Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

7 articles on this Page

LORD HEADLEY'S ARGUMENTI

News
Cite
Share

LORD HEADLEY'S ARGUMENT I A Further Consideration of 44 Human Nature" I In Relation To Social Ownership. I By John Barr. I Lord Headley's short article in last week's Pioneer" is, indeed, a very disappointing one an face of A.P.Y.'s (editor of the "Pioneer") brilliant re-statement and analysis of his case as put forward in the Pioneer" issue of Novem- ber 8th last against Nationalisati-on as a prac- tical remedy for unrest and discontent, and a.s I am the writer of one of the private letters to Lord Headlev on his The Sense of Possession Jetter which appeared in "The Daily Herald, I would like to be given the opportunity of pub- licly criticising his :attitude. Lord Headley's whole case can be summed upin a sentence of his own: Are we not all human, and do you think you can change human nature or better the conditions of the community by substituting -a government of miners, railwaymen and trans- port workers for a Government chosen by the whole na/tion? "-a sentence which not only be- trays a misunderstanding of the economic forces underlying the general unrest of to-day, but pos- tulates anew the 2,000 year old idea of regenera- tion from within. Again, his preliminary axiom that care for one's own kith and kin demands -an unnatural pinching to save and a subsequent investment of those savings with, of course, an interest accruing from same, derived from the work of others, needs only to be worked out to its logical conclusion to show its absurdity, in a •community of investors with no producers, and wherein, I take it, all would live by taking in •each other's washing. THE SOCIAL FLUX. I Society is continually in a. state of flux, and the world of individualism which Lord Headley seemingly still clings to is gone. Madhinofacture I-as,supplanted handicraft, and production which necessarily in the beginning of Capitalism (200 .years ago) was individual is now social, and the oase Lord Headley has 'to meet is the demand for :the essential corollary to social production, i.e., social ownership, not only of the mines, railways -and transport means, but of the wihole methods -of production. At the moment public attention is concen- trated on the Nationalisation of the mines, with -direa control by the colliery workers, and if Lord Headley can only see in this agitation a, -COILtinuamoe of the present capitalistic methods I -of production, under a new set of owners, then, I respectfully submit, he does not understand the position. The colliery worker knows that irom the cutting of the nrst sod in the sinking of the mine, right through the evolutionary pro- cess, to the establishment of a colliery employ- ing thousands of workers, -he and his fellows have contributed all the labour necessary, the capital- ist meanwhile providing him with food, clothing .and shelter, much as a landlord might do to a lodger temporarily out of work. He further knows from published returns that on aii average -all the capital spent is returned to the capitalist within a period of from four to five years, but unlike the lodger who repays his landlord, he finds the surplus product of his labour is not available for the tsocial benefit of ithe creators -of the wealth, but has to be handed over to the -apitalist or joint stock company of capitalists, who provided the food, clothing and shelter -during the initiatory stages of the business. He is quite aware that past .labour in the form of oULpirtal is necessary to the enterprise, is quite alive to the fact that labour cannot do without capital, but in puzzling over the question of the ownership of mines after the first charge has been repaid, he has intelligently arrived at the •conclusion that labour can do without the capi- talist. It can be plainly seen no change in .human nature has occurred, no more than when we drifted from Feudalism into Capitalism, yet •with the aid of schools and schoolmasters the worker is restless and discontented, and to the -opposing conventional economist he willingly /grants the admission that labour cannot do with- out capital and capital cannot do without labour, %ut introduces an addendum Labour can do without the Capital-i,,t. FROM PERSONAL TO IMPERSONAL. I Lord Headley knows perfectly well that the system of Capitalism has evolved from a -purely personal ownership bafeis to 'a highly organised impersonal state. The individual proprietor en- dowed with the only ethic Capitalism under- stands "best thy neighbour," found very soon that salvation for him lay in combination with his opposing proprietor, and as a consequence we have travelled through partnership, limited com- panies, rings and trusts to the impersonal con- dition of to-day. Again, no change in human nature, but an addition to the ethic—" combine to best thy neighbour—t'he worker; yet the changed condition is remarkable. It is one from pure laissez-faire individualism to collectivism. We are all Swialists now in the sense that we are all believers in the philosophy of collectivism, and in the furtherance of that spirit joint stock companies are allmost daily being absorbed in other concerns of a like or even diverse nature. When the great cotton combine was formed over 30 years ago to crush every competitor out -of its way we had no Lord Headley's to seriously warn the collectivist capitalists it could not be ■done unless you changed human nature, and yet when we reach a highly social stage of produc- tion under individualistic ownership we are warned that evolution can go no farther towards social ownership because that would require a ,ch&nv in human nature. As BlatcShford said in Merrie England There is human nature in Raleigh's spreading of the cloak before the Queen; in the wounded Sydney giving up the cup of water to the wounded soldier; in Nelson on the deck of the Victory with his breast ablaze with orders; in Napoleon afraid to die at Sedan; in St. Paul's endurance of stripes and contumely; in Judas selling his master for 30 pieces of silver," and may I add in the soldier fighting for 1/- a day; in the lifeboat-man risk- ing his life to save his fellow beings; in our Grace Darlings and our Joan of Arcs, and when Lord Headley comes along with the spirit of ad- venture typified in the Carnegies, Leverhulmes, Liptons and Northcliffs and the underlying as- sumption that the one incentive is gain, the only road to heroism lying in trampling and oppress- ing your fellowmen by extracting all the surplus- value of their labour, then in the language of the aforesaid BlateTiford we may be graciously permitted to smile. LORD HEADLEY'S TASK. When Lord Headley can prove to us that pre- vious economic changes in society lia-s been pre- ceded by a, change in human na.tui-c,-a. regenera- tion from withint)hen we will be graciously pleased to relax our smile. The idea that Nationalisation means a further wholesale development of the present bureau cratic mess and muddle betrays a misconception of the Labour case, but as this view has been I" a thousan d t i mes better than I cou l d I a.nsw(>re<l a ÛlOUSIlJJq .tJUws het.t<>. r t lan I could do it by Robert Blatchford recently in the "Sun- day Chronicle," I make no apology for conchid- I ing with an extract:— I BLATCHFORD'S STATEMENT. What is the first verbal bomb tlirown at the miner when he shouts for Nationalisation of the Mines ? State muddle and waste. What! cries the exasperated taxpayer, or man of 'business. State management! Haven't we had enough of State blundering and extravagance? It means red ruin, Very well. So it does. But may I remark, in the most gentleman- ly manner in the world,' thetthe miners are not asking for State muddle and waste; but for na- tional ownership and control? I The same thing ? .Not necessarily. No sane Socialist would put his hand up for the kind of State management we have had during the war. But is that the only kind possible Here wf have a question which is at any rate worth con- sidering. Is it impossible to have efficient man- agement under national control? If it is im- possible then Nationalisation is a dead horse. But is it impossible; are we quite sure of that ? 1 The official idea, the departmental idea, a.nd the Socialist idea a,re different. The depart- mental idea is impossible; nobody wants any more of that. The Socialist idea 'has never been tried. It may not be practicable, but it is not t'he,s,a,itie as the departmental idea., and it is only fair to admit the difference. THE DEPARTMENTAL IDEA. "What is the departmental idea? The State take over an industry: boots, let us say. They orgamise a great central Boot Department. They build or buy huge palatial offices. They appoint a huge staff of officials: clerks, majors, flappers, nephews of Members of Parliament, unsuccessful journalists, dons from the Universities, 'etc. etc. The only persons excluded are men who know anything about machinery, or trade, or bootmaking, or leather. This department is cen- tralised, and put unider a, politician, who is an authority on Egyptian monuments, or an ex- perienced Continental diplomat. The whole show is run on red tape and printed forms. The various boot factories are treated in the same way. Each factory has a large clerical and supervising staff. All the practical and experi- enced managers and owners are dispensed with. New patterns of boots and shoes (if any) are judged by a Boaa-,cl--a Major-General, a half-pay Commodore, a Dean, a West End milliner, and several stockbrokers; and business is put in hand. THE SOCIALISTS' BELIEF. I However. We all know how the State does things. What does the Socialist believe, or ex- pect, or hope might be done if the boot trade were nationalised on the lines of his alternative ? Obviously, the most important thing would be to avoid doing any of the silly things which the State always does. There should not be a huge and costly central department. There should not be an army of clerks and red-tapists. There should not be a host of directors and inspectors who only know enough about a boot to put it on their foot instead of their hand. The experienced managers, salesmen, buyers, designers, and foremen should not be sacked. The business should not be run by official forms sigiied and countersigned. There should not be a perfectly useless and inexperienced Cabinet Minist.e: ,at la large salary in command.' There should not be hoairds of incompetent officials to judge new patterns and inspect new machinery. THE BUSINESS SIDE. On the contrary, the management of the works would be left in the hands of those who understand and have long conducted the busi- ness. Every effort would be made to decrease the clerical and general overhead expenses. Businesses would, as far as convenient, be amal- gama.ted and expanded. The mewest and best machinery and methods would be adopted. Com- petition between firms would be abolished, and the cost of advertisement would be reduced. As there would no longer be any expenditijre in dividends or profits the wages and salaries might be 'increased, and the prices of boots and shoes might be lowered. "Do I claim that the nationalisation of the boot or any other industry would work out on those lines? No. I do not know. But I do know that Socialists mean a busi- ness to be conducted on those lines when they ask for it to be nationalised, and therefore it is no answer to their demand to tell them how many millions the State departments have wasted in shipping, in railways, in food control, and in munitions. They are not asking for controllers and min- isters, and secretaries and assistant secretaries. They do not suggest that the experienced head of a motor works should be sacked and his place given to a wealthy meat contractor. They do not want a glorified pawnbroker made Director- General of Collieries. They do not want a dis- tinguished infantry brigadier put in command of a State shipyard. They .want the best men in any given trade to manage that trade in the Interests of the na- tion. If they cannot have that they must do without it. But they never have had it, and they do not regard it as impossible. Another thing. It is absolutely hopeless to attempt to humbug the miners or other workers with fairy tales about pieces of carpet. That kind of palaver is out of date. The working- cla sses know better. They probably know the economic rights and wrongs of things better than the plausible gentlemen who are trying to fool them. It will not do. It is a waste of time. It can only lead to trouble. These people know what they want, and they do not want departmental swank and waste and impudent stupidity. They are fed up with all that to the point of exaspera- tion. They are angry and suspicious to the paint of believing that the Government have de- liberately connived at extravagance and confu- sion in order to discredit the idea of State owner- ship and control.

I Merthyr Council' Points.

Advertising

Electric Theatre. 1

IIs It True ?

Liquor Control.

Miss Hardie's Good Wishes.