The 50 Years Ago column from the April 1998 issue of the Socialist Standard
When Cabinet spokesmen oppose higher wages they do so because their immediate and predominant responsibility, by virtue of being the Government, is to keep the capitalist system functioning in the only way that capitalism can function, that is by enabling the capitalists to make profits. The Labour Party grew up on the mistaken belief that under Labour Government there would be great possibilities to raise wages by cutting into profits. Rather late in the day some of them, certainly Sir Stafford Cripps, have come up against the harsh truth that those who administer the capitalist system have very limited freedom of action—on all important issues they can depart little from the practice of their Conservative predecessors. Official figures on the proportion of the national income which goes as salaries, wages and rent and profits, etc., bring this out clearly. In 1938 wages accounted for 39 per cent, salaries for 24 per cent, and profits, rent and interest for 37 per cent. In 1947 wages accounted for 44 per cent, salaries 20 per cent., and rent, profits, etc., 36 per cent. (See Economist, April 10th, 1948, p. 59. In each case the figures are after meeting income tax.) It will be observed that the percentage going to wages and salaries together, i.e., 63 per cent, in 1938 and 64 per cent in 1947 has hardly changed at all, likewise the percentage to rent, profit, etc.—37 per cent in 1938 and 36 per cent in 1947.
This is the dilemma of all Labour Governments, but no such dilemma faces Socialists. Socialism is not a scheme for redistributing wealth and income inside capitalism, but a system of society to replace the capitalist system.
(From editorial, Socialist Standard, April 1948)