1970s >> 1974 >> no-843-november-1974

The Brick Industry Drops One

Capitalism cannot work in the interests of the working class, nor can it be controlled. Economic problems are an inevitable result of capitalist society. You have only to pick up a newspaper (published and controlled by supporters of capitalism) to see the number of problems that face society. A good example was The Daily Mirror (July 2nd 1974) with its stark black front page, showing a pound note torn in two and asking the question, “Is Britain going Bankrupt?” The same issue of the paper went on to show how difficult it is for the ordinary Joe Soap to make ends meet.

Not only can capitalism not be controlled to eliminate its ever-increasing range of problems; it is also totally chaotic in its detailed operations. Take for example the house-building industry. Most members of the working class come up against the housing problem at some stage in their lives. They also see the adverts showing the country mansions and town developments — standing empty. They also know that despite the politicians’ promises, house-building has slowed down to its lowest rate since 1929 (Sunday Times June 30th 1974).

But the house-building industry’s blood brother, the brick industry, has really gone to town to demonstrate the total unpredictability of capitalist society. The Sunday Times (June 30th 1974) carried a big splash advert in its colour supplement headed “Brick Information”. The advert boasted of the success of the brick-building industry in 1973:

  Brickmakers had the situation well under control. Not only were the requirements of the construction industry fully satisfied, but manufacturers were able to increase their output to the point where it became possible to build up stocks against future sudden surges in demand. Faced with a steadily widening market for their output, brickmakers pressed ahead with modernisation programmes and with building of highly automated new plants to add to their existing production capacity.

The rest of the detailed advert patted the brick industry on the back for its excellent efforts. As Hamlet says: “He does well to comment it himself, there are no tongues else for’s turn”.

How cruel is fate under capitalism. No doubt the ad was booked a month or maybe more in advance of publication. The same issue of the Sunday Times carried a detailed analysis of the position of the London Brick Company, the world’s largest brick makers, which is responsible for 45 per cent. of Britain’s annual brick production. And what did it say? A booming brick industry? Not a hope.

  Last week London Brick Company announced it will cut output by 8 million bricks at a cost of 700 jobs. THE ACTION WAS NOT UNEXPECTED (Our emphasis).

Later the writer said.

Once again the bottom has fallen out of the construction industry and with it the brick industry.

Of course if it were not for the tragedy it would be hilarious. The grim reality for those who are thrown out of work in this booming industry makes it no laughing matter. Taking an overall view, it means the working class will continue to face the hardships of inadequate housing even though there are some 50,000 unsold houses on the market (Sunday Times again). There is obviously little chance of these houses being sold in the near future. So homeless workers will continue to be faced with empty houses. It just shows how futile are the politicians’ promises to deal with the housing problem. The real tragedy is that workers are still taken in by these promises.

The facts speak for themselves. The left hand, the brick industry, cannot follow what the right hand, the building industry, is doing. With millions badly housed or homeless, bricks are once again stockpiling. What more evidence is needed that capitalism cannot be controlled, let alone work in the interests of the majority? A market is haphazard and chaotic in its operation. Capitalism only knows of production for the market. The misery that follows in human terms is enormous.

By the way, in case anyone is still under the pathetic delusion that more state control can eliminate these inconsistencies, the experience of “managed” capitalism in Russia proves otherwise. The Times of July 10th 1974 reported under the headline “Soviet Brick Plan goes wrong,” the following:

  More than 5 million bricks, the entire output of a factory near Kuyibishev last year have been thrown away because no one wants them, Pravda, the Soviet Communist Party newspaper reported to-day. Five workers complained that with no orders to halt production, they had been dumping bricks straight off the production line onto the rubbish tip.

Socialism will be a system of society with one aim, the satisfaction of human needs in all their various forms. In Socialism, where the market society has been swept away, the farcical situation of surplus bricks and mass housing shortages would be impossible. If houses were needed, and the materials were available to build them, society would do so. Your commitment to socialism is required to put an end to the crazy Alice in Wonderland world of today. So, how about it?

Ronnie Warrington