Page 2, 3rd October 1941

3rd October 1941
Page 2
Page 2, 3rd October 1941 — INDUSTRIALISM AND CHRISTIANITY Division of Labour and Income
Close

Report an error

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

Tags


Share


Related articles

Co-operative Ideas In The Parties

Page 6 from 16th August 1963

Letters To The Editor

Page 2 from 12th September 1941

Letters To The Editor

Page 2 from 30th August 1940

Ecumenism In

Page 4 from 10th April 1964

Crowds May 'attend' A Church, But Still Be A Mass Of...

Page 5 from 13th May 1966

INDUSTRIALISM AND CHRISTIANITY Division of Labour and Income

Keywords: G

SIR,—The present somewhat acrimonious discussion arose out of some remarks of mine in which I stated Cl) that 1 did not know exactly what was meant by " industrialism," (2) that did not think that modern productive technique necessarily destroyed human personality.

Mr. Marshall thereupon gave me the

following definition of Industrialism. " Industrialism is that form of production in bulk which operates by uh-division and segregation of processes in making and distributing things." I pointed out that this was really a restatement of the Smithian principle of the division of labour. Since, however, Fr. Marshall does not like the 'phrase • division of labour " used in this connection. I. am quite prepared not to use it but to argue with him on the basis of his own definition which I will for brevity's sake call the " Alpha " principle. My contention is therefore twofold. (1). The application of the Alpha principle after the war on a very wide scale will be indispensable if we are to maintain a tolerable standard of life on these islands. (2). The application of the Alpha principle does not necessarily destroy human responsibility and human intelligence. That is what I am prepared to argue about and that is all I am prepared to argue about--and these are the only propositions that I have ever set up. In defence of tile first proposition my argument is as follows:—After the war we shall have lost or mortgaged the greater part of our income from Overseas investmerit amounting to some £200 millions a year. As you yourself, Sir, pointed out in a recent note, the effect of this loss on the national income will be far greater than the actual monetary value eif the external power of demand that will have been destroyed. The income from Overseas investment pays for a great part of our food and raw materials and our problem will be to produce on our own soil a sufficient part of what we have hitherto obtained from abroad. In view of the restricted land surface available this will almost certainly mean the setting in operation of the law of diminishing returns and consequently higher production costs. If the community is to pay for these costs it must restrict its expenditure in other directions, and this in its turn means a curtailment of our goods income in such matters as houses, clothing, etc.. re alternatively the introduction of new cost-redwing methods to lower the price. If anybody has any other suggestion for the solution of this problem 1 am prepared to learn from them. As regards the second pi ()position, can only set down my own experiences. I sin a centre lathe operator and not, as one of your correspondents seems to think, a capstan lathe operator, but I have also not only myself engaged in Tong spells of repetitive work on a capstan lathe and in drilling with the aid of jigs, hut I have for months mixed. talked, eaten and travelled with workers who do nothing else. I find that, if they are properly paid and given good conditions. these people do not mind repetitive work as such, though they do very strongly object to sweating and slavedriving, and I do not find them to be either morally or intellectually degraded.That is my experience which I am perfectly entitled to record. If other people have had different experienoes I hope they will contribute to the discussion. All I ask is that they should be quite certain that the degrading and dissatisfying element is the nature of the worketself and not some quite diffei eat factor, such as low wages, bad conditions and insecurity. A number of statements have been ascribed to me which I have never made. I am, for instance, quoted as having said that Industrialism is necessary to maintain a human standard of life on these islands. I have steadily refused to argue about " Industrialism," since it is quite obvious that the term conveys different things to different people. What I have maintained is what I am maintaining in this letter—that and nothing else. Fr. Burke now writes as though I had said that the purpose of captains of industry was to raise the standard of living. I never said anything of the kind. I was attacking the proposition that modern technical processes and the division of labour (using that phrase in the sense that I have used it all along) are an efficient cause of poverty and I wrote: —" I am defending those processes and that principle because by lowering costs they Take the standard of life. They are introduced to lower costs and they have no other object than to lower costs. It is therefore to be presumed that they increase real incomes." It is, of course, true, and nobody but a madman would deny it, that the lowering of costs has in its turn as its object, profit. But although that is the motive of those who lower costs the effect of their action remains—a tendency for real incomes to be increased and it was the effect of their action and not their motive which was under discussion. I am sorry if I have not answered a question of Fr. Marshall's. I cannot at the moment trace it, but if he will write to rne I will give him permission to publish my reply. I refer Observer " to Fr. NellBreuning, Sies well known commentary on Quadragesimo Awl°, chapter 16. I regret that space prevents me from doing more, and I thank Mr. Yardley most warmly for his very clear and illuminating letter. By the way. Fr. Marshall has not accepted my challenge to declare whether profit-making is incompatible with a Christian life.

J. I.. BerivENisri.

Disastrous Unrealism

Sue—Your correspondents, with myself, will be surprised to find that their unsuccessful efforts to bring Industlialists to action involve their being psycho-analysed by Mr. Theodore Yardley. I think he may assume that we are not amused. To assert without evidence " a lack of knowledge of industrial life " in opponents of industrialism, especially when they have claimed such knowledge in the present correspondence, is to abuse the plaintiff's attorney. The traditional reason for this proceeding will not have escaped your readers.

But on two points in his letter some comment is desirable.

1. lie says that the sort of society we are said to advocate " cannot be brought about in this country by any amount of endeavour." Therefore. he adds, we must cooperate with enlightened Industrialism (what ever that is). But it is equally true. or untrue, that the conversion of England, in view of the prevailing paganism, " cannot be brought about by any amount of endeavour.Are we to abandon the conversion of England in consequence? Or are we to say, for the sixth time, that in the matter of doctrine prospects of success are irrelevant? And if we are not discussing Catholic doctrine in each case, what are we discussing? 2. Presumably Realism. But only the incurably romantic Industrialists can hold. against a world of hard facts, that the wanton industrial invasion of the world's capital resources can continue. The evidence is that it cannot and will not continue, and if Mr. Yardley wishes to make any useful contribution to the present discussion, I suggest that he cease to talk in terms of the fashion of twenty years ago, and accept the " cataclysmic upheaval " which is not remote, hut imminent. On our side we are trying to enable the Catholic Body to soften the impact of heavy and angry chickens corning home to roost.

Weeford Cottage, Hill, Sutton Coldtield.

The Root of the Evil

is a pity that Mr. Robbins should have ignored the main point of my letter in your issue of August 29, and have chosen rather to quarrel with the one point in the " G.E.C. code." I will grant him that there is considerable ground for disagreement on this particular point (i.e. the possibility of always fitting the job to the man), but, on the other hand, there would always be so under any economic system. To deny that in the nature of things it is impossible ever to characterise a society which makes full and intelligent use of technical progress, by men who are doing most ost suited to them, is going in the face of facts accumulated by industrial psychological research. The forces which continually work against the enlightened aim of fitting men to jobs in British industry are short-sighted managements. or more often silent 51 per cent. shareholding directors. So long as speculation in capital and land is an integral part of the economic system, this state of affairs is bound to exist. When I stated that the demoralisation of the :workers • was due primarily to the fact that the very structure of the economic system made them frustrated paupers, it was my intention, by putting first things first. to show that, although the " G.F..C. code," to my mind, embodied an attitude towards industrial production, which would be compatible with the Catholic conception of the human person, it would not be possible fully to apply it whilst the present mal-distribution of wealth persists. So long as the benefit!' of all technical progress accrue to the owners of natural resources, it will never be possible for the propertyless workers to rise above the subsistence level, and to taste the fruits of advancement. When the Bishop of Pella described the improvement in the subsistence level, and the increase in creature comforts which he had observed in his lifetime, he failed to point out that the rise of organised labour. and the Trades Union movements, were more responsible for this than technological progress as such. The of poverty has persisted in spitgeenoefrathl is levelprogress and not because of it, but nevertheless the only social advantage of improved methods of production is that they should abolish work-houses rather than feed the inhabitants with skitter twice a day instead of

once.

Mr. Benvenisti's somewhat naively insists that the only object of productive improvements is to lower costs—rather would I say

that they are to increase profits. It is because all technical progress does increase profits (rent and interest) rather than the standard of living, that it has become the bete noir of a school of Catholic reformers. Enlightened American opinion is fully await of this problern but has been less inclined to bark up the wrong tree. A recent letter in Electrical Engineering (U.S.A.— May 1941) pointed out that despite the immense progress made in productive methods in the States, 40 per cent. of the national incomes were less than 1,000 dollars a year. This correspondent suggested that there is little use in technical experts working hard to benefit man if a faulty economic System invariably defeats their ends. He urges a study of Henry George's brilliant analysis of the problem in Progress and Poverty and I cannot do better than recommend it to our " back to the land with a wooden spade " Catholic Social Reformers in England. If Catholics go to the trouble of getting a clear picture of the exact nature of wealth, its production and distribution (economics) we shall be less inclined to make a scapegoat of the latest scientific production method, and more inclined seriously to tackle the primary problem of the banishment of pauperism and frustration. Free intelligent men unhampered by fear of the sack and a deep 'feeling of resentment at the misappropriation of the balance of wealth which they are unable to keep by their endless Union wrangling, will be no more demoralised by assembling ml high frequency condenser, than by pulling a field of sugar beet. The " G.E.C. code." can work up to a point now—it will never be completely realised under the present economic system, except perhaps in a few monopolies where it ldionee.s so at the expense of the 40 per cent, whose incomes are below the 1,000 dollar Russet'. As Semmes!,

49, S. Lawrence Drive, Eastcote, Pinner, Middlesex.




blog comments powered by Disqus