Graphic Witness: Hugo Gellert
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Hugo Gellert: Karl Marx' 'Capital' in Lithographs

page 53. LAW OF CAPITALIST ACCUMULATION
Effect of Crises on the Better-paid Part of the Working-class


LAW OF CAPITALIST ACCUMULATION: effect of crises on the better-paid part of the working-class

. . .I wish to give an example showing how crises affect even the better-paid portion of the working class, the labor aristocracy. . . .To show the condition of the workers, I will now quote the circumstantial report of a correspondent of the "Morning Star", who, at the end of 1866 and the beginning of 1867, visited the chief centers of distress:

"In the East End districts of Poplar, Millwall, Greenwich, Depford, Limehouse, and Canning Town, at least 15,000 workmen and their families were in a state of utter destitution, and 3,000 skilled mechanics were breaking stones in the workhouse yard (after distress of over half a year's duration). . . .

"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, just 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. . . .

"Leaving the workhouse, I took a walk through the streets, mostly of little one-story houses, that abound in the neighborhood 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 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 ration of food, and threepence 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 parlor, 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 laborer'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 pawntickets, and a bare room, were all he had to show."

. . . 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 jowl with this are . . . .40,000 helpless, starving people. . . .