Saturday, January 21, 2017

Another Quack Remedy (1906)

From the February 1906 issue of the Socialist Standard

With the multitudinous “remedies” for the unemployed problem, one wonders why it should exist at all, or, at any rate, why it is allowed to assume the alarming proportions it does each winter. Notwithstanding stone yards and emigration, Queen’s Funds and the rest, however, the problem remains, and what is more important, increases. But at last the "first practical proposal” has been made. It emanates from that quarter from which one would anticipate “practical” proposals.

The Salvation Army! A sum of £100,000 has been placed at the service of the Army to finance a scheme for putting “a certain section of the deserving poor” “back to the land." Without going into details, the nett result of this “practical proposal" is to create about 200 small holdings of 5 acres each, on which the unfortunate settler will have to work to produce (a) £25 per annum which will be demanded of him as rent; (b) 5 per cent. interest on the sum advanced, and (c) his own livelihood in competition with the larger and more economically organised farms both here and abroad. After 40 years he becomes a "peasant proprietor.”

So far as these potential peasant proprietors are concerned, their unemployment can, if they succeed in complying with the conditions, be accepted as cured; nut for such a scheme to be boomed in the Press as, in any way, a solution of the problem of unemployment, is, misleading and untrue.

For, after all, what leads to this unemployment? Why is it that no one among the ranks of the employers of labour will employ these people? Simply because they cannot do so and conform to the necessities of the system, i.e., show a profit. And this, because the system has developed so as to expose, in bold relief, its essential contradiction, and by virtue of the private ownership of the means of living, and its necessary corollary, wage-labour, to increase with its development, the disproportion between the amount produced and the amount received as wages. It is the accumulation of this difference that produces the glutted market, the depression in trade, the economic crisis, the "over-production ” and the "unemployed problem."

Such a result being the necessary outcome of the capitalistic method of production, how can the effect be removed, and the cause of the effect retained? It is an answer to this riddle which well-intentioned people try to find by means of such artificial arrangements as that mentioned above. For my part, I accept the inevitable, and believe that if capitalism produces the results alleged against it (and they cannot be denied), then to remove the results you must remove capitalism.

The purchasing power of the bulk of the community is limited to their wages. Their wages represent a declining proportion of the wealth produced. The proportion of the community so affected increases. Therefore, the surplus, over and above wages, represents an increasing proportion of wealth which goes to a decreasing proportion of the community. This is the prime cause of unemployment The new scheme (if indeed it can be called new) in no way tends to rebalance those proportions, but, if anything, to enlarge the disproportion. It is, therefore, no solution of the problem.

To attempt to solve an “unemployed problem” that is produced by the capitalist mode of production and yet retain the mode of production is folly and a criminal waste of time. Capitalism out of its own inherent weakness is rapidly preparing its own downfall by the production of such problems as that of unemployment. That downfall is inevitable. There is no escape from it. Upon its ruins only an intelligent working-class may construct the newer system which, by the organisation of the production of wealth for the satisfaction of the wants of those who produce it, will preclude the possibility of such anomalies as the general poverty problem of our time, with the more acute poverty and unemployment always attendant upon it, necessitating, as it at present does, abstinence and starvation in the midst of  plenty, and because there is plenty.
Dick Kent

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