Category Archives: Work, Europe and Utopia

Henri Brugmans, European Centre for Work and Society

Work, Europe and Utopia – part ten by Henri Brugmans

10 Provisional Conclusions

Concluding this paper, it is clear that the “crisis” of the present time is not one of relatively short duration, to be struggled through as best we can. On the contrary, the persistence, in particular, of endemic unemployment which promises to remain with us for a long time, illustrates the gravity of the evils which confront us. It is more a matter of a cultural change, one of those historical transformations in which both the basic concepts and the organisational structures are challenged. We have sought to throw light on certain particular aspects, but we must admit that, in none of these areas, do we yet find ourselves faced with a genuine revival, or a bold attempt to tackle the roots of the problems. This absence of “leadership” which arises is all the more dangerous for our regime, our way of life, precisely because democracy cannot prosper without a sense of authority, without the certainty of being directed towards fixed goals. Where this need for effective authority is not satisfied there is the risk of nurturing desires for totalitarian dictatorship, of whatever political persuasion. It is relatively unimportant whether the new sensibility arises in one particular area or another. What is essential is that public opinion has a sense of clarity on the part of its leaders and will to achieve certain objectives = and that it feels itself affected, and is called upon to make its own contribution. In effect, democracy is not solely control of rulers by the people and their representatives; it is also policy clearly defined in terms of clear principles.

But if our society is afflicted with indecision, it is not a matter of one or another national society in particular. Certainly in one country the situation appears a little different than in another. One country has strenghts and weaknesses unknown to another. But on the whole all of us outside state-controlled Europe, in other words in the West, are in the same boat. The European Economic Community is the halting and provisional expression of this irreversible truth.

The E.E.C. had, in the beginning, two complementary objectives. In the first place it had to break down frontiers and customs barriers between member states. This task was called “negative integration”; it was accomplished after a fashion and in record time – even if the national governments continue to obstruct the process. But the second task, much more difficult to achieve, that of so-called “positive integration” – to achieve together what one could no longer do well in isolation – has scarcely been begun. Only agriculture was by virtue of the Treaty of Rome to become a community responsibility. But the broad policy which ought to have gone along with it has been engulfed in quarrels over prices, subsidies and production quotas. The result has been a state of affairs which greatly benefits the large producers, but hardly permits smaller ones to lead a decent life. In other sectors – industry, transport, finance – nothing or very little has been achieved in the way of introducing a common European administration.

It is thus for good reason that some people criticise the community for remaining “liberal” and for having removed the barriers which hindered commerce without having introduced the planning which would be necessary to give shape to a new solidarity. But these critics have been wrong to conclude from their findings that it is necessary to fall back upon “national solutions”.

The areas that suffer most from the absence of “leadership” are above all regional policy and, of particular concern to us here, social policy.

Undoubtedly, one could not say that nothing has been done. Italian migrant workers in another community country know something about this. The Treaty of Rome has enabled them to benefit immediately, in Germany or elsewhere, from all the social security legislation the enjoyment of which up until then was reserved for nationals. In addition, a certain harmonisation has been possible, generally in the direction of improvement. Workers from the less favoured countries and employers of more generous countries, had a common interest in raising the standards to the level of the best.

Nevertheless, no attempt has been made to outline the features of another type of society, specifically European in being at the one time different from Soviet state-control and American liberalism. On the other hand, employers have grasped much more quickly and more vigorously than the trade union movement, the opportunities and risks which European interation offered them. Certainly, there is a mass of workers organised at a European level, but up to now, it has scarcely defined a clear and convincing policy. It has really been more a case of an office which played a useful role in following events, rather than being boldly progressive. But this undoubtedly is no more than a beginning.

In conclusion, the existence of a federal union of Europe is scarcely justified if it does not lead to new forms of social organisation. Europeans do not aspire towards unity for its own sake, but towards the possibility of coming nearer to greater human justice. And further, they are beginning to understand, still vaguely, that all the promises which have been made to them in this respect are, as long as they remain within national frontiers, nothing more than electioneering demagogy. In short, there will be no Europe without a plan for the future. But there will be no plan for the future realisable unless adequate continental space is available.

In effect, (what we have been saying unceasingly (=continuously) in the course of this paper): the reconstruction of our structures is inconceivable in a single country, because every country infatuated (inspired with an intense but short lived passion) with progress always risks endangering its competitive position. If it is to embark upon reconstruction and break out of its lethargy, Europe must act as a whole. Undoubtedly, small-scale experiments will still be necessary and Roosevelt was right to say, as he once did, that every state of the Union was a laboratory in the matter of its own legislation. But when it comes to applying the results of this experimentation the costs are such that they must be assumed collectively. The European Community constitues the smallest workable unit in this respect.

In short the existence of national states hungry for absolute power condemns us nowadays to impotence, and constitutes a major barrier on the way to progress. It is possible that even Europe is not suffieciently large of an entity; perhaps we should be thinking instead of the O.E.C.D. countries, which also include North America and Japan. Jean-Francois Deniau was right to point out in Europe without Power that there will never be a purely “European” economy: we will always have to pay the utmost attention to the Dollar and the Yen.

This being the case, the concept of a “national economy” is, a forteriori, meaningless. But if Europe’s originality is not to be found in the economic realm, it is certainly outstanding in the cultural. If Eurpe is anything it is a unique civilisation, and this uniqueness is most apparent in its social structure. Some essential industrial technology is the same everywhere, but workers’ aspirations are very different in Osaka and Pittsburgh from what they are in Essen or the suburbs of Paris.

This European civilisation is possibly no better than the others. But, undoubtedly, it has a role to play in a world seeking to bring about some form of international agreement, involving Eastern Europe, the U.S.S.R., the United States, Black Africa, the Arab countries, Latin America, South-East Asia. Within each of these land masses, there will be different degrees of private- and public ownership, but everywhere there will be problems which demand immediate attention. In the future, no one would tolerate the disgrace of famine and the injustice of entire peoples exploited by more powerful forces. Europe could take the lead in this debate, but cannot hope to do so as long as nationalism among European states remains the governing law.

A vision such as this of a world finally peaceful and united could not have come to the Euroepans of the 1930s. No one, in fact, ever dreamt of it. Despite the terrible poverty of the unemployed at that time the crisis then remained relatively limited. It did not yet involve the whole world and was of relatively short duration. There was soon an upturn of the business cycle and the new Keynesian policy of deficit spending could produce spectacular results, much to the amazement of classical economists. In 1933, Hitler, having come to power, had already the good fortune of an assured economic revival, and war preparations did the rest. In the United Staes, Roosevelt made some lasting innovations by setting up a social security system which, although subsequently modified, was never abolished.

Today it is a different story. Keynesian economics produces nothing but inflation. The slight recovery, tentatively announced every so often, does not reduce the enormous number of unemployed in Europe. It is a collective reappraisal that is needed from Europeans, lest (with the intension of preventing) otherwise they slide gently towards the gilded (false brilliance) poverty of civilisations which have lost the chance of recovery.

It is far from certain whether Europeans, exhausted by their wars and their failures, will have nough energy to embark upon such an undertaking. All that can be said for sure is a renaissance will never be achieved without a plausible utopia, without the “leap in the dark” which Robert Schuman was brave enough to inaugurate, in his declaration of 9 May 1950. They were then talking about coal and steel, which were still thought to be the basis of the modern economy. But, at the end of the day, those pioneers were not simply interested in these particular products but in giving a boost to the European ideal.

It is in this spirit that this paper has been written. It cotains no ready-made solutions, but is intended to make the reader reflect upon the problems that face us in the future.

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Work, Europe and Utopia – part nine by Henri Brugmans

9. Reduction in working hours

One of the main demands of the working class movement in the years before the 1914-1918 War was that “the eight hour day”. A sort of “mystique” even grew up around this issue: “eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep, eight hours to live as a free man”. The idea of the First of May, which started in America, had as its aim to base an international spectacle upon this issue. In spite of strong resistance from employers, who often produced alarming statistics, the goal was achieved almost everywhere, during the ’20s. Under the influence of Albert Thomas, the Inernational Labour Office concentrated a good deal of its time on this particularly popular reform.

During the recession of the ’30s an even more radical diminution of working hours was proposed as a means of combatting unemployment. It is true it was relatively less popular in Europe, but in America the architects of the New Deal held out great hopes for it. The line of argument moreover was simple: to divide what work was available between a larger number of workers. Moreover it was thought that this reform would not be too costly, because by proceeding in this way substantial savings could be made in the payment of unemployment benefits. However, the results did not come up to these expectations.

The present “crisis” has rekindled this debate. We shall make a few general observations.

The first argument is already familiar to the reader, having already been stated elsewhere in this paper, that the scope of national action is particularly limited here. In any country where trade union pressure led to the introduction by legislation of the 36 hour week, for example, they would necessarily find costs of production increasing and consequently export opportunities diminishing. It is thus necessary to think at least in continental, and, preferably , in global terms. At least the European Economic Community offers a framework of progress, which the United Nations is far from doing. On top of which, one can hope that this is an area where Europeans will play a progressive social role. It is moreover conceivable that to safeguard such progress, it will one day be necessary to instigate (bring about or initiate) anti-dumping measures, a practice which is, on the whole, always deplorable, even thought necessary in certain limited circumstances, Again, this is a two-edged sword which must be used sparingly, since protectionism of any sort always provokes retaliation. Whatever the circumstances, however, an exclusively national demand in this area becomes worthless. The employers will always be right in claiming that foreign competition prevents them from taking the initiative.

Next, it would be very dangerous to base this demand upon an idelogy opposed to work, ne which is redesigned from the very beginning to a fatalistic (the belief that all events are predetermined and therefore inevitable) acceptance of servitude: earning your daily bread is always, inevitably, “hard labour”, while leisure alone gives man a possibility of realizing his potential. Certainly, Jean Fourastie could speak of a human existence in which professional work was limited to “40.000 hours” according to his calculation. But this number of hours, though reduced, remains so considerable that the time should not be filled with monotony and drudgery (dull work). Besides, the quality of leisure time is conditioned to a large extend by the impact of the job. This requires less physical effort than it once did, but it makes other demands on the nervous system, the impact of which cannot be ignored.

The direction, briefly, in which it seems we should proceed in this respect is as follows. The essence of what we are aiming at is not to be found in a systmatic dimunition (reducing the sice, extend or importance of something) of the quantity of work, but rather in a humanisation of our technology. In other words, the time is ripe for a “controlled technology”, the principal criterion of which would be the elimination of unhealty industrial processes – that is to say, those prejudicial to the physical and mental well being of the work force – in favour of methods at the same time economic in their consumption of raw materials and showing respect towards the person. Possibly, this is too much to ask at the one time, but it is the price Europe must pay if it wishes to give the world a model of a humanistic economy stated briefly, technological innovation is neither an imperative of progress to be passively accepted, nro a neutral product of science.

The person who most effectively opened up this groudn was Schumacher, first in his best-known work SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL, then, perhaps even more succesfully, in GOOD WORK. According to him, no one wishes to work more than is necessary, given the present state of technological development. However, nor does anyone want to submit to the drudgery of a type of industrial work devoid of all personal satisfaction, because of deafening noise, permanent noxious smells, monotony which – for certain types of people anyway – leads to a gradual deadening of the finest human faculties. Yet only occasionally have technologists taken account of the living conditions of those for whom they design their machines. A code of conduct needs to be outlined in this respect.

Lastly, if the reduction of working hours is perhps less important than the humanisation of working conditions, it may nevertheless have a certain importance in the fight against unemployment. On condition, however, that wages are sufficiently fair that so-called “moonlighting”is no longer an economic necessity and becomes, in consequence, a social evil to fight against. there again, European legislation is a high priority. But, of course, it will not be sufficient. What we also need to ensure is that the control of the new technology, spoken of above, involves equally opting for labour rather than capital intensive activities. That is already an imperative for Third World countries, where labour is plentiful and cheap. It is also so for the traditional industrial nations. In the present situaiton, in which profit is the main and often only criterion, it is too tempting to keep on replacing human labour with that of machines, to such an extent that, finally, society finds itself burdened with a “reserve army” of labour, that is both numerous and permanent. Hence we are obiged to draw up a list of three imperatives: the needs to be met, the labour forces available, and the machines able to offer on the market at the one time an economically attractive product, an acceptable type of work, and reasonable levels of capital investment. A directed technology must find a balance between these three factors.

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Work, Europe and Utopia – part eight by Henri Brugmans

8. Industrial Democracy

We come to the question of “participation”, a word belonging as much to the vocabulary of Gaullism as to German trade unionism (“Mitbestimmung”). But it is passionately challenged by the majority of French trade unionists and, partly, also by a section of the British labour movement.

They speak of “autogestion” or of “workers’ control”. Are these systems irrecoilable? Is it always that the legal drafting of the articles for a “European company” runs up against the fact that the law imposes, in Germany, a type of “participation” which elsewhere the employers refuse? It has therefore been impossible to achieve the integration of teh continent, officially supported by all, because of a conflict of doctrine, the “Mitbestimmung” going too far for some people and not far enough for others. Here again, is an area the Centre would find it necessary to explore.

Finally, and whatever formula wins the day, one factor remains certain: no form of worker “participation” will be fruitful without a solid grounding in working class culture and a sense of civic responsibility. Managing an enterprise is not a task which is achieved solely by virtue of dogmatic principles. In order for the operation to be a success conditions have to be satisified such as the ability to read an annual report and balance sheet and to discern within it the broad outlines of a policy being followed, and the ability to discover the hidden intentions of a budget. Hence the need for a specialised training to be given to those who will carry responsibility in the enterprise.

But the idea of “responsibility” suggests not only technical know-how, but also a sense of the common interest. A polarisation of classes, within a Board of Directors, with each class considering the other their natural enemy, would destroy the whole project. There again, whetever the system of ownership, it remains true that the “boss”, the “manager” – even if elected by the workforce – will have different preoccupations from the representatives of the employees. It makes no difference whether the director is a state employee or the representative of a family: his desire to see the factory prosper in its own right is not necessarily shared by those who happen to work there, but could equally well work elsewhere. It is certainly so, then, that there is a difference of approach. But if this should harden into a permanent conflict the sense of common good (despite everything) will be lost. One will no longer be on speaking terms. Each will be deaf to the other’s point of view, increasing rather than eliminating alienation.

Nevertheless, this “common good” exists and can be discerned. There are issues on which “management” and workers are not necessarily irreconcilably divided: the struggle against noise, against job monotony, or against unhealthy working conditions. Even the drive for profit does not inevitably or single-mindedly tend towards tougher exploitation of the labour force. In conclusion: one of two things. Either, there is no common ground between management and workers (it matters little whether this management is “nationalised” or even freely elected) – and thus, it is useless to discuss forms of “participation” or “self-determination”. Or, this basis for understanding does exist, but in that case it is necessary to define it, in order for it to contribute to the removal of alienation.

Two problems remain. In the first place, experiments carried out in Yugoslavia in this area have shown that radical “self-determination” risks engendering (cause or give rise to) a real “firm loyalty”, likely to conflict with the policies for the administration of regional territories and national and international planning. Here again it will thus be a matter of finding a balance, which will be constantly shifting; there is, in short, a whole collection of problems for the Centre to stoyd.

Secondly, it is true that, everywhere, these different forms of “participation” always began with discussions on social questions; not until later were economic issues raised. Often the employers even believed that all they needed to do was to slot trade unionists who were on the board of management into the first category that came to mind: “give them responsibility for recreational activities, for example, that will give them something to chew on, and we will be left in peace to do the real work, that is to say, the managing.”

That was a far cry from the “deproletarisation” which should be the real objective. Further grievances (cause for complaint or protest) quickly emerged, and so the doctrine of the German trade unions was still relevant: “It is neither healthy, nor normal, nor acceptable, that the workers should be citizens with full rights in the State, but only second class citizens (“Untertane”) in the firm.” There is a whole area to be expored here. These problems, moreover, are particularly acute in the case of firms which belong to a vast “multinational” enterprise. In this respect it is obvious that the traditional demand for “nationalisation” is totally inadequate. One cannot nationalise something that is no longer national. Are we expected to make Philips-Eindhoven a municipal firm? However, it is clear that possibilities for “participation” within these organisations remain even more limited than elsewhere, because management decisions are taken, not solely with respect to Eindhoven, but for a group of plants, scattered across the world. In these circumstances, any dialogue between management and workers could only be a sham (a thing that is not what it is purported to be).

It is here, in fact, that the problem of social control of multinationals arises. Certainly one can see to it that at one level and another workers’ delegates participate in the life of the firm. But they will remain isolated and weak as long as they cannot also find support from responsible political authorities which, logically, ought to be federal, continental or intercontinental.

In a word, confronted with “big business”, which was established without anyone specifically consenting to it, but which is nevertheless necessary because it is modern, “big labour” must organise itself, as it has done already in the chemical industry. But “big government” must complete the picture, which will only then be fully democratic from the grass roots upwards. I am thinking in particular, but not exclusively, of the problems posed by the potential of contemporary technology: in what framework and to what end should it be used and should it all be used?

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Work, Europe and Utopia – part seven by Henri Brugmans

7. Working Conditions

An old French revolutionary song proclaims that they had chased out the kings and won a set of new rights but when it came to work they were still labouring under a penal (punishable by law) system. Anyone who has experienced a working class environment knows how much this complaint reflects a general feeling.

For a long time the working class movement cherished the illusion that everything would change once business ceased (come to an end) to be private property and came under public ownerhsip.

But it has had to change its tune. At the present time a large number of factories are in the hands of a respective states. In certain countries, such as Austria, more so than elsewhere, but the change has occurred almost everywhere.
But this transfer of ownership, once thought to represent a climate of complete indifference. Who can now discern (distinguish, percieve, recognize) any essential difference between privately-owned Citroen and nationalised Renault? The former firm would be unable to take any important step without consulting the Minister, while the Managing Director of the latter spends his time conducting his business in exactly the same way as he would if he were accountable to a meeting of shareholders. Nothing resembles a state-owned factory more than a so-called “private” factory, and conditions of work are not essentially different in the “capitalist” West and the “socialist” East. There must be some lesson for us to learn from this disconcerting uniformity.

During the 1930s, Henri de Man, then Professor at the Frankfurt Worker’s Institute, conducted an enquiry into “job satisfaction”. In so doing he produced a seminal work. He too, in his Marxist youth, had believed that the true social problem was that of ownership and that once workers were working not to enrich a society with wealthy, but for “the community”, they would go to their jobs each morning with intense satisfaction. His research led him to doubt whether this was true. The feeling of “alienation” was an unquestionable fact, but nationalisation would not put an end to it. The real problem would be rather what George Friedmann went on later to describe, in the phrase “fragmentation of work”:that is to say, the dividing-up of tasks which prevented the worker from achieving a result he would call his own from his efforts.

In the inter-war years, a third writer considered the question. But n contrast to de Man and Friedmann this writer was a genuine worker who had experienced factory life, in France and with Ford in Detroit: his name was Hyacinthe Dubreuil. For him, the solution was to rediscover within the enterprise team spirit (The Team and the Ball was in fact the title of one of his work), in other words, creating a limited group responsible for a specific task. In this scheme even a gigantic enterprise should be organised along federal lines, from the grass roots upwards, or rather like the model of the ciculation of blood – the higher echelons would find their original direction by means of initiatives from below, and then would often receive corrections and redirections from below.

In America Dubreuil experienced Taylorism. In principle he was not opposed to a rational organisation of human work. But equally he understood that a scientific system geared exclusively towards productivity – and, at the end of the day, the profit of the employer – must of necessity lead to an overexploitation of the work force. “Rationalisation” ought certainly to occur, but who was better able to implement it than the employees themelves, for whom the work was their daily life? And “rationaisation” had also to mean gaining for all interested parties the maximum amount of satisfaction, that is to say of freedom in the organisation of work. To force human beings to work as if one was dealing with robots, was not an inevitable demand of technical progress, but simply a bad method, ignoring an essential factor.

Hyacinthe Dubreuil’s lot was that of many pioneers: he was scarcely listened to and even had abuse heaped upon him. However, here and there, people are beginning to put into practice some of his principles. Often, moreover, without even knowing his name. THis was notably the case with Volvo in Sweden, where it is evident that this sort of decentralisation not only was not harmful to productivity, but on the contrary, contributed to its increase. No doubt an increase equally occurred in profit, but what is wrong with that, if this increased profit indicated a more healthy enterprise?

There exists currently in France a Hyacinthe Dubreuil Association carrying out research into the practical applications of the insights of this former metal-worker. The Centre would do well to make contact with htis organisation and to bring together, and classify, all the data already available in htis area. Regrettably, much time has been lost in this area due to the excessive and fruitless fascination with the problem of ownership which has for too long dominated the thoughts of so many who claim to be socialists. It is true that Marx had already pointed to the division of labour as one of the sources of the alienation of the proletariat, but it is unfortunately true that his followers scarcely take up this point. The time is now ripe (developed to the point of readiness for harvesting and eating) for it to be systematically explored. If the end must be to deproletise the working class, this undoubtedly is at least one of the ways to be considered.

On the question of deproletarisation a former German worker and trade unionist, George Leber, who later became Minister of Transport, and then Minister of Defence, proposed yet another approach which, besides, in no way contradicts the one which we have just mentioned. What he suggested was a gradual particiaption of employees in both management and ownership of the enterprise. Undoubtedly the basic capital will remain in the hands of the original shareholders, but as this capital increases as a result of economic success, that is to say, through the contribution of all, a progressively more equal distribution of shares ought to follow. Capital ought to cease to be exclusively “them” and become to a great extend “us”.

This project was not greeted with spontaneous enthusiasm by the German working class movement. Did it not tend to link the worker too much to the enterprise, and did the enterprise not, consequently, tend to become a quasi-totalitarian “social environment”? It is an open question and a new one, almost unknown in the debates that used to take place. It is a matter of measuring the implications and the potential.

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Work, Europe and Utopia – part six by Henri Brugmans

6. Composition of the labour force

Re-reading Engels on The Condition of the Working Class in England – or the first volume of CAPITAL – produces the impression that the labour force described there is quite homogeneous. broadly speaking, it can be summed up with the words “proletariat” and “exploitation”. It is a cohesive socail group. But social history has taken a step forward since then. Many things have considerably improved; the metal worker of today is no longer one of “the damned of the earth”, a “starveling” (an undernourished or emaciated person or animal). On the other hand, we have witnessed, especially since the last war, the emergence of a sub-proletariat, which in Germany has been graced with the fine name of “Gastarbeiter”, “guest worker”. These people are most often saddled with the work that involves the greatest drudgery, filth or danger, and they live in the most underprivileged parts of town, not that anyone has put them there by force – they aren’t “ghettos” in the true sense of the word – but they have gone there to be close to their compatriots.

It is a relatively new phenomenon but one which is likely to persist. It is not restricted to any one industrial country in particular, even if, in France one sees especially North Africans and in Germany above all Turks and Yugoslavs, while in Britain immigrants from the “blacks” commonwealth take advantage of ex-colonial status. But, because of some absurd instinct, each nation experiments with “its” immigrants as if “its” case was unique. It is at least true that the European Economic Community has commissioned a series of studies on what education should be provided for the children of these more or less permanent foreigners and that the Churches have made an effort to create reception centres. That is not much, when one considers that we are dealing with a tragedy involving hundreds of millions of men, women and children, throughout Europe.

In this area, it is necessary to take a stand against two equally sterile, if contradictory, attitudes.

On the one hand, the presence of a more or less homogeneous foreign group always risks arousing racist reactions, even in countries not traditionally prone to this. The phenomenon can be compared to that of Blacks in the United States, and it is always the poor whites who display the greatest hostility: what else have they to be proud of but the colour of their skin? To associate oneself with htese movements is unworthy of an honourable man. The Queen of the Netherlands gave a timely reminder of this to her subjects on the occasion of some deplorable (deserving strong condemnation) racist incidents.

But on the other hand, it is not sufficient to protest against the mistrust, vilification (speak or write about in an abusively disparaging manner) and violence which occurs in this area. It is also necessary to ask oneself if the presence of this sub-proletariat constitutes a necessity that will become permanent and whether this is a matter for rejoicing. For it would be justifiable to conclude that the situation is profoundly unhealthy.

First and foremost for the interested parties themselves: undoubtedly they earn, here, much better salaries than they would get at home. But for just that reason many of them have no other thought but to accept miserable living conditions in order to be able to send more money “home”. Certainly, this is a source of wealth for their country of origin and a useful adjustment to the balance of payments. But obtained at how great a social cost!? In short, it is difficult to tolerate being more or less permanently uprooted.

But major difficulties also emerge for the “host” countries. Undboubtedly, it is too easy – in fact false – to say that sending the aliens home will immediately create jobs for the nationals. But it remains no less so that it is offensive to see that national workers are always exempt from a certain category of work. Unemployment hits the human being at the deepest level of his dignity and someone who becomes accustomed to it has suffered a total moral breakdown. In conclusion: for all interested parties, the current situation becomes intolerable. We must look for solutions.

On the one hand, if certain countries, especially in the South and around the Mediterranean, send a surplus of “human resources” to other countries, it is because they are suffering from chronic under-development. Those, therefore, who get worked up about the presence of the “Gastarbeiter” in our towns, ought to show an exceptional interest in everything concerning the development of these poor regions. They ought especially to insist categorically on the necessity of a European regional policy – because we know only too well to what extent such a policy has been overlooked, in the midst of a community organisation too one-sidely in favour of free trade and cautious about radical measures.

One the other hand, is it established (as many people claim) that the workers of the “rich” countries recoil(suddenly spring or flinch back in fear, horror, or disgust) from unskilled work, preferring to be unemployed than (for example) sweeping the street? We do not know the answer. But if such a state of affairs has come to pass – and it remains to be proved – this would be a serious sign of decadence, against which it would be necessary to react. A possible response to this might be a period of compulsory work for everyone, young people of both sexes. The example of the People’s Republic of China ought to be studied in this respect, but in any case, we cannot allow things to go on like this.

However, the appearance of so many foreigners in the labour market does not constitue the only profound change in the structure of our labour force. The entry of women into economic life produced another upheaval.

This phenomenon begann in the course of the First World War: especially the armament factories. But the way had been opened, and now the economic, social and finally cultural emancipation of woman constitutes a reality which could not be reversed.
It is not a matter of discrediting “the housewife” but of admitting that an entirely new category of person has entered into the process of production. Here again, we find two contrary and equally negative attitudes: one dreaming of a return to the past (“send woman back to the home and there will be no more unemployment”…) and the other believing that the whole phenomenon will proceed without difficulty without the woman taking anybody’s place. The Centre ought to discredit these two errors, by dismissing them both out of court and above all, searching for solutions both for the long term and for the transition period.
It is necessary, here, to strike a balance between the free choice of the citizens and the demands of a society in the process of change. In this context, comparisons are of utmost importance. In the U.S.S.R., the medical profession consists largely of woman: why not? But then, it is necessary that the male students of medicine know this in advance. On the other hand, the Western traveller is often shocked to see that, in “socialist” countries, the heaviest work, such as road building, is consigned to women, often elderly. Is this emancipation or progress? one can ask the question, even without going so far as resorting to a numerus clausus.
In another connection, let us have no illusions: when a woman works, it is rarely because she has chosen work as a means of human fulfilment. All too often, it is a mater, for her, of increasing a family income which, without her participation, would be too meagre. Spiritual need often takes second place to material necessity. Once again, then it will be necessary here to prepare measures of planned sociology, in which personal fulfilment would be the rule. We shall return to this later.

Finally, the question of youth employment arises. We know the old refrain: one is unemployed because employers refuse to take on untrained apprentices; while this training on the whole can only be acquired “on the job”. In this area, considerable steps forward have already been made, especially in producing a closer match between industrial needs and school curricula. Here again, we have come a long way from the 1930s, when this problem of educational harmonisation was scarcely perceived. In this respect, the Scandinavian countries in particular have much to teach us, but national introversion has rarely allowed a sufficeint diffusion of the results achieved, whether they be negative or positive. the Centre ought, therefore, also to play a role in debate and in opening the way to free exchange of knowledge.

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Work, Europe and Utopia – part five by Henri Brugmans

5. Products and Methods of Production

A united Europe would be able to show the world that it was not compelled to choose between a bureaucratic and totalitarian system of State Socialism on the one hand, and a brutal liberalism on the other. But, of course, it would be necessary to show positive economic and social results. We must ask ourselves what this means and where in the historical process it places us.

The massive unemployment of the ’30s had at least one salutary effect: it gave rise to a greater social awareness of the problems. It gave birth to a new theme of economic activity: that of “full employment”. An accepted aim of policy became to give work to the greatest possible number of people. In the eyes of the public it was no longer enough that the owner alone made a profit. Henceforth the one objective to be achieved at any cost was to give work to everyone.
Today it is no longer so. Of course, full employment remains an essential objective, but the situation has been complicated by two recently discovered social problems.

The first we should point out is the hitherto (until now) unknown concern with ecology. I still remember clearly a campaign poster produced almost half a century ago, depicting factory chimneys belching out great clouds of black smoke: “This – thanks to us!”, declared the party, canvassing votes…. This would be unthinkable at the present time.

Secondly, during the ’30s, almost no one thought to ask what purpose industrial production served. It seemed enough that it provided work. Even today some trade unionists tend to get impatient with non-wage-related demands and shrug their shoulders when young people protest against the production of arms for Third World countries. “Intellectual scruples”, they grumble, “They don’t know what it’s like to work. The main thing is to fight unemployment. What does it matter what gets made, even if it does result in violence and death?” It is an attitude which one can fully understand, but it is shortsighted all the same. Moreover, an increasing number of trade unionists are no longer ignoring those whose concern extends beyond immediate interests.

Let us examine thee two aspects of work in more detail. To my knowledge, Balzac was the first author to describe an instance of seriouse industrial pollution in LA FEMME DE TRENTE ANS. But since then the evil has spread particularly alarmingly. Public opinion has good reason to be worried, torn between the alarming reports it receives on the one hand and the reassuring statistics that are given on the other. The prolonged economic crisis with which we are struggling – the French VIII Plan predicts that “the years to come will be worse than those that went before” – has not stifled the protests. We have been told in particular that the poisoning of water and air will pose more and more grave problems, not just for our well-being, but also for our very survival. Reputable scientists now arn against the danger of destroying the ozone layer of the atmosphere and of the climatic changes which could be catastrophic. In our present condition we do not know exactly where we are heading, but that, precisely, does nothing but increase people’s anxiety and feeling of insecurity.

However, these ecological problems can perfectly well be solved on a technological level. A radical pollution control might possibly work and after all, who can believe that a human race capable of landing on the moon is incapable of solving these particular problems? But (always the same problem…): the implementation of every solution costs money, increases the cost price of products and thus damages international competitiveness. There is a likelihood that, as a consequence, the nations and companies which are most conscious of their social role and most aware of the ecological dangers that threaten us, risk being crushed by competition from countries and firms who are less tkaen with rational progress, and let things slide. Generalising to an extreme degree, we can say that the South is, in this respect, more “liberal” and scrupulous than Northern Europe.
But the North cannot indefineitely, single-handedly, play a noble but over-costly role in this respect.
The only realistic solution, therefore, involves the introduction of a communal, transnational law, fixing limits beyond which carelessness cannot go, a law establishing minimum ecological standards. One of the chief tasks of the directly-elected European Parliament must be to set this procedure in motion. This is one of the concerns of the European Institute of Environment, set up in Bonn by the European Cultural Foundation.

The second question is what products to produce. There again independent research work ought to be carried out to distinguish priorities. But here, we come up against capitalism’s search for profit, on the one hand, and on the other, blind technological automatism. We shall explain.

Under the capitalist regime, whatever can be sold is useful by definition. Profitability is the norm. This is not bad, but insuffiecient. Of course, no one is arguing in favour of non-profitability; even countries with directed economies have been unable to avoid reintroducing the notion of profit as an economic indicator. however, the problem is to discover if it is always true that the products which sell best constitute for that reason the best form of human progress. Of course, the notion of “human progress” is obscure and requires clarification. It is none the less true that anyone looking at, for example, the list of commodities we export to the poor regions will be inclined to ask himslef whether they are the things these people really need most.

Nor is that all. Some large capitalist companies establish themselves in the Southern hemisphere, where they set up plantations producing for export, but doing this, often without their realising it – destroying the base of indigenous food production. Of course, this helps the trading balance of “developing” countries, but at what price? Once again, it is necessary to consider what our priorities in human terms are.

For a number of classical socialists the solution to such problems is still nationalisation. However, our postwar experience in particular has made us very much less confident that public authorities have, by definition, any greater concern for the welfare of the community than private capitalist. The disgraceful sale of arms to poor countries proceeds at just the same pace when the “blood money” goes to private enterprise as when it goes to national states. The latter make no exceptions to those they canvas as potential clients, this being done in the interest of full employment of course.

What about technological automatism? We are living at a time when it seems to be universally acknowledged that everything which can be produced ought to be produced. No one denies in this respect the splendid result achieved by the builders of the supersonic aeroplane “Concorde”. But more and more people question whether, at a time when tens of thousands of children die of starvation each day, it was entirely necessary to invest such vast sums of money in a project that allows a tiny minority of busy people to cross the Atlantic in just a few hours less.

The question of priorities keeps coming up, always raising the agonising (causing great physical or mental pain) problem of the purpose work should have in our century. It is certainly easy to laugh at “sentimentality” and the “moral guardians”, but is it wrong of the Churches and other cultural organisations to raise this problem and question the too readily accepted process of automatism?

One apparently more down-to-earth question remains. We have followed Marx in arguing that capitalism has been a source of economic and technological progress. Growth is its governing law. No one can deny this. But what will happen when one sees more clearly that expansion creates endemic unemployment in precisely those countries where capitalist development originated? Again, what if we were to find ourselves faced with the saturation of our markets?

Up until now, it was maintained that although all technological progress did create short-term unemployment, the machines which threw people out of work had themselves to be manufactured, thereby creating new jobs.

Hence, the critical attitude towards the English workers, “the Luddites“, who, at the beginning of the last century, “sabotaged” technological progress (from the French word “sabot” (a clog): literally, they threw their clogs into the machines). They were reactionary and were attacking the wrong problem. A contemporary authority such as Alfred Sauvy still argues this. He may be right. But what if the automatic compensationary mechanism did not function? We shall run into this problem later on; it needs to be discussed.

There remains to be discussed in this context the possible saturation of certain markets. Here, it is necessary to consider in partcular the car industry. First of all, doesn’t this lead to an irrational depletion (exhaustion) of our raw materials, which, as we have already seen, are not available in unlimited quantities? Furthermore, can one be certain of being able to sell them indefinitely? It is of course possible to compel the public to buy a second or a third car. But is this in the general interest, given the pollution thereby produced? And finally, even the most effective publicity campaigns reach saturation point. One can buy four cars if needed to be, but not ten…

In conclusion, a Centre which plans to study problems of work – evidently doing so in a comparative way – ought at least to consider the problems outlined here.

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Work, Europe and Utopia – part four by Henri Brugmans

4. “The Keys of the Kingdom”


Thus, for the first time in history, the events having the greatest influence on people’s lives, have become universal. This was not yet the case during the 1930s. The 1914 – 1918 war was not yet a “world” war except in name, and the same was so with the Great Depression. It was still possible, from one continent to another, to ignore it. Nowadays, in contrast, all the facts are known everywhere, almost as soon as they have taken place – China alone has choosen to ignore the American landing on the moon. We have therefore become a community of problems and information, even if we have not yet become one of solutions. Globalisation, for the moment, manifests itself above all in common suffering: wars have become global as have economic recessions. To the conclusions of the preceding chapter, we can now add that competition within capitalism on a world scale has become threathening, and will become more so in the near future.

How should we react? The initial response of a threathened group is that of protectionism. The rival has first to be discredited in the mind of his potential clients. In the past, when Great Britain realised that she was no longer the sole workshop or arsenal of the world and that German industrial might was going to overtake her, she coined the phrase “Jerry built”, intended to have a pejorative (a contempt or disapproval) meaning. It did no good. A similar attitude later arose at the time that Japan was entering the world market, when again its products were referred to as “cheap and nasty”. On top of which is added a “social” argument, as one sheds crocodile tears for the lot of underpaid Japanese workers. But there again, nothing came of it: the so-called “new” countries offer too attractive markets for our exports for us to be able to restrict their imports into our countries. We need an overall plan: what can we produce better than other people? What can we specialise in?
If the best place to be is always at the forefront, how can we place ourselves there? Here, neither individual enterprises nor nations, each looking after its own interests, nor even the independent research teams can provide the answer. The first see no further than their own sector of production and distribution, the second their traditions in conflict with those of their neighbours, and the third produce nothing but intellectual answers. This is so much the case that no powerful authority – that is to say responsible for a community at least the size of a continent -can put into effect their suggestions. It isn’t plans we have lacked, in Europe and the world, but the power to put them into effect!

But it isn’t only a matter of this economic globalisation, within which each one of us must find his place, but also a question of knowing whether the world is inexhaustibly furnshed with the means and the resources to continue to support the kind of society which surrounds us.

And here the Club of Rome is to be praised for raising the problem. Its conclusions have been criticised and it has itself produced substantial corrections. But the first report, however arguable, would not have created such a stir (strong feeling of excite) had the public not sensed, vaguely but undeniably, that we might well find ourselves today at the end of a historical cycle and at the end of a society which lived by expansion and could not exist in its present form other than by expansion. As Paul Valery put it: “It is the beginning of the end of the world”. We now know in effect that the earth is not inexhaustible. Of course, we also know that human genius can invent all sorts of substitutes, but nothing comes from nothing and we have reached a point when even fresh air is no longer free, and there is a risk of water becoming scarce. In politics ecologists may perhaps have been inept (having to show no skills), but they have put their finger exactly on the problem. It is easy to make fun of them, but difficult to clarify and to resolve the problems which they set out.

If we aspire to a more temperate society, more circumspect (unwilling to take risk) in the use of raw materials – a society where undoubteldly the value of craftsmanship will be appreciated more than the multiplicity of unnecessary gadgets – we will need to consider carefully our expectations and capabilities. This appraisal will also have to be “multinational”, and capitalist societies in the present world and the political powers of the future will have to rely upon it in order to put into effect their plans.

In these plans, moreover, it will not be a matter only of economics and social aspirations. They will have to be based upon a certian idea of our very civilisation. Undoubtedly, the revolt of 1968remained blind, but what one saw there was nevertheless a cultural uprising. They were rejecting a certain type of society, “affluent” but spiritually impoverished, “one-dimensional”; a society where more and more people could buy more and more commodities, but which “produced” as well an increasing number of suicides, divorces, abortions, acts of violence and drug-taking. In the elaboration of the overlall plan which we are proposing, Churches and other religious or spiritual communities must make a contribution of the first order because, more and more, nations and individuals aspire towards forms of cultural life both peaceful and stimulating. The economy is not able to invent these, but it can at least create the conditions in which they may flower. It ought not to impete (deley or prevent by obscuring them) it.

In any case, public opinion senses instictively that “things can’t go on much longer like this.” This is all the more true because of the unprecedented situation that the resources of the planet will not always be available to us at ta price which we would call “reasonable”. Of course, we can to a certain extent play off one producing country against another, and the oil companies are to be praised for supplying us with oil form the Venezuelans, at the moment when the Arabs attempted to bring us to our knees and force us into anti-Zionism. This does not alter the fact that our state of dependance, scarcely disguised by the term “interdependence”, is from now on a permanent fact of life.

Lastly, it is not solely a matter of buying whatever we lack at home: it is still necessary to transport it – and that raises the question of the command of the seas. Europe no longer “rules the waves” as Britain once did. At present, the Soviety navy is foremost in the world. It can cut our supply lines whenever it wants. This is beyond the scope of this essay but it was necessary to mention it.

Be that as it may, the “keys of our (economic) kingdom” are no longer in our own hands, not least in the matter of security. Given his state of affairs, a protectionist Europe is a doomed itself out in futile bursts of activity, would have surrendered all authority in the face of a hostile world which it no longer ruled. To hold “the keys” we must deserve them and to deserve them we must first know what we have to offer.

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