1970s >> 1977 >> no-877-september-1977

So They Say: Dodging the issue

A good number of people have been led to believe that the Labour Party has the interests of the working class at heart and its representatives have been careful to cultivate the idea. When this belief is questioned by pointing to the government’s failure to deal with social problems and hardship, the Labour Party explains—or more accurately, explains this away—by saying that they are bedevilled with other matters which in their estimation have to be seen to first.

In the face of growing discontent over wage levels, the government has chosen to associate the level of wages with the level of inflation as if the two were virtually the same thing and that the former will determine the latter. It is not a new ploy from them, two years ago they were placing announcements in the press urging “moderation” in wage claims under the headline “Inflation — we can beat it together.” Perhaps wary of reminding workers of the earlier campaign, the current one takes the form of government ministers making speeches.

  The message is gradually getting across that moderate wage increases are the way to improve our standard of living . . .  In fact, we can now predict with confidence that for the next six months inflation will be brought increasingly under control. Whether or not it continues into 1978 is wholly dependent on the pattern of wage settlements during the next year.

Mr. Hattersley. The Times 13th August 77

The one new feature to note here, unlike all the previous and inaccurate predictions by the government on inflation, is that this one is made “with confidence.” The illogicality however is the same; inflation is caused by an excess issue of paper money and the note issue has risen by well over 50 per cent. under Labour. Contrary to the impression (the “message”) from Mr. Hattersley, the note issue is not under the control of the working class, or increased at their bidding. The note issue is determined by the government through the Bank of England.

Gold and silver linings
High unemployment figures give one indication that capitalism is passing through one of its periodic depressions. If we were to take the pronouncements of politicians at face-value, the only salvation lies apparently in “getting business back on its feet.” This impression of a down-and-out capitalism has led some “left-wing” groups, like the Oxford Street sandwich board man, to issue stern warnings that the end is at hand. Ironically, while awaiting the “end” they busy themselves by calling for the right to be employed. Even on their own analysis they do not see the contradiction. However, newspapers publish relatively believable items as well as political speeches: The depression may be serious, but the collapse of capitalism is not upon us.

  The net profits before tax of 229 British companies, whose annual reports are included in the Exchange Telegraph’s statistics service, reached a total of £1,444.1m during the month of July. This compares with £1,015.5m using the same companies for the previous year. The net profits before tax of 1,527 British companies in the seven months to July 31, aggregated £12,403.6m as against £8,953.3m for the same period, using the same companies.

The Times, 2nd August 77

The Times calculates “Company profits up by 42 per cent in July” and using the same calculation, this would put the increase in profit for the 1527 companies up by an average of approximately 38 per cent, over the seven months’ figure for last year. These companies at least have something to show for the Labour Party’s “socialism”.

Great expectations
British workers have a new group of friends, or at least it appeared so at first. The German news magazine Der Spiegel of 1st August says that British workers are a much maligned lot and cannot be blamed for the country’s woes. The magazine draws its conclusion after interviewing a number of German businessmen who are operating in Britain. The German director of a London lighting company had this to say:

  It is more important to (British) people to be treated right than paid properly. If you approach a British worker roughly he will down tools.

Daily Telegraph, 1st August 77

Only a cynic would suggest that treating people “right” is a good bit cheaper than paying them “properly.” The praise rolled on; the head of Klippon Electricals, a sister company of the Weilemuller Company, denied that German workers are better than British. In his own company for example

  Our profitability is so high that it’s the sort of thing others dream about.

No doubt the “others” he refers to are members of the British capitalist class. The workers’ rôle in all this, be they British or German, is simply to make the dream come true.

Still at large
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has an odd sense of humour. When he was talking about the government plans to restrict wage claims to no more than 10 per cent. per annum, he was asked whether negotiations on productivity deals would be permitted to go above this figure. Yes, he thought.

Provided they are genuinely self-financing.

The Times, 11th August 77

 

This recalled the dreadful beast sighted by Harold Wilson two years ago—“the recalcitrant employer, a rogue elephant” (we think he meant unicorn)—who was causing all manner of difficulty by happily agreeing to over-pay his workers. Sounds as if he must still be at large but we are not entirely surprised to learn that the Labour Party has so far failed to track him down.

 

Alan D’Arcy