Source: “High Prices!”, The Call, 9 December 1919, p.5, (1,323 words)
Transcription: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Chris Clayton
Copyleft: John MacLean Internet Archive (www.marx.org) 2007. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
For two weeks we have dwelt on “High Prices,” to give zest and point to the discussion on the high cost of living at the Special Trades Union Congress. By the time this appears the Congress will have passed — but not the high cost of living. In fact, prices will go up yet higher. See the announcement that tobacco has risen in price. That is our chance, because every smoker is discussing what seems to him the unwarranted rise in his favourite botanical specimen, He is being told that wet weather has reduced expected supplies of the leaf! Someone is surely guilty of dry humour. The real reason is the increasing supplies of Bradburys (or Fishers) affecting the American exchanges. Since the rise in ’bacca the American exchange has fallen to $3.88, and will yet fall farther with the issue of more paper to tide Britain over financial difficulties which she is afraid of meeting through Premium Bonds. The continued rise in the price of gold will tend to depress the American exchange still downwards and downwards. Comrades can with advantage play on the weakness of the smoker. We must not relax till we give the Government the “nasty knock” in approved Carpentier style.
My contention in the preceding articles was that since 1896 prices have risen in rate from £1 to £3. That retail prices rise some time after wholesale prices is well known. Wholesale prices have risen three times and even more since the war began, and we can conclude that, if nothing is done by Labour, retail prices will yet rise even though no more Bradburys were issued.
The “Economist,” November 29th, 1919, provides another proof that wholesale prices have recently trebled. In 1913 imports were £768,735,000, and weighed 54,548,000 tons, whilst for the first nine months this year the figures have been £1,166,607,000, and 27,850,000 tons. The value per ton for the respective periods works out at £14 and £42, and 42 is exactly three times 14.
A White Paper (Cmd. 434, price 1d.) just issued by the Government shows that retail prices lag behind wholesale prices, and justifies my claim that retail prices must yet rise unless Labour wakens up and gets a move on. It also confirms my claim that the overissue of paper money in the form of Bradburys has been the direct means of raising prices, by showing that in the countries where the currency has been most increased, there prices, wholesale and retail, have risen highest.
Let me show this by the selection of the four chief Allies:—
|Currency of all kinds||Wholesale Prices||Retail Prices|
The selection of 1914 for retail prices makes only a very slight difference. The respective months this year selected are May, August, June, and April. America’s currency increase is due to the very large increase in her gold supplies obtained from all the belligerents during the war.
This Government compilation proves my points right up to the hilt, and ought to give further confidence to carry on the fight.
Bonar Law, in his Glasgow speech on Thursday, December 4th, 1919, admits our contention. I quote the “Glasgow Herald” (December 12th, 1919): “One of the greatest evils at this moment is the high cost of living, and that is due partly — I am not sure is not due mainly — to inflation. That does not mean, ladies and gentlemen, to an increase in the number of currency notes, inflation goes far deeper than that. The currency notes are the symbol. The real basis of inflation is the borrowed money and the credit which that borrowed money creates.”
I have no objections to Mr. Bonar Law going deep. If he went a little deeper he would find that the borrowed money and the credit are but “symbols” of capitalism, and that the only fundamental and permanent cure of this “one of the greatest evils” is the burning of capitalism, the world’s greatest evil.
We must start from the surface and work downwards, as did the Bolsheviks in 1917. If we can get our class to see the surface evils and our suggested immediate remedies they will accept our lead right on to the death of the chaos called capitalism. Comrades cannot but be encouraged by the admissions of Mr. Bonar Law, though taking his optimism as to 1920 with a pinch of pepper.
Mr. F. C, Gardiner, President of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, addressing the Business Club the same day, is more pessimistic. “They were living at the moment in a fool’s paradise. They imagined that everything was prosperous. The wealth of the country was enormously reduced. During the war they had printed a lot of paper money and regarded that as wealth, which was false. Sooner or later they would reach a time of great trial in this country. It is impossible to go through five years of waste and step into the millennium. He should like to see the moderate people on the capitalist side and the sane thinkers on the Labour side coming together and endeavouring to do something at this critical juncture of the country to save it.”
We wish to save our class from starvation through rising prices, so therefore we urge the withdrawal and burning of the Bradburys. We told our class there would be no millennium after the waste of war, and had to take our knocks and look as pleasant as we could. Now the capitalist liars are admitting the truth, but wish to ward off the consequences of their lies by using the Labour betrayers of recruiting fame to tell the people they are starving because there is not enough to go all round. There is plenty of wealth in the world to save all; but if there is not then the capitalists, the Labour recruiters, and all others responsible for the war and its prosecution should be punished by having to suffer the pangs of hunger.
Between 1896 and 1914 the rise in wages per annum could not have exceeded £25 millions, whereas the cost of living during the same years rose over £135 millions on the assumption that the wages bill in 1896 was £500 millions for wage earners, and that the wage-earning class remained stationary in numbers. The working class consequently lost over £100 millions in that period.
Since the war some labourers have received increases amounting to 150 per cent. above the pre-war wages, and some tradesmen fully 100 per cent. . But huge masses have. received, at most, about 50 per cent. Proof is seen in the dramatic strike of the Army and Navy Stores employees for higher wages. Men with 40 years’ service are not being paid more than 47s. per week, when from the Government’s and Rowntree’s statements I have calculated that a family of five requires more than £4 per week. If we grant that wages all round have gone up 100 per cent. on the average, then I calculate that on the same £500 millions basis for July, 1914, wages have risen to £2,000 millions and prices to £1,180,000,000, prices increasing 136 per cent., a loss of £180 millions per annum.
If we take a bigger sum as the wages bill per annum, the fall in real wages for 1919, as compared with 1896, would amount to about £500 millions, at present day prices.
This proves that the trade union leaders are not minding their business well enough, or that their methods are antiquated. I prefer to believe that their methods are out of date. There must be One Big Union, with One Programme, and One Fight.
To recover some of our lost ground let us immediately fight for lower prices by demanding the burning of the Bradburys.