THE WESTERN MAIL
AND SOUTH WALES NEWS, February 17th, 1933
A WELSHMAN LOOKS AT EUROPE (vi)
HOME INDUSTRIES ON
By GARETH JONES
IN THE ORE MOUNTAINS,
IF one peeps into
the small cottages of the villages in this region one sees girls and women with
nimble fingers knitting lace around small buttons.
In some cottages
the men are fast at work rapidly carving pieces of wood into toys. With a
small hand-machine they prepare the rough outline of the forms of soldiers,
sheep, pigs, Noah’s Arks, geese, and carts. On another table there stand
pots of paints of the brightest red, the most glaring green, the deepest blue,
and another worker, with incredible speed, dabs the colour on to the wooden
village thousands of pieces of glass stand in the corner of the room and the
women take many at a time, paint them with spots of colour, and finally string
them together so that they tinkle like bells at the slightest touch.
The Two Spectres
These are the
famous home industries, which are now on their death-bed. The men and
women of these villages who lived by making buttons and toys and glass
decorations are the victims of the Europe of 1933-the spectre of Tariffs and the
spectre of the Machine.
these friendly, simple mountain people are now suffering hardship because the
world has shut its doors upon their toys- and because inventors have found
machines which will do in one day what one home worker would take a month to do.
Their hardship is symbolic of that of millions of men in Europe who are
unemployed on account of Tariffs and of Machines.
There is hardly a
toy-shop in Wales which has not been stocked with the wooden toys which these
people have skillfully made. There is hardly a Christmas tree in Welsh
festivities which has not tinkled with the glass pieces painted and strung
together here. From these lonely fir-covered mountain, valleys the
handwork of the villagers has gone out to Great Britain, to America, to Japan,
to Holland, to Italy, and to other countries.
No better example
of how the whole world is bound together by a million links could be given than
this region. When Welsh colliers earned less and could buy fewer toys for
their children the effect was immediately felt in this distant valley.
When the British Government placed a tariff upon toys from abroad these
villagers received a grave blow. The rest of the world had long placed
barriers in the way of the import of toys.
Thus tariffs have
been the doom of this valley, and the people here are unable to France, for
goods from England, for food from the Dominions, but they cannot buy because the
door has been slammed it the way of their goods. There is no demand for
the products of their labour and thus their wages have crashed down. I saw
woman who was knitting lace around buttons for dresses in American shops.
Each button tool five minutes to complete, for the knitting was most delicate
and skilled. “ What do you get for making those laced buttons?’ I asked.
She replied: “I
get one shilling if make a gross”. For 144 buttons, each of which took
five minutes to make, she only got twelve pence. She continued: “Last
week I did well. I earned two shillings and sixpence. Of course I
have to do my housework as well.” A girl told me that she usually earned
one shilling and six pence per week from this work.
there are people like this woman who depended upon home industry for their
livelihood. This is now disappearing and its disappearance brings us face
to face with one of the greatest revolutions in the world of today.
“How are the
cobblers doing in this village?” I asked a woodcutter.
“Terribly,” he replied. “You see, we used to have our boots made by
the cobbler, just as we used to have our cloth made here by the weavers and the
clothes made by the nearest tailor. But now there is nothing left for the
poor cobbler to do, nor for the poor tailor, except a few repairs, because the
factories and the machines do everything. The big companies have
everywhere knocked out the shoemakers and the local tailors. The workers
all want to buy cheap shoes. You’ve heard of our huge factory here in
Czechoslovakia, Bata, haven’t you? Well, Bata has knocked out the
The Village Shoemaker
My thoughts went
immediately to Llanrhaiadr-ym-Mochnant. where I used to spend my holidays as a
schoolboy, and. to the village shoemaker, Robert Jones, a great character in the
town. I also thought of the great part played in Welsh life by such
shoemakers as Richard Lloyd, the uncle of Mr. Lloyd George, who were outstanding
personalities. Those men gloried in their craft. In the Europe of
1933 these men are disappearing, and their places are being taken by vast
factories and vast companies, which are getting more and more a monopoly over
the economic life of the world.
revolution-the concentrating of industry away from the home into huge
concerns-the machine has played a great part. Even in this small
Czechoslovakian valley this is obvious. Japan, for example, used to buy
many of the toys of Germany and of this district. Then the Japanese put up
a tariff against foreign toys and set up factories with the latest machines,
against which the simple villagers could not compete. Japan then imported
toys into Germany and undercut the German toys in many lines. But the
competition and the poverty caused by the tariffs led to such a fall in prices
that both the Japanese and the German manufacturers suffered, and no one was
Effect on the Child Mind
The machine has
also affected the minds of children and has made them despise . wooden toys.
The boys and girls of today demand locomotives, aeroplanes, and Zeppelins which
are made of steel and tin. The toymakers who carve from wood bewail this.
They say, “Children are spoilt by the machine-it has knocked out the home
industry of making wooden toys.
Hit by tariffs
and by the machine, the workers in North Czechoslovakia are, therefore,
suffering. They receive no unemployment pay in cash, but in many parts the
unemployed are given a bread card worth is 1s.3d. per week. The rest they
must beg or borrow or earn by odd jobs. Even those who have work have very
In the Czech coal
mines the wages have fallen to about twelve to fifteen shillings a week.
The decision to lower wages led last autumn to the outbreak of a strike.
Police- and soldiers were called, and in fights many were killed. The
strike failed because the companies threatened to dismiss all the strikers-and
bring in new workers. Many Communists took part in the strike, but a large
number of the strikers were pious Catholics. It was significant that the
troops showed great sympathy with the strikers.
Back to Germany
It is now time to
leave the new State of Czechoslovakia and return to Germany, to cross from one
troubled country to another. As I wave good-bye to the villagers the local
timber merchant comes up to me, and his words are a striking close to my visit:
“I have just heard that the Germans are going to raise their tariff still
higher against Czech timber. It comes into force this month. It will
mean my ruin.
The Europe of
1933 is tariff mad.