1960s >> 1968 >> no-771-november-1968

Profit vesus Humanity

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has a working knowledge of industry that in the last three years industrial accidents have been on the increase;

No. of industrial                                     No.    of days lost
accidents                                                           (millions)
1965    851,200                                      1965    21.78
1966    896,700                                      1966    23.29
1967    938,100                                      1967    24.25
(Safety Sept. 1968)

Safety publishes these figures in a vain attempt to persuade the government to set up a Royal Commission to inquire into their causes. Why they should push for a Royal Commission, which is usually a government way of sweeping the dirt under the carpet, is unclear.

The publication of the number of production days lost, and the “cost to Britain”, demonstrates the angle from which the British Safety Council approaches these matters. It is also the way the mind of the capitalist works, in fact it is the criterion of capitalism,” Cost against Cost”.

The cost of a strike against the cost of the wage increase, the cost of a trade blockade against the cost of the loss of sympathy of African governments with respect to the racist policy of Rhodesia, the cost of the loss of production hours in accidents against the loss of production if workers slow down and watch the safety angles.

One thing no government bothers to consider is the human cost: death, pain, suffering. These are things that are so much a part of the way of life of the capitalist system that very few people seem to care any longer. The old. the infirm, the poor, even the starving children seem just an embarrassment, “What can we do about it anyway?”, is a remark you often hear.

Why are workers so short sighted? Why can they not see that tomorrow it might be them stretched out on a hospital bed, wondering how the missus is going to manage on sick pay? After all, with all of our cars, fridges, and tellys, we are only as secure as our next wage packet. It is a plausible explanation that workers expect to be cheated, so that when Socialists come along with a straight forward proposal then they feel that there must be a catch somewhere.

To the Socialist it all seems so simple: society is divided into two classes, and the motive behind production is exchange with a view to profit for the owning or capitalist class. All things are sacrificed to this “God” of profits: the safety of workers, the children of Biafra, the Czech workers, the people of Vietnam.

Yet when you think of Socialism, and all the possibilities for humanity within that way of life, where the only criterion of living will be human comfort, we are left asking such organisations as the British Safety Council: ‘why waste your time? If you are really concerned with human safety instead of trying to convince Wilson that the cost of safety is less than the cost of accidents, join with us to introduce a way of life where all of us will have free access to wealth, and guiding principle will be human well being’.

Of course we realize that we are appealing in vain, for these organisations are part of the capitalist system themselves, their terms of reference are within the system, and because of this they are quite useless for solving the problems they raise. Every bit of misery that capitalism creates will bring into being a reformist organisation, and so we get a fragmentation of the revulsion that human beings feel when they see any form of suffering. This is of benefit only to the capitalist class, because it diffuses the concern over these problems that is in most of our minds, and prevents most workers from seeing that they have an origin.

Who is worse? The person who seems indifferent to suffering, or the Christian who sees suffering but misdirects our attention to God, and gets us all to sit down waiting for divine intervention? For in both cases the suffering continues.

Even worse perhaps is the person who gets some personal satisfaction from treating the outcome of such suffering, and never gets down to asking what could be the cause.

It is the socialist contention that only when we eliminate the profit account can mankind really deal with the human suffering that goes on in the world today. After all so much of it is down to the economic cost factor, the need for capitalists to produce quicker and therefore cheaper than their competitors, and then to the competition for markets, sources of raw materials and places of strategic importance, that we really can condemn capitalism for murder.

Terry Lord