1900s >> 1904 >> no-2-october-1904

A Look Round

Chamberlain has evidently undermined the economic basis of the Shoreditch Branch of the S.D.F. The members have resolved :

  “That being cognisant of the great distress our fellow-workers in London, owing to the inevitable depression in trade, call upon the L.C.C. to have the building of the steamboats for the Thames traffic carried out as far as possible on the Thames, thereby alleviating to some extent the suffering of the workers of this great metropolis.”

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This contribution towards the solution of the unemployed problem will, doubtless, receive due consideration from the L.C.C. and the Tariff Reform League. For an alleged Socialist organisation to advocate Preferential Treatment or Protection in this manner, and to suggest dealing with the “inevitable” unemployed problem in one locality by creating or intensifying it in another, qualifies it for membership of the Capitalists’ Kidders’ Conglomeration. We shall watch to see whether they join the Chamberlain or General Booth faction.
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The Clarion and Labour Leader are concerned at the position of W. C. Steadman, an adopted candidate of the L.R.C., whom the Daily News announces as the Liberal candidate for Finsbury, which he certainly is, and who is reported to have urged the workers of Stepney to strike a blow at the Government by returning the Liberal candidate. But when has Steadman been anything but a decoy duck for the Liberal faction of the master class? Twelve months ago Tribune (West Ham) contained a letter which had been sent to W. Thorne’s Election Committee, part of which read as follows :—

  “If members of the S.D.F. accept the aid of W. C. Steadman, who runs as a Liberal Labour candidate, then I consider they are morally bound to support Steadman’s candidature if asked to do so. No class conscious Socialist could do so, as only so recently as last September he was the chief speaker at a Liberal demonstration at Grays, at which he is reported to have urged the audience to return a Liberal member at the next election. Socialists cannot logically support candidates who ally themselves with any section of the Capitalist Party, and, therefore, cannot honestly accept aid from them for Socialist candidates.”

What do the Labour Leader and the Clarion expect? “Can the leopard change his spots, or the Ethiopian his skin ?”
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According to the Daily Express, it is an unpleasant and appalling fact that lunacy is steadily increasing in England and Wales, and it is startling to find that whereas one person in every 327 was certified as insane in 1894, the figures for 1904 are one in 288. But to the Socialist there is nothing startling in the fact. As the struggle for existence becomes more intense, as we speed up, as the raging, tearing, hurrying and scurrying possess us, and as the position of the worker becomes more precarious, we must expect that the mental equilibrium will be disturbed. The returns show that the numbers of insane known to the Commissioners have for some time past been increasing at a greater rate than the growth of population. While the rate of increase in the population during the last decade was 12.2 per cent., the rate of increase of the insane was 24.4 per cent.
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Those so fanatical teetotallers who declare that it is only necessary to close public-houses in order to empty our lunatic asylums, should ponder over the fact that the Commissioners certify that alcoholic intemperance is responsible for not more than 22.8 per cent. of insane males and 9.5 per cent. of insane females. We have no desire to minimise the effect of these figures, but it must not be forgotten that in many cases where intemperance is certified as a cause, it is itself an effect of the overcrowding, insanitary, ill-ventilated, and generally unhealthy conditions under which the workers work and exist. Dr. David Walsh, in his paper on “Unwholesome Workshops and Drink,” declared that anything which weakened the health of the individual predisposed him to the use of alcohol, and no sensible person will dispute this. There is only one way by which the health of the people can be secured and maintained, and that is by the reorganisation of Society upon the basis laid down by the Socialist Party of Great Britain.
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As Mr. Featherstone Asquith is now denying that he was responsible for the shooting of the miners, it will be useful for our propagandists to note the following reference to the matter which he made in his speech at Glasgow on the 17th October, 1893:

  “The year that had gone by had been distinguished by a large number of deplorable industrial disputes. Those disputes had culminated in what had been a most serious and regrettable conflict—he alluded to the dispute between the coalmasters and colliers in the Midland parts of England. In his character as Secretary of State for the Home Department, it had been his duty to take executive action in more than one of those cases for the maintenance of the law and for the prevention of disorder, and he accepted the full responsibility for everything that had been done.”

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Asquith is a Liberal. So also are Bell, Crooks, Henderson, Shackleton, Steadman, and others receiving the support of the L.R.C. The I.L.P. openly supports the L.R.C., but the S.D.F. does not affiliate to it nationally, although it permits its prominent members to attend the Conferences and be adopted as L.R.C. candidates. W. Thorne has not yet been called upon to resign his membership of the S.D.F. for having decided to run as a “Labour” candidate, although for the same backing-down A. E. Holmes was requested to send in his resignation. Moreover, since Thorne has fallen into line with the L.R.C., conditions, he has been publicly supported by Quelch, Jones, Hayday, and other well-known members of the S.D.F., at a demonstration at which he declared that:

   “he believed the eight hours day was the most important of all questions.”

For of such is the S.D.F.! Quelch and his friends support Thorne; he supports Alden, Crooks, Steadman, and Co.; Alden, Steadman, and Co. support Asquith and Co.; and E. Belfort Bax writes letters, which are published in the Press, from the National Liberal Club! No wonder we are asked by a correspondent whether the S.D.F. still assert that there is no difference between Liberals and Tories, and whether we can explain what they mean by their continual references to “keeping free from entangling alliances ?” We cannot: we give it up.
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At the annual conference of the Sanitary Inspectors’ Association held last month at Bournemouth, the President in his opening address, said that the Public Health Acts could not be administered in many places owing to the fact that the officers held their appointments from year to year, and were in consequence dependent upon the goodwill of individual members of the authority appointing them. What member of the association of some years’ experience had not been covertly or openly threatened by some member or members of his authority, or by those aspiring to the office, for either attacking his insanitary property, seizing his unsound —or sampling his adulterated—food? Quite so, and so long as the governing institutions are controlled by the capitalist class, the legislation and administration will be in the interest of that class. And mere Labourism will not alter it. Many a “Labour” member makes the best possible supporter and defender of Capitalism and its works.
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The capitalist press is filled with articles concerning the out-of-works, the homeless, free meals, and other pastimes to which the capitalist class devotes its attention when other things pall. There is no question about things being terribly bad, and that they have not yet touched bottom. In the business world there is a general complaint of slackness of trade and tightness of money—the latter being perennial with the wage-worker. Speaking for the Church Army last month, Mr. Colin F. Campbell told a Daily Telegraph representative that he shared the general opinion that the approaching winter was likely to be one of very great severity for the poorest of the poor. During the summer months their Labour Homes had been without exception full, and he had never known that to be the case during the 12 years he had been there. There were more of the better class of people asking help than there had ever been. Canon Scott Holland, preaching in St. Paul’s Cathedral on September 11th, gave the following word-picture of London to-day :

  “Look at London to-day! Sum up its story! It’s poverty! It’s nakedness! It’s suffering ! There it all welters! Can we not go closer down into it ? Can we not fling into it our reason, our imagination, our conscience—so that we actually see what the unhappy see, and feel what the wronged feel, and burn with their indignation, and pray with their prayers ? This is not done —not done even so much as it was done. There is a slackening of social interest—a deadening of social reform. People do not care as they did. There is no movement. Everything that we hoped for is caught in some dismal backwater. Yet the poor babies still die in their hundreds, simply through the murderous infamy of the conditions into which they are born. And the sweated women still toil from morning to night for a starvation wage, as literally, as intolerably, as ever! And the aged poor are more than ever left behind out of the marching hosts. And the weak invalids are still squeezed down to the level of the criminals and the loafers. We should never let such things be if we really identified ourselves with those who suffer under them—if we took their sorrows as our sorrow—if we were made one with their need.”

Such is the picture, not overdrawn in the slightest detail. Cynics will note that it has been drawn in the chief institution of the Christian Church, that class organisation which has so ably assisted the capitalists in their efforts to keep the people down. And what is said here of London can be said of every large and wealthy city throughout the world. It is Hell! After two thousand years of Christianity, after centuries of middle-class domination, after years of Tory and Liberal Government, London is Hell! And no matter where we turn, one problem forces itself upon us and demands solution. In Monarchic Britain, in Kaiser-inflicted Germany, in Republican France, in Free America, in Despotic Russia, it is Hell for the proletariat. The problem of world-wide poverty in the midst of plenty will never be solved by sermons, prayers, Labour Homes, or Labour Leaders. It will only be solved when the people assume the ownership and control of the means of life, and produce for their own use instead of for idlers. To prepare the proletariat for this complete revolution is the mission of The Socialist Party of Great Britain. —K.