1940s >> 1943 >> no-468-august-1943

Labour Leader’s Misconception About Socialism

 Mr. Arthur Deakin, the Acting Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, has taken his place among those self-appointed authorities who instruct us about Socialism.

 Trailing along behind Mr. Morrison and Mr. Bevin, he announces (Tribune, May 14th) that the Essential Works Order is not merely a triumph of Trade Unionism, but “a lasting factor” whose retention in industry “Socialists” should support.

 The unanimity with which all these leaders agree that “the existing restrictions must be retained, and even extended.” after the war makes us suspect that they know something.

 If they are to be believed, the postwar world will be very much like the present, with Control of Employment by the National Service Officer, Rationing, Registration, and other “benefits” in full blast.

 Past experience teaches us, nevertheless, that nothing is more uncertain than the post-war world, and the rapid growth of a huge unemployed army will perhaps reduce all their plans and schemes to nought.

 In the meantime, following his master. Mr. Deakin is at pains to produce some plausible tale to slip the Essential Works Order over. He admits that the Order “has not been welcomed, in every case, by the workers.”

 He therefore artfully starts off by claiming that “workers must be conceded property rights in their particular employment.”

“Years of honest service, skilled labour and experience are worth something more than a wage adequate for the day; they must be given an accumulating capital value, realisable in the first of the four freedoms.”

 Socialists will see at once that Mr. Deakin’s knowledge of the economics of capitalism is not enough to cover a pin-point.

 First, Capital is not freedom (either first or fourth) —it is Wealth, used to produce more Wealth, with a view to profit.

Workers cannot own it—if they do, they are NOT workers.

 Mr. Deakin dimly senses this, and says, “Unlike the investors of capital, the investors of labour cannot cash in on any accumulation of wealth they have helped to create.” (Our italics.)

“It is doubtful if this injustice will be remedied within a capitalist structure.”

 That sounds all right. Mr. Deakin even goes further, and says, “I have examined various schemes which, on paper, professed to give the workers an interest in the business. The motive behind all of them was the retention of skilled labour and experience on terms which satisfy the worker only because he is persuaded that he has been accorded, tenuous status as a partner or shareholder. In every case such a concession is fictitious, and should he attempt to exercise the statutory rights of a part-proprietor at inconvenient times, he will find that, his position differs but very slightly indeed from that of an ordinary old-fashioned wage-earner.”

 But that is exactly what The Socialist Standard said at the time of the two Labour Governments, and at the time of the Mond-Turner conference of the T.U.C.

 Mr Deakin, how can you make such statements during the present Fight for Freedom (four freedoms) and Democracy, when Mr. Churchill has officially stated that your leaders are “full partners”? (“Marx To-day,” page 13, H. J. Laski.)

 But now we reach the point. “I want a bond between the worker and the job . . . because of my experience of the horrors of casual employment. For this reason, I, in common with every other responsible trade union leader, welcomed the Essential Work Order.”

“Employers and workers will have to co-operate in making it workable, as something very like a permanency . . . “

 At this point Mr. Deakin actually suggests that National Service Officers may be a feature of Socialist society! “Should we, as Socialists, necessarily oppose the retention in the structure of industry, an officer with similar powers as a lasting factor?”

 Having clearly explained that workers cannot be “partners” of capitalists, he concludes by claiming that “Trade Unions must be accepted as full partners in industry.” He really means Trade Union leaders.

Mr. Deakin is merely repeating, in a very pompous and involved way, what Mr. Bevin has said repeatedly—for example, in the House of Commons on May 31st, 1942:—

      One of the greatest things that would smooth the working of the war would be for industry . . . to accept the basic principle of the Essential Work Order not only for the war, but for after the war.

 We Socialists have to state categorically that Essential Work Orders, etc. (quite apart from the question of their value to Trades Unions), are nothing whatever to do with Socialism.

Those who claim they are besmirch the name of Socialism.

 Essential Work Orders are a strengthening of the apparatus of the Capitalist State. Socialism renders the State machine unnecessary because it abolishes private property and classes. The State is a class institution. There will not be any National Service Officers under Socialism, ordering people about; there will not be any police courts or prisons to commit them to, anyway.

      The working class will substitute, in the course of its development, for the old order of civil society an association which will exclude classes and their antagonism, and there will no longer be political power, properly speaking, since political power is simply the official form of the antagonism in civil society. (The Poverty of Philosophy, Karl Marx, Kerr edition, p. 190.)

In this matter we Socialists prefer the dictum of Karl Marx to that of Mr. Deakin.

      After the enslaving subordination of individuals under division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not merely a means to live, but has become itself the primary necessity of life, after the productive forces have increased with the all-round development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of capitalist right be left behind and society inscribe upon its banner, “ From each according to his ability, to each .according to his needs.” (Criticism of the Gotha Programme, Karl Marx, Point I.) (Italics ours.)

 The citizens of the Socialist community will work voluntarily because they are doing a job they love, for the benefit of society as a whole—i.e., in the long run, for themselves.

 All labour in the Socialist society will be essential and useful. There will be no need to try to stop people from doing wasteful and unessential things, like pouring luxuries into the lap of already overfed and jaded parasites.

 The most extraordinary thing about this so-called “Essential Works Order” now is that it forces people off making bread and boots to make “essential” bombs and bullets. “Guns, not Butter,” are essential.    

Mr. Deakin has taken it upon himself to inform his members that the “Essential Work Order” is “a good stroke of business.”

 That is a matter for him—and them. But when he endeavours to delude bis readers that the so-called National Service Officer may be a feature of the future Socialist society, then it is incumbent upon Socialists to explain that Socialism must be based on voluntary labour—not force, compulsion, trickery, or deceit.

In fact, even Mr. Arthur Deakin will be engaged on really essential work.


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