Ted Grant

Unemployment—Use resources for people not sabotage them for profit

Source: Militant, no. 76 (June 1971)
Transcription: Francesco 2009
Proofread: Fred 2010
Markup: Niklas 2010

Unemployment, the social ulcer of the inter-war period, is developing again in Britain on a mass scale, 800,000 now, with predictions by sober capitalist economists that it will reach a million by the end of the year. The complacency of the leaders of the labour movement, who yesterday saw capitalism as creating an “affluent society” has thus been rudely shattered, especially as the unemployment is linked with rising prices and record inflation, which is eroding the workers’ living standards, when one fifth of all workers still earn less than £10 per week.

Toryism regards this problem as necessary “surgery” to exert pressure on the workers to “restrain” demands for “excessive wage increases”, in reality attempts to try to keep up with the rise in prices. The reason for the record unemployment is not, as Roy Jenkins puts forward, because of Heath’s “vanity”. It is necessary to the capitalist system to try and exert “discipline” on the workers to restore a falling rate of profit. In 1969 the biggest firms made £4500 million of profits; in 1970 this had dropped to £4000 million. Giants like Ford, ICI and others increased investments yet received back less profit. Profit is the unpaid labour of the working class; hence the campaign to reduce the workers’ share of the national product.

Two Cambridge economists, writing in the Times, have worked out that if unemployment were reduced to 1.25 percent from present figures it would mean increased production worth £5000 million in 1971 and £6000 million in 1972. This could mean an extra £3 per week per family this year and more than £6 per week in 1972. With unemployment reduced to zero, the figure would be even higher.

What stands in the way of using the resources of machinery, technique and labour power to the maximum extent in the interests of the people? It is the vested interests of the owners of capital! If the labour and trade union movement were to wage a campaign on these figures alone, they could force the government out of power. But this would mean adopting, not in pious words, but in reality, a socialist policy. To use the resources of the country and to tap the limitless enthusiasm and capacity to struggle of the working class, to win over the middle class small businessmen requires a programme for the next Labour government to implement. Its first action must be to draw up an enabling bill to give it the power to nationalise the 350 monopolies, banks and insurance companies who own 80-85 percent of the country’s industrial wealth, with compensation on the basis of need. It requires a class appeal to mobilise the workers, the shop stewards, trade unionists, professional and small business men and women, housewives and the Labour parties to set up a commission to prepare a plan of production in the interests of the people, as opposed to the present sabotage of production and employment in the interests of big business.