1960s >> 1962 >> no-692-april-1962

The Passing Show: Class co-operation

In a society where ten per cent. of the people belong to the owning and ruling class, and where the other ninety per cent, belong to the propertyless and working class, it is obvious that there is a continuous conflict of interest between the two. The owning class live on the surplus value extracted from the workers: the workers have to wage a ceaseless struggle to maintain even a part of the value of their work for themselves. In such circumstances it is a truism to say that the more the owners can fool the workers into believing that there is no conflict of interests, the happier—and richer—the owners will be. Just as the slave-owners used to push the view that really the slaves and their masters were all working together for the good of society, so there is an endless barrage of propaganda from the ruling class in our form of society that employers and employed should all co-operate “for the good of the country.” When one investigates what this “co-operation” means, it is what one would expect—the workers must never strike, must at all times devote all their energies to their employers’ interests, and must, of course, never be so vulgar as to ask for a wage-increase, or for that matter even oppose a wage-cut. if the employers decide it would be “in the best interests of the country.”

Dozen awkward chaps

Propaganda to this effect is, of course, as common in state-capitalist industry as in private capitalist concerns. And according to a recent article in The Times, this propaganda has been very successful at the Littleton Colliery, in the Cannock Chase coalfield. “It has been nine years since anything worth calling a strike happened at Littleton, which employs about 1.900 men.” The employers, apparently, are very satisfied with conditions at Littleton:

. . .  the miner’s understanding of life beyond Cannock has also been broadened by television and National Coal Board propaganda. Thirty years ago the rather more desk-hound managers on the Chase were very much “the other side” to colliers, and they themselves reflected the narrowest of points of view. Today Littleton’s young manager. Mr. G. A. Schofield, calls his union president (Mr. Richard Owen) “Dick”, and Mr. Owen says: “We have about a dozen awkward chaps among 1,900, but all the rest understand we have to make coal pay its way.”

One should, of course, be chary of accepting the estimates of the supporters of capitalism of the extent to which the workers have been duped by the propaganda put out by employers, whether directly, or indirectly, on the mass media such as television. Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly a shrewd stroke by the employers to win over trade union leaders to their way of thinking.

Good old days
In fact, supporters of capitalism not infrequently regret the days of the Labour Government of 1945-51, since when Labour was in power trade union leaders were heard preaching “co-operation” even more frequently than they are now. The economist Graham Hutton wrote to The Times (8/2/62) on this very theme:

I think of those whom Labour and Tory Governments marshalled between 15 and 10 years ago to organise the productivity drive: Arthur Deakin, Lincoln Evans, Jimmie Crawford, Tom Williamson, Ted Fletcher, Vincent Tewson — these from the unions and T.U.C.—and the leaders of our industry from the F.B.I. B.E.C.. etc. I recall the Ashorne Hill conference a decade ago to discuss between what we all then agreed was a misnomer, namely, “both sides of industry”, their representatives’ unanimous conclusions from the 66 Anglo-American Productivity Teams’ visits to the U.S.A. between 1947 and 1952.

Ah, happy days, when the employers and trade union leaders were not only reaching unanimous conclusions about the way industry should work, but were even agreeing that it was wrong to speak of “two sides” to industry! Former Labour ministers can take comfort from the fact that their efforts when in power towards “co-operation” in industry are still remembered with affection by such supporters of capitalism as Graham Hutton.

Social gulf

Despite what trade union leaders say, however, the facts of capitalism as daily revealed at the coalface, the factory bench, and the shop counter, mean that the class struggle continues. Sir David Eccles, Minister of Education, in a speech on February 8th. admitted as much, and had to relegate the ideal of co-operation between the exploiters and exploited to the distant future:

He told the Conservative Women’s National Advisory in London that these (fee-paying) parents should consider the long-term future of their children in a society which would either he united socially or still hampered by the “we” and the “they” complex that so bedevilled industrial relations.

While admitting the effect, however. Sir David went astray when he came to explaining the cause:

Sir David said that one of the chief instruments which created the social gulf in our society was the system of education. Nine-tenths of all children went to maintained schools and the remainder—the bosses’ children—to the independent fee-paying schools.

This is an error into which Labourites fall even more often than Conservatives. The divided system of education in our society is not the cause of the “social gulf,” but one of its effects. The class division, the social gulf, is not caused by the fact that the “bosses’ children” (in Sir David’s words) go to special schools: but by the fact that there are bosses. For if in any society there are bosses there must also be the bossed: the one group cannot exist without the other, any more than horse-riders can exist without horses. Sir David must resign himself to the existence of the social gulf so long as he supports the system which gives birth to it; for it will be with us until capitalism makes way for Socialism.

Alwyn Edgar