Saturday, January 21, 2017

A New Cure (1906)

From the March 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

In the February issue of the Socialist Standard our comrade, Dick Kent, dealt with the latest quack remedy of the Salvation Army for solving unemployment. Now comes a writer in the Daily News, an "economic expert" who traces the cause of unemployment to the wasteful expenditure of wealth. Bow your heads, ye Solomons who taught the workers that they were poor because they were robbed. Shade your eyes from the dazzling light thrown upon this, up till now, difficult problem by the economic constellation alone. Can ye not see that it is not because Dick Turpin robs you that you are poor, but because, after he has emptied your pockets, he spends the proceeds of his industry in a wasteful manner. If, instead of spending this wealth among pals and girls, he were to turn it in the direction of useful production — such as the pistols and ammunition he employs for the purpose of persuading you to agree with him upon the point of wealth distribution - how much better off everyone would be. True! those already engaged in that industry would find their occupation gone by the inflow of new workers, unless they succeeded in beating them off the market by underselling them. In either case one set would still be unemployed.

"I know of no Labour member," says this economic sunbeam, “who does not desire to call men from the building of warships and the making of rifles to the construction of houses and the feeding and clothing of the people."

Note the phrasing of the last sentence. To construct houses does not necessarily mean the housing of the constructors; and to jumble this up with “the feeding and clothing of the people” without explaining how this latter is to be done, is to add to the confusion already existing. He would call men from building warships to build houses, and then, I suppose, place these upon an already fearfully overstocked market, compared to the effective demand, with the result of throwing out of work those at present precariously employed, and so replacing the present unemployed army by another. Then, we may suppose, this army will be set to work and thereby displace the displacers. The Inner Circle is a fool to it. Also the other sections of men now making rifles are to be put to making foodstuffs and clothing so that the sweated bakers, tailors, etc, will either have to “sweat" more to keep their hold upon the market or become unemployed themselves. This solution staggers the imagination of even the best balanced minds to see where it will end—other than where it began.

Under the present system of private ownership of the means of wealth production, and of the wealth when produced, the workers are unemployed just because they have produced too much for the effective demands of the market to absorb. The first step to be taken in dealing with the problem is obviously, not to set about increasing the extent of the difficulty by producing still more, but for the workers to have access to, and ownership of, that which they have already produced. It is not the want of commodities that is the trouble, but the private ownership of them, and the consequent prevention of the workers getting hold of the articles, that is at fault.

But "economic experts" are not paid by the ruling class to spread the truth, but to throw the weight of their “learning” and "science" upon the side of those who are engaged in keeping the mind of the workers directed away from the real question, and fixed upon one of the numerous "red herrings” before them.
Jack Fitzgerald


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