From the January 1952 issue of the Socialist Standard
Many objects! in class society stand as a monument to the foolishness of man. One of these in present society is that infernal machine the Underground Railway.
At certain times during the day, a surging mass of humanity descends upon this particular means of transport, as it seems to be the quickest way of getting to and from work, speed being the order of the day.
The first delay that must be taken into consideration in our measurement of time, is the long queue of people who wait for an employee of the London Transport, to present them with a ticket in exchange for money. Then we meet that effigy of wasted labour “The Hole Puncher.” After our ticket has made the acquaintance of his Instrument of Office, we put it into our pocket, for it has nothing to do with the running of the train anyway.
Our next step, takes us onto the moving staircase (a realisation on somebody’s part that the worker has so little energy left after his employer has finished with him that he cannot use a normal staircase). Then, standing on an overcrowded platform, we wait the arrival of “The Monster.”
Man has passed many laws for the protection of cattle in transport yet, during the next part of this journey we will see him voluntarily submit himself to conditions that are a violation of every one of these laws. Even the horse has to be saddled, he doesn’t put the halter round his own neck. Pushing and shoving, the assembled company boards the tram, hardly able to breathe the rotten air that pervades the vacant spaces. At last with a sigh of relief, we arrive at our destination, having kept our hands in our own pockets, and our name out of The News of The World.
We present out ticket to another employee of the London Transport Board, who examines it to make sure that we have not fiddled his employer, and then relieves us of its care. So much for “Our” trains. Who ever heard of a person cheating himself? Unless it be a worker at Election time.
Walking off into the comparative fresh air all we can murmur is Why? Why? We are met with the Socialist case. All these unpleasantries are facets of Capitalism, facets of the undeniable fact that Society is divided into two classes.
The “ticket” we buy has no function in the actual running of the train but measures the value of the commodity we are buying in train service, which like all other commodities is produced for exchange, with a view to profit.
This overcrowding is due to the fact that the majority of society owning no “Property” are forced to sell themselves to the Owning Class. They sell themselves for a certain amount of time, and receive sufficient to reproduce the commodity. It is not the purpose of this article to go too deeply into the measure of Value. Sufficient to say that the worker receives just the value of his Labour Power, which is the commodity he sells. This necessitates him living as near to his place of employment as possible, so we have the advent of large industrial towns. It also necessitates him finding the quickest, and cheapest means of travel, so we have the existence of such social monstrosities as Underground Railways.
The working day begins for most of us long before we arrive at our place of employment, for travelling for the worker is darned hard work, and it is a long time after we leave our place of employment before we can relax, and try to forget that we have to do it all again on the morrow.
All these rotten conditions of life will be with us until the vast majority sees an alternative. It is these conditions that have thrown up a small minority that can see an alternative, the Socialists, but as Socialism is a system of society, based on the cooperation of Common Owners, to introduce it needs the understanding of the vast majority. Therefore we ask you to study our case, for we are sure that if you really get down to understanding Socialism, you will join with us.
Oh! by the way, the Underground seems to have another use too, by the people who, fed up with the problems of Capitalism, have used its electric rail to find the only way out they knew.