Sunday, February 13, 2022

Co-operation: Past, present and future. (1926)

From the January 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

People whose notion of co-operation is associated with the “divi” store regard it as an ideal “principle” invented or discovered by the Utopian forerunners of scientific Socialism; as opposed to competition, another “principle,” which they seem to imagine was invented by capitalist economists.

Marx, however, showed that co-operation in its various forms, has formed the basis of social existence from time immemorial ; while competition was the outcome of the break-up of certain old, narrow forms of co-operation which in course of time proved inadequate to the needs of society. The special form of co-operation in existence at any given time has depended upon the degree of development in the means and methods of gaining a living.

The earliest form of co-operation known to us was the hunting pack, which prevailed when human beings depended upon the flesh of animals for food and upon their skins for clothes and shelter. Under these conditions only the crudest arts and crafts could develop and such division of labour as existed was based upon differences of age and sex.

Even after the domestication of animals, the nomadic character of life placed obvious restrictions upon economic development but with the discovery of tillage and the invention of the plough and the adoption of settled habitations, more complex forms of society arose. The domestication of women was followed by the domestication of men ; in other words, chattel-slavery was established.

On this basis arose the ancient Empires of which Rome was the last and greatest.

Henceforth division of labour became a marked feature in social life. For some considerable time the class of free citizens pursued various crafts in addition to the main art of husbandry; but by degrees these became the occupations of slaves whose masters spent their time in the pursuit of warfare, politics, sport, art and science, and, eventually, debauchery. Thus, the first historical form of society was based upon compulsory co-operation i.e., the co-operation of slaves to produce wealth and luxury for a class of cultivated idlers.

For all the refinement of those who lived by it, however, chattel-slavery was a crude and wasteful method of exploitation. The slave population had no fear of the “sack” and lived at their masters’ expense whether busy or idle. They had, therefore, none of that “incentive” to work so prominent in the case of the workers of to-day and so much esteemed by the anti-Socialist.

They required as a consequence extensive and costly supervision which eventually exhausted the Roman State. Undermined by economic causes within, Rome fell before the onslaught of its barbaric foes ; and the initiative of historical development shifted to the north and west of Europe, where the foundations of the great feudal kingdoms were laid in serfdom, a more economical form of slavery.

The serfs held sufficient land to provide themselves with a rude maintenance on condition that they spent a certain definite time in cultivating the land of the lord of the manor. The serf was legally bound to the manor and thus compelled to co-operate in the service of his lord. Other classes of free peasants also rendered forms of service in the shape of rent in kind or military service, while in the towns the free craftsmen and merchants, organised in guilds, usually held their chartered rights under the “protection” of some overlord. Thus co-operation remained, albeit in a modified, limited and indirect form, the basis of the social order.

Under feudalism, division of labour within society became crystallised into a definite form. A whole hierarchy of classes and sub-classes with clearly defined rights and duties existed in a state of apparent stability ; but in the towns was preparing a further advance along the line of division of labour which was destined to sweep feudalism away as patrician rule had been swept before it.

As yet, the workers, whether peasants or craftsmen, had been accustomed to follow their job through from start to finish ; they turned out complete articles. Now in the factories of the rising merchant class began the splitting up of the process of labour into its details and the apportioning of each detail to a special labourer. Thus specialised, the workers acquired a greater speed and the quantity of wealth produced increased. Larger numbers of workers were employed in the individual workshop and co-operation took on still another form. How the merchants developed into fullblown capitalists by the introduction of machinery was recited in last month’s issue of this paper. The special point of importance here is the fact that the machine brings still greater numbers of workers into direct co-operation. Whereas in former ages only works of exceptional size such as the building of pyramids, temples, etc., demanded the co-operation of large numbers, now it is the normal thing for such things as clothes, food, boots, etc., to be turned out by concerns employing thousands.

The self-contained life of the village community and the simple co-operation of the mediaeval craftsman’s family have given place to the gigantic complexity of modern industrialism. Yet there is a point of similarity between these seemingly diverse modes of production. The modern wage-slave, like his forerunners, the serf, and the chattel-slave, is compelled to co–operate in maintaining an idle class—a class now which lacks either the military prowess of the feudal knights or the culture of the Athenian “democracy,” but which hires both force and cunning into its service.

Unlike the chattel-slave, however, the wage-earner is not the personal property of his exploiter; neither is he legally bound to serve him like the serf. Legally he is quite entitled to give notice if he likes starvation, but usually the termination of his employment takes the form of the “sack.” That is a refined weapon which the rulers of former ages had not discovered. It has been left to modern society to produce that symptom of social anarchy the landless “freemen,” the masterless slaves, viz., the unemployed. They provide indisputable evidence of the wasteful character of the capitalist form of co-operation ; and of the fact that the productive forces of society are not being fully utilised.

What then? Have we reached finality? By no means ! A new form of co-operation must arise. Its foundations in the workshops are already laid; co-operative production is a fact. Co-operative distribution must be developed to make full use thereof. By that we do not mean the apologetic humbug of the so-called co-operative societies (who exploit their employees like any other capitalist concern). Nor do we mean State or Municipal Trading as advocated by the Labour Party, to which the same objection applies. Piecemeal measures, whether adopted by governments or groups of individuals, are futile when society as a whole has to be dealt with.

Capitalist ownership must be abolished in its entirety as a system. The means of life must be converted into the common property of all. That alone will destroy at once the despotism within the workshop and the anarchy outside. Co-operative production to produce the needs of all in accordance with a social plan democratically administered ; the co-operation, not of slaves, but of free men and women. That is the next step in social progress. That is Socialism.
Eric Boden

A Look Round. (1926)

From the January 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

The skeleton at the feast.

Capitalist cant usually has a field day at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet. After the reams of lying literature scattered broadcast during the war, exhorting us to go and exterminate the “German beasts” and the “Hunnish swine,” the following makes fine reading for the cynical philosopher. Mr. A. Chamberlain, proposing the toast of the foreign ministers, threw the following pearl before our masters’ one-time “swine” :—
“My Lord Mayor thanks to your hospitality I have drunk to-night of your loving cup with the German Ambassador. What I have done this evening may our nations do to-morrow. We will work in the spirit of Locarno that the peace of the world may be kept and civilisation recover from the wounds that it has suffered.”—(Times, November 20th, 1925.)
Admiralty, War, and Air Ministers then responded to the toast, and emphasised the activities of their departments in preparation for peace and for civilisation’s recovery. Earl Beattie spoke regretfully :—
“It is not the fault of the Admiralty that the impetus of war had added vastly to the complexity of the technique of naval warfare, that new weapons had been evolved and the scope of existing weapons expanded beyond imagination.”
Sir Worthington Evans spoke assuringly :—-
“We had taken some risks which were only justified on the assumption that the Army was up to establishment, well trained and well equipped. He could assure those present that the Army would fulfil all these conditions.”
Sir Samuel Hoare spoke in a querulous tone :—
“. . . during the last twelve months our Air Force had been substantially strengthened. The London Auxiliary Air Force squadrons were already in being. . . . We are certainly anxious to make the fullest possible use of inventions and discoveries. . . . Was the discovery to which generation after generation had devoted its untiring efforts to prove a Frankenstein Monster that would destroy civilisation.”
So, seven years after “the war to end war,” we have a navy grown beyond imagination, an army ready to jump at any nation’s throat, and an air force which, it is hinted, may settle war (and the unemployment problem) for some considerable time by the destruction of civilisation. What cheerful news for the Christian peace cranks, who will continue to mouth peace platitudes until the next war arrives—when they will, as of yore, out-jingo the jingoes. It is also striking confirmation of our claim that while capitalism lasts the struggle for trade advantages will bring wars and preparation for wars.

Capitalism without armed force is unthinkable. It is a force the working class must politically control before they can achieve emancipation.

The acceptance of the position embodied in our principles is the only sane and safe attitude for the workers.

* * *

The Great Man Bogey. 
“Born in one of the worst slums in Nottingham and beginning work at nine, Mr. Samuel Ward, a Liberal member for Nottingham City Council, was yesterday elected Sheriff. He was an illustration, he told the Council, of how, under our democratic constitution, the poorest boy could rise by industry, thrift, and sobriety, to the highest positions an important city could offer. ” —(Daily Chronicle, November 10th,” 1925.)
The fact that the Chronicle gave prominence to the above shows clearly enough that such occurrences are not commonplace. The “Great Man” theorists would have you believe that the long and tedious struggle of mankind through countless unknown generations serves no other purpose than that some may derive an easy existence as Capital’s functionaries or henchmen. Capitalism will reward comparative ignoramuses like General Booth or Lloyd George with their wealth and approbation, while a man of Marx’s mental calibre, acclaimed by his opponents a genius, was compelled to live half his life in poverty. Throughout the large towns thousands of boys have never had a job since leaving school two or three years ago. The following bears witness to the “splendid opportunities” available for the workers’ children :—
“Thirty-five per cent, to 40 per cent, of the children who are admitted to school at five years of age bear with them physical defects which could have been either prevented or cured.”—(Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer, Board of Education, for 1922, p. 36.)
In 1924 a similar report finds 38 per cent. of the entrants to school in London require medical treatment, and an increase over 1923 in cases of malnutrition.
“There is one feature of the findings of the School Medical Service which is very significant. Every year there appears to be the same tide of disease, the same burden of defect requiring treatment.”— (Sir Geo. Newman, Annual Report of School Medical Inspection, 1924).—(Daily Telegraph, November 14th, 1925.)
Such is our democratic constitution. It would be a lie to say that the bulk of the workers’ children ever have a ghost of a chance to rise from the position in which they are born. Consider the industry and thrift of the Monds, the Derbys, and the Rothschilds, and then reflect that a capitalist statistician has said of the wealth producers : “The poor within our borders to-day are as large in numbers as the entire population of 1867” (Chiozza Money, “Riches and Poverty,” p. 52). Such is the reward for the industry and thrift of the workers whose class ignorance keeps them the drudges and the doormats of the capitalist few. The Great Men of to-day are mainly the ones who, by adaptability, can give expression to the requirements of our rulers. Cunning and assertive impudence are surer of a place than that which may be of service to present and future generations. The recent remarks of a popular music-hall artist aptly illustrate the age we live in : “Cater for the scream,” said Mr. Billy Merson. “If people screamed at a show, that was the chief point. Some world-famous composers died in poverty, while writers of tripe drove about in motorcars. If the people want tripe, give them tripe ” (Daily Mirror, October 26th, 1925). When all have equal opportunities, there will be some talent or ability worth considering in those who become conspicuous by their achievements. In any case, when the interests of all are alike (as would be the case in Socialist society), those of any individual will be best furthered through society’s welfare, and not through the subjection and misery of others, as is the case to-day.

* * *

A Comic Interpretation of History. 
“There was a tendency to-day to believe that history must only be studied from the point of view of economics and industry. It was a degraded view of humanity to believe that the poorest had no interest but that of livelihood. The assumption was reactionary. . . . The point of view from which to study history was that of love of mankind.”— (Lord Eustace Percy, Morning Post, November 9th, 1925.)
No doubt hunger appears an absurdity to a well-fed body. That view is also consistent with the idea that it is reactionary for those whose lives are spent in one long battle with poverty to concern themselves with the economics of that poverty.

The gaiety and the luxury of the parasitic capitalist class is only made possible by their monopoly of the wealth the workers produce. The absurd claim that it is they who exercise “directive ability” is shown not only in death, but in life. Whole-page advertisements recently appeared in the Times and the Daily Telegraph, inviting “you” to winter at such resorts as Cannes, Mentone, Monte Carlo. Says one : “Spend your winter in the island of Madeira. Winter season from October to May. Society’s winter rendezvous.” No degradation there, miles from the source of the production of their, wealth, where others, members of the working class, exercise all the ability necessary to produce wealth, including that of a directing and organising nature. Degradation !—it is yours, in the gloomy city amid the din, the dirt, and the ceaseless round of toil. No wonder your masters can talk of love, of humanity while you pander to their every whim with such sheep-like docility.

Attempt, however, without intelligent class organisation, to threaten the institution of private property, and their sickly words of love will turn to brutal ferocity. Let any worker read a truthful account of the Paris Commune, with its lurid story of the slaughter of the Communards, and they will realise the love that the masters have shown the workers in the past. Paris was literally converted into a charnal house for no greater crime than that the workers attempted to control their own affairs in the most democratic and orderly manner Paris ever knew. Says Lissagary, in “The History of the Commune of 1871” :—
“The struggle over the Army transformed itself into a vast platoon of executioners. … A chief of battalion standing at the entrance surveyed the prisoners, and said : “to the right,” or “to the left.” Those to the left were to be shot. Their pockets emptied, they were drawn up along a wall and slaughtered (p. 383).
Women and children followed their husbands and their fathers, crying to the soldiers : “Shoot us with them !”—and they were shot.
What then will this justice say when those shall be judged, who methodically, without any anxiety as to the issue of the combat, and, above all, the battle over, shot 20,000 persons, of whom three-fourths had not taken part in the fight?” (p. 390).
Fellow-workers, by all means study history. You will find it a struggle everywhere between classes. It bears worldwide witness to the Capitalist and Labour lie about our “community of interests, “our” common humanity,” and shows the antagonism between the exploiters and their victims.

Blogger's Note:
This particular 'A Look Round Column' was unsigned but in this period it was usually written by W. E. MacHaffie ('Mac'). His name being omitted may have been a mistake at the print shop, or it may have been the case that someone else wrote the column this particular month.

Letter: Why Socialism must come. (1926)

Letter to the Editors from the January 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

A Reply to a Correspondent. 

S. Warr, junr. (Southend), asks what reply we would give to the following observation made by a Conservative opponent : “You cannot tell us how Socialism can work even if we desired it, and therefore how can you deal with the social question, etc?”

This opponent quite fails to understand the case for Socialism because he has placed the problem on its head.

Socialism is not a scheme evolved out of nothing and depending for its acceptance and introduction on our ability to convince the workers that it is “desirable,” and that its working will be perfect. On the contrary, it is offered as a practical means of solving certain pressing working-class problems. Capitalism has presented us with these problems and is making it continually more urgent that the workers should tackle them or find them growing worse ; but capitalism has also produced the material and mental means necessary for solving the problems it created.

For instance, in the early days of the present system, the demands of a world market encouraged the development of the means of producing wealth by making possible our modern methods of mass factory production. Capitalism is now unable to dispose of the enormous amount of wealth it can create, markets are overcrowded and permanent unemployment for millions is the result. Unemployment is the problem which capitalism presents and which the capitalist class cannot solve. The Socialist solution is simple, but it could not be put into effect by the present ruling class even if in some way they could become convinced that it was “desirable.” The solution is this : Since production for the world market has become a fetter on the production forces, let us abolish production for the market, that is production for sale, and organise production on the basis of use.

Again let us repeat that this is not the abstract idea of Marx or some other genius; it exists and only exists, because capitalism by organising production on something approaching a world basis has laid the foundation for Socialist society.

Finally, it is unpleasant but demonstrably true that the workers will try every scheme—genuine or sheer bluff—that our masters offer, before they will examine the case for Socialism. In fact, if the Conservatives could produce even a semblance of a solution for unemployment and other working-class problems, Socialism might be delayed indefinitely. They do not, because they cannot, and when the workers find this out they will solve their problems in the only way—through Socialism.
Ed. Com.

Editorial: What of the future? (1926)

From the January 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Socialism and Present Tendencies.
It is usual at this season of the year to review the past and see what hopes the future holds out for us. There is no particular reason for doing this beyond the fact that it is customary. The problems with which we are grappling; confront us at all seasons of the year, whether the date be the first of January or the 1st of July.

For the moment we need not worry about the Locarno Pact, which promises Europe peace and larger and more deadly armaments ; nor need we worry about the great Irish Agreement which has brought a “settlement” at last to the difficulties of that benighted land, and a civil war between the Northern Government and its Special Police; nor even need we stop to ponder over the Lloyd George Land Scheme, which bids fair to be nipped in the bud by the cheap trips to Canada and Australia, arranged by our benevolent Government which, evidently quite rightly, believes that one can starve as comfortably abroad as at home. These matters can be fittingly discussed in another place.

A disinterested observer, if such could exist, would surely marvel that a proposition, so simple in its main features, as Socialism, receives such scanty attention from the disinherited—the very people to whom it offers so much.

Socialism offers to the hungry the means to fill their stomachs, to the idle congenial work, to the overworked abundant leisure, to those in tatters sound and comely raiment, and to the homeless a roof, society and laughter. Yet the bulk of the people to whom it offers these things treat it with derision or apathy. Why? What are the main obstructions that hinder the majority from accepting the Socialist outlook?

The first important difficulty is that Socialism is something new, it demands a break from the traditional ways of looking at things and it is therefore disturbing to most people. All new ideas and outlooks are disturbing, and that is why they make such slow progress at first. Times are so hard, life is so burdensome, to the majority of people that they desire to escape from its hardships every moment they can. Socialism signifies thinking over these hardships, and consequently it is distasteful, A drink, a heart-to-heart talk, a listen-in, a dance, a football match—these are distractions, moments during which the wear and tear of life are forgotten, consequently they are sought after as the opium of the toiler. The modern worker uses up so much of his mental and manual energy in the service of the employer that he avoids, as much as possible, whatever calls for the exertion of serious thought after the work of the day is done. When once a worker is persuaded to think seriously about his social position, and made to see that there is a gleam of hope, a possible pathway out of his troubles for ever, then the disinclination to consider the new point of view disappears. The difficulty is to get him to start, to overcome the particular form of mental inertia that prevails.

The masters, who have a privileged position to lose, are made well acquainted with these facts, and see that whatever means are available shall be used to throw dust in the workers’ eyes. From press, pulpit, and platform the workers are taught that things have always been much as they are to-day, and it is divinely ordained that they will remain so for the future.

The paid advocates of the present order of slavery steer, more or less skilfully, among such disturbing influences as wars, peace treaties, strikes, and the like, with the basic object of keeping secure the profits of the employers and retaining the blind allegiance of employed. Much money and effort is spent in developing welfare schemes, arranging fruitless commissions of enquiry, and providing amusement and entertainment to absorb harmlessly energies that might otherwise be directed towards the abolition of a privileged class.

For many years a standing menace to capitalist states has been the growing army of unemployed. In England, however, they have at the moment met the difficulty in a way that takes the edge off the menace and spikes the guns of the disgruntled. The much-discussed “dole” at least minimises the danger of bread riots, and its qualifying clauses serve to intimidate many who might otherwise endanger the stability of the System.

Along with this there is a boom in certain of the sciences just now, and knowledge is increasing in the ranks of the intelligentsia (who conduct affairs on behalf of the masters) of the best way to deal with men, individually and in groups, not only for the purpose of increasing the amount of wealth produced per man, but also for the purpose of blinding and misleading the wealth producers as to their true interests.

So far has this latter idea progressed that it has induced, in at least one man of science, a profound gloom. Bertrand Russell in “Icarus” expresses himself as follows on the future outlook :—
“The effects of psychology on practical life may in time become very great. Already advertisers in America employ eminent psychologists to instruct them in the technic of producing irrational belief; such men may, when they have grown more proficient, be very useful in persuading the democracy that Governments are wise and good. . . .
More sensational than tests of intelligence is the possibility of controlling the emotional life through the secretions of the ductless gland. …. assuming an oligarchic organisation of society, the State could give to the holders of power the disposition required for command, and to the children of the proletariat the disposition required for obedience. Against the injections of the State physicians the most eloquent Socialist oratory would be powerless.”
Such is the outlook for the future according to one professor.

But Bertrand Russell is not the only one who is gloomy and full of foreboding.

In the latter days of the war and in the period immediately following the Armistice there was a boom in “Red Revolution.” Pamphlets were poured out in abundance, and mass meetings were held all over the country. In fact many thought the “revolutionary moment” had come and the day of emancipation was at hand.

Since then there has been a gradual downward tendency. One by one the “heroic” figures, that loomed large in the eye of labour, have stepped off the stage and quietly vanished. The names that are now writ large are not the names of yesterday. Most of the men of yesterday are now completely forgotten, although the false flags they waved have been taken up by those that have stepped into the shoes of the departed. But the doleful cry of “what is the good of it all?” has found favour with multitudes of enthusiastic but misguided people, and there is desertion from the camp of the “Reds” and the whitey Reds.

At the end of the war the promises in the Labour movement were fair, but the accomplishments have been foul.

On the one side the advantages gained whilst labour was at a premium during the war have one by one been given up under the guidance of leaders who took the side of the masters, urging and cajoling workers into accepting lower wages and working harder on the plea of “saving the country from bankruptcy.”

On the other side the “success” of Russia was held up as an example of what would be accomplished in this country by methods such as “Soviets of the Streets,” strikes, and other action outside of Parliament and in face of a parliamentary majority pledged to support the present state of affairs.

But opportunism, whether of the pale or the lurid red, alike lands us in the quagmire, or the shambles; and the successors of those who promised a “world revolution” by 1921 are now languishing in jail for indulging in wild talk at trade union rates !

Whatever value the work of the Russian Communists may have had in Russia, its general effect upon the movement outside has ultimately been disastrous to the movement towards Socialism, and the full extent of the evil has probably not yet been reached. It was and is a deadening power on educative propaganda. Its failure to redeem its promise has armed the opponents of Socialism with a false argument that they have not been backward in using to the utmost. Russian propaganda has put back the clock of revolution many years. It has accomplished this in five different ways. It has helped the capitalist to maintain an iron dictatorship over the workers. It has spread widely false ideas as to how to accomplish the Social Revolution. By the failure of its methods, both in Russia and outside, it has driven into despair and apathy some of the most active and valuable elements in the ranks of the working class ; it has placed in the hands of our enemies a powerful weapon — illustration — to use against us; and finally it has cleared the ground for the progress of those capitalist hirelings—the labour leaders—whose position was previously being rapidly undermined. Since the Russian Upheaval the reformist Labour Parties have made rapid strides almost everywhere.

But the wave that recedes returns with redoubled force when the tide is coming in— and come in the tide of Revolution surely will and must.

Need we be unduly disturbed then at the apparently slow pace of progress? Not at all. The battle is to the strong, and the strong are they who have the patience to persist in the path that alone leads to victory. It is not enough to have a burst of enthusiasm that fades away if the harvest does not come in a few short years of effort. It is necessary to know that however long and hard the road, it is the only road, and there is surely the promised land at the end.

When looking back at past revolutions, one is apt to forget that they were the product of years of preparation, and that the forces preparing them were nearest ripening at the moment when the future looked darkest. This was true particularly of the English and French Revolutions, which appear on the surface to have been the sudden and spontaneous uprising of popular passion.

The question so often put by people in moments of pessimism, when bad health or social stress blacken their outlook, “Shall we see Socialism in our time?” is really a superfluous question. One complete answer to it is that the progress towards Socialism is in direct ratio to the amount of effort put in by those who understand and desire it. Another answer is that the unborn generations will have little sympathy for those who abandon the struggle on the slender grounds of their own immediate feelings. Yet another answer is that the servile crew who abandon the struggle under the influence of such a consideration deserve the kicks that are the recompense of slaves. And, finally, who is there with such prophetic vision that he can foretell, with any degree of accuracy worth consideration, how long the mass of the people will groan under the yoke of slavery in face of a spreading tide of education that neither pulpit, press, platform nor police can stem? Just as a close-kept secret will out some day, so a view such as Socialism, however harshly it may be surpassed, will take root and flourish, often flourishing all the more strongly on account of that very suppression.

In conclusion, we would like to address a few personal remarks to you, who belong to the unconverted. What do you want? Do you love slavery? Do you want your children and your children’s children to be born into slavery, making the means for others enjoyment while they toil in poverty and misery? What is the use of toiling, week in and week out. for the sake of a smoke, a drink, and a football match? You make the earth fruitful, the mine and the factory belch forth their riches. But these are not for you who have gained them by the power of your muscles and the fertility of your brains. These riches belong to those who live upon you and bleed you of the product of your labour. They twist your intelligence into channels favourable to their welfare and your ill, and you let them enjoy the things that you have made because they have taught you some great natural law or some unscrutable power has decreed that it shall be so. There is no power outside of custom and the things born of the economic organisation of society, and these are things that you can alter when you will. But to achieve alteration you must rid yourselves of false notions of others superiority, false ideas of a natural order of social privilege, and the pessimism which keeps the servile mark of slavery upon your brow.

The Shorter Working Day. (1926)

From the January 1926 issue of the Socialist Standard

Its Economic Causes and Social Results. 

During the last hundred years there has been in this country a marked and more or less continuous tendency for hours of work to become fewer. The causes are many and various and the two which receive most attention—trade union organisation and legal restriction—are by no means the only ones of importance. The part played by the technical developments of industry is frequently forgotten as are also the motives which have induced the ruling class to pass their laws limiting hours of employment. As power has throughout the period remained in the hands of members of the employing class, it is plain that no action really damaging to their class interests would be taken by them in the House of Commons; and similarly as controllers of industry they have been well able to adapt themselves to the slightly modified conditions resulting from the existence of Trade Unions as a permanent factor, without loss of profits in the long run.

Shorter hours are, of course, of benefit to the working class, but they have not—in capitalist society—proved an unmixed blessing. Generally speaking, reductions in hours have not been allowed to mean a corresponding reduction in output. The workers have been able and have been compelled to work harder during the smaller number of hours. Not infrequently they have been induced to produce more in the shorter than in the longer working day. They have exchanged exhaustion in seven hours for exhaustion in eight or nine hours and profits have not suffered. Certain outstanding figures like Cadbury and Ford have demonstrated that a six or even five hour day can be made not only a business proposition but more profitable still, but it must be remembered that their methods are dependent on the actual processes of the industries in question as well as on many outside factors not directly controllable by the individual employer. Where the social and educational level and the level of wages are abnormally low, as in Bombay, long hours and degraded conditions are still the rule. Big profits are, from the owners’ point of view, a sufficient justification and a reason for leaving “well” alone. Immigrant labourers still work their twelve hours a day for seven days a week in the oil and steel industries of America and produce profits which are fabulous. A falling off in the supply of cheap labour, a change in the methods of production making it cheaper to use delicate machinery needing skilled and educated workers; these and many other factors may lead to a new organisation based on a shorter working day in these industries. If and when that occurs we can be certain that, as has happened so often in the past, the employers will make a virtue of necessity and parade “philanthropy” as the motive. Up to the thirties of last century it was the practice in most of the coal areas for women to be employed carrying coal in baskets up to the surface. Occasional protests went unheard until the invention of a wire cable made it for the first time cheaper to haul the coal mechanically. The employment of women was then forbidden by Parliament amidst a flood of mutual congratulations among the mine proprietors. What a happy world this is for property owners when benevolence can be exercised not only at no cost, but in combination with increased receipts of good hard cash !

It is difficult for a ruling class not to view other folks’ welfare through the rose-tinted spectacles of their own prosperity. We need not be surprised then to find the spokesmen of our masters filled with comfort at the thought of what they believe to be a continued progress in the conditions of our lives. We need not, however, accept unquestioningly their optimistic views or the subject of our hours of work and our holidays.

In spite of changes for the better which admittedly have been made, two important facts need to be weighed on the other side of the scale. The first is that what has been given with one hand has often been taken away with the other, and the second is that at no time, early or late in the history of modern capitalist society, will our conditions compare with those of the more leisurely system out of which capitalism grew.

For the workers factory production meant the evil of frantic and unceasing labour for long hours such as would have seemed intolerable to an independent craftsman accustomed to choose his own times for work and rest. The new moneyed class, intoxicated by the wonderful opportunities of amassing fortunes, usually had no inclination themselves to make their money the means to a life of leisure and culture. To their evangelical conception money-making was man’s first duty and the earthly life not a place for play. How much less, then, were they disposed to let the need of the workers for rest and recreation stand between them and their profits.

In spite, therefore, of more recent tendencies, we are, generally speaking, worse off than before the advent of industrial capitalism ; and the more highly developed countries are worse off than the more backward ones.

London, we find, has fewer statutory holidays than any other city in the world— 6 against 10 in New York and 12 in Australia and Germany. (“Bank and Public Holidays.” Guaranty Trust Coy.) The really marked difference shows itself, as we would expect, in a comparison with those countries (mainly Catholic) which have been less influenced by industrialism. When and where the Catholic Church and the Feudal organisation to which it was so well adapted, survived the attacks of capitalism, the numerous Church holidays have retained their traditional hold. Thus Poland, in spite of reductions in 1924, still has 34 holidays, as does also Greece. Jugoslavia, more backward still, has no fewer than 40 public holidays each year. With the 52 Sundays the fortunate workers have approximated one day off in four. As these countries come increasingly into the sphere of factory production for the world’s markets, the capitalist class will find so much leisure for the workers incompatible with factory “discipline” and the fulfilment of contracts. More and more sacrifices will be called for in order that profits may not suffer. “Bolshevik” Russia’s progress from semi-feudalism to Capitalism has been marked by the same abolition of the holidays formerly kept in accordance with the customs of the Church.

What the workers enjoyed in the Middle Ages can be seen from the following.

Mr. G. Townsend Warner says of the 15th and 16th centuries (“Tillage, Trade and Invention,” p. 71):—
“Besides Sundays, all Saints’ days and feasts of the Church, were days on which work was forbidden, and on the eve of these holidays only half-a-day’s work was done. Very likely the working man’s year was not more than 280 days; perhaps even less.”
As for hours of work he says (p. 113) :—
“Dinner was at one, and few did any work after it; but all, whether artisan or merchant, shopkeeper or Government official, began early, often at 5 or 6 in the morning . . . .”
Thorold Rogers (“Six Centuries of Work and Wages,” p. 542) gives the average working day in the 15th and 16th centuries as “one of 8 hours’ work,” and points out that the worker who in 1881 was “demanding an eight hours’ day in the building trades is simply striving to recover what his ancestor worked four or five centuries ago.” It is worth noting that according to Mr. Leone Levi, whose opinion Rogers quotes (p. 543) : ” the average amount of hours in the building trade . . . was 55″ in 1867. Such is progress!

Conditions in Germany would appear to have been even better than those in this country.

Belfort Bax, in summing up the social status of the worker about the year 1500. says :—
“In some cases the workman had weekly gratuities under the name of “bathing money,” and in this connection it may be noticed that a holiday for the purpose of bathing once a fortnight, once a week, or even oftener, as the case might be, was stipulated for by the Guilds, and generally recognised as a legitimate demand” (German Society at the close of the Middle Ages, page 212).
It is interesting to know what took place before capitalism came into being, but this is as nothing compared with the opportunities of leisure that capitalist development has now made possible. Capitalism, while robbing the workers of the leisure they had, has created powers of production which, if properly utilised, would enable us to work less than half the time we do now. The census of production is our evidence for this assertion, in disclosing how many fit persons are either engaged in useless or wasteful occupations only necessary under this system, or are, like so many of the members of the propertied class, entirely idle.

The five million persons belonging to the master class produce nothing. If these contributed workers in the same ratio as rest of the population, there would be another 2,000,000 workers available for production.

The number of men removed from useful labour by the coercive forces are roughly : the army, 250,000; the navy and air force, 130,000; police and prison’ staffs, 70,000; while there are more than 60,000 clergymen chasing the shadow instead of wrestling with the substance.

These groups of people frittering away their energies either from choice or compulsion, total over 2½ millions in addition to the unemployed.

But this is not all. According to the census returns for 1921, 81,347 commercial travellers were scouring the country in England and Wales alone, with no better object than to snatch trade from rivals; and 539,686 male and 426,475 female clerks and typists were toiling, to a great extent uselessly, in business offices. The streets teem with canvassers^ and agents and door-to-door distributors. A dozen bakers’ carts chase each other over the same ground ; a dozen butchers’ carts and milk carts do the same.

Over 1½ million persons (excluding clerks) are employed in Commerce, Finance and Insurance.

These millions who neither toil nor spin, are waited upon by thousands upon thousands of servants and flunkeys, who add nothing to the national wealth. The railways call for numerous booking-clerks to serve out tickets, and collectors to punch them and collect them. The ‘buses and trams are overrun with spying inspectors.

The number of people in England and Wales engaged in 1921 in the building and allied trades; mining and quarrying; metal, engineering and shipbuilding; textile, tailoring, boot and shoe trades, food, drink and tobacco; electrical apparatus making and fitting, etc. ; wood and furniture trades; and agriculture, was only 7,615,198—and these figures included all persons over 12, and employers as well as the unemployed.

Nearly the whole of the wealth of the country is produced by the people engaged in these trades, whose numbers equalled about half the male population of the country between the ages of 16 and 60, at the time the figures were taken. So, after balancing the wealth producers in other trades, and those engaged in transport, against the unemployed and employers in these, it seems reasonable to claim that the whole of the nation’s wealth can be produced by the male population between 16 and 60 years of age working half the time they do now.

Another striking illustration of the productive powers of the working class is offered by the experience of the war. In 1917 and 1918, no less than four million fit men were in the forces. Only 1,600,000 additional women workers were employed in industry, yet it was possible to maintain the supply of essential goods and services, and at the same time produce in colossal quantities the weapons of destruction for British and Allied armies. Our “productive powers actually increased.” (“Triumph of Nationalisation,” p. 137.)

These powers of production exist and could rapidly be improved upon but for capitalist private ownership. Great possibilities of leisure are out of your reach only from this same cause. They will come within your reach only after the winning of Socialism, and to this end we invite your help and co-operation in spreading the knowledge of Socialist Principles.
Edgar Hardcastle