Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Passing Show: Accidents (1962)

The Passing Show column from the March 1962 issue of the Socialist Standard

Capitalism (state or private) is and must be an inhuman system in the sense that people are thought of not as human beings but as workers—animals which, with the correct treatment, are a profitable source of work-days in factories or offices. This is so even when schemes are propounded that on the surface seem to be humanitarian, For example, there is currently an effort in the coalmines to cut down the number of accidents. That is as it should be. In 1960, for example, for each two thousand miners, one man was killed, and five seriously injured. The exact figures were 316 killed, and 1,553 badly injured (The Guardian, 9/1/62).

The National Coal Board has now offered £35,000 in prizes to accident-free pits and men during 1962. And how are the prizes to be distributed? Perhaps to the pits where no one has been killed during the year? Perhaps to the pits with the fewest accidents? No; the Coal Board has a different criterion. Pits are to be divided into three groups according to size; and “ trophies and cash will be awarded to the colliery in each of three size groups with the fewest work days lost for every 100,000 manshifts worked during the year." Then the men at the winning pits “who have not had an accident involving more than three days’ absence will take part in the draw for prizes totalling £10,000." So there it is: both for mines and miners, the question is who has lost fewest work days through accidents. To the Coal Board, as to the old private owners, the miner is simply a source of work days; and even these so-called “safety prizes” are really aimed, not against death or injury as such, but only against loss of working time.

The devil
There were a lot of easy jokes made when the Convocation of Canterbury, the ruling body of the larger of the two provinces of the Church of England, rejected a proposal to throw the devil out of the catechism—although “all his works" were excluded. And it is paradoxical that whereas the great majority of people have ceased to believe in the existence of any such being, Anglicans are among the few people who are still faithful to him. Even they have only accepted the revised catechism for seven years; at the end of that time even the religionists may give Satan up. The really significant point, though, is that any such proposal as this one, to evict the devil from the official list of beliefs, could ever gain support in a Christian Church. Belief in the devil has been one of the fundamental tenets of Christianity for nearly two thousand years. But now it seems he is on his last legs.

Perhaps his temporary reprieve is due to their consideration that, after all, God created him; it would seem hard if the Christians were to abandon him now, in his hour of need.

Engineers might like to know—in case the news is not given them in their union journal—that their General Secretary, Mr. W. J. Carron, is being seen about these days in the very best society. In the top people’s paper there was news of an exclusive little gathering at Admiralty House on January 17th—a dinner given by Mr. Macmillan for the Italian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Besides the Italians and the Prime Minister himself, there were present two earls, a baron, five sirs, an honourable, a couple of Tory M.P.S, and—Mr. Carron.
Alwyn Edgar. 

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