1950s >> 1950 >> no-549-may-1950

While Capitalism Lasts

When the socialist worker asserted that the condition of the working class in capitalist society grows steadily worse, his work-mates just can’t make it out. They compare certain aspects of their way of living with those of their fathers or to their earlier days and disagree. The socialist explains that the difference between the conditions and ways of living in the past and those at present make it very difficult to draw any comparison. It is a very controversial question, whether it is preferable to listen to “Wilfred Pickles” and “Ignorance is Bliss” whilst living under the constant threat of the H-bomb or to be without the radio and occasionally hear the distant rumble of cannon; to succumb to some illness because there are no such things as M. and B. tablets or to live to be shrivelled up by an intense heat many times greater than that existing in the centre of the sun. The Socialist viewpoint is that the only way to estimate the progress made by the working class in society is in relation to the wealth they produce, or in relation to the wealth they could produce with the existing productive forces. From this aspect, what they receive in relation to what they produce, the standard of life they have compared with what they could have, the working class are worse off than they ever were. When workmates hear this they say, “Well, I suppose, looking at it that way, you’re right, but things are a bit better.”


They can’t have their cake and eat it. Two Labour weeklies, the “Tribune” of March 5th, and the “Forward” of March 11th, quoted Mr. John Kenney, Chief of E.C A. Mission to Britain, in his report to U.S. Congress as a tribute to the Labour Government’s achievements:—


  “The voluntary policy of restraint in seeking wage increases followed by the Trade Union Congress has resulted in wage increases of slightly over 1 per cent, during 1949, even in the face of a higher cost of living caused by devaluation and a 5 per cent. increase in industrial productivity.” (“Forward,” March 11th, 1950.)


An achievement in the interests of the capitalist class, but, for the working class, a smaller share of the wealth, in relation to what they produce.


And just to make doubly sure that there is no doubt to which camp the Labour Government belongs, the further statements from the report are helpful: —


  “About 20 per cent. of her total resources available in the present fiscal year is being devoted to capital formation.
“By greatly increasing her total production and by diverting an unusually large part of it into investment, Britain, with foreign assistance, has been making good these war-time losses, and is now approaching the pre-war level of capital. This programme of capital formation is a real stride towards economic recovery.” (“Forward,” March 11th, 1950.)


Capital is wealth used to extract profit. Profit arises from the difference between what the workers produce and what they receive, in other words from the exploitation, the robbery, of the working class. So more capital formation means more working-class exploitation.


Do the parties of Capitalism offer any change to this continuing deterioration of the position of the working class in society? In their election manifesto both Tory and Labour pledged themselves to increase production and lower costs. Labour maintains this can be done better by nationalisation and controls. The Tories claim that free enterprise and a minimum of State interference is the better method.


For the working class, increased production means working harder, and lower costs means less wages, at least less wages in relation to what they produce. While Capitalism lasts these conditions will remain. The only alternative is to study socialist propaganda and equip yourselves with the knowledge necessary to abolish Capitalism and establish Socialism.


Jim Thorburn