1900s >> 1908 >> no-42-february-1908

A Look Round

Mr. W. H. Broughton, a Tariff Reform Lecturer, was publicly challenged by a member of the Social Democratic Federation on December 1st to debate with Mr. Herbert Burrows, S.D.F. Mr. Burrows, however, declined to debate as he has “much more important work to do than of debating with every Tom, Dick and Harry who gets up at the corner of the street,” etc., etc.

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At present Mr. Burrows’ “important work” is to raise a memorial to the late editor of Reynold’s Newspaper, who assisted to side-track the working class by founding the National Democratic League !

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Lecturing at Swadlincote on January 7th the Rev. Conrad Noel said that the ideal of the Church Socialist League was an industry in which there would be no drones and no slaves, where the people would have their liberties and be paid an adequate wage.

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Mr. J. J. Kermode, M.I. Mech. E., states that if the Lusitania were fitted for burning oil fuel she would require only 27 men in the stokeholds, as compared with the 312 necessary with coal. She would be able to carry 4,000 tons more cargo and at least 250 additional passengers.

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And the displaced stokers ? Oh, they don’t count, of course, under capitalism.

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Renter’s Correspondent at Johannesburg telegraphed on January 4th that Messrs. Eckstein are installing 200 Gordon drills. Twenty-five, worked by four whites and 25 natives, were to be started at the Crown Deep Mine in a few days. A native working a Gordon drill in five hours achieved results equal to the average day’s work of 15 coolies or natives. The success of the drills will have a far-reaching result on the labour problem.

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West Ham’s poverty is, perhaps, mainly due to causes over which the public bodies have had little control, admits the Dally Telegra in its review of the book issued by Messrs. Dent by Mr. E. G. Howarth and Miss Mona Wilson.

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According to this volume, West Ham’s population in 1851 was only 18,817, to-day it is over 300,000. This population is, to an extent which is quite without parallel elsewhere, composed of more or less casual labourers and their families. Nearly all its industries are run on unskilled labour, or skilled labour which boys can easily acquire, and the consequence is that the percentage of hands under twenty-one years of age is very large. When these boys grow up and ask for men’s wages they are turned away, and a new generation of boys is taken on. All this tends to swell the number of casuals.

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In almost every casual labourer’s home the woman has at some time or other to earn money and become the breadwinner ; in fact, she is often more continuously employed than her husband. But such work as she can get is usually shockingly underpaid, and involves cruelly long hours ; and the people who have it to give take advantage of the crowds of hunger-driven applicants and beat down the price to starvation point. Instances of this are given in the volume.

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Rents, we are told, are about the same as in 1888, but rates have almost doubled. It is the lower rents that have risen most, because the poorest people are forced to compete against one another for the cheapest houses, and up goes the price to a height that is positively infamous !

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The authors, of course, have no remedy. It is only the Socialists who have. End the competitive system, abolish private ownership in the means of production and distribution of wealth. Revolution and Revolution alone will suffice.

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The report of the first year’s working of “General” Booth’s Anti-Suicide Bureau must have been unpleasant reading to the teetotal fanatics who trace suicide and everything else to alcohol. Out of the 1,125 cases dealt with only 121 were due to “drink, drugs, and disease,” whilst 609 had their origin in “financial embarrassment or hopeless poverty,” 236 were attributed to “accidents, sickness, and other misfortunes,” 105 to “melancholia, proceeding from loneliness and other causes,” and 54 to “crimes such as embezzlement, forgery and the like.”

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Under the auspices of the Burton I.L.P. Mr O. A. McBrine declared at the Horninglow Schools on January 8th that the General Post Office and the Corporation Tramways are examples of Socialism as far as it can be carried out at the present time. Perhaps Mr. McBrine will read the Declaration of Principles of the S.P.G.B. on the last page of this paper, and then explain wherein either of the capitalist concerns he referred to fulfil any of the conditions necessary to Socialism.

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“Why Manufacturers move to Letchwortb. (Garden City)” is the title of a four page circular issued by the Garden City Company. In the circular appears the following illuminative paragraph, which substantiates the view so often expressed in these pages :

EXTRACT FROM THE ANNUAL REPORT OF A PRINTING BUSINESS.

“The change to larger and altogether commodious premises has been of immense benefit to all concerned. The brighter outlook and keener air of Letchworth (Garden City) has a marked effect upon the health, spirits, and enthusiasm of the workers, and the business of the Society undoubtedly feels the effect in the increased out-put and improved work. Indeed, the results of the four months working since the removal, give us cause to anticipate the future with every confidence of far more success than we have hitherto experienced.”

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“The relations now existing between the railway companies and the Board of Trade are of a more friendly character than they have ever been before. This is a striking commentary on the oft repeated wild assertion that the Government is not friendly to capital. It would be difficult to find a President of the Board of Trade who had done more for the protection of capital. The railway companies did a very good thing for themselves in accepting the proposals made by Mr. Lloyd George at the time of the labour dispute.”—Daily Chronicle.

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If the companies “did a very good thing for themselves” where, it may be asked, do the railwaymen come in ?

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“What is it that makes men cry out against society and turn to Socialism for help ? Undoubtedly, poverty, with all the misery it entails, is the chief reason. Look at the conditions in which many poor of our great cities live : insanitary houses, more dilapidated and filthy than pigsties, huddled together in gloomy streets on which the sun shines only to make horrors more apparent. There, scourged by terrible diseases, they pass the term of their existence. If they are fortunate they can earn just enough to buy food, and a few moments of oblivion at the gin shop at the corner. But they are never sure even of the common necessaries of life ; more than ten millions—a quarter of our population—are always, through the insecurity of employment, on the verge of starvation. How, then, can it be expected that men and women living under these conditions, without a hope in the world, will be satisfied with our system of society.”—Standard

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Speaking at the National Liberal Club on January 28th of the present year, Mr. Winston Churchill referred to the Trade Unions of Great Britain as great social bulwarks, and as an indispensible counterpoise and a natural corrective to a highly competitive system.

J. KAY

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