1900s >> 1908 >> no-46-june-1908

The slimy trail

The flight of the wealthy exploiter into the Tariff Reform camp is causing consternation in Liberal circles. Not because the Liberals are thereby losing brilliant advocates for the forlorn hope, but because they are losing and will lose the funds wherewith to purchase professional agitators from the ranks of the intellectual proletariat which capitalism produces in such large numbers and who are compelled, in order to fill their bellies, to prostitute their talents in aid of any cause the votaries of which are able and willing to pay for their services.

The politically bankrupt Liberal Party, then, finding itself in this position, sets out through its Press, in a series of lachrymose articles, to arrest the stampede and to justify the departure from “Cobdenism” in the “economic sphere” and its unfaltering adherence to the free imports fetish. Says the official organ of the “great party” in a panic screed,

”Mr. Chamberlain used to taunt Liberal Free Traders with inconsistency for accepting Cobden’s fiscal policy but rejecting his policy of laissez faire in matters of factory legislation. Mr. Asquith long ago disposed of this point by showing that the two things are essentially consistent. The object of government in the economic sphere is, he said, to secure the best application and distribution of the productive powers of the country. Fiscal ‘protection’ is opposed by free traders because it interferes with that object. Factory legislation is supported by liberals because it conduces to it, since sweated labour is, in the long run, labour uneconomically employed.” (Italics mine.)

Here the reformer himself points to his cloven hoofs, for, shorn of its euphemisms, the foregoing excerpt exposes the sordid motive that first, last, and always actuates the Liberal wing of the capitalist House of Commons. Laissez faire, in the economic sphere does not pay, so overboard it goes. Cheap bread means cheap wage slaves, so the capitalist will spend the last drop of his apoplectic blood to keep the people’s food untaxed. Sweated labour is labour uneconomically employed, so the Liberals will assist their Tory collaborators in preventing titled owners of chemical factories from importing big, raw-boned sons of Anak, standing six feet three inches in their socks, from Erin, and murdering them inside of twelve months. They must take three years to “do them in.” Hence the agonised tears of the humanitarian over phossy jaw, potter’s rot, wrist drop, baker’s foot, and other loathsome diseases which make up the “majesty of labour.” The less astute capitalist is aghast at seeing his liberty to slay for profit restricted in this manner. He is slow to learn the lesson mastered by successful soapboilers and cocoa fakers that there is money in applied humanitarianism and cheap and telling advertisement in model villages and garden cities, and so the capitalist hack must perforce point out the real motive for all great reforms and “workmen’s charters.” In effect, he says to his paymaster, “Play the game, old man, play the game. Let the cry of the oppressed go up. Let your Carlyles write their flapdoodle on the ‘condition of England question,’ your Ruskins their ‘Fors Clavigera’ and such-like ‘tripe.’ Weep over the ‘cry of the children’ and the ‘submerged tenth.’ Subsidise all and sundry. But keep the people away from the Socialist. He alone endangers the citadel of King Capital. Keep the minds of the working class diverted from Socialism and all is well for Capitalism.”

It is said that in the Chicago stockyards nothing is wasted except the squeal of the dying hog. The British capitalist politician beats even that. Indeed, he finds a trump card in the groan of the famished, half-naked, shivering child ; in the wail of the widow ; in the suppressed complaint of the scrapped wage slave who is a driveiling old dotard at forty-five, babbling, not of green fields a la Falstaff, but of his exploits when stripped to the waist before retort or furnace. All can be turned to account for the further advancement and consolidation of Capitalism ; all can be used to side-track the working class from the main line to emancipation.

It is suddenly realised that it is unprofitable to wear out the workers so quickly. Immediately the capitalists’ henchman of press, platform and pulpit bellow forth the dawn of a brighter era for the factory slave by adding still another “Workmen’s Charter” to the Statuie Book in the shape of elastic Factory Acts. It is found, owing to the starving of the infant proletarian, that a sufficiency of cannon fodder cannot be obtained—the wage slave is degenerate and inefficient, and so the children must be fed. Did not the great white Christ command “Feed my lambs” ? The young idea is so trained that it can draw up false balance sheets and lying prospectuses, tot up accounts and label merchandise with more or less false descriptions. It is taught that the despicable vices of thrift, prudence, and resignation are cardinal virtues, that the more servile he is the better citizen he is, and that the religion of cowardly slaves—Christianity—is the very acme of morality, and if he will only subscribe to it he will one day have a halo round his feet. This is called education. And to achieve its purpose Capitalism astutely enlists in its service all the sentimentalists, freaks, and cranks with which mankind is cursed. All the churches, friendly societies, philanthropists, co-operative societies, trade unions, and pseudo Socialist organisations. The slimy trail of the capitalist serpent is over them all. Tariff Reformer and Free Trader, Home Ruler and Labour Leader, Sacerdotalist and Passive Resister, Malthusian and Mormon, Suffragette and Social-Democrat, Temperance man and Anti-gambler, Secularist-ethicist and morality mongers generally—all are playing the capitalist game, consciously or unconsciously. All are attempting to mould the plastic working-class mind on the potter’s wheel. The one party that stands out in bold relief against them all is The Socialist Party. That alone points the road to emancipation and exposes all reforms for the tinkering ineptitudes they are. Hail the Social Revolution !

W. WATTS

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