From the January 1920 issue of the Socialist Standard
The high priest of Nonconformity—Dr. John Clifford—reached his 83rd birthday recently and was duly interviewed by a "Star" correspondent. Some very amusing opinions on the "Labour Outlook" were expressed by Dr. Clifford. To quote the " Star" (16.10.19):
LABOUR OUTLOOK.Dealing with the situation in the Labour world, Dr. Clifford said he thought the outlook was healthy and reassuring.
"What is necessary is the internationalisation of labour conditions. There are four classes of people that have to be considered, and it is only when they meet and try to arrange matters on just and sound principles that there can be harmony.
These four classes are the men with means, called capitalists ; the men who have land and rents ; the men who live on dividends and make their demand for their share on the profits of labour ; and the men who are really doing the work. They all have just claims, and these claims can be met.
SPIRIT OF TRUST.The great thing is to foster the spirit of trust. Nothing wrecks labour so much as distrust, and our business is to fight everything that is creative of distrust and to nourish and strengthen all that creates confidence.
Hence, the dissemination of the spirit of brotherhood is the key to and the secret of the full productiveness of industry and of the happiness of the world."
One would have thought that 83 years of experience in a world torn with social strife and the results of capitalist exploitation, and an ever-increasing class war caused by a damnable system based upon the enslavement and robbery of a propertyless working class, would have given him an insight into the fundamental fabric of society.
Unfortunately, the "internationalisation of labour conditions" necessary, in Dr. Clifford's opinion, is already accomplished, for everywhere the workers are wage slaves—exploited and robbed of the greater part of the wealth they alone produce. The "internationalisation of labour conditions" exists in the fact that the
is at present under the blighting, ruthless, influence of capitalism.
King Capital rules. The Earth is the capitalist's, aud the fulness thereof. Unemployment, chronic poverty, overwork and exploitation, like the poor, are always with us. War after war is waged for the sacred rights of the profit-mongers.
Yet the outlook is "healthy and reassuring," says Dr. Clifford. What optimism! What frankness'.
He mentally visualises, and tries to create, harmony out of the inevitable social discord ; out of a chaos of conflicting interests, order.
But he brings no philosophy built out of facts, wherewith to formulate scientific proposals. There are many notes on the piano keyboard : the science of musical composition alone can arrange them to avoid discord and create music.
Amid essentially warring claims he cries
when there can be only strife.
Let us consider the validity of the "just claims" of the "four classes of men."
(1) The capitalists own all the means and instruments of wealth-production and distribution, essential to life. They produce as a class—nothing! They appropriate, nevertheless, all the wealth produced by their human, wealth-producing machines—the working class.
(2) The men who own lands and exact rents tax the community for living on and using that land, which rightfully should belong to the whole people.
(3) The men who live on dividends are simply unproductive, anti-social parasites. They live by appropriating a portion of the surplus-value created by the workers.
(4) "The men who are really doing the work" are the working class. Divorced from the land, and possessing no means and instruments of production, they have to sell, in order to gain their livelihood, the only thing they possess—their labour-power of hand or brain. That they sell as a commodity to their capitalist masters. They must either sell it or starve, and
MANY DO STARVE
because they are unable to sell their labour-power. They only sell it— in other words they only get work—when it suits the masters' purpose to employ them. They are compelled by economic conditions to accept the terms which the masters dictate, and for the time which they desire them to labour. They are employed, as the machine is, for the owners' use and benefit. As wage slaves their sole function is to create surplus-value.
Receiving on an average only sufficient to keep themselves and an average family in a state that just suffices to provide the continuity of efficient workers required by the exploiting class, the workers are used to produce far more wealth for their capitalist masters than they themselves receive in the form of wages. All the surplus-value—all the value, that is, which the worker adds to the material in excess of the amount of his wages—is appropriated by their exploiters.
The latter divide the spoils amongst other sections of non-producers.
A portion of the surplus-value, in the form of economic rent, goes to the idle landowners, etc. Interest goes to moneylenders, financiers, and the like, who also do not create wealth. Profit, the remaining portion of the surplus-value or unpaid labour, is appropriated by the employing capitalists.
Thus the result of the present system is that a whole band of plutocratic brigands exists on the proceeds of working class robbery, and the workers themselves are daily strengthening
THE BONDS THAT BIND THEM.
Result: the capitalists as a class grow ever richer, both absolutely and in relation to their wage slaves, and the poverty of the workers is deepened with their increasing exploitation.
Thus, in dealing with adamantine facts, the Socialist smashes the fabled "identity of interest of Capital and Labour."
The "harmony" of those who are robbed and those who rob cannot be "arranged" on "just and sound principles"—even by Dr. Clifford and his fellow magicians. So long as the capitalist system continues there will be robbers and robbed, and so long as there are robbers and robbed there will be discord and strife.
Exploitation and the plunder of a property-less class through the wages system is the very essence of the present system, and will accompany it to the end.
The pro-capitalist John Cliffords will also continue to be a characteristic of the capitalist regime as long as it endures. They help to support the rotten fabric of an effete social order. Their part is to obscure the issues, to be "all things to all men" and keep the workers docile and diligent while the shameless plundering proceeds.
"The great thing is to foster the spirit of trust," says Dr. Clifford. There is an old saying:
POOR TRUST IS DEAD,
Bad Pay killed him." The workers do all the work of the world, and get damnably paid for doing it! They have lost trust in their leaders and their kind masters : they are beginning to take their blinkers off and to see around them some of the facts of things as they are. Let them bat study economics find Socialism, and then trust—THEMSELVES ! The working class alone can and will effect its own emancipation.
"Our business is to fight everything that is creative of distrust," declares the hoary old dope merchant. We have been urged to "trust Asquith" ; to "wait and see." We have had a notorious Welsh wizard conjuring up visions of "The Future"—a fantastic dream that resolves itself into a future menace of dire reality to the workers. With ever-increasing poverty and distress, and an accentuated class struggle, with the price of necessaries ever soaring and unemployment stalking the land, who amongst us can think the labour outlook "healthy and reassuring" ?
Dr. Clifford can, and does. He holds "the Key to the secret of full productiveness of industry and of the happiness of the world." It is evidently the master-key that unlocks the door barring the way to Lloyd George's
"BEAUTIFUL NEW WORLD."
Or is it—the Masters' Key?
Yea, verily it must be so, for by his doctrine the capitalists, the men who have land and rents and the men who live on dividends, "have all just claims," as well as "the men who are really doing the work."
That word "really" is most appropriate. It is amusingly used, too, to qualify things by implying that there are others who are not doing anything.
Dr. Clifford has hit the mark. There are men really doing the work. They are doing all of it because idlers do nothing to produce the wealth they appropriate.
The class that does all the work—the working class—receives the least benefit, which is a very fine example of "inverse proportion." But that state of affairs is not conducive to fostering a "spirit of trust."
It is because the workers keep a class of parasitic idlers in affluence that they themselves have to work so hard, so long, and for such a pitiful reward for their toil.
The "spirit of brotherhood between Capital and Labour" is an impossible thing to realise. The "full productiveness of industry" only means an increased production, and a consequent glut of the goods for which our exploiters must seek a market.
WAR AFTER WAR
has resulted through competition for markets. "Full productiveness" is inevitably bound to produce the usual over-production, the consequent stagnation and unemployment, the same old struggle for markets, and the next war.
No! Dr. Clifford's key is no key to better conditions for the workers. It is our masters' key that is used to help increase the wealth and power of the capitalist class.
The "spirit of brotherhood" can only come with Socialism, when the means of wealth-production (even to-day socially produced) are socially owned and controlled for the use and benefit of all.
The master-key that opens the door to mankind's splendid future is POLITICAL POWER. When the workers understand their present wage-slavery and the plundering of their class by the capitalist system, they will see also, if they study Socialism, that in freeing themselves from the bondage of capitalism they will set the whole world free. They will then
to do so. Organising on the economic field, in factory, workshop, and. every sphere of toil, they will fit themselves for controlling wealth-production for society's needs and benefit. Organising, above all, on the political field for the capture and control of political power, they will, in obtaining it, hold the key to freedom in their hand, and will use it for the paramount purpose of establishing the Socialist Commonwealth. The World for the Workers !