Carnegie and—Cant?

Mr. Andrew Carnegie, Croesus and library vendor, has recently delivered himself of several lectures upon the horrors of War—Carnegie, the head of the great American Capitalist Corporation which raised an army in opposition to the steel-workers of Pittsburg struggling to prevent a further hardening of their already hard enough conditions; Carnegie, the head of the mighty firm that conducted a bitter and bloody war to vindicate the right of Capital to wring out of the labour of the workers a larger and ever larger profit; Carnegie, the multi-millionaire, every penny of whose stupendous wealth is stained with the blood of his workmen, slaughtered by armed Pinkertons to make Carnegie’s holiday and to help build him a reputation as a great philanthropist—this Carnegie comes to say :—”There still remains the foulest blot that ever disgraced the earth, the killing of civilised men by men like wild beasts as a permissible mode of settling international disputes, although, in Rousseau’s words, ‘War is the foulest fiend ever vomited forth from the mouth of hell.’ ”

So, “the foulest blot,” when used to settle international disputes. And yet, in international wars, the contestants meet, not infrequently, on fairly level terms. Then, what sort of blot is it when one of the parties engaged in war is without arms, without food and with no means of effective retaliation, while the other is armed with the latest and surest implements of destruction, well victualled and protected ? How Mr. Carnegie’s righteous indignation would find expression in thunderous declamation at such a case. How he would—if he has not already done so— exhaust the descriptive possibilities of the most lurid adjectives in the English language if it was an international war. And yet when it occurs at Homestead, the hell that sweats for Mr. Carnegie the millions that Mr. Carnegie’s labour never produced, Mr. Carnegie expresses his horror in—loud silence ! It is wonderful the great difference a little change in the geographical situation of the seat of war will make.

If Mr. Carnegie thinks it his business, during the few moments that he can snatch from the arduous labours involved in the distribution of Free Libraries, to ventilate his views upon the horrors of war, let him at least be consistent and include all wars. It is not wisdom to select a particular war or class of wars to fulminate against. Such a course conveys an impression that might be unjust. If wars are dreadful, then the war between classes is dreadful, not less than the war between nations. The conflict between classes, between Capital and Labour—the industrial struggle—is indeed fought out on a far bloodier and a far wider field than any upon which the armies of nations ever fought. And the disutilities are all on the Labour side. For Labour to-day is unarmed. Labour is dependent upon the enemy he is fighting for his food. He may not eat except by the leave of Capital. Capital commands every avenue of approach to the sources of wealth out of which Labour must win his sustenance. And no man traverses those avenues except by the pleasure and on the terms of Capital. And the terms are that Labour shall create wealth for Capital in return for just the sufficiency for the preservation of life. The difference between the total wealth produced and the amount consumed by Labour in maintaining his strength is the share of Capital, a share that grows larger and larger as the possibilities of machinery increase, while the number of men required to produce the wealth for which there is effective demand, grows relatively smaller. And as Labour is displaced by the incessant demands of Capital forever increased profits, he goes to join his fellows already struggling without against starvation and death to form the miserable reserve who, clamouring for permission to work upon any terms, make for C’apital an irresistable weapon of offence and defence. Incidentally too, they form that pitiable mass of humanity into which the great-hearted philanthropist, over-running with loving kindness and tender mercy for the distress that as a capitalist he has himself produced, ostentatiously pours his ridiculously impotent driblet of charity amid the plaudits of a sycophantic Press.

And so the tale will run until Labour understands and translates his understanding into action. Fain would the philantrophist believe that that time will never come. But he may not. He knows and none better that the continued pressure of bitter adversity will not for much longer be held in check by the fortuitous distribution of blankets and coke tickets. And he knows that men exist who know the whole truth of the matter—the why of the misery and the how of the remedy—and who will show the poverty-stricken the way out.

There is a potent saying of one who hailed from the land that Mr. Carnegie has left, which runs thus:—

You may fool all the people some of the time.
You may fool some of the people all the time.
But you can’t fool all the people all the time.

Mr. Carnegie will have heard the saying before. It is rather old. But it is one of those sayings that are not of an age but for all time. We commend it again to Mr. Carnegie. It will be a good inscription for a prominent position in the hall in which Mr. Carnegie delivers his next address upon the foul blot of war as a method of settling international disputes. Unless before then Mr. Carnegie includes the class war in his denunciation and expresses and gives evidence of his determination to work for its abolition. But then its abolition involves the abolition of Mr. Carnegie, Millionaire.

It’s an awkward situation !


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