Front Page Titles (by Subject) (d). Effect of Crises on the best paid part of the Working Class. - Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume I: The Process of Capitalist Production
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(d). Effect of Crises on the best paid part of the Working Class. - Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume I: The Process of Capitalist Production 
Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume I: The Process of Capitalist Production, by Karl Marx. Trans. from the 3rd German edition, by Samuel Moore and Edward Aveling, ed. Federick Engels. Revised and amplified according to the 4th German ed. by Ernest Untermann (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Co., 1909).
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(d). Effect of Crises on the best paid part of the Working Class.
Before I turn to the regular agricultural labourers, I may be allowed to show, by one example, how industrial revulsions affect even the best-paid, the aristocracy, of the working-class. It will be remembered that the year 1857 brought one of the great crises with which the industrial cycle periodically ends. The next termination of the cycle was due in 1866. Already discounted in the regular factory districts by the cotton famine, which threw much capital from its wonted sphere into the great centres of the money-market, the crisis assumed, at this time, an especially financial character. Its outbreak in 1866 was signalised by the failure of a gigantic London Bank, immediately followed by the collapse of countless swindling companies. One of the great London branches of industry involved in the catastrophe was iron shipbuilding. The magnates of this trade had not only over-produced beyond all measure during the overtrading time, but they had, besides, engaged in enormous contracts on the speculation that credit would be forthcoming to an equivalent extent. Now, a terrible reaction set in, that even at this hour (the end of March, 1867) continues in this and other London industries.71 To show the condition of the labourers, I quote the following from the circumstantial report of a correspondent of the "Morning Star," who, at the end of 1866, and beginning of 1867, visited the chief centres of distress: "In the East End districts of Poplar, Millwall, Greenwich, Deptford, Limehouse and Canning Town, at least 15,000 workmen and their families were in a state of utter destitution, and 3000 skilled mechanics were breaking stones in the workhouse yard (after distress of over half a year's duration)....I had great difficulty in reaching the workhouse door, for a hungry crowd besieged it....They were waiting for their tickets, but the time had not yet arrived for the distribution. The yard was a great square place with an open shed running all round it, and several large heaps of snow covered the paving-stones in the middle. In the middle, also, were little wicker-fenced spaces, like sheep pens, where in finer weather the men worked; but on the day of my visit the pens were so snowed up that nobody could sit in them. Men were busy, however, in the open shed breaking paving-stones into macadam. Each man had a big paving-stone for a seat, and he chipped away at the rime-covered granite with a big hammer until he had broken up, and think! five bushels of it, and then he had done his day's work, and got his day's pay—threepence and an allowance of food. In another part of the yard was a rickety little wooden house, and when we opened the door of it, we found it filled with men who were huddled together shoulder to shoulder, for the warmth of one another's bodies and breath. They were picking oakum and disputing the while as to which could work the longest on a given quantity of food—for endurance was the point of honour. Seven thousand...in this one workhouse...were recipients of relief...many hundreds of them...it appeared, were, six or eight months ago, earning the highest wages paid to artisans....Their number would be more than doubled by the count of those who, having exhausted all their savings, still refuse to apply to the parish, because they have a little left to pawn. Leaving the workhouse, I took a walk through the streets, mostly of little one-storey houses, that abound in the neighbourhood of Poplar. My guide was a member of the Committee of the Unemployed....My first call was on an ironworker who had been seven and twenty weeks out of employment. I found the man with his family sitting in a little back room. The room was not bare of furniture, and there was a fire in it. This was necessary to keep the naked feet of the young children from getting frost bitten, for it was a bitterly cold day. On a tray in front of the fire lay a quantity of oakum, which the wife and children were picking in return for their allowance from the parish. The man worked in the stone yard of the workhouse for a certain ratio of food, and three pence per day. He had now come home to dinner quite hungry, as he told us with a melancholy smile, and his dinner consisted of a couple of slices of bread and dripping, and a cup of milkless tea....The next door at which we knocked was opened by a middle-aged woman, who, without saying a word, led us into a little back parlour, in which sat all her family, silent and fixedly staring at a rapidly dying fire. Such desolation, such hopelessness was about these people and their little room, as I should not care to witness again. 'Nothing have they done, sir,' said the woman, pointing to her boys, 'for six and twenty weeks; and all our money gone—all the twenty pounds that me and father saved when times were better, thinking it would yield a little to keep us when we got past work. Look at it,' she said, almost fiercely, bringing out a bank book with all its well-kept entries of money paid in, and money taken out, so that we could see how the little fortune had begun with the first five shilling deposit, and had grown by little and little to be twenty pounds, and how it had melted down again till the sum in hand got from pounds to shillings, and the last entry made the book as worthless as a blank sheet. This family received relief from the workhouse, and it furnished them with just one scanty meal per day....Our next visit was to an iron labourer's wife, whose husband had worked in the yards. We found her ill from want of food, lying on a mattress in her clothes, and just covered with a strip of carpet, for all the bedding had been pawned. Two wretched children were tending her, themselves looking as much in need of nursing as their mother. Nineteen weeks of enforced idleness had brought them to this pass, and while the mother told the history of that bitter past, she moaned as if all her faith in a future that should atone for it were dead....On getting outside a young fellow came running after us, and asked us to step inside his house and see if anything could be done for him. A young wife, two pretty children, a cluster of pawn-tickets, and a bare room were all he had to show."
On the after pains of the crisis of 1866, the following extract from a Tory newspaper. It must not be forgotten that the East-end of London, which is here dealt with, is not only the seat of the iron shipbuilding mentioned above, but also of a so-called "home-industry" always underpaid. "A frightful spectacle was to be seen yesterday in one part of the metropolis. Although the unemployed thousands of the East End did not parade with their black flags en masse, the human torrent was imposing enough. Let us remember what these people suffer. They are dying of hunger. That is the simple and terrible fact. There are 40,000 of them....In our presence, in one quarter of this wonderful metropolis, are packed—next door to the most enormous accumulation of wealth the world ever saw—cheek by jowel with this are 40,000 helpless, starving people. These thousands are now breaking in upon the other quarters, always half-starving, they cry their misery in our ears, they cry to Heaven, they tell us from their miserable dwellings, that it is impossible for them to find work, and useless for them to beg. The local ratepayers themselves are driven by the parochial charges to the verge of pauperism."—("Standard," 5th April, 1866.)
As it is the fashion amongst English capitalists to quote Belgium as the Paradise of the labourer becauses "freedom of labour," or what is the same thing, "freedom of capital," is there limited neither by the despotism of Trade's Unions, nor by Factory Acts, a word or two on the "happiness" of the Belgian labourer. Assuredly no one was more thoroughly initiated in the mysteries of this happiness than the late M. Ducpétiaux, inspector-general of Belgian prisons and charitable institutions, and member of the central commission of Belgian statistics. Let us take his work: "Budgets économiques des classes ouvrières de la Belgique, Bruxelles, 1855." Here we find among other matters, a normal Belgian labourer's family, whose yearly income and expenditure he calculates on very exact data, and whose conditions of nourishment are then compared with those of the soldier, sailor, and prisoner. The family "consists of father, mother, and four children." Of these 6 persons "four may be usefully employed the whole year through." It is assumed that "there is no sick person nor one incapable of work, among them," nor are there "expenses for religious, moral, and intellectual purposes, except a very small sum for church sittings," nor "contributions to savings banks or benefit societies," nor "expenses due to luxury or the result of improvidence." The father and eldest son, however, allow themselves "the use of tobacco," and on Sundays "go to the cabaret," for which a whole 86 centimes a week are reckoned. "From a general compilation of wages allowed to the labourers in different trades, it follows that the highest average of daily wage is 1 franc 56c., for men, 89 centimes for women, 56 centimes for boys, and 55 centimes for girls. Calculated at this rate, the resource of the family would amount, at the maximum, to 1068 francs a-year. ...In the family...taken as typical we have calculated all possible resources. But in ascribing wages to the mother of the family we raise the question of the direction of the household. How will its internal economy be cared for? Who will look after the young children? Who will get ready the meals, do the washing and mending? This is the dilemma incessantly presented to the labourers."
According to this the budget of the family is:
The annual expenditure of the family would cause a deficit upon the hypothesis that the labourer has the food of:
"We see that few labouring families can reach, we will not say the average of the sailor or soldier, but even that of the prisoner. The general average (of the cost of each prisoner in the different prisons during the period 1847-1849), has been 63 centimes for all prisons. This figure, compared with that of the daily maintenance of the labourer, shows a difference of 13 centimes. It must be remarked further, that if in the prisons it is necessary to set down in the account the expenses of administration and surveillance on the other hand, the prisoners have not to pay for their lodging; that the purchases they make at the canteens are not included in the expenses of maintenance, and that these expenses are greatly lowered in consequence of the large number of persons that make up the establishments, and of contracting for or buying wholesale, the food and other things that enter into their consumption. ...How comes it, however, that a great number, we might say, a great majority, of labourers, live in a more economical way? It is...by adopting expedients, the secret of which only the labourer knows; by reducing his daily rations; by substituting rye-bread for wheat; by eating less meat, or even none at all, and the same with butter and condiments; by contenting themselves with one or two rooms where the family is crammed together, where boys and girls sleep side by side, often on the same pallet; by economy of clothing, washing, decency; by giving up the Sunday diversions; by, in short, resigning themselves to the most painful privations. Once arrived at this extreme limit, the least rise in the price of food, stoppage of work, illness, increases the labourer's distress and determines his complete ruin; debts accumulate, credit fails, the most necessary clothes and furniture are pawned, and finally, the family asks to be enrolled on the list of paupers." (Ducpétiaux, l. c., pp. 151, 154, 155.) In fact, in this "Paradise of capitalists" there follows, on the smallest change in the price of the most essential means of subsistence, a change in the number of deaths and crimes! (See Manifesto of the Maatschappij: De Vlamingen Vooruit! Brussels, 1860, pp. 15, 16.) In all Belgium are 930,000 families, of whom, according to the official statistics, 90,000 are wealthy and on the list of voters =450,000 persons; 190,000 families of the lower middle-class in towns and villages, the greater part of them constantly sinking into the proletariat,=1,950,000 persons. Finally, 450,000 working-class families=2,250,000 persons of whom the model ones enjoy the happiness depicted by Ducpétiaux. Of the 450,000 working-class families, over 200,000 are on the pauper list.
[71.] "Wholesale starvation of the London Poor.... Within the last few days the walls of London have been placarded with large posters, bearing the following remarkable announcement:—'Fat oxen! Starving men! The fat oxen from their palace of glass have gone to feed the rich in their luxurious abode, while the starving men are left to rot and die in their wrecked dens.' The placards bearing these ominous words are put up at certain intervals. No sooner has one set been defaced or covered over, than a fresh set is placarded in the former, or some equally public place.... This...reminds one of the secret revolutionary associations which prepared the French people for the events of 1789.... At this moment, while English workmen with their wives and children are dying of cold and hunger, there are millions of English gold—the produce of English labour—being invested in Russian, Spanish, Italian, and other foreign enterprises."—"Reynolds' Newspaper," January 20th, 1867.