1970s >> 1976 >> no-860-april-1976

How much longer is the Working Class going to accept this?

Most people are aware that something called “Inequality” exists in society, but have only vague ideas about how great it is and about how it has been caused. Socialists know that enormous inequalities are unavoidable symptoms of capitalism which can only be eradicated in one way: that is by the abolition of capitalism and by replacing it with Socialism, under which the wealth produced by industry and agriculture, as well as the means for producing that wealth, will belong to all the people.Why is the need for the establishment of Socialism urgent? As an answer, let us look briefly at some of the recognized social problems: the uneven distribution of wealth, housing and homelessness, unemployment, industrial injuries and diseases, old age and retirement. The Welfare State and its reforms have been with us for thirty years and yet these social problems remain as serious as before its introduction. Just read a few items in the book Unequal Britain by Frank Field (1974). It is worth while to look at the following figures and think about what they mean.

In this country more than 25 per cent. of the wealth is in the hands of the top 1 per cent. of the population (Unequal Shares by Tony Atkinson, 1960). The top 10 per cent. own approximately 75 per cent of the wealth while, at the other extreme, more than 90 per cent, of the population have total wealth holdings of below £5,000 (each).

In terms of absolute wealth, some of the richest industrialists are Lord Thomson of the Thomson Organization, with a personal shareholding of £59.5 million, Sir Jules Thorn and Sir Charles Forte with £29.6 million and £28.9 million respectively. As a worker, whatever your employment is, how about comparing your annual income (or, perhaps, your life’s income) with the incomes of these privileged individuals:

F. S. MacFadzean (Shell)                       £75,900
Val Duncan (Rio-Tinto Zinc)                 £63,000
Sir John Davis (Rank Organization) £55,000

It is a fact that today two million families (not individuals, but families) live in homes which possess no hot water, no bath and no inside toilet.

Meanwhile, in the Daily Mirror series on injustices and privilege (1st October 1974), John Pilger reveals that Hugh Denis Charles Fitzroy, the Duke of Grafton, lives in a house with twenty bedrooms. Of course, he owns additional property and houses.

7.7 per cent. of households have no fixed bath, 7.4 per cent. have no inside toilet, while 6.1 per cent. have no hot water supply. 5 per cent. are living in officially classified “overcrowded conditions” (Labour Research Department, 1973).

On the other hand, Harry Hyams, the property speculator, owns a six-hundred-acre Wiltshire estate. In April 1973, Ravi Tikkoo, the shipping magnate, paid £500,000 for a house on Hampstead Heath (Daily Mirror, 19th April 1973).

The social problem of unemployment is striking hard at the working class, with 1,430,000 (white- collar workers and professionals, as well as blue- collar workers) out of work in December 1975.

Two-fifths of all pensioners are living on means which arc below the official Supplementary Benefit levels. From October 1973, the standard old-age pension was worth just 20 per cent. of the average male take-home pay. On the question of redundancy payments, workers who devote sizeable parts of their lives to industry receive an average redundancy payment of £328 (1972). Meanwhile, Aubrey Jones received a golden handshake of £63,000 from Laporte Ltd. and Duncan Sandys MP was given £130,000 from the Lonhro company (source: Labour Research Department).

It is these inequalities which are the symptoms of capitalism. Socialists recognize these inequalities as inevitable reflections of class ownership. This is the situation after thirty years of the Welfare State and more than a hundred years of social reform. The same inequality and the same social problems remain. We can reject completely that reformers’ red-herring of trying to redistribute wealth. Therefore, the working class (all working and employed people) must, for its own sake, reject tinkerings and tamperings with capitalism.

No, capitalism cannot be reformed in the interests of the working class. It can never be made to benefit the working class. Just looking at the history of capitalism and at capitalism today proves this point over and over again. Given that capitalism cannot be reformed to suit the interests of the workers, who are the overwhelming majority of the population, and, remembering all the misery, poverty, destruction, wastage and violence which are an inevitable consequence of capitalism, there remains the urgent task for the workers to say that they have had enough and to abolish capitalism.

Capitalism must be ended by the conscious, democratic action not merely of workers in Britain, but of workers throughout the world. When this happens, it can be guaranteed that the full potential of mankind will be released for the first time in history. The forces of nature have endowed each individual human being with a brain capable of immense creativity in innumerable different forms. For the very first time, Socialism will enable Man to use these faculties and energies to the full.

Vincent Otter