— The Labour Question,
radio talk of Louis Even, reprinted in the November 1, 1943 issue of the
Vers Demain Journal.)
industry has made the huge working-class agglomerations to arise—what
an author calls the barracks of the proletariat. Our nation has its
great share of these barracks that one has erected with much enthusiasm,
while paying homage to the foreign capital which at last deigned to
enlist the sons and daughters of our native land.
of pulp and paper-makers; proletarians of textiles; proletarians of
mines; proletarians of asbestos; proletarians of aluminum; proletarians
multiplied by the system of development of our natural resources to the
benefit of international exploiters, no longer own a piece of land from
which to derive their food, these former farmers or sons of former
farmers have nothing, absolutely nothing, but what their wages can buy,
to live and provide a living for their families.
this moment on, the wage becomes the weapon by which an employer can
manoeuvre his employees at will.
as the slave of old, today's wage-earner is not really free to accept or
refuse the working conditions of the master, the employer.
doubt, the worker can refuse to serve, or leave his employer. But, at
the same time, bread leaves his table, and misery settles in at home.
doubt, the worker can meet with his employer and expose his grievances
to him, to prove how inadequate his wage is, in front of prices, to
allow him, him and his own, a decent livelihood.
is the employer much more independent than the worker?
employer is not the absolute master of the enterprise. There is the
financier who, year by year, demands that his money be fertile. From the
very first day of its entrance into circulation, does not money lay
claim to an offspring?
Wages and prices
employer's life already claims a profit. The fertility of money demands
profits yet more peremptorily.
first condition for industry to get profits is to sell its products. To
sell, one must offer one's products at a price which can withstand other
producers' competition. The worker can forget this, but the employer
must keep it in mind constantly, or the threat of ruin violently reminds
him of it.
if the employer increases his workers' wages, he must necessarily
increase the sale price of his products—otherwise he will be in the
red and have to consider a liquidation.
if the employer increases his sale prices to cover wage increases, will
he be able to sell in front of the competition? And if he does not sell,
or if he sells less, he must reduce the number of his personnel, or sell
at a loss and soon suffer the total closure of his workshops, putting
both employers and employees in front of an empty chest, or to live off
neighbours or public administrations.
doubt all workers of an industry as a whole can unite to demand an
increase in wages; no doubt, all employers of this industry as a whole
can come to terms with one another, to agree to a general increase in
wages and to a parallel increase in sale prices in this industry as a
whole. The competition obstacle disappears by this cartel.
what will be the result? Who will pay for the increase in sale prices,
if not the consumer, who will have either to do without the more
expensive items, or pay for them at the raised prices and do without
other articles? In either case, at least short-time working will hit at
least a section of the workers and employers.
sectors which thus increase their wages and cover them by the price
increases of their products, benefit temporarily. But in front of these
increased prices, the other sectors will certainly bustle about until
they get a corresponding increase. This is the general rise in prices
that pinches all consumers. Now, do not the majority of the consumers
belong to the working class?
good does it do me to receive 5 percent more in wages, if the price of
products is increased by 5 percent? Or if I have to be unemployed a day
or two a week, or two to three months during the year?
while the financiers, the entrepreneurs, and the employees are thus at
daggers drawn with each other, to determine what share will go to one,
what share to the other, mountains of products remain without buyers.
strike back, unionize, mutually send out ultimatums, demand or refuse
arbitration tribunals, discuss, put off, sign provisional agreements,
outline them, begin the fights again, go on strike, declare lockouts,
set up meetings, make virulent speeches. Hatred revives, moralists
preach, agitators point out the shop windows and the beautiful homes,
governments prepare to mobilize troops, masses turn toward Communism,
investors are afraid, children die of hunger, women despair, men commit
suicide, Christians are damned — all this because they do not manage
to give satisfaction when they try to share out a two-billion dollar
production, while at least two other billion worth of products vainly
solicit consumers, and while other billions worth of goods could be
made, if effective demand for them existed.
men fight to death over a loaf of bread, while two other loaves of bread
rot under their very eyes, because no one thinks to take them.
struggle for the symbol
whole gamut of modern economic problems is there — the labour problem
as well as the others: the emphasis in the economic question has been
shifted from real wealth (products) — to the symbol (money). We tear
each other to pieces on account of scarce money, instead of fraternizing
to enjoy a plentiful production.
thinks in terms of dollars, instead of thinking in terms of wheat,
articles of clothing, shoes, houses, goods and services of all kinds.
Because one thinks in terms of dollars, and because the banker makes the
dollars scarce, one thinks in terms of scarcity.
would be so easy to satisfy everybody, to establish peace and
understanding between employers and workers, if the money to share was
as plentiful as the offered production.
one need arbitration tribunals, or violent measures, to decide how many
bushels of wheat, how many pounds of cheese, will be the employer's
share and how many will be the worker's share, when the employers and
workers together are incapable of consuming all the wheat and cheese
that the country's even bridled production can provide?
one have to undergo so many struggles to decide how many pairs of shoes
the employer will be able to appropriate and how many the worker will be
able to take, when the shoe manufacturers have to close their doors
because there are too many shoes in the country?
this question could also be asked about firewood, space and material to
build houses, furniture, and likewise, all other things.
not see the beautiful realities?
are ever so many resources to put plenty everywhere. But the
distribution of all these things is tied to the money symbol. And one
stops at the money symbol. One finds the money symbol scarce, and one
accepts the decrees of those who make it scarce without reason. One does
not see the plentiful things any more.
is God and man's hands and minds that have made the plentiful things.
One closes one's eyes to the generous gifts of Providence. One closes
one's eyes to the fruits of man's genius and human labour, and one fixes
them on the scarcity of money, and one persists obstinately to struggle
for scarce money.
when are you going to open your eyes on the beautiful realities, instead
of fastening them on the artificial symbols, you, sociologists, union
leaders, who spend so much energy on the sharing of dollars?
only you would devote one-tenth of these energies to demand that the
dollar makers bring out dollars in relation to what the farmer brings
out from his field, in relation to what the employer, the worker, and
the machine bring out from the factory?
the Canadian dollars as plentiful as the Canadian production. Bring the
Canadian dollars into the Canadian homes, to buy the Canadian
the soil obeys the farmer's plough, if the tool obeys the mechanic, why
should not the dollars obey an exact national accounting?
Progress that mortifies
here a human mind, joining its personal researches to the researches and
acquisitions of centuries of study, causes a new machine to come into
existence. The machine will do the work of twenty workers and will
require the attention of only one.
the employer, it is an advantage. For the worker, it is a terror. Why?
Since the machine supplies the product, while it does away with man's
labour, and since the product is made for man, man ought to get the
product in a different way than through his wages — at least in the
proportion that the product comes without his labour.
new problem is created for the worker — that of his displacement by
the machine. This is a problem which will never be settled through wage
scales, since the wage-earner is suppressed by mechanization.
Leaders who kiss their chains
are the experts doing about the labour questions to bring to families
the more and more plentiful production dissociated from human labour,
dissociated from wages?
unions organize and struggle. Why? Are not their activities wasted on
the means of getting a bigger share of the scarce symbol, a bigger share
of the dollars limited artificially in quantity? First of all, when have
they considered demanding a total number of dollars regulated by total
manual or mechanical production? Has not one seen frequently, on the
contrary, the authorities of these trade unions eliminate attentively,
or forbid formally, any discussion on this subject?
is scarce, they agree. The employer is, like themselves, the slave of
money scarcity, they have to admit. But they accept this slavery, and
they make use of their militancy in the struggle between slaves. They
admit the artificial scarcity, and fight over rations.
request the liberation of plenty would mean to give in to Social Credit;
it would mean to become a political activist, according to them!
the absurd scarce money system in front of a plentiful production, is
not being a political activist, but it is to call for a more accurate
and more social system: this is being a political activist. Crawling is
not being a political activist, but standing up to an unbelievable
disorder: this is being a political activist. Taking from brothers who
suffer equally from money scarcity, is not being a political activist,
but attacking the bankers' system, which without reason creates this
money scarcity: this is being a political activist.
Does not the master of money find remarkable protectors, even among those who seem to feel pity for his victims?