Editorials (pensions, queeries, a king on socialism)
Pensions for the Dead
The Liberal mountain has been long in labour, and has nearly been delivered of Old Age Pensions. We say nearly, advisedly; for the Government, with shocking callousness regarding the welfare of its poor, emaciated little mouse, has determined to sever it from the Budget, in which it would be protected from the wicked lords, and to embody it in a separate Bill; thus deliberately and of malice aforethought placing it at the mercy of those whom the Liberals never tire of denouncing as enemies and wreckers of all Liberal measures. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer has pledged himself to this course, and the mouse may yet fail to see the light of day.
Nevertheless, we confess to no anxiety on the matter. We have no desire to claim that our influence is visible in the result. Reforms are the gifts of capitalism, and are only granted to the workers in vain endeavours to stay their advance to power. And we are convinced that to get anything vital to their happiness the working class must take it themselves. To do that the workers must be supreme in the State, and then, of necessity, it becomes a question, not of reform, but of social reconstruction.
The Liberal “Old Age” proposal is, then, but a sop to keep the workers quiet—but such a paltry sop. The “Old Age” part is prominent enough, but surely a microscope is needed to discover the pension.
Five shillings a week when you are seventy, should you be so unfortunate as to live as long. A problematic five shillings a week at seventy— that is, of course, if you have been a good boy ; if you haven’t within five years been convicted of vagrancy, desertion, or “serious” crime; if you are not in receipt of poor relief; if your income is not more than ten shillings a week, and so on—while married couples living together are to be punished for their foolishness by having their pensions reduced to 3/9 per head.
Five shillings a week as a bribe to the worker to keep out of the workhouse, where it would cost at least 18/- to keep him. Five shillings a week as a premium on low wages to those few ancient toilers who, by some miracle, are still able to work a little. Such are the promises of the “Workers’ Budget.”
The pensioners are, indeed, condemned to live—or endeavour to live—upon a total income that in no case can exceed fifteen shillings a week. In the vast majority of cases they must die slowly upon considerably less. Happy Veterans ! Not that they are likely to be numerous. Precautions have been taken to avoid that contingency. Besides, the average working man is scrapped, as a profit producing machine for the capitalist, a score of years before the pension is to bless him. He will thus have a score or more of years in which to purify his body by fasting preparatory to entering the heaven which a generous capitalism is to provide for its worn-out beasts of burden. Truly, the workers have not words wherewith to express their thanks ! Kaiser Wilhelm, having taken the initiative in the conference of the Western European nations in the matter of promoting measures of social reform as an antidote to Socialism, must feel contempt for stingy, shop-keeping, British Liberalism, whose cheeseparing policy, he might say, would ruin all. Social reform in Liberal England limps painfully behind that of despotic Germany, and it is significant of the worth of mere social reform that the German wage-slave is, on the whole, not one whit better off than his British confrere. The enactment of social reform, in fact, cannot keep pace with the progressive crushing of the wage worker under the iron heel of Capital. The hardships of British and German workers—of workers the world over—flow from their exploitation, and must continue until this ends. And to the conquest of Society soon or late the workers must bend their Titanic strength, for there is no help but in themselves, and no hope but in Socialism.
It was the chairman of the Labour Party Conference at Belfast who affirmed that “they had been called a queer party and they were a queer party.” Mr. Joseph Burgess, the Labour candidate of Dundee is a member of this queer party. Which may account for his answer to the intelligent voter who, according to The Scotsman, asked him the following questions :-—
(A) Do you think that Socialism would interfere with the present division of labour?
(B) If everyone received the same reward, who would do the dirty work under Socialism?
The answer of this queer member of a queer party, as reported, was :-—
(A) I am of opinion a complete state of Socialism cannot come for at least fifty years; nationalisation of the land must come first, Socialism afterwards.
(B) I am sure that those who do the disagreeable work would receive the big wage.
Mr. Burgess’ idea of the order of evolution of Socialism is certainly equal to his conception of the remuneration of the dirty worker under Socialism; while his value as an exponent of Socialism is hardly more than his worth as a member of the antient order of the prophets. It would be interesting now to hear Mr. Burgess upon what Socialism is, what wages are, and what reasons he can adduce for the imposition of a time limit of fifty years to the capitalist system. It is just possible that his answers would stagger even the members of the S.D.P. who gave expression to their passion for the unity of the “forces of progress” by affiliating with all the other odds and ends of political ineptitude in the locality, to secure Mr. Burgess’ election.
It is worthy of some little note that the fact of Mr. Burgess moving at the l.L.P. Conference of 1907, against affiliation with the S.D.P. on the ground, in effect, that the S.D.P. was not good enough, neither prevented the S.D.P. from supporting his candidature at Dundee, nor his acceptance of that support. Mr. Burgess may, however, quite fairly claim now, that the support which the S.D.P. gave to the “Socialist” candidate whose conception of Socialism is expressed in the answer above quoted, is quite sufficient justification for his assertion that the S.D.P. is not good enough. The S.D.P. is apparently concerned to show that the Labour Party is not the only queer party in existence.
A King on Socialism
Dr. H. M. MacCracken, Chancellor of New York University, has—according to the Harmsworth Press—been interviewed by the Daily Mail’s Own Correspondent.
The professor had just returned from a trip to the Scandinavian countries, undertaken with the object of arranging an interchange of professors. What we are concerned with here, however, is not the object of his holiday, but rather with the delightful example of bourgeois mentality that the Chancellor of New York University introduces to us via the Daily Mail.
The chancellor lunched with King Haakon and conversed for several hours with him on education and politics. “If King Haakon,” he observes, “were not a king he would make an excellent professor of political economy. He understands his subject thoroughly. He knows, too, that Socialism is increasing among his subjects, recognises the fact openly, and is, indeed, much worried about it.”
And then we come to that dreay, hoary old wheeze that Socialism is the Great Divide; that it does not mean a co-operatire commonwealth run by associated labour democratically organised, but means that all wealth is to be split up amongst the people !
“Recently, Dr. MacCracken said, the King went among some working men who were known to be Socialists and asked them if they were in favour of a division of wealth. They said they were. “Then let us appoint Friday at noon as the time for the division of wealth,” the King suggested to them. “Very well,” answered the men. “But wait,” said the King, “at five minutes after twelve many babies will be born, and they will be entitled to their share of wealth. Shall we make another division then and another one every five minutes ?”
The King did not get a satisfactory answer to that question, so his opposition to Socialism, he told Dr. MacCracken, was not modified. “Why,” he added, “I could black my own boots if I wanted to. I have done it, and know how. But if I did, what would become of those people who make a living by blacking boots ? The Socialist demand for equality of labour is in fact impracticable. I believe in division of labour.”
After that we are not at all surprised that “King Haakon impressed Dr. MacCracken as a man of unusual intellect.” And when the learned chancellor informs us that the King “would make an excellent professor of political economy,” we can but agree with him.
(Editorials, Socialist Standard, June 1908)