Monday, April 15, 2024

White Papers and Black Records (1948)

From the April 1948 issue of the Socialist Standard

The White Paper on the threatened crisis should set Trade Unionists thinking hard.

Cutting out all frills, two main points emerge —Wage Pegging and Speeding Up.

As to the first point: “When it comes to a race between rising prices and personal incomes, prices will always win in the long run, so that conditions become progressively worse for the holders of all personal incomes, but particularly for Wage Earners.” (Daily Herald, February 5th, 1948.) Government apologists go so far as to use the ugly words “starvation" and “wide-spread unemployment.”

Here is a clear admission that a “Labour” Government administering its modified State Capitalism can no more prevent the evils arising for the worker than could Liberalism or Toryism.

Do you remember the ”beloved” Ramsay MacDonald? Unfortunately, the worker has such a short memory. Just to jog memories: ‘‘It is recorded on the authority of Lord Snowden that the Socialist Cabinet in 1931 unanimously approved heavier wage and salary reductions than the National Government afterwards imposed. Mr. Morrison was a member of that Cabinet." (Evening Standard, November 8th, 1935.)

The Daily Herald (February 5th, 1948) belatedly expresses in muddled terms what Marx wrote incisively 100 years ago, “Old ideas of relative value of occupations must be put aside,” adding inconsequentially, “the labourer is worthy of his hire.” This is what Marx wrote:—
‘‘Where the physique of the working class has deteriorated, the lower forms of labour, which demand great expenditure of muscle, are in general considered as skilled, compared with much more delicate forms of labour; the latter sink down to the level of unskilled labour.” (“Capital,” p. 179.)
The Daily Herald, wagging a warning finger at the pampered postman and the naughty factory lass, says with solemn air, “The relation which different personal incomes bear to one another must no longer be determined by historical development of the past.” Here a comparatively insignificant factor is raised to a position of first importance. We leave it to the psychologist to decide whether this piffle proffered to the worker arises from sheer ignorance or in more or less sub-conscious obedience to the interests; of its paymasters, or a loathsome mixture of both. The Fabian gang in the Government could at least have saved the Herald from its "economists.” Perhaps the Herald's editor, Percy Cudlipp, will find occasion to explain further on a ‘‘Brains Trust ” ; better still, the columns of the ‘‘Socialist Standard” are open to him.

The Catechism some of us were taught in our early youth solemnly counselled us to be content with that state of life into which it shall please God to call us. Substitute ‘‘Capitalist Class” for ‘‘God” and you have the true intent of wage-pegging. Sir Stafford Cripps’ fervent belief in Christianity the perfect cure for all crises is quite consistent with his mixture of frantic appeals and threats to the worker to “produce” more and ever more; Attlee and Morrison, the other two Persons of an Unholy Trinity, must find it difficult to hide their sardonic smiles.

As to the second main point of the White Paper: Speeding up is a very ancient device for the squeezing till the pips squeak of the slave, chattel or wage variety. A claim is put out that a benevolent government, oozing concern at every pore for the worker, is forced to propose measures which it believes will be of a temporary nature. Much the same sort of plea was put forward after the first World War; humbugs of the Lloyd George variety are replaced on the political stage by an astuter crowd of actors, smart Alecs who have raised the art of political thimble-rigging to the high degree demanded by a rather more politically alert working class that was so easily taken in formerly.

It is worth noting that a Party coloured with crypto-Communists has learnt something from Soviet Russia in the direction of speeding up in the mining industry. Stakhanovism is being quietly but firmly-infiltrated; the more than platonic flirtation of the Government and the Trade Unions with Miss Piece Work should open the eyes of disinterested Unionists and spur rank-and-file to action.

“Go to it” was the perfect expression of the super-driving Government foreman. How long do you propose letting these highly paid tools of plutocracy, who have climbed on your back to power, alternatively wheedle and bully you, greeting you as "heroes" when you cannon-fodder for them, and yelping the ancient insult, "Ye are idle; ye are idle," when you humbly ask for straw to make bricks for the stately homes of England? While your wife is looking old before her time engaged in a hopeless struggle to make ends meet in a “home" which lacks the most elementary essentials of comfort, let alone common decency.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always recognised the importance of Trade Unionism as a factor in the working-class struggle, but is only too conscious of its limitations as a weapon of emancipation. Its "bargaining" function is useful if only for keeping alive a determination not to be driven to mere serfdom. To delegates on the floor of the next T.U.C. Conference, we offer a few points for their earnest consideration: -

First of all, read this: "Mr. J. A. Hall, president of the Yorkshire Mineworkers' Association, told strikers at Hemsworth that they had stabbed him in the back, and said that Mr. Bevin was their best friend in the Cabinet. The Porter Award, with its £5 a week minimum, was the finest piece of mining legislation ever produced. Among the miners was a greedy section who were never satisfied." (News Chronicle, April 10th, 1944.) This is typical talk of the "Leaders" who will be ecstatically cheered when they deign to beam upon you from the platform, snugly ensconced behind a beautiful barbed-wire of Standing Orders.

A member of our Party wrote to the editor: "I sincerely hope there will be a big increase of "greedy miners" who fail to see how they can live anywhere near the standard of life enjoyed by their 'leaders.' I find £6 a week pension barely adequate to run a modest cottage, and make due provision for a possible widow. As one Government (ex) employee to another performing crisis-saving work, I shake hands with the "greedy miner.' "

On October 1st, 1935, at the Brighton Labour Conference, Bevin set about George Lansbury, and properly debunked the Saint of Bow. (See “Guilty Men," p. 33, by Michael Foot; Gollancz.) Is it beyond hope (alas) that one single humble delegate will do something in the direction of debunking both Hall and the Miners' Best Friend?

If space permitted, the sorry history of Trade Union "leadership" told at adequate length, would surely convince the Floor that their sickening adulation of leaders, and patient bearing of whip-cracking needed severe revision.

Just a brief indication of the kind of weapons you forge against yourselves by giving your brains in pawn to the Halls, the Lawthers, the Bevins, the Horners.

G. N. Barnes was once secretary of the A.E.U. He was Minister of Pensions during the first World War. There were 100.000 men "many who ought never to have been taken into the army, and are now physical wrecks " (Daily News, 7/3/16). Pensions were asked (Tories like Hogge warmly assenting) for these hopelessly broken tools. Barnes replied, "They will not get it while I am in office." Comment is needless.

Have you older men forgotten Trade Union Leader Hodge, who, as Minister of Labour in that war, was one of Lloyd Georges' most efficient snarling dogs? We hope your Public Library has "Workman's Cottage to Windsor Castle." Read it—take the chance if you have a delicate stomach. Just one quotation: “In the summer of 1930, Mr. John Baker was entertaining a lady friend and myself to tea on the terrace, when Lady Astor came out of the House, in that vivacious way of hers which makes other women jealous, put her arm round my neck, and said, "It's real nice to see your face again. How are you?' She peered at me and asked 'Why doesn’t MacDonald make you a peer?' 'There he is. Lady Astor,' said I, pointing to MacDonald, 'ask him!' "

Well, to quote Sterne on another sad occasion, "Shall I go on . . . No."
Augustus Snellgrove

No comments: