during the war and if our standard of living is low and if we merely exist, having no opportunity to really live, its not because “our” country is no longer prosperous.


We are poor because we are workers under Capitalism. The workers have no financial interest in “getting Britain on her feet again”; whether our national capitalists are prosperous or not we as workers are always poor and we will always be so until we decide to destroy the system that legalises our exploitation.


Remember, workers, when next you read, for instance, that “Glaxo Laboratories, Ltd., have got C.I.C. consent to a 900% capital bonus” (Herald, 14.10.49) that you and your fellow-workers produced that. But ask for a fixed minimum wage of £5 a week and you are refused.


Your masters aren’t very grateful, are they?Whether the Government is Conservative, Liberal, Labour or Communist, it makes no essential difference to you or me. All these stand for Capitalism. And for the workers, whether we are British, American, German or Russian, that means we will continue to be exploited, continue to work out our lives producing wealth for our master, faced continually with the problems of poverty, periodical unemployment and war.

And there is only one way out.


That is to abolish Capitalism and establish Socialism in its place. End private property society that robs us of the wealth we produce, and establish a world wide society that is based on common ownership and and in which there will be no Capitalist or working classes, no owners and non-owners, no wage workers and no money.


This society is coming, but it will come all the quicker if you join with us in our work for Socialism.We need you, comrade!


Lisa Bryan