Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Riches of the Working Class !! (1925)

From the April 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

The newspapers have discovered that the workers are capitalists. Since March 18th, when Mr. Runciman, the Liberal Capitalist, made his speech on “The Distribution of Wealth,” the Press has waxed eloquent about the “enormous” number of capitalists and the wealth of the workers.

Figures such as Mr. Runciman gave are similar in kind to those supplied for many years to attempt to show that the mass of the people are not propertyless.

In his speech before the United Kingdom Provident Institution, Mr. Runciman said that the amount of the Post Office Savings Bank deposits was 280 million pounds at the end of 1924. This sum was held by 12,300,000 people. A simple sum in division will show that the vast savings of these 12 million people amount to about £23 per head. So that these lucky people with a bank book have amassed the enormous wealth of £23 as their life savings.

Assuming them to be workers, these “savings” are insufficient to tide over one of the periods of sickness or unemployment to which workers and their families are subject. To call these paltry sums “investments,” as Mr. Runciman does, is a capitalist joke. The fact that the sum per head in the Post Office Bank is so small is in itself an indictment of the system. The paltry amount “saved” by the industrious would not pay for an employer’s "night out.”

Mr. Runciman gave further figures showing that about 2 millions had £40 per head in the Trustee Savings Banks. This Liberal statesman omitted to state that both in the Post Office and Trustee Savings Bank there were a large number of depositors who were petty tradesmen and shopkeepers and not members of the working class.

In order to pile up the figures, Mr. Runciman took the total amount of Government War Stock issued by the Post Office since 1914, amounting to 239 million pounds. The fact is well known that a very large number of the original holders of War Stock have been compelled to sell it, so that a large amount, of it is owned now by banks and other companies. After making other “estimates” and “conjectures,” our figure juggler arrived at the conclusion that 15 millions had a grand total of savings in these banks, etc., amounting to 777 millions. These “fifteen million capitalists,” as Mr. Runciman called them, had therefore an average of about £52 “saved ” !

A week before, one of the leading Conservative papers (the “Evening Standard,” March 11th, 1925) presented some facts which dispel the ”rosy dreams ” inspired by Mr. Runciman’s figures.

Mr. Lort-Williams, K.C., late Tory M. P. for Rotherhithe, and now Recorder of West Bromwich, is the writer of the article, from which we quote the following extracts :—
   One-and-a-half millions of willing, able-bodied working people cannot earn the means to live. The law forbids them to work. They may not build themselves houses, nor grow their own food, nor make their tools, nor clothe themselves. They may not even anticipate death. The only right which the law gives them is a claim to a charitable dole just sufficient to sustain life, but in a country teeming with wealth no part of it is theirs. A further two million people are dependent on the Poor Law, and one million are qualified by poverty to draw the pittance of an old age pension. According to Professor Henry Clay, 2½ million people out of a population of 47½ millions own the entire wealth of the country.
   Ten years ago the national income was £2,000 million. One million persons had incomes over £160 per annum, and their aggregate income was £1,000 million, or half the entire national income. Half the land of the British Isles is owned by 2,500 persons. Out of £300 million left at death in one year 4,400 persons owned £212 million. Out of 670,000 persons who died, 594,000 left nothing or under £100. To-day these monstrous discrepancies of fortune are even worse. If a future Labour Government’ orders a Capital Levy on estates over £1,000, 95 per cent, of the electorate will be untouched by such taxation.
This supporter of the Tory Government makes admissions which show the intense exploitation of the producers of wealth. But we will not rely on the evidence of this politician alone. We quote below an extract from Professor Clay, who holds the Chair of Political Economy at Manchester University. This Professor wrote to The Times,” objecting to Mr. Runciman’s figure juggling :—
    The figures given by Mr. Runciman in his address of March 18 hardly justify either the inferences drawn from them or the complacent attitude towards the existing distribution of capital that they have encouraged. They give the amount of certain investments in the hands of the poor; the inferences drawn are that the distribution of capital is wider than it used to be, and that the alleged concentration of wealth in few hands is no longer in fact the case.
   Before such inferences can be safely drawn, we require to know, not only the amount of a particular investment by a section of the nation, but the amount of all accumulated wealth in the hands of all classes; and, further, to know its distribution, both at the present time .and in the previous age with which the present is so favourably contrasted. Mr. Runciman did not attempt to give us this information and, in the absence of it, it is difficult to accept his claim that the distribution is "better than at any period in our history." The distribution of property is closely connected with the form of economic organisation of a country; and 18th century England, with its small farmers and master-craftsmen, must have shown a much wider distribution of capital than England today—just as contemporary France and Ireland do.
   Whether the tendency is in the direction of greater equality of distribution or not, progress in that direction has not been great. What Mr. Runciman calls “the stupendous total of £777,834,000" is not more than 5 per cent of the national capitalnot a large proportion to be held by ‘‘15 million capitalists." On the other hand, allowing a considerable margin for error, 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.The Times, March 24, 1925.
In glaring contrast to the lie of a wide distribution of wealth are the plain facts of industrial life. The ever-growing strength and influence of the vast limited companies and industrial magnates, to which even the Premier drew attention, is one phase of modern economic life which shows the hopeless plight of the worker..The records shown month by month in official figures of the decline in wages in the main industries is another fact of the increasing poverty of the wage-slave.

On this point Sir Chiozza Money wrote (”The People’s Year Book,” 1924):—
  In the middle of 1923 it is probably true that a considerable proportion of wage earners are earning less, money’s worth for money’s worth, than they did in 1913.
Progress under capitalism means prosperity for the few. In spite of all the reforms of the three capitalist parties in Parliament, the gulf between worker and employer widens. It widens with the very rise in the workers’ efficiency. One effect of the deep poverty of the workers was shown by the Secretary for War (March 16th, 1925) in introducing the Army Estimates, when he said that five out of every eight recruits for the Army had to be rejected on grounds of health and physique.

So not only are the workers robbed of the wealth produced, but they are robbed of health through the conditions of their life and labour. There is no remedy under private or State ownership. The progress of the producer will begin with the establishment of common ownership.
Adolph Kohn

More Trade Less Work (1925)

From the January 1925 issue of the Socialist Standard

All the Conservative papers during the General Election made great play of the increase in unemployment during the last ten months. Now the papers are full of figures showing that imports and exports have largely increased in the same ten months compared to the similar ten months of last year. What better proof is required of the falsity of Ramsay MacDonald’s claim that the way to reduce unemployment is to develop world trade. Trade may be greatly increased, but if more economies and labour saving methods are used in production the increase in trade can actually be carried on by fewer employees.

The wider use of labour-displacing methods since the war and the growing number of combines and trusts are facts which make the cry of “More Trade” mean nothing to the unemployed.
Adolph Kohn

A Socialist Searchlight: Where Are The "Reds" of Yesteryear? (1930)

From the October 1930 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Labour Party has finance, positions, a large following, and is popular and respectable. That explains its attraction for those elements which were so busy a little while since supporting Bolshevism, insurrection and similar gospels. In the official "Labour Magazine” for June there are three “converts” writing for it. Walton Newbold, late Communist M.P., Peter Petroff, the late Communist official in Russia, and R. M. Fox, late follower of Larkin. In the political arena crowds of one-time Communists have climbed on board the "Labour” engine of Capitalism. When it was apparent that Communist membership was a hindrance to adoption by the Labour Party, they dropped their Communist association. The Third International, faced with declining membership and the need for peaceful commercial relations with Capital, spent less money on propaganda. Thus, many left the Communists for the party they had denounced. Newbold, Whitehead, Windsor, J. S. Clarke, Ellen Wilkinson, R. Williams, Wall, the Secretary of the London Trades Council, Colyer, late Treasurer of the Communist Party, Mellor, now Editor of the "Daily Herald," all sought the genial circles of the Anti-Socialist Labour Party.

The Communists boosted new leaders for Labour, like Sam Elsbury, of the Clothing Workers, Alex. Gossip, of the Furnishing Trades, and Cook, of the Miners. Now they are mostly denounced as enemies. "Making" leaders and then pouring venom on them is a special feature of Communist work. It attracted the would-be leader to the party by its programme of "Down with the old leaders,” and then sobbed because new leaders got the jobs with their assistance and then kicked the party overboard.

Edgar Lansbury has faded out of the Communist picture. Ashleigh, once on the staff of the Communist Press, has stopped "preparing for the Revolution.” The Russian Oil Products, Argos, and other Soviet firms, were a happy hunting ground for those with the 'Communist ticket,' and once safely settled in the jobs, the noisy slogan-slingers forget all about 'the Revolution round the corner.” You don’t run after a ’bus when you have already caught it!

The conflict in the Russian Party resulted in 'New Lines” and new deviations being send round to Communists' Parties of the world. Then sprang up the various sections of the C.P. here and abroad, such as Trotskyists, Left and Right Wing Deviators, etc.

The contest for positions resulted in many of the 'Early Fathers” or Pioneers getting ousted, and the new Political Bureau saw that their opponents lost their old positions. Hence names like T. A. Jackson do not now adorn the pages of the Communist papers. These sheets are now left with less philosophic contents, such as 'Prepare for August 1st," and "A Boon for Ladies," "How to get a paper pattern for a shirt,” etc. , Soviet Russia has had a very poor advertisement in the parties she adopted. In spite of all the enthusiasm and inspiration Russia aroused, the Communist Party has declined from 20,000 in 1921 to 3,500 in 1929.

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To those simple folk who believe that the Labour Party is a party based upon working class interests, we quote the following from the final Election address of the Labour Party broadcast by Ramsay MacDonald during the General Election of 1929 from Newcastle B.B.C. Station (May 28th, 1929).

It shows the appeal of "Labour ” to all classes, and repudiates any class aims.
    Another charge is that we are a Class Party because the Party was created for the purpose of bringing the life experience of the great mass of our people to guide political and economic policy. Against us our opponents say that they stand for national unity and such-like. You cannot talk of national unity unless that unity embraces all classes and functions which give services to the whole varied life of the community. I cannot understand how it is that intelligent and honest people can continue to think that Labour is a Class Party. If I had time to-night, and if it were profitable, I could prove to you not only the contrary, but I could turn the tables upon our Conservative antagonists and show that on their minds, on the composition of their Party, on their funds, on their appeals, and their achievements class and sectional interests are deeply stamped. One of the great reasons why I belong to the Labour Party and hold the Socialist views of what a wise and just social structure is. is because I detest class politics, and want to end them in real national unity.