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Editorial: The Labour Government's Prisons and Detention Barracks

 The prisons and military detention barracks are always being “reformed and made humane” by succeeding generations of well-meaning reformers, but the principal effect of each reform appears to be merely that of fobbing off exposure and gaining another period of immunity from criticism for the same old pernicious system. The six months of office of the Labour Government has witnessed several outbreaks in various prisons, and latterly the attempts by military prisoners to wreck the “glasshouses” at Aldershot and elsewhere. It may well be asked of those who hastened to assure us at the beginning of the war that all was now changed in the military prisons, whether they were being fooled themselves or whether they were knowingly fooling others.

Progress and Reaction

 Already, before the war, there were numerous critics of the turn which human affairs had taken. The promise which early capitalism appeared to hold out to mankind had not been fulfilled. The industrialisation of the nineteenth century may have seemed then to open up new horizons of unlimited wealth for all. The social stagnation of a feudal agrarianism was swept away impetuously as machine upon machine fertilised man and nature into heights of productivity hitherto undreamt of. Economists and philosophers combined in lyrical praise of the new social order, and predicted that humanity had at long last entered the portals of a social system that could guarantee material well-being to all. "The greatest good of the greatest number” was the assured estimate of the new society's potentials.

The Impermanence of Reform

 The Socialist Party supports Trade Union organisation; so does the Labour Party. Yet there is a world of difference between the two attitudes. On the political field the Socialist Party does not deny that a particular piece of legislation may, for a time, relieve extreme hardship to workers affected by some outrageous failure of the capitalist system; yet the Socialist Party logically and consistently opposes reformism, the policy of building up a political party on a programme of demands for legislation to relieve all the separate evils. The difference is rather like that between the attitude of the A.R.P. expert and the attitude of the Socialist. The man whose efforts are devoted to studying the problem of defence against air raids is not required to have any knowledge of the ultimate causes of war. He may simply take war for granted, one of those things that happen. So the Trade Unionist, for the most part, and the advocate of reform, takes capitalism for granted.

Another Quack Remedy

 With the multitudinous “remedies” for the unemployed problem, one wonders why it should exist at all, or, at any rate, why it is allowed to assume the alarming proportions it does each winter. Notwithstanding stone yards and emigration, Queen’s Funds and the rest, however, the problem remains, and what is more important, increases. But at last the "first practical proposal” has been made. It emanates from that quarter from which one would anticipate “practical” proposals.

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