« ForrigeFortsett »
selling organization should be formed for the purpose of marketing British iron and steel products in an efficient and economical manner. This organization should comprise a central body with separate sections, each dealing with the producers controlled by existing associations.” Only in this way is producing and consuming to be knit together and co-ordinated by intelligence departments in touch with both functions. This is specially necessary for foreign trade, and needs Government aid and support. Every industrial State should have its properly equipped and staffed industrial department attached to its Embassies, studying markets, exchanges, labour and social conditions, and everything must be done thoroughly and on a large scale, and not as hitherto by yawning uninterested officials who felt in their hearts that commerce was rather a kitchen companion for high diplomacy. A parallel change is coming over advertising itself, and a type of advertisement is appearing which is truly an announcement of goods, so that the public may know of them, and gives information and demonstrates how best to use them. This is still mixed up with puffing the advantage of rival firms, but it foreshadows what economic advertisement can be and will be under Socialism. The greatest waste in distribution is found in the retail trade. Shops extend through street after street by the score and the hundred, each with separate staffs, managers, counting-houses, none of which can be used with the utmost economy. Rents are forced up and the tolls of monopoly increased by the competition, for competition increases the exploiting opportunities of monopolies. In every suburban street in the afternoon one sees delivery vans by the half dozen distributing imperfect loads of goods sent from shops within a few yards of each other to customers living next door to each other. To sit by a window in one of these streets from early morning when the invasion of rival milkmen is timed, till the evening, when the last delivery van leaves, is to behold a wonderful pageantry of the waste and inefficiency of the capitalist distributive system. On the face of it, it looks as though this overlapping and rivalry meant cheapness, variety of choice, accommodation for customers and such like advantages. It is not so in reality. These wastes are superfluous costs and must be paid for in the price or the quality of goods. Now and again when there is a shop window war on, the gazers from the pavement may be deceived to generalize from an incident which never means much, and which soon ends, that competition means cheapness; but this rule can be laid down with certainty that real cheapness can never be a consequence of an expensive system. Variety can be as well secured by organization as by rivalry, and to seek for hours, and perhaps for days, through miles of streets some matter of taste or peculiarity which, when it is found, means little or nothing, is neither the best way to employ time nor to organize distribution; and whilst it is quite true that, if the greater part of the machinery of distribution were to fall into the hands of great stores or federations of multiple shops, the capitalist controllers might be induced to add to profits by limiting the conveniences they afford to customers, that would not be the case were the organization specially promoted and managed for the convenience of the consumer as is the case with the Co-operative Stores. To secure this, the consuming public should
have a direct influence upon the management as the Socialist proposes.
We are so accustomed, however, to the private shop, ranging from the little accumulation of inferior, fly-blown and expensive soap, sweets and groceries in the room of a private dwelling in a back street, to the great stores in the West End shopping regions of London or Princes Street, Edinburgh, that we find it hard to conceive of any other system. Here, habit provides large blinkers, and we can only see what is at our feet. The store itself is an earnest of complete organization; the multiple shop gives further hints of it; the Co-operative movement comes nearest to it in likeness. This movement in its present form is not pure distribution. It is, however, a proof that distribution cannot be dealt with except in relation to production and transport— that these functions must be organized in harmony. Therefore it is important to note the evolution of the Co-operative machinery in its business forms.” The Co-operative movement has become by the necessity imposed upon it by its own needs not only an organization for distribution, but one of production, and contains within itself all the processes which have been divided and subdivided by Capitalism, and put into self-regarding, profit-making, water-tight compartments. The history of the Co-operative movement proves that there is no half-way or partial organization possible so soon as community interests are thought of. It must be complete from beginning to end.
*See pp. 82-83.
On its purely distributive side, it would be hard to deny that the Co-operative organization has brought upon the tables and backs of the middle sections of the wage earners a variety of articles, sound in quality and moderate in cost, which no shop-keeping rivalry could have done. The very faults of the Co-operative movement, as, for instance, its proneness to follow conservative habits in selecting the goods supplied, have not been without advantage in protecting customers against useless and transitory fashions and fraud. If things have to be tested by the public before they appear on the Co-operative Store counter, all the better for the customers.
I am now able to use this critical survey for the foundation of some constructive Socialist proposals. Some will be quite definite and of the nature of items in a programme that ought to be carried out at once, some of the nature of experiments that ought to be watched with critical care, some only suggestions of a more general character which must await changes to show the definite line of advance—suggestions, however, which may not be without value as indicating the purpose and the methods of whatever forms of organization may arise from fuller and riper experience.
ACCUMULATION AND THE PROVISION OF CAPITAL
First of all the Socialist must deal with massed wealth, for from that come the characteristic features of capitalist distribution. I have already
given the figures of the distribution of national income, and here, according to the report of the Inland Revenue officials, are those of national wealth. In a year (1915) when 670,000 persons died, 594,000 left no estate at all or one under £100—that is, they were able to bury themselves and provide mourning for their relatives and not much more. Only 75,789 left estates of over £100. The aggregate value of the estates amounted to £800,000,000 in round figures, but of that £211,600,000 belonged to 4,400 persons. Sir Leo Chiozza Money estimates that “one-seventieth part of the population owns about two-thirds of the entire accumulated wealth of the United Kingdom.” Death duty and Succession duty statements are always drawn in the interest of the heirs when that is possible, but the under-estimating does not take place in connexion with estates of under £100. There may have been gifts before death, but they can in no case amount to much. In the most rare cases are they so large as to give the recipient a lien on future production. Now, it is perfectly obvious that inherited wealth is the chief instrument by which land monopoly, capitalist production and capitalist distribution are secured. The process is interesting. It is by no means to be condemned altogether, for it has merits which should not be sacrificed, but it has become such an accepted thing that even the suggestion that it should be examined and its claims brought before the bar of reason, frightens people and savours of robbery. Whoever is interested in the reformation of Society and the ending of the great anomalies of the existing one which now threaten civil and economic peace, must, however,