50 Years Ago : The Wages Question at the T.U.C.
Mr. Pugh, in his presidential address to the T.U.C. was no more practical in his ideas than presidents of former years have been. Ideals, platitudes, and ‘philosophy’ are poor stuff for those workers whose time is mainly taken up in the struggle to obtain a living.
Sentimental ideals are useless when the business is to explain to the workers why it is that, although they produce the wealth, they remain poor. If Mr. Pugh once admits that the possession of wealth by a class that does not work can only be the result of robbery or exploitation of the class that does, the next obvious thing is to explain how the exploitation is effected. This . . . is part of the knowledge required by the workers before it is possible for them to take any step to shake off their poverty.
Mr. Pugh, in his remarks, associated himself with the campaign of the Independent Labour Party for a living wage. Marx, Engels, Kautsky and others have repeatedly shown that the wages system is the basis of capitalism. The capitalist buys labour-power and pockets the difference between the value of the workers’ product and the wage he pays them. It is obvious, therefore, that while the wages system remains, exploitation must continue. Notwithstanding this fact, which shows the necessity for the abolition of the wages system, Mr. Pugh can only suggest to the Congress that they should ‘examine in the light of new theories the whole basis and application of the traditional wages policy and methods of determining wages which the trade unions have followed’.