On all sides are heard the suggestions that to win the war it is necessary to emulate the system of German “total” organisation. The New Statesman carries a leading article (March 21st) dealing with the coal question, and among other things it says—
“The mood of the men has been, and still is, desperate and embittered; they agreed when war came to suspend the class struggle—but the root of the trouble is psychological. The owners who spoke in the debate drove home their case against the men on the score of absenteeism. The men on their side have a devastating answer.It is a frequent, and may be, in some coalfields, a general practice, to work the worst seams during the war in order to conserve the richer seams for the unchecked and unlimited exploitation to which owners look forward—when peace returns.Here rather than in any lack of military talent lies our inferiority to the totalitarian regimes. Two things are necessary, the first is to banish the profit motive from the pit; the second is to associate the men in its management. The only way to achieve these ends is to bring the industry under national ownership.”
Some of the difficulties of management that the writer speaks about with regard to individual ownership could be solved by State control, but management by Government experts, with an eye for efficiency—the owners being bought off with Government bonds—does not imply the end of the profit motive.
The miners would still be paid an “economic wage,” with the probability of their bargaining power for higher wages being curtailed. The wages question would have very little chance of being discussed in any “association in the management” that was set up. Assuming that no major change takes place in society—a fair assumption—the industry will have to face the problem of competition of foreign producers after the war, when the Government, acting as owner, would be forced to use all the usual owner methods—cutting costs by lowering wages to pay the bondholders. Credit must be given to the New Statesman for not calling this arrangement that it proposes by the title of Socialism, but not so “Cameronian” in Reynolds’ News (March 22nd), who, dealing with the same subject, puts it like this: —
"Sir William Beveridge, in the august columns of “The Times,” has sounded a clarion call for Socialism to beat the Nazis. We must nationalise the national income, he says. We must recognise the fact—so frequently expressed in this column—”that bribery by price or wage is often an ineffective spur to output.” Now that the case for Socialism has found such a spokesman on such a platform, is it too much to expect that it will be given voice by Labour Ministers in the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street?”
Sir William’s voice, we might inform “Cameronian,” would be a mere addition to all that collection called the “left” which sees nothing wrong with a “Socialism” that has for its ingredients State control of industry coupled with the wages system, with the erstwhile owners sitting pretty waiting for the period to come round for the pleasure of collecting the State dividend.
For ourselves, it appears that we are still the only Party of the working class that holds that Socialism means a complete change of society economically—yes, and in outlook too; for common ownership of wealth and its democratic control will produce a different man, who will need no bribe to induce him to work, who will adhere to the ethic that he gives his all in a society that has neither owners, nor wages, to buy him, where the spur to output is his and society’s welfare.