From the May 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard
The Party of "Deeds"—The Conservatives.
The Conservatives are fighting the election on their past record. They survey the existing condition of this country and ask you, the electors, to agree that it is good. In the words used by Mr. Baldwin in his speech at Drury Lane Theatre on April 18th—
You may judge us by what we have done.
(Reported in “Daily Telegraph,” 19 April, 1929.)
It has been agreed by the Conservatives, the Liberals and the Labour Party that the main question on which the election is to be fought is unemployment and the possibility of finding a cure for it. Mr. Baldwin in a speech at Bristol on April 25th (See “Times" Report, 26th April) was content to point out that even if some 10 per cent. of the workers are unemployed there is great comfort to be derived from the knowledge that the other 90 per cent, are working and “are enjoying a higher standard of life than has ever been enjoyed before." He also expressed a modest hope that given freedom from social “hurricanes and cataclysms" unemployment will be “reduced to normal by a natural process in three or four years."
This kind of pledge is as safe as any of the ambiguities produced by Old Moore. What, to begin with, is normal? When an unemployed army of about 1¼ millions exists over a period of some eight years or more it is “normal." And what is to prevent the Conservative Government, whenever it may wish to do so, from producing the requisite “social hurricanes," as in 1926, by engineering large industrial disputes? And even without that rather drastic method, they can fall back on the simple device of “abolishing unemployment" by disentitling claimants for unemployment pay and passing them on to the Poor Law, or giving the older workers a meagre pension to secure their withdrawal from the labour market.
The Labour Party and the Liberals—The Parties of "Promises."
The Liberals, knowing full well that they are not in the least likely to receive a majority of seats in the new House of Commons, the fighting on Mr. Lloyd George’s schemes for providing work for the unemployed. Whereas Mr. Baldwin believes that “by a natural process" the volume of unemployment will be reduced to normal in three or four years, Mr. Lloyd George promises to secure the same result in a year.
The Labour Party have pointed out that, neither in principle nor in details, is there anything new in Mr. Lloyd George's schemes. The Labour Party, with a much better prospect of securing a majority than the Liberals, are equally confident that their development schemes, coupled with Nationalisation of various industries and transport services, will secure even more than a mere reduction to normal. They will not be content with anything far short of total abolition.
What is the “ Natural Process”?
What all three Parties and their advisers on economic questions persistently ignore is that the “natural process" referred to by Mr. Baldwin operates not in the direction of removing unemployment, but in the reverse direction. The “natural process" of capitalism is in the direction of greater and greater productivity; more wealth produced by fewer workers; machines replacing men. This is the natural process everywhere at work, and constantly aggravating the problem. Given capitalism, that is the private ownership of the means for producing and distributing wealth, and the continued tendency for that ownership to be concentrated more and more in the hands of the wealthy few, unemployment is not to be solved by any of the familiar devices of increased production, greater efficiency, more exports, or the purchase of home produced goods. The position in the coal mines of this country illustrates the factors at work in every land and throughout industry. Between March, 1928, and March, 1929, coal exports increased, and coal production increased by nearly 500,000 tons a week (nearly 10 per cent.), but the number of miners employed decreased by 20,000 (2 per cent.) (See Board of Trade Journal 28th March).
The wealth of the capitalist world is in the hands of a few. They own the factories, and they alone decide whether and when those factories shall be used for the production of goods. The luxurious living and sheer waste of the capitalists and their Governments are far outstripped by the ever-growing powers of production. Whatever name Liberals or the Labour Party may give to their schemes, they can only keep off the labour market the ever-growing army of men thrown out of employment through rationalisation, new machinery, etc., by various forms of wasteful expenditure, private and State charity, whether these take the form of relief works, a huge standing Army and Navy, expenditure on wars and battleships, hordes of officials, or unnecessary domestic servants. That is not a solution of the unemployment problem. Unemployment can be removed only by the abolition of capitalism.
Unemployment not the cause of poverty.
There is, however, a more important question. These Parties are all content to fight the election on the issue of unemployment. The Socialist Party alone is not. Poverty is not caused merely by unemployment. The working class in general are poor, in work or out, and in every part of the world where capitalism prevails. When Mr. Baldwin says that the workers enjoy "a higher standard of life than has ever been enjoyed before,” he blandly ignores the fact that the workers' standard of life is far below the ordinary standard of the privileged class of non-producers—the capitalist class. They own and control the land, the railways, the factories, mines, ships, and other means of producing and distributing wealth. Out of the whole vast wealth of this country it is estimated by Professor Henry Clay (Liberal) that "it is probably safe to say that over two-thirds of the National capital is held by less than 2 per cent. of the people.” (“Times," 24th March, 1925).
The working class are the majority of the population. They produce the wealth and organise industry from top to bottom. They provide the sinews, the muscles and the brains of industry.
The capitalists are the small minority, but they own and control industry. Of the goods produced each year by the working class, Professor Clay states that 94.5 per cent, of the population have only 56 per cent. of the whole annual income. That is to say that nearly half the National income is enjoyed by 5.5 per cent of the population. (See "Times,’’ March 24th, 1925.)
That is why the workers are poor.
What is Socialism?
We stand for Socialism, which means the transfer of the means of production from the hands of the few to society as a whole, involving the ending of the whole system based on a class of owners who enjoy but do not produce, and a class of producers who do not own.
The method of doing this is for the working class majority to understand Socialism, organise in the Socialist Party and vote their delegates into control of the House of Commons. Nothing short of Socialism will abolish working class poverty and unemployment. But Socialism will at the same time solve all the economic problems which are the subject matter of the long and intricate programmes about which these three big parties are disputing.
They fight this and every election on plans to remedy some of the effects of capitalism. The Socialist Party fights for the abolition of capitalism.