50 Years Ago: Is It Work We Want?

“It is work we want, not charity,” said a spokesman of the unemployed at a street comer meeting. This sums up the outlook of the average worker of today. He can see no other method of life than toiling or existing on charity. The fear of having to beg for bread, or go into the workhouse, spurs him on to find a job though the conditions of work become ever more degrading.


How strange that such a view should find general acceptance among people already worn out with work; and at a time when wealth can be produced with such ease and abundance! It is stranger still that some must work hard and spend niggardly, whilst others work not and yet spend lavishly. If the former cease work for a while they come suddenly to the end of their resources; the latter buy palaces and furnish them brilliantly, live in magnificence, and yet at the end of their days they are more wealthy than at the commencement.


It is leisure and idleness the worker needs (leisure to enjoy and idleness to recuperate), and yet he pursues work like a hound on the trail.


In the past conditions were such that could not promise ease and comfort for the many, except where nature was particularly liberal and the population comparatively small. The needful things were produced by simple tools with much labour. Now all is changed. The needful things are produced by complicated tools with little labour. The conditions are such that they promise ease and comfort, leisure and luxury, to the many. But this promise can only be fulfilled when the many own the product of their energy.


(From an article by G. L. McClatchie in the Socialist Standard for January 1923.)