Sunday, November 10, 2019

Enterprising I.C.I. (1959)

Film Review from the February 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

All the Old Fallacies
On Sunday, 14th December, a most interesting film was shown at Head Office as part of our winter propaganda series. The film was called Enterprise and was made by the Imperial Chemical Industries about itself.

Although the film ran only for 22 minutes, it must have been quite costly to make, since it was entirely in cartoon form and in colour. As an attempt to justify the profit motive, from a Socialist point of view it was an elaborate waste of time. All the time-honoured catchphrases and phoney ideals, so dear to the hearts of the Capitalist Class, were put over with the most subtle propaganda technique.

Of course, one major weakness in films which set out to “sell” Capitalism as the best system possible is, that if it was really so good and in the best interest of everyone, it would not be necessary to “plug” it all the time. If the set-up existing between employers and employees, the owners and non-owners of the means of living, was so in accordance with man's nature that there was no antagonism or conflict of interest, there would be no need to keep turning out expensive sugar-coated propaganda.
What we are expected to swallow by the film is that giant concerns like I.C.I. exist for the purpose of doing things “for us.” We are told, via the commentator, that the Capitalists “risk" their money in a community-minded spirit to “produce for our use.” It is with heartfelt desire to serve “us” that the £220,000,000 capital of I.C.I. is set into motion. To produce, with the “maximum efficiency and speed the things we need” is the noble objective of the selfless Capitalist.

It is readily admitted by the film that the Capitalist makes profits, but, of course, this is his just “reward” for “risking” his money in our interest. Although the film several times makes reference to this “reward,” nothing is said about its origin. It is almost as though a good fairy recognises the kindly nature of the Capitalist and, with a wave of her wand, his “reward” materializes out of thin air. Considering that in 1957 I.C.I. made £27 million net profit, that must be some fairy. From the standpoint of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, these notions are the purest drivel. We would not waste time on such arguments except for the fact that they are expected to be, and too often are, taken seriously by members of the working class.

Another phrase used in the film was. that I.C.I. is a “community in unity.” In fact the whole commentary is made to rhyme, but we felt more as though the commentator was spinning us a yarn than reciting poetry. There is no basis for unity between the working-class and the capitalist class. It is from the wealth produced by the workers that the profits of the Capitalist arise. The words "efficiency and speed” merely try to mask the employer’s determination to exploit his wage-slaves to the maximum possible extent.

The film started by depicting an ancient potter, who not only made the pots himself but, when times were hard, also went out and found new markets for them: if through HIS efforts HE got rich, good luck to him. Then we are brought forward in time to I.C.I., and they try to make the parallel that those who get profits out of I.C.I., too, are the ones who do the work. We are shown few workers and lots of board-rooms, executives, and costings departments. The ancient potter owned the implements he worked with, but under modern Capitalist production work and ownership of implements are separated. This fact lies at the bottom of all the major social problems facing mankind to-day.

How different from all this things would be under Socialism. When the means of production are held in common by all, the word “community” will have a real meaning. In a classless system, costings departments and board-rooms will have no place. It will not be necessary to calculate costs in order to maintain profits when society is no longer concerned with monetary systems. Under Capitalism, the first consideration is ‘‘Will it sell?” "Will it be profitable?” With Socialism, the first and only consideration will be human well-being, the democratic organisation of production for use on the basis of free access.

The Stock Exchange Year Book for 1958 gives an impressive list of about 20 countries in which I.C.I. have holdings. When the competition for markets, minerals and trade-routes, etc., leads the various ruling class groups to war it is possible for workers to fight for I.C.I.’s interests in almost every part of the world.

Much is made in the film of the vast number of shareholders in I.C.I. This is another stock argument of Capitalist defenders which only shows how shallow they really are. It is as good as admitting that it is anti-social for a few to own the means of society’s living, so if they can make it sound a lot it has a better effect. As if it matters to workers being exploited whether the wealth they produce above their wages is shared by many or few Capitalists. When the official figures show that 10 per cent. of the population own 90 per cent. of the accumulated wealth, one does not need to be a genius at maths, to find out what property interests or investments the working-class has.

A fact not mentioned in the film is that it is a regular practice of I.C.I. to make large donations to Scientific Education. In one of their own publications. I.C.I. Review for 1957, we are told that the amount for that year was £300,000 The review adds that the object is “to increase the amount and quality of Scientific and Technical work in the country generally, from which the Company itself will undoubtedly benefit.”

When workers begin to understand their true position in present-day society and start to see the need for Socialism, they will not be so easily deceived by Capitalist propaganda. They will read the Press, listen to the radio and watch films and television in the light of their growing class-consciousness. The days of production for the profit of a few will then be on the way out.
Harry Baldwin


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