Editorial: The Festive Season

The usual cant is now being uttered concerning the “festive season,” and the conventional phrases are on most people’s lips. To those with the wherewithal to purchase the good things of life it is possible to be merry and joyous, but to these Christmas is no exception to the rule. They can and do eat, drink and be merry, taking no thought of the morrow, even if it be that on the morrow they die. But although the working class may, for the time being, “forget their sorrow and remember their misery no more,” their ever-present poverty and the constant dread of even harder times, makes a “joyous” Christmas impossible.

What is the position to-day ? Says that wordy describer of evils for which he has no remedy, Mr. Geo. R. Sims :

“No one has any money. The cry of an impoverished people rings through the land. The West End weeps and the City sits in sackcloth and ashes. All parties agree that there is “very little money about.”
One is bound to accept the statement when one hears it so plaintively put forward in every direction. Commercial and professional men, dukes and doss-house keepers, traders and toilers, all tell you the same thing, and yet—capitals, please, Mr. Printer, AND YET

Luxury and Extravagance

leap to your eyes everywhere, and the shop windows this Christmas time are making as glorious a show of goods as ever delighted the eyes of a passing public in the palmy days of booming British trade and national well-being.
Magnificent hotels and gorgeous restaurants, such as the capital never possessed before, flourish and pay dividends ; men who used to go to the City in a twopenny ‘bus are now whirled thither in a thousand-guinea motor-car.”

And yet from all the industrial centres, not those of England alone, but of all parts of the world, come accounts of the distress among the working class. In London the starving condition of the school children has forced leading mem bers of the exploiting class to issue an urgent appeal for funds, fearful lest the supply of efficient wage slaves may be impaired, or that this starvation, in the midst of plenty, if allowed to continue, may goad people into action that may threaten the supremacy of the master class. In the North of England special appeals have been issued for funds to help the unemployed and their starving dependents. As the Newcastle Journal of Dec. 10th said :

“The cry for Relief of Distress is in evidence that the contrivances invented to prevent so many people falling into poverty and to ease the lot of such as might fall have been a dead failure—a most lamentable failure. For, as the means of relief have gone on increasing, the number demanding to be relieved goes on increasing in still greater proportion. . . . Our country abounds with orphan asylums, houses of refuge, training ships for outcasts, hospitals for every kind of disease, convalescent homes, alms-houses, and charity organisations of one sort and another—each and all of which were designed to play their part in reducing the mass of poverty, and in elevating the condition of those dwelling on the borders of pauperism, in social and moral respects. But their failure to attain such end is dismal. Never was the mass of poverty in our country greater than it is to-day—nerer was the cry of the distressful louder than it is to-day. . . The Distress Committee in every town is proclaiming that the state of things is worse than it was before.”

We agree with the writer that all these benevolent contrivances have failed lamentably “because they do not get near to the root of the evil—because they do not even aim at touching the root of tlie evil.” And in endeavouring to earn his money as a capitalist hack he, as might be expected, charges the working class with improvidence, thriftlessness, and wastefulness ! He accuses them of being reckless of future needs, and given to living from hand to mouth. As if the wage slaves of capitalism could do other than live from hand to mouth ! He suggests that the distress in Sunderland is largely due to the workers’ extravagance and self-indulgence when the day was long and work was plentiful. Other writers state that these Sunderland mechanics have been receiving £7 or £8 per week in wages, and they have spent it all as they received it. We do not believe these amounts have been paid in wages, but even if they have, and the receivers have spent all their takings each week, what has been the effect? They have found employment in other departments of industry which would not have been provided had they refrained from spending their wages. Tailors, shoemakers, producers and purveyors of food and drink, employees of transit companies, etc., have had work as the result of the “thriftlessuess” of these Suuderland shipwrights. Had they “hoarded,” had they put by for a rainy day, it would have been necessary long before this to make appeals to relieve the distress of unemployed workers who have been kept going by the “extravagance” of their fellows.

Under capitalism, it is in the interests of the working class that wealth should be destroyed as quickly as possible after it is produced, and the Newcastle Journal’s claptrap no more suggests a solution of the problem than any of the “contrivances” it writes down.

In the “Empire Beyond the Seas” thousands of good workmen are workless and hungry. From Canada comes the news that every industry is overcrowded. In Toronto there are 10,000 out of work, 4,000 in Winnipeg, and similar numbers in other large centres. Even Lord Strathcona, the High Commissioner, whilst not confirming (nor disputing) these figures, admits that “the general conditions of labour and business are not so brisk as at this time last year, but everything is reasonably satisfactory.” “Reasonably satisfactory” means, of course, that the unemployed are quiet, that they are not making themselves a nuisance. Let it be remembered that these unemployed workmen in Canada are not of “the idle, loafing, profligate class” : they are men who have been mainly selected for their physical fitness and mechanical skill, as only those who can pass a very severe test in these respects are allowed to join the parties of emigrants “assisted” by various capitalist agencies, open or disguised, to “start afresh.” And although it is admitted that there is an acute unemployed problem in Canada, “Gencral” Booth is advertising for 600 men and women to join a party going there, under govermnent auspices, on Feb. 20th !

From America, the “land of the free,” the paradise that the Tariff Reformer points to, but (like the Christian and his paradise) is in no hurry to go to, we learn, on the authority of the Daily Mail, that

“Distressing stories of a vain struggle for existence in America are told by crowds of sad-faced emigrants streaming from the steerage decks of every arriving trans-Atlantic liner. The vast majority, according to competent assurance I have received, are arriving only with money for the barest immediate necessities. I have interviewed a number of distracted wanderers—broad-shouldered, industrious-looking Galicians, Bohemians, Poles, and Italians—who, in broken English, picked up during brief sojourns in America, declared that they were willing to do any kind of work, they had not earned a dollar for three months” (Daily Mail’s Bremen Correspondent, Dec. 5)

These workers out of European countries left their homes (capitalism having broken them up long before the advent of Socialism) because conditions of livelihood were productive of poverty and unhappiness, and they are now leaving Protection-ridden America for the same reason.

Let us take another phase of the workers’ existence.

Early on the morning of the 18th December, an explosion occurred at a mine belonging to the Pittsburg (U.S.A.) Coat Company at Jacob’s Creek, some eighteen miles from Connellsville. Two hundred and fifty miners lost their lives, and we are told that the women relatives of the men gathered around the pitmouth frenzied with grief. What a merry Christmas ! What a prospect of a happy New Year for these women and children deprived of bread-winner by this sudden “act of God” !

This is the third great coal-mine explosion that has occurred in the United States in less than a fortnight. On December 6th between four and live hundred miners lost their lives at the Monongah Mine, and on the 16th another seventy met their doom in the Yolande Mine, Alabama. On the day of the Jacob’s Creek explosion the Commission appointed by Mr. Garfield, Secretary of the Interior, issued a pamphlet showing that 22,840 persons have lost their lives in coal-mine accidents in America in the last seventeen years. Half of these deaths were caused during the last six years. In 1906 alone 6,861 persons were involved in accidents, 2,061 of whom perished. In 1906 there were 1,116 lives lost in British mines. It is well that the accidents and diseases of occupations should be borne in mind when our opponents are telling us of the “reward” to which the capitalist is entitled because of the risks he takes. He never risks his life for a paltry wage insufficient at the best of times to keep one decently.

When one takes into consideration, then, the conditions of the working class all over the wide world ; when one remembers that, no matter what political, fiscal, or religious systems are in vogue, all over the world the working class is poor and the master class is rich ; when one knows that their exploitatation must continue, what a farce it is to talk to the wage slaves of “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year !” There is no festive season for them. There cannot be until capitalism is abolished. When the workers, organised as a class-conscious party, not only in opposition to those political factions which are avowedly capitalist, but also to those which, while professing to be anti-capitalist are yet pro-capitalist, by reason of their efforts at “reforming” this system and their support of capitalist candidates and parties, shall be preparing to take over the means of wealth production and thus end working-class exploitation, they will be able to indulge in good wishes and encouragement. When, however, their historic mission is fulfilled it will not be a case of wishing each other a good time once in 365 days, but life for all, young and old, will be a festive season all the time. To hasten that good day is the work which the Socialist Party of Great Britain has been doing and which it hopes to do even more vigorously in the year now before it.

(Editorial, Socialist Standard, January 1908)

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