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Workers’ International News, July 1939


Slave Camps in Britain


From Workers’ International News, Vol.2 No.7, July 1939, p.5.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The barter agreement signed in London on June 23rd, by which 600,000 bales of US cotton is to be “swapped” for 80,000 tons of British rubber, is hailed as the first of a series of barter deals which will enable both countries to face the inevitable blockade in the coming war. The threat of blockade is similarly responsible for such projects as the six million pound plant now being set up by the British Government for the extraction of petrol from coal. New plans for increasing the amount of home-grown food and the shipping tonnage by means of subsidies go side by side with the piling up of stores of sugar, oil and wheat.

By these measures the character of the coming war is foreshadowed. The immense destructive machine now in the hands of the imperialist robbers is counter-balanced by equally immense and expensive defensive machinery, and the one cancels the other, so that the war will not be decided by military means. As in the last war, the first clashes will be followed by a deadlock, bloody but indecisive. The belligerents will once more settle down to the grim business of starving each other out.

In preparation for the war of mutual strangulation, with its consequences in the shape of famine diseases, reserve stores are being laid up on both sides, so that once more the one cancels the other. The race to pile up war-stores means only that the agony will be more drawn out, the populations of the belligerent countries subjected to a longer period of semi-starvation before the inevitable collapse on both sides.

The pre-war measures now being carried out, the building of unnecessary ships, the cultivation of uneconomic home crops, the adoption of uneconomic processes for fuel-production, the freezing of capital in vast stores of commodities represents a staggering wastage of human resources. It is because of the expected waste of human labour in this aspect of rearmament that the economics of the capitalist class look forward to the disappearance of unemployment in Britain. While the labour power of the workers is being squandered in this direction, employment is also found for capital to finance the insane procedure. Such is the nature of the anticipated “boom.” The investors will be drawing dividends and the workers will be drawing wages, profits will rise, prices will rise, wages will rise, and so, argue Messrs. Economists, we will be experiencing a boom. The only problem to be faced, apart from the inevitable inflation that will accompany the “recovery,” will be the shortage of labour.

Germany, which embarked some months ago on this road of “recovery” has been closely watched. Dr. Shacht’s methods of handling the inflation have been taken as models, and now, to deal with the shortage of labour, a leaf is to be taken from the Nazi book likewise. Dr. Ley’s system of forced labour has been the envy of the British capitalist class. When Dr. Ley boasted some time ago that the German workers worked 70 hours a week “for German honour” the British boss class did not fail to take note.

At the end of last month, a work-centre for “training” the unemployed was opened in London, and the thin end of the wedge was inserted. The comment of the Glasgow Bulletin of June 29th is worthy of note:

“Although they’re not likely to brag about it in public, many members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are fully in sympathy with the Unemployment Assistance Board’s experiment in compulsory training for young men who have reached the ‘work-shy’ stage. Indeed, the experiment was foreseen some years ago by several leading Labour MPs.

“Incidentally, the UAB are fully prepared for the labour camp plan. For some time past they have been compiling a very complete list of ‘workshys’.”

Revolutionaries have never entertained any doubts that from the moment that war was declared, all differences between the regimes of fascist and “democratic” countries would disappear in a universal totalitarianism. But now, even before the outbreak of war, the British boss-class is beginning with the imposition of measures that turn their slogan: “Defend our democracy!” into a meaningless form of words.

As in fascist Germany, the drive towards war demands “self-sufficiency,” and therefore wasted labour, and consequently, forced labour which goes side by side with military conscription. Forced to work and forced to fight, the British wage-slave will be able to detect little essential difference between his own condition and that of the German wage-slave, save that his own rulers label themselves “Democratic,” the Germans “Totalitarian.”

With a Minister of Information who will be a British Goebbels, a Minister of Labour – a British Leys, a Minister of War – a British Goering, the lies, the slavery and the bloodshed will match one another on both sides. Now that both British and German workers are being thrust face to face on the battlefield it is necessary for both to recognise that their real enemy is not in front of them but behind them. Sheer self-preservation demands that those enemies be dealt with drastically and without delay.

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