Tom Barker


Direct Action 15 June 1914

Friday 25 February 2005, by Tom Barker


What it means. What it Leads to.

How the Boss Saves his Face By Tom Barker

The most marked thing, in modern society is the development of scientific labour-saving machinery. Mechanical revolutions are taking place side by side with ever increasing rapidity. The day of handicraft and factory production has gone and in its place we have machinofacture, where not only the product itself but the very machinery, which produces it, are made by machinery. The modern machine eliminates all forms of skilled labour, and performs, with little or no supervision, the most elaborate functions. As forms of production of various kinds become obsolete and outgrown they are cast aside relentlessly as newer and more modern processes take their places. When wireless telegraphy becomes perfected the present telegraphic wires and apparatus will be rendered obsolete; in a few years the worlds coal mines will gradually close, as the cheaper and newer motive power, oil, takes the place of coal. A sensation was caused twelve months ago, when the S.S. Niagara on the Vancouver run, dispensed with 27 firemen: oil, instead of coal, being used. Only nine firemen are now employed to look after the burners. But now the U.S.S. Co. are talking of adopting the new internal combustion engines which do away with the necessity of boilers and the remaining nine firemen altogether. Firemen, miners and boiler-makers are displaced, and the ships will have a greater cargo-space. The capitalist class are aware that old forms of production are being superseded, and therefore they look around for possible purchasers so as to protect themselves from loss. They find salvation in Labour parties, State socialists and other people who believe in nationalisation and municipalisation schemes. Many of these people sincerely believe that such schemes will benefit the workers, and tell them so to such good effect that the workers return them at election time to the control of the Parliamentary machine. The N.S.W. Government is typical of such parties. They recently spent quite a lot of money (borrowed, by the way, from foreign money-brokers), in starting a State brickfield, which is already out of date, owing to the development of concrete as a cheaper and more durable substitute. At the present time they contemplate the purchase of the Lithgow ironworks, which also in the near future, will not pay the interest on the purchase, never mind a profit to the Government. Not only does the State pay interest on the real capital value, but in most instances they have to pay interest on a very large amount of watered stock, which is thoughtfully floated by the capitalists before disposing of it. Now this is good business for Mr Capitalist, for he has palmed his unprofitable and useless industry on to the State; his interest comes in regularly year by year, and he is saved the worry of managing the industry and trying to calm the troubled waters of industrial discontent. The State socialist points to the post office, and tells the workers that food supplies and all other industries should be run on similar lines, so as to eliminate waste and overlapping, and he sometimes hints that the workman can by a series of long-winded purchases flounder their way out of capitalism. Now the whole is always greater than the part, and as the workers receive one-forth of their product in the form of wages, how is it possible for them to buy back the whole product? It is quite impossible, as a moment’s reflection will show. Therefore, when we see Labor Governments operating on money borrowed from private sources, it does not obviate the fact that in the last analysis the capitalist class are still the essential interest drawing owners of nationalised industries. There is no hope for Labour in these schemes, neither is there any advantage to the workers employed in such industries. Everybody is cognisant of the fact that the State is practically the worst employer in Australia. Look at conditions on the N.S.W. Tramways, and Railways, or out in Mr. Griffith’s State Brickfield, at Botany, where the recent strike took place. The State makes a hell for every worker employed by it, in placing its time-servers and toadies in the desirable positions of authority, by systems of pimping and espionage, while superannuation schemes and sliding wages-scales are used to sap and demoralise whatever militant spirit there may be amongst the men. When the workers do summon up courage to make demands they are told by government figure-jugglers that the industry is not paying, and that if they still insist – “well, they will have to close down.†It is no consolation for the worker to know that the State exploits him now, in the place of his former capitalist employer. The State mine at Runanga, N.Z., has killed more men than any other mine in the country. The brickfield strike, in Sydney, the municipal employees strike at Leeds, the national strikes on the French and Italian State railways, are further proofs that State ownership is a farce and a fraud. Briefly, working-men, there is no hope for the working-class in state ownership, and there is only one way left. ONLY ONE. That is to take charge of industry by Agitation, Education, and Organisation. The masters of industry are the masters of bread, they are still so if they are drawing their dividends under State ownership. Let us organise to control society by organising to control the job. That is the only way to Freedom. Therefore men and women of the working-class, the only hope of emancipation must lie in the economic education of the workers, which will result in that most advanced and powerful concept of working-class thought and action –ONE BIG UNION. “They who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.â€

Tom Barker in Direct Action 15 June 1914