From the March 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard
For many generations the manufacture of steel and tin-plate, together with coal mining, has been the means of livelihood for the vast majority of South Wales workers (see article “How to attract workers" Socialist Standard, May, 1957). Now, thousands of men with years of accumulated skill in the production of steel and tin-plate and not without a certain pride in their craft, despite the notorious arduousness of the industry, find themselves redundant.
At the time of writing, approximately 7,500 are out of employment—with more to follow. The reason given is that the industry is going through a process of modernisation. Automation is, of course, inevitable under a system of mass production and it is not a question of whether we approve of it or not. No Socialist would support a system of manufacture which takes the maximum toll of flesh and blood as the tinplate industry in Wales has done throughout the years.
The concentration of production now taking place in four super factories has improved in some respects the lot of a much smaller labour force. This smaller army, geared to high speed machinery, has already created new records in steel tonnage. Stocks are mounting quicker than they can be sold.
It is obvious that the Steel Company has been forced to increase its investments in modem plant whilst attempting to decrease the labour force. The snag is, of course, that more and more invested Capital needs to be utilized in the attempt to capture markets by means of quantity and cheapness, whilst this very method tends to decrease their rate of profit, compared with the old days of cheap flesh and blood with a minimum of machinery. In the meantime, even their super factories have had to slow down.
Sometime or other demand will no doubt rise again, but these ups and downs present a problem that is insoluble within capitalism.
The army of the unwanted grows. Once again we are back to the dole queues. Once more the pot of jam is making its appearance more frequently on the family table to the exclusion of more sustaining fare. Once more the working class house-wife is forced to deny her family in order to pay the rent Only this time the rents, especially on the Council Estates, are very much on the up and up.
There is, of course, no way out of such a situation apart from taking over the means of production. When this happens the shiny new factories will be really utilized. They will be manned by workers with a new interest in their work. Work will be a necessary task shared by all so that all can obtain the benefit of leisure and product The product itself will be freely distributed so that surpluses and unemployment will no longer arise.
In the meantime, the Welsh steel worker is issuing distress signals to his Union leaders. Councillors and MP.’s, all of whom are scuttling around interviewing Government Ministers, etc. The clergy are praying for the workers too. Congregations suffer when there are upheavals in the community pattern as occurred during the last depression when thousands emigrated to other parts of the country.
The members of the Socialist Party in Wales continue to put forward the case to the best of their ability. It is up to the workers to analyse it. They are going to have plenty of time on their hands in which to do so.