Letter to the Editors from the July 1939 issue of the Socialist Standard
To The Editorial Committee.
I claim to understand your principles and policy, but I am not convinced that Socialism can be brought into being, although it is a very desirable dream. If you have the time, patience and opportunity, you may observe in nearly every factory and garage that a small percentage of the workers are more efficient at their jobs than the majority, and are able to complete their job of REPAIRING or assembling parts of a machine much quicker than the other workers. This does not mean that they use up more energy, but that they pick up the correct tools, and, because of their superior intelligence, they are able to detect where the faults or damages are and the best and quickest methods of making good the damage. The same applies to the manufacture of new goods, such as clothes, ladies’ and gentlemen’s fur coats, etc., boot repairs, sign writing, etc. Let us try and deal with one industry at a time. (1) The fur trade. Now in this trade you will observe, if you have the opportunity of watching men and women as they work, that some of the workers, who have been in the trade ten, fifteen or twenty years, do not do their work as NEATLY or QUICKLY as other workers who have worked in the trade only four to seven years. Some workers in this trade, such as fur cutters, have better sight; therefore, when they are MATCHING the different shades of coloured fur pelts to make up a coat or wrap they are able to match much more quickly and efficiently than those workers with indifferent sight and less interest in their work. A nimble-fingered workman can cut out the damaged parts of the pelts much more neatly and replace the damaged parts more neatly and quickly than the inefficient worker with indifferent sight. This is not a question of age, for some of the older workers are quicker and neater at their work than the younger workers. The most efficient fur machinists are those who are able to sew together the cut pelts and hold and guide the pelts so through the machine in such a way that they are able to make very thin and neat seams; this depends upon the nimbleness of their fingers and very good sight, but you must remember that there are excellent, good, indifferent and bad machinists. . . . (2) A good cabinet maker makes his doors and drawers fit perfectly, and does his work as quick, or quicker, than a bad cabinet maker, who does not make his doors and drawers fit properly. These very big differences between workmen, (3) between bankers and small moneylenders, (4) clever business men and foolish business men, are differences that are inherited at birth from grandparents, and can only be bridged in dreams of idealists, and not in the world of realities. A business man who has more nerve and daring than his competitor, plus knowledge of all the risks of success and failure, is sure to be more successful than one with less knowledge and courage, etc. I will now close this brief letter, but I will be very glad to receive a personal reply from you, as well as an answer in the Socialist Standard. If you are able to prove to my satisfaction that I am wrong, I will be pleased to become an active member of the Socialist Party and subscribe £50 to your funds.
Our correspondent draws attention to the fact that many persons are working at jobs for which they have no natural aptitude—square pegs in round holes. What he states may be correct, but what has that to do with Socialism? He has read our pamphlets but has evidently only a hazy grasp of economics. He is one of many.
The capitalist class owns what is essential to all; the working class, owning nothing, sell their lives in the form of human energy, mental and physical, to the owning section. They receive in return wages—food, clothing and shelter—barely sufficient to generate in their bodies the quantity and quality of labour-power they are called upon to deliver. All over and above what is required to keep the working class in fair working condition, after the wear of the machinery of production has been made good, goes to the owning class in the shape of rent, interest and profit. All the capitalist class does is to speculate on a good thing. When a worker has sold his labour power to the owning class it is no longer his, the use of a thing belongs to the buyer.
The capitalist class has the use of the furrier, the carpenter, the tailor, etc., and they make more profit out of some individuals than others.
It is true that some workers are more skilful than others, but in all trades and in all jobs there is a general average that the worker is expected to keep. The capitalist will see that the labour power they purchase is exploited to the best advantage. Those who are lucky enough to fall into a job they can do more easily than the average endure less agony during the period their labour power is being extracted. It does not follow that, because a worker is efficient, he is of higher intelligence. Any circus proprietor will tell you that the most intelligent animals are the most difficult to train.
Many wage slaves realise they are exploited; they loathe the whole slave exploiting mechanism; they hate the job and do as little work as possible, and get away with as much as they can.
The fur trade is referred to. It has its own nomenclature—it can change the species of animals. A rabbit may become a seal and so also may a rat. A skunk has been known to be converted into a sable, and the wage slave takes the tricks of the trade for granted. This should not increase his respect for the morals of his capitalist exploiters.
Bankers, small money-lenders and clever business men live on the proceeds of exploitation. Some are very ingenious. We read from time to time of the exploits of clever cat-burglars. These display finesse in their operations. Are they entitled to the plunder they obtain because of their superior ingenuity?
What is there in what our correspondent states that should retard a desire on the part of the working class for the common ownership of the means of life? The skilled and the unskilled will benefit from Socialism, for most of them now live on the edge of grinding poverty. They will eventually perceive that they can, as a class, move into a position of economic security.
The general condition will not improve until the change Socialism calls for is effected. The working class must transform capitalist property in the means of life into common property.
The thinking section of our class already realise this. When Socialism comes the worker will be able to individually enjoy what he helps to socially create. He will have more personal property than he could dream of possessing as a wage slave.
He will be free to choose what he would be and to be what he would choose.
All that tempts to goodness, greatness and nobleness of life will be at the disposal of all. We do not see anything in your letter that stands in the way of the workers, whatever the nature of their job, lining up for SOCIALISM.