Sunday, August 6, 2017

Production for Use? (1958)

From the October 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard

When I was a child ray father used to sing me songs. One of them I remember was extremely melodramatic and accompanied by the appropriate gestures began: “Don’t go down the mine, daddy, it’s safer to stay at home.” I loved this one and requested it again and again.

I was therefore agreeably surprised to read in the News of the World on the 24th August an account of a man who had taken these words to heart, with the slight variation of “Don’t go down the mine daddy, its safer to dig your own.”

Mr. Squires had been a miner until he contracted lung trouble in 1948. Now it so happened that his back garden led into an open cast coal mine, and being out of work and in need of a little warmth. Mr. Squires, with considerable ingenuity, soon managed to have the coal mine leading into his back garden, which, as you must agree, made all the difference between having and not having coal.

Now Mr. Squires seems to be a man who takes words to heart, and therein lies his mistake. It is well known to every member of the working class that the mines belong to us, and that the National Coal Board are merely our agents. Do we not hear this every day, and from the most reliable sources? Press, pulpit and parliament have all assured us that the coal mines are our property. The Labour government even told us it was Socialism. Mr. Squires took them at their word and established his own little bit of Socialism. He put into his home-made mine according to his abilities, and drew from it according to his needs. He mined about ten tons a year, all used by his family, truly production for use. He was also a most honourable man, during his ten years of free access he never once applied for the concessionary coal allowed to miners.

But poor Mr. Squires overlooked one important thing. It is not advisable to believe everything you hear, and to be told by politicians that you own the mines does not necessarily mean you do. Nationalisation alters nothing as far as the workers are concerned, and the National Coal Board is just as much concerned with property and profits as the private owner.

So we leave Mr. Squires awaiting his trial to face charges of stealing.
J. H.

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