|Issue 1 - December 1971|
|Victorian Vic In Newcastle|
Saw Angela Davis on TV the other night. The thing that really blew my mind was the Marin County Jail. It was impenetrable. There were electrified fence grills closing in controlled sequence, automatic lifts, scanners and everything electronic you can imagine. It put Durham, at the time E Wing was in operation, to shame.
The US and the Russians have developed intricate and sophisticated weapon systems; they make what consumer goods we have in our homes look like "antiques". Such is man's condition that this far technological emphasis has fallen squarely on punitive and aggressive instruments of repression and death (the devil's bargain).
"Peaceful" uses of advanced technology such as Concorde, space exploration and satellites, are again instances of man's great technological genius. The emphasis is on reducing weight and producing streamlining and mobility and strength simultaneously in one object.
There's been a tendency for machines to carry out more exact tasks. The point I'm making is that technology has now reached such a sophisticated level that the potentiality exists for liberating men from the grindstone of routine work. Man has, in his grasp, the possibility of eliminating jobs which are mentally suffocating, automatic, repetitious, unrewarding in themselves and ultimately exhausting.
In industry, this technological progress has been matched by technocratic thinking. This is the age of computers, instant communication (nationally and internationally) and efficiency.
The "advanced" nations (technologically speaking - barbarity still straddles the US, Europe and Russia in many disguises) have applied technocratic principles for profit. Under the Tories, Britain has caught up with other "advanced" countries. Industry has been mechanised, concentrated by "take-overs" and the emphasis has fallen squarely on the concerns that can make good in the tough atmosphere of international competition i.e. the multinational corporations such as Ford, ICI etc. These trends have been matched by measures which prevent Government help for struggling industries (the lame-duck policies), the phasing out of obsolete sectors e.g. coal, industrial discipline (the Industrial Relations Act), and productivity bargaining.
Is it surprising, therefore, that we have redundancies and high unemployment? No, because even countries such as the US and Canada experience higher unemployment than ourselves.
Unemployment is a measure of progress today; it is the environment which surrounds it and its callous implementation which constitutes the backbone of the political issue.
The first and major failing is that under this system of "production-for-profit" (in Britain 2% still own over 50% of the country's wealth) the unemployed are thrown into poverty and suffering. Society is so "hung-up" on the idea of work that the unemployed are frequently called "idlers" and "layabouts". The hippies are the only group that have attempted to challenge the entire ethic, and are doing so with some success (not as much as one would have hoped). They are frequently the envy of the 9-5 man, whether he is prepared to admit it or not. The hippies are, however, middle class and advantages of background and the educational system mean that they are better equipped to cope with leisure. The workers, on the other hand, despite being equally intelligently endowed at the outset of the educational process, on the whole, end up the losers.
If we are to accept unemployment (and we have little choice) and argue for a vast educational programme to compensate for it, then clearly this society must be completely changed. Do the measures advocated by Vic Feather, Dan McGarvey and the TUC provide a solution?
The TUC Economic Committee has called for "reflation" to cure unemployment. A campaign of demonstrations against unemployment have been and are being held to pressurise the Government. At Liverpool, Vic Feather was heckled off the platform, in Newcastle (5,000 turned up) and Edinburgh, attendance was hardly encouraging. Vic Feather blamed the cold ...
It's time he realised that if people thought he had anything like a positive solution, and therefore a challenge to the Government, they would have streamed into Newcastle. Instead the old old message of more belching factories, "luxury" goods and large profits for the bosses was proclaimed. The platform assembled under the slogan the "Right to Work" which led naturally to misguided placards saying "Happiness is Job-Shaped".
Is the TUC so blind that it can't realise that production will increase but, significantly, without the necessity of using the unemployed to achieve this expansion? Productivity and mechanisation will take care of the increase in production. The unemployed are abandoned to poverty. Not surprising, therefore, that the entire march was a damp squib - little excitement, barely a shout and an absence of spirit.
What is the solution to be? The answer is complete nationalisation of industry, hand-in-hand with community control, regional assemblies, national representatives and the basic right of "instant-recall" to guarantee democracy.
A natural consequence of these arrangements will be the redistribution of wealth and a "richer" social life (controls over measures that affect yourselves, planning, care, welfare; and a rebirth of culture). A society in which it is no longer a disgrace to be out of work and in which the hours, for those in work, are much reduced. If milk, for example, and its distribution were nationalised, all the milkmen would cover their rounds far more quickly and have more time off (today as many as six or seven cover each street). This example can be extended to the entire marketing sector.
In industry the elimination of a profusion of identical goods, e.g. washing powders, foods, consumer durables etc etc, would have the same consequence. This isn't the entire answer - it must be coupled with political action. But the possibility exists, has to be seen to exist, and then acted upon. If we don't act, we live and die for a false life. One in which we suffer to live, work only for wages (forced labour) instead of working because production (all kinds) enriches society. The only alternative is to suffer needlessly in the dole queues. Dave