50 Years Ago: Work and Want
In 1914 your masters appealed to you as ‘patriots’ to save ‘your country’ from the fury of their enemies. To-day in flaring posters on the same hoardings they beg you to ‘save your country’ from bankruptcy. Greater production, they tell you, is necessary, and that is where you come in. They call on you to put your backs into it because you are the only producing class. Without an increase in the aggregate wealth your class, they say, must suffer deeper extremes of poverty. But is it an increase in the aggregate wealth your masters want? No, for if it were they would set the unemployed to work instead of increasing their numbers by wholesale dismissals weekly. Prices are high they tell you because there is a real shortage of wealth—of the necessaries of life. If this is true why are there unemployed?
Because your masters are not concerned with increasing the total quantity of wealth; their desire is for more surplus value i.e., the difference between the wealth you produce and the wages you receive . . . What they ask from you is more work from the individual worker, in order that the total wages bill can be reduced, the very conditions that have always made for increased unemployment.
If you rely on the government’s schemes of reconstruction, in your simplicity believing in their fair promises, they will strengthen the position of their class, and correspondingly weaken the position of your class. If you support the Labour Party, they will sell your support for fat jobs. If you dream that nationalisation will save you, you will, when you awaken, find yourselves under the rule of the bureaucrat and expert—still wage slaves, exploited in the interest of all capitalists instead of that of a company or trust.
(From an article by Fred Foan in the Socialist Standard October 1919).