Who produces the wealth and who gains most from its
production? In a pamphlet written 97 years ago, John Wheatley
described an imaginary court case, with a coal master,
a landowner and several others being charged with "having
conspired together and robbed an old miner, Dick McGonnagle."

The pamphlet, How the Miners Are Robbed, had considerable
impact before the First World War. Its basic class analysis
remains valid for workers today as they are still being robbed.


Magistrate: Now will you kindly tell us how much wealth you possess?

Prisoner: (Proudly) One million pounds, sir.

M: You must be an extremely able man. How did you come to have a million pounds?

P: I made it, sir.

M: Ah! do you plead guilty to manufacturing coin?

P: (Indignantly) No, sir.

M: Then will you please tell us what you mean by saying you made it?

P: I earned it in business, sir.

M: How long have you been in business?

P: Twenty years, sir.

M: You must be a very capable worker to have earned such a huge sum in such a short time?

P (indignantly): I don’t work, sir.

M: Ah! this is very interesting. You don’t work and yet you have told us that in twenty years you have earned one million pounds?

P: I own a colliery, sir.

M: What is a colliery?

P: A shaft sunk perhaps a hundred fathoms in the earth; also various buildings and machinery for the production of coal.

M: Did you sink the shaft?

P: No, sir. I got men to do it.

M: Did you manufacture the machinery and erect the buildings?

P: No, sir. I am not a workman. I got others to work.

M: This is an extraordinary case. You say other men erected the buildings, and manufactured the machinery, and sunk the shaft and yet you own the colliery? Have the workmen no share in it?

P: No, sir. I am the sole owner.

M: I confess I can’t understand. Do you mean to tell me that those men put a colliery in full working order, and then handed it over to you without retaining even a share of it for themselves?

P: Certainly, sir.

M: They must have been very rich and generous, or very foolish! Were they rich men?

P: Oh no, sir.

M: Had they many collieries?

P: Oh, none at all, sir. They were merely workmen.

M: What you mean by merely workmen?

P: Merely people who work for others.