Page 2, 26th September 1941

26th September 1941
Page 2
Page 2, 26th September 1941 — INDUSTRIALISM AND CHRISTIANITY The Philosophy Is To Blame

Report an error

Noticed an error on this page?
If you've noticed an error in this article please click here to report it.


Locations: Hill, Birmingham


Related articles

Industrialism And Christian Principles Compromise Is...

Page 2 from 29th August 1941

Diffused 0 Wivership Doctrine V. Fact

Page 2 from 27th June 1941

Musings Of An Irresponsible Machinist By J. L. Benvenisti

Page 6 from 8th August 1941

Industrialism And Christianity Division Of Labour And Income

Page 2 from 3rd October 1941

Work As A Vocation Resignation Not Enough

Page 2 from 7th February 1941


Keywords: G, Group Theory

Benvenisti's methods of controversy make it very difficult to answer him. My original contribution to this discussion, in seconding Fr. Marshall's remarks on Industrialism, was to point out the danger of seeming to restrict Catholic Social teaching to factory workers only, since it implied that there was nothing to be remedied elsewhere. To which Mr. Benvenisti, airily disregarding my point, invited me to visit his workshop, gratuitously assuming complete ignorance on my part as to the workings of modern factories, with which, in any case, I was not concerned. Then followed the curious request that we team to interpret the teaching of the Church in the light of economic facts 1 Having next assumed as axiomatic the legend that this land could not feed its population. he saddles Fr. Marshall and myself with a definition of Industrialism which we repudiate and proceeds to lecture me on the mental conditions of repetition workers. My point was, and is, that the Industrial System, against which the social teaching of the Church is directed. implicates workers in every walk of life: that the " black-coat " workers no less than the factory hands are involved in a system that is pernicious and degrading, whether the worker involved is selling kitchen utensil: for Chemists Inc., selling suits for the Children of Israel, or writing concentrated eyewash for the peerless proprietor of the Daily Excess. Why? Because such men are not free. Why are they not free? Because the system which they support by their labour (albeit unwittingly) is one which is essentially opposed to individual ownership; to private productive property. Being propertyless they are subservient to those " who, because they hold and control money, also control credit and determine its allotment . . . grasping in their hands, as it were, the very soul of production so that no one can breathe against their will." Thus Pius XL and hear the present Holy Father: "In this age of mechanisation the human person becomes merely a mere perfected tool for industrial production." if that is not humanly degrading, what is? If, under such a system, complete, free, human worship is possible, then 1 do not understaiid the meaning of worship.

In face of Fr. Marshall's disclaimer and my assertion that it is not the machine but the mind of man perverted by a false philosophy that has made Industrial-Capitalism, Mr. Benvenisti again insists that we identify Industrialism with the Srnithian principle of the division of labour. Will not Mr. Benvenisti see that that is not a definition but a description of a means to an end? The end is the making of profits and it is the end which specifies the act. IndustrialCapitalism is a system wherein society is dominated by the idea of exchange for gain ; wherein production is for the sake of profit rather than for use. Its overlords are middlemen whose test of everything is " will it pay?": that is, will it give us power to effect further exchanges? Obviously, neither capital; as such, nor industry. as such, are hostile to the nature or welfare or destiny of man, hut that system which allies them for the sole final purpose of profit-making cannot but result in the subhumanising of man as described by the Popes. That is what I mean by Industrial-Capitalism, Mr. Benvenisti now suddenly drags in the notion of poverty. Wilt he, please, again note that am not here csancerneo with factory conditions but with these " black-coat " slaves who, living in a supposed suburban security, complete with mat hall-mark of respectability, the matutinal exodus to " the office," receive front social reformers less than the sympathy they deserve? Their cross ia tile is not that they need or desire to raise the "standard of living," but that they dare not lower it. They it is, rather than the factory hands, who provide the priestly headaches on Saturday nights. Povei ty, under human conditions, is a blessed thing. Under the present system it is a degradation which is not to be removed by intensifying thewsilyistmeari.. Benvenisti find many " Captains of Industry " to agree with him that their object is to raise the standard of living and to lower costs? Is that what Sir Alfred Bates meant when he said that the sole concern of those who built the luxurious Queen Mary was to provide dividends? Is that what the Chairman of a large multiple store meant who, some years ago, rejected the proposal to spend onehalf of its many millions of profits by increasing the wages of its employees? With a greater realism than that of Mr. Benvenisti, he remarked: " This is a business concern, not a benevolent society." Is it really the object of the promoters of the monstrous Glen Afric Power Scheme to benefit the community? The true prosperity of England depends not on such but on the land of England which the credit-controlling rulers do not wish to see prosper. They it is who become mightier yet but, naturally, they do not wish to attract too much attention to themselves so they give " England " all the limelight. (Rev.) J. A. V. BI1RKE.

Skilled and Unskilled

Stn,—When first I read the " Irresponsible Musings " of Mr. Benvenisti I imagined he was, as Mr. Leacock does at times, taking a rest from the " dismal science " and indulging in a spot of humour. I was amazed to find later that he expected to be taken seriously. His ideas of modern industrial production savour more of the night school than of the factory. His methods of dealing with his critics are more appropriate to a twisting wrench operator than to a capstan hand, who if his machine is set up correctly must of necessity keep to the point. Certainly his description of his work, twenty-five to a blue-print before dinner, as an example of modern productive methods, and of the men singing, as being an indication of their happiness at their work, is to an old-stager really funny. I am aware that the exigencies of the times have necessitated a revival of antiquated methods but I can assure Mr. Benvenisti that the combination of a capstan hand and a blue-print is so rare in a well-organised factory as to be almost a museum piece Also that, where permitted, singing is one of nature's methods of providing an escape for the spirit or the affections, in which the work is not permitted to participate.

The division of labour as understood by

Marshall is not to be equated in any sense with the " division of labour " of the industrialist, nor with the " segregation of processes " as in the definition quoted by Fr. Marshall. The one is free, co-operative and an assistance to personal and social welfare, demanding the exercise of the powers of the soul. The other, according to the degree of its development, is determined, imposed, anti-social and designed to eliminate the necessity for the use of the powers of the soul, making these "processes " as far as possible foolproof. Mr. Benvenisti should know this, if he has a fair knowledge of capstan work. How this method of production has benefited workmen may be seen by the way it has affected capstan operators during the past 30 years. in 1910 capstan operators were highly-skilled men easily obtaining the union rate of wages demanded by the Amalgamated Society ot Engineers—" The Mals," or the Toolmakers' Society. By 1915 the dividers of labour had so organised his work that, apart from new types of capstans, semi-skilled labour only was required. By 1920 unskilled boys unit girls were operating them, a new division having been made by the introduction of a " tool setter," a man who set the tools in the capstan heads of a number of the machines, after which he could leave the operators to pull the levers and sing. The tool setting itself was divided and much less skill was required in this job. By 1930 capstan operators were " two a penny " and men who had " served their time " in learning their trade were being offered in Birmingham 25s. and 30s. per week for their services. This was particu larly noticeable in the cycle and the brass

trades. Within the last few years, a number of new and heavier types of capstans have been introduced. Some of these are most

complex and demand a high degree of skill to operate. These, when the dividers get going, will follow the course of their pre decessors. During 1940 the average of skilled to unskilled varied front about 1-10 to 1715. A happy prospect for fathers who wish to apprentice their sons in any job which receives the blessings of the " division of labour i"


Folders Lane, Burgess Hill, Sussex.

" Disastrous Unrealism"

SIR,—In his recent letter in the CA7HOLIC HLRALD, J. L. Benvenisti uses a phrase which should he trenchant with meaning to all who wish to see a clearer definition of the part which Catholics hope to play in the inevitable social reconstruction of England.

May I he permitted to repeat this phrase:

" an 'example of that disastrous unrealism which vitiates neatly all Catholic discussion on the social question in this country "? My sole reason for asking you to extend the courtesy of your columns to a further letter upon this subject, is that this element of unreality causes quite honest nonCatholics who are practical would-be social reformers, to ask what in Heaven's name these well-meaning Catholics are getting at. This is disastrous, and is not a good omen for possible collaboration in the future.

At rock-bottom the situation seems to be this: There exists in the minds of many of our most sincere thinkers a deep-rooted antagonism to a system which they feel, in destroying the proper function of work, is disintegrating that integral life which gives proper scope for the development of human personality. That I believe to be the bare bones of their attitude. So far so good ; but there is an apparent confusion when attempts are made to deal with its practical implications. The logical outcome of these implications is a belief in the desirability of the development of a form of peasant state, in which machinism and mass-employment of labour lareinbrought down to an irreducible nimum The only possible alternative is, then, the acceptance of the inevitability of massemployment and machinism, on the grounds —to use a hackneyed but useful phrase— that the clock of human inventive and organising genius cannot be put back. Every endeavour would, in this case, be made to modify and reduce the possible and harmful elements in such a system.

The first of these conclusions I believe to be the one to which the majority of Catholic opponents to our present system lean, whether they wish to identify themselves with so-called " back-to-the-landers " or not.

It may be that such a system of life is desirable—there is much to be said for and against it—hut one thing is certain: it cannot be brought about in this country by any amount of endeavour. If it is to be, it will he, in God's providence, manifested through some cataclysmic upheaval which will destroy the very roots of material life as we now know it. At best he who believes that this may come about, can only watch and prepare. The trouble is that the emotional desire for such a state, born as it is of a natural hatred of the evils of financial industrialism, is such that it tends to an unbalanced view of its•effects upon the soul and altogether prevents any appreciation of the benefits which could derive from a sane application of Christian law to such industrialism The contention that the overthrow of mass industrialism in all its aspects is highly desirable, is of course quite valid, but the appearance of confusion results when those who hold such a view indulge in polemics with the protagonists of enlightened industrialism. They then display not only a lack of knowledge of industrial life, but draw extravagant inferences as to its nature from a study of its abuses. They display also a propensity to identify the real view of the Church with this attitude. This does not commend itself to those who see no reason why a primarily industrial civilisation, with a balanced agricultural foundation, could not give proper scope for the development of Christian personality.

Whilst feeling the greatest sympathy with those who lightly see in the social and economic evils of our day the great enemy of Christianity, 1 hope it will no.? be deemed presumptive if I sound a note of warning. We live in times which may at any moment force upon us the immediate need for social reconstruction, in co-operation with the modern industrial structure. What then? In a world of pagan influences and at best of humanistic liberalism, surely it is' the business of Catholics to seize such an opportunity to make their voices heard. Shall we face the future divided by theories which belong to the realm of contention, and which may well result once more in the exclusion of the Christian voice from another new order?


Highwood Bottom, Speen, Nr, Aylesbury, Bucks.

blog comments powered by Disqus