Frat Cain


Chips Off the Iceberg

(June 1965)

From Labour Worker, Mid-June 1965, p. 4.
Transcribed by Ian Birchall, Nina Kidron & Richard Kuper.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

“The Labour movement is divided on the question of incomes policy.” Hear, hear, Royden Harrison (Tribune, 28 May), and may the division widen. “It is, however, highly important that these divisions should not be needlessly magnified.” How so? Because “incomes policy is important to economic growth”; because “incomes policy can be – and ought to be – regarded as part of a larger process of social transformation”; and because advocating it is the only way in “which a sense of identity of purpose between the Labour movement and the Government can be established.”

Why pick on wages?

Of course an “incomes” policy is important to economic growth. So is a policy of disarmament, or a policy of productive investment at home in place of devalution-beating “investments” abroad. Even more so is a policy for workers’ control of production, a policy to end the indifference and alienation which are the greatest source of waste and stagnation in our society. Why pick on wages? Why? – unless you prefer to browbeat workers rather than annoy Capital.

Of course, an “incomes” policy can be regarded as part of a larger process of social transformation. But what sort of incomes and whose? A simple mind can be excused if it concluded that the control of profits by the community is very much more central to social transformation than control of wages. Wages, after all, merely keep us going, but profits, society’s surplus – surely this is what generated change. But no. Simple minds can’t conceive the extent of the freeze underlying Harrison’s article of faith. Besides, they deal in different sorts of social transformation.

What price unity?

Then again, it is true that agreeing to an “incomes” policy is one way in which the Labour movement can declare an identity of purpose with the Government. But why be so modest? There are others. Why not ask them to scrap steel nationalisation, or raise even further the hurdles to immigrants, or organise an International Brigade to help the Americans in their mercy killings in Vietnam. Think of the relief in the Cabinet: “Brothers – united at last!”

What a sight these self-appointed advisers of the Labour movement are. Earnest, cool thinkers to a man, they trudge the wearied lengths of the movement, flogging wage freeze, merchandising the most appalling consequences in the name of empty phrases. “Economic growth”? “Social transformation”? “Identity of purpose”? I don’t know what you mean unless you tell me “by whom, from whom, and how.”

Last updated on 18 February 2017