Ringing the changes

The following quotation has a familiar ring about it.

“Their (the workers) output . . . was not enough to warrant the continuance of the high wages they were getting. The workers . . . wanted to get everything and give as little as possible in exchange. There were too many missed shifts, too many people who pretended to be ill, too many fines, too much movement of labour from one factory to another, too much stealing, too much carelessness in handling machinery.” (Economist, 27 Sept. 1952.)

How often have we seen phrases like this? The familiarity of its tone, bred of constant repetition, rings in our ears like a cracked bell. We in this island are by no means the only ones to suffer its infliction. It also applies to the so-called “peoples democracies” on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

In fact, the quotation is from a report of a speech made by Mr. Zapotocky, the Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia in 1948. Old history? Perhaps! But Mr. Zapotocky, like all other devout worshippers of capitalism, is never tired of ringing the changes (though needless to say we’re tired to death) or as the Economist has it: “Comrade Zapotocky has been saying the same thing at intervals ever since.” No doubt he will continue.

Why he has been saying it, will make more apparent the fact that Czechoslovakia, like all other countries has a class divided society. The working class there is distressingly stubborn about accepting the fairy tales of their rulers; are exasperating in their refusal to believe that everything is for their benefit in a land that they are told is “building Socialism.” So much so, that the Trades Unions are again being “ re-organised.”

After the Communists came to power in February, 1948, the Unions underwent purification.

“At that moment, which coincided with the nationalisation of nearly all industrial undertakings, the workers had, theoretically, won their victory against capitalism and the original raison d’etre of the unions—the protection of the workers against capitalist exploitation—came abruptly to an end. But instead of dissolving the unions, the Communist Party skilfully incorporated them into the state organisation and gave them the new task of ‘educating’ the workers into being worthy of the hire meted out to them by the politicians who have taken over from the dispossessed private capitalists.”

Of course, the Communists were not likely to dissolve the unions. Well trained in the methods of State Capitalism, with the ever watchful eye of their mentor the Soviet Union guiding them, the Communists, with a copious supply of bogus Socialist theory, were able to re-organise the unions and turn them to their own advantage, under the pretence that now the “Socialist Revolution” had been accomplished, the original function of the unions had become redundant. Quite true. The nature of State Capitalism (which is the form Czech Capitalism has taken on the model of the Soviet Union) is such, that, under it, all the aspects of capitalist society are drawn into a unified whole; brought to a head. Control is centralised and complete.

Trade unionism is an aspect of Capitalist Society; Capitalism is a class Society and the interests of the ruling class predominate. Therefore, when all the aspects of capitalism are drawn into a Central organisation—the State—the Trades Unions automatically come under the control of the ruling class. They are then transformed from a protective, working class, organisation, into instruments for driving the workers to greater and more efficient production.

Mr. Zapotocky in a speech on July 18th. 1952, gave the following, as the three principal functions of trades unions in a “Peoples Democracy.” They are: “To reduce production costs.” (Wages?)

“To consolidate working discipline and develop Socialist competition.” “At present,” he added, “the unions definitely are not fulfilling their tasks. That is why they must be reorganised’.”

So far the “Stick” method has been in operation for goading the workers into production marathons. This has not proved as successful as was at first hoped. So now the more “scientific,” “carrot” technique is being employed. The Czechs are now to be “persuaded ” to produce more.

The trades union leaders have been sent on special courses of “political education ,” with the object of bringing the Czech workers into a state of mind that will make them “produce more than yesterday.”

“The workers, in short, must be ’persuaded’ by hook, crook, whips or scorpions to give up the old eight hour day in favour of a system under which they must on working with no extra pay until their ’Norm’ been fulfilled. They must be ‘persuaded’ to welcome the introduction of arbitrary and often unpaid extra weekend shifts and to give up their ‘Bolshevists Saturday* which the miners won in 1921, at the whim of the Government . . .
“When they do not close the gap between output and wages, the real wages are cut by raising either norms or prices or both alternately: in addition, the hardly-won privileges the workers fought for against private capitalism are taken away or transformed into a machine for keeping their noses well down to the nationalised grindstone. (Ibid).

The mixture as before, but more highly concentrated and with a nastier taste. Administered with a very large and efficient spoon.


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