The Trade Unions: Communist Theory and Practice of Trade Unionism, Lance Sharkey. 1961

The Basic Wage

The Wage Freeze Costly To Workers

The system of quarterly adjustments of the Federal Basic Wage operated uninterruptedly for 30 years.

It was abolished in September, 1953. Quarterly adjustments, by and large, were the rule in the States for many years in relation to the State basic wage rates. But the abolition of Federal basic wage adjustments was the signal to follow suit in the States.

Some States later restored the system of adjustments following pressure from the workers.

Now, at the end of 1959, basic wage quarterly adjustments are automatic only in N.S.W. Adjustments of the State Basic Wage, in the main, are made in Queensland and West Australia by specific decisions of the State arbitration tribunals, In Victoria and South Australia quarterly adjustments do not apply at all, and in Tasmania their operation is restricted.

The freezing of the basic wage for the majority of the working class cost the workers a huge loss in income.

From September 1953 to June 1959, adult male workers covered by Federal awards lost not less than £140 each. This represents a total loss of approximately £144,000,000 in wages for men and women in a period of less than six years!

And where did this huge sum disappear to, you ask?

Read the profit sheets of B.H.P., G.M.H., C.S.R., A.C.I. and the rest of the big monopolies who exploit the working people. It went into their pockets!

A seemingly substantial and undoubtedly welcome increase of 15/- a week was made to the Federal Basic Wage in June 1959. But this did little more than restore the wage to its 1950 level of purchasing power.

Workers in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, whose basic wage was previously subject to adjustment in accordance with the “C” series index figure for the city of Sydney, benefited most. The 15/- increase took their wage to 7/- a week more than it would have been had the 1950 wage been adjusted to the date of the June decision.

The same illustration shows the 1950 standard to have been exceeded in awards based on the Melbourne figure by only 1/- a week, Adelaide 2/-, the six capital cities average figure 2/- a week and for Perth 9/- less, Hobart 6/- less and Brisbane 5/- less. These figures assist to illustrate the ravaging effect on the purchasing power of wages resulting from price increases and the abolition of quarterly adjustments.

Further price increases will continue to reduce the improvements on the 1950 standard.

A few more figures will suffice to illustrate some negative features on the June, 1959 basic wage decision.

Workers previously affected by the six capital cities figure, for example, wharfies, received a basic wage 2/- per week higher than the 1950 wage adjusted to date. But measured in terms of 1950 money values, this was worth only 1/2 and in terms of 1937 money value it was worth only 7.5d.

In comparable money values the 15/- was worth less than the 5/- Prosperity Loading added to their basic wage in 1937.

In 52 years the 1907 basic wage standard has risen only 22 per cent. and this equals 1/6d. on the 1907 Harvester wage of 7/- per day.

A further “freeze” on wages was maintained by repeated refusals to adjust margins to meet declining purchasing power due to inflationary price increases.

It is impossible to estimate accurately how much this “freeze” on margins has cost the workers. Had the Commonwealth Arbitration Court granted the unions’ applications made in 1952 and 1954 for restoration of margins to the 1947 purchasing power, a tradesman under the Metal Trades Award would have been paid at least £870 more up to June, 1959 than he received, and a tradesman’s assistant at least £355 more than he received. And this amount is for a 40-hour week, without any overtime!

Another form of “partial freeze” was applied to wage rates of adult women workers between 1950 and early 1959.

At the end of 1950 the Commonwealth Arbitration Court increased the basic wage for adult males by 19/- a week and fixed the basic wage for adult women workers at 75 per cent. of the male rate. The unions pressed the N.S.W. State Labor Government for legislation to apply these same rates to N.S.W. State awards.

The legislation introduced made it obligatory for the Federal Basic Wage for adult males to be paid under N.S.W. State awards but gave the Industrial Commission a discretion to fix a “just and proper” basic wage for adult women workers, after giving consideration to the Commonwealth Court’s decision.

By an unknown process of reasoning the judges of the N.S.W. Industrial Commission reached the conclusion that the 75 per cent. rate fixed by the Commonwealth Court was not only a basic wage but also included a sum as a margin.

Exercising the discretion given to them by the Labor Government’s legislation, the N.S.W. judges fixed the basic wage for women at 75 per cent. of the male rate but said this include £1 as a margin.

The net result of this was to deprive many thousands of adult women workers under N.S.W. State awards of wages up to £l per week.

One union official fixed the total loss of wage suffered by women workers as a result of this decision at not less than £60 million.

Growing Tax Burden

Taxes are another heavy burden on the workers.

For the income tax year of 1953-54, there were 1,932,000 taxpayers earning between the basic wage, £600, and £1,250 per annum, who paid £111,000,000 in taxes.

The top bracket of income tax payers, the capitalistic owners of the factories, banks, mines, etc., numbering 46,000 paid £100,000,000 on an income of £354,000,000. These owners receive about one-half the national income but pay only 46 per cent. of taxes.

The figures for 1953-54 indicate that taxation is weighted against the masses on small and medium incomes; it is class taxation.

For example, the taxation on working class “luxuries,” such as beer and tobacco, is particularly heavy, amounting at least to 50 per cent.

It has been estimated that the total of taxation of various kinds amounts to £2/10/- per week per head of the Australian population.

The effect of the growing tax burden on the workers’ wages was shown in detail in an article by L. Aarons (Communist Review, July, 1959), entitled Class Character of Taxation:

“The Taxation Commissioner’s Report divides taxpayers into four main groups: (1) Those dependent upon wages and salaries (2) Those who get their income from personal exertion other than salary or wages (mainly primary producers, small businessmen and professional people); (3) Those who have a combined income from property as well as salary and wages; and (4) Those who live upon income from property alone.

“These figures are quite revealing. The first group numbers 2,776,000, and 99.6 per cent. of their income is derived from personal exertion; the second numbers 632,000, and 95 per cent. of their income is derived from personal exertion, only five per cent. from property. The third group numbers 65,000 and their income is split 60-40 between personal exertion and property.

“It is fairly certain that the type of ‘personal exertion’ for most of this group is the sort called ‘managerial,’ including directors of companies, and top executives. The fourth group get 100 per cent. of their income from property without even shining the seats of their pants in swivel chairs, let alone soiling their hands.

“The reward of each occupational group varies inversely to the amount of personal exertion used. In the first group 79 per cent. of all taxpayers only 0.4 per cent. receive over £2,000 a year.

“In the second group --18 per cent. of taxpayers – the percentage of those receiving above £2,000 a year rises to 16 per cent. Half of the people in this 16 per cent. are capitalists in agriculture and grazing – the squatters and wealthy farmers who own large landholdings and are employers of labour. This income in fact derives not from personal exertion but from their ownership of capital.

“The third and fourth groups taken together are only three per cent. of taxpayers – and again 16 per cent. of them get over £2,000 a year.

“It can thus be seen that all the producers of wealth in Australia receive low incomes, from £105 to £2,000 in 1953-54. These 94 per cent. of taxpayers paid £173 million in income tax, 54 per cent. of the income tax paid by individuals.

“The second group, only six per cent. of taxpayers, comprising the owners of Australian industry, commerce and finance and the wealthy squatters and landowners, who in fact receive nearly one-half of the national income, paid only 46 per cent. of income tax.

“The contrast is much more glaring if we compare taxpayers earning between the basic wage and double the basic wage ( £600-£1,250 in 1953-54), with the wealthy capitalists who received eight times the basic wage and over 60 times (incomes between £4,000 a year and over £50,001 a year – 57 of these latter!).

“The first numbered 1,932,000. There were 2,635,000 people dependent upon their taxable incomes, which totalled £1,290 million, an average of £678 a year. They paid £111 million in taxes, leaving the average income at £620 a year.

“The top bracket numbered only 46,000. Their taxable income was £354 million, and they paid £100 million in taxes, leaving the average income at £3,300 a year, or over five times as much as the workers and other producers in the £600-£1,250 a year group.

“But this comparison, which shows that the extremely wealthy owners of Australia pay only one-third of income tax, is only part of the real picture of tax inequality.

“The worker’s tax is fixed and deducted from his wages each week. The wealthy are able to evade their share of taxes, operating both within and outside the law.

“Taxation law is full of opportunities for the capitalist class to evade taxes. This is a recognised fact. Speaking at a seminar on the distribution of the national income, Mr. E. L. Wheelwright (Lecturer in Economics at Sydney University) said:

It is true that there is a case for an overhaul of the tax system to make it bear more on those who can afford to pay. But... such a measure... would not result in much distribution in favour of wages and salaries against property incomes. It would be much more likely to foster a further increase in one of our major white collar occupations, to wit – the major industry of tax avoidance.”

So the worker is looted once again for the upkeep of the capitalist state and its agencies which keep his basic wage on the lowest feasible level in Australian conditions. £190,000,000 a year of it goes on the war preparations of the Federal Government. In the struggle to maintain the workers’ standard of living, the trade unions should pay more attention to the mounting taxation burden and agitate for its reduction.

Let it be paid out of the surplus values exploited from the working class, which swell the fabulous profits of G.M.H. and the other monopolies.

Inflation Burdens

The noted Soviet economist Professor E. Varga, has shown how inflation also is used by the capitalist class in the attack on workers’ standards:

“The steady process of currency depreciation in the capitalist countries – typical of the post-war years – is an important lever in the hands of capital in its fight against the working class, enabling it to reduce real wages without resorting to frontal, attacks by way of direct wage cuts. This compels the workers to play the role of the ‘attacking’ side in the fight for higher wages, because with the fall in the value of money they are forced to do so. Although they sometimes win success in this fight, they find themselves in a less advantageous position than the capitalists, for their demand to bring wages into conformity with the depreciated money is, as a rule, put forward at a time when depreciation has become a fait accompli, when it has fallen to a lower level. Even under the more favourable conditions when the workers have a sliding wage scale (either established by agreement with the employer or introduced by the State), their demand for higher wages is offset by the depreciation.

“The profound faith of U.S. capitalists in the blessings of moderate inflation can be seen from the views of Sumner H. Slichter, Professor of Economics at Harvard University, as reported in U.S. News and World Report, March 9th, 1959, page 106: ‘1 regard “creeping inflation” as a necessary cost of achieving maximum economic growth ... I think that it’s impossible to achieve the maximum growth of which we are capable without having some inflation. I wouldn’t worry about a deficit of 3 billion dollars, or something of that sort.’

“Thus the monopolies, on the one hand, force the workers to fight in defence of their real wages, and, on the other, claim that prices are soaring because of the high wages!

“The fact that in the economic struggle between labour and capital the working class is by virtue of the depreciation of money placed in the position of an allegedly attacking side is of great political importance for the monopolies.” (From World Marxist Review, August, 1959, ‘Crisis of the Working Class’, by E. Varga.)

Hire Purchase Exploitation

When the worker buys on the instalment plan a refrigerator, an electric stove, a washing machine, a car, television or radio set, he is ruthlessly exploited by the hire-purchase sharks. Much has been made in capitalist propaganda of workers owning motor-cars, television sets, washing machines and other modern conveniences.

Does this mean, that the working population is ever so much richer? At the beginning of 1959 the hire purchase debt reached the giant total of £342,580,000. As the wealthy pay spot cash and avoid the extortionate hire purchase imposts of up to 33 per cent. and more on these commodities, it is clear that it is the workers and small farmers who are burdened with this enormous load of debt. By the time the instalments have been paid, it is time, in many cases, to replace the instrument with a new one.

The instalments, high rents, taxes and rates can be met only by working of overtime, by the wife and all members of the family working, as well as the husband. Again, if the worker falls sick or joins the ranks of the unemployed, the commodity is reclaimed by the hire purchase company, and the worker loses what he has paid.

The robbery of the masses through hire purchase is clearly seen when contrasted with the Soviet Union where hire purchase interest rates are fixed at between one and two per cent.

Despite protests, the, various governments have done nothing to date to curb the vicious exploitation of the people by the hire purchase sharks, which undoubtedly lowers their standard of living in other directions.

There can be little doubt that the all-sided robbery of the working class in the monopoly-capitalist era has grown to fantastic heights.

That is why the unity and militant struggle of the great trade union movement is certainly at least as vital today as at any other period of capitalist development.

Child Endowment

Payment of Child Endowment has been used as a means of avoiding a wage rise.

Child Endowment was introduced in N.S.W. in the early 1920’s as a means of evading payment of a higher basic wage which had been found to be necessary by a Royal Commission.

On a Commonwealth basis it was introduced in 1941, again in lieu of a basic wage rise.

This ruse by Governments has greatly reduced the total wage earnings of the working class.

If the basic wage is increased, the higher rate must be paid to all adult male workers and in varying proportions paid also to women, apprentices and other junior workers.

But Child Endowment is not paid to juniors, single persons and others without dependent children below 16 years of age.

Reliable figures permitting an estimate of this loss are not available. But some idea of the effects can be gauged from the following:

At June 1959 there were 1,451,516 families drawing Child Endowment of varying amounts. The average payment per family was £43 per year or slightly more than 15/- per week. This is equivalent to two endowed children per family.

There is no means test on Child Endowment and it is paid to rich and poor families alike.

Consequently the number of wage-earners’ families receiving Child Endowment is less than the total of 1,451,516.

Against this is the fact that as far back as 1954 there were 2,164,980 persons covered by State or Commonwealth awards. The number would be greater at June 1959.

So on these figures we have less than 1,451,516 wage earners drawing endowment at an average of 15/- per week but if the amount was part of the basic wage more than 2,164,980 wage earners would get it either in full or in part.

Had this sum been paid as a basic wage rise instead of a Child Endowment it would have been subject to regular adjustment up to 1953 and ever since then for some workers.

Child Endowment at 5/- per week for all children after the first and under 16 years of age was first introduced on a Commonwealth basis in 1941. The rate was raised to 7/6 in 1945 and 10/- in 1948. Endowment for the first child at 5/per week was first introduced in 1950.

If these amounts were adjusted so that today they had the same purchasing power as they had when first introduced (i.e. in 1941 and 1950) they would be at approximately 17/- and 10/- respectively instead of the present 10/- and 5/-. Instead of an average of 15/- per week, families drawing endowment would average 27/- per week.

Another feature of Child Endowment is that all workers pay for it by way of taxation.

Of course we are not opposed to Child Endowment in principle but objection must be made when it is used to depress wages for the whole of the working class.

Demand For Adequate Pensions

Much has been said and written of the plight of some 1,000,000 pensioners, old age, invalids, ex-servicemen and others, as well as people on small fixed incomes. Many crocodile tears have been shed in the parliaments, the press and elsewhere, but each succeeding Budget does little to alleviate their lot.

A miserably small increase insufficient to meet the ever growing inflation of the past decade or so is usually allotted them in each succeeding Federal Budget.

The Pensioners’ Association has vigorously campaigned for a pension equivalent to at least half the Basic Wage. As the big majority of the pensioners are former workers, trade unionists, it is obvious that the trade union movement must support the struggle for decent pensions.

The politicians have given an example in this. By the 1959 Federal salary grab, supported by the overwhelming majority of Federal Labor M.Ps., they certainly made provision for adequate comforts for themselves when they reach the retiring age.

A number of unions also have campaigned for pensions for the workers, in their industries, as well as for a fixed retiring age, with success.

Pensions, like peace, are “trade union business” and the welfare of the aged worker is as important as it was during the period of his active life.

In the Soviet Union, the Seven-Year-Plan aims at pensions equal to full wages for all workers who have reached the age of 60. Already pensions range from a minimum of 50 per cent. to 100 per cent. for the lower paid workers, of the wage earned at retirement.

Position Of Women Workers

The post-war period in particular has witnessed a significant increase in the number of women workers employed in industry, more especially in light industries such as textiles and clothing.

A feature of the growth of female labour is the increasing numbers of married women entering industry.

The expansion of capitalist industry has overturned the old “holy” conception of male sex supremacy that “woman’s place is in the home,” more particularly, in the kitchen.

The women’s Federal Basic Wage rate is fixed at 75 per cent. of the male. One-third of the labour force is now composed of women. This explains the relegation of the old bourgeois concept that woman’s place is in the home to the dust bin of history.

A woman machine operator produces as much as a man. “The machine sets the pace” is an old and true precept of the labour movement.

Capitalist profit comes from surplus value, that is the unpaid labour time over and above what is required to pay his or her wages.

Therefore, if a woman worker produces as much as a man, the employer receives a further 25 per cent. in his profits from the toil of women workers.

The demand of the trade union movement must remain equal pay for the job, irrespective of sex.

In N.S.W., the Labor Government, under pressure from the workers has accepted the goal of equal pay for women, to be introduced “gradually.”

Married women have entered industry in increasing numbers because of inflation, wage freezing, the need to get a home, the monstrous hire purchase interest rates on articles which are a modern necessity, such as washing machines, refrigerators, television and the like.

It is increasingly difficult to finance a family on one worker’s wage these days.

With the growth of unemployment the struggle for jobs intensifies and the cry is being raised, too, for exclusion of married women from industry.

This is a reactionary catch-cry based on backward prejudices and, to their shame, is even voiced by some trade union officials and others.

The only principled position is the demand that employment must be provided for all who need it, irrespective of age or sex and other differences between individuals or groups of workers. In the socialist countries equal pay and opportunity for the sexes is a matter of law and the onus is on society to provide it.


Mass unemployment once more is facing the Australian trade union movement. At the time of writing (Sept., 1959) official figures indicate the volume of unemployment as fluctuating between 60,000-70,000. Trade union calculations place it at 100,000-120,000.

It is the highest and most prolonged mass unemployment in the post-war years in Australia.

Due to a number of favorable circumstances since the war, we have not witnessed the unemployment figures of the economic crisis and depression, figures of the decade 1930-40, nor those in the economic crisis period following World War I and lasting until 1924, as well as those of earlier economic crises.

Stockpiling of raw materials as a part of war preparation, the high price for Australian primary products as a result of the ravages of World War 11, the record high price for wool, were some factors which kept Australian capitalism relatively prosperous, although experiencing a number of recessions.

Mass immigration and a heavy investment of overseas capital also stimulated the economic position and to an extent temporarily insulated Australia from the chronic mass unemployment experienced by other capitalist countries, U.S., Italy, West Germany, Japan, etc.

As the U.S.A. is the “showcase” of capitalism, paraded daily and hourly as a workers’ paradise, we prefer to quote its figures rather than those of other capitalist countries. Yet the “paradise” has never been free from chronic mass unemployment.

We can only cite official figures which, as is well-known tend to conceal the true situation in such unpleasant matters.

In the period 1908-1913, these figures revealed an annual average of 1,780,000 unemployed. The period 1921-1929 revealed an average of 1,738,000.

In the post-war “prosperity” period of 1949-1957 the average figure increased to 2,761,000. Part-time employment has become a permanent feature of U.S. industry and if we add these workers to those with temporary periods of unemployment, the total exceeds an average of more than 10,000,000 for the so-called “boom” period in post-war years.

In 1957, the U.S. official unemployment figure was 2,936,000. But the Bureau of Census gave the figure as 11,568,000 persons who were unemployed for some period during that year.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor figures in 1952-53 (a “recession” period), 10,207,000 persons applied for unemployed relief, the respectable name for the “dole.” But in 1957, these figures made a “dialectical leap” forward to 14,790,000. This “leap” continued throughout 1958 and reached the staggering total of almost 19,000,000!

At the peak of the great economic crisis 1929-1932, unemployment reached the monstrous peak of an estimated more than 15,000,000. During the following depression, until the outbreak of World War 2, according to estimates it was 8,000,000 to 10,000,000.

So much for the propaganda yarn about every worker in the U.S. having “two motor cars” and a 10,000 dollar house with a “television set in every room!”

Profiting from the vast replacement of the destruction in Europe as a result of the war and the renewal of obsolete plant (a legacy of the “great depression” of the ’30s) enabled Britain to be temporarily free of unemployment.

In the period between the two world wars Britain’s permanent unemployed army amounted to 2,000,000-3,000,000. Now the figures indicate that in 1956 there were 282,000 which grew to 591,000 by 1959. Again, partial unemployment is not recorded in these figures. Trade union estimates indicated these to number 1,000,000.

In the post-war era Canada has experienced chronic mass unemployment also. From 1950-58 it averaged 203,000 but in February 1959 it had reached 537,000.

In Italy, despite huge emigration, the average figure for the period for 1949-1957 was 1,800,000 or 800,000 more than the average in the depression of the ’30s.

In Japan, in the post-war period, the figures for total unemployment have fluctuated between 500,000 and 1,000,000. Adding partially unemployed, the figure is now 10,000,000, according to the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan.

In India and other under-developed countries the figure for unemployed and “landless peasants” runs into tens and hundreds of millions affected by total or partial unemployment.

So much for capitalism having eliminated permanent unemployment.

Yet we have the reformists and the revisionists painting airy-fairy pictures telling us how the monopolies have mastered the techniques to banish unemployment, that the old ideas of the need for unity, organisation and struggle are “outmoded,” “obsolete” along with Marxism. These figures prove that unemployment is increasing in ratio as capitalism develops further along, monopoly-State capitalist lines.

The noted Soviet economist, Professor E. Varga, has expressed this view on the problem of unemployment:

“The economic crisis has raised unemployment to the level which has long been the dream of the capitalists. For example, the Economist, mouthpiece of British monopoly capital, has published dozens of articles in the post-war years claiming that Britain needs at least one million unemployed.

“The relatively low unemployment in the imperialist countries both after the war and in the previous decade was the result not of any ‘improvement’ of capitalism but of the huge manpower losses during the war, and also of the fact that millions were diverted from the labour market and called to the colours. Another reason was that for a definite period rehabilitation and stock replenishment made it easier to find jobs. But there can be no talk of any permanent improvement on the labour market. On the contrary, the capitalist world is re-entering the period of chronic mass unemployment.”

-- From World Marxist Review, August 1959 (No. 8), “Crisis of the Working Class.

Much of the so-called “prosperity” in capitalist countries is based on the armaments industry.

If the enormous sums sunk in the waste of arms production were eliminated, the unemployed figures would have been colossal in this period. Such is the cannibal nature of capitalism in its decadent stage.

But there is an alternative. These vast sums spent on arms should be devoted to schools, hospitals, transport, sewerage, housing, irrigation and flood control, scientific investigation, reafforestation and a dozen other social needs.

There is too little profit in all this for the capitalists who concentrate on the products where maximum profit is to be secured. That is a major reason why capitalist anarchy must eventually be replaced by the planned economy of socialism.

In contrast to the mass unemployment of capitalism, in the 12 socialist countries that exist today, with a total population of 1,000,000,000, unemployment has vanished.

Capitalist “theory” on unemployment is that a “reserve industrial army” is essential to the proper functioning or their so-called “free enterprise” system.

During the period of full employment spokesmen of the monopolies complained of “overfull” employment which, in their opinion, allowed the workers to become too “independent,” knowing they could find another job without difficulty.

To discipline the trade unions and the workers on the job, an unemployed “pool” is necessary as a threat to their security and to provide strike-breakers in times of industrial struggles.

The existence of an unemployed army tends to depress, in many ways, the living standards of the whole of the working class, including the so-called “white collar” workers.

The suffering of the unemployed workers on “social benefit” and their families is of no account to these hypocrites who are forever blabbing about their “love for the humanities","precious individual freedom” and the rest. The only “freedom” they really believe in is the “freedom” of the monopolies to increase profit at the expense of the working class. That is why the governments, press and the capitalists look upon the present “pool of unemployment” with ill-concealed satisfaction.

The Marxist theory of unemployment was stated in Capital, Vol. 1, as follows:

“The greater the social wealth, the functioning capital, the extent and energy of its growth, and, therefore, also the absolute mass of the proletariat and the productiveness of its labours, the greater is the mass of a consolidated surplus population whose misery is in inverse ratio to its torment of labour... This is the absolute general law of capitalist accumulation.”

Today, as we have seen from the figures quoted of unemployment in the U.S. and major capitalist countries, it is no longer even a “reserve army” awaiting a “boom” but is chronic; this army of millions is not required even in times of industrial expansion.

Unemployment therefore is a permanent problem facing the labour movement. The unemployed must be organised by the trade unions, a ceaseless campaign conducted to improve the lot of the so-called “industrial reserve army” should be waged, not only on humane grounds, but on class interests, to prevent their use to depress the conditions of the whole working class, weaken the labour movement itself or to be used as strikebreakers.

Fall In Consumption Of Basic Foods

A reliable index by which the trend of living standards can be judged, whether they are rising or falling, is undoubtedly the per capita consumption of foodstuffs.

Capitalist propaganda emphasises that there is one, motor vehicle to each four persons in Australia but hasn’t much to say about the decline in the consumption of basic foodstuffs, a more reliable indicator. (The motor. vehicle figures take no account of the fact that many big businesses own whole fleets of motor vehicles and that many private vehicles are on hire-purchase.)

Again, there is a chronic crisis in such basic elements of a civilised standard of living as education, health, public transport, sewerage and housing.

The appended table shows a serious decline in the consumption of the basic foodstuffs: meat, eggs, fish, butter, fruit, cream and vegetables.

In assessing these figures, it has to be considered, that in 1938-39 there were more than 200,000 unemployed living on the dole.

The figures in regard to green vegetables have fallen below 1943, that is, the most difficult period of the war! No figures are available for vegetables before 1943.

As the wealthy can afford to consume as much as ever of the choicest foods, the fall in the people’s consumption is thus greater than these figures indicate.

Consumption Of Foodstuffs
 Average 1936-37
to 1938-39

Meat253.0 lb236.7 lb.
Whole milk23.4 glns28.2 glns.
Cheese4.4 lb6.4 lb.
Butter 32.9 lb27.8 lb.
Citrus fruit31.9 lb35.2 lb.
Other fresh fruit94.0 lb83.0 lb.
Fresh cream 6.4 lb2.0 lb.
Fresh fish6.4 lb5.3 lb.
Poultry 9.7 lb 9.7 lb.
Sugar (refined, not including that used in manufactures)70.6 lb59.7 lb.
Potatoes106.2 lb120.5 lb.
Cabbages and greens 25.9 lb15.8 lb.
Lettuce7.9 lb4.1 lb.
Carrots10.8 lb10.9 lb.
Fresh legumes24.5 lb12.7 lb.
Other fresh vegetables58.9 lb67.1 lb.
Total128.0 lb115.8 lb.

Together with the growth of unemployment, the plight of some 1,000,000 living on meagre pensions and small fixed incomes even in the period of post-war relative capitalist prosperity, proves the Marxist law that capitalism creates, at one pole, an absolute impoverishment and, at the other, fabulous wealth, as shown in the record profits of the monopolies in the past decade or so.

It is as clear as crystal that the fable of official propaganda to the effect that the ideology of the trade union movement, of organisation, unity and militant struggle to maintain and improve living standards is “out-dated,” “outmoded,” is a deception of the masses.

The facts indicate beyond doubt that a strong, fighting labour movement is, to say the least, as essential as ever it was.