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Henry Judd

Great Britain

Its Dying Capitalist Economy Staggers
Under the Impact of the American Dollar

(3 March 1947)

From Labor Action, Vol. 11 No. 9, 3 March 1947, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

“We are fighting our way, step by step, through a snowdrift of difficulties, which seems to heap up again in front of us just when we think that we are making good progress.” – Hugh Dalton, Chancellor of the Exchequer.


The slogan put forward by British capitalism in its present crisis is the familiar one of “Export or Die!” The severity of the present difficulties is revealed most acutely by the fact that Britain’s export drive has now come to a full stop, insofar as any expansion is concerned. But that export program not only must be resumed but, according to the Labor government’s White Paper of last week, must be increased. In 1947 it is proposed to export 140 per cent MORE THAN in the pre-war year of 1938! It is freely admitted that such an effort will require an intensification of Britain’s Spartan-like life for the masses of people.

Harder and longer work, more restrictions in the use of various necessities (gas, electricity, smoking stuff, etc.), a continuation of the present food and electricity rationing, even less consumers’ goods, efforts to introduce piecework, speedup production methods in the factories. These are some of the things in store for England’s workers, as candidly acknowledged in the government’s White Paper.

Britain staggers along under the sign of the American dollar. Over the declining islands hovers the Almighty American dollar, the necessity for whose accumulation is, more than any other single factor, responsible for these reactionary measures of the White Paper. In 1947, England expects a deficit of $1,400,000,000 in imports over exports. England must get these dollars to cover that deficit; it can only get them by exporting and exporting – that is, squeezing its 40,000.000 people even tighter. This is the White Paper. This is the meaning of “Export or Die!”

Britain is a country that exports manufactured products – machinery, textiles, finished steel and electrical products, etc. Behind its factories stands the driving force of power – in England, COAL. The coal crisis is, then, a decisive and almost fatal factor in the problem of increased exports. If coal is not forthcoming in proper amounts, then industry cannot run and exports will drop. The drive to accumulate the American dollar will fail.

But no industry in England is sicker than the coal industry! There are many reasons for this. It is an industry suffering all the decrepitudes of old age; it is worn out. There are too many small mines producing inefficiently and at high costs; there is not enough new machinery (or, for that matter, any kind of machinery!) being employed in the operating mines; few mines use conveyors for hauling the coal from the mine faces to the pit-head; very little» coal is mined by drills and other machine devices – the ancient system of the hand-pick is most prevalent; the old rope hauling, of coal, as contrasted with American conveyor system, continues, side by side with the pit-pony pulling the cars containing the coal. Loading, weighing, checking, sorting – in a word, all the operations connected with the coal industry – are backward and inefficient. It is estimated that $500,000,000 would be needed to bring the industry up to American standards. Furthermore, the coal mines themselves are getting exhausted; the veins are becoming smaller and narrower, requiring the use of more labor power and time to keep up production.

But the British Labor government, instead of taking the problem directly in hand and turning over its solution to the coal miners themselves, chose to follow the designs and wishes of the former. owners; those directly responsible for the present plight. It took over the mines at their face capital value, issued billions in state bonds to these mine operators and is now paying them off at the rate of 2½ per cent interest per annum on these same bonds! All this, it goes without saying, for doing nothing. The masses of English people must pay these interest charges and, ultimately, must pay for the bonds themselves, when they finally mature.

Living Standards Low

On top of this, the Labor government has miserably failed the miners over the issue of improving their living conditions, and their desire to obtain a greater proportion of England’s products. There has been no wage increase, no building program in the miners’ areas, no inducements to make the miners willing to work more effectively (actually, there has been a drop in the productivity of the individual miner). He has simply been called upon to work harder and longer, in the name of a vague “patriotism” and nationalism. As if the miners, the most class-conscious and advanced of the English working class, cannot see through all that talk! Neither the current labor shortage in the mines; nor the fact that 50 per cent of the miners are in the old-age brackets; nor the fact that the youth refuse to enter the mines for good and substantial reasons – none of these facts can be offset by appeals to patriotism. The miners see that the nationalization of the mines has been, in reality, a fraud and they feel little or no inducement to expand their energies in a hopeless effort.

To this fraudulent nationalization program of the Labor government, the Trotskyists of Great Britain, organized in the Revolutionary Communist Party, have counterposed two simple but essential ideas;

  1. No compensation to the former owners for the nationalized mines, but the utilization of the profits made in the industry for improving the living and working conditions of the miners, and for the real modernization of the industry.
  2. The operation and control and management of the nationalised coal industry by the workers themselves, under the direction of their own committees and their own elected leaders.

This is the socialist answer to the crisis, to the failure of the British Labor government.