Gareth Jones

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THE WESTERN MAIL & SOUTH WALES NEWS,  Friday April 28th, 1933  

War on Unemployment (iv) 

Productive Work in Italy and U.S.A.

The Conference at Swansea


Fascist Italy is suffering as much as most countries from the effects of unemployment.  Although the majority of Italians are employed on the land, more than 1,000,000 of the registered workers are idle.  The unemployment benefit is exceedingly small (last summer it was from 2 lire x 50 to 8 lire x 50, I.e., from 7d. to 9d. per day) and is only given to a small proportion of the unemployed.  Behind the facade of the prosperous streets of Rome and Milan there is great misery, which tourists rarely notice.

Mussolini, however, has waged his war on unemployment with rigour.  He has set thousands of men to battle against the marshes which for centuries have spread the curse of malaria in many regions of Italy, and is determined to reclaim for cultivation land which is now lying idle.

Last summer when I went to Rome, to find out what Mussolini was doing for the unemployed I was rushed immediately in a Government car on the Rome-Naples road, past ruins 2,000 years old, to the Pontine Marches, that malaria-infested plain which Julius Caesar, the mediaeval Popes, and Napoleon tried to reclaim, but failed.  This land, covering 180,000 acres along the shore, of the Mediterranean, is now to be made habitable, thanks to Mussolini’s policy of encouraging the reclamation of marsh land and of settling landless peasants on the retrieved soil.


“Private enterprise could not carry out this task,” the Fascist, explained, as we saw the vast ploughs plunging deeply into the earth; “only the State or a public institution can do it.”

Nevertheless, although the Italian State plays a great part in encouraging and financing the draining of marches and settlement by the unemployed, Mussolini lays stress on the private ownership of land.  The Pontine Marshes will house from three to four thousand families, it is hoped, in two years time, and 60,000 people within ten to fifteen years.  Each family will have its section of land of about fifty acres, which it will own, together with a well-built house, stables and oxen.

I could not help contrasting the Pontine Marches scheme, with its stress on the private ownership of small family farms, with the vast Soviet State farms, the Verblud, in Northern Caucasus, which I had visited two years earlier.  The acreage of the Verblud Farm was about the same as the Pontine Marshes (nearly 200,000 acres), but the men working on it owned no land, no cattle, and were paid a small wage.  The Soviet State farm according to the Soviet press has been a colossal failure, and its manager has been branded as a traitor to the Communist party.  The Italian family farms in the Pontine Marshes, based upon the private initiative and hard work of the individual, have probably far greater chance of success.

Mussolini is also fighting unemployment by large schemes of public works, similar to those which have been advocated by Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Keynes.  Roads and bridges are being built.  Rome is to be transformed, a task which was employing last summer about 6,000 men in that city.  Mussolini’s scheme, however, leave untouched four-fifths of the unemployed.


America is now following the example of Italy and Germany.  President Roosevelt, the United States new dictator, is forming a labour army.  Unemployed men who enrol take an oath to remain in service for six months unless released earlier.  After being examined medically, instructed in their work, and clothed in the Regular Army, they go in bands of one or two hundred to work camps in the national forests, when they work for a dollar (4s. 2d.) per day and their food.  It is expected that 250,000 men will be employed in this way this summer.  One authority states: “The forests need the men, and the men need the work the forests offer.

Italy began her war upon unemployment years ago.  America launched this campaign in March 1933.  So far their efforts are mere palliatives in view of the mass nature of unemployment.

But the world is slowly learning how to tackle the enemy.  When will Wales make a big drive!  There is every prospect that the conference of the Welsh School of Social Service on “Community Action and Unemployment,” which is to be held at the Methodist Church (Wesley), College Street, Swansea, from Sunday afternoon next to Tuesday evening, will point the way to more energetic action on many fronts.


Behind the plans which be speakers will discuss are the thoughts and inspiration of the Master of Balliol and of Dr. Thomas Jones.  The Swansea conference will be a start in the race to catch up and beat Germany, Italy, and America in the quality of work.  It will be a declaration of war on the demoralising effects of unemployment in Wales.








Gareth Jones: A Manchukuo Incident



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