A Look Round
Those nose-poking busybodies who constitute the Charity Organisation Society have recently employed themselves enquiring into the question of other people’s unemployment and have issued an exhaustive report on the matter. They have discovered that pauperism and vagrancy are increasing continuously and that there is a large, unskilled, unorganised mass, many of whom are unemployable, if that word can be taken to mean that they have come to dislike long periods of continuous labour, and are often, in bodily strength and temperament, unfit for it.
At first sight this looked as if the C.O.S. were indulging in the prevailing fashion and attacking the “smart set,” but as probably some of the Society belong to that set they would hardly cry “stinking fish.” The report contains a number of recommendations which may be summed up in more committees, more classification, better organisation of charity and a further enquiry and report. And if all these recommendations are adopted the unemployed problem will be untouched because the cause of the unemployment lies deeper than these people have ever poked. When it is solved by the only way, a reorganisation of our industrial system, well-fed unemployed like the members of the C.O.S. will find circumstances somewhat altered.
Charity, whether organised or unorganised, exists because some folk have more than they need and others need more than they have. In a country where labour applied to natural objects can produce more than sufficient for everybody, such a state is unnecessary as well as unjust. In the Socialist Society, where industry is organised for the benefit of all, where all perform their share of the necessary labour and where all enjoy without stint the results of the organised effort of the whole community, neither want nor charity need to exist. But the perpetuation of the capitalist system and not the establishment of the Socialist Society is the object of the charity-mongers.
In a note appended to the report George Lansbury, who was a member of the Committee of Enquiry, dissents from it, mainly on questions of principle, such as the reasons which have led to increased pauperism in places like Poplar and West Ham. He agrees with what is said as a statement of reasons which have operated to accentuate the evil, but does not agree that we have created the evil. He is of opinion that this lies far deeper in our individual life than any question of Poor-Law administration. This is veering round with a vengeance, for a man who has been a Socialist Parliamentary candidate and thus has publicly associated himself with the materialist philosophy.
Much attention is being given just now to the Poplar Labour Colony at Laindon, Essex, which is claimed by its promoters to most nearly approach to a solution of the unemployed problem. The colony consists of some hundred acres of land which were presented to the Poplar Guardians at a peppercorn rent for an experimental period of three years by Mr. Fels, with the option of buying it at the price he paid, viz., £2,125. Work has been going on for three months, during which time two reservoirs have been constructed and are almost ready for use, living quarters have been erected, and nearly the whole of the farm colony prepared for cultivation. When it is added that the colonist, of course, is not supposed to make a resting place of the farm, but will, when sufficiently trained in agricultural duties, be passed on to some other employer, where he will be able to make a fresh start in life, it will easily be recognised how far from the solution the experiment is.
From the point of view of those of the submerged who are taken from the gutter and taught to become competent agricultural workers some good is done, but as soon as they become such they enter into competition with other workers, and if they are to secure employment it can only be by driving others, less competent perhaps, into the gutter to require treatment by the Guardians in the same manner. Obviously such a scheme provides no solution of the problem—it merely raises one section of the community at the expense of another.
In dealing with this problem last month, attention was drawn to the effect of the introduction of machinery, involving a greater and greater output with the aid of fewer men. Machines are introduced to effect a saving, usually in the wages bill. Last month’s number of the “Decorator” published a description of the paint-dipping plant recently installed at Woolwich Arsenal. Ammunition and other waggons are dipped bodily into tanks containing paint, which is kept agitated by means of revolving screws, and may be given three coats in one day, as the paint dries very quickly. The saving effected is very great and is likely to be extended to other industries.
The Liberals have every reason to be satisfied with the good work which W. Crooks is doing for them, and they must laugh in their sleeves when they recollect that he is paid £200 a year by the L.R.C. to represent “Independent” Labour. Last month he presided at a bazaar organised by the Boro’ of Woolwich Labour Representation Association, and in his opening address declared that Earl Carrington was one of the best friends of Labour, and a democratic member of the House of Lords. The workers of Woolwich were under more than an ordinary obligation to his lordship. If every lord who possessed land as Lord Carrington did were as good and kindly as he it would be an excellent thing for the country.
So that apparently, in Crooks’ view, landlordism is all right if the landlords are good and kindly, and no objection may be raised to the House of Lords provided the members are “democrats” and will condescend to place the workers under more than an ordinary obligation by opening bazaars for them !
Of course his lordship was smart enough to rise to the occasion and to play the game. He returned his most grateful thanks for having been allowed to open the bazaar, which he believed was entirely run and entirely stocked by the free gifts of that great industrial class which it was his pride and his privilege to remember his own family originally sprung from. It is rumoured that he added “and have lived on ever since and will continue to do as long as you will allow us” but the loud and prolonged applause, ably led by Mr. Crooks, prevented this from being heard by the assembled sturdy sons of Labour.
Since the bazaar Crooks has been the chief speaker at a Free Trade meeting at Stratford Town Hall, where the chair was taken by C. F. G. Masterman, who was such a persona grata with some S.D.F. members when he recently contested Dulwich that they canvassed for him. He is at present the Liberal candidate for North West Ham. The Liberal wirepullers, with their usual astuteness, are trotting him round the constituency in a “non-political” capacity. A few days previous to this meeting he took part in an Education conference and lectured to the members of Grove Congregational Church Literary Society. Doubtless he will shortly be present at the annual distribution of the Coal and Clothing Club, send his best wishes to the annual sale of work of the Dorcas Society, and look in for a few moments at the concert of the amalgamated athletic clubs of the district, for thus are elections fought and won.
At the Free Trade meeting Councillor Anarchist Leggatt occupied a seat on the platform, together with A. E. Jacobs (I.L.P.), and letters were read from W. Thorne (Labour Candidate for South West Ham) and C. Boardman (Liberal and Passive Resister), regretting their inability to take part in the meeting. Truly a strange gathering ! After the speeches Crooks proposed a resolution pledging those present at the meeting to oppose any candidate at the next election who does not guarantee to maintain the policy of Free Trade. Now, if such candidates are to be opposed, their opponents, provided that they pledge themselves to maintain the policy of Free Trade, must be supported. Thus the Liberals adroitly lead Labour members and candidates to admit that there is a difference between capitalist candidates—a difference in favour of Free Traders as against Protectionists, a difference in favour of the kites as against the crows. It ie regrettable that members of the S.D.F. and the I.L.P. fall so easily into this trap.
In the September quarter’s report of the Gas-workers’ and General Labourers’ Union, W. Thorne hopes that when the general election takes place Union members in all parts of he country will recognise the absolute necessity of working for and voting in favour of men of their own class. That way lies disaster ! From a Socialist point of view the fact that a candidate is or has been a member of the working-class is not of itself sufficient. Nothing is to be gained by voting for a candidate, whatever his class, who does not understand the principles of Socialism, and who is not prepared to go to the House of Commons as a rebel, determined, by every means in his power, to seek the overthrow of the capitalist-class. The average labour leader who attaches himself to a section of the capitalist political party serves the interests of that party and not those of the working-class.
Socialists well understand the motives that prompt benevolent plutocrats to build model villages, erect sanitary and even palatial factories and workshops, admit their employees to a share of the profits, and other little dodges of a similar character. It is because they are sufficiently far-sighted to recognise that it pays. The latest is the introduction by Messrs. J. Lyons & Co., of the gramophone. This is now kept going whilst the workers grind coffee, pack tea, etc. A representative of the firm thinks that instead of detracting the girls from their work it gives them a fillip. Soldiers, he says, march better to music, so why should not workers work better ?
There is every reason why the necessary labour should be performed under healthy and enjoyable conditions, but such are at present adopted only to enable the capitalist class to obtain greater results in a given time out of the workers.
W. C. Steadman, who is advertised in the “Finsbury Free Press” as the “adopted Liberal, Radical and Labour Candidate for Central Finsbury,” pursues the even tenor of his way and plays his part exceedingly well as a decoy-duck for the Liberals. Last month he presided at a meeting held at Stepney Meeting House to hear an address from Mr. Durham Stokes, the Liberal Candidate. On the platform were Earl Beauchamp, B. S. Strauss, Liberal candidate for Mile End, and J. W. Benn, Liberal candidate for St. Georges. We would ask our friends who urge the workers to vote for men of their own class, without insisting that they shall be Socialists, whether they consider that Steadman is acting as a friend of his class whilst he is playing the game of the capitalists in this manner ?
An arbitration case has just been concluded between the Liverpool Corporation and Sunlight Soap Lever. Some years ago Mr. Lever purchased 2,200 acres of land at Horwich, adjacent to the Rivington Watershed, the property of the Liverpool Corporation, for £60,000. Mr. Lever gave 400 acres of the land to Bolton, his native place, for a public park, and for the remainder, which the Liverpool Corporation require for public works, he demanded £400,000. The Corporation offered to pay £40,000. Mr. Lever displayed his “public spirit” by refusing and putting Liverpool Ratepayers to the expense of an arbitration, as the result of which the price fixed to be paid to him is £138,449. In this manner our “model employer” builds up his reputation for good works, and by his own hard work (?) becomes enriched. For of such is the kingdom of capitalism.