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The New International, November 1941


Bob Edwards

Big Business in England


From The New International, Vol. VII No. 10, November 1941, pp. 278–80.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


(NOTE: The following article is taken from the British New Leader, and is a selection from a forthcoming book by the author. – Ed.)

AT THE COMMENCEMENT of the present war the Trade Union Congress and its affiliated unions repeated the same mistakes as in 1914–18. The right to strike has again been surrendered in favor of compulsory arbitration. The Emergency Powers Act has been put into operation with the sanction and support of the trade union movement, and, if the active trade unionists in the workshops allow the policy of subordination to the capitalist state to be persisted in, the trade unions will cease to exist as organs of struggle and become auxiliaries of the capitalist state.

The general political dangers arising from this policy of class collaboration can be seen by the proposed policies of so-called economic reconstruction – the structure of which has already been established on the plea of war emergency. Innumerable committees, boards and controls have been established, manned and dominated by leading captains of industry. Shareholders have been guaranteed their dividends, but the workers, whose labor power and industrial intelligence produce all wealth, remain a subject class without voice or vote in the control of industry.

How Big Business Rules

The following list shows the former business connection; of some of the present and past members of the government. It will be seen that capitalist representatives still hold all the key positions controlling the economic and financial policy of the nation.

Lord President of the Council: Sir John Anderson (Vickers, Ltd., Imperial Chemical Industries, Midland Bank).

Board of Trade: Sir Andrew Duncan (British Iron and Steel Federation, Bank of England).

Ministry of Supply: Lord Beaverbrook (London Express and allied newspapers, family link with Canadian aircraft industry).

Ministry of Agriculture: Mr. R. S. Hudson (family link with Unilever Combine).

Special Mission Abroad: Capt. C. Lyttelton (British Metal Corp., London Tin Corp.).

Secretary for India: Hon. L.S. Amery (Cammel Lairds, S.W. Africa Co., Southern Hallways, Marks & Spencers).

Colonial Ministry: Lord Lloyd (British South Africa Co., Rhodesian Railways).

Ministry of Transport: Baron Leather (Shipping, Inchcape Lines; coal; power, Duffryn; cement, Tnnnell Portland).

Ministry of Food: Lord Woolton (Lewis’, Ltd.).

At the foot of this page (see box) are particulars of the owning class representatives whom the government has placed in charge of industry. They are placed in charge of the economic life of the nation. Not a single workers’ representative is to be found among them.




Chrome Ore, Magnesite and Wolfram

W.T.V. Harmer

Technical Assistant to the Managing Director of United Steel Companies, Ltd.


Sir Percy Ashley

Member of the Import Duties Advisory Committee


H.V. Cunningham

Managing Director, Scottish Agricultural Industries, Ltd.


Earl de la Warr

Director, W.F. Malcolm & Co., Ltd.


A.M. Landauer

Senior Partner in Landauer & Co.

Industrial Ammonia

F.C.O. Speyer

Delegate Director at I.C.I. (Fertilizer and Synthetic Products, Ltd.) and Gen. Mgr. British Sulphate of Ammonia Federation

Iron and Steel

Col. Sir W.C. Wright

Chairman, Baldwins, Ltd., and Guest, Keen & Baldwins Iron and Steel Co., Director of Public Companies


G. Malcolm

Director, Ralli Bros., Ltd.


Dr. E.C. Snow

Manager United Tanners’ Federation

Molasses, Industrial Alcohol and Plastics

A.V. Broad

Director-Chairman, The Distillers Co., Ltd., British Indusrial Solvents and Commercial Solvents, Ltd.

Non-Ferrous Metals, Brass and Diamond Dyes

J.C. Budd and
W. Mure

Managing Directors British Metal Corporation, Ltd.


A. Ralph Reed

Chairman, A.E. Reed & Co., Ltd.

Silk and Rayon

H.O. Hambleton

One-time Director of T.H. Hambleton, Ltd.

Sulphuric Acid

H. Garrold Thomas

Gen. Mgr. and Secretary, National Sulphuric Acid Assn.


Major A.I. Harris

Partner in I. Bamberger & Sons


Sir Harry Shackleton

Chairman, Wool Textile Delegation; President, Woollen & Worsted Trades Fed.; Director, Taylor Shackleton & Co.

Measures Against the Proletariat

Even more dangerous to the workers’ movement is the recent war legislation which delegates parliamentary authority to “Orders in Council” and transforms the British Houses of Parliament into a Reichstag, giving special powers to the ruling class and taking away from the workers rights, liberties and privileges as if they never existed.

Consider well, for example, the powers assumed by the War Cabinet under the Emergency Powers Act, which powers it can pass on to the police or to any regional commissioner.

Consider also the Control of Employment Act and the Essential Works Order which are the new feudalism in industry. These acts empower the Ministry of Labor to prevent a worker from changing his or her occupation. It prevents employers from engaging workers without the permission of the Ministry of Labor, but workers can and are being compulsorily transferred to other localities at the behest of an employer or a Ministry of Labor department. Thousands of workers who had found new and more profitable employment have been forced back to their old jobs by means of these acts.

Profit and Dividends

Examine the facts below. Do they or do they not prove beyond doubt that the owning class is profiteering out of this war at a rate that overshadows a thousand times the few shillings of wage increases that the workers have been able to win?

The following examples show how the industrialists have fared. In 1940, Associated Portland Cement made over 1,200,000 pounds of profit and declared a dividend of 10 per cent. (Figure the pound at approximately $4.05 – Ed.) British Portland Cement profits were 734,826 pounds. Alpha Cement made 315,683 pounds, with a dividend of 8¾ per cent. Rugby Portland Cement made 123,675 pounds, with a dividend of 7½ percent.

The Bishop of Birmingham was fined 1,600 pounds damages because Britain’s “class” law held that he had charged the “Cement Ring” with acting against the nation’s interests. So now the workers know that the nation’s interests coincide with the interests of profiteering cement magnates. (Special reference to the cement industry and its great profits arises from the enormous governmental expenditures for municipal repairs and the erection of gigantic fortification projects in anticipation of a Nazi invasion – Ed.)

Out of these facts emerges the true situation, namely, that a few people, the owning class, who represent the entire body of the British governing class, are enriching themselves again at a time when the whole machinery of the state is being used to keep wages down to a low level.

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