Saturday, April 10, 2021

Be self-reliant! (1923)

From the June 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

What is called “unrest” amongst our fellow-workers is widespread to-day. It is often indefinite in form ; it does not imply understanding of the roots of the trouble; but it is sufficiently in evidence to embarrass these in pulpit and press who would prefer to represent the nation as a united and happy family.

Workers are accustomed to toil; but now even the privilege of toiling is denied them for years at a time. They are familiar with the presence of people who are rich without working at all: they see nothing extraordinary in the fact of their masters enjoying different food, different clothes, different houses, a higher culture than their own. But now when they are losing even the slight improvements in their condition which they have from time to time secured, acquiescence tends to disappear. More and more they long for relief, from whatever quarter they look for it.

But ask a worker what he is doing about it, and watch his look of surprise. Usually he is still looking for something to be done for him; and that is why he is continually disappointed. Governments go in and out of power : he gives his vote now to one party, now to the other, as either seems to promise more, and remains as before, miserable. Some of those whose business it is to write or speak what the masters wish to hear, have concluded that our class will never move beyond this stage of waiting to be saved. Every day from the Bench, the House of Commons, or the Press, comes some new insolence. A paragraph written in the “Outlook” last summer is a good example of its kind :
  “Labour no longer even barks; it moans and bays the moon. It has lost faith in its programme, its ability and itself. . . . Direct action makes it shudder; the mere mention of political action reduces it to tears. It loves a phrase or a platitude, but it is too proud to fight, too tired to think, and too timid to speak.”— (Quoted by “Evening Standard,” 27/7/22.)
As regards the strike, which is what the writer appears to mean by direct action, the workers have used it, shudders notwithstanding, many times in the short space since those words were written. To mention only a few cases, we have had strikes of miners in Canada, U.S.A., and Belgium; a railway strike in Italy and one of rail shopmen in America; in France of metallurgical and textile workers, coalworkers, transport men, navvies and municipal workers of many grades; in Great Britain, juteworkers, woodworkers, furnishing tradesmen, miners, seamen and farm-workers, with the probability of several more big stoppages shortly, all bearing witness against the zealous journalist of the “Outlook.” But since strikes can do little more than safeguard an already poor standard of life, we need not say more about them now. As regards any substantial change for the better, is it true that the workers have lost faith in their ability to achieve it? Can that be lost which they never had? “Faith,” in our own powers, is only now growing strong amongst us. Numbers still prefer to trust the employers, believing that their distress is due to an exceptional trade depression, which once past will not be repeated. The only question to them appears to be, which Capitalist party is taking the best means to surmount exceptional difficulties? Only another disillusionment is in store for them. The trade revival when it comes must be short, and every succeeding; crisis more acute and protracted. Why? Because modern industry is so highly productive that it can meet and exceed the demand within a shorter time than ever before. The recurrence of crises could only be prevented by agreed restriction of production, which would be reflected in a monotonous condition of poverty for the workers in place of alternating periods of comparative comfort and acute distress.

To look then for help from any section of the masters is vain. They will only study ways and means to perpetuate production for sale. Do they not, moreover, deliberately use periods of unemployment to break the Trade Unions and strengthen their own position? Capitalist organisation of industry must be brought to an end.

With what purpose, then, will work be undertaken, if not for the manufacture of things for sale? It will be undertaken with one purpose—to supply us all with what we need. And who will make themselves responsible for doing it, since there will be no private profit when there is no sale? We, the workers, shall take it upon ourselves. We shall go to work as we do now, and every man and woman who wants to eat will do the same. Not quite willingly at first, perhaps. Not immediately will those who under Capitalism have known only joyless drudgery, nor yet those who have been parasites, find themselves able to cooperate freely and heartily with their fellows in useful work. These are results of centuries of social antagonisms. But they will gradually disappear. We shall decide for ourselves how the supply of the multitudinous necessary goods and services is to be carried out, how long it is necessary to work, who shall be our managers, and so on. And so long as any man discharges his part of the social work, he will be entitled to receive (by whatever means shall then seem convenient) what he requires from the common store. We shall carry through this revolution; but we shall have to do it together. It is not a job for a few men. A few could not conquer the masters, and a few could not work a Socialist system of industry. Too timid? Too tired? We Socialists do not think so. You fought, fellow-workers, in your masters’ war. You work (when you have the chance) as you never worked before. There is no lack of courage and industry. But you fight as you are told : you work as you are told. You spend your energy and pluck for the masters. When you realise what you have been doing so long, you will use them to set yourselves free.

The Socialist Party is the growing expression of the revolutionary purpose of the workers. Read its principles on the last page of this paper, and make them your principles.

The only way. (1923)

From the June 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Surely you don’t believe everything you read !” is a phrase often hurled at the Socialist when he uses some written evidence to support an argument. The answer is : “No, especially when it comes from the daily press !” But although newspaper reports must be accepted guardedly, yet confessions as to the iniquities of the present social order (which prove useful in the hands of the Socialist in the case against Capitalism) are made from time to time by the Capitalist press.

Is there ever an argument more frequently put forward against the practicability of the Socialist theory than the one of “lack of incentive?” Our comrade who debated at the Leyton Town Hall last March with Mr. A. E. Newbould, ex-Liberal M.P. for West Leyton, met with the same worn out, exploded objection, viz. : That Socialism would destroy all incentive to work and invention. Of course, there was no difficulty in bringing evidence forward to smash the argument to smithereens. There never is, or was any trouble to FIND evidence as to the treatment meted out to the workers (inventors included) under Capitalism; the only drawback is that the evidence cannot be enumerated in the time or space available. In other words the answer’s a book.

The question “How would you compensate those with inventive genius under Socialism?” is usually asked with much concern, and, when the Socialist answers that each individual will give of his best to society, and receive in return the best that society can produce, the anti-Socialist is not satisfied. Neither is the Socialist satisfied—until he has asked : “How are inventors treated under Capitalism?” This is where the evidence comes in, and this is where the daily press comes in, for out of their own mouths ye shall condemn them—or words to that effect. The Daily News (28/4/23) gives one more instance to add to the long list of starving inventors, who have found that mere brains don’t stand an earthly when up against the all-powerful quid or the mighty dollar. We are informed by the Daily News correspondent that Joseph Tall, now an old man of 72 :
  “took out the first patent in this or any other country for a method of reinforcing concrete in order to render it suitable for building.”
and that :
  “The records at the Patent Office show that during the subsequent decade he added over a score more patents covering the whole field of concrete construction.”
That’s what Joseph Tall did. This is what he got:
  “A few years before the Great War of 1914 the same Joseph Tall was tramping England in search of work. For five nights he slept out with the human wreckage on the Thames Embankment.”
And this is why he got it:
  “He struck me,” continued the writer, “as the sort of man who would know, by instinct, as it were, all about machinery and materials, and nothing’ at all about finance. It is a common failing with inventors.”
In other words, this man only had the “ability” to do useful work. He didn’t know anything about the dirty, low-down tricks necessary to “get on.” He didn’t know that the owners of wealth don’t intend to let any of that wealth slip from their grasp just because somebody else happens to have brains. He didn’t know that the Capitalists weren’t going to let him use their materials to work out his ideas, or interfere with their source of profit. Of course, he didn’t; he was only an inventor ! Again we read:
   “All his patents were of no use without capital, and he had to fight the brick ring. By the time he was thirty his patents were beginning to lapse one after another.”
All wealth, including the material which Joseph Tall wanted to work out his ideas with is owned by the Capitalist Class, and it is only with their consent that these materials can be used, no matter how marvellous may be the discoveries of the specially talented. Joseph Tall’s new introductions did not appeal to the brick ring, so the fact that he had patented his inventions did not matter. The Capitalists could afford to wait, and the patent rights would soon begin to expire. How simple ! Talk about inventors going the usual way—THE ONLY WAY would be more correct.

The working-class (1923)

From the June 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

A gentleman more renowned for his wit than the science of his economic writings once said : “The working-class are a large body of people who are a nuisance, and they ought to be abolished” ; a statement with which we are in agreement. To the uninitiated such a proposition may seem in the nature of a demand for the annihilation of that variously conceived mass of humanity, but their abolition properly understood no more implies such than the abolition of slavery meant the destruction of the slave. One of the methods generally employed by Capitalist apologists in endeavouring to confound potential thinkers among the workers is to refer to “various classes,” “the public,” “the nation,” manual and brain workers, etc., meaningless terms and imaginary divisions used to hide the ugly and awkward fact that by scientific generalisation we can separate modern society into two distinct and antagonistic sections, a large majority, and a small minority. Further examination and enquiry will furnish us with the facts from which we can establish the identity of these two sections as, Working-Class and Capitalist Class respectively. This step in the mental equipment of the worker forms the basis upon which all correct economic thought on modern society is erected. Let his conception of classes be unsound, and his reasoning becomes confused as a consequence : Who then are the Working-Class? appearances are deceptive. A labourer goes to work early clad in cap and corduroy, an architect follows later indistinguishable from one of the directors. The architect is termed skilled, but would cut a sorry shine and probably break his neck if he tried dock work; while the docker is wrongly assumed unskilled. One receives a day’s pay, or a weekly wage; while the other draws his “salary.” Imagine the signwriter trying to wipe a joint alongside a plumber, or reverse the situation; contemplate a piano-tuner attempting to drive a taxi-cab the shortest route from Tottenham to Clapham Junction, and we see what an absurdity it is to attribute a monopoly of skill to any set or group of workers. What applies to these few instances is equally true of the millions from the lift boy to the manager, all are units with varying proportions of mental and physical energy, engaged in the social production and distribution of wealth. Of such then is the kingdom of the workers composed, different in many ways from an appearance point of view. We cannot classify them by dress, nor by mode of occupation, or by manner of remuneration, for there are daily, weekly, monthly, and other methods of payments of workers. In what respect is it then that we can put this apparently different mass of people into one class? When we have abstracted all their personal and minor peculiarities, what is it we have left common to them all, and yet is not common to the Capitalists as a class? All must work to live—but !—and here’s the point, they cannot work until they have found a master who will purchase their particular mode of expending their mental and physical abilities. Why you ask must this multitude of men and women from the professional to the casual labourer spend their lives year out and year in in the pursuit of these tasks. They do not do it because they love work, the only colour they, ever get usually begins where work ends; neither do they do it because it gives them an easy and pleasant life. Statistics of our industrial wreckage proves that. They do it because they are without property in the things that it is necessary to operate upon to produce wealth —the land, machinery, factories, warehouses, railways, etc.—all these things are the property of the small minority mentioned (the Capitalist Class), and the complex system of wealth production to-day requires all these various kinds of workers. All are equally important as cogs in the colossal machinery of modern production, they are the great majority (the Working-Class). As a class the masters do not work, the organising, supervising, etc., have become the specialised services of certain salaried workers, who when no longer wanted, or becoming unsuitable, “resign” instead of getting the “bullet.” Why then are the workers poor and the idlers wealthy?

Because the wealth produced belongs to those who own the means of producing it. The producers only being returned sufficient on the average to prolong their lives as useful instruments for producing profit. The lesson of the last half century has been that an ever-increasing quantity of wealth can be produced with a relatively smaller number of workers. This applies to the distributive trades as well, shop assistants, travellers, etc., everywhere the gloomy prospect for the workers is the same, more jobbers than jobs, the haunting insecurity of the future. And yet need it be? Yes and No. Yes, if you are going to continue as contented menials, your conditions must get relatively worse; and no, if you will study your own class interests in their scientific aspect—Socialism. Then you will see clearly the underlying meaning of our jest, for to abolish the Working-Class is to end the slavish conditions of your present existence and establish the classless society, The Co-operative Commonwealth.
W. E. MacHaffie

£1000 Fund. (1923)

Party News from the June 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

To a new reader. (1923)

From the May 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

I have sometimes thought of compiling a little book. I should set about it thus : I would ask a great number of the people I met in a casual way what they understood Socialism to mean. The result would at least be interesting. Some would dispose of the matter in one word. “Bosh !” they would say—or “Rot !” These would be the foolish. Others would say : “Well, it means practical Christianity, or universal brotherhood, or some such idea.” These possibly would be well-meaning people, but, as you will see, misinformed. Some there would be who would tell a long rambling tale, that Socialism was a beautiful dream about a dim and very distant future, but that all we could hope to achieve in our time would be to make life more and more bearable by means of reforms. Others, again, would say : “Just as the present State owns and manages the Post Office, or the Municipality owns the trams, the electricity works, the water supply, and the rest of it, so should the mines, the railways, canals, and even the factories be publicly owned.” Others,—but enough of the others ; perhaps you yourself are one of the others. Possibly you have seen or heard the word Socialism ever since you can remember anything, and still have only the foggiest notion of what it all means. Let us talk it over together.

Many people are afraid of anything with “ism” on the end of it. They think it is bound to mean something “cranky.” They are not logical in this belief, for the words “Baptism,” “Methodism,” or “Nationalism,” do not alarm them. Let us hope you are not one of those whom words frighten. After all, it is the idea behind all words that matters. You have only to mention the word “science” to some people, and they begin to look bored. And yet science is only reasoning from facts instead of jumping to conclusions.

Take a simple illustration. Who does not wonder at the beauty of the stars that twinkle over our heads on any clear night? For countless ages they have filled mankind with awe and wonderment. Thousands of years ago, the primitive shepherds guarding their flocks from prowling beasts of prey, saw the same stars as we, arranged in much the same “patterns.” In one part of the night sky they clearly discerned Orion, the mighty hunter, with club uplifted to attack the Lion. At his heel were his two dogs, Sirius and Procyon. In another part of the heavens were the Great Bear and the Little Bear; in another, Cygnus, the Swan. There were Castor and Pollux, the Twins; the Fishes and many other wonders. Between wandered the planets, and these had an influence over the lives of the little mortals who watched and studied them. Some were good or lucky stars; others were evil, malevolent stars. Quite a huge body of literature arose about them. The study was called Astrology. Gradually the movements and changes of the heavenly bodies were seen to follow a certain order. These rules or laws of movement were set down, and many men of all races tested them, and added to them, until at last the mighty hunter, the Lion, the Bears, the Swan, and all the rest of the menagerie faded from the sky, and the new definite knowledge of man about the stars became the science of Astronomy.

The same process took place with medicine. In olden days when a person took the fever or caught a mysterious illness in some way, they used to open a vein and draw off a quantity of blood, in the hope that the malady would run out with the blood. The medicines that used to be prescribed are enough to make one shudder. It seemed that nothing could be really effective unless it were horrible. And thus we read of concoctions of spiders, and toads, and vipers’ tongues, dead man’s skin, burnt hair, and all sorts of putridity. Health was indeed a blessing in those days. But as men observed and thought more deeply, they found that illness was caused by dirt, by bad air, by absence of sunlight, by wrong living; and having found the causes of ill-health, the remedies quickly followed.

Other funny old fellows of the past were the Alchemists. They were fond of making all sorts of messes with all sorts of substances. One of their great beliefs was that somewhere there could be discovered or compounded the Philosopher’s Stone, and with this it would be possible to turn lead into gold. Needless to say, their search was unsuccessful, but out of the mass of information and knowledge they collected there grew up our modern Chemistry, one of the most exact and marvellous of our sciences.

And what has all this to do with Socialism? you will ask. I will tell you. It is because Socialism has had a similar history. You will be prepared to admit, I hope, that science is not at all a formidable word, and are further prepared, I trust, to see what there is in the claim of Socialism to be considered scientific. Very well. Now one of the first difficulties we have to deal with is that of prejudice. Most of us are filled with ideas that were implanted in us when quite young, fed and nourished in later years by newspapers and periodicals. Take history, for instance. All we were taught and remember is that the first people in these islands were the Ancient Britons. They stained their bodies with woad and looked upon the mistletoe as sacred. Then the Romans came and conquered them, but eventually had to leave rather hurriedly, leaving them to be harried by hordes of Angles, Jutes and Saxons. Later followed the Danes, and we were told some jolly little tales of King Alfred burning the housewife’s cakes, or disguising himself as a harper and secretly visiting the enemy’s camp. Then came the Normans, and we got tales of the curfew, of Hereward the Wake, and other worthies. And so on through the whole gamut: Richard the Lion Heart; the Black Prince; the Princes in the Tower; Henry the Eighth and his many wives ; the Reformation ; King Charles; Oliver Cromwell; Henrys, and Williams and Georges galore ; the whole interspersed with a great number of awful battles, in which the English were victorious five times out of six. This is History as it is taught to workers’ children. Simply legends, episodes and resounding names. But for upwards of a hundred years History has been treated more scientifically. Instead of looking upon it as a catalogue of entertaining events, men now ask, Why did this event happen, or that? Why did the Roman Empire flourish, and then decay? Why did the Reformation affect not only England, but Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Norway, etc.? Above all, what great driving motive caused different nations to act similarly? How did the discovery of America affect the world? Why have institutions like slavery, feudalism, religion, tribes, kingship, etc., been common to all races of mankind, although separated by thousands of miles, and with no possibility of contact? The answers to all these questions would take us too far in a brief article, but this may be said : Mankind, without distinction of race, has always lived in groups or communities. All have broadly followed the same lines in their progress upward to civilisation. Some, like the Australian Blacks and the Red Indians, were left behind, and have become overwhelmed by more progressive races. The main line of progress has led from Savagery, through patriarchial society to Feudalism, or through handicraft to Capitalism. Each change has been marked, and actually caused by, changes in the methods of holding property, more particularly in the means of living. The stage we are now in is that of Capitalism. This, you will see at once, is quite independent of whether we have a King or a President; whether Lloyd George is a good man or a bad one; whether we are Catholics, Protestants, Atheists, Buddhists, or nothing in particular. Capitalism has three distinguishing features. First, the land, both the surface and the minerals beneath it, is privately owned. The earth and the fulness thereof are in individual hands; Second, the wonderful and ingenious tools, or machines, by which Nature’s raw material is converted into wealth, are owned by individuals or small groups of individuals. Thirdly, the class to which you and I belong are compelled, in order to live, to hire our power to labour to those who have put a fence round Nature. The price of our hire is our wages, and our wages are determined by the cost of living. Not to make too long a story of it, the Socialist says in view of the obvious fact that this system does not work to the benefit of the vast mass of the people, it is time we substituted something more scientific. He points out what should be obvious to anyone with an unwarped mind. If, without access to Mother Nature, man perishes from the planet, is it not elementary common sense to suggest that the earth’s great storehouse should be common property; that is, socially owned instead of individually owned? The Socialist is one who urges this social ownership. Even the tools and marvellous machinery by which the raw material becomes wealth, he claims are a social product and a social heritage. In every one of them is embodied the toil, the thought, the invention of thousands of separate human beings. They in turn owed all they possessed to the society of which they formed part. The Socialist says these tools are social; they should be socially owned. And the next point. If you think over the words “working class,” has it ever struck you as curious that such a term has arisen? The working class, those who do the work. If all worked, the term would have no meaning. Therefore there must be a class which does not work. And yet the class which does not work consists of immensely wealthy people. Without work, of course, there is no wealth. How curious, then, that the working class is composed of people who have no wealth. The wealth they produce is taken from them by those who own the earth and the means of living. A little has to be returned to them, to enable them to live. This is called wages. Without it the workers would die, or they would rise and destroy their masters. Either way the Capitalist system would come to an abrupt and violent end. Wages, therefore, are on the average just enough to keep the working class alive, and not unduly discontented.

It is not sufficient, however, that the working class should simply become indignant at their treatment or discontented with their lot. Clever men have looked into history and have seen that Capitalism grew out of feudalism, and feudalism out of chattel slavery, simply because the one was a logical development of the other. The stages of human society have followed one upon the other, just like steps, and mankind has only reached the higher by means of the lower. It is idle, therefore, to be merely angry or indignant at what is, after all, a natural growth. As was mentioned previously, society has changed in the past whenever the methods of producing wealth have changed. Our present method is by tools and instruments that are privately owned. It is because of this that the resulting wealth is also privately owned, and the workers consequently poor. The evils that follow this system are obvious. Overwork and unemployment, low wages and insecurity, dog the footsteps of the workers from childhood to premature death. They can only be remedied by abolishing this individual ownership of the means of life, and substituting ownership by the whole people. This would be social ownership, or Socialism. If you will read this journal regularly you will see many articles, telling how this change is to be brought about, and disposing of the objections and difficulties many people bring forward. If you are interested we shall be glad to see you at any of our meetings, and if you are convinced of the truth of the Socialist position we shall be still more pleased to welcome you as a member.
W. T. Hopley

Who gets it?

From the May 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard
 Hence it has happened that the development of steam navigation, of railroads and telegraphs, of mechanical and chemical science, and the growth of the population, while enormously increasing productive power and the amount of material products—that is, of real wealth—at least ten times faster than the growth of the population, has given that enormous increase almost wholly to one class, comprising the landlords and capitalists, leaving the actual producers of it—the industrial workers and inventors—little, if any, better off than before.Professor Alfred Russel Wallace.

Correspondence. (1923)

Letters to the Editors from the May 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard


Referring to Mr. Fitzgerald’s reply to my letter (this month’s issue of the Socialist Standard), I would like, for charity’s sake, to leave on one side all matters, such as whether Mr. Fitzgerald’s article was vituperative, whether my policy is akin to that of an ostrich, and whether I am in the habit of misapplying what I call my reason—matters upon which Mr. Fitzgerald and myself would probably still disagree in the long run, and to ask this simple question :—

Taking Mr. Fitzgerald’s statement in his article in the December issue of the Socialist Standard, that “Every increase in prices . . . has called either for an increase of currency, or for some financial readjustment,” what are the successive stages between the increase in prices referred to and the arrival in circulation of the increased currency? It would, of course, make the answer more interesting if a concrete example were given, starting with the definite reason for (or cause of) the particular increase in prices.
Yours sincerely,
J. Hutchinson.

Answer to J. Hutchinson.

In his previous letter, appearing in the February issue of the Socialist Standard, Mr. Hutchison refused to examine or accept the facts and figures we presented in our criticism of “Plebs,” in the December (1922) Socialist Standard, but brushed them aside contemptuously in favour of what he called his “reason.” As, by the above letter, he still retains that position, it would, obviously, be a waste of time to supply any further facts or figures to such a critic.

When Mr. Hutchison is prepared to take and examine facts, as the basis of a discussion, we may deal with his question.
Jack Fitzgerald.

* * *

March 23rd, 1923.
The Socialist Party of Great Britain, 
17, Mount Pleasant, 
London, W.C.I.

Dear Comrade,

I have only received the Socialist Standard for February this week, hence my delay in answering J. F.’s reply to my question:

"How to distinguish a commodity from other things “; for if we can do that, we can tell without further aid, whether a sovereign is a commodity or not. J. F. says:— 
“Whether a product of labour reaches the position of currency or not has no bearing on this question.”
I claim that that is the point at issue, and that it is J. F. who bears on it, and tries to show that when gold is minted into sovereigns it is no longer a commodity, because :—
  “When it has reached this position, and only then; it ceases to be a commodity, as it is no longer produced for profit, but as an official instrument set apart for currency purposes.”
Are we to clearly understand from the above sentence :—
(a) That a use-value that has no surplus-value embodied in it, is not a commodity.
(b) That although gold has surplus-value embodied in it before it is minted, by some miraculous means it looses that surplus-value as soon as it is minted, and therefore, is no longer a commodity.
(c) Is there any “profit” produced in circulation. In other words, is value augmented in any commodity by means of circulation, and if not, why bring it into the discussion ?
Yours fraternally,
Wm. Walker.

Answer to “W. W.”

The questions in the above letter were answered in the previous reply appearing in the February Socialist Standard. “W. W.” appears to have muddled himself by dragging in the question of circulation. Whether the explaining of the obvious will clear that muddle we cannot say, but perhaps it is worth the trial.

“W. W.” wants to know whether he is “to clearly understand” from a sentence he quotes :—
“(a) That a use-value that has no surplus-value embodied in it, is not a commodity.”
If “W. W.” will read our statement again, he will see that his question has nothing to do with that statement.

First, as we pointed out, when a particular article is no longer bought and sold, is not produced for profit, but is used for the performance of certain work, it is no longer a commodity, no matter what it may have been before. An illustration may help to make the matter still more simple. A machine bought from the market and used in production is not then a commodity. It is in the stage of being consumed. True ! In the case of bankruptcy, or for some other reason, it may be brought on the market again, and once more become a commodity. But this is only an occasional occurrence. The bulk of machines are used up, or consumed in production.

And so with sovereigns. The Government might gather together light weight coins, and, after melting them down, sell the gold ingot as a piece of gold, which would then be a commodity. But the sovereign is not produced for sale or profit, but as an article of utility in certain social transactions. It is being consumed in use while acting thus, and is not a commodity.

Question (b) is disposed of by the above.

Question (c) has nothing to do with the subject, as the word “circulation” was not used once throughout the whole answer. On the general question of “circulation” and “value,” an answer to a correspondent in the March Socialist Standard covers the ground.
Jack Fitzgerald.

£1000 Fund. (1923)

Party News from the May 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

Building workers trapped again. (1923)

Editorial from the May 1923 issue of the Socialist Standard

For about two years the employers have been having a triumphal march in enforcing wage reductions all round. So-called “skilled” and “unskilled,” “manual” and “mental” workers, have all suffered from these reductions. The excuses given are monotonous in their sameness. “It is necessary ‘to revive trade”; “Costs are too high and must come down”; “Prices cannot fall till wages are lower” ; such are the slogans.

These statements are repeated despite the notorious facts that prices have not only not fallen after the reductions, but in many cases—i.e., milkman—the price of milk went up as wages were reduced.

In some cases the workers have at last decided to resist further reductions, and have made ready to fight the masters, even though conditions, as among farm labourers, could not be considered too hopeful. Another case was that of the building workers.

Some time ago these workers were bluffed by their officials into accepting a “Sliding Scale Agreement.” which, these officials said, would guarantee that wages would never fall below the Cost of Living as given by the Board of Trade. Last year the falsity of this claim was completely exposed, and the Agreement cynically broken by the workers’ officials, accepting a reduction of wages, against the wishes of the men, that in some cases went as low as 2d. per hour below the Cost of Living Scale in the Agreement.

Delighted with this success—that did not influence prices of buildings, but was so much extra profit to the employers—the masters put forward another demand, a few months ago, for a reduction of wages of 4d. an hour, and an increase of hours. The officials tried by trick and subterfuge to swindle the men into accepting this demand. They specially stressed the point that a refusal to accept might mean a strike or a lock-out. Of course, it might. Every resistance to a reduction of wages, or a worsening of conditions, necessarily means the risk of a strike or lock-out, and there is no particular difference in this case from the thousands of struggles undertaken by the Trade Unions in the course of their existence. But the men decided to test the situation, and by a huge majority voted to resist the demand. The figures were : —

The officials started a Publicity Campaign of a particularly weak kind, perhaps purposely. They claimed that the employers were—technically—breaking the Agreement. Even if this claim were true, the answer is crushing. The officials had already, against the vote of the men, broken the Agreement last year when they accepted a reduction of 2d. an hour below the Cost of Living Scale.

After considerable negotiation, the masters abated their demands from 4d. per hour reduction to 2d.

The men’s officials demanded that the question: “Had the Agreement been broken,” should be submitted to arbitration. The masters agreed, if their case re wages and hours was included. As the men had voted so decisively against any reduction, the officials were at first afraid to accept this condition. When, however, the Builders’ Notice to the men was nearing its end, the officials offered to include wages. This was refused. But about 2½ hours before the expiry of the Notice (13th April), the services of slimy Ramsey McDonald were successful in arranging a withdrawal of the Notice on the following—among other—terms :
  “Conditionally upon the employers withdrawing their notices, it is agreed that interpretation of the National Wages and Conditions Council document and the question of wages be referred to the arbitration of an arbitrator appointed by the Lord Chief Justice, together with two assessors, one to be appointed by the operatives and the other by the building employers, the arbitration to be held on the above within seven days.” (“Star,” 13/4/1923.) (Italics ours.)
The question of hours is to be balloted upon by regions—not nationally—another dirty trick upon the men.

This arrangement is a deliberate swindle by the officials upon the men. It is a flat contradiction of the latter’s vote. The President of the Building Trades Federation—Mr. G. Hicks—has stated that the Arbitrator will first interpret the Agreement, and if he endorses the men’s view of it, the employers’ wages demand will be ruled out of order. This is another piece of bluff, as the terms quoted above distinctly state, “and the question of wages.” The matter has now been settled by the Arbitrator, Sir Hugh Fraser, deciding to hear both sides, “not merely on the interpretation of the Agreement, but on the wages reduction claim.” (Daily News, 23/4/1923.)

Under all the circumstances the men stood quite a fair chance of successfully resisting the masters’ demands, and of putting a halt, for a time, at any rate, upon the rush down of wages that had taken place. As the men had given their decision, knowing the results of their vote, it was a distinct act of treachery on the officials’ part to accept terms contrary to that vote. The curse of “Leaders” once more. It is to be hoped that the ballot on hours will be as overwhelming against any increase as the former vote.

It may be interesting, as showing how hard up the poor employers are, and how they are quite unable to pay even present wages, to quote the following from the Daily News, 23/4/1923, re the Marriage of the Duke of York :—
  Preparations have been made everywhere for Londoners and London’s crowd of visitors from the provinces, from the Continent, and from America to make merry. 
  All the leading hotels and restaurants are arranging for gala dinners and dances in honour of the occasion. 
  There will be dancing every night during the week at the Savoy Hotel, and on the wedding night a special gala dinner, supper, and ball. The menu that night will include two new dishes in honour of the bride—a poussin de printemps Glamis Castle and fraises glacĂ©es Elizabeth. The hotel will be decorated with white roses, symbols of York, red roses for St. George, and white heather for Scotland. 
  Six Indian Princes are arriving at the Savoy on Tuesday for the wedding. 
  The Berkeley Hotel, on the route of the wedding procession, is giving a gala lunch, guests at which will be able to see the return of the Royal couple from the Abbey. The outside of the hotel will be brilliantly decorated.