Editorial: Progress !

The 1905 criminal statistics recently issued from the Home Office show that while there is a decline in convictions for drunkenness, manslaughter, bigamy and malicious wounding, there is nevertheless a significant increase in burglaries and crimes against property with violence. Sir John Macdonell says in his summary : “The enormous preponderance of crimes against property is remarkable : nearly nine-tenths of the whole fall every year within that category.”

Indictable offences have increased from a yearly average of 51,612 during 1896-1900 to 61,463 in 1905. While, instead of drink being the cause of crime, drunkenness has declined while crime has increased. The statistics are eloquent of the dependence of crime on economic conditions, the increase in crime coinciding with greater distress and unemployment among the people. The accumulation of property into few hands and the corresponding lack of the means of existence among the many lead irresistibly to what are called crimes against property, and the Socialist is not surprised to find that the year of acutest distress and unemployment among the workers was at the same time “a record year of National Prosperity.”

Truly there is progress and prosperity, but it is not for the workers—yet; and instead of the class cleavage becoming less marked it daily grows wider.

To abolish the contradictions and antagonisms of interest that exist, the working class must gain control of Society and dispossess the owners of capital so that unity of interest may be secured by the participation of till in production. Those, however, who think of securing the support of those whose superior position depends upon the slavery of the workers, must, if honest, be ignorant of the lessons of history and of everyday experience.

Thus Mr. Keir Hardie tried to assure the Cambridge undergraduates recently that “Socialism was not a class movement.” “Down with it!” they cried. “Many of the Socialists’ most enthusiastic advocates are university men,” shouted Keir Hardie. “Shame!” howled the undergraduates. “These men and women from the middle and upper classes realise that there is something more sacred than property,” continued Hardie. “Rot!” yelled the gownsmen ; and there is no doubt that the undergraduates differ in no essential from the generality of their class.

The Sweets of Rusticity !

A recent enquiry into the housing conditions of a small Hertfordshire village, known as Chipperfield has apparently been greatly agitating the Daily News and our pro-stock exchange, anti-gambling, nonconformist contemporary is of course mightily shocked at the revelations which have been made as to the unhappy state in which the villagers,—or some of them—exist so far as their lodgement is concerned. Most of the houses in which the agriculturist (the backbone of England’s greatness—see Tariff Reform Handbook) has his abode, have no sanitary conveniences ; many of them are in bad repair (in one case it is alleged that the happy tenant would go to bed on wet nights with an umbrella up !) and there is the usual scarcity with its inevitable overcrowding and comparatively high rents.

Excepting, perhaps, the somewhat novel feature of an umbrella protected bedroom, these are not unusual features of village life. Few villages indeed can boast of being free from all of them. They are just complementary to the private ownership of the land and housing accommodation, and there is no adequate and final remedy apart from the complete abolition of such private ownership and the extirpation of the capitalist and land-owning class. Conceivably the local authority could erect sanitary and well constructed houses even under present conditions, but as the obsession peculiar to local authorities is comprised in the necessity for showing a profit on any work of this character they may undertake, and as the great labour statesman at the head of the Local Government department has expressed his strong disapproval of any suggestion of increased indebtedness (and thereby earned the “well done good and faithful servant” of his capitalist paymasters) it is hardly conceivable, under present conditions, that the local authority would let any house erected by them at a rental within the possibilities of the agriculturist’s attenuated purse.

What generally happens is that houses are erected ostensibly for those in want of them, and let to those for whom they are not supposed to be intended, because these last only are in a position to pay the rental demanded. That is to say that in practice the Housing of the Working Classes Act is, like most other capitalist “working-class” Acts—a fraud.

The agriculturists of Chipperfield and elsewhere will therefore—unless it suggests itself as it very well may to the local authority or local landowner as good business to lose a little on the swings in order to get it back on the round-abouts—have to continue pigging together until such time as better housing accommodation is thrown to them as a sop to stay their conscious progress toward that Socialism which is the only sure cure for housing and other economic ills. Hopeless though it may seem, the agriculturist will have to organise himself in company with his town bred fellow for the overthrow of capitalist domination. There is no other way.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, March 1907)

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