Friday, September 25, 2015

Oil and Slaves (1913)

From the February 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

The oil age is coming. Year books, financial journals, the sharks of Throgmorton Street, together with the rest of the interested, "far seeing" exploiters and worshippers of the golden calf, are eagerly discussing the possibilities of oil as a motive force, and how much more profit they can grab by its use.

It behoves the working class to consider the question also, because it is they who are going to suffer, as usual, from what would be a boon and a blessing to all were the toilers sufficiently enlightened and determined to make it such.

The "Diesel" engine has already proved itself capable of propelling ocean going steamers, and will doubtless be in general use in the near future. Look at this: "The engine room staff of the 'Selandia' consists of eight men and two boys. No firemen required. No boilers needed. No loading with bunker coal for the voyage."

How our masters must rub their hands with delight when they think of the saving of wages, extra cargo space, cheaper ships, and many other advantages. How the thoughtful fireman must curse when his job disappears, and the boilermaker when he reads: "No boilers required." How joyous the coal-porter must feel when, instead of fifty men engaged in coaling a ship, he see the engineer turn on the oil cock and fill his tank in a few hours! Oh! the unspeakable happiness of the lightermen and railwaymen at the thought of not having to transport any more dirty coal to the docks! What joy dwells in the heart of the miner as he thinks of the near future when oil competes fiercely with coal, and thousands of him are saved the trouble of squabbling over "abnormal places," having gained the displaced wage-slave's normal place—the gutter.

The "Selandia" saved on her first voyage to Bankok a sum of £1,200 for fuel alone. She is only a small ship. The saving on great liners will be commensurably greater, as will the numbers of "hands" displaced. Great is oil!

A Royal Commission with Lord Fisher at its head was appointed in July last to enquire into the possibilities of oil-driven "Dreadnoughts" (many torpedo craft already use oil), and the remarks of "The Times" were significant when announcing its appointment. "If," said that paper, "oil as a fuel and oil-driven engines were adopted exclusively as the result of the Commission's enquiries, not only might great economy be effected, but fewer men would be required to attend the engines and there would be economy in space and weight." Yes! indeed. It will be splendid they sack half the "black squad" of the navy, and what an inspiring sight it will be when the enemy's shells drops into the oil tanks!

Already it is announced ("Lloyd's Newspaper," Jan. 12) that a large tract of oil land in New Brunswick has been acquired for the Admiralty at a cost of £2,000,000, to supply oil fuel for the Navy, and that a chain of storage depots is being built round the coasts. Mr. Keir Hardie will now be satisfied, I anticipate.

Then, again, the railway companies are going in for oil from sheer necessity, having been badly hit by the motor lorries. Sir Sam Fay, manager of the Great Central Railway, declares that "we shall soon see oil-driven cars running on all the railways and supplanting the steam engines." Of course, he says nothing about the supplanted firemen—doesn't interest him a great deal.

Altogether, the advent of oil as a fuel will have a far-reaching effect upon the working class, and its moral effect for them is obvious. Every great labour-saving invention or discovery—and the use of oil as a propelling agent has been made possible by the invention of Dr. Diesel—spells unemployment for thousands while capitalism lasts. Many are flung "out" to accentuate the competition of those "in". When the workers will it the work will be flung out instead, lessening the labours and adding to the leisure and pleasure of all.

We call it Socialism, this condition of affairs wherein every invention will contribute only to the comfort and happiness of the whole people. Work for it, for there is no hope for the slave class in any other direction.
Wollie.

1 comment:

imposs1904 said...

I've chosen to retain the original spelling from the 1913 article.