1940s >> 1945 >> no-495-november-1945
Austerity and Exports
One of the tragedies resulting from the advent of a Labour Government is the large number of workers who quickly become disillusioned by the capitalistic arguments vouchsafed by the new rulers and their spokesmen. Take, for example, the September Record, organ of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, wherein the workers are treated to a full article on why they should support “Full Speed Ahead in the Great Drive for Exports, written by the Acting Secretary, Arthur Deakin. No Liberal or Tory would disagree with the main points of Deakin’s article, which reiterates the historic capitalist case for bringing “backward” countries under the capitalist regime. But where the capitalists of old covered this operation under the ideology of spreading civilisation and Christianity abroad, Deakin would seek markets for Britain’s industrial products under the guise of the recommendations of the “United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture,” which aims at “raising the standard of living and health throughout the world; more efficient methods coproduction will have to be introduced in the economically backward areas of the world.”
The Labour Government, he adds, cannot effect this policy without it is “backed by the utmost output of the workers in the export trades,” and offers a word of warning that “In our great drive for the production of goods for export we must for some time be prepared to live under the same conditions of austerity us applied during the war.”
All this is contemporary capitalist policy, discreetly stripped of any reference to the paraphernalia of tariffs, spheres of influence, monetary juggling and power-politics based on the military might possessed by the contestants for the world’s markets, on which are, dumped the surpluses filched from the workers by the seekers of profit—the world capitalist class.
Britain’s place in this capitalist “power” scheme has declined owing to the increased independence through industrialisation of the members of her “British Commonwealth and Empire,” typically Australia and Canada, whose native capitalists now jealously guard their own home market. Further, even with Germany put out of the way as a competitor, Britain the one-time “workshop of the world,” will find difficulty in competing with such huge units as America whose magnitude of production makes each commodity cheaper even with increased wages and shorter hours.
This is not to say that Britain cannot win a share of the export trade in a world denuded by war of consumer and capital goods, though the amount depends on how soon she can stop off, plus the ability of her rulers to withstand her own internal demand for consumer’s wants by priorities, savings drives, and rationing, aided maybe by the purchase of bare necessities abroad via a negotiated foreign loan. Britain in the words of the new Director of the “National Union of Manufacturers,” representing 2,000 firms—must “export or expire.”
Thus the Labour Government is faced with the dilemma of administering capitalism with its mechanism of markets and profits while attempting to placate the workers who want something of the promised “New Order” now.
Therein lies the harm done to the socialist aspirations of the workers by the Labourites who, like Deakin, write of “our” export trade and “our” industries, when in fact the workers stand dispossessed of any of these things and where the only market they appear in is the labour market in which they sell their ability to work to the capitalists, whether these be organised in private firms or in nationalised industries. Having bought the worker’s labour-power the capitalists use it to produce commodities whose value is over and above the wage outlay—a surplus for which the capitalists have paid nothing. It is not, and never will be. therefore the motive behind the export, trade to “raise the standard of living throughout the world,” but to realise this profit either directly by payment from foreign customers, or by the return of equal values that can be sold on the open market. A failure to continue this process through lack of buyers or “overproduction” results in the sellers of labour power crowding the labour market in their unemployed millions, a recurring crisis which forces on a trade war, without guns to its conclusion in actual wax with guns—or atom bombs.
In conclusion, socialism is not a lahour-controlled-capitalism, but a new civilisation in which men stand in dignified relation to each other, not as buyers and sellers in a class society, but where the common effort to produce the means of living entitles all to equal access to society’s products and services. A complete transformation which ends traders and money power and replaces international capitalist conflict by international co-operation.
The Labour Party having no mandate to lay even the foundation of such a change must inevitably fail to solve the social conflict; thus fulfilling Laski’s fear of “other men and other methods,” a warning that has been writ large by “Labour’s” prototype in Germany’s Weimar Republic and by the rise of dictatorshipss. The one and only bulwark against such a calamity is an understanding socialist working-class.