Editorial from the June 1938 issue of the Socialist Standard
China is news, Russia is news, Austria, Czechoslovakia and other places where capitalist interests are strongly affected remain news, and daily figure prominently in the papers. But the Markham Colliery disaster was not even a nine days' wonder. After the first few days it has hardly been mentioned, although 80 men lost their lives in a peace-time occupation that has already claimed thousands of working-class lives.
Working in a coal-mine is not spectacular, but it is exceedingly unhealthy and dangerous under present conditions. When the miners ask for higher wages or improved conditions their demands are met with opposition by the people who live on the dividends resulting from the miners' work. When disaster, like that at the Markham Colliery, or the many other disasters that darken the record of coal-mining, occurs, then for a day or two there are loud protestations of sympathy for the victims and their dependents, there are photos of pitiful scenes; then, after a short interval, the tragedy is forgotten by those outside the narrow circle of the victims.
There will be an inquiry into the cause of the disaster, but the finding will not place the responsibility for the tragedy on the head of the real criminal—the system that lives on the exploitation of workers—the profit-making system of capitalism.
While this system continues tragedy will always hover over coal-mines. When the principle of wealth production is changed to production for the benefit of all, coal-mines will only be operated in a manner that will be safe for the workers in them. If coal-mining, or any other occupation, cannot be carried on without danger then some substitute for coal will be found, because under Socialism human life will at once become of supreme importance.