Labor and the Case for High Wages

While the hard shell Tory moans and groans and imagines that stark ruin is descending upon
him because a high wage standard is still maintained while the working week is slightly
shortened, Labor, which makes a study of political economy the foundation of its policy,
merely smiles while pushing on with the good work. Labor will save the Tory in spite of
himself, and bring such prosperity to this country that it will truly fit that old description, “a
land flowing with milk and honey.”

The Tory fumes all the time over high wages, and he would reduce them if he could. Yet, by
this act, he would chop down the very tree of prosperity.

High wages bring prosperity. Henry Ford has preached that doctrine the wide world over; but
long before he built his first motor car, Labor knew it, and made wage increases the fighting
plank of the trade union platform.

And, inversely, low wages mean poverty and industrial depression. Every low wage country in
the world is a backward country, and its backwardness can be accurately gauged by the lowness
of its wage standard.

How often nowadays are we told that Britain is slipping back, that she no longer holds her
former grip on foreign markets. But side by side with her loss of trade runs the fact that her
wage rate in ratio to her cost of living has very much decreased, while just the opposite may be
said of those nations who stand as her most formidable trade rivals.

Once England paid the highest wages in the world, and the German, Belgian, Norwegian, and
Italian eagerly sought her factories and mines in search of employment on such favourable
terms. Do they do so now?

The British Tory complains that foreign competition has stripped him of his overseas markets.
But in his frantic endeavours to impose wage reductions on the workers he entirely fails to
realise that what is really needed is a large wage increase. For a large wage increase would
mean a corresponding stimulus to the home market resulting from the increased purchasing
power of the British workers.

The same line of reasoning applies to the Commonwealth, and, nearer home, to our own State
of Western Australia. In the days when wages were low this was a backward colony where
stagnation sat on every doorstep. Nowadays, with a wage rate which makes Tories moan in
their sleep, visitors and returned globe trotters marvel at our prosperity.

How does it come about? Just this way. The well-paid worker aspires to comfort and the better
things of life. He has the chance, with a little financial ingenuity, to own his own home. This
desire and power to possess a real home leads to the building of houses and a stimulated
building trade, with resulting work for thousands in all branches of industry. Then comes the
furnishing of the home, which stimulates industry throughout another range of trades. And so
the magic circle ever widening is completed.

The low wage worker creeps to a tenement which a landlord built as a strictly business
speculation. There he lives with his family, very often in a single room, while family after
family are piled one above the other until the great drab building resembles an ant hill.

Imagine the hopelessness of it. Picture the spending power of such workers and the trifling
effect that their puny purchases have on a market. Yet they toil and produce; but their produce
is taken from them to be exported to some unwilling market overseas.

Such low wage conditions represent the ideal state of society to the Tory mind.

Labor takes the other ideal—of the high paid worker living in his own home surrounded by
moderate comfort, and spending his existence as a normal human being.

Labor has accomplished much of this already by the workers being true to themselves and
turning a deaf ear to Tory predictions of ruin, while disregarding those apostates who, for
selfish reasons, have from time to time deserted the Party.

Labor can do more and will do more. Nor will the people fail to give themselves the power to
push ahead with what is actually the People's Programme.

The Perplexity of the Chinese Critics

The military geniuses who supply us with the cabled accounts of the Chinese civil war have
made a belated discovery. For weeks, in fact months, past they have been crying for British
intervention to prevent the Cantonese from capturing and looting Shanghai. The Cantonese
Minister for Foreign Affairs has said time after time that his Government had no intention of
taking Shanghai by force, but they never believed him. To have done so would have made their
own agitation too ridiculous.

But the progress of events has made things so obvious even to them that we suddenly get this:
“diplomacy, not military incompetence, is responsible for them (the Cantonese) halting on the
outskirts of Shanghai and staging a flank attack instead of driving direct and precipitating an
encounter within earshot of Shanghai. By driving north-east and cutting off the Shangtungites
from their Nanking base, they will achieve the same object and avoid international
complications arising from possible shells falling in Shanghai.”

Exactly, but all this has been obvious enough for some time. As soon as the Shanghai-Nanking
railway is seriously menaced Ghang-Chung-Chang's brigands who are allegedly defending
Shanghai will have to streak away northward as fast as possible, or be cut off. Their general,
whom a London cablegram now describes as “one of the greatest scoundrels in China,” is
himself already keeping well to the northward of the danger point. Suh-Chang-Fang is already
eliminated, Chang-Chung-Chang is about to be, and even Chang-Tso-Lin, who has not yet
faced the Cantonese, is rumored to be desirous of negotiating.

That the Southerners know what they are about is emphasised by the fact that their whole
campaign, since it started about last August, has been strongly reminiscent of the German drive
across Poland into Russia in 1915-16. In that case enemy towns were taken by the Germans
directly if convenient; if not, they were taken by working round behind them and threatening
their communications.

Shanghai is going to fall in much the same way as Warsaw fell. But in every respect the Great
War seems to have been fought in vain. Even as a source of instruction in strategy and military
tactics, so far as our cablegrammers are concerned, was it fought in vain.

March 18, 1927
The Westralian Worker
Friday, March 18, 1927