Thursday, 10 September 2009

Cravings rise for economic recovery

Yesterdays information on the economic forefront, that was being driven and given to the media, prevails that longings are generating towards a brisk economic recovery following a swathe of encouraging signs that suggest the UK economy is on the road to expansion. Which challenges in away what I articulated in my last post. Far from being an economic expert, I am just one of life’s observers and formulate my opinions on what I see, hear and read, but observations and fact finding play a big part, and of course my own experience.

I made reference to the 1930s in fact I drew a comparison; but the myth and reality of that period is two very important truths. On the one hand it is remembered and retains that all-pervasive image of the ‘wasted years’. Even today we imagine unemployment, hunger marches, appeasement, and the rise of fascism. This time is best summed up by A.J. P. Taylor who has written:

The nineteen-thirties have been called the black years, the devil’s decade. Its popular image can be expressed in two phrases: mass unemployment and ‘appeasement’. No set of political leaders have been judged so contemptuously since the days of Lord North.

Taylor continues:

Yet, at the same time, most English people were enjoying a richer life than any previously known in the history of the world: longer holidays, shorter hours, higher real wages. They had motor cars, cinemas, radio sets, and electrical appliances. The two sides of life did not join up.

Interesting to consider the light that Taylor throws on that period before the war, and that was not escaping; and it would, of course, be fatuous to suggest that the 1930s were not for many thousands of people a time of great hardship and personal suffering. However for those in work, the 1930 were a period of rising living standards and new levels of consumption, on which a considerable degree of industrial growth was based.

I’ve also discovered that throughout the interwar period two benefit systems operated in parallel in the United Kingdom, the national unemployment insurance started in 1911 and made available to all workers in 1921, and the vestiges of the nineteenth century Poor Law; that is just an interesting supplement.

Returning to the essence of my post; it’s notable that in the 1930s many new industries emerged such as service and entertainment, with travel broadening the horizons of millions. All this led to a network of roads and motorways, filling stations and so on. This was a time of the new Factories that looked like exhibition buildings, giant cinemas and dance-halls, cafes, motor coaches, wireless, hiking, greyhound racing and the dirt tracks, swimming pools, and almost everything given away for cigarette coupons, it also gave expansion to such a shopping icon as Woolworths. By the 1920s and1930s a new Woolworths store was opening every 17 days. Local officials across the country were desperate for Woolies to open in their town, and if it did so it was seen as a seal of approval for the area. The British image of the chain was raised further when the company raised enough money to buy two Spitfires during World War II.
Woolworths dropped the fixed price concept during World War II. The 6d upper limit had been stretched to breaking point during the 1930s as Woolies started selling socks and shoes individually for sixpence. And if you wanted a saucepan, you had to buy the lid separately too! As rationing came in, the 6d upper limit had to go.After the war, Woolies grew even more quickly than before. Alongside the programme re-opening stores affected by the events of World War II, 330 new stores were opened within a six year period in the 1950s. At one point, stores were opening at the rate of two per week. The 1,000th Woolworths store in Britain was opened in 1956 the year I was born and of course, I digress, wandering from the main subject again. But what is being demonstrated I hope; is that capitalism even in the depths of slump and depression as worst as the one with hunger marches and soup kitchens, never stopped its drive towards it only concern, that of profits, whatever and no matter what the costs were to wider sections of the community. So long as there is a profit in it, do it, has always been the approach of this system, from one generation to the next. So when the profits slide or the competitive edge is lost, well Woolworths 2009 says it all; 27,000 workers sent to the dole. It's not that the goods and things sold in Woolies were not useful or expensive but rather the constant sifting ground without gravity of the market, imposes and dictates!

I hold the view that recession, is good for capitalism, even though the economic crisis is seen by many as unstable thwart with danger, bankruptcies and redundancies and so on! However it’s an economic crisis’ after which the ‘patient’ either dies or gets better and survives, and around we go again. In a recession, in a crisis such as this, surgery is carried out, without the medicines or anaesthetic agents of a sane and humane society, discarding any concern with the alleviation of suffering, which is considered burdensome; and has costs that are not compatible to the capitalist system of society. The knife of the butcher is then used; cutting away the lean red flesh and muscle tissue of profit, discarding the rest. Governments will administer, in a desperate attempt to prop up the patient with oxygen of stimulation, dumping trillions down its gullet in the hope of recovery.

Capitalism will not cease on its or of its own accord, and no one can prophesy its frequent twists and turns or even it final cessation, nevertheless I believe that a system that denies the many the real fruits of their Labour, will one day be vanished, when the many see the light of reason and demand the complete abolition of capitalism and the establishment of a system of society in which the means of production and distribution are owned and controlled by the whole community.


Chris H said...

I think some aspects of the Poor Law continued through to about 1947 if I remember correctly. Anyways, amen to the last paragraph. The demise of capitalism can't come soon enough for me.

Jim said...

Hi Chris,

Thought I would just post a reply before I go off to the job centre. I think the demise of capitalism will not happen overnight unfortunately; besides that we will be spending the next years defending the little we have as a working class, from what is going to come after the general election some nine months away. We also have to educate the next generation of ‘socialists’ and prepare to hand the baton on if we can! I agree, the demise of capitalism cannot come soon enough!

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