Wednesday, November 13, 2019

On The Air! Or In The Air? (1947)

From the January 1947 issue of the Socialist Standard 

In the Daily Herald Hannen Swaffer writes: “So ‘narrow' is the B.B.C. supposed to be politically that I have been congratulated by more than one M.P. on my ‘artfulness’ in introducing into my ‘birthday party’ in ‘Monday Night at Eight’ a talk in which I assured young John Clark—he plays 'Just William’ on the air—that he is not facing an age of slavery but an era of broader freedom.” (Daily Herald, November 4th. 1946.)

Of course, an assurance by Hannen Swaffer, or anyone else, of an era of “broader freedom” without facts to justify it, is simply a matter of opinion and carries no weight. All that Swaffer did was to register his belief that the Labour Government would bring about that happy state of affairs. And, further, to repudiate the Tory suggestion that nationalisation would usher in the servile state. How far do the Labour Party’s achievements to date support his assumption?

Take, for instance, the drive for greater production. It is safe to say that the Tories would have met with less success in persuading the workers to greater efforts. But greater effort means intensification of labour. Whether the workers are driven by the threat of unemployment, or deceived by ambitious politicians and trade union leaders, the result is the same. The wage-slaves' are sunk to lower depths of enslavement, instead of being raised to a “broader freedom.” 

Accepting profit as the motive justifying capital expenditure, the Labour Government—backed by the Communists—have stressed the purely capitalist need to export in order to obtain imports. Under Socialism where production would be democratically controlled by the people, producing for themselves, no such complications could arise. Balance of exports and imports and maintaing profits and the balance of power would be things of the past, the only power necessary being labour power, and that no longer a commodity. It is the abolition of this commodity character of human labour power that is the Socialist objective.

But the Labour Government, while proclaiming a Socialist objective, are compelled to use their power to intensify capitalist exploitation, so that their “road to Socialism” appears to be the road to ever worsening conditions. Up to the present neither the Labour Government, nor the Labour Party, has ever shown how Socialism can be achieved except by making Socialists, a task they have always shirked.

In spite of their assertion that we have “Socialism,” human energy is still a commodity, bought and sold on the labour market. It is, as always, the workers only possession that can be changed into cash. Only by the sale of that commodity can the worker obtain wage or salary with which to buy the necessities of life. The normal condition on the labour market is a limited demand for the labour commodity. A condition that places the capitalist in an advantageous position in fixing wages.

It is only at times when there is an abnormal demand for labour that the workers are in a favoured position to increase wages. Such a position is, according to the spokesmen of all parties, prevalent now, yet the Government, assisted by the trade union leaders, are using all their powers of persuasion to prevent the workers from taking advantage of the situation. Why? Because the policy on which they were returned to power is increased trade by way of more efficient machinery and more work. And they are forced to argue that prosperous trade for the capitalist means prosperity for the workers, an argument that is plausible but only true to a strictly limited extent, and even to that extent entirely dependent on the efforts of the workers themselves.

No! Hannen Swaffer’s opinion of an era of “broader freedom” is only wishful thinking. A “broader freedom” for the mass of the people—the working class—cannot be achieved by concentrating their efforts on a drive for increased world trade in their masters’ interests. That way lies fiercer and ever fiercer competition, with the workers’ share of the increased production always anchored to the cost of living. Their “era of a broader freedom” must always recede into the distant future while they neglect to study Socialism. Because only Socialism with common ownership in the means of fife and democratic control by the people as a whole, can give us an “era of broader freedom” and emancipate us from the servile capitalist state.
F. Foan

No comments: