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Page:Studies in socialism 1906.djvu/24

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themselves the care of making it yield a certain return. Self-interest and honesty combined make them see to it that he gets as large a return as possible: they are "looking after the interests of their stockholders," and with their eyes fixed on that side of the "labour-contract," they not unnaturally disregard the other. One sees constant examples of this during strikes, when the employees urge on the one hand that they are working ten hours a day for a bare "living wage," and the answer of the representative of the employers always is: "But as it is we only just make enough profit to pay our dividends, so any question of raising wages is absurd." The manager of an impersonal business concern may be a most just and tender-hearted man, but as an agent he has no choice but to ensure the profit of his employers before he can consider the "standard of life" of their employees. And the individual owner may be a just and tender-hearted man, but what can one shareholder in a great trust do to change the wages or conditions of work of the employees of the trust? Our vast organisation of industry has completely separated the owner from the producer. He may feel a sense of responsibility for the lives of those non-owners whose work brings him his yearly quota of comfort and pleasure, but he is as helplessly a part of the system as the poorest labourer.

It is the system and not the individual who profits by it that is the important factor in the