Notes by the Way

More Profit-sharing and Why
The Conservative Government has given its blessing to profit sharing and we may expect to see more of it. But, surprisingly, one firm that for years has had such a scheme has now announced its termination. This is the Triplex Safety Glass Company. The head of the firm, Sir Graham Cunningham, has told the thousand hourly paid workers that the share in profits now to be paid will be the last, though the salaried staff will continue in the scheme. The reason for the ending of profit-sharing for the others is that the workers have gone on pressing for higher wages and they are now told they can have one or the other but not both.

“Successful Union pressure for higher wages has caused the management to cut out all shares in profits.”—(News Chronicle, 15/10/55.)

Sir Graham Cunningham is quoted as saying:—

“I am a blunt fellow. I told them they cannot have their bun and eat it”

He added, according to the News Chronicle, “that profit sharing could be restored to the men paid by the hour if they accepted a wage cut.”

The Liberal News Chronicle, which supports profit sharing, thinks that Cunningham has been too blunt:—

“This is not so much being blunt as topsy-turvy. The whole principle of profit sharing is to provide incentive and loyalty, so that management and labour work with and not against each other. It means something extra in the good years, but with a reasonable wage as the background.”

Another interesting comment on profit-sharing has been made by Mr. J. Spedan Lewis, founder and chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, on the occasion of his retirement. According to the Daily Telegraph (23/9/55), Mr, Lewis

“said last night that some profit-sharing schemes seemed to be in the nature of offering ransom. The people who ran them appeared to be offering to give up part of what they had been keeping for the sake of increasing their chance of retaining the rest.”

The Lewis firm has just had a spot of bother because some of the workers have objected to the firm opening letters to the staff marked “private” or “personal”; but a majority voted down a resolution of protest (Daily Express, 29/55).

* * *

The Labour Party and Cyprus
The Tory Government has declared that they do not accept for universal application the principle of “self-determination” and intend to hold on to Cyprus for strategic purposes in spite of the evident wish of the majority of the population to join Greece.

The Labour Party, now in opposition, condemns this and declares its support for “self-determination” in Cyprus.

It was not always so. When the Labour Party were in office and the Tories were in opposition, the Labour Government took up the same attitude as that now taken by the Tories. It was in 1950 that the Labour Government, through a letter to the Archbishop of Cyprus, declared that despite a plebiscite showing the Greek speaking Cypriots in favour of joining Greece

“The British Government regarded the question of Enosis (union with Greece) as closed (The Times, 24/2/50).

* * *

Molotov Confesses
Molotov, Russia’s Foreign Minister since Litvinoff was removed when the Stalin-Hitler Pact of Friendship was being fixed up in 1939, has been made to eat humble pie in a letter published in the Russian journal Kommunist. He had made the statement that in Russia “the foundations of Socialism have already been built.” But this implied that Socialism bad not yet been completely established. He has now had to confess that this was wrong and that this “does not correspond to reality and contradicts the numerous estimates of the result of the construction of Socialism in the U.S.S.R. given in Party documents.” (Manchester Guardian, 10/1 /55.).

Thus the year-long word trickery of the Russian Communist Party goes a stage further. Their official version is that Communism does not exist in Russia but that Socialism has already been achieved. They conveniently forget their earlier publications in which, like Marx, they used the word Socialism and Communism as alternative names for the same thing. Lenin, who at that time was less mealy-mouthed gave the real name that covers the Russia system, State Capitalism.

* * *

The Myth of Planning
One of the clever-silly notions of the reformists ever since they started trying to reform Capitalism has been that someone could plan its production and distribution. Sometimes, as at the end of last century, many of the reformists thought that the Capitalists, through trusts and cartels, would do the job. Others have thought that Labour Governments would do it and so did the Labour Governments until they tried. The 1929 Labour Government planned a “boom” and reaped a “bust”; in the years 1945-1951, their annual plans never came out right, as the yearly “Economic Surveys” showed; and the planned production and profit and price reductions of the nationalised industries were farcical. And either the Labour Government planned the big rise of the cost of living that accompanied their administration (with wage rates lagging behind) or else they have to admit that their plan for a steady or falling cost of living was a failure.

The Tories have fared no better. In April the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Treasury, helped by their expert financial and economic advisers, planned the Budget for a year. But by October he had to produce a new Budget. Things had gone so badly adrift from the plan that Mr. Butler could not even wait till next April to have another go.

* * *

Our Ancient Scholastic Establishments
According to Dr. Kathleen Ollerenshaw, a co-opted member of the Manchester Education Committee, who has collected information about school buildings from all the chief education officers in England and Wales, about half the children attend schools that were built over half a century ago, before 1903. The number in schools built since 1944 is about 750,000, but another 750,000 are in schools built before the Education Act of 1870. The number in schools built between 1870 and 1903 is about 2,000,000.

The report appeared in “Education,” organ of the Association of Education Committees and the details given above were published in the Manchester Guardian (23/9/55).

* * *

The International Wheat Plan
Of recent years the emphasis of the planners has been on international action, often through United Nations and its Agencies.

One of the fields in which there has been long experience is the attempt to regulate the production and sale of wheat in the world. It was the enormous accumulation of unsaleable wheat that was one of ‘the outstanding features of the crisis of the nineteen thirties, and Governments and economists have gone in fear of a repetition ever since. The idea of the original planners for an international wheat agreement was to cut out the extremely violent ups and downs of prices and make the movement of prices more even without eliminating them altogether. It was supposed that production would still rise in response to a moderate rise of price and would fall when prices fell. A writer in the Manchester Guardian (23/9/55) in the second of two articles on the international wheat conference and the possibility of a new agreement being reached, points out that in practice this has not happened. He quotes a secretary of the pre-war International Wheat Council, Mr. Andrew Cairns, as follows:—

“An increase in wheat prices generally produces an increase in wheat acreage, but a decrease . . . . generally produces an increase in direct or indirect Government assistance to wheat growers.”

This is what has been happening since the end of the war and there is no chance whatever of a solution being found except that a series of bad harvests might temporarily relieve the pressure.

The result is that there is again far too much wheat for the markets to absorb.

“In the four main exporting countries—the United States, Canada, Argentina and Australia—production remained high and exports fell further; as a result supplies available for export and carry-over on April 1st, 1953, rose sharply by nearly 400 million bushels to a new high record of 2,090 million. A year later the carry-over was higher still at 2,155 million bushels, and it rose again to 2,374 million bushels on August 1st this year, despite poor crops in certain countries last season.”—(Economist, 1st October, 1955.)

And what are the planners supposed to do for those who employ them, the Governments? Plan to grow more wheat and give it away? Or cut the acreage by force, take away farmers’ subsidies and lose votes for the Government candidates in rural areas?

Capitalism is not just a system of production but a class system of society. No Capitalist industry is, or can be, interested in feeding hungry mouths unless there are full purses attached thereto. No Government does, or can, think merely in terms of producing what food they need, or of buying it elsewhere where it is being produced. Each Government has to think politically of farmers’ votes, and militarily in terms of having food produced at home in case of war. The efforts of the Governments and the wheat growers therefore end up by producing one of Capitalism’s characteristic contradictions—too little wheat for the world’s stomach, but too much wheat for the digestion of the Capitalist market.

* * *

The Merchants of Death, British and Russian
Like belligerent stay-at-home politicians and parsons who send others out to be killed, the manufacturers of armaments have always been held in popular disrepute. The Labour Party, I.L.P. and Communists, for years made the “merchants of death” the target for their attacks as part of their muddled propaganda based on the idea that you can prevent war by nationalising the armament trade.

Behind it was the odd notion that while private Capitalists sell armaments, where they can, Governments do not. As recently as 29 July of this year Tribune, the Bevanite journal, had the following under the heading “Plain Stupid”:—

“Shells bombard British ships in the Suez Canal. Who fires them? Egyptian destroyers. And who gave Egypt the destroyers? Britain.
“This is one of the brilliant achievements of the Tory Government. As a contribution to reducing tension in the Middle East we are busy selling arms to both sides. Thus Egypt is given the privilege of buying two destroyers from us. And so is Israel.
“Likewise with war planes. Equal numbers are sold to each Arab state and to Israel.
“Here the system of fair shares breaks down. There is only one Israel. There are several Arab states. Thus we tip the balance against a new, progressive nation, in favour of highly aggressive, largely reactionary rulers.
“Does Tribune want more arms for Israel ? Not at all. We are proposing no arms for either side. Simply that Britain should seek to apply the principles stated at Geneva instead of apparently doing her best to make war in the Middle East inevitable.”

Since that was written the news that Russia and her satellites are supplying arms to Egypt and other Middle East Governments has knocked sideways Tribune’s belief in the Geneva spirit.

We may also recall that when Mr. Bevan was in the Labour Government in 1950 that Government, too, was selling arms to Egypt and many other countries (including Czechoslovakia, which is now selling arms to Egypt). The 1950 deals were disclosed by Mr. Attlee in the House of Commons on 16 March, 1950, and were justified by him on the ground of “the need for exports,” in other words selling instruments of death for profit.

Now we have the Czechoslovak Government putting forward exactly the same kind of justification; it is just “trade.”

The Daily Worker (3/10/55) reports as follows:—

“Referring to the arms deal, Prague Radio said: “The Egyptian Government, in the interests of security and peace in the region, has turned to where deliveries of arms can be obtained on a purely commercial basis, without political or other conditions’.”

This recalls a letter written to the Manchester Guardian, on 21 January, 1941, by the Communist Albert Inkpin, who at that time was secretary of the Russia Today Society. This was before Germany attacked Russia, in the period when the Pact of Friendship between the two Governments was still in being. Germany and Britain had been at war for nearly 18 months and some M.P.s had commented on the supplies of materials useful for war flowing into Germany from Russia. To this Mr. Inkpin replied by assuring the readers of the Manchester Guardian that while Russia was supplying “oil products, raw materials and grain” to Germany, they were quite willing to export them to Britain as well.

It is, of course, good Capitalist principle to sell to both sides in a war, but if the Russian Government had been concerned to stop the war they could have refitted to supply either side.

There are plenty of precedents for this. History recalls the British manufacturers who supplied uniforms to Napoleon’s armies.

* * *

The Crimean War over again?
Just over a century ago there was war between England and her Allies, and Russia nominally over the Holy Places in Jerusalem, but actually over the effort of Russia to break into the Mediterranean and British Capitalists desire to stop it

Now we have Russia and Czechoslovakia selling arms in the Middle East, the British Government protesting against this threat to the balance of power, and newspaper editors working up a scare about a new Russian drive to the Mediterranean and Africa—the Crimean war episode again.

Here is the reaction of the Daily Express (19/10/55):-

Cold War Again?
“Three months after the Geneva conference a new diplomatic war is developing, this time in the Middle East. The Russians are going all out to extend their influence there.
“First, there was the Egyptian-Czech arms deal. Now the Russians establish diplomatic relations with the Yemen, a country which lays claim to Britain’s Colony of Aden.
“They are also negotiating a new trade deal with Syria. They are offering Egypt £89,000,000 or more to build a dam on the Nile.
The Reason Why
“All these moves are aimed at undermining the West’s defence plans in this area. How come the Russians are able to bring them off ?
“It all stems from Britain’s scuttle from Suez. If this country were still securely in the Canal Zone the Russians could never hope to establish themselves in the Middle East.
“But Britain’s departure creates vacuum and weakness which Russia is now able to exploit. So the folly of scuttle is exposed. Let Britain resolve that this policy shall never, never be repeated.”


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