A Look Round
The article upon the “Futility of Reform,” which occupied the leader columns of our last issue, has not met with the complete approval of all our readers, and several have expressed their disagreement with our contention that the capitalist class will introduce reforms when the exigencies of commercialism demand them. But we would recommend our critics to read the correspondence which has passed between Kenric B. Murray, writing on behalf of the manufacturers’ section of the London Chamber of Commerce, and the Board of Education. If a word to the wise is sufficient, then those who possess the necessary wisdom will appreciate the position of The Socialist Party of Great Britain.
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In his letter Mr. Murray states that the manufacturers have passed the following resolution :—
“That, in order to retain our industrial position and to introduce into this country such further industries as may be profitably developed, this section is of opinion that it is absolutely necessary to raise the standard, and, if possible, cheapen the cost of technical and higher technical education, and that representations be made to the Board of Education in this sense.”
Note, that the object in view is the “profitable” development of industries, not the education of workers for education’s sake.
The letter further illustrates two points—the readiness when “profitable” to the capitalist class to invoke the aid of the State in industrial matters and the admission that British manufacturers have lost ground in the struggle for the World’s Market, not simply because of fiscal conditions but because
“up to the present time manufacturers in this country have not in many cases sufficiently realised that there is a scientific aspect to every branch of manufacture requiring study and attention in order to attain the highest results.”
If for “highest results” is substituted “greatest profits,” one can easily understand why
“manufacturers, therefore, would welcome the support of the Board of Education and of the existing institutions engaged in teaching work in developing this valuable branch of education on lines which will place British manufacturers and their employees on an equality with their foreign competitors.”
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In the reply of the Board of Education present day capitalist methods are condemned :—
“The Board recognise the great advantage accruing from the concentration of interest, which is possible only when the student is in a position to make study his single aim —to devote his whole time to education.”
It is of course possible that the student could do this under capitalism, but very improbable, except for the privileged few. Under Socialism it will be the rule.
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Conferences may come and conferences may go, but the unemployed stay on for ever—as long as competition prevails. It was not to be expected that Mr. Walter Long, who draws £40 a week as salary for the services he is supposed to render the people, with the right to claim a pension when he loses his job, would consider that things were sufficiently serious to demand serious measures. The hardy annuals of relief works, afforestation, emigration, labour bureaux, “back to the land” via small holdings, and the like are being discussed. One of our correspondents somewhat sarcastically writes :—
“If the unemployed want to get ‘back to the land’ here are acres and acres out of cultivation needing their labour—only the owner may object. From where I sit I look over a large farm and see nothing but grass fields, and poor ones at that. In the foreground is a cottage where, if the inhabitants wish to descend to the kitchen, they can drop through the holes in the ceiling, and so save the wear and tear of a staircase ! Yet the man ought to be contented. In a very good week he sometimes get 17s. ! Certainly often in winter he gets nothing, but he can save during the prosperity of summer ! Besides, he has only seven children, and two of these (boys of 14 and 16) leave home at 5 a.m. and return at about 8 p.m., and get 4s. and 6s. a week. He ought to be a drunkard, but instead of that he is a teetotaller and very industrious, working hard all day, and at night returning to slave in his bit of garden which supports them occasionally in nothing-a-week times. He’s going to be kicked out soon, and there’s no house for him to go to, save a model dwelling at 6s. a week, his average wage being 12s. And then he’ll lose his garden, too, but no compensation for him. Oh ! the joys of a country life ! Come back, ray friends, to the land !”
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When we go back it must be upon a basis not yet thought of by those who pose as “Social Reformers.” Not to ”labour at a loss for the profit of a boss” but to produce for ourselves the things which we need. “Advanced” politicians like Mr. George Lansbury (who left the Radicals to join the Social Democratic Federation), W. Crooks, and others have sent to the Press a “Note of Warning,” in which they urge that whatever work is provided by municipalities for the unemployed it should not
” release workers from the stimulus of having to satisfy an employer.”
Send your victims to labour colonies, place over them some well-hardened taskmasters, credit them with 6d. per day, give them plenty of sermons and prayers, and all will be well.
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The editor of Reynolds’s Newspaper, who has for some months patted the S.D.F. on the back, because it has suited his purposes to do so, writes the following respecting that body’s “demand ” for an autumn session:
“It is equally comical to hear suggestions about an autumn session of Parliament to consider the question coming, too, from Socialist organisations, who are always saying that Parliament is ‘no good.’ Such amateurish fooling makes one despair.”
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The annual report of the Asylums’ Committee of the London County Council for the year ending 31st March last has just been issued and shews that there are 23,948 certified lunatics in London alone, an increase of 996 over last year. This is the largest annual increase ever recorded and, according to the report, the prospect of any diminution in the increase appears to be most problematical. The average weekly cost of each patient in London County Asylums is lls. 4d. If as much as that were spent each week in maintaining those out of asylums there would be less need to celebrate our “progress” periodically by providing further accommodation for our lunatics.
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There exists in Holland a Union of Socialist Teachers, founded ten years ago. Its program
“That the popular school, called into existence by the possessing class under the cry ‘cultivation of the people by teaching the people,’ has proved to be in their hands only the means of doling out to the children of the people that minimum of knowledge which has become necessary to supply the capitalist want of more or less educated labourers, besides being the means of impressing upon them so-called Christian and social virtues, which, in reality, are nothing but notions conducive to the maintenance of capitalism; that the non-possessing class, too, being insufficiently taught themselves, deprived of all influence on school education and therefore not inspired with genuine interest in it, see in the popular school only the way that enables their children to earn their bread afterwards ; that, moreover—partly in consequence of the causes given above all education which rises above the level of what capitalism demands, is doomed to sterility for the young proletarian because of the bad conditions.”
That this is just as true of Britain as of Holland, or, for that matter, of every other country, is only another proof of the international character of the social problem. As the principles of the Union declare :
“The social vocation of the popular school is to educate the growing generation in such a way as to develope body and mind harmoniously,” but ”only the political and economic emancipation of the people will fully secure the emancipation of the mind.”
Those who really desire that economic emancipation must enrol in the Army of International Socialism, the British Section of which is The Socialist Party of Great Britain.—J. KAY.
(Socialist Standard, November 1904).