Holidays with Pay

It is indisputable that, since the war, an increasing number of people have annual holidays, but before we applaud this happy fact, let us examine the reasons. Twenty-five years ago few people enjoyed a regular break from their employment, except, of course, the idleness enforced by unemployment. To-day, however, an annual fortnight’s holiday is an accepted feature of their job. This is mainly due to recognition by the capitalist class that a refreshed working class makes for greater efficiency and higher productivity (e.g., contented cows yield more milk) and also organised working-class activity (i.e., shortage of labour-power giving the workers stronger bargaining powers).

Accompanying the development of capitalism we find machine production ever more complex, a higher division of labour and hence a growth of monotonous repetitive operations. The effect on employees of these factors is boredom, nervous strain and physical disorders, making a break from this drab existence imperative. Having tightened nuts, hammered rivets, checked invoices, and swept floors innumerable times, fifty weeks a year, the remaining two weeks must be spent forgetting nuts, rivets, invoices and floors. The working class, generally speaking, regard a holiday as a period in which to flee from the rut of normal existence. In other words, not to do those things one usually has to do, to do all those things one cannot normally do, and where either of these cannot be carried out, then to do them under more congenial surroundings and conditions.

Therefore, the manner in which various individuals spend their restricted release is determined largely by their particular job of work. Of course, the style of the holiday is conditioned by the financial resources, indeed, whether they have a holiday at all is dependent upon that factor.

Most workers will make as little physical exertion as possible, they will lie in bed until fully rested, a thing which is usually denied them. Frequent bouts of ice-cream, beer, sweets, fish and chips, and stomach powder are only too common. In fact, food and drink assume undue prominence as being luxuries which can only be fully indulged in after a year’s self denial, after periods of overtime, and with the possible addition of a wife’s wages. The worker will spend his limited cash on all manner of cheap, tawdry and very often useless things, his rate of spending being the measure of his enjoyment. He will saunter around amusement arcades to fire guns, shy at coconuts, visit haunted houses and ride in “dodg’ems” in an effort to exhilarate his normally uneventful existence.

Speculative members of the ruling class have not been slow in recognising the demand for this style of holiday. Hence the growth of holiday-camps, where instead of seeking these various amusements they are all laid out before you, to such an extent that you almost trip over them. Everything is organised, including the children, who are whisked away to allow the erstwhile harassed parents temporary relief from their offsprings* eternal cravings. The holiday-makers are even spared the tiresome process of thinking, and should they be caught in a contemplative mood a camp “scout” will quickly guide their thoughts into less serious veins.

For some members of the working-class, mainly the younger ones, whose jobs are of less manual character, holidays are spent in a more rigorous fashion. They discover for themselves the towns, villages and countryside by cycling, hiking, canoeing and mountaineering. For them the yardstick of their enjoyment is not the amount of money they have spent, but what they have seen and achieved.

Another section of the working-class go hop-picking and harvesting. This euphemistically termed holiday contains the same old facts behind a different facade, instead of the factory and foreman—the field and farmer.

Having summarised typical working-class holidays (where they can be afforded) let us now examine the vacations of the capitalist-class.

As the workers’ concept of holidays arises from his employment and environment in everyday life, the capitalists’ concept (since he is not employed, etc.) must be different. The dictionary defines a holiday as a period of leisure, in which one does what one likes when one likes, how one likes, but the life of the capitalist is almost continually within this definition. Since this life leaves little to be desired, a holiday for the capitalist usually means a change of location with attendant ostentation. Not for them the necessity of booking accommodation months in advance, nor the hazards of an English climate and certainly money presents no problems. He may indulge in his most capricious whims, be it winter sports or water spas, Palm Beach or Paris. This is the class that can scoff at the restricted foreign travel allowance. The playgrounds of the British Commonwealth (Bermuda, etc.) using pound sterling are open to him and other “sterling” ports are convenient places for him to revictual his yacht. On the other hand, in non-sterling areas he can stay with friends at their expense, which he reciprocates when they in turn holiday in Britain. Again, he may fancy a lengthy sea cruise, where, on a sun deck he may recline comfortably, attended by stewards, and gaze upon enchanting tropical islands beneath azure skies. For the more sober-minded captain of industry, he may simply motor about his homeland and tolerate the services offered by the first-class English hotels, but this of course lends little colour to his conversations when he returns to his club. For the more flamboyant, if the mood takes him, he may sit at the gaming tables of Monte Carlo with the gay abandon that wealth affords him. However, if wine, women and song is desired there is always the fashionable club of Paris, or better still an invitation to a swank soiree on the “ right ” side of the Seine. With the latter there is always the thrilling possibility of being mentioned in the gossip columns of sophisticated society magazines, advertising the elite company that one keeps.

But why should a small section of society enjoy not only the very best of holidays, but almost all material things ? What special power does this minority possess that enables them to enjoy this privileged position? Their powers rest not upon their mental or physical superiority but upon their ownership of the means of wealth production.

Under the present-day system of society, where the tools of production are privately owned, a large majority, through their lack of ownership of these tools, are economically forced to seek employment. That means that these people are exploited and as such, never receive the full fruits of their labour. This causes much discontent and gives rise to a common feeling that work is nauseating and a “ necessary evil ” and therefore this sharp division between employment and play. To a Socialist, this is just another ugly feature of capitalism, which will remain till the machinery of wealth production is converted to common ownership. Then man will be released from his wage slavery, and work will become regarded in its correct perspective, that is, there will be joy in creation. Society will be producing wealth for use and not for sale and profit as it is to-day.


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