People were saying in 1914 that resources were running out but they have survived another 110 years! We are struck by the similarity of the period 1910-14 to today — a cost of living crisis ( due to the value of gold falling and so setting off a rising in the general price level) leading to more strikes. Only then the government (Liberal) didn’t hesitate to break the strikes but also that they shot and killed strikers as at Llanelli, Liverpool, Belfast and Tonypandy!
ANARCHY AND WASTE
“The only useful class in society—the working class—even if its modest requirements were doubled, would not tax the world’s resources in ten years to the extent that capitalist anarchy does in one.”
It has been suggested that the above paragraph, appearing in the “S.S.” for October last, may be regarded by some as an exaggeration. While it may be difficult to prove the actual figures, or even to obtain any accurate data as to.the extent of capitalist spoliation and waste, those who have at all studied the methods of capitalism will readily agree that the statement, for a rough estimate, is within the mark.
Every capitalist concern, existing as it does for the sole purpose of profit, and forced into competition with rival concerns, does not stop to consider the effects of its exploitation of the natural resources or of the working class, if such consideration checks the flow of profits.
Wherever Nature, unassisted by man, has provided wealth to be easily acquired, the wild scramble has not slackened until extinction becoming imminent, has compelled collective regulation through the State. The wild buffalo of North America was only saved from utter extinction by the removal of the largest remaining herd to Canada, and the enactment of stringent laws for their protection.
Mr. Chiozza Money says :
“Trade has been provided with weapons which it uses very much as a little boy uses a new pen-knife. There could be no apter parallel to illustrate what ignorant men have done with the world’s timber, and its oil, and its ores, and its great tracts of virgin fertility. But the folly and waste could not proceed far without the price being paid.
“Rubber was a case in point which neatly illustrates tha general case. The world’a rubber was wasted and despoiled, and garnered in shame and bloodshed. Then rubber grew scarce and prices rose to famine point.
“As to timber, the world is using it much more quickly than it is growing it, and we have the extraordinary fact that the United States of America, which had some of the finest forests in the world, has hacked away at them so rapidly that some sorts of wood are scarce in her vast territory. Mr. Roosevelt’s Conservation Commission was a recognition of the folly with which our friends across the Atlantic, who think they are clever because thay have scraped an easily won natural wealth together in ugly piles, have played ducks and. drakes with their resources.”
These three paragraphs, from the pan of a capitalist defender, are stronger in their condemnation than even the rough estimate quoted above.
Perhaps no better example of capitalist was waste exists than coal. In the absence of reliable figures we can yet safely assume that millions of tons are wasted annually on war and the preparations for war. The building and manoeuvring of war-ships, the manufacture of guns and projectiles—all for the protection of the private property owned by the capitalist class. Nearly one hundred millions is the estimated expenditure on the armed forces for the current year in this country alone. Every two days nine miners are killed, and 892 injured in the getting of coal. Life and limb and millions of tons of the coal they are sacrificed for are consumed on.the altar of private property. Yet “when the north wind doth blow,” many a working-class family huddle in their rags beside a fireless hearth !
But this savage appropriation and waste of wealth is not half the tale. For while production is carried on for profits, only to he realised on the world’s market, capitalist anarchy blindly oversteps the demand, in one direction or another, all the time. For over-production the capitalist has but one sure remedy sabotage. When harvests have been plentiful, so have thanksgiving services ; but what the market could not absorb has been destroyed or allowed to rot, in order to maintain prices. As Mr. Chiozza Money wrote of the Brazilian coffee crop : “When it is too big it is incontinently reduced by the simple process of burning.” The same applies to wheat, as Marx so ably pointed out in “Value, Price, and Profit.”
The “Daily Chronicle” (2.4.10) related what it described as an amusing feature of attempts made to corner cotton. Large consignments of cotton arrived at Liverpool from America. After warehousing they were re-shipped and sent back, it being expected that in due time the same cotton would find its way back to Liverpool. Even then it was doubtful whether it might not make yet another journey across the Atlantic. Such cases as these may be isolated. but they hold a lamp to the purpose of industry. For if man works only to satisfy his needs, it is the height of folly to do the same work three or four times over.
If the working man, not wishing to be unemployed, spins out his job, that’s Ca’Canny. But the Stock Exchange gambler can play “shuttlecock across the Atlantic” with the produce of labour, and he is hailed as a benefactor—he makes work !
How much of the drudgery performed by the working class is really necessary, is best shown by an examination of the numbers engaged in useless and unproductive work. The first and largest section of these is all those workers who are engaged in the production of, not only the luxuries consumed by the ruling class, but also their necessaries. For parasitism cannot be justified on any grounds. All those engaged in waiting upon or catering for the drones are doing useless work.
Standing armies and navies, and the police, together with customs officers, inspectors, and hundreds of thousands of clerks, tallying and writing dunning letters, are useless.
From the Lord Chancellor to the barrister’s clerk, lawyers do nothing to help production. The clergy are worse than useless : they are kept out of the wealth produced by the working class. Their function—a poisonous one—being to shackle the minds of the workers with superstitions that should have died a natural death one hundred years ago, had the ruling class prized honesty as they do profits.
Politicians, from the Prime Minister to the Labour leader, and in their wake all the vast army of publishers, printers, touts and canvassers engaged in the issuing of current political rubbish, are productive of nothing beyond the return of the capitalist class to power and the subsequent crop of disgraceful libel actions that invariably follows each general election. Although the latter might well teach the workers one useful lesson : the value of political power in the estimation of those who seek it.
Under a sane and rational system of society, where the means of life were owned and controlled by the people, available information as to goods produced would be desirable. But this work would be next to nothing in comparison with the absurd lengths to which advertising is carried to-day. Goods are advertised, not to acquains customers with their existence, but to capture the trade of rivals. The “President of the Incorporated Society of Advertising Consultants” says that “Britain’s yearly advertising bill reaches a hundred millions.” Their boasted claim that a real industry has been built up, is only the confession of another shoddy capitalist ideal. A complete industry employing one hundred thousand workers, besides contributory trades, engaged in defacing town and countryside with hideous proclamation that some particular ointment, pill, or soap is better than all others.
But this annual bill of Great Britain’s by no means covers the amount of human energy that is wasted in over-reaching and over-lapping in the general scramble for a share in the world’s market. The revelations in the Krupp case show that in China—and in other parts of the world—associations exist that, with a great outlay of money, fill columns of the native Press with attacks on the traders of other countries.
All the yelling and hammering on the Stock Exchange is energy wasted ; company promoters, brokers and engineers, insurance company staffs, and those of benefit societies, are useless products of a rotten system, that advances in complexity almost as rapidly as it does in corruption.
The useless toil inflicted upon the many becomes more apparent with the development of the system. The utmost corners of the earth are ransacked, the heat of the tropics and the cold of the Arctic zone, the dangers of the mine and the perils of the sea, are faced by members of the working class to bring treasures and dainties to our epicurian parasites and their pets. Thousands of workers spend their time in the manufacture of tinsel and bunting and all the rest of the paraphanalia that forms a setting in the useless pagentry of royalty and other capitalist mummers, for the glorification of King Capital, and for the edification of the chloroformed victims of their system.
Professor Dixon told a gloomy tale of the resources of the world being rapidly used up. His capitalist mind alone prevented him from perceiving the cause—the anarchy of capitalist production and the determination of the capitalist class to keep possession of the means of life. If either he or Mr. Money were possessed of sufficient imagination to conceive of a system of society where the means of life were owned collectively and controlled democratically, they would hold the key to the only solution of a world problem.
For it is only when competition and anarchy, exploitation and class antagonism, are abolished, that the human race, associating and co-operating for their common good, can tackle the question of their dissipated inheritance. For the ruling class have indeed played ducks and drakes with our common inheritance, and they only blaspheme the god they pretend to believe in and worship, when they carve in the pediment of the temple of Mammon, where they barter and gamble with the means of wealth production—”The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”
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