Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Jottings (1914)

The Jottings column from the March 1914 issue of the Socialist Standard

During the whole of the Labour Party Conference, which lasted four days, the word “Socialism” was only mentioned once; that was when Mr. Bruce Glasier said they did not intend to discuss it!

Mr. Ramsay MacDonald told an interviewer on his return from India that the Conference “would be a record one as far as common sense was concerned.” Io the light of after events this can be taken as a reflection on the delegates. Mr. MacDonald told them to vote this way, and that—and they did !

* * *

One contemporary (“Modern Society”) wants to know: “Why did Mr. Ramsay MacDonald return from the Commission in India six weeks before the rest of the Commission left Bombay for home?” Well now, isn’t it obvious? Who could imagine a Labour Party Conference without Mr. MacDonald? What use is a ship without a rudder?

* * *

Speaking at Glasgow on the Sunday succeeding the Conference, he asked his audience "to realise that class feeling would not achieve Socialism. Class feeling was the mark of capitalism, not Socialism. Socialism united all classes and lifted them up to a common level of humanity.” (“Daily Citizen,” 2.2.14).

You will notice how he lets himself go on the question of Socialism outside the Conference, at which all reference to the subject was carefully avoided.

I wonder how many “classes” Mr. MacDonald thinks there are in society ? So far, Socialists have only discovered two—the working dan and the non-working class. Socialism would not “unite” these two—there can be no unity between the robber and the robbed—but would abolish the conditions which create a non-working class, thus compelling them to take part in the work of useful production or—starve. Socialism offers no other alternative. Socialism implies one class—the workers—not a combination of “classes.”

Whilst it is true that class feeling is the mark of capitalism, Mr. MacDonald has no right to condemn it as if it was something repugnant. It is the duty of Socialists to foster and direct it. Class action is necessary in order to achieve Socialism, but class feeling, born of class-consciousness, is the first essential. But Mr. MacDonald doesn’t think so.

* * *

  “I have been in Spain: once. I was there a night and a day, because I could not get a train to take me away sooner. I shall never go again. I prefer the niggers in the West Indies to the Spaniards. I think black devils are less loathsome than those of lighter hue.” (Robert Blatchford, “Clarion,” 23.1.14.)
  
  “I claim that men should not be classified as good and bad, but as fortunate and unfortunate; that they should be pitied and not blamed; helped instead of being punished. I base this claim upon the self-evident and undeniable feet that man has no part in the creation of his own nature.” (Robert Blatchford in “Not Guilty," page 10.) With his usual consistency! 

* * *

Christ as the saviour of mankind looks like getting left since Lloyd George took the field in his self-appointed task of redeeming mankind. In his speeches at Swindon and Bedford, the accounts he gave of the lot of the poor were so heartrending that one was tempted to express the fear that the country would not be able to stand another dose of the same kind without being washed away in a flood of compassionate tears, generated by the soul-stirring, heart-searching, and blood curdling oratory of the Liberal Messiah. Anyway, he chanced it—and to some purpose. And, if report speaks true, he hasn’t finished yet.

  Whether his visit to Glasgow immediately following the Labour Party Conference was only a coincidence I leave an open question. Certain it is that interest in the one quickly fell flat when it became known that the saviour was due in their midst. He said nothing new, of course. In describing the rotten conditions of this country he reiterated only what has been stated before and sniffed at. Liberals have constantly denied what Mr. Lloyd George is now hysterically affirming. Said he:
 “Take our cities, the great cities of a great Empire. Right in the heart of them everywhere you have ugly quagmires of human misery, seething, rottening, at last fermenting. We pass them by every day on the way to our comfortable homes. We forget Divine justice never passes by a great wrong, and you can hear, carried by the breezes from the north, the south, the east, and the west, ominous rumblings. The chariots of retribution are drawing nigh. How long will all these injustices last for myriads of men, women, and children created in the image of God—how long? I believe it is coming to an end." (Cheers.)
 So do we—but it won't be in the shape of a “Divine justice" personified in Lloyd George. When Socialists have pointed out the same facts (without the sloppy trimmings), they have been scoffed and jeered at as “agitators, humbugs, and discontents.” But coming from the lips of a Cabinet Minister on the platform of St. Andrew’s Hall—oh! what a difference!

  Apart from the disgusting spectacle of hew easy it is to gull and deceive these poor fools in order to capture support for another lease of robbery—it may yet possess an element of good. The awakening will be all the ruder! “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” Yet I wonder how many of his audience remembered his words at Limehouse—“Deception is always a pretty contemptible vice, but to deceive the poor is the meanest of all crimes.”

  One thing: the Labour Party wont thank him for queering their pitch!

* * *

 In the course of a discussion at a meeting of the Carnarvon Town Council on the County Council’s proposed by-laws for regulating vehicular traffic. Sir John Roberts pointed out that some of the vehicles now used as motor-’buses were only ’bus bodies put on the chassis of old motor-cars never intended to carry on their axles the enormous weight of passengers which these ’buses carried.

 It is a common-place enough saying that human life is cheap—so common-place in fact that, although the sacrifice of human life is increasingly evident every day, it passes with the majority as something that is inevitable —something that is part of the order of things. Investigation usually reveals the fact that most disasters are caused through cheapness, both of material and labour, while experience shows the acquisition of profits to be the prime incentive.
  
Only the working-class as a rule travel by motor-’bus, so perhaps that explains the callous disregard of possible accidents shown in their construction.

* * *

  Mr. Henry Ford, of the Ford Motor Co., of Detroit, has recently announced that he is prepared to divide his profits with his employees. He intends to reduce the working day from nine hours to eight, without reduction of pay. Indeed, the pay is to be increased—from 11/6 to £1 a day for all employees over the age of twenty-two. On the face of it, this looks like philanthropy with a vengeance, bat Mr. Ford has another name for it—good business.
  
  It would appear that the Ford Co. were going to be cleaned out of their profits, but that word “good business” gives us furiously to think.

  Hitherto the Ford Co. have paid low wages — and made big profits; now it is proposed to pay big wages and—lose profits ? Not on your life! Let me show you how it is done.

  Ford intends to increase his profits, and to do this he is figuring on getting absolutely the pick of the labour market by his “generous” offer. From the increased staff of 22,000 who will be employed he is expecting to get increased efficiency in every part of the trade. This means that he will specialize on each job. The very fact that an increased wage and a dividend are to be the outcome of their activity, will spur his employees to greater efforts than ever; even to competing with each other inside the shop, for the laggard is to be eliminated. It is expected that under this system the worker, being a “partner,” will boost it for all he is worth, and turn out more and better work than under the former system. Formerly the record for assembling a car stood at twenty six minutes. This is now going to be beaten — indeed, has been beaten, at their works in Manchester (Eng.)
  
Perhaps the following may be interesting:
  “In a little clear space in the centre of the assembling department, a bare frame lay surrounded by wheels, springs, axles, and, in fact, every article required for a complete motor car. A few yards further on, supported on wooden trestles, was a black enamelled four seated body. A horn screeched. Eight men hurried forward , and commenced to work furiously, but in absolute silence. Barely a minute had passed, but the front wheels (with tyres already attached) were on and the springs firmly fixed, while the back of the frame rested on two large jacks. The engine was next lifted into place. Two minutes later it was tightly bolted and the rear wheels and driving gear were in position. Seven minutes passed and the chassis stood on the ground complete in every detail. The body was lifted on, the wind screen fixed, running boards, mud-guards attached, and at the end of eleven minutes the car stood ready. With a cargo of six excited men the car was driven out of the factory and round the works. Later she was thoroughly tested with a good run into the country. The speed with which the whole assembling work was carried out was a revelation to all present, and was only possible with the perfect organisation which exists in the erecting of a Lord car from the beginning to the end. This perfect organisation of labour, it is claimed, is the only thing to account for the low price of the Lord car considering its power and general efficiency.” (Daily Mail," 24.1.14.)
“Perfect organisation of labour” ; that is the secret! Though each individual may get more wages than ever he got before, the fact will remain that he will have to work harder and still harder—or get out. By specializing and employing only highly skilled workers; by eliminating the slowest of these and speeding the rest up to a higher standard of skill and rapidity, Lord claims that the cost of the labour power will actually he less than before.

 Another point. Having regard to the fact that 10,000 men clamoured for jobs in one day at Detroit, what is to prevent this factor from operating against those who are “fortunate" enough to retain their jobs, by lowering the price of labour-power?

* * *

Parliament had hardly settled down to “business" when the Labour Party defined its position by once more saving the Government. The circumstances were exactly the same as have happened before—voting against their own amendment when the Tories tried to force it to a division. Readers will be familiar with the details, as great publicity has been the outcome. I only mention it because it is the sequel to a statement made by Mr. Macdonald on his return from India. Referring to the support they had offered the Liberals last session on the question of Churchill’s extravagance, and which was ignored, he remarked to an interviewer of the “Daily Citizen," “We can afford to let bygones be bygones, however, if they (the Liberals) will support us this session."

Not that we expect them to do anything else than support the Liberals; but unfortunately there are thousands of workers in this country who are deluded into supporting them, fondly believing that they are getting independent representation when such is not the case. Significant were the words of Mr. Philip Snowden at the Labour Party Conference. “So long as they had Labour members returned by Liberal votes, as nine-tenths of the Labour members were, they had no right to expect independent action from them in the House of Commons. It is clearly evident that there was no labour member in the House who did not know that he was dependent for his seat in that House on the good-will of those who belonged to the other political parties.”

Which is a damning admission, for it shows they possess a programme which can cater for all shades of opinion—except Socialist.
Tom Sala

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